The Truth About Cars » Enthusiasm http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:31:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Enthusiasm http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/enthusiasm-editorials/ A Son, His Father, and Mom’s Car, a 390 Cubic Inch AMX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/son-father-moms-car-390-cubic-inch-amx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/son-father-moms-car-390-cubic-inch-amx/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:54:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899474 A while back, I stumbled upon the fact that while car enthusiasts may be entertained by talk of things like independent rear suspensions, dual overhead cams, and launch control, people in general (and that set includes the subset of car enthusiasts) like to read stories about people. I think you’ll like the story of Clovis […]

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Full gallery here.

A while back, I stumbled upon the fact that while car enthusiasts may be entertained by talk of things like independent rear suspensions, dual overhead cams, and launch control, people in general (and that set includes the subset of car enthusiasts) like to read stories about people. I think you’ll like the story of Clovis “Mickey” Nadeau, his wife Betty and her 1968 American Motors AMX.

Full gallery here.

Full gallery here. Note: each AMX pictured in this post has a separate gallery.

Being that I’m attracted to the oddball and the unique, the regional American Motors Owners club meet held in Livonia on the Sunday immediately following the huge Woodward Dream Cruse is penciled in every year. This year because I was planning on photographing the original Boss 302 prototype at the big Mustang Memories show at Ford’s Product Development Center I didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the AMC meet. I wanted to take photos of a ’62 Rambler American convertible that I knew would be at the show, using my father’s Argus camera that he used when he himself owned a ’61 Rambler American. In addition to those photos, with my digital rig I decided to concentrate on the collection of first generation AMX cars at the show. That proved to be a fortuitous decision because I got to meet the Nadeau family and find out about Betty Nadeau’s muscle car.

While I’m a fan of most things AMC, I was a young teenager when the Javelin and AMX came out and they’ve appealed to me ever since then. Maybe it’s the non-conformist in me, but the Javelin was my favorite of the pony cars, and the shorter wheelbase, two seat AMX is the distilled essence of the Javelin’s shape. In the mid 1960s, AMC chairman Roy Chapin Jr., and president Robert Evans wanted to change the company’s image from being the staid manufacturer of Ramblers, competent and economical but not very exciting compact cars. In late 1965 AMC design head Richard A. Teague was given the assignment of coming up with four show cars that would demonstrate that the little car company that could, could indeed build exciting cars.

The most exciting of the four “Project IV” non-running “pushmobiles” was the AMX, for American Motors Experimental. It was a fastback coupe that had already been in progress in Chuck Mashigan’s advanced styling studio before AMC executives came up with the idea of putting their ideas on tour. Mashigan had a notable design career, including being the primary stylist of the Chrysler Turbine cars. A mockup of the AMX was built on the chassis of a trashed Rambler American. Besides the overall shape, familiar to us as the production AMX, the most distinctive feature of the car was the “Rambleseat” an updated version of the rumble seat. The trunk lid flipped back to reveal a third seat (the concept had a small conventional rear seat), while the rear glass flipped up to provide Rambleseat passengers with a windscreen. Teague referred to the seating arrangement as a 2 + 2 + 2.

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The response from the public to the AMX was so strong that the Vignale coachbuilding firm in Italy was hired to build a running model. Since the original AMX pushmobile and two running Vignale prototypes exist, it appears that Vignale built more than one.

I don’t know if Betty Nadeau’s 1968 AMX still exists or not. She and her husband Clovis, known as Mickey to his friends and family, were married in Ohio, where they grew up, in 1941. They moved to Detroit where Mickey found work and in 1949 moved to what then was a far suburb, Farmington, where they raised three kids including their youngest son, Mickeal. They must have done a good job because Mickeal and his wife Mary had brought his dad to the AMC meet to reminisce, which is how I happened upon them, walking a midst the AMXs. Mickey and Betty must have liked fast cars because in 1962, he bought her a baby blue Thunderbird, one of the “rocket birds”. It might have been too fast, though, because Betty found it hard to control, once doing an unintentional 360 degree spin. Also, her younger son kept borrowing it to impress the girls.

In 1968, Mickey took Betty to an AMC dealership to pick out a new car to replace the T-Bird. By then, the four-seat Javelin had been introduced, followed by more-true-to-the-concept AMX. In mid 1965, AMC had introduced a modern thin-wall “mid block” V8, originally in 290 CI displacement form. With boring and stroking, the same basic engine would eventually be stretched to 402 cubic inches (sold as the 401 to avoid branding conflicts with a Ford motor). In the AMX it had 390 cubic inches, good for 315 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Since the AMC V8 weighed less than the big block engines of similar displacement from the Big 3, AMCs could be surprisingly quick. Car and Driver measured a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds.

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This 40,000 mile original condition survivor was formerly owned by AMC design chief Richard Teague. Full gallery here.

Clovis wanted to buy Betty a Hialeah Yellow AMX. She liked the black racing stripe but thought that with the bright yellow paint the car ended up looking like a bumble bee. I guess she wasn’t a Mopar fan. Instead she picked one out in Scarab Gold, with the requisite black racing stripes. According to her daughter in law, Mary “drove it and loved it”. Apparently it was some kind of limited edition because the family recalls there being a numbered plaque on the dashboard.

Fashions change though, so a few years later Betty wanted a new look and Mickey had the AMX painted candy apple red with a double black stripe. Betty looked great in it. She drove the AMX for 16 years, until 1984, when Mickey retired, and they sold the car. After spending a few years on the road as snow birds, though found desert living to their liking and settled in Tucson.

Betty has since passed away and Mickey was visiting his kids in the Detroit area when Mickeal and Mary decided to take him to the AMC meet to bring back some fond memories. Clovis has a very good son and daughter in law. It was very sweet of them to bring him to the car show.

I happened upon them as they were working their way down the row of stock 1968-1970 AMX cars. Mickey was pointing out to his son various features as he remembered them. As they got to the last car in the category, Mickey beamed. It was a near identical AMX to Betty’s in the same Scarab Gold with black stripes, though it was  a 1970 model, not a ’68. That color was a shade of light metallic green that was very *popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

When the owner of the AMX, Dennis Maljak, found out why the Nadeau’s were at the show, his grin was even wider than Mickey’s as he offered the older gentleman a chance to sit behind the wheel of an AMX like his wife had, once again. Mickey pointed out to the owner that the steering wheel wasn’t original. He knew because Betty always kept a $20 bill folded up and tucked behind the horn ring on her AMX’s steering wheel, just in case, for emergencies. The owner then retrieved the original steering wheel that he’s planning on restoring, from his trunk, and checked it for currency, just in case.

If you’re reading this and own a 1968 AMX that was originally painted Scarab Gold, check underneath the horn ring on your steering wheel. If there’s a twenty there, I can introduce you to the original owner who has some great stories about your (and his wife’s) car.

*I was talking to retired GM designer Jerry Brochstein and was relating the Nadeaus’ story and when I said the AMX was painted “baby shit green”, he laughed knowingly.

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

AMXcolor2@1966Web221 amxclaypr 2975226216 1966amxg1 1966amxc1 1966amxa1 1966 AMC AMX Vignale Concept Car w-290HP Engine Rr Qtr BW 66amx1e 66amx1d1 66amx1a1 66amc_amx_prototype_1 projectIV_02_1500 kreig_sm dom7 dom2a c4986 amxrumble1 AMXprot1a amxpro1 amxpro4

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Don’t Crush That Bug, Hand Me The Pliers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/dont-crush-bug-hand-pliers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/dont-crush-bug-hand-pliers/#comments Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=879938 I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has interests beyond the world of automobiles. As both an observer of and participant in the news and information biz, it’s fascinating for me to see how a story in the automotive media will sometimes percolate into general news outlets, showing up on the front page, print or digital, […]

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Full gallery here

I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has interests beyond the world of automobiles. As both an observer of and participant in the news and information biz, it’s fascinating for me to see how a story in the automotive media will sometimes percolate into general news outlets, showing up on the front page, print or digital, of your local newspaper (if it’s still in business) weeks after you’ve read about it here at TTAC or at another car enthusiast or news site.

Although automotive blogs have covered this story in the past, news of  Homeland Security raids on private individuals to seize 40 Land Rover Defenders that were suspected of not complying with relevant Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards have only just started showing up at regional and national news outlets. The Feds claim that the trucks were illegally imported into the United States and then passed off as older than they really were so as to appear to be exempt as being 25 years old or older. Paperwork is alleged to have been falsified and numbers on engine blocks changed. At the same time some owners claim that their Landies are obviously more than 25 years old and claim that their vehicles’ VINs back them up. Owners have about a month to appeal.

This spring I attended the Vintage VW Show in Ypsilanti, Michigan. While there are car shows and events, big and small, that I try to attend every year, serendipity and spontaneity make for good stories, so one year I might go to Camaro Fest and another a VW show. I have to admit, though, that while I’ve never owned a Camaro, I have owned a couple of air-cooled Volkswagen Type IIs, aka Buses, building a slightly hi-po’d engine for the second, so I’m sure many of the people at the VVWS were kindred spirits to me.

There were plenty of rare and interesting cars, photo worthy for sure, ranging from VW Things (including their Opa, an actual Kubelwagen), to split-window Type II Kombi pickups, to Type 34 Karmann Ghias, to a Harlequin edition Golf, but the two cars that really caught my eye appeared to be simple VW Beetles. What got my attention was the fact that they looked so shiny and new compared to most of the cars in the show, and most of their trim that should have been chromed was body color,with some black hardware. When I looked at the placards on their flat glass windshields, I saw that they were both listed as 1998 Mexican Beetles.

When I saw the cars I had the same thought that most of us do when we see a car or truck not made for the U.S. market that’s less than 25 years old: “How did they manage to get it registered?” One car, sort of a dark green-blue, was wearing Michigan license plates. The other MexiBeetle was driven up from Toledo.

At the time, I thought about doing a post on the cars and started looking into how Mexican VW Beetles made it into the U.S. legally or otherwise, but stuff happens and that post never got written. Now that the Feds are seizing grey market vehicles, it seemed like a good time to return to those Hecho en Mexico Vee Dubs.

Now before anyone accuses me of snitching, creating publicity that might result in these cars’ seizure, by now I’ve spoken to both owners and they’re confident that their cars are 100% legal. Also, it’s not like they’re trying to hide them. The cars were on display at a car show open to the public, and you can be sure that if Homeland Security was concerned about black market Beetles from south of the border, down Mexico way, a vintage Volkswagen show is exactly the place they’d be looking for them.

According to the owners, both cars are fully Mexican spec, though supposedly only one of them was actually Hecho en Mexico. Patrick, the Dodge salesman who owns the green-blue car, told me that in fact his car was Hecho en Michigan, one of 13 assembled by a shop in Waterford from all new Mexican parts, including swing axles. Think about that for a second or two. It made economic sense for Volkswagen to save a few pesos using swing axles, something U.S. market Beetles abandoned in 1967 if I’m not mistaken. The car is titled not as a Volkswagen, but rather as an assembled vehicle. It has a Mexican spec fuel injected engine with a catalytic converter and an aftermarket air conditioner.

Apparently there were plans to make many more than just a dozen or so Mexican Beetles in Michigan, with talk of a small assembly plant in the Upper Peninsula, but VW’s decision to kill the Beetle finally in 2003 killed those plans as well. It’s not clear if those plans were related to Nostalgia Motorcars, an Arizona company that announced in 2000 that they were going to sell 10,000 brand new classic Beetles made in Mexico, modified to comply with all DOT and EPA standards.

It’s perfectly legal as far as the state of Michigan is concerned since all the requirements of an assembled vehicle title have been met. None of those requirements say anything at all about emissions or safety standards beyond required on-road equipment, typically regarding lights. However, I suppose to be fully compliant with federal regulations, it would have to have some kind of major component that comes from a Beetle that was imported to the U.S. before those regulations applied.

The owner of the silver car had a different story. He’s the second American owner and he said with certainty that the car was assembled in Puebla, Mexico. He wasn’t sure of the details, but he said that the previous owner spent $8,000 beyond the purchase price to get it legally registered in the United States. Some states, I’ve heard that Maine is one of them, are fairly lax in their vehicle registration processes.

If you’d like air-cooled vintage VWs and you’d like to take a gamble on your house getting raided by the Feds, Patrick had a For Sale sign on his car at the Vintage VW Show. I checked with him and it’s still for sale, sort of. Patrick is more of an American car guy so the Beetle isn’t the only car in his collection, but he’s rather fond of it. He says that it’s a ball to drive. The price would have to be right, but if the offer was close enough, he wouldn’t dicker over $100. Give him a call at 258-701-5581 (yes, he gave me permission to post his phone #). For less than the price of a Yaris, you can drive something that will put a smile on your face, even if it doesn’t make the folks at the DOT or EPA happy.

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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Classic Review: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876441 The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its […]

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The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its poor sales, one of the 10 greatest automotive financial disasters of all time. Other lists, however, rate the little two-seater as one of the best sports cars of the 1980s, call it one of the ten unexpectedly best cars for tall people and even rank it as one of the best choices for future collectability. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Fiero also appeared on my own personal list of potential purchases a few months ago and, despite the fact that I ended up choosing one of its contemporaries, when I recently found a wonderful, low-mileage example at KC Classic Autos in near-by Kansas city, I knew I must see it.

The history of the Pontiac Fiero is an open book. Originally conceived as a two seat, mid-engine sports car with an advanced, all-new suspension and a powerful V6 engine, the Fiero was castrated prior to its birth by GM’s bean counters who worried that the proposed car might end up stealing sales numbers from the Corvette. As a result, the new car was toned down. The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, a slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine intended for economy cars, and the advanced suspension was dropped in favor of a parts bin approach that used existing bits and pieces from the Citation and Chevette. The result was rather lackluster and the media received it with mixed reactions. Motor Trend gave the Fiero a decent review in 1984 but other magazines felt that, as an aggressively styled mid-engine car, it needed to have more performance. Whatever the case, the public loved what they saw and bought almost 187,000 units in 1984.

For 1985 Pontiac addressed the critics’ need for more power by adding an optional 140 HP V6 to the line-up but sales dropped to around 74,000. In 1986, the – in my opinion – much better looking fastback Fiero GT was added beginning mid-year and sales climbed to almost 84,000 units. 1987 brought general improvements and more power to the four cylinder model but sales were definitely trending downward and only 45,851 cars left the showroom that year. In 1988, Pontiac introduced a more sophisticated suspension, based on the original design the bean counters had initially kept out of the car, and this model year is said to be the most desirable among collectors. But alas, only 26,402 were sold before Pontiac discontinued the model and today they are a might thin on the ground. All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.

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Like so many GM products before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized. Initially the cars suffered from quality issues and design problems. The 1984 model year also experienced a number of well publicized fires and despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, only 148 reports were made to the NHTSA detailing just six injuries, the Fiero, much like the Ford Pinto, has an enduring reputation for combustability. The truth is that within a couple years of the Fiero’s introduction, the car was well sorted and the 1986 model I was able to ride in is a great example of just how far the design had come.

I appeared unannounced at KC Classic Autos late in the afternoon and, after paying my $1 entrance fee to the “museum” and introducing myself, was given the run of the place. I have had the opportunity to visit a few classic car dealers over the years and this one stacks up rather well with a clean facility and plenty of interesting cars on hand that I could get up close and personal with. After spending far too much time looking at a stunning 1969 Nova SS and several other classic American muscle cars, I finally decided to ask if I could get a ride in the 1986 Fiero they had parked close to the front door. I had two reasons for choosing this particular car, first I hope to be invited back to ride in and report on more of the classic machines that were further back in the showroom and second, because I wanted to compare my little Shelby to the much better preserved Pontiac.

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I’ve already spent some time talking about my Dodge in other articles but it’s important to do so again so I can do a little comparing and contrasting. At 31 years old, the Shelby is a well presented little car that recently had a great deal of work done to it. Despite its lumpy idle and its slightly rich smelling exhaust, it runs like a top and moves out just fine when I get on the gas. Thanks to the work that has been done, on the outside it looks almost new, but the inside is another story and the car’s threadbare interior shows almost every one of its three decades plus one year of existence.

