The Truth About Cars » Car Collector’s Corner The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car Collector’s Corner A Crown Imperial Limousine Fit For A Queen Tue, 24 Jun 2014 12:00:47 +0000 IMG_0250

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It’s possible that the Ghia-built 1957-58 Crown Imperial limousine was Chrysler’s effort to show the other members of the Big 3 automakers that they too could sell an extravagantly assembled and appointed ultra-luxury car and lose big money on each and every unit they sold, just as Ford did with the Continental Mark II and the General Motors did with the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. More likely, though, Chrysler executives saw the Imperial limos as carrying on a nameplate that had graced Chrysler’s most elegant and exclusive cars since the 1920s. Perhaps more than the other big Detroit automakers, Chrysler had a reputation for innovative engineering and it used that reputation to give the Imperial some cachet. The Hemi engine, disc brakes, power steering and the Powerflite, Chrysler’s first automatic transmission, were first offered on the Imperial. Still, as the 1950s went on, Cadillac’s dominance in the luxury class went from strength to strength. Though Packard fell by the wayside, Chrysler managers soldiered on with the company’s luxury marque.

However, when combined 1955-56 sales of the 149.5 inch wheelbase 8 passenger Crown Imperial amounted to less than 400 cars, it was clear that a different plan was needed for the corporate flagship. The 1957 models would be the ultimate expression of Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” and the Imperial couldn’t be left behind. However, a study in May 1956 concluded that with estimated tooling costs and related expenses, it would cost more than $3.3 million to start in-house assembly of an all-new limousine. Amortized over just a few hundred cars that meant a loss of thousands of dollars per car. Much as the thought of not selling an Imperial limousine bothered Chrysler brass, they couldn’t justify that kind of a loss.

They decided to look into subcontracting limousine production. Sources say that they tried to find a coachbuilding company in the United States but failed to find a partner so they turned to Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy. That’s a good story but Chrysler had been using Ghia to build concept and show cars starting in the late 1940s. Exner and Ghia’s president Luigi Segré were friends and it was not uncommon for Ghia and Chrysler’s stylists to borrow ideas from each other. In addition to respecting the quality of Ghia’s work, the fact that the Italians, in a country still rebuilding after war, worked much cheaper than correspondingly skilled [union] workers in Detroit made a deep and lasting impression on the folks running Chrysler in the 1950s.


However Ghia came to be chosen, chosen it was. Exner’s team came up with a design that was 244.7 inches long and 58.5 inches tall, per Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller’s dictum that a gentleman should be able to wear his fedora in his motor car. Since the doors were considered too low for elegant ingress and egress, the window frames went into the roof. The rear end was borrowed from the Imperial coupe as its lines worked better with the long car. Managing the relationship between Chrysler and Ghia was Chrysler engineer and designer Paul Farago (who had a hand in the design of the Chrysler based Dual Ghias), who spoke Italian and was friendly with both Exner and Segré.


To produce the Crown Imperial Limousines, Chrysler shipped partially assembled Imperial hardtop coupes with 129 inch wheelbases and a reinforced X-frame. The chassis and drivetrains were complete and the bodies were fully assembled with appropriate bumpers and trim. Inside the stripped interiors were the rest of the parts needed to complete the car: four sedan doors, seat mounts, glass, a wired dashboard, dual A/C unit, leather for the upholstery, carpeting, and station wagon leaf springs for the rear, stiffer torsion bars for the front, and a lengthened driveshaft.

Once the car arrived at Ghia in Italy, the body was removed from the frame which was stretched 20.5 inches and reinforced. The body itself was sectioned, with the floor pans and roof lengthened. As mentioned the roof was cut out to accommodate the altered, taller doors. The sheet metal shaping was done by hand, something that would have been prohibitively expensive in Detroit.


There was so much body work done that to get a smooth finish the entire shell was coated in about 165 lbs of solder. All body joints, including those that can’t be seen, were filled. Over two days were devoted to adjusting panel gaps to no more than a sixth of an inch, not far off from the 4 millimeters that many manufacturers use today as a standard almost 60 years later, though the adjustments then were done by eye, not with the aid of lasers. A bath in dilute acid removed any surface rust and flux from the solder in preparation for a rigorous painting process.


A coat of zinc chromate primer was covered with a guide coat of black to expose imperfections. Once sanded for smoothness, the car was painted with several coats of lacquer in the customers choice of black, brown, dark green, dark blue or burgundy, with polishing in between coats. After a final polish, a cream colored pinstripe replaced the chrome molding strip. Some of the trim, like the eagle on the trunklid, was gold plated. Once painted, the exterior trim and leather landau styled roof cap were installed, as was the interior, which featured sheepskin carpet.

Once completed, each car underwent a road test before shipment to the United States. Early models had some flaws, the tires were not big enough to bear the massive weight and the Italians had issues getting the complex wiring harness fully connected, but those problems were rectified with post production inspections.

It took so long getting the limos into production that they used the bumpers and front fender trim of the 1958 Imperials. Prospective buyers were encouraged in advertisements to write directly to Mr. E.C. Quinn, president of the Chrysler division, about purchasing one. Among the customers who were willing to wait for the six-month build time were David Sarnoff, who started and headed RCA (and drove FM pioneer Major Armstrong to suicide), novelist Pearl Buck, Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic’s dictator, and then New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (later to be Vice President).


First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy rode in her personal Crown Imperial limousine in her husband’s funeral procession. The monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar also bought Crown Imperial Limousines. Though all of them were special, with custom ordered features, a special one-off with a removable acrylic roof panel that replaced the landau cap was made for another member of royalty, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, for her 1959 visit to Canada. It wasn’t the only Imperial Crown Limousine made for her use, as we’ll see later.


As impressive as the cars were, the figures just weren’t adding up. Taxes, customs, credit transfers, and other international issues affecting U.S.-Italy relations added to the cost of production, as did the necessary quality inspections of the cars once they reached port in the U.S. In 1957 and 1958, $15,075 was a lot of money to pay for a car, even if you were wealthy, and there also were a limited number of heads of state. Though the contract with Ghia called for 75 limousines to be made for the 1957 model year, with Chrysler obligated to pay the full amount for all of them, only 36 were produced, effectively doubling the production cost. As a result, the 1958 and 1959 limousines were revised 1957 models. The contract was renewed in 1960, but for only 25 cars, an exclusivity that Chrysler touted in print advertisements. Ghia would keep producing Crown Imperial limousines until 1965, when it sold off the tooling to Barreiros of Spain, which built another 10 cars. The last Ghia built Crown Imperial limousine was a 1965 model for the Shah of Iran. Not wishing to walk away from the limousine market entirely, remember, Cadillac was still factory building Series 75 limos at its Clark Street Fleetwood plant, Chrysler would contract with Stageway Coaches of Arkansa and later Hess & Eisenhardt to build a small number of limos, the latter for the U.S. Secret Service, apparently for the use of President Richard  Nixon.


The 1958 Crown Imperial limousine pictured here is a 1958 model and it, too, was made for the use of Elizabeth II when she visited Canada, though this was not really a state parade car. Rather it was purchased for her use by the wealthy Canadian Eaton family and used for her private transportation as well as for shuttling between county fairs she attended. Going back to the 1800s, for a century and a half, Eaton’s department store was Canada’s premier retailer and the Eatons and Mountbattens were personal friends. Queen Elizabeth would stay with the Eatons on her trips to North America. This isn’t the first limousine made for Elizabeth II’s use that we’ve covered here at TTAC, by the way. Back in January I posted an article on a custom Daimler limo made for the Queen’s use while in North America that was sold at auction by Detroit area collector Dick Kughn for what I considered to be a ridiculously low price.

Another Detroit area collector, Ed Meurer, bought the Crown Imperial limousine from the Eaton family in 1991. He’s restored it and it’s now part of his family’s rather extensive car collection. He says that a restoration revealed armor plating, not surprising in light of the fact that it carried a head of state. When Meurer bought it, the Crown Imperial was mostly complete, missing just the elaborate chrome and gold eagle for the trunklid. Since it was well maintained by a family that could afford it, however, the restoration mostly meant a new interior and new paint. Other than that, Meurer, who had the car on display at the Packard Proving Ground’s 2014 Cars R Stars show, said it is mostly original. He said it was in fine mechanical shape. The only reproduction part is apparently that trim from the trunk, which he had fabricated at some expense.

Shooting as I do in 3D, I’m used to stepping back to properly frame the image on both sides. With this Crown Imperial limo I had to step back, and step back, and step back. A 244.7 inch car is more than 20 feet long. Chrysler advertised it “the most magnificent limousine” that you could buy. The dictionary defines magnificent as “impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking”. I happen to be a fan of Exner’s Forward Look cars but I recognize that they’re an acquired taste. While you may or may not regard the 1958 Crown Imperial limousine as beautiful, I don’t think that you can deny that it is impressive, elaborate, extravagant and striking.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Why I Don’t Respect The 1969 Camaro Mon, 20 Jan 2014 15:59:37 +0000 1969camaro

I can recall the first time I saw a first generation Camaro in the October 1966 Popular Science new car preview edition. The 1967 Camaro was the star attraction when it debuted in the fall of 1966 and it gave the General an instant classic in the pony car battle.

I liked the original Camaro because it was a stylish blend of well-sculpted bodylines with curves in all of the right places. The hidden headlights and race stripe around the front fenders of the car were options that took the car to an even higher level of cool for me as a very young admirer.

The 1967 Camaro appeared on the scene and the General instantly became a big player in the pony car wars. The Camaro had gotten ahead of the curve and was now a leader in the style department because the car already looked like a car from the early 70s even though that era was still 4 years in the future in October 1966.

