The Truth About Cars » Classic Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Classic Cars An Interesting Vehicle Delivered Daily To Your Inbox Wed, 18 Jun 2014 13:05:22 +0000 toyota-origin-top

TTAC reader Michael Banovsky has launched a new service that offers a novel promise: an interesting vehicle delivered daily to your inbox.

Banovsky’s Car of the Day reaches deep into the annals of the automotive world, in the pursuit of profiling the obscure: everything from the Anibal Podadera to the Zimmer Quicksilver and all points in between. My own favorite is the Toyota Origin: a limited-edition, Lexus IS-based retro-looking oddity that had suicide doors and cost $70,000.


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Duesenberg Model J Murphy Body Roadster – One of These Is Not Like the Other. Can You Spot the Fake? Sun, 06 Apr 2014 13:00:24 +0000 IMG_0272img_0175

One of these cars is not like the other. A while back I wrote about the replica Duesenberg Murphy Roadster that former GM designer Steve Pasteiner’s Advanced Automotive Technologies fabricated for someone who owned a real Duesenberg. The person who commissioned the replica wanted to be able to drive in that style without risking damage or deterioration to a seriously expensive classic car (though the replica undoubtedly cost into six figures to build). Before I provide a link to that post, though, I want you to agree not to link over there until you’ve finished reading this one because I’m going to give you a test.

It turns out that last summer, one of the judged classes of cars at the Concours of America was “Indianapolis Iron: Duesenberg, Marmon & Stutz”, celebrating cars from the classic era made by Indiana based firms (the Duesenberg brothers’ original shop was in Indianapolis but I believe that after E.L. Cord bought their company, production was moved to the Auburn factory in Auburn).


After you’ve made your guess, you can see the full gallery here.

Now Duesenbergs are magnificent cars, worthy of the adulation bestowed upon them, in my not always humble opinion, and I never miss the opportunity to photograph the marque. Looking over my files, I’ve taken photos of at least a dozen Duesenbergs in a variety of body styles. Still, while the Murphy company’s roadster body was a popular one back in the day, I actually got to see AAT’s replica of one before I experienced a real one.


After you’ve made your guess, you can see the full gallery here.

Fortunately, one of the cars representing Jim Nabor’s home state at the concours was indeed a Murphy bodied Duesenberg roadster, pictured here. Also pictured is Pasteiner’s pastiche and the reason why I asked you not to follow the link over to the post on the replica is that I want you to decide which one is real and which one is the fake. If you do make a guess, tell us your reasons for your decision. It shouldn’t be too hard, there are some tells that should give it away fairly quickly, but the AAT replica is very well done, so some readers might not get the correct answer. Either way, it’s a fun little game.

Oh, and here’s the link to that post about AAT’s Duesenberg replica, where you can find out more about the Model J and its history. No fair peeking, though.

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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Hammer Time: The Third Set Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:16:43 +0000 shoot1

“Gimme Carter!!! Gimme Carter!!!”

“You can have him!” My brother Lewis, a lifelong conservative was watching me, a hyperactive  six year old, pointing eagerly at our home’s only TV.

“I’m voting for Reagan.”

“Pa-tau!!1 Pa-tau! To a 1st grader’s ear, the word Reagan sounded just like “Ray gun”. And for all I knew, Carter and Reagan were locked in some Star Wars parallel universe fighting each other for control of the presidency.

Lord knows that 34 years later, I would need every single ounce of that youthful imagination to get through a day long movie shoot.

My wife and I always try to spend one day out of the month together. No kids. No work responsibilities. Just the privacy and solitude that comes with two people who are well-matched in what has become a picky, picky world.

She wants to get back into the film and video world, part-time, and so I took it upon myself to get two vehicles that would be a good fit for that elusive older car that looks neither brand new nor decrepit.


The 1980 Cadillac Seville that I mentioned last week was the optimal fit for this journey.  Black on black. Perfect leather seats. A little bit of wear. But not enough to make it look like anything more than a five year old car for the one to two seconds it would wind up on film.  After I put in a new master cylinder and properly bled out the brakes, it was good to go.

The second car was a more interesting case. I had sold a 1983 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel to a fellow that I thought was a hardcore Mercedes enthusiast for all of $1700. I only made about $400 out of the deal. But I always take personal pride in making sure older cars are given to true enthusiasts. Instead of chucking it to someone looking to donate a car to the human hurricane within their family.


I got a great deal on that old Benz and in turn, left nothing to chance. New filters, fluids, brakes, two new tires. I spent about $300 prepping it for sale in parts and sold it to a guy who I thought would do a good job keeping it.

The good news is he didn’t abuse it. The bad news was that I couldn’t find out whether he took the lease amount of effort of changing the oil.

He said he did it recently. But a quart low already? The alignment is off? And that inner-tie rod end needs to be replaced? Mother of pearl!

A friend of mine who works for Porsches and Maseratis decided to give me the full-report on it while I handled the Cadillac.  The Cadillac was flawless. The Mercedes? Still tight. Just minor stuff…

“You’re getting picky-picky with this one Steve! Damn things old enough to be a Grandma in Alabama.”

“My wife wants to drive it out to a movie shoot. She hates big cars. So I’m gonna be drivin’ out the Caddy.”

“Get her an Impala or a Malibu instead Steve. I hate the smell of this diesel…$^^%$!!!”

My wife came by with her 1st gen Prius, and after I spent over ninety-five dollars filling the two vehicles up, we headed straight for Conyers, Georgia. A small town located somewhere between civilization and Deliverance.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The drive was the usual homicidal freakshow that is Atlanta traffic.  Folks don’t use their turn signals. Cell phones are surgically attached to most commuters, and two people driving 65 mph are justifiably banished to the right side of the freeway where they belong.


The Cadillac was just majestic. GM ‘s styling may have been a bit off the mark for this generation of Seville. But the 6.0 Liter Cadillac 368 engine was just perfectly matched to this particular generation, and it’s a shame that GM decided to off it after only one year for their diesel and 8/6/4 abominations. As for steering and handling,  you can do the same exact one finger cruising with this car that you can do for nearly any good Lincoln or Cadillac of days gone by… and it’s easier to drive than the Mercedes.


The Mercedes was meh. A 300D is expected to be infinitely higher in decibels than an old school Caddy and, even for the time, it wasn’t quite a luxury car.


I will admit that the material quality alone is easily a parallel universe beyond the Cadillac.  All the fake wood and cheaper vinyl of the Cadillac pales to the glory that is the W123′s design and engineering excellence.

That difference though is eliminated once you turn the key.

For the experience that is daily driving through a busy metropolitan area, I preferred the Cadillac. It has enough luxury to keep you isolated from the rampant vehicular stupidity that surrounds, you while allowing the driver to hear the smoothness of a big Detroit 6.0 Liter V8 over the 3.0 Liter clackety-clack-clack of the Mercedes. This noise difference is especially noticeable during the interminable traffic jams that happened on the ride back.

We didn’t hit anything other than air molecules for this first 35 miles journey. We arrived early. Just in time for the most important event for movie extras between the waiting and the shooting.


The eating. Lunch for a successful TV program is a true wonder to behold, and since there were only a few extras for this show which we’ll assume is called, “Go And Throw Ice At The Devil!”. Since there were only two of us at the time, we were spared of the usual culinary segregation and got to eat with the cast and crew.

I saw a familiar face as soon as I got out of the Seville. “Steve! I miss that old yellow pickup truck!”


“It’s down the street from me. The guy is using it for his lawnmower repair business.”

“He’s not restoring it? Damn! I wanted that thing.”

“I’ve been to his house. The family doesn’t believe in anything after 1984. He spent an hour going through the truck and it’s now the ugliest good running truck in town. ”

Brando and I caught up on life, and my wife caught up on crossword puzzles. At least until the opening shoot.


It was supposed to easy. The main character leaves his driveway in some Grizwold 1970′s woody wagon. My wife’s car goes straight past. The Caddy turns right, a Ford truck turns left, and a Triumph TR6 idles away at a stop sign.

Sounds easy enough? Not when you don’t have enough walky-talkies.

We did the shot 16 times. 16 TIMES! And every time I did the shoot, I got an unwelcome surprise.

The police officer blocking off the road I turned into decided to change his cruiser’s parking position after each shoot. Why? I have no idea. His vehicle wasn’t even in the camera shot. But sure enough, every single time I made that turn, I found myself performing another new and exciting three point turn with a 34 year old Cadillac.

“Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk!” Asthamtic sounding acceleration back to position. Then wait….


I also discovered something else. Black on black plus even a 70 degree time will equal about 90 degrees inside one of these things. The A/C worked, thanks to the prior owner who converted it into R134. Unfortunately the director wanted the vehicles to idle at all times. So we likely wasted about $30 worth of gas in the shooting process.

None of the cars broke down or even overheated. However the Triumph had more blue smoke than anything I had ever seen that didn’t already have a two stroke engine in it. I’m willing to bet that the thing was dirtier than any old scooter you can find… but it ran. That vehicle was a bit rough around the edges. But this gorgeous Riviera helped smooth out the line-up that day.


After the shoot, we had dinner and then… a holding cell. No joke. The extras had to stay four abreast in a 2 foot by 10 foot room with no nuttin’ for two hours.


Conversation, yes. Smartphone? Wonderful! A TV? Surely, you’re joking Mr. Feynman.

Once the clock struck exactly 8:48 P.M. we were out on parole. No overtime this time. Brando signed us out and we quickly made a 37 mile skedaddle towards the north Georgia woodlands we call home.

Will we do it again? Probably. However, Georgia weather is rather nasty and brutish during the summer time. A Malibu with light colored cloth and a snow white exterior may be the perfect match for the next set.


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QOTD: What’s The Future Of Everyday Classics? Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:43:44 +0000 HPIM1628

We received an interesting email the other day here in the TTAC underwater battle station. As is frequently the case, this one was about a used car. But not just any used car.

is a touring car that took my mother to and from work as a teacher in the 1920s. It stayed in the barn at my grandparents farm until the 1980s when my mother gave it to me. I had the car fully restored by a specialist in old car restorations in the early 1980s, and spent a little less that $40,000 having this done. It has 68K miles on it. I know I will never get my money back from restoring this vehicle, I am asking $25,000 for it now.

This is a typical used car story: my parents drove it to work, I fixed it up a bit, I’d like to sell it. Were this a 1990 Accord, I think it could be sold in a matter of days at the right price. But this is a 1926 Dodge, which leads to all sorts of questions. It doesn’t have any value as a commuter, obviously. But it would be an inexpensive and fully-sorted entry into the world of classic-car rallies.