I’ll write more on it in detail in an upcoming article, but suffice to say that my little Dodge really is an old car. It buzzes, it rattles and it has strange smells, but at a time when this Pontiac was sitting safe and secure in a temperature controlled garage, the Shelby was out living its life, running errands, hauling kids and generally being enjoyed by its owner. Every scar, every tear and every rattle inside the car has a story that goes with it and although as a second owner I can never really know what happened, I can respect the fact that this car was a valued member of someone else’s family for many years. It has, I think, a real sense of having been used, enjoyed and loved.

At 28 years old, the 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT I saw yesterday is still very much a new car. With right around 20,500 miles on the clock, it still looks new inside. The carpets are unworn and the seats are still firm and flawless. The internal plastics have been unaffected by the sun and the gauge faces were are still as bright and clear as the day the car came off the line. The two-seater started instantly at the first turn of a key and burbled happily as it rolled out of the show room. It was simply stunning in the light of the afternoon sun.

Like I would do with any new car I am reviewing, I spent a lot of time circling the Fiero and looking for flaws. Although it’s used, I had no complaints about anything I saw. Panel gaps were good, the interior pieces fit together well. Of course the switchgear is clearly 1980s GM but it still looked modern and good in the car. Overall, I found it to be a pleasant, clean little Pontiac and I was eager for a chance to ride in it.

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Why this car would appear on a list of vehicles that should be avoided by tall people is a mystery to me. In the mid ‘80s, I am sure this low slung, high belted design would have felt like sitting in an old fashioned bath tub, but compared to modern muscle cars I found the Fiero roomy, easy to see out of and I had no problems getting my sizeable corn-fed All American ass into and out of the passenger seat. Although my driver, KC Classic’s president, Kim Eldred, took it a little easy on the first leg of our drive I thought the car picked up and ran along the city streets without problems. Unlike my Shelby, there were zero rattles or strange smells and it is simply so clean that my mind cannot comprehend the fact that this is an “old” car.

As we made our turn-around on an empty back street, Kim jumped on the gas and I got a chance to see just a little of what the V6 could do. Hampered by an automatic transmission, initial acceleration was sluggish in first gear but second gear, however, was downright surprising. As it made the shift, I felt myself pushed back into the seat with enough force to put a lasting smile on my face and, although the car was not blindingly fast, it was pleasantly snappy. Overall, it was a good ride.

In the weeks since my Shelby arrived I have had to take a good long look in the mirror. I remember the 1980s with some fondness, and in my mind’s eye the colors remain neon bright, the tunes fun and happy and the cars as solid, modern machines. The idea that they, like the man who looks back at me from across the bathroom sink, have gone soft over the years and are not capable of the things that they once did so easily makes me wonder if they ever could. Were the ‘80s, I ask myself, really the way I remember them or were they simply an illusion of youth? This Pontiac, so well preserved, has put those doubts to rest. The 1980s really were good times and I know now without a doubt that the cars, even one with such a mixed reputation as the Pontiac Fiero, really were capable of the things I remember.

If my purchase of the Shelby Charger was an attempt to regain a piece of my youth by marrying the prom queen that eluded me back in 1984 now that she is now the divorced grandmother of three, this Pontiac is a true piece of history recently removed suspended animation and put on sale for the relatively reasonable price of $12,900. All it needs now is a new owner to use it, enjoy it and to love it. You perhaps?

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My thanks to KC Classic Auto for allowing me to wander around their show room and for their willingness to take me out in one of their cars for this review.

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Lo, How the Mighty are Fallen. Porsche For Sale, Will Trade for Golf Cart http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lo-how-the-mighty-are-fallen-porsche-for-sale-will-trade-for-golf-cart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lo-how-the-mighty-are-fallen-porsche-for-sale-will-trade-for-golf-cart/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:25:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868834 I was doing some legwork on a Reader’s Ride sort of thing that I’m hoping I’ll get to do with a Porsche 968. Time hasn’t treated the four cylinder front engined Porsches quite as well as it has the 928, and that, too, is kind of dismissed by Dr. P’s acolytes of the rear engined […]

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I was doing some legwork on a Reader’s Ride sort of thing that I’m hoping I’ll get to do with a Porsche 968. Time hasn’t treated the four cylinder front engined Porsches quite as well as it has the 928, and that, too, is kind of dismissed by Dr. P’s acolytes of the rear engined faith. You can buy a 968, the ultimate development of the 944 and a very nicely performing, exceptionally handling car, for less than a new Yaris or Versa will cost you and you can get a decent runner 944 for just a few thousand dollars. As for the 924, like the 914, it’s considered eine halbe Porsche.

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The faithful reject it as a “true Porsche” not just because the engine’s in the wrong end of the car, but also because it was a joint VW/Porsche project intended originally to be a high end coupe for the VW brand in Europe and sold as an Audi in North America. It wasn’t originally even going to be a Porsche, though Porsche did much of the initial development work. However, when Volkswagen decided that the Scirocco met their coupe needs and backed out of the project, Porsche bought the rights, deciding to use the car as a replacement for the discontinued four cylinder 914 and 912 models.

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When it arrived in showrooms, the front engine, rear transaxle layout and Porsche’s suspension prowess made it a great handling car. The smog control enfeebled Audi engine, shared with some AMC models including Jeep postal trucks, though, was a dog. The chassis didn’t find its promise until the Turbo, 924S, and 944 models. As a result, the 924 cars that have survived are cheap enough to be considered for 24 Hrs of LeMons use without having to sell off many parts to get under the $500 limit. Heck, some are already at or below the $500 limit as you can buy them. Well, people would consider using them as LeMons entries if they were reliable enough to last in a crapcan enduro, which they aren’t. You can get a running 924 for less than it will cost to put a used engine in a 10 year old Saturn. If that’s too rich for your blood, and you happen to have a spare golf cart laying about and are still jonesing for an affordable front engined Porsche, well, you’re in luck as someone in Hart, Michigan with a 924 is willing to make a trade:

Posted: 

 1977 Porsche 924 – $500 (Hart, MI )

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1977 porsche 924

1977 924 Porschegreat for parts
no title/not running
will trade for golf cart
call or text 616-xxx- three to six three
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
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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Deliverance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:02:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863361 An old car is a feast for the senses. The gentle curve of a fender or the sharply drawn body line pleases the eye while the clatter of valves and the whine of spinning belts combine to make mechanical music. The exhaust gasses, which smell just a tad too rich, blend with the odors of […]

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Shelby Charger

An old car is a feast for the senses. The gentle curve of a fender or the sharply drawn body line pleases the eye while the clatter of valves and the whine of spinning belts combine to make mechanical music. The exhaust gasses, which smell just a tad too rich, blend with the odors of old motor oil, decaying rubber and that musty smell that wafts from the car’s interior to fill your olfactory, while the mixture of gasoline, oil and grease that makes your hands feel so slippery even finds its way onto your tongue when you bring the fingertip you burned on a hot manifold to your mouth. You see it, hear it, smell it, feel it and can even taste it, all five senses touched by one malodorous, malevolent little mechanical beast. Yes friends, if you hadn’t guessed by now, my ’83 Shelby Charger is here at last.

I had, I am ashamed to say, forgotten the physicality of old cars. As someone who lives with two fairly new, almost totally drama free vehicles, it’s easy to forget that all cars are anything but appliances. Like the washing machine I have running in the other room right now, my cars are competent, clean and perform flawlessly at the turn of the key. I could jump into either of them and drive from one coast to the other just as easily as I could drop another load of laundry into the tub of my washer and know with utter and absolute confidence that I will, in short order, have a load of clean clothes. The Shelby, on the other hand, more closely resembles the antique clock that graces my mantelpiece. It is a magical assembly of whirring gears that human ingenuity has brought together into one marvelous machine and, while it does the job, it requires almost daily adjustment to perform as intended.

shelby charger

Some of our readers may recall that, a few months ago, I posted a plaintive cry for help in choosing an older car. I set down a rather strict set of criteria: it needed to be older, not too nice lest I succumb to the desire to preserve it rather than use it, and it needed to have a manual transmission. I got a lot of great suggestions and a couple of tantalizing offers that I had to pass on but as luck would have it, one of our website’s erstwhile readers in Maryland, a gentleman named Terry, reached out and made an offer almost too good to refuse.

The photos showed a stunning little car and I was instantly smitten. In the flurry of emails that followed, Terry let slip that he was the car’s original owner but that, because like me he often works at jobsites outside of the United States, the car had spent a lot of time sitting. Eventually, it had ended up in a friend’s barn in West Virginia where time, the elements and a family of mice had worked their magic.

But Terry isn’t the kind of man who let’s things slide and although it might have been out of sight the little car was never out of mind. From the far side of the planet Terry plotted and waited and then, on a short trip home, he brought the car back over the Appalachians to Maryland where he dropped it at a local speed shop before heading back overseas. The list of things done was extensive and can’t hope to recount all of it here, I do know that the old transmission was swapped out for a stouter unit from a later model turbo Dodge, the top end of the engine was rebuilt and the car’s rust issues, which sounded extensive, were resolved by cutting out the cancer and welding in new steel. Finally, the car was repainted in its factory colors, set on a set of good looking OZ wheels shod with sticky, performance rubber and returned to its owner.

shelby charger 1

Terry enjoyed the car for a few years but, with an SRT8 Challenger, a 71 Charger and two jeeps in the garage, the little Shelby ended up under a cover in the driveway next to the daily driven Neon RT. While it didn’t exactly languish there it spent more time sitting than Terry liked and so, after reading of my undying love for 80s Dodges on these hallowed pages, Terry decided to shoot me an email. Naturally, I responded immediately and on my recent trip to DC I swung through Frederick. After a brief test drive through the rolling hills I decided that the car needed just a bit of sorting to be perfect for my purposes, but that it really was as Terry had represented a solid, original little car. At this point, because I am still working on a few of the things I think need to be addressed and because my impressions are still a bit muddled by the excitement of having so recently taken delivery, I won’t write a full review, but know now that you will soon hear so much about my adventures with this little car that you will grow to hate it.

Although I only got the car the day before yesterday, I can already tell you that it gets all kinds of attention. The cable guy and the garbage man both asked about it while it sat in the driveway before I got it registered. People asked about it at the inspection station and, once I got the plates on, it drew a small crowd when I took it to the gas station for its first fill-up. The guys in the auto parts store I stopped at all had to go out and see it and I even got asked about it from the passenger of a neighboring car while I paused at a stop light. Everyone, it seems, is excited to see my little Shelby Charger and they all have a question that they must ask or a story to share. It is a strange, visceral reaction that only the most special, elemental machine can inspire and if I cannot jump into it and drive to the far side of the country on a moment’s notice I’m OK with that. No one ever asks about my washing machine.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Leavenworth, KS with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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The Culture Of Cars: Real Or Imagined? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-culture-of-cars-real-or-imagined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-culture-of-cars-real-or-imagined/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:16:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857417 I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and one of the places I was able to visit was the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport located just outside of Washington DC. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum located on the national mall close to the capitol building, the Udvar-Hazy […]

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Citroen Ami 6. Picture courtesy Citroen

I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and one of the places I was able to visit was the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport located just outside of Washington DC. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum located on the national mall close to the capitol building, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous facility and although I have visited other aircraft museums that have had larger collections on display, I think it is safe to say that the Smithsonian’s collection is second to none. The aircraft on display span the history of flight and include both military and civilian examples. More importantly, at least for the sake of this discussion, they come from every corner of the globe and as they sit there, lined up beside one another, it’s easy to compare the craftsmanship of one nation’s products against the next.

Years ago I read an interview with one of the men responsible for the restoration of the aircraft I so recently saw and one of his comments leaped out at me. The national characteristics of each nation, he asserted, was represented in the design and construction of their aircraft. British planes, he said, were complex with many small parts while Italian planes were beautifully constructed but relatively fragile. German planes he continued, were generally well designed with large robust parts, Japanese planes were tinny and lightly constructed while American aircraft were solid and almost agricultural in nature. Of course that article is lost to history and I am left paraphrasing a dim memory, but as I stood there looking over the Smithsonian’s collection that statement rang true and I began to wonder if the same thing could be said of cars.

As auto enthusiasts we spend a lot of time talking about the soul of certain cars, Italians they say have it in spades while the Japanese have traded it away for sewing machine-like reliability. We say that German cars exude a feeling of solidity and technological competence while the best British cars, replete with thick leather seats and burled walnut panels, seem to lack that technological prowess but have instead the comfortable feel of an English gentleman’s club. American cars, and to a certain extent Australian cars, are traditionally agricultural, simple and rough but reliable, and in line with those nation’s connection to the land while French cars are stylish, quirky and unique much like the French people who have always had their own, unique worldview.

But I wonder of those days aren’t gone. National and international standards have forced the homogenization of vehicles over the years while the nature of large multinational companies, which consume one another like a school of voracious fish, constantly ingesting and occasionally regurgitating one another with surprising ferocity, has allowed for an amazing amount of cross fertilization. In house design and development, especially of subsystems like fuel injection and electrical systems, is frequently farmed out to subcontractors and it is common to see cars across several companies sharing similar systems so what then has happened to the national character of our cars? Does it still exist? Did it ever? I wonder…

02 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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The Last True Packards http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-last-true-packards/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-last-true-packards/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:48:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854657 Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the […]

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1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the 1930s, something like Buicks were to Cadillac and Mercurys were to Lincoln, what we might today call entry level luxury, fatally tainted the prestige of the brand, ultimately leading to its demise. The other is that Jim Nance, who ran Packard in its last years as an independent automaker, mismanaged the company into oblivion. Contrarian that yours truly is, I’m not sure either of those things are quite accurate.

1956 Packard Caribbean hardtop. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Caribbean hardtop. Full gallery here.

The entry level Packards kept the company afloat until military contracts during World War II put it on good enough financial footing to have produced one of the first true postwar cars, Packard’s 1948 “bathtub” models, which sold very well that year. As for Nance, historians say that his ego prevented the merger of four independent automakers, Packard, Hudson, Nash and Studebaker that George Mason at Nash proposed, a conglomerate that could have competed with the Big 3. Also, he later agreed to a futile merger with Studebaker in 1954, a company whose financial situation by then turned out to be more dire than Packard’s. Packard wasn’t profitable but its balance sheet was still sound. Studebaker also wasn’t making money but it was in much worse financial shape.

1956 Packard 400. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Four Hundred. Full gallery here.

After the merger, in fact an acquisition of Packard by Studebaker, while the 1955 and 1956 models were genuine Packards, made by the company in Detroit, by 1957, Packards were just rebadged and restyled (hideously so, in my opinion) Studebakers. Piscine looking contraptions that are actually collectible as “Packardbakers”. Hence the 1955 and 1956 Packards were the last true Packards and it was Nance who was responsible for them. They’re remarkable cars in a number of ways, worthy of the brand’s name, with advanced engineering features. Considering the company’s limited financial resources by then, Nance and his team did a great job. Frankly, considering their historical significance, their technical features and what I believe was a masterful styling job by Dick Teague, later to head AMC’s styling department, I’m shocked that with the exception of the Caribbean models, particularly the convertibles, 1955 and 1956 Packards sell for relatively low prices.

For the price of an unrestorable tri-five Chevy you can own real history.

For the price of an unrestorable tri-five Chevy you can own real history.

I know of a 100% complete barn find 1956 Packard Patrician, the top of the line for them that year, with just about all the available options including air conditioning and Packard’s Twin Ultramatic automatic gearbox. It’s a solid car with 100% of the parts that I could buy tomorrow if I had a spare $5,000. Five grand won’t even get you a restorable 1957 Chevy these days.

1955 Packard Caribbean convertible. Full gallery here.

1955 Packard Caribbean convertible. Full gallery here.

It’s true that following the introduction of the 1935 One Twenty models, which sold well, Packard’s managers neglected their true luxury line, allowing Cadillac to dominate the luxury market in the 1940s and early 1950s. Nance’s plan was to restore Packard’s prestige by splitting the company’s products into two lines, Packards and Clippers, reviving the latter brand name which had originally been used for a 1941 model. Though the cars were basically the same, Packards sat on longer wheelbases, had some unique features as standard equipment as well as unique options, and they had more elaborate exterior treatments with two and three tone paint jobs and lots of chrome and stainless steel trim.

