Long, low and impossibly red, the TR6 was unlike any car I had ever seen. Despite an endless supply of tight, winding roads Snohomish Washington has never been “sports car” country. When my brother’s friend John showed up with the Triumph, it made a hell of an impression. John was a nice guy and that’s saying a lot, honestly, because when you are a little kid, most of your older brothers’ friends don’t even bother to give you the time of day. But John was different. Tall, with movie-star good looks, he could have been a snob but he just wasn’t wired that way. Maybe that’s why the old car fit him so well. It was sporty and good-looking to be sure, but it was also restrained and somehow more approachable than its higher strung brethren. Naturally, I asked if I could drive it. Read More >
Like so many broken down old cars, the old Plymouth sat forlorn and alone at the far edge of the driveway. Even from a distance, it looked like it was a mess, its green paint was peeling away and the hood, which for some reason had a flat black square in the middle, was entirely oxidized. Up close I could see that the interior was just as bad as the exterior. The dash pad was totally cooked and the vinyl seats had split wide open along their seams. My buddy Rick, however, insisted the car was cool and to prove his point he raised the hood to show me a tired old engine that he insisted was a 383 big block. I looked it over, noting the four barrel Holley double pumper without an air cleaner and the unpainted valve covers that had leaked an impressive amount of dirty black oil over the years, and tried to find something to be positive about. Finally I found it, bolted to the inner fender was a splash of faded purple and a sticker featuring a cartoon character. Its text proclaimed “Voice of the Roadrunner” and I knew in an instant, with all the certainty that 19 years of life experience had given me, that my friend had been right all along. Read More >
Regardless of what you may read elsewhere today, October 7, 1913 was not when the first automotive assembly line was started up. Yes, 100 years ago today, after some experimentation at the Piquette Ave. factory, and then tested with magneto assembly, Henry Ford’s lieutenants at his Highland Park factory for the first time started up a moving conveyor line for the assembly of complete Model T automobiles. Ford Motor Company, though, was not the first automobile manufacturer to use an assembly line process. Read More >
When I was around six years old someone told me girls were icky. I’m not going to lie and say that I have ever completely overcome that. Four decades later I can tell you that for the most part girls are OK, but on some levels they remain strange, unknowable creatures. To attempt to understand them is to flirt with madness. They like things I could never like, “The Real Housewives,” cats, and leafy green vegetables are just a few examples and, what is worse, they have the expectation that if they bring these things into the home that I will somehow learn to like them too. In the 1970s, marketers discovered that women wield a considerable amount of control over the household finances and they began to target of their ads directly at them. They also began to introduce a lot of products intended specifically to appeal to women and, although it is acceptable for a woman to purchase products not specifically aimed at them, it is a major mistake for a guy to ever buy something aimed at the female market. Picked up a box of tampons for your wife at the drug store lately? Then you know the shame involved. So, listen up now, this is the important part – the car companies are targeting our women folk and if you aren’t careful, you might just end up driving a “girls’ car.”
The Thanksgiving leftovers are still on the table when the Christmas tree goes up at the Kreutzer house. Wherever we go in the world I am determined that some traditions will survive and Christmas is one of the constants that my children can count upon no matter how hard it might be for Santa to find us some years. We have a fair amount of decorations, mostly indoor stuff, and when the season has ended I usually spend New Year’s Day pulling everything down and carefully wrapping each piece in its own individual piece of newspaper. The newspaper wrapping is just as important to me as the decorations themselves because I know that in the years to come, those crumpled bits of newsprint will become little time capsules that will show where we were and what we thought was important. One thing I am always sure to include are the car ads.
The first rays of the morning sun painted the predawn sky in glorious hues of orange and yellow as Bill stepped out of the house and took a deep breath of the cool pine scented air. He paused for a moment on his porch and took a sip of hot coffee from the large plastic travel cup he habitually carried when he had to be up early and surveyed the scene. To the East the Cascades rose up high and rugged against the sky, the sun on their far side striking a line of fire upon the barren rock at their uppermost rim, their flanks clad in a sea of evergreens split by the straight line of the occasional roadway and large barren squares where the loggers had been at work harvesting the bounty of the forest. As unsightly as the scarred tracts of land looked the trees would return in time, Bill knew. The mountains were eternal.
Zoltan Glass was an amateur car racer and professional photographer who shot many of the major racing events in Germany in the 1930s as well as shooting commercial photography for automotive clients like Mercedes Benz, Horch and Auto Union.
Sometime around 1977, the little orange Opel Kadette wagon that had carried the Stork family through the lean times of the Arab oil embargo disappeared from its place above the truly enormous oil stain on their carport and a midsize Chevrolet two door arrived. The kids in our neighborhood were unimpressed. It was, to our eyes, just another in the long line of well used cars that Wayne had brought home and, while we had all hoped he would bring home something cool, we were disappointed that he had chosen a Chevelle. They were quite literally everywhere, most often driven by little old ladies who plowed the country roads below the posted 35 mph limit, and as such could not possibly be of interest to us. Even if it did have white racing stripes and a bulging hood with a little flapping door that opened and closed when you stepped on the gas, we were all in agreement that Wayne’s most recent choice was a total disappointment.