Everybody says that Duesenbergs and Auburns and whatnot will never lose value because there will always be a new generation of educated, moneyed collectors who want to own them. Arguably, the same is true for fuelie Vettes and RoadRunners and 454SS Chevrolets of all types. What’s going to happen to the 1926 Dodges? The Chevrolet 210s? The orphans? The Model As? Will the demand meet the supply?

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I’m Here to Say, I Was Drivin’ that Model A: The 2013 Ford Model A Restorers’ Club National Meet Sat, 29 Jun 2013 14:28:39 +0000 Tan Brown Model A Coupe Picture by Dave Hester

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the introduction of the Ford Model A. During the week of June 24th, over 800 of them descended on Lexington for the 2013 Model A Restorer’s Club (MARC) national meeting. Despite numerous storms that rolled through Central KY during the week, spirits were high and your humble author, a Chevrolet man through and through, learned a thing or two about the car that replaced the Model T.

Ford Model A Lexington 2013 Photo courtesy of Dave Hester

MARC was founded in 1952 in response to prejudice. In the early ’50s a Model A was just a used car. The organization’s chief founder, William Hall, started the club after being snubbed at an antique car meet where Model As weren’t allowed to park with the classics.

Green Model A Coupe Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

No one would deny a Model A owner the right to park front and center at a local cruise- in today, but there’s still a little bit of a chip on the shoulders of Model A enthusiasts. I mean that in a good way. The whole vibe of the event was one of blue-collar self-reliance and an overall feeling that if a blue- blooded automobile aficionado (as opposed to a simple “car guy” or “gal”) were to wander into the proceedings with high- falutin notions about 100- point level concours restorations and start bossing people around, that he or she would quickly be invited to commit an anatomically impossible act of sexual congress.

Not that any of the MARC members would put it in terms so blunt or insulting. And not that MARC doesn’t have any standards. There were no hot rods. MARC is for original (or original-ish) Model As. The popularity of the Model A for hot rodding enthusiasts over the decades has decimated the supply of “regular” cars.

Grey Black Pickup Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

There was still judging and inspecting to be had, for those that consider such things an amusement. There were flawless trailer queens that would satisfy the effete sensibilities of any blue- blooded aficionado, but there were as many and more drivers parked next to them in the parking lot across from the Lexington Hyatt.

Model A with map Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

It was hard to get even a semi- accurate count on the ratio of queens to drivers because even the queens were being driven. Sure, they’d been trailered to Lexington, but once the convention started they were being used to commute all over town.  One of the many wonderful things I learned in the short time I spent interviewing MARC members is that getting out and driving your Model A is expected. Touring is part of the appeal and being willing to drive a car  eight decades old hundreds of miles is considered normal, not nuts.

Chuck Brown Model A Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

Chuck and Harold, two MARC members from Ohio, were typical. Both of them had driven their Model As down. Chuck, who served as my Virgil and was willing to answer a lot of my stupid questions, had a brown 1930 Coupe. He’d owned it for four years and had kept it close to stock, even continuing to make do with the 6- volt electrical system instead of upgrading to 12- volt like many of his fellows. His car, which he’d paid $8,000 for, was in great shape, but not so great that he was afraid to enjoy it.

Harold worktruck Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

Harold’s pickup truck, a blue 1931 model,  was more worn because it had been much more used. A little battered and beat, with knobby blackwall tires that were half again as wide as the vintage tires on most of the trailer queens and a rubber bed mat the truck had been from Boston to San Diego over the years, but Harold had also used it as a farm truck for years before placing it into semi- retirement.

In order to get that much use out of an antique car a certain amount of leeway when it comes to keeping your Model A “stock” is to be expected. Walking up and down the rows of Model As I observed acknowledgement of reality: If an owner want to keep driving his old car and enjoying it to the fullest, he took full advantage of advances in technology.

It’s the simple things that you notice. A wire framed cup holder accessory that mounted to the dash was one of the most popular. The cars that had been converted to 12- volt electrical systems were easy to spot by the modern GPS units mounted to their windshields and plugged into jerry- rigged outlets.

Model A CHMSL Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

Concessions to safety, particularly the installation of center high- mounted stop lights in the rear windows, were also in abundance as were more CB radios than could be found in the parking lot at C.W. McCall concert. Most of the cars were still being stopped by drum brakes all around, although there were a few front disc conversions mixed in.

Not that there is really much you can do to improve the safety rating on an eighty year- old car. Some had lap belts installed, but with a fuel tank mounted right on the other side of a wafer thin dash, almost as many had fire extinguishers handy.

Model A with seat belts Picture by Dave Hester

The bigger threat that I could see to the Model As on display was time. Not for the damage that time could do to the cars. Anything damaged or destroyed by rust could be replaced, although I suppose at some point the owner would end up driving the automotive equivalent of George Washington’s hatchet. Time was doing a number on the enthusiasts themselves.

It’s been pointed out on this website before that automobile collecting is definitely an older person’s game. You need time and money to fiddle with old cars, neither of which is a luxury that a young person can afford. Attend any car show and the demographics always skew towards AARP membership instead of nursery school.

Black Red Model A Picture by Dave Hester

The MARC participants were still wrecking the curve. Other than a couple of younger guys who had trailered a car down for a friend, I didn’t see a single person under the age of sixty during the first four days I haunted the parking lot where the cars were parked.  Okay, maybe I’m taking a little bit of artistic license, but there were definitely no young families with kids that I could see. As I talked to the participants I thought I began to understand why.

I’m never been much of an antique car fan. I can regurgitate obscure facts about postwar classic cars, particularly GM iron from the ’50s and ’60s, all day long, but my knowledge of stuff from the nineteen aughts, ‘teens, and Roaring ’20s is severely lacking. I can pick out the highend stuff, like a Duesenberg, at fifty paces and I can recognize a Model T. But frankly the mid range Fords, Chevrolets, Buicks, Dodges, and other mainline cars all look alike to a member of Generation X. We (and the Millennials) are the ones with kids and we don’t get cars this old.

Green Model A Picture by Dave Hester

It’s because we don’t really have any personal connection to them. My grandfather’s first car was a 1929 Model A, a Coupe model with a rumble seat that he purchased new and eventually turned into a pickup truck. I don’t remember that car because it was sold in 1949 and replaced with a  dark green Chevrolet pickup before my father was born.

I remember the Chevrolet because it was given to Dad when Grandpa bought another new Chevrolet  in ’73. I can remember riding in it and through those memories I have a connection to cars of the ’40s and ’50s. I understand what motoring in that era meant because I experienced it dozens of times as a child.

I also have a  direct connection to cars of the ’60s and ’70s as well through my father. His first car was ’67 Mustang, so Dad was always pointing out early Mustangs and teaching me how to quickly identify the different years by looking at the shape (or lack) of the chrome trim behind the door.  The Mustang was traded for a ’73 Mercury Capri that I can also remember riding in. Beyond that, in 1989, my father purchased a ’69 Camaro, which he and I restored and which was eventually passed to me for a short while.

Black Model A Picture courtesy of Dave Hester

I also had it in my head that pre- war cars were fragile, delicate things. Their skinny wheels, thin fenders, and paper-thin bodywork project weakness to me, compared to models from the ’40s and ’50s with their bulbous fenders, long hoods, and trunks big enough to hold two to four dead gangsters depending on how you fold them.

If I had thought about it for half a second I would have known better. Given the comparatively sorry state of roads in the United States in the first third of the 20th century, those old cars were built pretty tough. The number of Model As at the MARC convention that had been driven there under their own power were a testament to that.

Blue Red Model A Picture by Dave Hester

The people keeping the Model A flame alive view the cars differently because, by and large, they are old enough to have seen and experienced the cars being used as more than “historic vehicles.” A septuagenarian I met named Duane had trailered his green with yellow trim 1931 pickup down from Illinois and admitted as we talked that he had abandoned FoMoCo for his daily drivers decades earlier after a bad experience with a Mercury. But he had learned to drive on a Model A pickup truck, and the one he was proudly showing around town was his second Model A truck of the same vintage of the one he’d first turned a wheel in as a boy.

Duane Green Truck Picture by David Hester

It’s that connection with the past that enthusiasts of my generation don’t have with cars as old as the Model A. You can only connect so much with something you don’t have a personal frame of reference to, particularly with a car like the Model A that doesn’t have a clear line of succession to a modern model the way a ’67 Mustang does.

With my story about the Model A about 85% written, I headed over to the parking lot one last time on Friday morning to take a few more pictures as the MARC participants were heading home. I had planned to close this piece on a downbeat with a nod to Brendan’s excellent piece from Tuesday about “Forever Cars.” I was going to make some sort of half- assed argument that the problem wasn’t that aren’t any “Forever Cars;” the problem is that there aren’t any “Forever People.”

There was only one Model A fixed up as a police car in attendance at the convention. I’d taken about a dozen pictures of it over the week, but I’d never run into the owner. As I rolled down the back row one last time, I finally did.

Model A Police Car Picture by Dave Hester

Mike was about my age and was loading up the car with his wife and two kids to drive 800 miles back to Kansas. He and his family had convoyed down with an older couple for the convention and they were headed back the same way. It would take them about three days. He’d owned the car for about a year and was still learning about its eccentricities. He admitted that the older enthusiasts knew a lot more about the cars than he did and could diagnose problems a lot quicker.

As Mike showed off the lights and sirens on his car for me, I realized that I was going to have to change a lot of what I’d written piecemeal over the previous two days. I’m perfectly okay with that. Happy endings are always better. Maybe Mike and his family are the exceptions that prove the rule when it comes to the aging of the Model A enthusiast base, but I choose to believe that they represent hope that there will always be a group of people shepherding Model As along our roads for the next 85 years.

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Hammer Time: The Second Set Fri, 19 Apr 2013 15:26:51 +0000

Within 50 feet of getting out of my old 74 Chevy C10 I hear a familiar voice.

“Hey Steve. How are ya?”

A 6 foot 7 inch monstrosity of a man pats me hard on the back and dislodges the few cobwebs that remained from a 5 AM wake-up call.

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of the series. The first can be found here.

Mike Thies is a retired warden from upstate New York. He is also a member of the local auto media association and spends his ample pension on a web site that specializes in publicizing local car shows and regional get-togethers.

We make the usual car related small talk while viewing a long line of vehicles. At least 50 or so. The line of rolling iron in front of us ranges from the sublime to the “They brought that!”. With plenty of the later to overcome the former.