1955 Packard 400, Full gallery here.

1955 Packard 400, Full gallery here.

Starting in 1949, when Cadillac introduced the first mass-produced high compression overhead valve V8 engine, every automaker tried to come up with a modern V8 to stay in the game. In 1953, Nance convinced the Packard board of directors to invest $20 million in a new motor. It wasn’t an easy task. For all their engineering prowess, Packard was a conservative company and it’s straight eight engines were outstanding designs. As good as the Packard straight eights were, they couldn’t compete in terms of power or prestige with Cadillac’s OHV V8. Bill Graves, Packards head engineer, was in charge of the V8 team, made of J.R. Ferguson, Bill Schwieder, and E.A. Weiss. The design of the V8 was conventional, following the practices at Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Studebaker, but it had industry leading power, with the 352 cubic inch version in the senior Packards producing 260 hp and 275 in the dual-carb Caribbeans.

1955 Clipper. When the Clipper was introduced it was not branded a Packard, to distinguish the more expensive cars. Full gallery here.

1955 Clipper. When the Clipper was introduced it was not branded a Packard, to distinguish the more expensive cars. Full gallery here.

To back up the new engine, Forest MacFarland and Herb Misch were in charge of the latest development of Packard’s own automatic transmission. Automatics were about as important for prestige cars as V8 engines were and it’s a tribute to Packard that they, among all of the independent automakers, were the only ones to develop their own automatic gearbox. Originally called the Ultramatic, the ’55 Packards were to get a new “Twin Ultramatic”. MacFarland was respected enough in his field that the SAE gives out an award named in his honor and Misch later had a distinguished career at Ford where before becoming head of engineering, he had a major role in the development of the first Mustang. Oh, and a guy named John Delorean also had a hand in the Ultramatic.

Clippers had "slipper" taillights. Full gallery here.

Clippers had substantially different taillights than Packards in 1955. Full gallery here.

The ’55 Packards were to have a modern powertrain, so that put them in the game. To make them stand proud of the competition, so to speak, Nance embraced a radical idea for the suspension, something branded as Torsion Level Suspension. It was originally invented by William Allison when at Hudson, but that company didn’t have the resources to fully develop it. Allison moved on to Packard and Nance gave the go-ahead to put the novel torsion bar based suspension on the 1955 senior Packards. I’ve been reading about the Torsion Level Suspension for years now, and I’m still not completely sure how it works, though both contemporary reports and today’s collectors say it indeed works, providing both a smooth ride over things like potholes and railroad tracks and better handling than the other cars of the day. In addition to all of the torsion bars, the system also was self-leveling, actuated by a solenoid activated electric motor. People would sit on the back bumper and be amazed as the car leveled itself. Though it had a seven second delay, one could call it an early example of active suspension.

For 1956, the Clipper got taillights similar to the Packards' "cathedral" style lamps. Full gallery here.

For 1956, the Clipper got taillights similar to the Packards’ “cathedral” style lamps. Full gallery here.

Rather than confuse you by trying to explain something I don’t understand, I’ll let Aaron Severson, the best online automotive historian there is, tell you how Torsion Level Suspension works. You can read his full history of the last Packards over at Ate Up With Motor.

Its main springs were a pair of long torsion bars, anchored at one end to the front suspension’s lower control arms, at the other to the rear suspension’s trailing arms. A second, shorter set of bars ran parallel to the main springs, anchored at one end to the rear suspension arms (sharing the same pivot axis as the main springs) and at the other to an electric compensator motor mounted on the frame’s central X member. There was also a front anti-roll bar, while the rear suspension used two stabilizing links for lateral location.

The interconnection of the front and rear suspension meant that bumps affecting the front wheels were transmitted to the rear axle and vice versa. Since the springs were not anchored directly to the frame, the ride had an odd, floaty quality, but unlike softly sprung conventional suspensions, it sacrificed little body control. Even with Torsion-Level, no Packard could really be called nimble, but cars with Allison’s suspension handled with admirable composure, not nearly as nautically as the ride motions implied.

The electric motor had two functions. First, it kept the body on an even keel; since the springs were not anchored to the frame, the body would come to rest in any position that balanced the preloading of the springs, rather than returning naturally to a level attitude. Second, the compensator provided automatic load leveling. If a heavy load were added to the trunk, for instance, the motor would crank the torsion bars until the car was again level. There was a seven-second delay to keep the system from overreacting to bumpy pavement and a cut-off switch was provided under the dash so that the compensator would not drain the battery with the engine off.

Packard Torsion-Level diagram

A simplified diagram of the Packard Torsion-Level suspension. The main springs (red) are long torsion bars connecting the front A-arms to the rear trailing arms; a set of compensator springs (green) share the same pivot axis (purple), connecting the rear trailing arms to the compensator motor (yellow). The rear does not have an anti-roll bar, but there are two lateral links to locate the rear axle. (diagram, Aaron Severson, referencing 1955 Packard press illustrations)

Packard even offered a limited slip differential. The company was so proud of the engineering features they even manufactured a number of fully assembled chassis without bodies for use as dealer showroom displays. All of that technology, though, wasn’t going to overcome a somewhat stodgy image. While the ’48s were innovative, that novelty wore off quickly and the new bodies designed for 1951 weren’t terribly well received by consumers, one reason for Packard’s financial situation. For the “all new” 1955 models, with so much money devoted to the new engine, transmission and suspension, Bill Schmidt’s design team was going to have to make do with the old body shell. What lead stylist Dick Teague came up with was so good that it’s hard to tell that they recycled. Not only that, but the design was contemporary and modern looking, not at all out of place with 1955-1957 cars from GM, Ford and Chrysler.

1953 Packard Balboa. Full gallery here

They had wraparound windshields, eggcrate grilles, hooded headlamps, “cathedral taillights” (Clippers had smaller “slipper” lights in back), and a continuous fender line running from front to back, elevating as it reaches the rather tall tail lamps, achieving the look of tail fins. By 1955 cars were getting lower so to make the tall 1951 body appear less so, ribbed chrome side moldings along the flanks visually lowered them. Also, by 1955 two door hardtop sedans were gaining popularity and for the first time the Patrician got a  true hardtop companion, the Four Hundred.

"Cathedral" taillights on a 1955 Packard Caribbean. Full gallery here.

“Cathedral” taillights on a 1955 Packard Caribbean. Full gallery here.

Sales nearly doubled from 1954, so the board approved a modest redesign for 1956. Most noticeable are longer “eyelids” over the headlights. There were also some mechanical improvements, and the board also approved the introduction of a Packard Executive model, above the Clippers but below the Patrician, Four Hundred and Caribbean. Engine displacements increased, as did power. The Patrician got a 374 CI engine that put out 290 hp. Again Packard led the industry with 310 horsepower in the Caribbean. The Twin Ultramatic got a optional push button control, a popular feature in the 1950s, now returning at some brands.

1956 Packard Executive. It combined a Packard front end with a Clipper rear end. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Executive. It combined a Packard front end with a Clipper rear end. Full gallery here.

On paper the new Packards should have been great. Unfortunately they were compromised by quality control, mostly a result of moving production out of the old plant on East Grand Blvd, the one that’s featured in most ruin porn you see from Detroit, to a factory on Conner Ave where the company had started building their own bodies after their body supplier, Briggs, was bought out by Chrysler. Packard’s shrinking dealer network contributed to the quality issue. The Twin Ultramatic isn’t a great transmission, by TurboHydramatic standards, but it works well enough if it is maintained properly. The same is true about all the switches and solenoids used in the Torsion Level Suspension. Cars back then needed a lot of regular maintenance, with some tasks performed every 1,000 or 2,000 miles. Independent repair shops simply didn’t see enough Packards to learn how to maintain and repair them properly. The brand’s reputation suffered. By 1956, the word got out about quality and sales dropped to only 7,568 Packards and about 21,000 Clippers. It should be noted that ’55-’56 Packard enthusiasts point out that when properly maintained, their cars’ transmissions and suspensions work just fine.

1956 Packard dealer showroom display chassis. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard dealer showroom display chassis. Full gallery here.

In the summer of 1956 the Studebaker board stepped in and ended Packard production in Detroit. The death of Packard has been covered numerous times, from numerous angles, since 1958, but I didn’t want to dwell on the death of a great car company in this piece. Rather I wanted to show that while Packard went out of existence as a Detroit automaker, they went out on a high note. James Nance may have made some mistakes, but it was no mistake to make the last Packards automobiles worthy of the marque.

A nameplate after our Editor in Chief pro tem's own heart. "The Patrician".

A nameplate after our Editor in Chief pro tem’s own heart. “The Patrician”.

The cars pictured here were photographed at various Detroit area shows, including the Concours of America, the Orphan Car Show, Eyes On Design and shows at the Packard Proving Grounds.

*The History Channel says that the last Packard built in Detroit was assembled on June 25, 1956. Old Cars Weekly says that it was a few weeks later, August 15th.

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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Remembering the Good Humor Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/remembering-the-good-humor-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/remembering-the-good-humor-truck/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844761 It’s summertime, when ice cream trucks ply the residential streets of America, playing the same silly songs over and over and over again, or ringing their bells. There was a time when the ringing bells of Good Humor trucks could be heard across America, but now their bells are heard and the trucks are seen […]

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IMG_0259

Full gallery here

It’s summertime, when ice cream trucks ply the residential streets of America, playing the same silly songs over and over and over again, or ringing their bells. There was a time when the ringing bells of Good Humor trucks could be heard across America, but now their bells are heard and the trucks are seen primarily at car shows and in museums. A vintage piece of Americana from yesteryear.

The story of the Good Humor truck, interestingly enough, starts with another brand of frozen treat. After an Iowa candy store owner figured out how to successfully coat a slab of vanilla ice cream with a thin chocolate shell and called it the Eskimo Pie in 1919, Harry Burt, who owned an ice cream parlor in Youngstown, Ohio, figured out how to reproduce the process but his daughter Ruth thought it was too messy to eat. Burt had earlier had some success with the Jolly Boy Sucker, a hard candy on a wooden stick. Harry Jr. suggested using one of the wooden sticks as a handle for the chocolate coated ice cream bar. Before deep freezing a batch in the store’s hardening room, the senior Burt inserted a wooden stick in each. They discovered that ice crystals that were formed created a strong enough bond to the wood so it could be used as a handle to eat the ice cream neatly.

Realizing that the product had potential beyond a single ice cream parlor, Burt bought a dozen Ford vending trucks, outfitted them with primitive freezers to keep the ice cream cold and bells to ring in order to attract kids. The first set of bells were from Harry Jr’s old bobsled. The ice cream bar was named Good Humor, though there are two reasons given for the name. The first was that Harry Burt was capitalizing on a the popular belief that one’s “humor”, one’s general outlook on life was affected by the foods one ate. The other is that the word humors was a synonym for flavors. That’s why some early Good Humor trucks use the plural Good Humors. The trucks were white, as were the drivers’ uniforms, to give the impression of cleanliness. Drivers also wore Sam Brown leather belts and shoes, a cap not unlike a policeman’s cap, and a sash also like a policeman’s, to give a sense of safety and authority, and a coin changer. In addition to trucks, Good Humor bars were sold from push carts and pedal carts, also in white and always with the bobsled bells.

While Burt seemed to have favored Fords, with special bodywork and freezers installed by Hackney Brothers, over the history of the company there have been local and regional Good Humor franchises, and which vehicles they used seemed to have been up to the local operators. There were a number of Chevrolet based Good Humor trucks as well as a number of independent coachbuilders who added the freezers.

Burt tried to patent his new invention but the Patent Office considered them to be too similar to Eskimo Pies. Burt traveled to Washington, D.C. and personally lobbied the Patent Office, which relented, granting him patents on the equipment and processes needed to make a frozen confection on a stick.

Harry Burt died in 1926 and his widow sold out to an investor group from Cleveland which renamed the company Good Humor Corporation of America and started selling franchises. When the owner of the Detroit franchise tried to expand to Chicago in 1929, gangsters demanded protection money. When the $5,000 was not forthcoming, the mobsters torched a number of Good Humor trucks. Ironically, the publicity about the arson got Good Humor established in Chicago. Nationally, the fact that a Good Humor bar was an inexpensive treat that just about anyone could afford grew the brand’s popularity during the Depression.

After the end of World War II, Good Humor expanded into the suburbs as the “greatest generation” proceeded to [pro]create what we call baby boomers. By the mid 1950s, truck sales accounted for 90% of the company’s sales, with more than half of their customers 12 years old or younger. The fleet grew to 2,000 trucks. The Good Humor truck became a piece of Americana. There was even a theatrical 1950 movie titled The Good Humor Man, a comedic murder mystery starring Jack Carson that includes what is probably the only car chase scene in movie history that uses a Good Humor truck.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Into the 1960s sales continued to grow but Good Humor started experiencing organized competition from the step-van based Mister Softee trucks. Also, the company had been organized fairly early on and starting in the 1950s it was repeatedly struck by the Teamsters union. By the early 1970s the Good Humor fleet was down to 1,200 trucks.

Also, beginning in 1968, the company had started losing money. Since Good Humor was owned by a conglomerate, Unilever, the loses weren’t fatal but after the first oil crisis in 1973 gasoline prices made truck sales impracticable. The owner of the 1973 Ford F-250 Good Humor truck pictured here told me that it was one of only two made by Hackney that year. When I spoke to Good Humor historian Richard Box, though, he insisted that it couldn’t have been made by Hackney because they stopped making pickup truck based Good Humor trucks in 1969, switching to step-vans. Since the freezers lasted a long time, some were transferred to new chassis and Box suggested that perhaps this was that kind of conversion. However, checking with the owners, they say that while Hackney indeed stopped using pickups to build their Good Humor trucks in 1969, Good Humor did have two 1973 F-250 trucks converted by Hackney on special order for the use of a Florida Good Humor distributor. That means that this is one of the last two traditional Good Humor trucks ever made. Switching to step-vans didn’t change the tide. After a decade of unprofitability, in 1978 Good Humor sold off the remaining fleet for $1,000 to $3,000 jper truck, many of them to former Good Humor vendors who started running their own businesses.

As I mentioned, nowadays if you see a Good Humor truck it’s likely to be at some kind of car event. Good Humor truck collectors and restorers have figured out a way to make their hobby help pay for itself, by either renting out their trucks to special events, or by using it to sell ice cream at car shows and the like. Some report grossing $1,000 a day. That’s how I happened across the Mike and Sue Berardi’s 1973 Ford F-250 Good Humor truck (with a freezer box by Hackney) at the Mustang Memories show last summer. A vendor with a display at that show hired the Berardis and “Cream Puff”, as they call their truck, to hand out free ice cream bars. In real life Mike is director of service engineering for a small family owned enterprise named Ford Motor Company. Mike’s connection to Ford may explain why he and Sue were also slinging Good Humor bars at the recent Motor Muster held on the grounds of Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village.

Not far from where the Berardis were selling Good Humors out of their Good Humor truck at the Motor Muster was the show’s display of vintage bicycles, set up adjacent to the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop. Sitting out front was a Good Humor bike, or actually a trike, with a cooler made by Milkey, circa 1948, resplendent in Good Humor white and replete with the Burts’ bobsled bells. It’s obviously been restored and from the modern ice cream stickers on it, my guess is that its owners also are at least in the ice cream selling biz part time.

It was fortuitous that there were a Good Humor truck and pedal cart at the Motor Muster. I’d already decided to write about Good Humor trucks after seeing Joe Hornacek’s restored 1931 Ford Good Humor truck on display the week before at the Packard Proving Grounds’ 2014 Cars R Stars show. The featured category at this year’s show was commercial vehicles, and if I recall correctly, this was the first time Hornacek has shown the car since the restoration was completed. He hasn’t even considered using the truck to sell ice cream, though he was giving out free samples to kids.

Hornacek acquired his 1931 Ford Model A Roadster Pickup based Good Humor truck as a literal barn find. It was in pieces in a barn near Port Huron, Michigan. At first he thought it was too far gone to restore but having second thoughts he asked the seller to lay out all the parts on the ground. Hornacek realized there was enough there, particularly from the freezer box, to be able to start a restoration.

The first thing he discovered was that in eight decades of use the truck and freezer had been repaired a number of times, in non-standard ways. He decided to completely reframe the body, using ash wood, as Ford Motor Company did for their bodies. However, once Hornacek got the body frame assembled, he discovered that parts of the original handmade body were out of square by more than an inch. The freezer had been fabricated by an unknown independent coachbuilder. As a result, while most of the truck is original, the sheet metal for the freezer sides had to be reproduced. Once he got the body fabbed, the rest of the restoration was relatively easy because Model A parts, NOS and repros, are readily available today. Some of Hornacek’s build photos are in the gallery below.