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The Old Car Festival is held every September on the grounds of Greenfield Village, one of The Henry Ford (boy, do I hate that rebranding, “the Henry Ford what?”) institutions in Dearborn, Michigan. The Festival is one of the oldest car shows in America, literally and figuratively. The show was started in 1951, making this year’s edition the 63rd, and there can’t be many other enthusiast car shows (as opposed to dealer and manufacturer “auto shows”) that have been held continuously for a longer period of time. Also, it’s called the Old Car Festival for a reason. To the youngest of those in the 18-35 male demographic an old car is one that was made before they were born. To a young adult today, a 19 year old 1994 model is an “old car”. In 1951, going back 19 years would be 1932 and in the early 1950s, a ’32 Ford V8 was, like that ’94 is today, just an old car, not a treasured antique. Though you’ll see plenty of Fords at the Old Car Festival, you won’t see any Thunderbirds or Mustangs because the judged show is open only to vehicles made in 1932 or before. While the event is held at a facility strongly associated with Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co., Fords aren’t the only cars on display. Offhand I can recall curved-dash Oldsmobiles, Hupmobiles, some early Cadillacs, a couple of Detroit Electrics, a survivor 1924 Rolls-Royce Twenty, and even a stately Stearns-Knight with it’s fabulous jousting mascot, definitely not compliant with current pedestrian safety standards. Read More >
The number 42 Dodge Charger was running well. Although it had qualified in 9th position with a top speed of only 177 miles per hour, during the race it was clocked as high as 188 miles per hour and its driver, an amateur racer who made his living singing cowboy ballads at the Grand Ole Opry, was really mixing it up with the professional drivers. The Winston 500 was a big deal and, as one of the premier NASCAR races, there as a lot at stake. Talladega was one of those legendary places that captured the imagination and the attention of every race fan in the nation was focused on the event. For older, more experienced drivers a good performance meant job security while for the new guys, like Darrell Waltrip who was making his first ever Sprint Cup start in the race, a good performance could mark a man out from his peers and maybe garner the attention of one of the big teams. Given the expense, the effort, and the experience that it took to even field a car in the race, how was it that a country and western singer in a car paid for mostly out of his own pocket could be running so well? The answer is simple, he was cheating. Read More >
The hot August sun beat down with real intensity, its heat baking the dun colored earth into a hard packed surface that flecked away in a fine powder that puffed skyward with every footstep I took. The area before me seemed large, but like so many things in Japan its sense of scale was distorted by the fact that, over time, I had grown accustomed to tiny plots of land and buildings crowding in upon one another so closely that they blotted out the sky. In reality the space was little more than a fraction of an acre but even so it seemed like an oasis of space in an otherwise crowded urban desert. The fact that it was packed with junk cars was just icing on the cake. Read More >
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that people who like unusual gullwing cars are people who like unusual gullwing cars. There are a number of car enthusiasts who own both DeLorean DMC-12 and Bricklin SV-1 cars and there appears to be a sense of camaraderie as well between DeLorean and Bricklin enthusiasts. I first realized this when visiting the Lingenfelter Collection, which includes both of those cars in a collection that’s focused primarily on Corvettes, American muscle and Ferraris. Then, more recently, a couple of Bricklin owners decided to take in the Woodward Dream Cruise, sharing the same north Woodward vantage point where DeLorean owners gather each year.
The Turbo Dodge Shadow that I purchased in February of 1988 lived hard and fast but, thanks in part to my strict adherence to a maintenance schedule and my belief in the power of synthetic motor oil, it didn’t die young. By 1996 the little red car had more than 135K miles on the clock and a whole lot of hard fought-street racing victories – and maybe just a few losses – under its belt. After I changed the head gasket somewhere around the 80K mile mark, the car suffered a couple of broken timing belts, caused mostly by my inability to correctly adjust the belt’s tension, but otherwise had few problems. Still, as the miles added up, I became concerned about the car’s condition and eventually purchased a Geo Metro to take over daily driving duties. Later, after sliding the Metro off an icy highway, I traded up to a K5 Jimmy, but kept the Shadow as a my own special toy. The Jimmy came with a big loan payment, however, and all it took to totally derail my carefully balanced finances was a lay-off. Before I knew it, I was in over my head and flat broke. Stuff had to go. Read More >
Last Saturday, the Toronto Sun ran a report on the McMillan family, a twenty-something couple with two young sons, who, worried about the amount of control that modern technology seemed to be exerting on their lives, decided to roll the clock back to 1986. They’ve packed away their i-phones, their tablets and their DVD players, disconnected the cable TV and turned off their internet to, according to the family’s father Blair McMillan, parent the kids the same way they were parented. The ban on all forms of modern technology has worked its way into every aspect of the family’s life and they recently completed a trip across the United States using only a paper map for directions and relying upon nothing more than coloring books and games to keep the kids quiet in the back seat. Somehow, they managed to make it home safe, sound and sane.
In the summer of 1984, my older sister Connie landed a great job with Sears credit hassling people for money. If you knew my sister, you would understand that hassling people is her special gift and she was highly successful as a credit collection agent. Twenty-one years old, with a great job bringing in real, grown-up money for the first time in her life, she did what every other bleach-blonde disco dancing queen would do, she ran out and bought a slinky little MGB convertible.