This would be the time where I would normally share pictures with the TTAC faithful of all the wondrous rides. From the pristine to the junkyard ready. But instead, you’ll just have to imagine it.

For every 1966 Rambler American wagon, there are three tired early-80’s Oldsmobiles that look like they are too ratted out for the rats.  One of these, almost on cue, starts smoking and leaking coolant as soon as it arrives on the lot. That one gets sandwiched between two trucks at the parking lot so that the leaks don’t spread.

In our first meeting of ‘extras’ we are quickly given the ground rules.

No wandering.

No pictures or video cameras.

No commiserating with actors or personnel.

When we say, “Quiet on the set.” We mean it… so shut up!

The group is treated to a nice breakfast and, after an hour or so of moving cars, the set is ready.

For the next 45 minutes I get to see a bearded guy dressed in an earth tone suit get out of an orange 1976 Toyota Corolla.

He opens the door, grabs his satchel, closes the rickety door, looks at his watch, walks fifty feet, and spits. He gets to do this six times in a forty-five minute period.

We sit in the grass and do nothing. After that we spend two hours in a holding area and do nothing. We then have lunch, go back to the holding area, and do nothing.

By this time my wife and I have exhausted the 273 topics related to our kids and friends, and begin to branch out to the other folks who have decided to take a Monday off and enjoy an all too rare 70 degree day here in Atlanta.

Retirees, hipsters, blue collar folks who are light on construction work.  The gathering of personalities is a fun one and we begin to shoot the breeze on a long list of personal stories while the workers on the set walkie-talkie each other in a language that is riddled with acronyms and cliché.

“We need the MG at the RL with the blue crew on the ready for 49, Stat!”

It sounds like a football huddle. But in actuality it’s a bunch of people who seem to enjoy what appears to be low stress work.  Maybe it’s just that Southerners are a bit more laid back. Or it could be that the coffee I had earlier in the day is no longer able to keep me on an even keel. I start to break one of the commandments of the early morning and begin talking with the stage folk.

Within a few minutes, one of them recognizes that I’m wearing a Carmax Auctions emblem on my jacket. When I tell him that I write for TTAC he immediately blurts out…

“Wait, are you Steve Lang from The Truth About Cars?”

What follows is over an hour of “Can you help me?” and “Let me tell you about…” followed by a few stories about my car buying work.  One of the bigger wigs asks me if I can help him find a white on white 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 convertible. I flip through his Iphone and hook him up with a wholesale auction site that will automatically ping me if one comes up.

Another asks me if I can find him a “Really cheap, cheap, cheap car that is reliable. I only have $1000.” I tell him about the coolant hurling 1983 Oldsmobile that is right next to my Chevy… and a 20 year old Cadillac that I just got as a $500 trade-in with a landau roof and trombone case red interior.

“I don’t want a V8. They drink too much gas. Do you have any Toyotas or Hondas?”

I restrain myself from saying my favorite line from Caddyshack, “Shut up! You will get nothing and like it!”. In fact, I used to be ‘that guy’ who wanted a chosen brand. So I figure maybe this is the right time to encourage some delayed gratification.

I tell him to save his money and take his time, “$1000 cars are junk. Save your money for a while and buy something worth keeping.”

He internalizes this for seven seconds and then starts hammering away again about Toyotas and Hondas. I feel like I’m back at the car lot instead of a movie set.

The long day of shooting film and shooting the breeze finally finishes at 6 P.M. 12 hours of non-work for me. Not even a scene for us extras! But no matter, I had fun. Before I leave, the guy who wants the Porsche asks if I want to come by on Wednesday and do a fitting.

A free tan, beige or brown suit with loafers?  Sure! Why not! I have a wedding in a couple of months and my future sister-in-law is fond of dressing like an old hippie.

I walk back to my car, pass by the “$1000 Toyota” guy who is now eyeing the coolant spewing Oldsmobile, and my wife and I pick up the kids and take them to Dairy Queen. A perfect end to a day with great conversation and Soviet levels of productivity.

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Don’t Invest In These “Investment” Cars Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:10:11 +0000

Get any group of car enthusiasts together and they’ll eventually start arguing about which recent models will increase in value over the next twenty years. I don’t think it’s actually possible for assembled gearheads not to discuss this topic, usually somewhere in between stories about past speeding tickets and bashing the Toyota Corolla.

As a result, “investment” cars have been covered quite a bit. But here’s an interesting variation: which cars won’t increase in value? Of course, the easy answer is “most of them.” But more specifically, which recent cars are people holding on to, hoping for a value increase that just won’t come?

These are my predictions, and – as always – I soon expect to hear just how wrong I am.

Buick Grand National

We can all agree the Grand National is an unbelievably cool car. Debuting at a time when the size of an average Buick was outdone solely by the thickness of its owners’ glasses, the Grand National went like a Corvette despite possessing the aerodynamics of a file cabinet.

But here’s the problem: Buick built 30,000 Grand Nationals and sold each one to a casual collector who expected it to shoot up in value “someday.” Owners would bring guests to the house, show them the Grand National and loudly announce: “This is Junior’s college fund.” As a result, every single Grand National is currently parked in a climate-controlled garage with zero miles and a laminated window sticker. With so many examples built and so many of those in perfect shape, don’t expect to see values jump.

E28 BMW M5

I’ve noticed a growing trend among E28 M5 owners to price their cars as if they were Silicon Valley homes during the waning days of the Clinton administration. Seriously: there is one on near me that has 194,000 miles and a $20,000 asking price. I write this having not actually verified its continued presence on AutoTrader because, let’s be honest, it’s still there.

E28 M5 owners are convinced that their cars will soon appreciate like the E30 M3. Unfortunately, they’ve forgotten that the E30 M3 was the lightweight sports car that began an era, while the E28 M5 was a vaguely sporty sedan with really long shift throws. My suggestion to E28 M5 owners: enjoy your cars, because they’re amazing. But stay out of the $20,000 price range.

Ferrari 308/328

One day, I might have to eat these words. But right now, it’s hard to imagine 308 and 328 values staying anywhere but exactly where they are.

The 308 and 328 are very cool cars that look like they’re doing 200 miles per hour even when they’re sitting still. But they don’t quite have the guts to back up the styling. In fact, with its 240 horsepower, the 308 could barely crest 150 mph, let alone 200. The 328 was a bit meatier, but that doesn’t matter much in today’s world of Camrys that do 0-to-60 in six seconds.

Sure, performance isn’t everything. The Dino, for example, could barely outrun an old MG – but its values are now creeping into Daytona territory. Very true. But while there are 2,500 Dinos in this world, Ferrari built more than 12,000 308s and another 7,000 328s. The huge production numbers virtually ensure they will always remain a used car, and not a collector car.

2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird

I sincerely hope that no one bought the ’02-’05 Thunderbird as an investment. But if you did, you’ll have a rude awakening when it comes time to sell and you discover the T-Bird is worth only a little more than the Lincoln LS on which it’s based.

Like the Prowler below, the eleventh-gen Thunderbird is a case of an automaker trying too hard. Of course, it worked out for Ford: they sold every unit, and early ones were probably very profitable. But the Thunderbird’s biggest market was old people nostalgic for old Thunderbirds. Young people never latched on, which doesn’t bode well for its future as a collectible car.

Any “Indy Pace Car” Edition

I have a confession to make: I love Indy Pace Car Editions. Seriously. Yes, even that purple Corvette with the yellow wheels.

But unfortunately for people who own them, I’m basically one of one. Most people see Indy Pace Car Editions for precisely what they are: a manufacturer eeking out a few extra sales by taking a normal car and adding stickers. And, sometimes, yellow wheels.

As a result, don’t ever buy an Indy Pace Car Edition as an investment. Unless, of course, it actually paced Indy. Which it never did.

Plymouth Prowler

When the Plymouth Superbird came out all those years ago, no one ever expected its values to go anywhere. As the famous story goes, it was actually highly unpopular, which isn’t hard to believe considering its rear wing looked like an industrial-strength staple, possibly created by Paul Bunyan.

The problem with the Prowler is that it’s the exact opposite. It’s trying too hard to be cool, which virtually ensures that it will end up in the history books as gloriously uncool. The fact that its V6 came from the Dodge Intrepid and its center stack from the Chrysler parts bin only seals the deal: the Prowler will never climb in value. Even if you have the little trailer.

Porsche 997 Speedster

Before the 997 model, every single 911 Speedster was priced from the factory like a slightly more expensive 911. People bought them, stored them in inflatable bubbles, and watched values soar.

This time, Porsche wanted that value jump for itself – and they priced the 997 Speedster accordingly. For $204,000, you got unique wheels, a distinctive windshield, a weird top and a slight horsepower bump over the regular 997 Carrera S – which, by the way, was half the price. Values entered free-fall before the cars even sold out.

Of course, 997 Speedster values will, one day, climb again. But it will be many years – and a lot of inflation – before they ever return to the $200,000 mark.

So, tell me: am I wrong? Did I miss anything? What cars do you think are being stored in dirt-free controlled garages by owners who have unrealistic expectations about future values?

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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The Highlights of Amelia Island Tue, 12 Mar 2013 15:05:53 +0000

I’ve just returned from the Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance, which is among the finest annual events involving wealthy people who smoke cigars and stare longingly at the possessions of other wealthy people, smoking nicer cigars.

Of course, Amelia wasn’t all fun and cigar smoking. There was also some serious looking at stuff to be done, typically directly in front of others as they tried to take photographs. For those who couldn’t attend the event, allow me to guide you through the high points.

Let’s start away from the golf course and focus on what’s quickly becoming my favorite part of Amelia: the spectator cars. The best place to gawk at these is the parking garage of the host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. Despite an obvious security presence in the garage, anyone appearing wealthy enough is allowed to walk through. Cigar possession isn’t required, but it helps.

The next three shots indicate all four types of vehicles you see in the garage: one, ultra luxury sedans. In fact, the garage’s four Maybachs represented about eleven percent of total production. Two, modern exotics. Three, vintage cars. And four, Chrysler sedans from the Jacksonville airport Hertz. That they could all coexist so peacefully should give hope to North and South Korea.

There is actually a fifth type of car in the garage at Amelia: manufacturer vehicles. These are driven by perky OEM reps attending the show for the eleventh year in the row – a crew who likes to eagerly announce to any spectators they meet that this is the “best year ever!” Here, you see a manufacturer-plated GL-Class parked next to some sort of antique baby carriage.