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Danbury Mint model of a Model A based Good Humor truck.

The truck’s graphics are based on a 1930 Ford Good Humor truck whose photograph is in the collection of the Smithsonian. That truck has the lettering as “Good Humors” and also has a disclaimer “Mfd under the Burt patents”, no doubt an assurance of quality by a local franchisee. Hornacek’s Ford is a great looking vehicle, which may explain why the Danbury Mint once issued a die cast model of a Model A Good Humor truck that looks very much like his. While the Berardi’s truck has a full cab, Hornacek’s truck has the classic open roof “half cab” that many of us associate with Good Humor trucks.

A Chevrolet based Good Humor truck in the collection of the Smithsonian institutions.

A Chevrolet based Good Humor truck in the collection of the Smithsonian institutions.

If you’d like to have your own Good Humor truck, get ready to spend some money and maybe some elbow grease like Joe Hornacek. In 2012, a 1965 Ford Good Humor truck with a concours level restoration sold at auction for $66,000. If you want to do a little restoration work, this 1966 Ford/Hackney Good Humor truck on eBaymotors has a Buy It Now price of $24,500. A previous owner painted it black to use as a promotional vehicle for a radio station. A Darth Vader Good Humor truck is sort of a cool idea, though I doubt Harry Burt would have approved. Actually those Hackney freezers typically have porcelain enameled body panels so you can probably use some kind of chemical stripper to expose the white porcelain below.

You know, owning a vintage Good Humor truck is not exactly an unappealing idea. Those old Ford and Chevy trucks are already collectible and you get to enjoy a special version of a cool vintage truck that makes people smile. If you decide you want to dress up like a Good Humor man and sell a few ice cream bars, how many other ideas can you think of that allow you to make money while hanging out at car shows?

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

hornacek1 hornacek2 hornacek3 hornacek4 hornacek5

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A Crown Imperial Limousine Fit For A Queen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/an-crown-imperial-limousine-fit-for-a-queen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/an-crown-imperial-limousine-fit-for-a-queen/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845777 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 […]

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Full gallery here

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.

GhiaAd

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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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Ultimate Barn Find, a Speculator’s Stash, or a Clever Way to Promote a Car Sale? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ultimate-barn-find-a-speculators-stash-or-a-clever-way-to-promote-a-car-sale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ultimate-barn-find-a-speculators-stash-or-a-clever-way-to-promote-a-car-sale/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848922 There’s been some attention on the recent acquisition by a Canadian muscle car collector of what Driving.ca called “the ultimate Canadian barn find”, about 40 late model American performance cars. While the assortment of Corvettes, SRT Mopars and limited edition Fords like Harley Davidson F-150s and three Ford GTs are undoubtedly desirable, I’m not sure […]

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Photos by Luc.A.

There’s been some attention on the recent acquisition by a Canadian muscle car collector of what Driving.ca called “the ultimate Canadian barn find”, about 40 late model American performance cars. While the assortment of Corvettes, SRT Mopars and limited edition Fords like Harley Davidson F-150s and three Ford GTs are undoubtedly desirable, I’m not sure if the term “barn finds” applies. I’m old enough that the first time I heard “the Cobra in the barn” urban legend, it had to do with a soldier who never came back from Vietnam. I’m sure the oldest version of that story has to do with a doughboy and and a 1917 Model T or even a Union soldier and a horse drawn Studebaker wagon. Either way, a barn find to me is exactly that, a find, in Yiddish a metzia, something perhaps overlooked or abandoned and now rediscovered. I wouldn’t necessarily apply it to a business proposition that didn’t pan out.

The cars that Fort Saskatchewan building contractor Lawayne Musselwhite and his friend and business partner, motorcycle dealer Darren Boychuk bought were accumulated in a Quonset hut on a dairy farm near Lethbridge, Alberta. The wealthy owner of the farm apparently caught the car speculating bug in the late 1990s and went to his local Ford dealer with $1 million in hand, seeking a salesman’s advice on buying cars that were likely to appreciate in value. While some of the cars that were bought predated the collection, a majority of them were bought new over the past decade and many of them still have their window stickers and delivery mileage. There’s a 2006 Heritage Edition Ford GT with less than 11 miles on the odometer. Apparently they were not bought for the enjoyment of driving or even displaying them. They were bought for speculative reasons and simply stored on the hut’s dirt floor. Well, those that weren’t being abused by the dairy farm’s employees. barnfind “It was disgusting the way they were left, covered in dust, overrun with mice and parked on dirt,” Musselwhite told Driving.ca. “It was unbelievable what the farmhands were doing to these vehicles — running new special edition pickups through the mud and across fields.”

Sight unseen, Musselwhite and Boychuck bid $1.1 million (presumably Canadian dollars) for 80% of the collection. According to Musselwhite, health issues forced the sale, though the dairy farmer retained 10 unidentified cars. While some of the cars aren’t on every enthusiast’s short list, in auction parlance I’d still say that those 40 cars were well bought.

As you’d expect with a Ford dealer involved, the list is heavy on representatives wearing the blue oval, but it’s fairly ecumenical by Detroit standards and all of the cars and trucks are collectible in one way or another. Plymouth Prowlers (4 of them!) and Harley liveried Ford pickups may not have a broad market, but they are collectible to their own niches of collectors and some of the other cars are very valuable.  To begin with, there’s not a Ford GT listed for less than $220,000 on eBaymotors currently and there were three Ford GTs in the package. The 35th anniversary Z/28 Camaro and the ’03 Corvette Z06 have their fans and I’m sure that my colleague Sajeev Mehta would find the two Lincoln Mark VIIIs appealing. Both the oldest and the newest cars in the collection are Mustangs, a 1979 Indy 500 pace car edition Mustang GT and a 2012 Mustang GT California Special. barnfind3 Though the cars were indeed being stored on a farm, in a barn if you will, I just can’t bring myself to calling them barn finds. They were bought as a business proposition, so I think the collection is more of a speculator’s stash than true barn finds. Others might say that it’s simply a clever way to get publicity for a sale of low mileage modern day muscle cars? What do you think?

The full list is below but if you want to buy one of them you’d better act quickly since Musselwhite said they “are flying out” of E & S Motorcycles, where they are being stored until sale. Jalopnik reader Luc.A. lives nearby and he snapped these photos. Despite the dust and mouse droppings, they look like they cleaned up well. Pics of the Ford GTs can be seen at Driving.ca.

Ford
1979 Mustang GT Pace Car, grey
1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, silver
1990 Mustang GT Convertible, green on white
1990 Thunderbird, black on grey
1990 Thunderbird S,
1994 Thunderbird S Coupe, white
1996 Lincoln Mark 8, silver
1997 F-150 Flairside
1998 Lincoln Mark 8 LSC, black
2000 F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2000 Lincoln LS, white
2001 Mustang GT Bullitt, black
2005 Mustang, yellow 2006 Ford GT, red
2006 Ford GT, blue
2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition
2007 Shelby GT500 Convertible, red
2008 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2008 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2008 Ford F-350, Harley-Davidson, black
2010 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, purple
2010 Ford Raptor, orange
2012 Mustang GT/CS, yellow

Chrysler
1999 Plymouth Prowler, purple
2000 Plymouth Prowler, yellow
2001 Plymouth Prowler, black on silver
2001 Plymouth Prowler, blue
2006 Chrysler 300 SRT-8, silver
2008 Dodge Charger SRT-8, orange
2010 Dodge Ram 1500

GM
2001 Chevrolet Corvette, silver
2002 Chevrolet Corvette Targa, silver
2002 Camaro Z/28 SS, red
2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, black
2006 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, silver on black
2007 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, silver on black
2007 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, orange on tan
2008 Pontiac Solstice Convertible, red

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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TTAC Inspires Small Scale Project Car Build http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ttac-inspires-small-scale-project-car-build/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ttac-inspires-small-scale-project-car-build/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834977 2 When TTAC reader and slot car enthusiast John Kit showed his daughter Emma my post about the Lotus Cortina, she said, “we have a Lotus Cortina slot car don’t we?” In fact they had two 1/32 versions of Jim Clark’s Team Lotus cars, one made by Revell/Monogram and the other by Scalextric. John likes the […]

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When TTAC reader and slot car enthusiast John Kit showed his daughter Emma my post about the Lotus Cortina, she said, “we have a Lotus Cortina slot car don’t we?” In fact they had two 1/32 versions of Jim Clark’s Team Lotus cars, one made by Revell/Monogram and the other by Scalextric. John likes the exterior look and detailing on the Revell version but it doesn’t have a full interior, which the Scalextric car does have, including a scale version of Clark behind the wheel. Kit decided to take the best parts of both slot cars bodies and mash them up into a single more realistic slot car, which you can see above. The results look very impressive. We’ve featured project car builds before but I think this is the first slot car build covered on the site, though we’ve featured some of John and Emma’s slot cars before. I guess it goes to show just how multifaceted car enthusiasm can be. You can see John’s account and photos of the build over at slotforum.com.

One of the best parts of writing for this site is the interaction with our readers and it’s gratifying when something we do inspires you folks in your own enthusiasm. By the way, an interest in Lotus Cortinas isn’t the only thing that John and I share. I still have the four-lane 1/32 Monogram “Sebring” slot car set my parents gave me as a Bar Mitzvah present. I’m pretty sure that John and I aren’t the only slot car fans on this site. It’s possible that the hobby may be even bigger today than it was in its supposed heyday back when I was 13. While there may have been more public tracks back then, nobody spent tens of thousands of dollars on home or corporate tracks in 1967, like Dave Beattie’s Slot Mods builds for folks like Jay Leno, Jim Farley and Audi.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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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Eyes On Design Announces Aliterative Show: Mustangs, Maseratis, Mass Market, Military, Muscle & Movies – Cars and Pop Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/eyes-on-design-announces-aliterative-show-mustangs-maseratis-mass-market-military-muscle-movies-cars-and-pop-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/eyes-on-design-announces-aliterative-show-mustangs-maseratis-mass-market-military-muscle-movies-cars-and-pop-culture/#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 16:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=831425 The Eyes On Design car show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, just north of Detroit, is a unique event. While many, perhaps most, of the cars on display there are of concours level quality, the show is not about perfection, authenticity or […]

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The Eyes On Design car show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, just north of Detroit, is a unique event. While many, perhaps most, of the cars on display there are of concours level quality, the show is not about perfection, authenticity or preparation. In fact it’s not actually called a show but rather an “automotive design exhibition”. Eyes On Design is run by the Detroit area automotive styling community so what judging is done and the awards that are given are based on design. The Father’s Day show is the major fundraiser for the organization, which holds a number of other events throughout the year (including design awards at the NAIAS aka Detroit auto show in January) to benefit the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, part of the Henry Ford Health System. That’s the hospital system that’s grown out of Henry Ford Hospital, founded by the automotive pioneer. Seventeen vehicle categories for this year’s exhibition, to be held on June 15th, have been announced to complement the overall theme of the event – “Automotive design’s influence on popular culture”.

Over 250 cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display, chosen for those that “provoke a nostalgic reflection about cars that have, through their design, affected the popular culture of their day”. In addition to the general theme of the event, 2014 will mark four important automotive anniversaries, Dodge celebrates its centennial and this year is the golden anniversary for both the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO. It’s also been 50 years since the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, where automakers and many suppliers had elaborate displays. Motorcycles will be represented at the show with a selection of Indians. Perhaps the category with the strongest connection between cars and pop culture will be a display of movie and tv cars. While some will be replicas, the authentic Monkeemobile from the tv series and the real Black Beauty from the 1966 version of the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee, both built by the late, great Dean Jeffries, along with a real Smokey & The Bandit Trans Am, will be on display, as will be a few fictional cars made for movies. The complete list of movie and tv cars follows the category listing below.

As part of the publicity runup to the event, the organizers recently revealed the poster for the 27th Eyes On Design exhibition. The artist is Nicola Wood of Los Angeles and it features a blue 1936 Cadillac “Aerodynamic Coupe” in front of the swimming pool on the grounds of the Ford estate. In the foreground a woman’s eye is seen in the reflection from a cosmetic compact’s mirror. Seven other eyes are hidden in the background. The symbolism expresses the charitable goal of the show, medical treatment for eye disorders. Though it’s a commissioned work, the painting was also labor of love for the classically trained Wood, a member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS), who continues to paint after losing vision in one eye due to macular degeneration.

The poster was revealed by General Motors former assistant chief designer, Steve Pasteiner, who discussed the origins of the car on the poster. Originally a show car that Harley Earl created for the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago, the Aerodynamic Coupe established what today we’d call the design language for many GM cars in the mid and late 1930s. Pasteiner, whose AAT shop builds concept cars for automakers, is a big fan of the rolling sculpture era of the 1930s. His Buick Blackhawk, which was built to celebrate Buick’s centennial and sold at auction for more than a half million dollars and AAT’s Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk, which sold for $269,500, were heavily influenced by the Aerodynamic Coupe.

I’ll be covering Eyes On Design this year, God willing and the creek don’t rise, so if there’s a particular car or category you’d like me to check out, let me know in the comments.

Here are the categories for this year’s Eyes On Design exhibition:

50th Anniversary of the GTO – celebrating 50 year’s of Pontiac’s muscle car
Classic Era – high culture becomes pop culture, from the mid-20s to WW2
100 Years of Dodge – a century of survival and success stories
Color, Chrome and Fins – symbols of post-war American optimism
1964 New York World’s Fair – 50-years on from the event in Queens
50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang – the original pony car
Tuners – the evolution of car personalization from 1967 to today
Muscle Cars – high horsepower straight from Detroit
Working Class of 1928 – American car culture is born – the birth of Plymouth and Ford’s Model A
Pure Michigan – a celebration of some of the lesser-know makers from Flint, MI
Personal Luxury Coupés – a look at the high-end mid-size coupés of the 1970s
Movie & TV Cars – including four-wheeled stars from the big and small screen
Maserati – highlights from 100 years of the Italian maker
Stock to Rock – standard models paired with their heavily customized twins
Collector’s Circle – supporting car collectors and their hobby
Military Vehicles – from war-torn roads to off road heroes
Indian Motorcycles – an enduring and endearing tribe founded back in 1897

The movie and television cars will be:

1965 VW Beetle (“Herbie”) from “The Love Bug” (1969). The anthropomorphic Beetle with a mind of its own and the number “53″ racing number, which starred in six Disney productions through 2005. This is a correct replica owned and put together by a Lynn Anderson, who’s a contributing editor for Hot VWs magazine.

1966 Pontiac GTO from “The Monkees” (1966). California car customizer Dean Jeffries built the original highly-modified GTO convertible, known as the “Monkeemobile,” for use by the pop rock band during their NBC TV series, which originally aired from 1966 to 1968. This is the actual car from the tv series, as “restored” by George Barris’ shop, currently owned by a Detroit area collector who paid more than $300,000 for it. Pics here.

1975 Ford Gran Torino from “Starsky & Hutch” (1975). A replica of the red-with white stripes car driven by the two California detectives in the TV cop series, which originally aired from 1975 to 1979. A “Starsky & Hutch” movie was made in 2005.

Winton Flyer from “The Reivers” (1969). Designed to look like a 1904 car, this one-of-a-kind fictional vehicle driven in the movie by Steve McQueen and owned by him. It was created by the legendary artist and car craftsman Kenneth Howard, aka Von Dutch.

1966 Chrysler Imperial (“Black Beauty”) from “Green Hornet” (1966). Originally created by customizer Dean Jeffries, this modified Imperial rolling arsenal starred with Van Williams and Bruce Lee in the 1966-1967 ABC TV series.

Leslie Special from “The Great Race” (1965). Driven by good guy Tony Curtis in the Warner Brothers movie, this gleaming white roadster was loosely designed to look like a 1907 Thomas Flyer, which actually won the real “Great Race of 1908″ from New York to Paris.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am  from “Smoky & The Bandit” (1977). This special black “T-top” Trans Am was driven by Burt Reynolds in the smash hit Universal Pictures movie, which made $300 million and almost doubled the sales of Trans Ams

1982 Pontiac Trans Am (“K.I.T.T.”)  from “Knight Rider” (1982). A replica of the advanced supercomputer in a bullet-proof body on wheels. The robotic KITT could communicate with humans, drive itself and shoot flames and tear gas in the NBC TV series which ran into 1986.