The honeymoon period lasted for one year for me because the newer first-gen Camaros were essentially a 1967 Camaro with state mandated side marker lights. The variables between the three years were lost on me and I was challenged to find any enthusiasm for the 1969 Camaro as a kid in the 60s and now as an aging Baby Boomer. To me the 1969 Camaro is simply a warmed-over version of the 1967 Camaro and I am puzzled about its iconic status in the collector car market.

I view the 1969 Camaro as a cookie cutter kind of car because there were 243, 085 Camaros produced in 1969 and that number shows they were popular with consumers in a big way. The large production number has not quelled the fever for 1969 Camaros because these cars still command a big buck in the world of collector cars.

These days the 1969 Camaro cultists have devised a caste system that places a barebones six cylinder car at the very bottom of the pile and a COPO Camaro at the very top of the pile. In between are small and big block variations that will give each car a place on the Camaro totem pole in order of importance. Garden-variety Camaros are given a huge amount of mechanical and cosmetic surgery that applies the right amount of lipstick on the pig to enhance their value.

The surgically enhanced vehicles used to be called clones, but these days the politically correct term is “tribute car”, a moniker designed to soften the blow of cheap imitation as a sales tactic. The result is a huge number of COPO, SS and RS/SS Camaro clones on the street in search of the right 1969 Camaro cult member/potential owner.

The real deal in rare model 1969 Camaros will cost you at the very least your first-born, with options on your second and third born kids. Thus exists the saddest fact in the 1969 Camaro equation: They made a huge number of 1969 Camaros that look exactly the same-except for badge, trim and power-train options that camouflage the blandness and drastically enhance their value.
There is no real magic behind the 1969 Camaro beyond a lingering sense of irrationality that the car was somehow special enough to outrank two earlier model years that looked exactly like the ’69 to the untrained eye or disinterested non-Camaro car guy. A 1969 Camaro is indeed the Holy Grail for the first-gen models’ fans and those of us who do not share the same philosophy about the car view the adulation as somewhat cartoon-like because we simply do not see the magic.

Outsiders see the 1969 Camaro as a Justin Bieber kind of car, while its faithful fans see it more as a Bob Dylan kind of car for reasons that are not particularly obvious to the rest of us. I can live with the divide between the two as long as the Camaro cultists don’t knock on my door to try and convert me on Saturday mornings.

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Vintage AMC AMX PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car Up For Sale Sun, 22 Dec 2013 12:00:34 +0000 amx 1

In 1981 the CART/PPG Indy Car series was in its third year. Formed in 1979 by racing teams who had split from the previous sanctioning body, USAC, over how races were promoted, the way that television contracts were handled and what they believed to be the small size of the winners’ purses, the ‘81 PPG Indy Car World Series had 11 races on the schedule and featured drivers like Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. In time the series would go on to become the sole sanctioning body for all of Indy Car racing, but in 1981 the series was still in its infancy and, despite having Indy Car as a part of it name, did not even include the Indianapolis 500 among its officially sanctioned events.

To help promote the series, CART/PPG approached several major American auto manufacturers and asked them each to construct pace cars for the different events. Five manufacturers responded, including American Motors, who produced a custom bodied AMX. Based on the production “Spirit,” the AMX featured a fuel injected, turbo charged 258CID in-line 6 cylinder engine capable of a reported 450 horsepower. The car made its debut at the Milwaukee 150 on June 7 and at the end of the season went to AMC’s Vice President of Design, Richard Teague.


Today that car very car is being offered on eBay by the West Palm Beach specialty car dealership Marino Motors. Based on the many photos offered, it looks like a very clean, well thought out car. It has a full roll cage, period safety gear and a surprisingly complete turbo themed interior that makes it appear more like a production car than something that was constructed exclusively for the race track. Currently, the bids are in excess of $33,000 and the reserve has yet to be met. To an ordinary guy like me $33K is a lot of money, but to a high end collector looking for something truly unique, this car might just be an interesting opportunity. Pop over to either of the above links to see dozens more detailed photos. Love it or hate it, at the very least, it’s one of a kind.


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Will Auto Enthusiasts in 2053 See The Alfa Romeo 4C As This Generation’s Dino? Fri, 27 Sep 2013 12:00:36 +0000 IMG_0737

When it was first introduced, what we know today as the Ferrari Dino was a bit of a conundrum. Simultaneously a tribute to Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari’s beloved deceased son, the first roadgoing midengine car from Ferrari, and an attempt to amortize costs between Ferrari and Fiat, which had bought the sports car maker in 1969, the Dino was also the first non-V12 powered car made by Ferrari and in fact it was not originally sold as a Ferrari. Dino was supposed to be a new marque for six and eight cylinder cars from the company, at a lower price point than Ferrari branded cars. That idea went away after the Dino 308 models, but the notion that the Dino was not quite a Ferrari sort of stuck to the car when it first came out. That the Dino had a DOHC V6 engine, designed by Ferrari to compete in Formula 2 but originally built in a Fiat factory to homologate it and shared with the Fiat Dino, a completely different car with, confusingly, the same name, didn’t help matters. Dinos from Ferrari weren’t cheap, about $13,000-$14,000 when new four decades ago, thousands more than a Porsche 911, and if my memory serves me well, they languished on the dealer lots and then stagnated in price once out of production. In the late 1970s, I’m pretty sure you could get them for used car money. At least at first.

Today Dinos are welcome at any Ferrari meet and it could cost you the price of a new Ferrari California to buy a 1973 Dino 246. Hagerty Insurance’s price guide says that the average price of a 40 year old Dino 246 is $172,000.

I’m not here to talk about the Ferrari Dino, though.


This post is sort of written from the perspective of an auto enthusiast in the year 2053, forty years hence and it’s about the new Alfa Romeo 4C, already evoking cackles in 2013 from Chris Harris and comparisons to Ferraris by Road & Track. The 4C is the cheapest car you can buy today with a carbon fiber structure, one of the things that’s going to limit production to just 3,000 units a year. Only a few more Ferrari Dinos were made in its full production run, 3,761, so Dinos will always be rarer than 4Cs. Still at a suggested retail U.S. price of $54,000, you could buy three 4Cs, and have about $41,000 left over for when you needed something more practical if you opted for Alfas rather than that Ferrari California, and you’d have at least 10 more cylinders than if you bought the California.


I have a hunch that should Sergio Marchionne actually start selling the 4C in the U.S. next spring that in time it may become something akin what the Dino is today. While it may never have the cachet of being a Ferrari, I just don’t see with that carbon fiber tub how it’s going to depreciate the same as the cars that it will compete with, primarily the Porsche Cayman and perhaps the Evora from Lotus. The Cayman’s made in much greater volumes than the 4C is, and considering that the Evora is more costly, even Alfa Romeo probably has a better record on depreciation than Lotus.


What do you think? Will the Alfa Romeo 4C be a potential blue chip collectible, like air-cooled Porsche 911s are these days? A 1973 Porsche 911S model averages just about $100K these days. That’s a nice appreciation in price, but a ’73 Dino has done even better.


Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallac view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Car Collector’s Corner: Survivor Car, Or Not Tue, 09 Jul 2013 15:19:17 +0000 AIMGP2679

A survivor car is a pretty narrow category in my opinion. It means that a vehicle has come through the years with all of the originality that made it highly desirable in car guy world. Lately, the definition of a survivor car has been diluted down to a wishy-washy. I watched a TV program that featured survivor cars and tried to include a repainted car in the collection as a survivor model.

So let’s re-establish a set of basic ground rules about what makes the grade as a survivor car.AIMGP2674

The first rule of survivor cars is their original paint job. You cannot paint a collector car and still call it a survivor anymore than you can castrate a horse and still call it a stallion. Something is fundamentally different in both cases, although the horse has better reasons to be a lot sadder about the changes in his life.

The paint job has to be the original finish, complete with orange peel and a thin layer of actual paint in many cases from the factories of the past. The car will be measured by its ability to have survived decades with nothing more than a wax job on its paint surface.


The survivor vehicle will usually have enjoyed a pampered life inside a garage, or it was owned by a quirky guy with a few bucks who decided to park it early and buy another vehicle. The car was stored for a long time under dry and ideal conditions by the quirky guy.

The old car was then be discovered by the next of kin when they do an estate inventory on the now-dead quirky guy and find the survivor vehicle parked in a garage. We have talked to people who bought estate vehicles that were parked in the 50s and discovered in the 21st century by the relatives.

The cars were frozen in time by storage, and probably had their tube radios dialed into stations that last played then-current hits by Rosemary Clooney, Dinah Shore and Nat King Cole. These are survivor cars with survivor paint that had not battled traffic, parking lots and the sun, snow and rain since Baby Boomers were really babies. Plus, the survivors got pulled out of the game early in life.


The interior also has to be original to qualify as a survivor car. This presents a problem when mice get involved in the vehicles because they can wreak unholy hell on an interior.

We know one guy who bought a late 40s Dodge that had been infested with mice during a long storage, but survived with no damage to the vehicle’s fabric other than an unbelievable stench in the material. The vehicle was eventually cured from its odor issue, but, as our friend Walter at Diablo Detail cautions us, the process is long and difficult to properly solve the problem. But it can indeed be solved by a qualified professional.

It is well worth the effort to professionally clean the interior to hold onto the survivor tag. The net result is that your car will still be a charter member of the elite survivor club.

The rest of the survivor car rules are pretty simple: it should have its factory power-train front to back and it should have all of its original equipment like spare tire (some guys even claim these have their original air in the tires), jack and lug wrench. Some cars even have their original tires, but who really wants to put a lot of faith in degenerated rubber at highway speeds?

This is a basic look at what it takes to be survivor car. Don’t let some guy on a TV show tell you that a car with a pretty new paint job is a survivor car because the rules are pretty simple and very rigid in my humble opinion.