Just kidding. Of course, that’s the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, or – more likely – a fine replica. While it probably doesn’t require keys, don’t worry: a thief would be thwarted by any human with legs. Or possibly by the Amelia Island Police, who would excitedly use the slow-speed pursuit as an opportunity to finally put their PIT maneuver training to good use.

Neat Amelia spectator cars are also found in other places, as these three images show. From top to bottom, that’s an Aston Martin Vanquish S, a Lancia Stratos next to a more powerful four-wheel-drive car, and a Lamborghini Espada in a disabled parking spot. While I can’t tell if it has a disabled parking permit, perhaps the driver correctly believes we will assume he is visually handicapped due to his choice in cars. (Angry Espada owners flood the comments in 3… 2… 1…)


Inside the event, things were just as exciting as outside. One of the highlights was the Brumos Collection’s Porsche 959, which sported its original checkered flag seats – a novelty in the ‘80s that’s aged just a bit poorly.

Fun 959 fact: each car had six gears, but the gear lever only goes up to fifth. That’s because the 959’s first gear is an off-road crawler gear labeled “G,” which stood for “Gelände” (of Geländewagen fame), or, in English, “terrain.” Normal starts and downshifts could use first gear, which was in a dogleg position from second.

This year’s Amelia Concours also hosted a Ford GT40 reunion, which brought something like 14 GT40s together under the auspices of the model’s 50th anniversary. Car enthusiasts needed no excuse to enjoy the sea of Gulf Blue.

My personal favorite car was this Lamborghini 400GT, displayed by New York City MTA chairman Peter Kalikow. Although I was on hand to see Peter open up the trunk, I decided this wouldn’t be the appropriate time to complain about rising subway fares.

McLaren showed this F1 road car, which wowed everyone in attendance due to its rarity, center seating position and gullwing doors. Interestingly, this homage to McLaren’s road car history didn’t include the Mercedes SLR. Hmm. Wonder why.

This Bentley wagon appealed to those of us who like British cars and station wagons. According to the description, the original owner also had a custom-made early S-Class wagon, proving that eccentric wagon lovers existed as far back as the 1950s.

A final highlight was this 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, which was probably the meanest-looking car at Amelia. It also provided a little history lesson about the Corvette Grand Sport name. Back then: double the power, 800-pound weight reduction, five built. Today: side gills. This should come as no surprise from the brand that revived the Monte Carlo name for two-door Lumina.

With the sun and warmth of Amelia behind us, the Concours crowd turns its sights to Lake Como, the world’s most beautiful place, which will host the Villa d’Este Concours in May. For those who can’t make the trek, the ever-present drizzle of Pebble Beach is just five months away. Ready your cigars.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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My Role In The Extinction Of The American Muscle Car Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:02:09 +0000  

1969 Chevelle SS


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.

By the time the 1980s got into full swing, around 1983, people were good and tired of the 1970s. The ‘70s had been pretty rough on the average American. We had our pride hurt when Saigon fell, we lost faith in our political institutions thanks to Watergate and we were embarrassed when our embassy was stormed by a bunch of kids in Iran. To make matters worse, we had gone way overboard on cheesy variety shows, bell bottoms and the cocaine and now we had one hell of a hangover. It was, we collectively decided, better if we just put the past behind us.

In 1983 I was a junior in high school and, with the economy still in a shambles, jobs in small-town America for kids my age were few and far between. Fortunately, my mom and dad weren’t stingy and I had enough money in my pocket to play Defender at the 7-11 and to put gas in my 6 cylinder Nova, but I aspired to bigger things. I wanted to build a fast car. It was my search for a job and my attempt to access to cheap parts that led me to form a friendship with the local hot-rodder.

Already married with three kids, Tim Harris was only about a decade older than me. He was the kind of guy who lived and breathed cars; the kind of guy who forever smelled of old crankcase oil and Dexron II. As a neighbor, he drove down your property values. His yard was filled with half stripped cars, disembodied engine and racks of body parts. Naturally, I thought he was the coolest guy around.

Easy Prey

The owner of several Chevrolet Vegas in his younger years, Tim had begun collecting parts to keep his own cars running but soon found that people were willing to pay a handsome premium for the parts they needed to keep their own cars going as well. Before long, Tim had an established business, buying up and parting out Chevrolets all over the county and, luckily for me, his business had grown to the point that he needed someone to help him. Since I was willing to work for a pittance, and bought most of my parts from him anyway, I got the job.

Tim had me do all sorts of work around the his house. I hauled wood, dug ditches, ran barbed wire and helped dismantle the cars he brought home. He worked me hard, but sometimes I got to ride along as Tim went to pick up one junker or another and, as we drove, he taught me the tricks of his trade. Like most money making ventures, the underlying idea was simple, the execution was not.

The process began in the driver’s seat and we drove about ceaselessly scouring the area for possible purchases. A potential buy was always a car that was sitting. Signs of a sitting car included a layer of dirt, pine needles or leaves on top and a patch of longish grass or other debris underneath. Flat tires were almost always good for us while an open hood or ongoing body work were usually not. With the economy in a protracted slump and high gas prices at the pump, that part was easy.

It took real skill, however, to know what you were actually looking at. I have, it turns out, a photographic memory and I soon developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the cars of the 60s and 70s. I knew their shapes, options, trim levels, possible power trains, even more esoteric things like whether or not they might be hiding disc brakes under their hubcaps. I could look at a car from the seat of the van and instantly report what it was. Tim would do the other important part, the mental math that told him just how much profit our find might actually bring. If a car was worth it, we knocked on the door of the house.

This system worked surprisingly well. Tim was a cash buyer and a great many people were swayed by the sight of his money. Together we purchased some of the great cars of the era.

One that should have been allowed to escape.

At one house, Tim scored a 1968 Chevy II with a 250 HP 327, a Muncie 4 speed and a positraction rear end for $300. It had been sitting for a while, but together Tim and I compression started the engine by rolling it down a small hill. The old car fired up and ran strong. I laid a great deal of rubber at every stop on the way home. Naturally, I was in love and wanted to save the baby blue car, but Tim would have none if it. In less than a month every part of value was sold and Tim and I hauled the stripped carcass to the recyclers in order to make room for the next victim.

So it went with dozens of cars and Novas, Camaros, Chevelles, Impalas and dozens upon dozens of late 60s Chevy trucks were sacrificed one piece at a time to the great god of commerce. Like a 19th century whaling operation, we stalked our prey, made the kill and then hauled the beast ashore where we stripped away every usable bit one piece at a time before taking the final remains to a place where they were rendered down into smelter fodder. There was one exception.

One that did get away.

The 1965 Impala SS 396 was truly a thing of beauty. Canary yellow with a black vinyl top, we found her on four flat tires and with a surprising amount of moss on the cement slab beneath her. I could see the cold calculation in Tim’s eyes as we walked around the dignified old girl, big block engine, SS wheel covers, disc brakes, all the trim pieces in good condition, flawless interior. This car was ripe for the picking. Tim ended up paying just $500 to an elderly lady who confessed she just wanted to be rid of it.

Once the title was in hand, we spent a few minutes getting the car prepped for the trip home. I pumped up the tires with a small compressor, checked the oil and water, and then we started the old big block using jumper cables. It ran rough at first but soon settled down and when we were ready, Tim let me go ahead while he followed in the van.

The old car was nice inside and the big engine ran well. The transmission shifted smoothly, and not for the first time I noticed what a really fine car it was. It did seem to wander around a bit out on the road and it had a fair amount of play in its steering, but old Impalas, especially big block cars, had a tendency to wear out suspension bushings. It was a minor problem, and I made the trip home without incident.

After parking the car, I got out and gave it a good serious look. I was still there when Tim pulled up a minute later. “This is a nice car.” I said.

“Yeah,” answered Tim, “A really nice car.”

“You think maybe someone would just buy the whole thing?” I asked.

“I could get more from parts than I could the whole thing.” Tim replied.

“It wouldn’t be right though.” I said.

‘I know.” Said Tim, “I know.”

The next week Tim put an ad in the paper and an elderly gentleman made the trip out to where we lived in the country to buy the car. Tim got $900 for it and seemed happy enough as the old car rolled down the driveway and away into the afternoon. But as it faded into the distance, he turned on me, “I could have made more money if I hadn’t listened to you.” he said accusingly.

“Somebody has to be your conscience.” I answered.

His expression lightened and he smiled. “I know.” said Tim heading for his van. “Come on, let’s go find something else we can make money on.” I paused a moment, then laughed and went with him, always ready to drive home another piece of history.

Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a captive bear.

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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Reporting From The Concoures D’eregance In Tokyo: The Germans In Japan Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:21:00 +0000


Yesterday, I took you on a visit to Tokyo, to the Japan Classic Car Association’s New Year Meeting, and on a tour of imported cars in Japan. If you believe the propaganda, there aren’t any imported cars in Japan. But it is not true.

The history of car imports to Japan is a history of Yanase, Japan’s premiere car importer. Yanase was founded in 1915 as an importer of Buicks and Cadillacs to Japan. One of his big customers was the Imperial Navy which “had nothing but Buicks,” as Jiro Yanase told a reporter. The Japanese Navy also put Yanase nearly out of business, in December of 1941.

During the war, Yanase kept the Buick and Cadillac signs up to attract service business. After the war, Yanase became GM’s sole importer to Japan. Soon, he became the world’s go-to man for car imports to Japan.

When Japanese post-war economic growth spurred demand for cars, Yanase turned to former ally Germany and started to import Mercedes cars in 1952 and Volkswagen in 1954.

The Volkswagen Bug became an early hit in Japan. It was small, reliable, and relatively cheap.

The Volkswagen Bus inspired many a Japanese panel van.

This Käfer Cabrio is a rarity in Japan, because it is a left hand drive. Without making a fuss, Volkswagen shipped right hand drive cars to countries that drive on the left. They like it that way. There still are people who think a steering wheel is a barrier to entry. It isn’t. If you plan for it, a RHD wheel goes easier and faster into a car during production than a moon roof. One third of the world’s population lives in countries with left hand traffic. If this is a problem for your car export business, better sell Tupperware.

Some cars could be imported to Japan without concern for the steering position.

While we are at it: It is a myth that the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller used surplus canopies of the Me-109 fighter. By the end of the war, there was no such thing as surplus on the German side, especially not bubbles made from expensive Plexiglass.

This car, the Isetta, also did not need its steering to be adjusted for the Japanese market.