Nissan 240 SX  from “Fast & Furious IV” (2009).One of the many customized cars used in scenes from the Universal Pictures action movie starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.

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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BOF, IRS, CKD, SUV… Automotive TLAs, What Are Your Most (and Least) Favorite Acronyms? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bof-irs-ckd-suv-automotive-tlas-what-are-your-most-and-least-favorite-acronyms/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bof-irs-ckd-suv-automotive-tlas-what-are-your-most-and-least-favorite-acronyms/#comments Sun, 25 May 2014 14:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=831122 TTAC’s post by J. Emerson on how so-called Millennials’ automotive tastes have been shaped by their coming of automotive age in an era when their parents embraced body on frame sport utility vehicles brought forth a lot of thoughtful comment. One comment that caught my eye, though, had little to do with the topic of […]

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TTAC’s post by J. Emerson on how so-called Millennials’ automotive tastes have been shaped by their coming of automotive age in an era when their parents embraced body on frame sport utility vehicles brought forth a lot of thoughtful comment. One comment that caught my eye, though, had little to do with the topic of the post but rather was a complaint about the use of the acronym BOF. To most of us that means “body on frame” but to manga or Korean sitcom fans it might mean Boys Over Flowers and when you’re using abbreviations you have to be sure your audience recognizes them. In an earlier life I did IT support and we would make a recursive joke about the proliferation of TLA’s, three letter acronyms. Such acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon serve a useful purpose to those in the know, but can also function as a mark of group identification, a shibboleth, if you will. Sometimes the use of jargon can function as a barrier to others, which can be contrary to how inclusive we want TTAC to be.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

As a writer I have to realize that not everyone knows all the lingo of being a car enthusiast or industry watcher but at the same time I don’t want to condescend and assume that our readers don’t know about what we’re talking. Partly it’s a matter of following a style manual but it’s also an issue of respecting the readers. When discussion suspensions at a car site is it really necessary to say “independent rear suspension” the first time in a post before switching to IRS? When I’m reading about possible government targeting of tax-exempt groups for political purposes does a site have to write out “Internal Revenue Service” for me to know that in that context IRS has nothing to do with the Porsche 928′s Weissach axle?

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Offhand I can think of a few automotive TLAs besides BOF and IRS. There’s the CAN bus I recently discussed, and SLA, short long arm, another suspension term. Getting back to the post that spurred this one, there’s SUV and CUV.

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Sometimes, instead of exporting fully assembled cars or setting up full overseas assembly operations with a body shop and local suppliers, a lot of automakers will ship CKD, completely knocked down, kits that are then put together in their foreign markets with local labor (though some sources say that the abbreviation stands for “cars knocked down”).

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While researching this post I discovered another related TLA, those fully assembled exported cars are referred to as CBUs, completely built units.

2003 Land Rover CKD

What other automotive acronyms can you think of? Which do you think most car enthusiasts should recognize without explanation? Which do you particularly like to use? Which do you find annoying?

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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Video: Korean Porsche Owner Chases Down DUI Suspect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/video-korean-porsche-owner-chases-down-dui-suspect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/video-korean-porsche-owner-chases-down-dui-suspect/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 15:45:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815594 To those of us in the United States the idea of a police checkpoint is repugnant, but for much of the world it’s an everyday event. During my time in Japan, I experienced the process several times and the procedure was always the same. A police taskforce rolled in, set up a blockade and traffic […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

To those of us in the United States the idea of a police checkpoint is repugnant, but for much of the world it’s an everyday event. During my time in Japan, I experienced the process several times and the procedure was always the same. A police taskforce rolled in, set up a blockade and traffic slowed to a crawl while officers on foot spoke with each driver. Once in a while, a driver was directed to pull into a special area off to the side and most people did just what they were told. Non compliance would bring the wrath of a dozen baton-wielding cops and anyone who tried to run would be chased down by one of the police bikes that sat waiting and ready at the far side of the blockade.

The Korean police checkpoint in the video above seems to work in much the same way. The only thing lacking, it appears, are the chase vehicles. Of course, when you have a civilian in a Porsche GT3RS willing to run down your suspect, maybe you don’t need to make the investment.

 

The footage in the video looks like it comes straight out of a video game but is, in fact, taken from the dash cam of a real-life regular civilian who, along with his girlfriend, just happens to be on scene when a driver decides to bolt from a police checkpoint. The chase that follows happens on busy city streets and we can see pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers lives’ put at risk as the suspect does his best to escape. Eventually, the pursuer realizes that crowding the fleeing car is actually causing its driver to behave even more erratically and backs off to a safer distance while his girlfriend uses her cellular to keep the police apprised of the suspect’s location until they can finally catch up.

In the end, thanks to one civic minded Porsche owner’s willingness to help out, the police get their man. Whether or not it was worth the risk, however, is something I question. Personally, I’d rather that ordinary citizens leave the high speed pursuits and the law enforcement to the professionals. Considering the number of people on the street this cold have ended badly. The fact that it didn’t is just pure, dumb luck. Even so, I’m glad he had a dash cam so I could ride along.

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QOTD: How Do You Use Your Horn? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-how-do-you-use-your-horn/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-how-do-you-use-your-horn/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 19:21:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811722 Yesterday, someone had the audacity to honk at me. It wasn’t one of those cheerful little toots that a person might use to get someone’s attention when waving them into traffic, but a full-on ten second blast – the kind that you should only use when you are behind the controls of a freight train […]

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2014 Volvo S60, Interior, Gauges and steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Teknikens Värld

Yesterday, someone had the audacity to honk at me. It wasn’t one of those cheerful little toots that a person might use to get someone’s attention when waving them into traffic, but a full-on ten second blast – the kind that you should only use when you are behind the controls of a freight train that is bearing down upon someone in the tracks. The offender? Some octogenarian in a Buick. My crime? A not so near-miss that occurred while I was making a left turn across traffic from a side street into a center turn lane.

The fact I’m still stewing about it a full day later should say something about how often I get blasted with the horn. In the approximately thirty years I have been driving, I would guess it has happened less than a dozen times. Likewise, in that same period, I have only done it a few times myself, mostly from the back of a motorcycle, and then only after the gravest offense. That’s because I was taught, to put it mildly, that blasting the horn is an audible middle finger and the sort of thing that might cause a near miss to escalate into actual violence.

In my travels I have noticed that different cultures manifest themselves on the roads in different ways. In some cities blaring horns are so common that they have ceased to have any real effect. In the same way that someone who lives on the final approach to a major airport no longer hears the noise of the jets whizzing less than a thousand feet overhead, horns in those places have become a normal part of the background noise as innocuous as the chirping of birds to someone who lives near a park. Here in the good ol’ USA, however, the honking of horns for anything more than the occasional beep is uncommon and anything more might result in a hail of gunfire.

Although I am not officially assigned to TTAC’s Question Of The Day beat, I would like to start a discussion about horns, how and when they are used. Am I the only one who takes it personally when someone flips me the audible bird? Was my desire to follow the old man home and bludgeon him to death with his own walker reasonable, or unreasonable?

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Town And Country Update: Road Trip http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/town-and-coutry-update-road-trip/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/town-and-coutry-update-road-trip/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808074 I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up […]

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I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up to Toronto in search of a Japanese supermarket, but I reported then that the van was performing flawlessly. Today, eight months later, and thanks in part to a whirlwind road trip that added slightly more than 2000 miles in just four full days of driving, the T&C’s odometer shows 6400 miles and I have greater insight into the vehicle’s true nature. Naturally, it’s time for an update.

I am a veteran road-tripper. I began as a child, riding in the back seat of one my father’s many Oldsmobiles and I can tell you from brutal experience what it is like to be locked in a car with your brothers and sisters for days on end. Fortunately, my Kodachrome-colored memories of the ‘70s have little in common with the way families travel today and the Town & Country S is a true product of a better, brighter era. Chrysler offers a great deal of technology on all their vans, sometimes standard and sometimes at an additional cost, and one of the particular advantages of the S model is that, among other things, it already comes equipped with a Blue Ray DVD player and two overhead flat screen monitors. To be honest, had the video system not been included as a part of the package that netted me a swankier interior and better looking wheels, it is not something I would have paid extra to purchase at the time, but now that I have it I can’t imagine living without it.

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DVD players in cars rival sliced bread for the title of the greatest thing ever invented. Unlike my childhood road trips where, other than fighting with my siblings, the sole form of entertainment consisted entirely of a game where you tried to make the alphabet out of the letters on other cars’ license plates, my kids were treated to a non-stop, four day long Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animation film festival. Because I don’t mind listening to movies while I drive, I usually play the DVD audio tracks over the stereo system, but for those times I would rather listen to something else Chrysler was thoughtful enough to include two pairs of nice, wireless headphones that work with the DVD system, something that makes it possible for the kids watch movies in the back while the adults enjoy the radio up front. That to me is a real have your cake and eat it too kind of feature and all I can say is “Hooray for technology!”

While my precious, human cargo rode in comfort and silence, I was able to focus on the overall driving experience and my impressions are mostly positive. On the open road the T&C was strong and smooth and although there were no mountain passes upon which to test the vehicle’s climbing prowess between Buffalo and Kansas City, which we visited last week in preparation for our impending move, I found there was always plenty of power on tap whenever I put my foot down. Fuel mileage too was more than satisfactory thanks to the “Eco” mode and, at the end of our trip, the computer showed I averaged an impressive 28 miles per gallon despite the fact that I paid zero attention to maximizing our mileage.

This is the first time I have used the eco button and although I had read nothing about how the system works, I noticed right away that it affected how the van shifted. This was most noticeable on hills when the vehicle’s speed was being maintained by the the cruise control. Without fail, as we began to ascend any grade longer than a few hundred feet, our speed would fall off by three or four miles per hour and the engine would bog until the RPMs went so low as to force a downshift. Then, when the transmission finally kicked down into a lower gear, the engine would roar to life and send the vehicle charging furiously back up to speed before up-shifting yet again and starting the whole process over. This led to an odd sort of leap frogging effect where I would pass cars on the flat only to end up slowing down in front of them whenever we reached any kind of a hill. Then, when the other cars pulled out to pass, the van would downshift and we would end up tearing away again before they could get around us. Frankly, I found this effect annoying and I could tell by the way that other cars crawled right up my backside every time it happened that the drivers around me did too. Eventually, I solved the problem by using the gas pedal to force the engine to kick down sooner and that worked well enough but, truth be told, I would rather have set the speed and then not had to worry about it at all. It would be nice if Chrysler could adjust this with some sort of software update.

With power, economy and the kids all taken care of, the only other thing I can really report on is how the big van felt from the driver’s seat. The last time I drove west of the Mississippi I was in my 300M and the Town & Country compares more than favorably to Chrysler’s other high end offerings. The seats were comfortable and offered more than enough adjustability to ease the aches and pains that cropped up from time to time and I enjoyed spending time in them. Still essentially brand new, there were no annoying squeaks or rattles I can report and I also found that wind noise was non-existent at any virtually speed. I will say that different pavements introduced different vibrations and different tire noises into the cabin but never at a level that caused any real distraction so, overall, from a comfort standpoint, the T&C is great.

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Suspension wise the S model’s sport tuned suspension walks that fine line between firm and jarring in a way the sport tuned suspension on my 300M Special never could. The big van holds the road and inspires confidence without sacrificing comfort. Where the 300M had a tendency to follow tar snakes, ruts and other imperfections in the pavement, the T&C never leaves you fighting for control although, thanks to its higher profile, it is more affected by gusts.

At the end of our second day, with almost 8 full hours of driving behind us and a bare ten miles from our goal, the skies turned dangerously black and it began to rain absolute buckets. The roads turned into rivers and I quickly switched to local radio in order to hear any emergency weather bulletins. The news was not good and there, near the point of exhaustion, on strange roads and with limited visibility, I began to worry just a little for the safety of my family. But the big Chrysler simply shrugged off everything that nature could throw at it and, as the navigation unerringly guided us towards our destination, my fears quickly abated. The vehicle worked so well that there was nothing to take my attention away from the road and, I realized, there was simply nothing to worry about.

In the end, smooth, worry-free operation is what you want from a family vehicle and today, almost eight months after purchasing the Town and Country, I still find the van’s poise and confidence on the road to be utterly remarkable. It is joy to drive and this latest road trip has only strengthened my belief that I have chosen the right vehicle for my family. I simply could not want anything else at this point and, as I tend to keep my vehicles for many years, I am convinced that the T&C will carry us wherever we want, near or far, in style, comfort and safety for a long time to come.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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The Deuce’s Coupe – Henry Ford II’s Personal Prototype Mustang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 01:56:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804458 Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American […]

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Full gallery here.

Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American Motors had shown the viability of compact cars, in 1960, Ford introduced the Falcon, Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, and Pontiac brought out the original, compact, Tempest. When GM introduced the sportier Monza versions of the Corvair, Iacocca, who by then was a Ford corporate VP and general manager of the Ford division, wanted something to compete with it. Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce”, had to be convinced to spend money on the project, just a few short years after FoMoCo took a serious financial hit when the Edsel brand did not have a successful launch. Iacocca, one of the great salesmen, not only sold his boss on the concept of the Mustang, the Deuce came to love the pony car so much he had a very special one made just for himself.

 

Multiple accounts from other participants in the story affirm that HFII was reluctant to give the Mustang program a green light. By early 1962, Iacocca had already been turned down at least twice, with Ford shouting “No! No!” when Ford’s division boss asked for $75 million to go after the youth market with a reskinned Falcon. Iacocca’s unofficial “Fairlane Committee”, an advanced product planning group that met every couple of weeks at the Fairlane Motel, away from prying eyes and ears at the Glass House, Ford’s World headquarters, had been working on the Mustang idea, but the team despaired of getting HFII’s approval.

In an interview on the Mustang’s genesis, Iacocca explained his challenge:

Henry Ford II had just dealt with one of the biggest losses in Ford history with the Edsel. It was dumped just one year earlier at a loss of $250 million. Henry was not receptive to launching a new, unproven line of cars which would present further risk to the company.

I made a number of trips to his office before I gained approval to build. He told me if it wasn’t a success, it would be my ass, and I might be looking for a new job elsewhere.

Surprisingly, Iacocca got word that Ford would let him pitch the as yet unnamed sporty car one more time. With the meeting scheduled for the next morning, Iacocca convened an emergency meeting of his secret committee. Things had to be secret because in the wake of the Edsel debacle, Ford’s corporate culture had become very cautious.

According to Ford head of public relations and Iacocca’s speechwriter Walter T. Murphy, who was at the meeting, the group included: Don Frey, Ford’s chief product planner; John Bowers, advertising manager; Frank Zimmerman, Ford division head of marketing; Robert Eggert, the company’s chief market research authority; Hal Sperlich, who wore many hats as Iacocca’s right hand man (and would follow him to Chrysler): and William Laurie, senior officer of Ford’s advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson.

In a 1989 account that he wrote for Ward’s Auto, Murphy described the scene:

“What I need are some fresh grabbers for my meeting tomorrow morning with Henry at the Glass House,” Mr. Iacocca told his committee (Note: we always called him Henry at meetings when Mr. Ford was not present), Bob Eggert, the researcher, was first at bat: “Lee, let’s lead off with the name of the car we’ve decided on.”

The feeling was that Henry didn’t know we were picking the Mustang name and he’d be entranced. Mr. Frey supported Mr. Eggert. “That’s a good way to go, but emphasize that this stylish pony car will kick GM’s Monza square in the balls.” Henry should love that! “I’ve got it,” Mr. Iacocca responded as he snapped shut the little car research binder that Mr. Eggert had slipped in front of him. “Murphy, put together some notes for me by early tomorrow morning. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.”

The following morning Mr. Ford stretched out in his leather chair, fingers clasped atop his expanding belly. Mr. Iacocca stood holding a few index cards. He was not smoking or fingering a cigar, as he usually did. Mr. Ford asked “What have you got, Lee?”

Lee launched into his pitch on the market for the youthful low-cost cars that Ford once dominated but had surrendered to GM along with a bushel of profit/penetration points. “Now this new little pony car, the Mustang, would give an orgasm to anyone under 30,” he said. Henry sat upright as if he had been jabbed with a needle. “What was that you said, Lee?” asked Mr. Ford.