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Car Collector’s Corner: Honk If You Love The Classic Sound Of A Real Car Horn Sun, 07 Jul 2013 05:00:29 +0000 AIMGP1930

Horns have always been a very important part of a car. They were invented to warn drivers of other drivers on the road. Horns were also invented to assist the middle finger in descriptive impromptu editorials that register drivers’ displeasure with other drivers on the road, and to engage in general non-verbal communication with other traffic participants.. History does not appear to have recorded the chicken/egg side of the equation which would sort out which came first in the automobile horn/middle finger debate.

Car horns have saved lives and cost teeth, depending upon the traffic circumstances and emotional control of drivers. An errant car horn can be an instant turbo-boost to uncontrollable road rage under the right conditions, but we still love them. Let’s see how much we do.


The early days of automobiles featured a variety of choices like the bulb horn, the Gabriele and Klaxon horn, but the “Ahooga” sound of the Model T remains one of the most famous horn sounds. It sounded like a comedy noise from a cartoon even before we had cartoons.

I am not old enough to know whether a T horn blast at another driver produced road rage or a hearty round of laughter, but it would be difficult for me to get angry if I was the object of an angry Model T horn blast. Too many years of Bugs Bunny cartoons have made that sound mission impossible for an angry outburst from me.

I guess the same could be applied to the Chihuahua sound of a small car horn. A beep-beep horn means a beep-beep sized car and it does not provoke anger unless the beep-beep driver leans on his horn without a break in the action.

Then the horn honker gets the same reaction as a yappy Chihuahua. Eventually, tensions will rise to the breaking point, and you will have to resist a strong urge to bring some serious unhappiness into the car driver’s or small dog’s lives.

The exception to the beep-beep rule has to be the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner. The smallest engine even available in this bird was a big block 383 Magnum, and the limited menu of other ‘Runner choices were the ultra-macho 440 and 426 Hemi options.


The Plymouth Road Runner may have had a beep-beep horn, but it was very capable of settling scores on the street right out of the showroom. The rumble of the exhaust from these cars when they were in pedal-to-the-metal street battle mode probably rendered the beep-beep horn somewhat irrelevant in the bigger picture.

Most car guys still crave the big horn sound found in most North American cars from the golden post war era of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. These babies were noise-makers of the first order, and sounded like a slightly modified train horn on some cars.

The classic car horns were big, bad and beautiful when they were unleashed on the roads of yesteryear. Maybe they were unable to wake up the dead, but they came closer than any séance.


So let us celebrate the life, and mourn the passing of the classic car horns from the past. They were great while they lasted and so were the front teeth of people who used the horns too much.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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“It has Just One Small Rust Spot:” The old car decoder Tue, 25 Jun 2013 11:00:50 +0000 IMGP1492

You have decided to jump headfirst into the old car game, and you are anxious to pull the trigger on the process by buying a four-wheeled blast from the past. Ahead lays a very cruel path of pain and disappointment if you make a bad decision.

The initial purchase price may be well within the price range of most car guys, thus many of them may begin to get buck fever about the vehicle. This is the exact point where emotion might blind side common sense, and where a car guy finds himself to be the proud owner of a four-wheeled nightmarish money pit.

The first step is to truly understand the consequences of an old car purchase.

DUSTER 35-001

You are buying a vehicle that has done its time on the road, it may now simply deserve a dignified send-off before it faces the crusher.

However, its current owner may see the old relic in a completely different light. This is the time of year when guys start to believe that their rusty pile of junk is worth its weight in platinum, because the “very same car” went for huge bucks at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale.

That “very same car” was a very rare and mint low production car from the same make and year. It was formerly owned by Elvis. The seller with the rusted-out factory cousin will connect the two vehicles like four-wheeled Siamese twins, and price it accordingly,


Here is an actual interpretation of the sales pitch language for old cars:

“One small rust spot” means a car that is 95% rust, and the owner is pitching a minor touch up on the paint scheme.

“Needs some work” means that the old war pony is going to need a crack team of bodymen, fabricators, mechanics, a priest and a flat out miracle to save the vehicle.

“Runs” means the guy is running gas through a rubber line from an elevated glass bottle to bypass a rusted-out gas tank and non-pumping fuel pump.

“Original interior” means that the car has become a self-governing rodent metropolis united in an ungodly stench and divided only by the front and back seat.

“Numbers matching” usually indicates a stuck engine or blown transmission.

“Good rubber” means that three of the four flats on the car will probably take air.

“Second Owner” is part of the new math program in which second means every number after five.

“Handyman’s special” is rust with a stuck engine. It has five chrome trim pieces that may be salvageable before it gets squashed in a final act of mercy.

“Slight miss in motor” means at least two cylinders are completely and expensively dead.

“Slight noise in rear end” means a complete differential re-build.

“Everything works” is code that indicates almost half of everything works on the vehicle.

“Slight overheating problem” is a cracked block.

“Brakes work” means a complete brake overhaul.

“Drive anywhere” means bring a trailer.

“Good glass” means that the windshield crack runs slightly below the driver’s line of vision.

“Always stored inside” means mostly stored outside.

“Never smoked in” means never smoked in since it was parked in a pasture 30 years ago.


For more of J Sutherland’s work go to


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Dear Uncle Sam: We Used To Measure In Miles Per Hour As Well, Honest Sun, 23 Jun 2013 11:35:53 +0000 IMGP6793

I realized how far we have come off the tracks from that golden era of miles per hour when I had to cuff my over-30 nephew after he asked how many kilometers were on a large 1972 Chrysler Imperial. Those of us from a kinder and gentler time knew that old Impy was a miles car – not a kilometer kar.

Canada used to be a miles per hour country, until we recklessly elected Pierre Trudeau to run our country from the late 60s until the early 80s, with an-all-too-brief timeout from the guy in the late 70s.


Some of you older Americans may remember Trudeau’s ex-wife Maggie for her brief fame as a Rolling Stones party girl in the 70s, including a famous photo that made its way to Playboy magazine. Older Canadians are more likely to remember Pierre Trudeau as either a hero or a villain in Canadian politics.

I live in western Canada and I remember the man as a villain to put it politely in our G-rated online publication. I have a long list of grievances about his run as our Prime Minister, but, for the purposes of our car philosophy, I will concentrate on his push for metric measurement.

Trudeau was not a huge fan of the United States, and he designed many of his foreign policy decisions around his desire to make Canada more European than North American. Metric measurements came in handy in that.

The prevailing attitude was that the world was shifting toward the metric system, and away from the Imperial measurement. The metric system was based upon the efficiency of ten as a number, and it would put everyone on the same page in the measurement game, or so the idea was.


Great idea, except that the United States was not moving into a metric system. Our biggest trade partner, closest neighbor, and best global friend was standing pat in the measurement game. However, Trudeau let his ego and anti-US philosophy run the show, so we ended up as a metric country, even though all of our historical legal measurements were made in acres, quarter sections and townships.

None of that mattered to Trudeau,,= and now we have an entire generation that measures in kilometers, and has no idea about miles on a car odometer, simply because the man was an egomaniac who got the keys to the country long enough to run up a huge debt, and make it his own little social experiment.

Some of it didn’t take, because most people in Canada still measure themselves in feet and pounds, even if their driver’s licenses scream centimeters and kilograms in accordance with the Trudeau manifesto. But even Trudeau was unable to change quarter miles at drag strips, miles per gallon and 0-60 times in Canadian car guy culture.

It didn’t have to be this way. Canadians should never have moved away from miles per hour, except for one guy with a completely unchecked ego named Trudeau. For me it is just another reason to love old cars that drive in miles per hour. Any time before the Trudeau era in Canada was a golden age for cars and our country.

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Car Collector’s Corner: Hate Is A Four Letter Word – Reserved For Rare Occasions Sat, 08 Jun 2013 18:14:35 +0000 IMGP0526

Hate is a powerful emotion. Sure, its impact has been diminished by its new fad-like use as a term for everything from mild irritation to medium discontent, but I am still old school about the term.

If I hate something, I really hate something in that full-on way that respects the power of the emotion. Hate is not something to be treated lightly as a term, and people who accuse others of hatred should realize that it is considered to be a major decision to accuse somebody of hatred. If there is one thing I hate, then its new cars at classic car shows.

I was at a recent car show in a picturesque little town that builds the appeal of the annual show around the old iron, yet they allow brand new vehicles into the show.

The main street of the show was a blend of brand new cars and trucks showcased with the old classics. This foolish approach was one of the reasons that many car guys have stopped attending the show in recent years.


Most of us have an enormous amount of respect for the new vehicles. They offer state-of-the-art engineering and every reason to appreciate their sheer 21st century efficiency. We also know that these new vehicles are seen on every street and highway in North America 24/7, 365 days of the year, including Christmas Day.

What we don’t see every day is a steady diet of vehicles from the last century. They have been largely wiped out by the ravages of time and use, so we celebrate them with car shows that honor the style and appeal of vehicles from yesteryear.

The subject of unwelcome guests at a car show was misinterpreted by one woman who felt that some of the older vehicles that were showing lots of wear and tear were the real culprits at the show. These esthetically challenged vehicles got her attention for all of the wrong reasons and she felt that they were an eyesore.

She had no car guy soul and could not connect the dots on the old car culture. She was completely oblivious to the fact that every one of those un-restored vehicles had a long history behind them and had lived to tell their story in 2013 through their less-than-perfect cosmetic appearance.

The new cars and trucks on the same center stage with the old cars and trucks at that show were the real intruders. The new vehicles had no story to tell because they were brand new. New car salesmen are still telling the new cars’ stories, and their only real story is their list of new car features.