In this case, the steering adjusted itself and got out of the way when the driver opened the door.

Amazing: This little thing put BMW back on its feet after the war. 161,728 were built when production stopped in 1962, A few even made it to Japan.

Soon, BMWs became bigger, and a successful import to Japan.

In 1963 Yanase met Japan’s Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. According to lore, Yoshida talked Yanase out of importing small and cheap cars to help the Japanese industry. Or as Automotive News writes:

“Henceforth, he would import small numbers of luxury cars and sell them at high markups. He had no interest in building volume sales of popularly priced models.”


The story is only half true. Yanase imported big Mercedes and sold them at inflated prices to loaded Japanese. This 300SEL for instance (which seems to be an oil burner while running on gasoline) …

… or this kawaii 280SL …

… which even has its original Becker Radio. But the bulk of the imports remained Volkswagens. Since I can remember, and that’s a long time, Volkswagen has been the number one import brand to Japan. Last year, a quarter of the 316,000 cars imported to Japan were Volkswagen Group cars. In 1992, Volkswagen left Yanase, oddly enough, it went to Toyota, which sold Volkswagen through its dealer network. That not widely known alliance lasted successfully through 2009. Also little known: Toyota offered GM the same deal, guaranteeing GM 5,000 units a year. GM declined. Not a smart move. 20 years later, in 2012, GM sold 3,064 cars in all of Japan.

After VW left, Yanase tried importing Opels. He failed. Nobody wanted them. Yanase offered GM to sell its Japan fighter Saturn to Japan. In 1992, Yanase told a reporter of the New York Times:

“If G.M. would be willing to export Saturn to Japan, I believe we could sell 30,000 cars in Japan.”

GM declined.

The story of the closed Japanese market is a myth. It’s wide open. In 1992, the New York Times reporter told about a meeting with Yanase:

“Despite his long history butting heads with Japan’s bureaucracy, or maybe because of that, Mr. Yanase now maintains that there are no more trade barriers in Japan. The last of the import tariffs and luxury taxes that once made foreign cars so expensive was eliminated in 1989, he said.

The market is “completely open — no jacket, no blouse, no brassiere,” he said, flinging his arms out as if to rip off his clothes. “Everything is completely open.”

In 2009, Volkswagen started its own import business in Japan. Today, most major carmakers who sell in Japan do it without an importer. Writes Automotive News:

“Few carmakers strive to get into Japan anymore. Brands with established dealer networks there — including VW, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Peugeot and Volvo — can make good profits. But others look at the cost of setting up a Japan network and turn instead to China, where the potential for profits today and volume tomorrow is greater.”

Today, Yanase is part of Itochu, the company better known for its C. Itoh printers.

Then why is there still a Free Market story, appearing in the catalog of Sunday’s Classic Auto Show? It’s not a story, it’s a misprint. Ls and Rs, a Japanese problem. The article is about the Flea Market at the show. Where you could buy anything from carbs …


… to blowers.

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Reporting From The Concoures D’eregance In Tokyo: The Americans In Japan Sun, 27 Jan 2013 20:04:59 +0000

Today, I was in Odaiba, the man-made island in Tokyo Bay. The island is known for its futuristic buildings. Today, it was home of the Japan Classic Car Association’s New Year Meeting. It celebrates the imported car. During the next days, I will show you the nicer ones. We start with the Americans, and a Dodge.

The tonier places in America, like Pebble Beach and Hilton Head, are known for their Concours d’Elegance, something the organizers wanted to bring to Tokyo. It looks like it was damaged in transit.

Some of the first cars in Japan were American, just like this early Dodge Brothers model.  The first car made in Japan, in 1902, was powered by a gasoline  engine, hand-imported from the U.S. by Komanosuke Uchiyama. Five years later, he produced the first entirely Japanese-made car.

Detroit pretty much owned the Japanese car market before the war. Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors all had production plants in the island nation.  Between 1925 and 1936, the Big Three produced 208,967 cars in Japan. Japanese automakers, and there were many, made only 12,127.

Cars imported to Japan, mostly from America and England, did set the style for Japanese cars.

After the war, American makers liked to use their British subsidiaries to export cars to Japan. This is the egg crate grille of a Nash Metropolitan Roadster, built between 1953 and 1961 at Austin’s Longbridge plant.

Except that this Nash has the steering wheel on the left. Must have been the export model.

This is a Ford Prefect, built in the UK.

It looks like the 100E (1953 to 1959). Its steering wheel is at the right left, I mean, it was left at the right side. Next to the Prefect sits a BMW 2002, the predecessor of the 3-series. I had one of those, also in Bavarian Blue.

Wedged between a Porsche and a Triumph, a Shelby GT350. When this car came to Japan, the glory of American imports in Japan began to fade, and the Europeans took over. We will look at them tomorrow.

Ddoge Brothers. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Dodge Brothers Grille. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Dodge Brothers. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Ford Prefect, BMW 2002. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Ford Prefect. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Nash Dash. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Nash Grille. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Nash Tire. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Porsche, Shelby, Triumph. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt The catalog. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 21
Tales From The Cooler: O, Barrett Where Art Thou? Tue, 22 Jan 2013 10:26:23 +0000

I will admit that I am a Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction fanboi. I spent last week in Detroit during the NAIAS, and thus had to skip my annual trip to Scottsdale, Arizona for their auction extravaganza, one of the greatest automotive events in this country. However, amidst all the breathless reporting about Barrett-Jackson selling the original Batmobile for $4.6M, you might have missed the story of a rare fail by the auction giant.

Last month, Barrett-Jackson announced they were pulling their auction out of Orange County, California, one of their four annual venues, after only three years. Their reasoning was that they failed to make money and were discouraged by the high cost of setting up their tents at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. I was in attendance last summer and can tell you the real issues were Barrett-Jackson’s middling selection of exciting cars on the block and the wide choice of events for the automotive enthusiast in Orange County that weekend. It’s a tough automotive room out here.

Don’t me wrong – Barrett-Jackson put on a good show in terms of the scores of cool car vendors and the overall scene. But when it came to the “wow” factor of the cars for sale, they struggled at this locale. About half of the show’s 415 vehicles on the block in 2012 were mere filler. It is difficult for buyer or spectator to get excited about a stock 2008 Mustang Cobra or a 2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Barrett-Jackson officials admitted that the selling prices in Costa Mesa were lower than had the same cars been sold in Scottsdale, which translates into lower sale commissions for the house.

On any given weekend in Southern California, there are dozens of automotive events. In competition with Barrett-Jackson in Orange County was the renowned Saturday morning “Cars and Coffee” in nearby Irvine, which showcases 150 or so exotic, sports and muscle cars. Admission is free and the vehicles and their owners freely invite your inspection and conversation. On Barrett-Jackson weekend last year, I spotted this odd hybrid at Cars and Coffee:


In 2012, you could also travel a few miles down the road and attend the 30th annual Dana Point Concours d’Elegance, which last year honored the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and featured over 250 European and American classic cars and motorcycles:


Note to high-line auction organizers Bonham, Mecum, Russo and Steele, and the rest: if you choose to give Southern California a try, hold your event at the centrally located Fairgrounds in Pomona, not “behind the Orange Curtain,” check the calendar to avoid competing car events and gather the best cars you can find and you will do fine.

Now if you will excuse me, I have 50-plus taped hours of Speed’s coverage of Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale to watch…

Notes to the potential TTAC FNGs that Bertel is about to hire: 1. If you believe in a story, write it. I penned most of this tale last summer and decided it was not TTAC worthy, rather than let the editors make that decision. If published, I would have looked pretty smart now that Barrett-Jackson has pulled out of the OC. 2. If you are frantically studying TTAC writers’ styles before you submit your entry, you have come to the wrong man.

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TTAC Christmas Special: A Visit To The Petersen Museum Vault Tue, 25 Dec 2012 14:00:14 +0000

The basement of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is the subterranean parking structure in the recurring dream of automotive enthusiasts young and old. You know—the one where you exit the department store head down, fumbling for car keys as the scenery shifts to a chiaroscuro of concrete and fluorescent lights, and out of thin air appears a collection of vehicles decadent enough to make a sheikh weep. This one, however, is quite real, and perhaps the best-kept secret known to gearheads worldwide, but experienced only by a select few. Until recently, that is.

After nearly two decades of operation, the Petersen museum—housed, ironically enough, in a former department store—has opened the doors to its basement vault to the public for a limited time. The vault comprises 80,000 square feet of automotive treasures ranging from ultrarare, one-off production models, to cars owned by local celebrities or used in film production. The automobiles and motorcycles in the basement share the local, California focus of the museum’s viewable upstairs collection.

The current vault denizens, too extensive to enumerate individually, include no fewer than nine Ferraris, a Jaguar XKSS owned and restored by Steve McQueen, and official transportation of heads of state. Its variety rivals that of the storehouses of megalomaniac dictocrat hoarders. Heck, there are three Muntz Jets down there. Never heard of a Muntz (the brainchild of Glendale, Calif.-based Earl “Madman” Muntz in the ‘40s and ‘50s) before, let alone seen one? Neither had we.

Executive director Terry Karges, who has led the museum since August 2012, wanted to activate the synapses of younger visitors perhaps unfamiliar with the museum’s current offerings. “I first visited the vault when I arrived,” Karges said. He saw the museum as a “total complex” for those with a yen for classic cars, but logistics prevented groups from touring the basement. “The obvious is always absurd,” he said. With the intention of accommodating 50 visitors per day, the Petersen staff designed a one-hour tour of the collection, trained its docents, and added guards specifically for the purpose.

By Karges’ reckoning, the work has paid off: during the holiday vacation season, as many as 100 visitors per day visited the vault, including young enthusiasts who were intrigued by the prospect of peeking into the hidden collection. According to former museum director Dick Messer, the museum is unique because “the entire collection is here,” and it has no need for satellite storage—or off-site sub-vaults. It’s currently unclear if the vault will reopen to visitors after its three-week trial run, but Karges is optimistic in the museum’s approach to exhibiting the automobile’s past, present, and future in light of the Chrysler Museum’s recent decision to temporarily close and retool. “We’re not trying to do only one brand,” he said. “The museum shows off the automobile’s influence in Los Angeles, and the history of the automobile.”