Lee began to repeat his orgasm line but Mr. Ford interrupted. “No not that crap, what did you call the car?” “It’s the Mustang, Mr. Ford, a name that will sell like hell.” “Sounds good; have Frey take it to the product planning committee and get it approved. And as of now, you’ve got $75 million to fund your Mustang.”

In the end, Henry Ford II’s approval of the Mustang came down to the name. I’ll note that Walker’s recollection is slightly different than that of Iacocca, who says that Ford initially committed just $45 million for the project.

The Mustang team first developed the four cylinder midengine Mustang (now known as Mustang I) concept for the 1962 show circuit, gauging interest in a sporty car targeted at young people. Because of cost concerns, they were likely to never build such a car (the Edsel failure guaranteed that the car would have to be based on an existing Ford car), but the reaction was positive, leading to the Falcon based Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the 1974 Mustang II production car). The Mustang II was based on a very early preproduction Mustang body shell, first used for a styling study with stretched front end (with “Cougar” badging – the name that convinced HFII was chosen very late in the process)  and then taken out on the ’63 auto show circuit to drum up interest in the new car. The Mustang II is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum and it would be hard to put a dollar value on such a rare and historically significant Mustang.

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Henry Ford II with the Mustang at Ford’s pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where the Mustang was first introduced to the public. Above and behind him you can see one of the convertibles used in the Walt Disney Co. designed Magic Skyway that carried visitors through Ford’s exhibit.

Before the official start of Mustang production on March 9, 1964, in February Ford started to build actual preproduction prototypes of the Mustang, about 180 of them in all. The bodies-in-white were pilot plant units built off of body bucks by Ford Body & Assembly in Allen Park, which explains the leaded seams. The bodies were then trucked to the nearby Dearborn assembly plant where they were assembled as part of the validation process.

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From left to right: Lee Iacocca, Henry Ford II, and Gene Bordinat

One of of those preproduction prototypes was set aside for special treatment by Ford Design. Ten years later, it was just another old Mustang when Art Cairo spotted a classified ad in a Detroit newspaper that read, “1965 Mustang once owned by the Ford family.” The asking price was a very reasonable $1,000 so Cairo went to look at the car. He found what appeared to be a Hi-Po 289 hardtop in black. It had some unusual parts, though. The vinyl roof was leather, not vinyl, as was the interior upholstery and dashpad. The brightwork on the wheel arch lips was die-cast, not anodized aluminum as on production cars. Door jams and trunk openings had fully leaded seams, and there were features like GT foglights in the grille, exhaust tips and styled steel wheels that were not available on early production Mustangs. Under the hood, there was an alternator instead of a generator, which was what ran the electrical system of early Mustangs. The only Ford products that offered alternators in mid 1964 were Lincolns.

On the interior, in addition to leather seats there was real teakwood, molded leather door panels with pistol-grip door handles, and a factory reverb unit and rear speaker under the package shelf. Door strikers and latches were chrome plated. In addition to what appeared to be an authentic High Performance 289, the car had disc brakes up front, a “top loader” four speed manual transmission and a 9 inch rear end with a 3.50:1 final drive ratio.

When Art read the VIN, 5F07K100148, and realized that it was a genuine “K code” Mustang, an early production “1964 1/2″ model, with a real Hi-Po 289 and lots of oddball parts, he recognized that it was a special car and that he needed to buy it (it would turn out later that Cairo’s Mustang was the very first K-code Mustang built). In the glovebox he found an owner’s manual for a ’65 Mustang written with the name “Edsel B. Ford II” and a Grosse Pointe address. The VIN in the manual, however, was for a fastback and didn’t match the one in the car.

Edsel, Henry Ford II’s son, would have been in high school when the car was new so Cairo figured it was an authentic Ford family car and bought it, assuming it was the younger Ford’s personal car. In 1983, when Art was interviewing Edsel for the Mustang Monthly magazine, Edsel revealed to him that the hardtop was not his, but his father’s and that somehow the owner’s manual for his fastback ’65 ended up with his dad’s car. Since the car’s restoration, Edsel autographed the teakwood glovebox door.

It turns out that while the cars were built for Ford family members to use, they were not titled to the Ford’s but rather remained the possession of the Ford company. After Henry and Edsel were done with their Mustangs, they were returned to FoMoCo and sold. The story that Cairo had heard was that the Deuce gave his Mustang to his chauffeur, who then sold it to the person who sold it to Cairo.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, other modifications were discovered when the car was finally restored. The alternator meant that the car had a custom wiring harness. A steel scatter shield was welded into the transmission tunnel in case of a failure of the clutch or flywheel. The engine was a real Hi-Po 289, but it had experimental cylinder heads, and even the steering box was not a production unit. The original headliner was leather, to match the roof and upholstery and in addition to all the real wood and chrome plating, a custom AM radio with die-cast knobs and buttons was installed.

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“X” stands for experimental. The Hi-Po 289 V8 in Henry Ford II’s personal Mustang had experimental heads.

The fog lamps, exhaust trumpets and die-cast moldings were developmental parts planned to be introduced the following year, installed by Ford Design.

As mentioned, when Cairo bought the car, he knew it was special, being an early K-code car, but he didn’t take the Ford family provenance that seriously. He loaned the car to his brother, who beat on it pretty hard until something broke in the 289′s valvetrain. Art retrieved the keys, overhauled the heads and did a mild restoration and respray.

He didn’t drive it much because his job involving new vehicle launches at Ford kept him on the road a lot, moving from assembly plant to assembly plant. Though he drove 5F07K100148 sparingly, for the most part the car was unknown to the Mustang community.

In 2002, Cairo started getting worried about the long term effects of inactivity and humidity and a deep inspection found significant decay, rust and rodent damage. Rustbusters, a restoration shop in Redford, Michigan was entrusted with the car.

This was going to be a complicated job. Some parts, like the headliner and upholstery are so original they cannot be “restored”. How do you restore a one off with a replica?

The car was carefully taken apart, with copious notes and photographs taken. Once disassembled, they discovered that the rust had eaten through body panels, floors, frame-rails, wheelhouses, quarter-panels, inner fenders, doors, and the cowl vent. Had this been a run of the mill ’65 Mustang, most owners would have removed the VIN and bought a replacement body from Dynacorn.

Instead, with the help of reproduction company National Parts Depot, Rustbusters used a body jig custom designed for vintage Mustangs and repaired all of the sheet metal. A modern self-etching primer sealer was used as was polymer seam sealer, but Cairo was able to locate some vintage Ford Raven Black enamel, and after spraying, the Mustang was color sanded and hand rubbed old school style to replicate a 1964 era paint job. Unfortunately, the die-cast prototype wheel-lip moldings were too corroded to use.

Early production Mustangs came with an unimproved hood that had sharp edges, replaced in 1965 with a hood that had a rolled lip. Since all preproduction and Indy Pace Car Mustangs (Ford provided the pace car for the 1964 race) that have surfaced so far feature the later style hood, Art decided to go with the “1965″ hood, which is how he found the car when he bought it.

The engine was rebuilt to factory specs, other than a .030 overbore, but inspections revealed that both the transmission and rear end just needed new seals and gaskets.

The car was finished just in time for Ford’s centennial in 2003 and Art was invited to display his car in front of Ford World Headquarters as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. This month it’s appropriately back in the lobby of the “Glass House”, whose official name is the Henry Ford II World Center, along with some other historic Mustangs, to celebrate the Mustang’s semicentennial.

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QOTD: Special Feature, Special Weakness http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-special-feature-special-weakness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-special-feature-special-weakness/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 04:04:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797274 On a busy freeway, a first-generation Scion xB putters along. Ahead, a confused medley of dump trucks, semis, and passenger cars performs the lane-change dance that we all know and loathe. For the driver and passenger of the toaster, things are about to get interesting- and infuriating. The dump trucks are fully laden, and there’s […]

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On a busy freeway, a first-generation Scion xB putters along. Ahead, a confused medley of dump trucks, semis, and passenger cars performs the lane-change dance that we all know and loathe. For the driver and passenger of the toaster, things are about to get interesting- and infuriating.

The dump trucks are fully laden, and there’s already plenty of junk on the road. The xB has a well-worn bug deflector, one which has spared the windshield from an unfortunate contact many times already. But this time, it won’t get the job done. Suddenly, a car darts across lanes in the traffic ahead. It picks up a rock, an asphalt clod, or some other piece of detritus. The missile arcs backward at the perfect angle. It misses the deflector by millimeters, hitting dead on right below the driver’s wiper. THWACK. Time to call the insurance company.

This isn’t the first time. The toaster is already on windshield number two, which itself has seen the business end of a resin gun. Half a dozen or so years prior, it took a stone right at the top, where the glass joins the roof. That time, the trauma wasn’t immediately apparent. However, a single cold, clear day later, the glass was split from top to bottom. The nice man from the glass shop told us that xBs were a great revenue stream for his company. Now he’ll be back to collect another check.

But oh, the glory of driving a fish tank. A virtually unobstructed view from any angle, the tiny blind spots totally confound the current zero-visibility trend in styling. When dad first bought it, I hated it. It was a dork’s car through and through. But when I got my license and my own ride, I began to appreciate its virtues. Those vast expanses of glass were fantastic for a young, nervous driver. They made it easy to watch the road, and to negotiate the tight spots. Dad appreciated it for much the same reason. At the time, no other car on the road offered the same level of visibility, unless it was a convertible. That’s even truer today. Perhaps that’s why he’s held on to it for longer than any other car he’s owned. Even if that fishbowl feeling comes at a price.

xB, Wrangler, FJ, van, and pickup drivers know all about the hazards inherent in steep windshields. Even so, they accept it as part of the costs of ownership. Many drivers tolerate possible headaches in maintenance and repair to get the special features they really want. A sunroof is a good example, as are convertible tops more generally. Heated and power seats don’t always last the life of a vehicle, but for many in northern climes they verge on necessity. Premium wheels can look great, even if they aren’t always resistant to potholes. Material quality and careful engineering can help special features last longer without requiring repairs. But some, like steeply raked windshields, can’t overcome the basic limitations of their design.

What weaknesses are you willing to tolerate in the design of your vehicle, to get exactly what you want? Or is durability your sole criteria? Have you ever been seduced by a trick feature that turned out to be an expensive source of woe later?

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Smart Cars Damaged In Stupid Prank http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/smart-cars-damaged-in-stupid-prank/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/smart-cars-damaged-in-stupid-prank/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:33:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790201 San Francisco’s NBC affiliate is reporting on a new wave of vandalism sweeping the City by the Bay, car tipping. At least four Smart cars were flipped over Sunday night, by what one hooded-sweatshirt wearing witness described as a group of six to eight people wearing hooded sweatshirts. The case has drawn national attention, sparking […]

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Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.com

San Francisco’s NBC affiliate is reporting on a new wave of vandalism sweeping the City by the Bay, car tipping. At least four Smart cars were flipped over Sunday night, by what one hooded-sweatshirt wearing witness described as a group of six to eight people wearing hooded sweatshirts. The case has drawn national attention, sparking the creation of a Facebook parody site, comments by the website totalfratmove.com, who called the car tippers “heroes,” and at least one cheekily written article on the website regarded by many as the seedy underbelly of the car blogging world, The Truth About Cars.

Many people believe the attacks on the Smart cars, which sell new beginning at around $13K, are a new form of class warfare in which the poor people still residing in the newly gentrified San Francisco neighborhoods take out their frustrations on the property of their wealthier, status seeking neighbors. Proof of these assertions are borne out by the fact that heavier luxury vehicles parked on the street near the damaged Smart cars were not overturned, causing this author to speculate that the larger cars could not be targeted because of rampant malnourishment among the lower classes. Others, however, think the incidents are just a stupid prank by stupid people who simply resent people with Smarts. Whatever the case, police are investigating and any suspects apprehended are likely to be charged with felony vandalism.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Final Fight Of The 300 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/final-fight-of-the-300/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/final-fight-of-the-300/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:56:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787817 At the big blue water tower, Interstate 90, known locally as the New York State Thruway, sweeps in from the east and turns sharply southward to skirt the city of Buffalo. The main interstate is joined there by I-290, one of the loop roads that comes in from the north, and although the roads are […]

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At the big blue water tower, Interstate 90, known locally as the New York State Thruway, sweeps in from the east and turns sharply southward to skirt the city of Buffalo. The main interstate is joined there by I-290, one of the loop roads that comes in from the north, and although the roads are both heavily traveled, the intersection is not especially well thought out. The 290, three lanes wide, makes a clean split, the leftmost lane joining the eastbound lanes of the 90 while the rightmost lane heads up and over an overpass before joining the westbound lanes. The middle lane offers drivers the opportunity to turn either way but most people opt to take the west bound exit and, because the right most lane is eventually forced to merge into the left lane prior to actually joining the 90, most people tend to hang in the middle lane prior to the split and, during rush hour, traffic tends to slow. Naturally, wherever cars slow, dickheads want to use the open lane to pass and then merge at the last moment.

Headed south in the early morning hours, traffic was moving along fairly well and I, in my 300M, was in line with dozens of other cars in the center lane when the big blue water tower and the 290/90 split hove into view. As usual, traffic began to slow, but there were no brake lights. Gradually, our speed dropped from the posted limit to around 40 miles and hour and I, along with everyone else in-line, stayed to the right as the center lane divided, a bare car length between me and the driver ahead. Given the distance, my attention was focused up the road rather than my mirrors so I was shocked when, out of the corner of my eye, I detected something that simply should not have been there, a car on my left.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Spree Magazine

I hadn’t seen him approach, but there was only one way the light blue Nissan Cube could have shown up there. He had run up the left most lane faster than those of us in line and then, instead of staying left and heading east towards Rochester, he had gone straight-on across the center lane split and was now on the left shoulder and moving a good ten mph faster than the rest of us. In a millisecond he swept past, narrowly missing the side of my prized old Chrysler and then, hard on the brakes, stuffed his little econo-box into the small space between my car and the one I had been following.

Generally, I’m not prone to road rage, but in the moments that followed I saw red. Instead of jumping on the brakes and opening the space between us I stayed right in position bare inches from the offending car’s back bumper. The road moved up and over a small bridge and, on the other side, headed down to the 90 where it became the rightmost lane. At that point, most of the fast cars will generally shift left and scoot away while those of us headed downtown will shift onto the exit for Route 33. To my surprise, instead of moving left and making his getaway, the Cube turned right and since I just happened to be headed the same way I did so too. We ran down the off ramp just inches apart and, as we joined the highway headed downtown, I bumped the big Chrysler into “autostick” mode.

Nissan Cube

As we hit the merge I bumped the 300 down a gear and mashed the gas. The engine spun up and the sound that came out of the back was glorious. I drove the car into the left lane fully expecting to outgun the little Cube and to give him a taste of his own medicine as he attempted to merge but, alas, he wasn’t there. As the Chrysler surged forward, so too did the little economy car and, foot by foot as both of us stayed hard on the gas, the Cube slipped smoothly away.

Looking back on it, I didn’t act very smart that day. Had the Cube caused an accident I might have been justified in being upset but once he had managed to stuff his car into the gap I should have backed off and let him go. Still, I learned something about how quickly technology has advanced and how smaller cars with better performing engines are more than a match for older, larger “performance” (if that’s the right word for a 300M) sedans. The best thing is, of course, that no one had to be hurt to learn that lesson.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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2014 Detroit Autorama: Crafty-B ’32 Roadster, An Elegant Concept, Well Executed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2014-detroit-autorama-crafty-b-32-roadster-an-elegant-concept-well-executed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2014-detroit-autorama-crafty-b-32-roadster-an-elegant-concept-well-executed/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 04:18:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773010 From the ridiculous to the sublime. After subjecting you to that curious Hudson Terraplane “coupe”, please consider this my apology. A visual palette cleanser, if you will. Before organizers let the public in to the Detroit Autorama at noon on the Friday of the show, members of the media can get in at 9 AM while […]

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Full gallery here.