I toured the side streets and rail area to find many of the banished older vehicles that should have been front and center on Main Street at that show. Instead, they were inexplicably replaced at the main show by new cars and trucks that were the real unwelcome party-crashers for most car guys at that show.

Yes, I really do hate new cars at a vintage car show in the old school sense of the term for hatred.

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Home Improvement’s Patricia Richardson Talks About Cars Wed, 01 May 2013 13:48:36 +0000

One of the worst kept secrets in show business is actor Tim Allen’s legendary love of cars, an affliction that has almost reached Jay Leno proportions. In fact the Toolman made his car addiction a major part of the storyline for his classic situation comedy “Home Improvement”.

The role of Tim’s wife on “˜Home Improvement’ was played by Patricia Richardson and this talented actress was able to make her role as the beleaguered bride of an unrepentant car guy come alive in the show. We hear a great deal about Tim Allen’s real life fondness for cars, but what about the woman who played Jill (Mrs. Toolman) Taylor on “Home Improvement”?

We were fortunate enough to be able to contact Patricia and ask her about her real life philosophy regarding cars. We found that she had some interesting and funny answers to the burning question about whether she is indeed a car girl.

“You know, thinking about it, I don’t think I have met my favorite car still! I guess that would be the equivalent of never meeting the love of my life car wise. I hadn’t realized it until you asked. I didn’t have a car at all for many years while living in New York. Since living in Los Angeles I’ve had many different cars , mostly various Mom cars, and I had a Porsche for awhile which I was never really into. My guy liked it I guess. It’s definitely a guy car. I think I got it because of Tim probably and it had a little back seat that allowed me to get all of the kids into it if need be while allowing me to have a sports car, but it was kind of bumpy, and too low to the ground to be practical, and had soft tires that were always picking up the nails in my neighborhood that always had construction going on. And I’m not really interested in speeding around or going fast and don’t drive a car like a guy.”

Patricia confesses that she may have already met the automobile love of her life, but her sister ended up with the car:

“I have car envy instead for the car my sister has had for some years now which was that little Lexus sports car they don’t make anymore that also had the small back seat and had great mileage and was much less bumpy to drive. Wish I had bought that one instead of the Porsche all those years ago I would probably still have it and THAT would be my favorite car.”

TV’s Mrs. Toolman also notes that she was given pretty straight-forward car purchase advice from Tim Allen during their time together on one of television’s all time most popular comedies; “Tim wanted me to only buy American cars”.Tim’s advice probably made a lot of sense to Patricia when her import SUV inexplicably caught fire:

This guy helped me again when my- get this- Mercedes SUV caught fire in the engine for no discernible reason. We were coming home – my guy, one of my sons and me. Thank God this man had purchased fire extinguishers for all over the house and there was one in the garage”¦ When I got out of the car I noticed little flames and a little smoke through the tire on my side and told him. He started yelling at me to get Joe out of the garage. I’m stupidly standing around saying “shouldn’t we call the fire department?” He was already spraying all around the sides of the closed hood, the front wheels, etc and now REALLY YELLING AT ME TO GET OUT OF THERE. Which I did.”

Patricia came away from the “hot-car-for-all-of-the-wrong-reasons experience with this insight:

“What I learned from my boyfriend? Keep your house well supplied with fire extinguishers. He saved our lives and my house that day. Also, never open the hood if you see smoke coming out from your engine! Also, when someone tells you to get away from a fire, GET AWAY FROM THE FIRE!”

Tim Allen may have advised Patricia to buy American cars, but Patricia promised her children that she would purchase hybrid cars and instead bought imports that have this dual energy capability for her daily driver use. So far her hybrids have not caught fire during her time as an owner.

You cannot work with a consummate car guy like Tim Allen for all of those years without learning the most important lesson of all when it comes to cars:Â

The best thing I learned from Home Improvement? And this is from a still totally ignorant about cars person? Pay attention to the oil light. LOL.”

“˜Home Improvement’ fans will recall an episode where Jill ignored the low oil warning on her Nomad and cooked the engine. The lesson obviously took with Patricia because she is well aware of the need to pay attention to the oil pressure warning system on her vehicles.

We thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to talk cars with Patricia Richardson and have concluded that she is probably a car girl in her heart of hearts. She just hasn’t met the perfect car quite yet.


For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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What’s The Best Car Movie? My Take: American Graffiti Sun, 24 Mar 2013 17:44:47 +0000  

‘American Graffiti’ exploded onto the movie screen in the early 70s, a little over 10 years after it happened 1962, according to the movie plot.

“Where were you in ’62?” became the question of the day in the movie trailer. Back when, most of us wished that we had been old enough to cruise around in the cool ’62-era iron shown in ‘American Graffiti’.  Today, we wish we would have been born after that.

The movie was essentially a coming-of-age movie that followed the lives of several people over the course of a long night’s journey into a drag race at dawn. Most of the actors were unknowns at the time, but some went on to major fame later in their careers, while others never really went beyond their 15 minutes of fame in ‘American Graffiti’.

The cars in the movie will always be the biggest stars for most car guys. There were plenty of classic rides in the movie. 1962 was a time when teenagers jumped behind the wheel of a car packed with their buddies and hit the main streets in every town in North America.

The radio blasted out rock and roll to set the mood and a then-current crop of teenagers set their hormones on high and went looking for love in all the right places for 60s romance: in cars. It was a mating ritual that was repeated every weekend of every hot summer night in every town in 1962.

You were what you drove in ’62 because the car did indeed make the man – or at least the teenaged male facsimile behind the wheel of the car. The car show in ‘American Graffiti’ portrayed that era almost flawlessly with the exception of a time-warp Mustang and 1967 Chevy fleetingly caught in some of the shots.

The two major car stars of ‘American Graffiti’ were the 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe and the 1955 Chevy. Best supporting car awards go to the 1958 Chevy Impala and the 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The list of extras in terms of cars featured in the movie was too long to itemize, but George Lucas made sure that his movie had plenty of classic cars in it.

The movie centered on the antics of a group of friends that ranged from very cool (Milner) to very nerdy (Toad) who had inexplicably become friends prior to the start of the movie. The plotline was pretty funny, but every car guy on the planet wanted to see the final showdown between the Deuce and the ’55.

Milner’s Deuce had dominated the streets before the arrival of a stranger with a ’55 Chevy 2 door post who had been spotted around town and duly noted as a threat to Milner’s title as the baddest ride on the street. A traffic light warm-up race had proven that the Deuce was about to be seriously challenged because neither car was a clear winner.

Even the song on the radio was perfect. Bobby Freeman’s classic ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ was blasting out a musical street challenge during the warm-up race between the Deuce and the Chevy. Dancing in the streets in ’62 usually meant tire smoke and horsepower domination, so the song was right for the movie moment.

The ultimate showdown occurred after Milner set his exhausts on full header and met the Chevy to settle the score in a highway race at dawn. The results were once again unclear because the ’55 was destroyed in a rollover, but Milner felt that he had been beaten prior to the crash.

Car guys love this movie because it is a 2 hour car show that ends in a race. Sure Milner’s Deuce may have been beaten by the ’55 in the final race, but every car guy knows that somebody a little faster is always just around the corner in every town. You can hold the crown-just not forever-and then you have to start all over again to beat the new champ.

And what is your perfect car movie?

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Car Collector’s Corner: When Is It Time To Let Go? Sun, 03 Mar 2013 16:32:36 +0000

Cars are a little bit like pets. The years are not kind to either over the long run. The wear and tear begins to take a toll. They have less spring in their step, and moving around gets painful.

We notice the changes and hope for the best with a little more time together, but time waits for no one and no machine or pet. Sooner or later tough decisions have to be made and the pet or vehicle become a fond memory with a little heart-break when the decision to say goodbye is made at the end of the relationship.

It is essentially an ‘Old Yeller’ moment that forces people to move onward without a vital and fond link to their past. Sure we don’t typically have to shoot our pets like the young guy in the ‘Old Yeller’ movie, but we still have to take the final step in the circle of life for our cars or pets.

We had an email from a woman who was faced with the difficult task of a decision to get rid of her beloved 1978 Chevy Caprice station wagon. The car had been with her since she and her husband bought it as a low mileage demo on February 28 1979 from a GM dealership. She parted company with her beloved wagon on February 28 2013, exactly 34 years to the day it came into her family.

Station wagons were a few years away from execution by Lee Iaccoca mini-vans in 1979, so they were still the primary kid-haulers for most families in the late 70s in a Brady Bunch kind of way. This family was no exception and their $10,000-plus investment in the wagon was a sizable sum in 1979.

Her words: “The boys are now 40, 38 and 36. The husband took another road after 14 years while the car stayed with me and the boys for 34 years….the full distance to the present. The car was my most reliable partner in raising my three sons ..from nursery school to university years and beyond. Couldn’t have done it without the car and I will miss it dearly and always hoped that I could restore it eventually.”

That will not happen in this case. The grim prospect of an old car with many mechanical and body issues is an expensive reality for the woman. She has become a car guy by circumstance and loves her old friend the wagon because it represents a vital connection to her family and all of those fond memories associated with the car.

But the real world has crept into the equation and inflexible parking rules at her condo means that she had to get rid of her beloved wagon. She sees a lifetime of family memories in the wagon where others see a worn-out old vehicle, but the cold-blooded condo bylaw will win the day and the car that served her so well is a victim of a heartless regulation.