Photo 8 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_0373 Photo 7 Photo 6 Photo 5 Photo 4 Photo 2 Photo 1 TTAC Petersen27 TTAC Petersen26 TTAC Petersen25 TTAC Petersen24 TTAC Petersen23 TTAC Petersen22 TTAC Petersen21 TTAC Petersen20 TTAC Petersen19 TTAC Petersen18 TTAC Petersen17 TTAC Petersen15 TTAC Petersen14 TTAC Petersen13 TTAC Petersen12 TTAC Petersen10 TTAC Petersen08 TTAC Petersen07 TTAC Petersen06 TTAC Petersen05 TTAC Petersen05 (1) TTAC Petersen04 TTAC Petersen03 TTAC Petersen02 TTAC Petersen01


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Walter P. Chrysler Museum to Close to Public – Chrysler Buys Collection to Preserve Heritage Sat, 01 Dec 2012 14:00:22 +0000

Chrysler Thunderbolt and Newport Show Cars in the atrium of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum

I’m an unabashed booster of Detroit area institutions so it was with some sadness that I read that the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on the Chrysler campus in Auburn Hills will be closing to the public at the end of the year. Apparently admission fees and facility rentals were not sufficient to sustain continued operations.

The museum opened in 1999 and about 35,000 people visited the facility in 2011. Chrysler Group LLC, which already owns the museum’s building, will be purchasing the 67 vehicles in the museum’s collection in order to, as Bryce Hoffman of the DetNews put it, “protect the company’s patrimony.” The museum’s diverse collection reflects the many companies and brands in Chrysler history. Chrysler will continue to use the facility for corporate events and make it available for charities and special events so it appears that the facility will continue to be maintained as a museum, albeit a private one, similar to GM’s Heritage Center. I’m not just sad, I’m frustrated because the WPC Museum’s closing to the public is symptomatic of a number of Detroit area locations and institutions that are of great interest to car enthusiasts but end up not getting the attention they deserve. I called it the Henry Ford Museum effect.

If you say “cars”, “museum”, and “Detroit”, people will mention the Henry Ford Museum. Now the Ford Museum’s recently renovated Driving America exhibit (and the accompanying Racing In America display) is indeed one of the great car collections with about 140 vehicles on display (about 40% of the museum’s vehicle collection). Besides all of the historical Fords you’d expect to be there, and an outstandingly curated collection of other brands’ vehicles representing almost 120 years of automotive history, where else can you see a Bugatti Royale, a Tucker, a Cord and a Duesenberg, all just a few steps away from Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus? The museum bills Driving America as “The World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition” and while there might be other museums and collections that would argue the point, it’s not just hyperbole.

The Henry Ford Museum’s car collection, while by itself is worth a visit, is only one facet of the entire museum, which is one of America’s great museums, with a pretty broad scope well beyond the world of automobiles. While gearheads will also appreciate the planes, trains and powerplants (Henry Ford’s primary interest was power generation, he was the chief operating engineer of Detroit’s Edison Illuminating Company before he started tinkering with automobiles), it’s a museum dedicated to the history of America so there are artifacts like the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was shot and the “Rosa Parks bus”, in addition to a large section devoted to the development of American domestic life.

On any weekday you can drive by the Henry Ford Museum and the parking lot will be full of families’ SUVs and minivans as well as buses for groups. When the Driving America exhibit was opened last winter, there was a gala banquet attended by Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. If I’m not mistaken, the Ford Museum is the single most popular tourist attraction in the state of Michigan. That’s a problem for all the other lesser known museums in the Detroit area. It’s the 800 lb gorilla of museums around here and car museums in particular. While everyone is looking at the magnificent silverback, there are some very interesting chimps, baboons and other simians getting ignored.

I can think of about a half dozen museums and collections open to the public that would be of interest to just about any automobile enthusiast, just in the Detroit area alone. If you include western Michigan and northern Indiana, that number just about doubles. Some are more modest, others are significant collections with many rare and valuable cars and trucks, but they are all cool places to check out if you’re a car guy visiting Detroit or Michigan.

In southeastern Michigan, in addition to the Henry Ford Museum and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum (while it’s still open to the public), there’s the Piquette Avenue Model T factory, where the Model T and Ford’s assembly line were first developed. It’s now a museum with scores of early Fords and other marques. The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum is in what was the last surviving Hudson dealership and it’s in time capsule shape from the 1950s. The YAHM is the place to go to check out Hudsons, Nashes, and Kaiser Frazers, all cars built in Ypsi. Along with Corvairs, GM Hydramatic transmissions (also locally assembled) the museum also has a nice section devoted to Tucker and Preston Tucker, who lived and worked in Ypsilanti. Stahl’s Automotive Foundation in Chesterfield Twp has a fine collection of cars (though the curator was a jerk to me when I was there), and there’s even the small, but very cool single marque Wills Sainte Claire museum out in Marysville. The Detroit Historical Museum, which just reopened after a renovation and now has free admission, happens to own about six dozen very significant automobiles but doesn’t have room for all to be on display. Of course you can see cars at lots of museums but the DHM does have a singular installation. A two story wing of the museum has been installed with the body drop section of Cadillac’s former Clark Street assembly plant. In Livonia out at Nankin Mills, there’s a museum dedicated in part to Henry Ford’s “Village Industries” project of small, often hydro powered, factories that employed rural workers.

Those are all within an hour’s drive of Detroit. Going farther afield, in Spring Arbor, near Jackson is Ye Ole Carriage Shop, a private museum of cars, pedal cars and Coca Cola stuff owned by Lloyd Gaston. Tours are available by appointment. North of Kalamazoo, in Hickory Corners, is the Gilmore Car Museum. The Gilmore really deserves its own post. It’s a fabulous place with eight historic barns filled with cars of every era. A number of national clubs have affiliated with Gilmore so it now houses special collections of Pierce Arrows, Cadillacs & LaSalles, Franklins, and they are finishing construction on what will be a Model A museum.

Heading almost due south you get to South Bend, where the Studebaker National Museum is. Don’t forget to go down into the basement, where they keep cars in storage. As you drive from South Bend to Auburn, you might want to stop in Elkhart and visit the RV Museum and Hall of Fame to check out Mae West’s motorhome and vintage Winebagos and popup campers. Why drive to Auburn? Well, if you consider yourself a car guy and you’re near Auburn and you don’t visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, turn in your car guy card. Housed in the former Auburn headquarters and magnificent Art Deco factory showroom, the ACD museum has an unparalleled collection of America’s finest classic cars. It’s worth a drive to Auburn just to see the Cord E-1, but then you can probably say that about a couple dozen of the cars in the ACD museum. Next door to the ACD Museum in the former Auburn & Cord factory buildings is NATMUS, the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States, which is a bit lower rent than the collection next door, but it’s still worth a visit. To begin with, it has an outstanding museum within a museum, NATMATMUS, National Automotive & Truck Model & Toy Museum. A collection of pedal cars, scale models and other automotive toys dating to the 19th century. Their eclectic car collection ain’t bad either with the US road racing champion Essex Wire Cobra, a Curtiss-Wright Wankel powered Mustang and a Devin three wheeler. The museum has an emphasis on commercial vehicles so truck lovers will like it, particularly if they’re International Harvester fans. You will never see a more rust free Scout.

If you’re coming to Detroit next month for the 2013 NAIAS, it’ll be too late to visit the Chrysler Museum. As mentioned, that closes to the public at the end of the year, but if you do have the time I would urge you to visit any of the other museums mentioned here.

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 dig deeper 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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Generation Why: ICONs And Morgans Fri, 08 Jun 2012 18:44:46 +0000

Previous editions of Generation Why have explored one of the last glimmers of automotive affection that the “carless generation” still holds on to- the love of classic cars.

Modern cars are better than they’ve ever been in every qualitative aspect, but they have embraced a stifling homogeneity as a result. Consolidation will only exacerbate that – who would have thought that one day, Mazda would be doing the legwork for the next Alfa Romeo Spider. Personally, I think the marriage of Italian aesthetics with Japanese guts is the perfect union, but it’s also indicative of the epoch we live in; there is little room for sentimentality, romance and narrative if you are a mainstream manufacturer, because it’s very easy for the lights to be turned off and your dinner to be snatched away.

On the fringes, free from pedestrian crash test regulations, expectations of 432 airbags and Facebook integration, creativity and originality still exists. Somewhere in my piles of EVO back issues, there is a quote from an unnamed Honda executive stating “In the end, there will be three car companies. One of them will be Morgan.”

Morgan, as well all know, uses wood as a key construction element for their cars, and recently launched a new 3-Wheeler that uses a motorcycle-style V-Twin engine. Car and Driver’s Justin Berkowitz recently interviewed company head Charles Morgan (yes, it’s a family business), and Morgan’s eloquent dissection of the modern sports car, his realistic outlook on the industry (“…everybody has to have collaboration if they’re going to build a viable car…” and most importantly, his recognition of the desire for as he calls it “quality and individualism”. Morgan’s small size and overflowing order books often translate into wait lists, which helps the brand’s exclusitivity factor. While they do about 750 cars per year, the 3-Wheeler has apparently generated in excess of 1200 orders alone. According to those more familiar with the business than I am, that will take Morgan years to complete.

On our side of the world, ICON announced plans to expand beyond their lineup of Land Cruisers and Broncos with an Aston Martin DB4 Zagato-esque car called the “Reformer“. The Reformer will no doubt be an expensive, exclusive proposition – just like the Morgan cars are (though the 3-wheeler will apparently retail for around $45,000 in the U.S.). But the beauty of aiming for the top of the market is that even in tough times, the really rich people interested in wacky, bespoke 4-wheeled toys tend to hang on to their fortunes and can still afford to buy these kinds of products. No surprise that Lotus is a victim of being stuck in the middle – rotgut and cognac always sell in tough times, to both polar extremes of the market. Everything else suffers.

Are we ever going to see these sorts of boutique companies spring up and offer classic-looking vehicles, modern powertrains and more importantly, a breath of fresh air from the current crop of numbers-obsessed isolation chambers that masquerade as sports cars? Probably not. But the love affair with classic cars, their designs, powertrains and their elemental purity will continue to burn bright as cars march further and further down that path. The motorcycle market in North America has been suffering from a big gap in the marketplace between 250cc and 600cc bikes that are affordable and desirable for new riders. Enter Cleveland CycleWerks, a Cleveland-based motorcycle company that is bringing to market some low-end, affordable bikes that look like they came straight of a Hunter S. Thompson-era desert race. The catch? They’re made in China. That seems to be the only way these things get down nowadays.