From the ridiculous to the sublime. After subjecting you to that curious Hudson Terraplane “coupe”, please consider this my apology. A visual palette cleanser, if you will. Before organizers let the public in to the Detroit Autorama at noon on the Friday of the show, members of the media can get in at 9 AM while the Ridler Award competitors and other top-quality, high-dollar customs are still being set up in their sometimes elaborate displays. Those displays in the front part of Cobo Hall include stands to jack the cars up off the floor so you can see the undercarriages, mirrors to do the same, professional lighting, build books and hero cards. There was one car in the front of the hall, though, that had a decidedly minimalist display, just enough machine turned aluminum floor tiles so the ’32 Ford roadster’s retro bias ply tires weren’t sitting on bare concrete.

It wasn’t built quite to the level of the Ridler competitors, some panels weren’t perfectly flush and the like, but there was a reason why it was in the front of the hall. As a matter of fact, Kirk Brown, whose Crafty B shop in Caledonia, Michigan fabricated the car (Brown also uses the Nostalgic Speed brand), and his wife told me that originally they were just going to show the car farther back in the hall mostly to help promote the cast aluminum hot rod parts they sell. However, when show organizers got an idea of how their Ford looked, the promoters moved it up to the front, where the Ridler Award competitors and other top shelf custom cars are given prime viewing space. Brown told me they were notified about that move three weeks prior to the show, resulting in a complete tear down, rebuild, and detailing to make it suitable for its new place of honor.

You can see why the organizers moved Crafty-B to a more prominent location. As I said, it’s not built to Ridler level, there are a few little flaws, nothing that spending another hundred thousand dollars or two couldn’t fix to make it a competitive show car, but it’s just a great looking car. In, in terms of a clear, elegant concept that’s been faithfully executed, it’s damn near perfect. With the powder blue paint, you can say that it’s a pretty car, but the brushed aluminum gives it a purposeful look, a masculine yang to the body’s more feminine yin.

I wasn’t the only person who thought this car looked great. Just about everyone that I spoke to at the Autorama on Friday that was there in some kind of professional capacity, either writing or taking photographs, as well as people who had a broad variety of cars of their own on display mentioned “the powder blue roadster with the brushed aluminum trim.”

The aluminum parts represent Crafty B / Nostalgic Speed’s product line, whose motto is the melifluous and descriptive, if ungrammatical, “Hand Crafted Sand Casted”. All of the aluminum castings used on the light blue roadster were sand cast using hand crafted wood forms shaped in-house. The same is true for the lights, shifter arms, friction shock absorbers and gas caps that form the basis for their product line. The gas caps are available in a variety of finishes, with your choice of stainless steel or brass (for that really old school look) closure levers. They’re also the reason for the company ribald motto, “we have your gashole covered”.

Damn near, but not quite perfect. I don’t like the shape of the convertible top, it seems too square for the car’s lines.  I’d like to have seen it with the top down. Also, the flat and rectangular aluminum rear window frame makes the top seem even more square shaped. From the rear 3/4 angle, though, I can see what the Browns were trying to do with the roof.

The interior is as minimalist as the exterior, with simple brown leather upholstery crafted nicely by Mrs. Brown, who does upholstery under the trade name of The Stitch (I don’t mean to slight her by not mentioning her given name but I can’t find it in my notes). The Brown’s are a nice looking couple and they made a nice looking car.

This post will be wrapping up TTAC’s coverage of the Autorama this year (unless there is a clamoring demand for a post on The Brown Hot Rod Appreciation Society – earth tones are back). One of the pleasant things about the Autorama is the delight owners and builders get from people enjoying their cars on display. Kirk Brown looked to me to be doubly tickled because the show goers’ positive reactions were amplified by how the organizers had moved his car to the front of the event and how the public attendees’ approval was echoed by the professional builders whose cars were also given prominent locations. It’s always nice to be validated.

Another nice thing about the Autorama is that in many ways it’s about the most diverse car show that you could think of. Sure, it’s a bit heavy on domestic brands (though I noticed a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Lotus Turbo Esprit), but it hosts cars from original condition and restored vehicles to completely radical customs and everything in between. Even if you’re not particularly into hot rods or customs, if you’re a car enthusiast of any stripe you should find at least a few cars of interest to you at a show of this scale. Since each car reflects the owner’s personality and interests, in sum total the cars (and trucks, and motorcycles, and bicycles, and scale models, and go karts) at the Autorama are as diverse as human personalities are.

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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Tom Carrigan’s 1375 HP V12 Powered ’39 Chevy – The Allison Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tom-carrigans-1375-hp-v12-powered-39-chevy-the-allison-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tom-carrigans-1375-hp-v12-powered-39-chevy-the-allison-car/#comments Sat, 22 Mar 2014 12:08:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771146 The Detroit Autorama has a definite blue collar vibe. Even those of the half million dollar cars competing for the Ridler award that are “bought, not built” are paid for by couples who obviously are affluent, but who have made their money not as doctors or lawyers or financiers but rather from operating some kind […]

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Full gallery here.

The Detroit Autorama has a definite blue collar vibe. Even those of the half million dollar cars competing for the Ridler award that are “bought, not built” are paid for by couples who obviously are affluent, but who have made their money not as doctors or lawyers or financiers but rather from operating some kind of small business enterprise. Most owners participate one way or another in their builds and most also have some experience working with their hands. Last year I had the chance to visit the facility where Chevy has the COPO Camaros built and I was present to watch two owners take delivery of what is essentially a $100,000 toy. One of them, Dan Sayres, of Waverly, West Virginia, now owns a number of automotive related businesses, including a collision shop and a recycling yard. He told me that he started with a single tow truck. It takes some smarts to go from one used tow truck to buying purpose built drag racers. Of course, you don’t need deep pockets to come up with a big idea. From the mid six figure Ridler competitors to the unfinished projects in the basement, there are lots of big ideas at the Autorama, not all of them successful. One of the biggest ideas, both figuratively and literally, is the car that Tom Carrigan built because he thought he could do it.

Tom Carrigan is a retired pipefitter and has a familiar, almost “aw shucks” and somewhat self-depreciating affect. Don’t let that fool you, Carrigan is a very smart guy. How smart? He’s wrapping up a project building a 1,375 horsepower, V12 powered midengine car in his garage. Okay, that’s impressive you may say, but with 1000+ horsepower cars like the Bugatti Veyron or Koenigsegg’s amazing vehicles, or the supertuned engines from Hennesey, Lingenfelter or Callaway, that’s not completely outrageous in this day and age. However, Carrigan’s doing it by putting a 70 year old Allison V-1710 aircraft engine built for a WWII era P-40 warplane in a car even older than that engine, a 1939 Chevrolet two door Deluxe.

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The Allison engine is sitting on a frame he fabricated himself out of box steel sections, the front end of a full size GMC van converted to rack and pinion steering, and a 9 inch Ford rear end. Now most of us would be happy, if we were into such things as powering old cars with huge airplane engines, just to see the thing run. That wasn’t enough for Tom as he’s cooked up his own sequential multiport fuel injection system, managed by a Megasquirt electronic fuel injection controller that he’s fine tuning so he can run that Allison reliably on the street. As a guy who wants to build a low-buck Lotus Se7en inspired do-it-yourself sports car, only using a V12 Jaguar as the donor for the suspension and powertrain instead of a four cylinder Ford Ranger, you can understand why I like Mr. Carrigan and his car. Some ideas are just too silly not to do.

Carrying a 1,300 lb powerplant on a wheelbase that’s been stretched 4 feet to accommodate it, one might think that what Carrigan calls simply “The Alison Car” won’t handle well once it’s on the road. With a 163.5″ wheelbase, it certainly won’t be set up to win any autocross events, but all that weight is nicely distributed. The front, well actually the rear face of the engine (remember this is an airplane engine whose propeller drive is in its front) sits well behind the front axle line, at least a foot and a half, hence my midengine classification. Also, the inline Chevy six that it replaced is no lightweight itself, weighing in at 630 lbs dressed. I bet the finished project doesn’t handle worse than the original 1939 Chevrolet did. My guess is that it will have less body roll and could probably pull higher g forces on a skid pad than a stock ’39 Chevy could as well. There are a few other advantages to the engine swap, 1,375 of them.

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With the heavy engine along with the 6″ frame sections and 4 feet of sheet metal added in (Carrigan says that the project used more than six 4′ X 10′ sheets of steel), the finished car weighs 6,300 lbs. That’s a lot of weight but last year I tested a Land Rover that weighed 5,400 lbs and with ‘just’ 370 hp, it could move rather smartly. Even at over 3 tons, the power to weight ratio of the Allison Car  is still going to be better than just about anything on the road.

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For comparison’s sake, at 700 hp and 3,472 lbs, the Lamborghini Aventador has a power:weight ratio of 0.202. The Bugatti Veyron is nearing the end of its production run with engines currently outputting 1,200 hp. The Veyron is not a light car, over two tons at 4,162. That gives it a power:weight ratio of 0.288, which is impressive, but significantly lower than that of the Swedish supercar with the unpronounceable name, the Koenigsegg Agera R. With 1,114 hp and a weight of only 2,844 lbs, the Agera R has a power:weight ratio of 0.392. In between the Aventador and the Veyron are the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 hybrid supercars at 0.217 and 0.270 respectively. With a P:W of 0.320 even the Ferrari La Ferrari comes short of the Koenigsegg .

At 0.218, Carrigan’s Allison powered Chevy won’t be able to keep up with the quickest of today’s production supercars but it will get down the line in less time than Lamborghini and Porsche’s most powerful sports cars. What it loses in the corners it will certainly make up and then some on the straights. That’s at the tune that Carrigan thinks will be appropriate for the use he plans. He does have the option of tuning for more power.

The turbo-compound version of the V-1710 engine could put out more than 2,800 hp.

The turbo-compound version of the V-1710 engine could put out more than 2,800 hp.

Late production V-1710 engines used in P-38L aircraft were rated at 1,600 hp, and if that’s not enough, it should be noted that there was a version that Allison developed called the V-1710-127, which replaced superchargers (and turbosupercharging in some models) with exhaust driven turbines that returned that recovered energy to the crankshaft. That “turbo compound” engine was static tested at 2,800 hp. Installed in Carrigan’s two-door Chevy Deluxe, that would yield a power to weight ratio of 0.444, capable of blowing the doors, gullwing, scissor, Lamborghini style, or conventionally hinged, off of any production car on the road today.

Power, though, isn’t everything. With that much weight sitting that far back in the chassis and the 2,400+ lb-ft of torque the Allison generates, my guess is that when Carrigan does take it to a drag strip, he’d better mount some wheelie bars because with that much twist, the overpowered Chevy can probably do wheelies all the way down the 1/4 mile track. I hope he does take it to the drag strip because the car’s provenance includes famed exhibition drag racer E.J. Potter, the “Michigan Madman”, notorious for his small block Chevy V8 powered motorcycles. Potter had a thing for Allison V12s, using them in a couple of insanely fast drag racers. Potter also used an Allison engine to power the generator for his “Super Slot Car” electric drag racer. Allison produced over 70,000 V-1710s from 1930 through the end of WWII so they were available as surplus well into the 1960s and popular with extreme drag racers and unlimited hydroplane boat racers before jet engines supplanted them.

0-0A-Allison-PopularMechanics-Feb1947

The water-cooled 1710 cubic inch 60 degree V12 in Carrigan’s car is one of several that he bought from Potter. Like many WWII era aircraft piston engines, the specifications sound fairly modern even by today’s standards.

Allison9

The heads, crankcase and water jacket are made of aluminum, while the oil pan is made of magnesium. Forged aluminum pistons are located inside steel cylinder liners. It has four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder. The valves are operated by one overhead cam per cylinder bank, it has a dry sump lubrication system, and to perform well at an altitude the ’39 Chevy will never achieve, the 1710 has a two stage supercharger, with 7 pounds of boost.

v1710-35

Being the kind of guy who prefers 289 Windsors or 351 Clevelands to small block Chevy V8s in Ford hot rods, I like the fact that Carrigan kept it in the family – when the V-1710 was designed Allison, just like Chevrolet, was part of General Motors.

dashboard gauges

To get access to the engine, the entire front end is forward hinged and two hydraulic cylinders and a 12 volt hydraulic pump scavenged from a marine application open and close the engine compartment. He’s still using the original dashboard but he’s had to add more than a couple of new gauges to monitor the new powerplant.

fan in trunk

While the Allison Car does have a radiator up front, a much larger main radiator is mounted in the trunk, cooled by a fan run by a two cylinder 16 hp gasoline engine. Through a Rube Goldberg combination of belts and pulleys the same engine drives a 24 volt alternator for the engine’s electrical system, an auxiliary water pump, a 12 volt alternator for the car’s electrics, and a power steering pump. Carrigan has no plans currently to fit an air conditioner, but if he decides to do so, he’d add another pulley and use the auxiliary engine to also run the compressor. Since the car will be used primarily as a show and parade car, Carrigan has contingency plans to add electric fans to the front radiator should it overheat at parade or cruise night speed.

db_13

Wherever it goes, it will get attention. Anytime you’re going to stretch a car four feet between the cowl and the front wheels, the result is going to look cartoonish, and the Allison Car indeed looks like it could have been in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or on the cover of a Little Feat album, but I mean cartoonish in a good way. It’s exaggerated but the widened front end looks fine from a front view and even the weird proportions work, at least for me. Some of the most classic car designs have short rear decks and stretched out front ends. Carrigan has given the car a terrific stance and from the rear 3/4 view, that long continuous line from the trunk’s bustle to the front grille looks great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of more purposeful and ominous looking side pipes.

Bugatti Royale, Henry Ford Museum

Bugatti Royale, Henry Ford Museum

Earlier, I compared the Allison Car to a Bugatti Veyron. While it’s in the Veyron’s class in terms of engine power, Carrigan’s car actually reminds me of another Bugatti, Ettore and Jean Bugatti’s majestic Royale. The Royale is even bigger and heavier than the Chevy with power by Allison (6″ more wheelbase and about 600# more weight), but with its very long hood and passenger compartment set far back on the wheelbase, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the Allison Car and the Bugatti Royale share at least some proportions.

Click here to view the embedded video.


After starting the video, click on the settings icon to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

Tom said that it’s very close to being on the road. It can run well enough to go up and down the driveway under its own power, but Carrigan is still working on “the tune”, as he calls it, before he drives the Allison Car in earnest. Once its running to his satisfaction he says that the first thing he’s going to do is see what kind of burnouts the V12 powered Chevy can do. Then he’s going to take it to Onondaga Dragway near his home in Vermontville, Michigan, where it’s already undergone a safety inspection and approval. He also plans on measuring fuel economy, figuring it should get better mileage than the 5 mpg Jay Leno gets in his fuel injected M-47 Patton tank engine powered Blastolene Special, which at 9500 lbs. is quite a bit heavier than Carrigan’s Chevy. When I asked about converting gallons per hour from the Allison’s aircraft specifications, Carrigan said that data doesn’t correlate well to earthbound fuel consumption. He does calculate that at 60 mph, the Allison will be turning a leisurely 1,000 rpm, in part because the half-speed gear reduction propeller drive has been flipped around to get an output shaft speed suitable for automotive use. Peak power is at an engine speed of 3,000 rpm, so to go from cruising speed to the car’s top end shouldn’t take very long. I didn’t ask Carrigan about that top speed, but the Chrysler 727 RWD transmission he’s using isn’t usually an overdrive unit so you can probably calculate theoretical top speeds based on the final drive ratio and the circumference of the rear tires. With that much power and torque, I’m sure the Allison will pull all the way to the redline, though my guess is that the Chevy’s body will need some aero appurtenances to stay on the ground at full speed.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Tom’s invited me to see the finished project and he said that as long as everything works safely he doesn’t see any reason why I can’t drive it. Would you pass up an opportunity to drive a 1,375 hp ’39 Chevy? Would you pass up the opportunity to drive anything with 1,375 hp.

Click here to view the embedded video.

In the meantime, you can watch the videos that Carrigan has posted about the project and even hear the big V12 start up and roar.

Click here to view the embedded video.

When I asked him if he thought the Chrysler Torqueflite automatic transmision he’s installed will hold up to that much power and he said, “we’ll see”.

Click here to view the embedded video.

To get a feel for Carrigan’s automotive look on life, I’ve included a gallery below of photos from the build and his own Q&A on the project:

I used the GMC Van for a start because I car pooled with an electrician for 10 years and it was a wonderful time. The electrician is the brother of Max Simson of tractor pulling fame. His whole family are geniuses and every time I sit in the seat I will remember all the good times and technical discussion we had.

Why am I doing this?