The car has been placed in the hands of a sympathetic car guy who labels himself as the “patron saint of unloved cars” to evaluate the future of the family legacy car. He wants to see whether he can save the car from death by crusher and I hope that the wagon gets a Walt Disney ending for this storyline – and not the Bambi’s mother kind.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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Car Collector’s Corner: 1980 Plymouth Roadrunner One Owner T-top Beeper Sat, 14 Jul 2012 15:19:50 +0000

In 1980, Chrysler was headed into the financial whitewater rapids of a 2-year recession, paddling a leaky canoe full of weak sales. Their products weren’t moving, and the survival life raft full of government loans was a year away.

Sound familiar?

They needed customers in the worst way, and in early spring 1981, 18-year-old Don Sutherland saw a brand new black T-top 1980 Plymouth Roadrunner sitting in the corner of a local Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. This was his first brand new car.

In theory.

Chrysler was a company that was treading water while strapped to a 500 lb. anvil of debt in the early 1980s. They were desperately in need of customers. They were building cars that people actively avoided. This was the worst time of year to sell last year’s model, and in walks a highly motivated and qualified young buyer named Don. Naturally, you’d expect the sales guy to belly crawl through 30 yards of broken glass sitting on hot coals to get this sale done. That’s the TV movie version.

In real life, this salesman took one look at Don, wrote him off as a young punk, and gave him a terse 2 word answer to the possibility of a test drive, “Absolutely not”. Don was determined to own the ‘runner so he went to the owner and cut a deal himself. He paid $8,700 plus another $300 for a cassette stereo.

No word on whether the half-assed salesman got a cut.

Don didn’t waste any time taking his new car on a road trip. Scant weeks later, Don, his cousin Darcy, and the ‘runner headed to Vegas, LA, and San Diego on a giant road trip. The trip had its share of adventures. Don was clocked at 85 mph in Montana and received the cheapest ticket in his life in the form of a $5 EPA violation.

Darcy inflicted the first major war wound on the brand new Plymouth. Cousin Darcy discovered that he had a pathological hatred of pheasants. He aimed Don’s black beauty at a particularly cocky one. The final score was Plymouth 1 and pheasant 0. But the victory came at a price. The 95 mph impact ripped half the front grill off the car, and Darcy’s trip suddenly became a lot pricier.

Don’s new ride was scarred, but that was the 1st of many great road trips in the faithful Roadrunner. Don and the Roadrunner became life partners, and in 2012,they celebrated 31 years together.

Since then he married Michelle, and they have 2 sons, plus he started a business, but the Roadrunner is still there. That’s a feat because in the early stages of his new marriage he ran into the struggle between the eternal enemies called old car vs. new bride. He solved that by moving the car out of the coveted carport in the winter to neutral storage.

They took the last big trip in the car to Spokane when Michelle was expecting their oldest son Stu in the early 90s, and since then the beeper is in semi-retirement mode.

The car is still completely rust free because it only saw one real Canadian winter, so the game plan is surprisingly easy. Don pulled the 85,000 original mile 318 to replace the seals and allow access to the engine compartment for a thorough detailing.

The power train is solid, because Don has always respected the concept of regular maintenance and the same mechanic for 30 years.

This car should easily be back from cosmetic enhancement in time for the 2013 car show season, because it’s so close to mint condition in 2012. Don wants to exercise patience because he wants to copy the showroom look of the T-roof beeper back in 1981.

He summed it up this way: “how many guys can get behind the wheel of a significant car from their past and be 18 again?’

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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Car Collector’s Corner: This WWII Willy’s Jeep Is a Documented D-Day Survivor Wed, 04 Jul 2012 17:43:16 +0000

D-Day (June 6 1944) was a turning point in WW II. 160,000 Allied ground troops hit the beach that day and casualties were high.

This Willys Jeep survived that day.

The two key experiences in the world of automotive journalism are seeing an old vehicle in person and learning about that vehicle through a question and answer session. This Jeep was magic in both areas.

It’s hard to explain how humbling it was to actually climb around this Jeep, because there is such a sense of history contained in this unassuming vehicle. 99 out of 100 Jeeps are a “tribute” to the real battle machines and typically, they’ll be based on a vehicle that saw no combat duty. The equipment is historically correct, but the result is more like a 440 6 pack stuffed under the hood of a 1970 Satellite that came with a 318.

This Jeep is a documented “on the beaches of Normandy” survivor in the truest sense of the word, because many of these land vehicles were targeted and sunk long before they hit dry land. Those that did make it to shore became target practice, so the odds were against this Jeep the day it was loaded on the transport in England.

Anyone with a smattering of history is profoundly humbled by the knowledge that a lot of guys who saw this Jeep in action didn’t make it back.

Stew Geekie is the current owner/caretaker of this incredible piece of history. He owes it to a combination of diplomacy and luck as he explained,

“I already had a few Willys and my wife told me I didn’t need another Jeep so I told her Valentine’s Day and her birthday was coming up so now she tells everybody it’s her Jeep.”

Stew is well connected in the vintage Willys world, and one of his goals was to own a 2nd World War Jeep. Three years ago a colleague aimed him at one in Washington State with an impressive history.

The last owner was an airline pilot with some idiosyncratic hobbies. He collected cars and weapons in no particular order, so when his family had an estate auction in California, many of his weapons were turned back at the border because they were illegal. Happily, the Jeep came back to Washington too because the reserve wasn’t met.

That’s where Stew entered the picture. The pilot’s estranged family had no interest in the Jeep, and they were three days away from selling his property. The property itself was a three level house with 3600 square feet on each level. It had vehicles on every level including Mustangs and exotic sports cars, but the Jeep was stuffed in the basement beside the indoor rifle range.

Stew admitted, “I got it on a bit of a fire sale because they had to get rid of it and they only had 3 days. I was in the right place at the right time.” He wasn’t sure whether it was his wife Donna’s birthday or anniversary present but he is sure that “it’s her Jeep.”

Stew is a detail guy, so he’s a bipedal encyclopedia about this Jeep’s history. The first thing he pointed out was the broken circle around the star on the hood. He explained: “That broken circle means it was at Normandy.”

He then went into detail on this Jeep. The rifle scabbard dated back to the Civil War:

“They used it right up to World War II. That’s the same scabbard that the Cavalry would have used in the Civil War, Battle of Little Big Horn and World War One. The only difference is that it’s on a Jeep, not a horse.”

The gas tank is under the driver’s seat, and Stew outlined the problems with that design:

“The Germans knew where the tank was so the used to shoot at it and light up the Jeep and the driver. Plus the driver had to get out to fuel the Jeep because you had to lift the seat so they used to grumble about that.”

Later on they figured out how to solve the problem as Stew said, “They moved the pioneer tools, the axe and the pick, to the passenger side so then they could fuel it like NASCAR with a filler tube and the driver didn’t have to move. The only time he had to move after that was to grab a map or blanket because they used to stuff them under the seat for padding.”

This Jeep saw night duty because it has the blackout lights. Stew explained how those worked:

“They traveled in convoy and basically all they could see was 2 feet in front so they drove by feel. They had a way of triangulating the point where the lights met so they could judge distance so you say the point met at 50 feet, 25 feet, whatever they adjusted them to judge distance between vehicles.”

General Patton was obsessed with stealth operations, so he insisted on the no-reflection rule. That meant several things including draping the burlap camouflage over the roof and on the glass. Stew was extremely proud of the burlap because, as he explained, “that stuff disappeared after the war, it’s pretty hard to find.”

GIs had another way to get by the reflection rules. Stew said,” They traveled with the windshield down so they could get a shot away without glass in the way but the Germans figured that out too, so they strung wire across the road at a neck high level. That’s why that big wire cutter led the way.”

The Jeep had another link to the past in the form of a water bag. Stew explained, “These were used by the Calvary to feed their horses, but by 1944 they were used to haul water for radiators.”

The fire extinguisher is another piece of history. Stew explained, “They used carbon tetrachloride back then, it’s extremely banned now.”

Handles were another feature on these Willys Jeeps, and any veteran can tell you how many times they lifted one of these little mules out of mess.

Stew explained why this Jeep stayed in Europe after the war:

“They gave a lot of their surplus equipment to the Allies after the war, so this one ended up in France. In 1961 it was completely rebuilt on a French assembly line. They’d send it in at one end as a worn out Jeep and it would come out the other end as a Jeep. There’s a plaque on the dash that gives all the details.”

Surprisingly, Stew has never driven the Jeep any distance because he’s too tall. He explained, “The average soldier was only 5 foot 7 in World War II so the pedals are too high for me and I have trouble getting behind the wheel easily and the shift lever gets in the way.”

The last stop for the Jeep was the Philippines and that’s where the travels ended for this historical little workhorse. Stew pointed to the registration plaque and added, “It came home after that.”

That brought this icon of World War II full circle and fortunately this Normandy Jeep is in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled caretaker.

It deserved it.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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Car Collector’s Corner: Hidden Treasure – A Great Classic Car Museum At An Undisclosed Location Sun, 24 Jun 2012 07:20:39 +0000 Some of the greatest car collections are not public friendly for a very simple reason. You can’t trust the public. That’s why some guys keep their collection on a “need to know basis”.

This is one of those cases where you don’t seem to have it. Not to worry, we smuggled-in a camera.

Harold was the caretaker of this incredible collection. When he passed away recently, the hobby lost a true pioneer.  Harold’s last name is being withheld by his own request because he valued his privacy and the privacy of this collection.

Harold knew that the cost of armed guards or CIA-rated security to protect their treasures was just too much for many collectors for another simple reason. They’ve spent all their money on old cars.

This is a classic hidden collection – it’s the automotive equivalent of Shangri-La, but like that fabled city, the location was always a mystery, so the only clue is that these cars are definitely in the Western Hemisphere.

Here’s another clue. A Snopes search will turn up nothing because this isn’t one of those Internet myths like ghosts in pictures or “Family in Trouble” scams that separate concerned grandmothers from a ton of cash.