Drawing parallels between an upstart motorcycle company and the auto industry as a whole isn’t completely fair. But there’s no denying that there’s something about those older vehicles, whether they’re FJ40s or 427 Cobras, that keeps us longing for them to the point where we insist on restoring them and building replicas of them with new and improved underpinnings. Right now, your choices for an affordable, ICON-esque vehicle seem to be emulating this gentleman’s project of mating a Healey Sprite body to Miata running gear. I still hold out hope that some brave entrepreneur or trust fund recipient will take up something like Cleveland Cyclewerks for automobiles. Or an OEM doing “factory refreshes” of iconic models. If not, I’ll be in the garage…

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German Court Impounds $3.8 Million Car That Was Stolen By American Soldiers Thu, 31 May 2012 15:10:34 +0000 Dutch classic car collector Frans van Haren paid $3.8 million for a 77 year old Mercedes 500K Spezial Roadster. The regrets came when he tried to sell the rare car of which only 58 were built. When the car was offered for sale at last year’s Techno Classica car show in Essen, Germany, the car was impounded. Van Haren can kiss the car good-bye. A German court ruled that the car goes back to the estate of its erstwhile German owner.

According to Bloomberg, the car was stolen by U.S. soldiers at the end of World War II. Hans Prym, the owner of a manufacturer of clothing fasteners that earned him the title of “Zipper King” kept the car in Stolberg, close to the Belgian border. U.S. troops quartered at Prym’s Waldfriede estate absconded with the car. A court in Hamburg ruled that the soldiers had no title to the car, and that Prym’s grandchildren have a valid claim to the Mercedes.

The court said that the statute of limitations has not expired. The 30-year period under German law is only applicable for the time the car has been in Germany.

Lawyers of the heirs will now file suit for the car’s return.



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Generation Why: I Don’t Want To Share Anymore Mon, 28 May 2012 13:00:14 +0000

My iPhone has no less than 7 social apps on it (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Tumblr, Tradyo and Instagram), not to mention Google Maps, which like the aforementioned programs, can utilize my phone’s built in GPS beacon to share my location with others (including Apple). My recently departed 1997 Miata was the anti-iPhone. No GPS, no traction control, a barely there ABS system, no electronic throttle. Everything mechanical. My next car will be similar. Simple, robust, resilient. What if we no longer have that option anymore?

Starting in 2015, new cars sold in the United States will, under proposed legislation, have “Black Box” electronic data recorders to help glean all kinds of data. Frankly, that’s the least of my worries, as much as I don’t like the idea of every event behind the wheel being logged.

In my own slightly paranoid opinion, the EDR program is a mere red herring, setting the stage for something else entirely. The end of driving as an autonomous activity. Market forces, like gas prices and car insurance premiums have slowly been putting a squeeze on the notion that getting behind the wheel and just going somewhere is the ultimate act of individual freedom. Now, we have Google’s autonomous (no irony intended) car program, which, as far as I can tell, is a great way for them to serve up more ads. If you’re not focusing on driving, you can watch Youtube content on your Google Android phone, check your Gmail, manage your social life with Google Calender and be totally engrossed in the Googleplex of targeted advertising using GPS beacons in your car and your self-driving Prius.

We all hear the canard that modern cars have never been safer, faster or more fuel-efficient, and it’s not only true, but a boon to the average consumer (perhaps at a cost to the enthusiast – but that’s another discussion for another day). More fuel-efficient cars means less fuel consumption – but it also means reduced revenue from the gas tax, which helps fund infrastructure projects like highways. Raising the gas tax in an era of economic depression would be like peeing on a political third rail, and even in good times, it’s challenging enough to do so. An alternative would have to be drawn up, and according to some well-placed D.C. sources, the inevitable alternative is cost-per-mile fees for driving.

Yes, that’s right. The government could track your every movement in your car (and it will be placed in every car) and bill you for it. I know that despite the best arguments from Grover Norquist & Co., we really do have to pay taxes to grease the wheels of society. Something is going to have to give. If it ever comes down to cost-per-mile taxation, there is going to be an absolute hellstorm of anger and vitriol, no matter who proposes it. I can remember as far back as childhood when Max Mosley and the FIA were showing off speed-limited vehicles based on GPS technology for European roads, and the British rags, already itching for a fight after the implementation of Gatso speed cameras, gave Max the kind of whipping that he’d have to pay £750 an hour for in a Knightsbridge dungeon.

Even if individual freedom is a distinctly American concept, the automobile is the main conduit for that all over the world; not the bicycle, not the motorcycle, not the bus or the train. Developing socities, like India and Vietnam, move on from the scooter and motorcycle as soon as their citizens can afford a car.

More than just a form of mobility, the automobile as individual transportation is a middle finger to the push towards communal living via the internet; “checking in”, “sharing”, “geotagging” and every other noxious form of soft exhibitionism that the tech nerd crowd craves (and, of course, uses to line their pockets – the more you share, the more data they have to help refine their “targeted advertising” systems). The rise of social networks is a constant theme in the media, yet young people are growing ever weary of social networks. Oversharing is frowned upon, and I’m far from the only one to have “nuked” my old Facebook profile (dating back from high school) taking with it all my valuable data, photos and status updates, while creating a new, more restricted account with a much smaller list of friends. The pendulum swing towards living one’s life publicly will not continue in perpetuity.

I spent the past 4 days in New York City, with a mandate to shut off all electronic communication, and enjoy what the greatest city in America has to offer; the grandest architecture, the most walkable streets and a culture that could not exist anywhere else in the world. I never once missed email, Facebook or Twitter, but I did miss driving. The streets of New York, crowded and brutal they may be, were filled with interesting vehicles. Town Cars and yellow cabs everywhere, vintage Land Rovers in Greenwich Village, sport bikes on Broadway, a British Racing Green Lotus Evora on Madison Avenue, a G55 AMG on Wall Street. All of them represent not just freedom of movement, but freedom of possibility. At 4 A.M., the Evora could hit well into the triple digits on one of those multi-lane boulevards. The G55 could drive all the way across the beach at Montauk without getting stuck.

These are, not coincidentally, the kinds of activities that are not meant to be “shared”. You can take someone along if you want to tresspass on protected land, or hit triple digits tearing through Midtown, but you’re not going to want to post photos or videos on Facebook. These things are the kind of experiences that stay forever in the imperfect recesses of the mind, to be discussed sotto voce for years to come among close friends. To “share” them would be profane, corrupting their very essence. Breaking the law isn’t always necessary, but we will always need a hedge against the utopian designs of those who want us all to ride bicycles and live our lives in the cloud. As I reach back into the caves of my mind, where the “Timeline” can’t yet reach, I recall the black NSX of my father, V6 at full song,and  that same car becomes ever more appealing. Maybe Honda will be kind enough to give it a factory re-furbishing, so that I can enjoy the comforts of an essentially brand new car, albeit one free of electronic throttles and data-loggers.

We’ve already seen how old cars are capturing the hearts and minds of our youth more than any of the shiny new stuff on dealer lots. Might there be a new avenue for bringing old cars back to new? How would a car with the retro cachet of something old, combined with a modern refresh from the factory do in today’s world? Yes, it will certainly disrupt the current model of pumping and dumping inventory and making it sell, but a two-fold pushback, against conformist, boring new cars and their monitoring devices, revive the radical, reactionary idea of the automobile as one’s ticket to freedom.


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Neil Armstrong’s 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427 For Sale Wed, 02 May 2012 17:44:30 +0000

As a teenager, I idolized Tom Wolfe after reading Bonfire of the Vanities. By the end of high school, I had read every single book read by him, and his too-brief description of the muscle cars of American astronauts in The Right Stuff instantly came back to me (along with the smells of my high school cafeteria) upon seeing this ad.

Wolfe recounts a story of the astronauts befriending car dealer and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann. Rathmann was also friends with Chevrolet head Ed Cole. The two of them made sure that the astronauts got behind the wheel of Cole’s products

Eventually, Gus and Gordo had Corvettes like Al Shepard’s; Wally moved up from an Austin-Healy to a Maserati; and Scott Carpenter got a Shelby Cobra, a true racing vehicle. Al was continually coming by Rathmann’s to have his gear ratios changed. Gus wanted flared fenders and magnesium wheels. The fever gripped them all, but Gus and Gordo especially. They were determined to show the champ, Rathmann, and each other that they could handle these things. Gus would go out rat-racing at night at the Cape, racing full-bore for the next curve, dealing with the oncoming headlights by psychokinesis, spinning off the shoulders and then scrambling back up on the highway for more of it. It made you cover up your eyes and chuckle at the same time. The boys were fearless in an automobile, they were determined to hang their hides right out over the edge—and they had no idea what mediocre drivers they actually were, at least by the standards of professional racing.

Like Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong evidently had a Corvette at some point in his life. This example, now owned by a private citizen who apparently bought it from a NASA employee after Armstrong’s use, isn’t in the best condition. British classic car fanciers would tout its “lovely patina” and “provenance”.

Just what type of restoration the car would need is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that cars should be driven and enjoyed, not garaged and gawked at, but it’s important to strike a balance between keeping the car’s history intact, and bringing it up to an appropriate condition.

Thanks to Bring a Trailer for the link

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Are You Ready For: A National Register Of Historic Vehicles? Sat, 17 Sep 2011 17:55:58 +0000

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…

If my lovely life partner deems a building that’s in the way of a federally-funded project eligible for listing on the National Register, the project must seek to limit or mitigate its impact on it. Federal law requires that federally-funded projects determine the eligibility of buildings in their area of impact, but the level of protection offered to eligible buildings is actually relatively low. If the building in question is listed on the register, which can only be done voluntarily by the owner, it receives full protection. This matters for buildings, which are difficult to move and can be part of a historic district or landscape.

Though it’s possible that future legislation could seek to ban gas-guzzling historic vehicles from the road, in which case a National Register could offer effective protection, the basic protections for a car are a lot less necessary than for a structure (which can not easily be moved or stored). In short, if someone chooses to destroy their mint-condition Packard in the next Cash-for-Clunkers program, there’s nothing in the National Register model to stop them… the system supports, rather than trumps, property rights.

In other words, I don’t have a problem with people being able to register a vehicle for historic protection, but let’s not pretend that it will offer more protection than the owner’s property rights already do. And it does open a can of worms in regards to drawing the line between historic and non-historic vehicles (although most “truly historic” cars are already in museums). If legislation comes forward to ban certain cars from the road, I’m all for fighting it outright… but I’m not convinced that a National Register of Historic Cars is the way to do that. This feels more like a way for owners of Concours-level cars to feel even snootier about their garage queen.