  1. I love engines, The bigger the better.
  2. I want to be the guy that anyone who sees this car at a show will never forget.
  3. As a retired pipefitter who very seldom got to use his talents and abilities at work, I get to use them now.
  4. After riding in a B17 bomber and when they started the first engine a smile started on my face that did not leave for over a week.
  5. How much fun it will be to give people rides.
  6. Because I think I can.
  7. 1 % for all those folks who said “ It will never work” “you will never succeed” “ why don’t you sell that junk before it is not worth anything” ect. Know anyone like that?

The next project will be the T-53 Lycoming turbine engine. I am thinking of a T-Bucket, but that may change. (not much body work). After that I have 3 more Allison engines and am considering building a replica of one of E J Potter’s drag cars, but who knows. When I get this all done I am sure I will dream up something else to do. P. S. If you had a chance to drive [Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top's] Caddzilla or my car witch would you choose?

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

db_1b db_1a db_1 db_1 (1) dashboard gauges carrigan062209 50a 42a 41a 30a 24a 22a 20a 13a 9a 8a 7a 4a 3a 2a 2a (1) 1a 2 fan in trunk db_ready db_91 db_17 db_16 db_15 db_14 db_13 db_12 db_11 db_8 db_10 db_7 db_5c db_5a db_5 db_4a db_4 db_3 db_1c

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2014 Detroit Autorama: Al Grooms’ Amazing and Original Bassackwards Midengine 1950 Ford F-1 Pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2014-detroit-autorama-al-grooms-amazing-and-original-bassackwards-midengine-1950-ford-f-1-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/2014-detroit-autorama-al-grooms-amazing-and-original-bassackwards-midengine-1950-ford-f-1-pickup/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773209 I’m so glad that Al Grooms brought his truck back to the Detroit Autorama this year. Last year it was the car that everyone that attended the show with whom I spoke mentioned. He hasn’t made any changes to it, but there are so many clever touches that it’s hard to take in all at […]

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Full gallery here.

I’m so glad that Al Grooms brought his truck back to the Detroit Autorama this year. Last year it was the car that everyone that attended the show with whom I spoke mentioned. He hasn’t made any changes to it, but there are so many clever touches that it’s hard to take in all at once, which is why I was happy to have a second look. Al lives in Ohio and works in a steel mill and he is undoubtedly a deviously clever man. He was having so much fun with the people coming up and admiring his project that I’m sure his facial muscles were sore from grinning.

If I got the story straight, Grooms started out by turning the hood and front end of a 1950 Ford F-1 pickup into the forward seated cockpit of a very low rat rod. Since there was no room for the engine up front, he had to put the Ford Y-Block 292 V8 back in the bed, but again space was an issue. There wasn’t enough room between the cockpit and the rear axle for both the engine and transmission, so he turned the engine and four-speed manual gearbox around 180 degrees. The front of the engine now faces the back of the “truck” and the output shaft of the gearbox points forward. The transmission tailpiece sits between the two seats, and Grooms has mounted some expanded metal to act as console/armrest on top of the tailpiece. Speaking of expanded metal, the floors are made of that grating so you can see the pavement rushing by underneath you. The output shaft of the transmission is connected to a short drive shaft with two universal joints. All this machinery is exposed and spinning rather closely to the driver and passenger’s arms and legs so I’m guessing that for safety’s sake (safety??!!) the U-joints are slightly enclosed inside shrouds. After the second U-joint, the shaft goes through a bearing block and terminates in a large sprocket that drives a double row of very heavy roller chain that is connected to another sprocket sitting in the front of the passenger’s foot well. An idler wheel keeps the chain tensioned. Don’t worry, Grooms mounted a couple of Moon gas pedals as dead pedals to keep your footsies out of the works. That second sprocket is at the head of a driveshaft that then runs to the back of the car (there’s a section of pipe that it runs through to keep the passengers’ pant legs from getting caught in the spinning shaft).

Last year, when Grooms first brought his creation to the Autorama “Extreme” show in the basement of Cobo Hall, I just assumed that the driveshaft just went back to the front of an offset Ford rear axle. Of course that would be too simple for this project. This year I noticed that the axle is flipped around so the nose of the differential is facing the back of the vehicle. The driveshaft that starts in front of the passenger’s feet runs to the back of the car, where another sprocket and roller chain setup transfers power to the final drive. Copper plumbing connects the engine to the rear-mounted radiator, sitting right in front of a mesh panel where the tailgate would normally be. An electric fan moves air past the radiator.

Calling this a rat rod really doesn’t do it justice. While my description makes it sound like it was thrown together, in fact it’s a very well thought out project and even looks good. The suspension is a bit primitive, a solid axle up front suspended on what I think are technically called quarter elliptical springs – leaf springs cut in half. There doesn’t appear to be much suspension travel up front but Grooms says the ride is comfortable. Consider the source is a man who sits on bare metal over floors that he deliberately left as open as he could. The rear axle is suspended between two pairs of oppositely arced leaf springs. Looking at the photos, there’s another link in there so I’m guessing there’s some kind of Panhard rod or other kind of laterally locating device.

I’m not sure what kind of frame members there are up front, but judging by the large square section tubing that makes up the rear part of the custom frame, I’m sure that they’re sturdy.

In the cockpit another nod to safety are serious racing seat belts and shoulder harnesses. The steering wheel was originally part of a very large valve and has been cut down butterfly style. It looks great. Grooms mounted some gauges on a stack made of brass banister parts, which gives the cockpit a bit of a nautical look that goes well with the valve handle steering wheel.

As I said, there are so many touches on this car that I could go on and on. A lot of people think that the basement of Cobo during the Autorama is where you find “real Detroit car culture”. It’s where the rat rods, works in progress and oddball cars go but you’ll find that the people downstairs can be just as clever as the shops who build the Ridler Award competitors upstairs. As a matter of fact, if you look closely you’ll see that Troy Trepanier of Rad Rods by Troy autographed the dashboard of Grooms’ truck. Last year, when a ’56 Buick that Trepanier’s shop had built was one of the Great 8 finalists for the Ridler, Groom’s midengine masterpiece got Trepanier’s vote in the Autorama’s Builders’ Choice competition.

Human creativity is an amazing thing.

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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Still Thinking About A Small & Sporty Car: On To Something http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/still-thinking-about-a-small-sporty-car-on-to-something/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/still-thinking-about-a-small-sporty-car-on-to-something/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776041 I’ve spent the past few weeks examining the possibilities. Some of you might remember an article or two that I wrote back in January about my desire to find something sporty and fun to drive once the family and I get safely relocated to our new digs down Leavenworth way. A few folks who read […]

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I’ve spent the past few weeks examining the possibilities. Some of you might remember an article or two that I wrote back in January about my desire to find something sporty and fun to drive once the family and I get safely relocated to our new digs down Leavenworth way. A few folks who read our fine website contacted me by e-mail to offer up various vehicles that meet the requirements I set and I had a good time imagining myself behind the wheel of each and every one of them. One of those cars struck a special chord with me and its owner and I have exchanged several emails in the weeks since. I am thinking now, should fate somehow not manage to intervene in the best laid plan of this large but mousey man, that I might take some of the mad amounts of money I make writing for TTAC and purchase it. Don’t tell my wife.

I don’t feel bad about my scheme, really. We have two drivers in my house and only two vehicles. Some people think that’s normal, I suppose, but I’m the kind of guy who likes to have a back-up. Today, for example, I emerged from my home in the pre-dawn hours to find that the battery in my Pontiac Torrent was dead flat. Maybe it’s my own fault, I was working in the front yard and the kids, who demanded to be outside with me, decided it was too cold and, rather than simply go back inside, demanded to be put into the car to play. I like it when the kids play in the car, after all I spent a lot of my time as a kid playing driver and it’s an interest I want to encourage, but when they flip a switch and leave the lights on all night it can be problematic. Since it takes time to re-charge a battery I’ve ended up spending the day at home and that wouldn’t have happened if I had some kind of small, fun to drive, sporty car just sitting there as a back up. See my logic? I know my wife will…

Of course she will, right?

Of course she will, right?

Anyhow, the real reason y’all hit the jump wasn’t to find out that I let my kids play driver, it was to find out just what car is the subject of my machinations and that car is (ready for it?) a one-owner 1983 Shelby Charger. The car was purchased at Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, MD on July 20, 1983 for $9435 and recently came out of storage to receive an extensive rust repair and repaint. Underneath it has all new brakes and shocks and, while the engine internals haven’t been touched, it also sports a new clutch, oil pump and timing belt. The transmission has been swapped out for a stouter, recently rebuilt unit from a turbo car and the shift knuckles have been upgraded from plastic to steel. Over all, the car sounds really well sorted and the photos I have received back-up the sellers assertion. The best part is, without being so crass as to discuss numbers in public, the price is right.

shelby charger

Naturally, I’m excited, and I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few weeks learning everything I could about the 1983 Dodge Charger. It turns out I knew a lot less than I thought I did. For one thing, I had just always assumed that all Shelby Chargers were turbocharged. It turns out, however, that in 1983, the first year Shelby decided to slap his name on a car that, up until 1982, had been called the Omni 024, the car was still much closer to its econobox roots that it was a fire breathing muscle car. The 2.2, which had entered service in late 1980 as a part of the 1981 model year, originally made just 84 horsepower.

Realizing the limitations of the cars he was working with, Carroll Shelby hedged his bets and, according to Peter Grist in his book “Dodge Dynamite: 50 Years of Dodge Muscle Cars” that “The main parameters were to have as good a handling FWD car as there is anywhere, that it be unique in appearance, and that it perform adequately.” The car certainly looks unique, its hard to miss a Shelby Charger’s wild graphics, and by all accounts Shelby’s people were able to work real magic with the car’s suspension as well. The High output engine that was created, however, only managed to eke out 110 horses. A few years later, of course, the addition of fuel injection and turbo charging would add many more ponies to that rather modest number, but this car marks the beginning of the process that would eventually lead to those things. That makes it, I think, special. Now, the only question is if I can control the urges that would have me try and preserve it or simply use it as God and Carroll Shelby intended. I’ll be sure and give it my best shot.

shelby charger 1

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Alternative Technologies: The Power Of Steam http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/alternative-technologies-the-power-of-steam/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/alternative-technologies-the-power-of-steam/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:58:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771434 The verdict is in. After two popular articles on the inner workings of the transmission, it is clear that TTAC loves technical articles about complicated mechanical devices. Always one to try to get into the middle of the latest fad, I thought that maybe I too could use my own hard won technical knowledge to […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

The verdict is in. After two popular articles on the inner workings of the transmission, it is clear that TTAC loves technical articles about complicated mechanical devices. Always one to try to get into the middle of the latest fad, I thought that maybe I too could use my own hard won technical knowledge to write an informative article. The problem is that the only thing I really know how to work on involves technology that is seldom seen in cars these days: steam.

Many people think the days of steam power has come and gone but the truth is that it is still with us. It’s true that the immense locomotives that once thundered across our great land, pistons pounding wildly as they flung themselves along the rails at speeds that often exceeded 100 mph, have all but disappeared, but the reasons for their demise have little to do with the efficiency of their power plants. No, the steam locomotive was undone by the fact that most of them were one-off creations, each one of which required specially constructed parts and that, when General Motors finally began to apply the miracle of standardized parts and the production line to the creation of diesel engines, the great beasts were finally driven to extinction. No, steam simply retreated to places where it could be used to its best advantage and where it still works with such efficiency that it is utterly unremarkable.

The power of steam comes from its expansion. To people accustomed to thinking about the automobile, the way steam works can easily be compared to the combustion of gasoline which takes power from a liquid fuel, gasoline or diesel, and then ignites it into a gas which forces a piston to travel downward in a power stroke. In the case of steam power, water is heated under pressure in a boiler until it turns to vapor and is taken from the drum via a series of pipes, scrubbed of its moisture and sometimes superheated, before being released through a nozzle or inlet valve into an area where it can fully expand. That expansion can be used to cause a piston to move through its stroke or a turbine to spin. Of course, this is a simplistic explanation but just to give you an idea of the power available, just understand that water expands into steam at a rate of 1700 to 1, meaning that one square foot of water heated to 366 degrees F at 150psi will expand to 1700 feet of water vapor at Zero psi.

Image courtesy of atdlines.com

Image courtesy of atdlines.com

The big, high pressure marine power plants I used to work with were giant systems. The boilers themselves were several stories high, had a firebox big enough for several people to walk around in and thousands of water filled tubes leading into an immense steam and water drum. The steam and water drum mounted several pieces of equipment, including several that were intended to dry the steam so that water droplets could not move through the system and impact sensitive parts downstream, and a superheater to give the steam one last burst of energy prior to its release into a high pressure steam turbine. Once the steam had gone through its initial expansion in the HP turbine, it would then flow into a low pressure turbine where it expended the rest of its energy and then flow into a condenser, basically a big radiator, to condense the steam back into water. That water was then pumped back up to a preheater which brought it back up to temperature so it could be re-injected back into the boiler.

For the most part, boiler water is recovered by the system and never really allowed to cool much below the boiling point. Once the system is up and running the energy demands are not really outrageous considering the amount of power generated and the good news is that the boiler will run on the worst kinds of fuel so long as it is liquid enough to inject into the firebox and burns well enough to make heat.

Of course, a ship’s engine room has a lot of other things going on to support the process I’ve just described. Some parts of the steam are siphoned off to run the high speed, high pressure feed pumps required to inject the feed water into the boiler at the beginning of the process and still more is taken to run other systems like the fuel heating systems and the evaporators that ships use to turn sea water into fresh water. The result is a space crammed full of machinery and a maze of pipes, many of which that are hot enough to burn you right through your boiler suit should you happen to brush up against them in the wrong place.

The steam and water cycle of a steam piston engine is much the same as what I have described above for the steam turbine. Water is heated in the boiler, run through the pipes and recovered in the form of condensate the exact same way. The difference is the where it is allowed to expand and how the energy is drawn from it, this time into a piston rather than a turbine.

Most steam piston engines are two strokes, meaning that they only have power and exhaust strokes because the gas being used does not require and induction or compression stroke. Steam is released into the chamber where it expands and forces the piston to the bottom of the stroke. The exhaust stroke is completed by injecting live steam on the bottom of the piston through a second set of intake valves and forcing it back to the top of its stroke, in what is called a “double action.” The advantage to this system is that every time the piston moves it is making power. That power is put to the ship’s propshaft or the locomotive’s wheels by a transmission in much the same way it would be with a gas or diesel engine. The exhausted steam is then recaptured in the form of condensate and then reintroduced to the boiler where it can repeat the process.

The most famous application of the steam engine to the automotive world is the Stanley Steamer. That vehicle, which was for a time the fastest in the world, utilized a simple boiler and a steam piston engine that featured two cylinders. Produced in various sizes for almost 25 years the design was a great success. The engines were rated by their steaming capacity at 10, 20 and 30 horsepower but had they been rated at their actual numbers produced at their cranks the 20 hp variant would have produced a solid 125 horses.

Image courtesy of stanleymotorcarriage.com

Image courtesy of stanleymotorcarriage.com

Although it is easy today to look back at the Stanley Steamer as some sort of quaint attempt to marry the newly developing modern age with the Victorian era, the truth is that these were well built, high powered cars that were well regarded in their era. The technology was and is solid and, were it not for the lengthy start-up times due to the need to bring the boiler up to temperature in order to initiate the process, I think it would still do well on the road today.

In the years since the Stanley Steamer left the road and steam locomotives left the rails, marine steam powerplants continued to develop and some of the problems that the early boilers faced were eventually overcome by technology. Things like automated feedwater controls, devices that ensure the boiler water isn’t over or under filled, and reliable relief valves, valves that activate in emergencies to release pressure and prevent boiler explosions, have made the highest pressure boilers safe and easy to use and it seems to me that, today, given the willingness of people to plug their car into a wall socket, that the steam car could make a quick comeback by using electricity to maintain the boiler temp while the car isn’t in use.

Today, almost a century after the car settled into the recognizable form that it has taken today, the need for greater efficiency is driving new innovation. New types of cars are being developed every day and in our rush to embrace the alternative technologies of future I think the potential of steam power deserves a second look as a well. With so many new manufacturers looking to capitalize on bygone glories, perhaps one day soon we’ll have a new version of the Stanley Steamer back on the road.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself

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