Harold was a hardcore car guy for over 50 years and he loved the old iron.

Harold’s late father in law was a pioneer in the vintage vehicle arena and many of these cars reflect the last vestiges of his personal collection. This is one of the most eclectic car collections short of Jay Leno’s because it spans nearly 100 years and 2 continents. In fact, Leno might even get car envy for the first time since he was a starving comedian.

The collection begins before the horseless carriage with a few horse drawn carriages.

Harold’s collection then moves into the earliest era of cars with a Holsman that was built before 1905. This car was actually used in a major parade in 1963 where it kept getting stuck in the streetcar tracks, but it made it through the miles long route without a problem.

Harold also owned a 1918 Model TT in mint condition. This truck looked like it could start work tomorrow because its current cargo is a 1966 Ski-Doo snowmobile.

Harold’s collection also included a 1922 Kissel Speedster, and that’s not something you’ll see at any local cruise night. This is a museum quality example of an extremely rare vehicle from the Great Gatsby era.

The Pierce Arrow was purportedly owned by legendary silent screen star Mary Pickford. Harold was a very careful guy and like most car guys, he’s a detail guy, so he was reluctant to add a 100 per cent confirmation on the Hollywood connection to the Pierce Arrow. But simply looking at this rare car in person confirmed that it was a big part of 1920s luxury.

This1928 Essex epitomized Roaring 20s upper echelon society because even without a movie star connection, this beauty carries its own glamour.

The 1930 Ford Town Sedan was not quite as upscale but every bit as important. In person, this old Ford looked right at home as a museum piece.

One of Harold’s prized vehicles was a 1931 Stutz 8 (DOHC straight 8). This car sports engine technology that is still being used in the 21st Century.

The collection also had a few classics from the 1940s including a Lincoln convertible that was the ultimate touring open vehicle of the time. A pristine Ford sedan from the same era represented a more mainstream, but no less glowing example of 1940s automotive styling.

Fittingly, a 1948 Willy’s Jeep reflected the proximity of the late 40s to the industry standard. This was clearly a military vehicle that was the workhorse of World War Two before its role as the 1st Generation SUV.

The 1950s are represented by a mix of classic British racing style with classic 50s North American style because an MGA (title picture) is only a few feet away from a 1959 Cadillac.

This finned icon of the era defined the late 50s styling Space Race in North America.

There was another Cadillac a few feet away. This convertible picked up the torch for the 1960s era. The underlying theme is luxury in the collection and this immaculate white Caddy is a fine representative of any era.

The 1970s continued the upscale theme with a one owner 1978 Diamond Jubilee Lincoln. This car is so complete it still has the factory issued umbrella and the case containing the factory issue garage opener.

Clearly,  late 1970s Lincoln owners didn’t like getting wet and Ford accommodated them.

Harold remembered another facet of this Lincoln – he tried to clean the gold color-coded “white”-walls.

Like most car guys, Harold was a philosopher. He reflected on the Essex with the comment; “the 50s, 60s and 70s cars are going for big bucks, but old classic stuff isn’t worth as much. 20 years ago the Essex was worth more than it is now”.

He added that the Lincoln convertible is “the ultimate car” but looking after these cars “has become a chore.” This classic fleet was a full-time job for Harold. There’s a never-ending battle to change the fluids, upgrade the gas, start them periodically, maintain the tires and keep the batteries up to full charge. He also had a horse that’s so friendly it thinks it’s a Golden Retriever. Everything was labor intensive for Harold.

The building that housed them was also historical and that added to Harold’s workload.  It’s an old dance hall that was moved to the site after many decades of service back in an era when many of the cars inside were brand new. Harold steadfastly refused to replace the original labor-intensive wooden dance floor so it was a constant battle to protect the old timber from the ravages of leaking old cars.

Despite the workload, Harold was still extremely proud of his eclectic fleet, so he continued to baby these classics from the past to his final days.

He did it as a labor of love, but as he said, “If I got somebody else to look after them I’d have to tell him where the cars are.”

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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Car Collector’s Corner: The World’s Nicest Survivor 1974 Dodge Van Sat, 09 Jun 2012 12:14:01 +0000 Survivor cars are the new gold standard for car collectors. The ultimate dream for collectors is finding and purchasing a documented low mileage 427 Vette. You can do a ground up restoration, but a 1967 427 435-horse Sting Ray is original only once.

After that, what you have is a different car by varying degrees because it’s like an organ transplant in humans.You might get a kidney or a full-blown heart, lung and liver transplant, but after enough operations you’re less you and more the that unfortunate “other guy” who was hit by a bus.

But what happens when the survivor car is actually a humble, but completely original 1974 Dodge working-man’s van?

Thanks to the untimely retirement of its original owner, this 1974 Dodge van has 28,000 documented miles. The man was a plumber who was clearly optimistic about his health issues when he bought this van back in 1974.

The van is fully rigged out for the job, but it turns out the man wasn’t. The van was sent into early retirement long before its stale date as a working vehicle.

Robbin Dawe is the current owner of this disco era Dodge van. The original owner is a long-term neighbor. When the car came up for sale, Robbin was the first guy who was called. You can imagine how excited Robbin would have been had his neighbor bought a Challenger TA and only added 20,000 miles to the clock, but this van represents survivor vehicle reality, not wish lists for muscle car guys.

Robbin, being a very practical owner, ran up a few thousand miles on the van using it as a commuter vehicle over a 180 mile round trip. That justified the purchase to a degree, but in reality, the van is a barebones non-insulated vehicle with the cheapest seats imaginable.

As a result, these vans are not exactly Cadillac comfortable. Robbin parked the 74 Dodge, and uses it occasionally for the old “hauling stuff” cliché. This big van runs a serious cool factor deficiency, so his kids aren’t clamoring for the keys to the vintage Dodge Tradesman. That really keeps the miles down on this workhorse.

You could call that scenario early retirement, but this van was actually retired during the Gerald Ford administration. In working truck years, this beast is ancient. It should have been turned into a fridge door around the time U2 was still relevant as a band.

Now this 1974 Dodge van is somewhat of a freak because it’s a vehicle that should have been worked to death but it’s a survivor. A mint low-mileage 1970 Boss 302 Mustang makes sense because some guys simply have the foresight to see the future in low production muscle cars.

Nobody has the foresight to see the future value in a plumber’s 1974 Dodge van. Its survival is all about a serendipitous series of events – that’s what makes this van so unique. It’s a million to one shot at best.

Robbin is realistic about the van and drives it enough to keep the mechanicals in good shape. He knows that the true value in the Dodge lies in its odometer at less than 30,000 miles. For the rest of the world it’s a time capsule to a time when tradesman used vans, not giant diesel quad cab trucks for work.

The only question now is what class Robbin enters this van in at a Mopar meet. Is it worthy of the overall Mopar survivor class, or is it destined to dominate the sparsely populated Dodge truck class?

Either way, this old plumber’s van is a contender.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to

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Car Collector’s Corner: Hatfields and McCoys 2012 – A Chevy Guy brings a 1956 Chevrolet into a Mopar Family Tue, 05 Jun 2012 13:15:33 +0000 Years ago, Tim Sinclair married Sherry Swainson, and they lived happily ever after except for one issue. The Swainsons are a hardcore Mopar family.

So hardcore that their Chrysler allegiance extends over several generations.  Also, Sherry’s family has owned and operated a Chrysler dealership since 1971.

Tim is a hardcore Chevy guy. His first car was a 77 Camaro, so this transition from single Chevy guy to mixed marriage GM-Chrysler couple had bumpy ride written all over it.

It got worse when Tim ventured into the old car world.

Tim’s brother in law is Peter Swainson. Peter is a well-known name in the classic late 60s early 70s era of Mopar muscle, and his first inclination was to steer Tim toward a 340 Cuda, or a mint Super Bee.

Tim’s response was always the same, “I can’t afford a Mopar, only guys with money can swing that.” Mopar guys may take exception to that statement, but it did keep peace at Swainson family gatherings.

Sinclair followed a 56 Chevy for two years, but the price was higher than Tim’s budget allowed for an entry into the old car world. In 2011, the car came up for sale at a more attractive price because “the guy wanted the room in his garage.” Tim became the proud owner of an iconic car from the Tri-five Chevy family.

Tim had originally seen the 56 Chevy in a magazine and he knew that this was a car that he wanted enough to swim upstream against a Mopar family current. The car was on a regular car show circuit in the Las Vegas area and it needed a bigger trunk for the trophies it won at various meets, including a major show at Lake Havasu. The car had been well looked after because the paint is still the same coat that won all the hardware for nearly two decades.

Tim picked up the car immediately, and he was proud of the fact that he “used a Mopar guy’s trailer to haul it back.”

The 56 Chevy is a mild resto-mod and it definitely attracted attention at the first local show. Tim conceded that the car “isn’t a race car, it’s got a pretty mild cam in it, but it goes pretty good”. The car has a great finish to it because of the diligent care over the years and Tim can only see one modification in the future. Air conditioning.

Tim and Sherry want to take the old tri-five to several shows over the next few years and Tim admits, “I’m an older guy so I like to be comfortable and that air looks pretty good at 80 degrees. Other than that, the car is perfect.”

Perfect for a Chevy guy in a Mopar family.

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Car Collector’s Corner, Memorial Day Edition: 1952 Ford Jeep M-38 Korean War Vet Sat, 26 May 2012 07:01:52 +0000 Lee Stronach has two passions in life. He’s a military history buff, and he’s a vintage vehicle buff. This Jeep M-38 was the perfect marriage between this afflictions. Ford built the Jeep M-38 under contract for the Canadian military; its relatively low numbers make this military machine a fairly rare piece of military history.

