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Editor’s note: Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only, it’s the return of Curbside Classics to TTAC. You can catch Paul Niedermeyer’s work (along with contributions from an ever expanding crew of TTAC commenters and more) on a regular basis at the new Curbside Classics site. But this piece? It just had to be on TTAC.
There’s a big difference between creating and re-creating. The proto-hot rodders of yore scoured the junk yards for new solutions, not to replicate. The competition was as much in creativity as it was pure speed. Much of that has given way to endless replication, whether it’s a perfect restoration or a 1000 hp resto-mod. But creative juices are irrepressible, and they were certainly at work here. Want a daily driver Edsel, but not its 1950′s fuel-gulping ways? The solution was just a $200 junkyard engine away. But it had to be imagined first. Now that’s creativity, and a harbinger of the future. Which is exactly what the old car hobby needs: a new model, like this “Eco-Boost” Edsel.
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You’d think that all the Malaise Era Montes would have been crushed 15 years ago, but you still see the occasional survivor chugging around these days. I spotted this battered-but-solid example in a Denver park a few months back. Read More >
In my first Denver winter after a driving lifetime in coastal California, I’m now experiencing my first real taste of driving in snow. My ’92 Civic is doing pretty well (i.e., I haven’t crashed or become stuck yet), but I’m starting to eyeball Craigslist listings for IHC Scouts and FJ40 Land Cruisers. After spotting this Toyota in my neighborhood, I may have to forget about the Scouts. Read More >
Here’s a totally practical daily driver I spotted on the south side of Denver a while back. Read More >
Not many of us wake up in the morning and say to ourselves, “I think I’m going to shorten and narrow a ’57 Chevy wagon, give it a truck bed, and install a 427 with a 5-speed!” Read More >
Yes, owners of classic cars still drive them on the street during the winter in Denver (though we haven’t seen any real snow yet); I spotted this rare Bavarian at the park yesterday. Read More >
The greatest crime in ancient Greece was hubris. And the perpetrator that carried out the sins as a result of their hubris inevitably faced great shame and retribution, most often fatal. So for the sake of this CC, we’re going to drop the Citation’s X-Car moniker, and call them the H-Cars. And just in case you’re not convinced that the Citation truly was GM’s greatest sin rather than the Vega (coincidentally numbered GM’s DS #2), let me cite you the incontrovertible evidence: Read More >
The Toyota pickup has become such a dominant vehicle in its class worldwide, its easy to assume that it was always that way. Not so. It was Nissan’s little Datsun trucks that essentially invented the modern mini-pickup genre, and was top puppy in the US for well over a decade before handing over the throne. In fact, trucks were the only vehicle that Datsun imported for quite a few years, and made its reputation with them. They’re a significant piece of automotive history, and many are still hard at work, at least hereabouts. Read More >
This week’s Silversides Bus and Tempest CCs were high on my wish list, and finding them motivated me to put in some serious overtime. So today I need a breather, say an urban hike from our house to Skinner Butte, the geographic focal point of Eugene. Now some of you have asked if you could join me sometime on a CC hunt in Eugene; of course you all have a standing invitation; just show up. In the meantime you can join me on a virtual tour/hunt of the Skinner Butte District. I’ll just point out the highlights of the neighborhood, and you just give a shout out when you see something that interests you. Read More >
In the thirties and forties, GM pioneered and brought to market some of the most innovative, successful and lasting new technologies: diesel-electric locomotives, the modern diesel bus, automatic transmissions, refrigeration and air conditioning systems, high compression engines, independent front suspension, and many more. But GM’s technology prowess was just one facet of its endlessly warring multiple personalities. Planned obsolescence, chrome, fins and financial rationalization were the real moneymakers, especially during the technically conservative fifties. But in the period from 1960 to 1966, GM built three production cars that tried to upend the traditional format: the rear engined 1960 Corvair, the front-wheel drive 1966 Toronado, and the 1961 Tempest. And although the Corvair and Toronado tend to get the bulk of the attention, the Tempest’s format was by far the most enduring one: it was a BMW before BMW built theirs. If only they had stuck with it. Read More >
This GM bus revolutionized the industry, and set the template for all over-the road buses to come: forward control, rear transverse diesel engine, the famous fluted aluminum “Silversides” cladding, semi-monocoque construction, high floor and underfloor luggage compartments. But its wildest feature was not replicated: a four-on-the-tree shifter and its mechanical linkage back to the non-synchronized gear box; something had to be left to improve. Let’s check it out and delve into the history and workings of its legendary Detroit Diesel 6-71 engine, which first made its appearance here. Read More >
Yesterday’s piece about Honda’s slippage left little doubt that its mojo ain’t quite what it used to be. But there was a time when Honda was on fire, and could do (almost) no wrong. The gen 1 Civic was like a little cherry bomb lobbed into a Weight-Watcher’s convention. Tiny, tinny, rude and crude as it was, the first Civic already embodied the unique qualities, if in somewhat embryonic form, that would revolutionize the American small car market and establish Honda’s meteoric rise. And this gen2 Civic was huge step forward; now instead of wearing a Civic like a badge of honor, one could now actually step into it and think of it as a legitimate car. How civil and civic-minded. But the best was yet to come. Read More >
This car is a jaw-dropper, a true classic, and a lucky find that rivals the CC logomobile, but it’s misnamed. By all rights, it should be the Edsel American. It was Edsel Ford’s fine taste and encouragement that made the original version of this trend-setting car happen, and in the process created a car that set the template that every American personal luxury coupe/convertible has been trying to measure up to ever since. An aggressive face on a very long hood, a close-coupled body, a short rear deck, and dripping with the aura of exclusivity and sex: a timeless formula. All too few of the endless imitators got the ingredients right, or even close, as our recent Cougar CC so painfully showed. But that didn’t stopped them from trying, just like I never stopped looking for this Continental after I first saw it almost two years ago. It was well worth the effort. Read More >
The Cougar first arrived in 1967 as something unique and distinct: a handsome, lithe sporty coupe with a distinct hint of luxury and a dash of continental flavor. Although the 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix is often credited with creating the mid-size/mid-price personal-luxury coupe coup, the first Cougar certainly predicted the trend.
What wasn’t so predictable is how quickly the Cougar would slather on the pounds (tons?), and morph into just another bland also-ran competitor in that rapidly crowding field. And if that weren’t bad enough, the once exclusive Cougar name was sullied by four door sedans and even a station wagon. The seventies were not kind to the Cougar, and (surprise) we’re not going to be very kind to it. Read More >
Memorable (def): 1. worth remembering 2. easily remembered
Maurauder (def): one who raids for booty
In yesterday’s Cougar CC, I claimed there were only three Mercuries truly worth remembering. The Marauder X-100 wasn’t on the list, and many of you protested. Fortunately, there are two definitions for the word, and the Marauder is certainly easily remembered; more like impossible to forget. And what exactly is it memorable for? Its booty. So how could we possibly not honor that? Read More >