Nobody likes to think about the passing of a parent. When it happens it leaves you with a lot of different feelings, sadness, emptiness, loneliness and even, if your parent has been effected by a long illness or a prolonged decline, an unexpected sense of relief and completion. The grieving process is different for everyone, the legal process isn’t. Within a few days of your parent’s passing, the division of assets, property and cherished mementos begins to grind relentlessly forward. If your family gets along well, who gets what is generally handled gracefully and your relationships are actually strengthened by the process. So it was with my family and, since I was the only “car guy” among my brothers and sisters, it was a foregone conclusion that I would get my father’s Oldsmobile.
A few weeks a go I had the opportunity to watch part of the Barrett Jackson auction. I found myself captivated by the colorful commentary that went along with each sale. Every car had a story and the commentators spent a great deal of time telling us about them. They also discussed the cars’ performance, available options and recited the original production numbers, contrasted by telling us exactly how many of those cars survive today. It turns out that many of the cars I regularly used to see back in the 1970s are extremely rare today. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, however, after all, I had a hand in making them go away. Read More >
I stumbled upon this car at the Packard Proving Grounds‘ fall open house.
Of late I’ve been enamored of classic dual cowl phaetons. Forget Lamborghinis, if you want to make a statement, a dual cowl phaeton from the late 1920s or early 1930s is the definition of arriving in style. While getting some photos of a burgundy red Packard phaeton, I noticed that the classic behind the Packard was a Duesenberg, or rather it had a Duesenberg hood ornament. It turns out that it’s a one-off replica of a Duesenberg built for a man who owns a real Duesey.
For the first time, I am worried that gasoline is at the end of its life cycle. Gas pumps already have landed in the museum. Read More >
Air conditioning, Automatic, Leather Seats, and what passes as true luxury for those Northern types who are used to keeping an old European car. A rear defroster! This age old beauty will be sold this week at a nearby auction in Atlanta.
Name it. Year, make, model, prior owner, their phone number… anything that would help me buy it when I’m bidding against 80+ dealers. I need all the help I can get.
Remember when Ford dragged Ferrari into the U.S. district court in Detroit, after Ferrari had the nerve to call their new Formula One racer the “F150”? Ford feared massive dilution of their F-150 truck mark and sued. Ferrari relented. Let’s see what Ford will do about this overdose of trademark and design patent infringement: Read More >
Remember Sakura and Fuji, the two tiny Datsun 210s that went to “The World’s Cruelest Rally” and came home with a trophy? This story has a sequel.
In 1958, two Datsuns, named “Fujii” and “Sakura” entered the Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. Surprisingly, “Fuji” won its class title. “Sakura” finished fourth.
Half a century later, the cars were found in a warehouse in Japan. Read More >
Would you like to know how to build one of the world’s fastest (top speed 202 mph) and most agile (Nordschleife time 7:14.64) supercars? If you want to have a look at how the Lexus LFA is built, then you need to buy one. As part of the ownership experience, you become access to the “LFA Works” at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, and you can witness how your car is made. At upwards of $375,000 MSRP for the car, this will probably also be one of the world’s most expensive factory tours. Fiscally responsible as we are, Thetruthaboutcars.com brings you a miniature Motomachi. Let the tour begin … Read More >
Are you familiar with the Fridolin? If so, hit the jump. If not, here’s the brief version of its history. Unhappy with its adorable but inadequate, two-cylinder Goggomobil Transporters, the German Postal Service approached Volkswagen and Westfalia in the early 60s, looking for a new interpretation of what it was looking for, namely “arbeitspsychologisch optimaler Ausstattung zu einem günstigen Anschaffungspreis.” This is a tough phrase to translate, but essentially it means “equipment optimized for the workplace psychology, at an affordable price,” and in 1963 that’s what the VW-Westalia team delivered. A mixture of Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Bus) and Type 3 (Fastback/Squareback), the Type 147 was first shown to the German Post in 1963, and was quickly nicknamed “Fridolin” (an uncommon German boy’s name) apparently because workers said “it looks like a Fridolin.” Only 6,126 were built between 1964 and 1973, and they continue to enjoy a strong collector’s cachet (primarily as slammed campers, apparently). And now, Volkswagen wants to re-create the classic… for the future.
The LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA won’t be completed until June, but the NY Times reports that it aims to become on of the premiere automotive museums in the country, rivaling collections like the Peterson and Harrah museums. And at 165,000 square feet, the building that is rising in Tacoma needs to be huge: though “only” 750 vehicles will be exhibited at a time when the building is done, the LeMay collection is far larger than that. Although even curator David Madeira isn’t sure how many vehicles actually belong to the collection.
“I don’t know,” Mr. Madeira said recently in an interview at The Times, when asked how many vehicles were in the possession of Harold LeMay, the garbage-disposal magnate whose collection of American automobiles would comprise the majority of the museum’s holdings. Mr. LeMay, who died in 2000, was prone to buying a barn or even a field containing old automobiles just to prevent their contents from landing in a junkyard. “He was not a connoisseur; he was a true collector,” Mr. Madeira said.