Despite its Ford roots, this Jeep came with the 65 horsepower Willys engine as part of the manufacturing agreement. The Jeep served from 1952-72, and was looked after in the motor pool as a “town” car. Basically this means the Jeep wasn’t thrashed to death in a severe combat environment. Lee had a great starting point for his tribute to a Canadian military war pony.

Lee has it outfitted as a radio jeep. It is bristling with period correct electronic equipment in addition to standard military options. The winch is another rare item.

This Jeep has a functional look that spells out military business circa 1952, but Lee has more upgrades ticked off on the wish list. Eventually, he wants to equip this Jeep with some period correct firepower. For now, he’s really happy with the radio car look.

Lee likes to drive this military mule to local shows. The “screaming engine at 45 miles per hour” thing limits his enthusiasm for 2000-mile excursions across the country, but he revels in the leisurely pace of the old Jeep.

Lee loves to let kids sit in this rolling museum piece. He hopes they’ll be encouraged to take an interest in the old car hobby and get a look back at the history of the Canadian military in areas like Kapyong Valley and Hill 187.

He likes to think about the future so the old Jeep is destined to stay in the family on a permanent basis because his sons are penciled in as heirs to the classic old Ford.

The Jeep is a magnet at every car show but Lee is limited by his refusal to “trailer queen” the proud old veteran of the Korean conflict. That’s why his M-38 has signal lights.

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Picture courtesy

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Car Collector’s Corner:1974 Valiant Brougham With A Long Family History Gets A New Lease On Life Sun, 20 May 2012 12:02:07 +0000 When you see an immaculate 1974 Valiant four door sedan at a car show, one thing is very clear: There is a story behind this car.

Few people would restore one of these dependable Mopar compacts from the 70s unless there was a good reason.

Lorne and Pat Dawes own one of the nicest 1974 Valiants we have ever seen and they have a family legacy with this little Plymouth. It took a few hours to track down the Dawes at a summer car show, but it was worth the effort.

The car was Lorne’s father’s last car and it served him well in his golden years. The easiest way to illustrate the family connection was to include Lorne’s own words in this story, so the following explains why this car means so much to his entire family.

Valiant Memories August 15,2011

Jan. 22, 1979 – The Valiant was purchased used by my Dad (Davey C. Dawes) from a business acquaintance of mine living in Athabasca. The mileage reading on the car at the time was 29,754.

When Dad purchased the Valiant, Dad, my brother George, (who was a licensed mechanic working for an Edmonton Chrysler dealer) and I drove to Athabasca to view, inspect and decide on the Valiant. After we checked it out and road tested it, we retreated to the local hotel for a cool one to let Dad consider his decision. Dad was very reluctant to replace his 1963 Plymouth Belvedere that served him so very well, but by the same token this would be the newest and most prestigious vehicle he had ever owned. It was also a matter of (I believe ?) about $2,900 plus his Belvedere, which was a lot of money and the loss of the Belvedere. He did like the Valiant, and with a little reassurance from George and I, he made the trade-up deal. Dad lived in Edmonton all his life and retired from the Canadian National Railway after 44 years of service in January 1971.

Dad was very proud of the Valiant and gave it special care and attention. George was always available to attend to any mechanical attention it required. Occasionally, the three of us would meet at George’s home (garage) to enjoy an afternoon of pulling wrenches and more importantly, camaraderie. Very pleasant memories and get-togethers. Dad was always good at keeping records of any work performed on the car, and I have tried to maintain that practice.

The only complaint I recall hearing from Dad about the Valiant was the gas consumption. I suppose going from a slant six to a 318 might give you that opinion. He did however enjoy the pep. Dad enjoyed the Valiant for just short of eight years while logging 30,757 miles on her. His furthest trip in the Valiant was to Victoria B.C. Dad drove the Valiant until he passed away on November 15, 1986.

In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I accepted the Valiant in December of 1986 with a mileage reading of 60,511. (Gas was 30 cents per litre.) For the next five years, my wife Pat and daughter Cheryl used the Valiant logging on an additional 20,000 miles, bringing the odometer up to 79,611. Cheryl obtained her driver’s license using this car and drove it while attending high school on occasion

November of 1991, I decided to park the Valiant until I was in a better position to restore it back to its original condition. My sister Joan had room in her garage and consented to allow me to store the Valiant there for the interim.

In April of 2004, I finally brought her home again to get a start on her. (Gas was 73 cents per litre.) It was a slow start and a long process. With George’s help, we kept plugging away. We started with the mechanical concerns, meanwhile I accumulated any body trim parts I could such as new fender trim, re-chromed bumpers and numerous trips to various auto wreckers seeking marker lights and/or any other enhanced parts. It was important to me to keep it as original as possible. By the spring of 2008, it was ready to go to the body shop where it spent most of the spring and summer. Got her back just in time to put her back together, get a new vinyl roof on her and park it for yet another winter.

Finally, the spring of 2009 comes along and I can start enjoying the fruits of my (our) efforts and expenses. As usual there are always things to address and George was always there to help or at least provide the guidance and reassurance to complete certain mechanical concerns. George was a great brother, friend and resource of information. Sadly he passed in March of 2011, but at least we got in a few cruises and laughs together in / or working on the Valiant. Good times!

You could say the restoration was a tribute to Dad and now includes George.

Now it’s mainly time for cruises and shining, with the odd mechanical or maintenance requirement and fond memories. My wife Pat and I enjoy taking her for a cruise on warm summer days and attending occasional Show & Shines. The Grandkids like to have a ride in it and I enjoy taking them. They are even starting to show some interest in the car and I do hope the pride extends.

Some say; “The Devil is in the Details”. I would suggest that “The Glory is in the Details”.

Lorne Dawes – August 16, 2011

It was easy to understand why this beautiful little four door Valiant has such deep roots in Lorne’s family

We wish the entire family happy motoring for many years to come in their family heirloom.

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Car Collector’s Corner: 1963 Chevrolet Viking 60 Cabover – A Milk Truck That Became A Farm Hand Mon, 14 May 2012 08:06:28 +0000 1963 Chevrolet Viking 60 cabover trucks are not vehicles that you’ll see in everyday 21st Century life. Viking cabovers were pretty rare even in 1963. Odds are that survivors such as this one are very slim.

Owners looked after the Viking’s svelte, more popular distant cousin, the 63 Sting Ray but work trucks like this Chevy cabover faced a different future. Typically, these heavyweights had a career like virtually every commercial vehicle on the face of the earth. They worked without a break and then met Mr. Recycler.

In this case, the Viking was part of a fleet of refrigerator trucks for a small town milk delivery business. The big brute did that job remarkably well until it was sold to a guy who liked hunting. The mobile fridge capability of this truck made huge sense for hanging meat on a hook after a hunt. Organized crime has known that for decades.

The Chevy served as a rolling meat locker for the Elmer “wabbit season” Fudd guys until Grant Puzey bought it for his farm. It came minus the refrigerator unit because Grant had plans for the old Chevy’s new career as a grain hauler. Grant added a box and hydraulic system to dump the grain into his granary after a load from a combine in the field.

Grant replaced the original engine with a new crate motor and used the truck for ten years as a heavily worked grain hauler during harvest season. The 5 speed split axle worked well with the new heart in the C-60.

The jobs were short but intense, so that’s why this nearly 50-year-old truck has only 78,000 miles on the clock. They were hard miles with a heavy workload, but the Viking handled every one with unsurpassed reliability.

Grant retired from farming, and so did the Viking C-60. Grant still marvels at the load this old Viking could handle during a frantic harvest season. He shouldn’t be surprised because this brute goes back to the days of glass milk bottles when the loads were significantly heavier.

The truck hauled bushels of grain in its second career, which would seem like a pretty light load to this vintage cabover Chevy 3 ton. That’s probably why it’s still around and waiting for a third career.

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Car Collector’s Corner: “Myrtle the Turtle” A 1964 Dodge Travco Motor Home Wed, 09 May 2012 03:06:54 +0000

The Dodge Motor Home was one of Chrysler’s best-kept secrets but it did get quite a reputation for reliability and function. This is a very rare 1964 version, and its owner is now an expert on this Mopar RV.

Ms. Capri is the current owner of this 64 Dodge Motor Home. Her pursuit of this iconic RV was no trivial task.

Capri saw a 1963 version of this Dodge in her hometown and immediately started a harassment campaign with the owner. She met with limited success. In fact, the guy was so sick of Capri that she thought he might consider a restraining order.

Undaunted, Capri expanded her search into Montana where she located this classic 1964 Dodge Motor Home. The owner “was in over his head on it” Capri explained because, “it had no heat and mushy brakes so we drove it home that way.” Once it was home, Capri located a shop manual and she laughingly added, “not many women get excited about a shop manual, but I’m one of them because it’s been a godsend.”

Capri’s first mission was to personally take on a thorough detailing for the old Travco. The results are spectacular. This RV is nearly 50 years old, but it looks like new inside. There were some issues with the floor and seats, but generally the work has been minimal. Capri focused on a period correct theme for the Dodge Motor Home: This RV has dishes, curtains and cutlery that would look right at home in a 1964 home. The only thing that would add to the ambiance would be a portable turntable playing a mint condition 45-rpm version of Please Please Me by The Beatles.

Guys don’t notice curtains, but Capri had a closet full of magazines including Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics from 1964. Those definitely did set male reference points for time and place far better than a knife and fork set. This RV was built long before a portable satellite dish could pull in the world on a unit the size of a pie plate. Reading material, not CNN, was your window to all outside events back in 1964.

This is a 27-foot version of the Dodge Motor home so it has a very rare rear door option. This was the last year for the pushbutton transmission. This old RV has that option to shift its 318 cubic inch poly V-8 through the gears.