Once holding at least 3,500 vehicles, the collection has been cut to “north of a thousand” aimed at representing the sweep of American automotive history. And those will be joined by vehicles from the collection of watchmaker Nicolai Bulgari in order to create an automotive museum that founders hope lives up to the name “America’s Car Museum.” Since it’s right up I-5 from me, I’ll be sure to report on the collection and whether it reaches that lofty goal when it opens to the public next Summer.
How much do things change in 60 years? Sometimes the best answer to that kind of question is a picture. Here you can see an original Unimog (right), built sometime between the start of production in 1948 and 1951, when Mercedes bought the operation in order to expand it enough to keep up with demand. On the left is a “60th Anniversary” Unimog design concept, celebrating not the actual birth of the Unimog, but its purchase by Mercedes. Needless to say, the contrast between the two is… breathtaking. And if you’re curious about the evolution of this hugely influential vehicle, if you can’t help wondering how it grew from a (relatively) tiny, spartan utility vehicle to a garish, Mercedes-starred behemoth, be sure to check out Bertel’s illustrated history of the Unimog. It makes you wonder what the next 60 years have in store for vehicles like this… [images courtesy: Autobild]
I’m no fan of tuned cars, particularly the garish, over-the-top bodykit jobs that seem to curse the high end of the European sportscar market. And yet, when I saw these pictures of the new Porsche 991, as tuned by the Russian house TopCar, something strange occurred to me: this was the first picture of the new 991 that I could instantly recognize as the new model. And then I read, over at Pistonheads, that the 991 will be sold with only minor design changes through 2025, a 14-year lifespan for a model that’s barely distinguishable from its predecessor. And all of a sudden, this garish Russian tune-job started looking a lot better. It may not be subtly tasteful, but there’s an undeniable hunger to its flared-and-scooped styling. It’s trying to be something different, while Porsche’s design evolution has ground to halt. We hear that Ford, which has enjoyed great success working a retro groove with the last couple of Mustangs, is “moving on” to craft an entirely new, non-retro Mustang for the next generation. It seems that we’re going to have to wait about 14 more years for Porsche to similarly realize the benefits of making its flagship a “living document.” In the meantime, if you want a 991 that looks like it has moved with the times, you may just have to look at the aftermarket…
The question of automotive preservation jogged an unblogged memory loose today, from earlier in this chaotic summer when I was in Wolfsburg, Germany. I was touring the Zeithaus, or “House of Time,” in Volkswagen’s sprawling Autostadt, taking in the remarkably well-curated exhibit of some of the most influential and important cars of all time. Unlike the GM Heritage Center, for example, the Zeithaus is not reserved for VWs alone, but includes fine examples of undeniably iconic cars from various marques. Organizing VW’s official museum in this way gives the brand a sense of sophistication, sending the message that VW knows quality even when it’s not the one producing it. And the Zeithaus’s curators use this well, offering up such flattering (if ultimately apt) comparisons as an Audi A2 poised alongside a Citroen DS.
You may not have heard of the Historical Vehicle Association before, but it’s a 30,000-member advocacy group that actually emerged from a special insurance plan for historic cars offered by Hagerty Insurance. Now ratified by the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens, the HVA offers commissions on History, Skills and Trades, Technical Issues and Legislative Affairs, as it seeks to fulfill its mission of “Keeping Yesterday’s Vehicles on Tomorrow’s Roads.” One of its more laudable legislative tasks of late has been raising awareness about the damage caused by ethanol-blended gasoline and seeking to ban mandatory blending. But now it’s got another goal, as reported by Automotive News [sub]
The federal government has national registries for historic buildings, boats, airplanes, railways — you name it. But not for cars. And the Historic Vehicle Association is trying to change that…
A concern among enthusiasts is that government initiatives — such as the 2009 federal cash-for-clunkers incentive — could send many vintage cars to the crusher. Legislation might prevent cars from being destroyed. Or it could allow gas guzzlers to remain on the road if other laws preclude them.
As it so happens, my significant other is an Architectural Historian who spends her days evaluating buildings that could be impacted by federally-funded projects… so I hear about this issue (in terms of the Register of Historic Places) more often than you can even imagine. And it’s not as simple as it might seem…
Welcome to Bob Lutz week at TTAC! I spent several hours recently with the auto industry’s most notorious executive, and elements of that interview will be the basis for much of my writing this week. We’ll also be capping the whole thing off by voting on the 2010-2011 Lutzie award for most unfortunate quote by an auto exec. And rather than jumping right into the meat of the interview, I want to kick off Lutz week by looking at a few cars that came up in our meandering conversation. After all, these are not just vehicles… when Lutz brings them up in an interview, they become stories, little encapsulations of his philosophy or the state of the company that made them. Let’s start with a car that I literally had never heard of before he mentioned it almost in passing: the Dodge Dakota Convertible. Eat your heart out, Murano CrossCabriolet… the Dakota was the original “WTF-vertible.”