Capri added that she is “surprised at how little gas the old Dodge needs to go back and forth,” but many older car guys know how much torque is produced in the 318 poly. They’d like a little more punch so Capri’s husband is researching the value of a 6-pack carb upgrade. No word on how that might affect the MPG rating. The only part replaced to this point was a cracked exhaust manifold.

Parts are expensive for these old Travcos. Capri explained that this example was well looked after because it came with a full array of the difficult to replace things like factory lights and shades. Clearly this RV didn’t spend a lifetime hauling kids on vacations. Lamps are usually the first casualties in a long list of things that urchins will break.

Capri is the only member of her family who “likes old things,” so this ancient RV is an enigma to them. She counters their skepticism by pointing out that “new trailers blow over, these things are more solid.” The other thing is an intangible feature that you’ll find with old trailers and campers. They are comfortable in a way that no new trailer can equal. They make you feel like you’re going back to a time when a vacation was a huge adventure and not an expectation. These old units smell like wood not plastic. If you want to experience anything close you have to find a house built in the 1950s, not a condo built last year.

Capri gets the philosophy better than most people twice her age, and she protects the heritage of this unique vehicle better than the original owner.

She’s made a few concessions to the 21st Century. This RV now has smoke and CO detectors plus a full array of fire extinguishers. They’ve also replaced the original low back driver’s and passenger’s seats with newer ones from a diesel push RV because some things should stay in the past. Those tiny factory seats are a great example.

They have more plans ahead with the Travco. The windows were resealed. Now, the sliding ones won’t open and as Capri explained, “ you get a lot of people who want to talk to you about the old Dodge.” For now, the 64 Dodge is fully functional. Everything from the toilet to the furnace works perfectly and that’s rare in new RVs.

They’ve done some significant trips in the Travco. The longest journey has been 600 miles and many more are on the horizon. For now, Myrtle the Turtle is in great hands. Incidentally, Capri gave the old Dodge that name because “it looks like a turtle and it brings its own shell.”

Give an old ride a name and it becomes part of the family and Myrtle is clearly part of Capri’s family.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to


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Car Collector’s Corner: 1966 Rambler Station Wagon – A Family Heritage Car Makes a Comeback Sat, 05 May 2012 09:55:55 +0000 Don Hogenson led a different life before he became a family man. He was a professional football player with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Then he embarked on a career as a professional wrestler.

That all changed when his family got bigger.

Enter this 1966 Rambler American station wagon.

At that point in his life, Don was a car salesman. In those days, you didn’t use company demos for personal business. Don spotted this Rambler with a mere 114 miles on the clock. It was perfect for an upcoming vacation.

The car made sense for the trip until, as Don explained, “we were going on holidays and I couldn’t take a demo, I bought it, parked it and a half hour later cops were there after a guy had an epileptic seizure. Lost my holidays that year, because I told them I wanted all new parts.”

A year later the car was back to normal although Don admits that “the back corner has 4 pounds of lead on it.”

After that, there were no more disasters with the little wagon. As Don related, “ I drove it for twenty years pretty much anytime I didn’t have a demo car. I hauled kids everywhere in it and my daughter used it as a wedding car.”

There were a few skirmishes with the car though as Don recalled, “my kid and 2 other brats decided to break the windshield and I wore myself out trying to catch them as they ran around the car…disadvantages of a wagon.”

Eventually, the little Rambler became less of a factor for the Hogenson family, and it wasn’t driven for 15 years. Last year Don’s son decided to take the family wagon back to its former glory.

The car was really solid mechanically as Don explained, “I had to redo the brakes because they were seized, needed a new windshield, motor wasn’t touched.”

The car was a fairly lengthy project, and Don tried to stay away from his beloved Rambler during that period. Don admits, that he cried when he saw it. That speaks volumes about his inner car guy and his attachment to the little wagon because Don is not an overtly emotional guy in person.

Now,the Rambler gets a daily workout. Don can be seen all over town behind the wheel of his 46-year-old car. He admits “that I’d sooner drive this than my 2004 Camry because of the sentimental value, but it will never see another winter.”

His only regret is the lack of power steering. Don said it was easier to drive in 1966 when he was much younger and still had youth on his side.

Other than that, this 1966 Rambler station wagon is home for good as part of the Hogenson family heritage.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to


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Car Collector’s Corner:1910 Franklin – A Hundred Years Old And Still On The Road Sat, 21 Apr 2012 20:22:10 +0000 If you want to see a 1910 Franklin up-close and personal, you would usually have to look in a museum. Dave Cruickshank doesn’t believe that 102-year-old cars belong in museums. They belong on the street because as Dave says, “If you own them you should drive them.”

So Dave’s 1910 Franklin is still a street machine. He spends as much time behind the wheel of his centenarian as time will allow him.

Typically a mild summer night becomes an open invitation for Dave to crank up his air-cooled Franklin, hit the Thursday night show and shine in his hometown.

Dave’s hometown has been a multi-generational location for his family. His grandfather owned and operated a livery stable in town before the 1910 Franklin was even built. Maybe one of the early Franklins replaced horses in that livery stable.

But Dave would rather drive history than discuss it, and the Franklin is a perfect vehicle for that experience.

There are very few 102-year-old Franklins left in the world, even fewer on the street. Dave is a fairly young owner of the car, roughly half the age of his ride. He has plenty of time to run up more miles every summer when the weather is good and the top comes down on the old codger.

The Franklin is called a brass car, for obvious reasons, and the brass era ended in 1912 for the Franklins.

The car draws an enormous amount of attention at car shows, so Dave often finds himself in the middle of a crowd of curious onlookers. Dave is a quiet-spoken guy, but he will answer any and all questions about his unique 102-year-old four-wheeled companion.

The Franklin car was produced from 1902 to 1934. Dave’s car needs a hand-crank to start it. It runs like a Swiss watch when he fires it up. All of this begs one question: How did a company that produced a car that runs this well at 102 years old ever go out of business?

Dave was too busy looking for another reason to hit the road in his 102-year-old ride to answer that question, because summer is a short season in his region and this Franklin is topless.

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Car Collector’s Corner: Shriners 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air 18 Passenger Limousine Wed, 18 Apr 2012 08:52:44 +0000 Spotting old cars is like an addiction for car guys. That’s why this giant sized 1960 Chevy limousine had a group of guys around it even though a wedding reception was underway next door.  The good news is that everybody found their correct seats before the respective festivities began. There were anecdotes about guys being dragged away by their ears.

No wonder. This car really gets your attention and it’s not just because of the psychedelic Shriners paint job. This is the ultimate 1960 Chevy. It has enough room for a volley ball game with extra room for spectators.

Pat Ferguson from the Shriners organization was kind enough to fill in the blanks on the car’s history:

“It started life as a 1960 Chevy Bel Air & was a Brewster Transportation touring car until the Banff Shrine Club (Now Alpine Shrine Club) acquired it in the late 60′s. It was originally a medium blue color just like the rest of the Brewster fleet & they had it stretched by Sherwood Body Co. in the US.”

The car needed a fair amount of power to haul the daily loads as Pat explained:

It originally had a 3 speed manual transmission but when it became a parade car for the Shriners they had an automatic transmission put in so they wouldn’t be burning out clutches! It currently has the 409 Chevv engine, & is a rocket on the highway. It doesn’t particularly like to run slow in parades.”

The car was designed to reflect function over form. That’s not a great leap of logic when you’re discussing a car that’s nearly a football field long:

“A couple of interesting points to mention are, that none of the doors on the driver’s side of the car open except the driver’s door to keep people from exiting into traffic. It also came with rear axle air bags to level the car when loaded with 18 passengers & all of their baggage.”

The beauty of this working Chevy is simply that it’s still actually working. Most of these types of vehicles became the biggest part of a washer-dryer combination. Seeing this car working in 2010 explains why all the male wedding goers were drawn to the car like moths to a light.

There was no word on whether the bride suggested parking the 50-year-old classic behind the building for the next wedding.

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to


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Car Collector’s Corner: 1961 Studebaker – Still a Working Member of a Family Sat, 14 Apr 2012 13:55:31 +0000 This Studebaker is a good example of patience in a search for a rare car. Howard is a huge fan of the 53-64 Studebaker. and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was this 1961 model.

As he said, “I’ve wanted one since I was 12 years old”.

The car is rare enough, but the 4 speed manual option really emphasizes the value of a good attitude in a meticulous quest for a dream car.

The original owner didn’t like the fins on the late 50s Studebakers, so he waited until that era ended. The car has spent its entire life in the semi arid confines of central Washington State, so the term solid survivor is appropriate.

The car went through one more owner before Howard acquired it five years ago. Howard used the car as a daily driver for the last years of his working career. In addition to that, every one of his six kids have driven the car. The last one passed his driver’s test in the 50 year old Studebaker. As Howard said, “they use it when their stuff breaks.”

Howard’s daughter borrowed the car when her new VW was in the shop and she found out how much power the old Studie had when she topped a long hill at 90 miles per hour. She pinned the old classic like she was driving her Volkswagen on the same hill but the results were far different with the torque of the old solid lifter 289.

He has a very casual game plan for the old Studebaker because he’s having so much fun with the car right now. Howard loves driving the car-particularly on the highway. As he reports, “the car gets out there at freeway speed, it really dangles and handles great, especially with the radials. It’ll do 49 miles per hour in first gear.”

When Howard does start the process of restoration, he “knows he’s got a lot to work with,” He doesn’t expect too much down time in his beloved Studebaker. He has a long term plan to bring this car back to factory fresh. After that, the car won’t leave the family – this legacy will stay in the hands of his kids.  They told Howard that, “under no circumstances can this car disappear.”

For more of J Sutherland’s work go to


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