But, as it turns out, there’s no need for a separate register. The NYT reports

Carmel Roberts, director of government relations for the [HVA], said in a telephone interview this week that the association was not pushing for any such legislation. Instead, she said that the association merely encouraged owners to list their vehicles on the National Register, the country’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.

Automobiles are already designated as structures in a National Register bulletin outlining the application process to have artifacts or structures listed, Ms. Roberts said. Little, however, has been done to explore the potential of the National Register as it related to automobiles.

“We’re just at the talking phase,” Ms. Roberts said.


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Curbside Classics Central: Portal To All Of Them Here Fri, 15 Oct 2010 00:43:53 +0000


Alfa Romeo                                                                                                          

1975 Alfetta GT/GTV Coupe

1991 Alfa Romeo 164


1954 Allard K2 (outtake)

American Motors (incl. Nash; but not Jeep)                       

1957 Metropolitan

*1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country

1964 Rambler Classic 770 Coupe

1968 Rambler American

1971 AMC Gremlin (1971 Small Car Comparison)

1975 AMC Pacer X

British Motors/BLM/Austin/Morris/Triumph/Rover/Sterling/Etc.

1951 Austin A40 Devon

1967 MGB-GT

1971 Mini

1987 Sterling 825 SL (Rover 825i)

1973 Triumph TR-6


1964 BMW 1800

1972 BMW 2002Tii – The Second Most Influential Modern Car In America

1985 BMW 635CSi


1956 Buick Century Riviera Hardtop

1964 Buick Riviera

1967 Buick Electra 225: The Jayne Mansfield Of Convertibles

1968 Buick Riviera

1972 Buick “Boattail” Riviera

1986 Buick Riviera: GM’s Deadly Sin #1

1990 Buick Roadmaster Woody Wagon (Outtake)


1950 Cadillac Vintage Hot Rod Series 61 Coupe (the official CC Logo-mobile)

1954 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan: GM’s Greatest Hit #2

1962 Cadillac Series 62 Six-Window Sedan

1966 Cadillac Coupe DeVille (Outtake)

1970 Cadillac Hearse

1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille (the first CC)

1977 Seville – GM’s Deadly Sin #11

1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Classic Coupe

Cimarron: GM’s Deadly Sin #10


1967 Checker Marathon (also Checker Motors History)


1959 Chevrolet Biscayne

1960 Chevrolet Impala

1962 Corvette – The Marilyn Monroe Of Cars [NSFW]

1965 Corvair Monza: The Best European Car Ever Made In America

1967 Chevrolet El Camino (Outtake)

1968 Camaro

1968 Chevrolet Impala Coupe (with Olds 455 engine)

1970 Camaro RS: GM’s Greatest Hits #1

1970 Chevrolet Impala: The Best Big Car Of Its Time

1971 Chevrolet Vega: GM’s Deadly Sin #2 (1971 Small Car Virtual Comparison)

1976 Chevrolet Malibu Classic: GM’s Deadly Sin #7

1976 Chevrolet Nova Coupe

1979 Caprice Classic: GM’s Greatest Hit #3

1979 Chevrolet Malibu Coupe

1980 Citation – GM’s Deadliest Sin Ever

1987 Turbo Sprint (Suzuki Cultus)

1989 Camaro RS: GM’s Deadly Sin #6

1990 Corvette: GM’s Deadly Sin #9

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ (Outtake)

2000 & 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier Coupes (Outtake)

Chevrolet Trucks                                                       

1950 Chevrolet COE truck (Outtake)

1951 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup

1964 Chevrolet Suburban

1967 Chevrolet C20 Pickup

1970 Chevrolet Suburban C10

1980 Chevy Vanup (Outtake)

1977 Chevy LUV Long Bed Pickup (Outtake)

1983 Chevy S-10 Blazer: GM’s Deadly Sin #5


1960 Imperial Crown Southampton: The Frankenstein Of Cars

1965 Chrysler New Yorker

1965 Chrysler Newport Coupe

1974 Imperial LeBaron Coupe

1985 Chrysler New Yorker

1987 Fifth Avenue Edition – Chrysler’s Deadly Sin #2


1946 Cisistalia 202GT (MoMA)


Citroen Ami 8

Citroen 2CV Hoffman Cabriolet

Citroen H Van


1989 Daihatsu Charade


The First Mini-Pickups: Datsun’s 1964, 1967 and 1969 Pickups

1970 Datsun 510 (Bluebird/1600)

The Revolutionary 1971 Datsun 240Z

1976 Datsun 710 Wagon (Outtake)

1977 Datsun 810

1977 Datsun F-10: The Ugliest Car Ever?

1978 Datsun 310GX (Outtake)

1980 Datsun 210 Wagon (Sunny)

1984 Nissan 300 ZX Turbo

Nissan Pulsars (gen1 & gen2)

1986 Nissan Stanza Wagon (Prairie)

1989 Nissan Pao

1989 Nissan 240SX (S13) and Silvia/SX History

1990 Infiniti M30 Coupe (Outtake)

Infiniti Q45 gen1 & gen2 (Outtake)


1948 Dodge (Outtake)

1974 Dodge D-100 “Gypsy Wagon” Camper

Chrysler’s Deadly Sin #1: 1976 Plymouth Volare And Dodge Aspen

1976 Dodge Royal Monaco Coupe

1978 Dodge Omni (and Plymouth Horizon): Detroit Finally Builds A Proper Small Car

1981 Dodge Challenger

1982 Dodge Rampage mini-pickup

1983 Dodge Aries (The Original K-Car)

1984 Dodge Caravan

1985 Dodge Ram Van (Caravan C/V) (Outtake)

1986 Dodge Daytona

1986 Dodge 600ES Convertible


1972 Fiat 850


1950 Hot Rod Ford: A True Love Story

1956 Ford (UK) Consul II

1958 Ford Thunderbird

1959 Ford Courier Wagon

1961 Thunderbird Convertible – The American Dream Car

1962 Ford Fairlane

1964 Ford “Police Car”

1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Coupe (Outtake)

1965 Mustang six

1966 Galaxie 500 7-Litre

1971 Ford Galaxie 500

1971 Ford Pinto (1971 Small Car Virtual Comparison)

1973 Mustang Mach 1

1975 Mustang Cobra II-Ford’s Deadly Sin #1

1978 Ford Fiesta

1984 Ford Bronco II Eddie Bauer

1985 Ford EXP: Ford’s Ugly Little Sin

1986 Ford Tempo: A Deadly Sin? Mostly

1989 Ford Festiva – Shitbox Shootout Loser (Winner)

1995 Ford ZX2 With Lambo Doors (Outtake)

Ford Trucks

The Ultimate CC: 1956 Ford F-350 Still Hard At Work Six Days A Week

1960 Ford F-600 Truck Also Still Hard At Work

1963 Econoline Pickup

1965 Econoline SuperVan Camper

1984 Bronco II


1990 Geo Metro Convertible

GMC & GM Coach

1947 PD-3751 Greyhound Bus “Silversides” – The First Modern Diesel Bus

1956 GMC 300 Truck (Outtake)

1965 GMC Handi-Van

GMC TDH-4523 “New Look” Transit Bus


1983 Grumman KubVan


1963 Honda T360/T500 trucks (history)

1970 Honda 600

1973 Honda Civic – The Revolutionary Small Car

1976 Honda Accord: The Most Influential Modern Car In America

1980-1983 Civics – When Honda’s Mojo Was Working

1981 Honda Prelude

1985 Honda Civic CR-X (Outtake)


1988 Hyundai Excel – The Damn Near Deadly Sin


1963 International Scout 80

1964 International Travelette Pickup


1982 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel

1983 Isuzu Trooper II


1973 Jaguar XJ12

1975 Jaguar XJC V12 Coupe


1945 Willys Jeep MB

Jeep Gladiator pickups

1987 Wagoneer (XJ) Outtake


1973 Jensen-Healey


gen1 Kia Sportage shorty (Outtake)


1989 Laforza 5 Liter (Outtake)


An Illustrated History of Lincoln Up To 1961

1946 Lincoln Continental Coupe

1965 Lincoln Continental

1968 Lincoln Continental (Outtake)

1970 Lincoln Continental Coupe

1973 Continental Mark IV

1977 Lincoln Town Car

1977  Lincoln Versailles

1985 Lincoln Town Car

1986  Lincoln Continental

1989 Lincoln Mark VII

Lincoln Mark VIII

Lincoln Mark VIII (Outtake)


Mack B77 (Outtake)


1983 Mazda RX-7

2000 Mazda 626 (Outtakeke)


1965 Mercedes 220S (W111)

1966 Mercedes 250S (W108)

1977 Mecedes 24oD (W123)

Mercedes 207D and other older Mercedes Vans/Small Buses


1960 Comet

1968 Cougar – Mercury’s Greatest (only) Hit

1970 Marauder X-100

1970 Mercury Montego Coupe (Outtake)

1978 Mercury Grand Marquis Brougham

Steam Injected 1978 Mercury Bobcat

Ford’s Sin of Name Debasement: 1981 Mercury Cougar

Military Vehicles (no brand name)

M37 Military Truck (Outtake)


1986 Mitsubishi Cordia

1987 Mitsubishi VanUp

1987 Mitsubishi Precis (Outtake)

1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse


1951 Oldsmobile Super 88

1959 Oldsmobile Super 88

1963 Olds Dynamic 88 Convertible

1968 Oldsmobile 442

1985 Olds Toronado


1971 Opel Manta (Outtake)

1974 Opel Manta


1946 Packard Clipper Super

1951 Packard 200


Panhard Dyna Junior X-87 Roadster


1936 Plymouth

1951 Plymouth Cranbrook

1958 Plymouth Savoy

1965 Plymouth Valiant Wagon: The Ultimate A-Body – Daily Long-Distance Driver

1966 Plymouth Barracuda

1970 Plymouth Duster 340

1972 Plymouth Fury Suburban

1971 Simca 1204 (no original pictures) (1971 Small Car Comparison)

1978 Plymouth Horizon: Detroit Finally Builds A Proper Small Car

1983 Plymouth Colt & 198o Champ


1963 Tempest LeMans: Pontiac Tries To Build A BMW Before BMW Built Theirs And Almost Succeeds

1963 Pontiac Catalina: The Sexiest Big Car Of Its Time

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix

1965 Pontiac Le Mans Coupe

1971 Pontiac Ventura II: GM’s Deadly Sin #3

1976 Pontiac Firebird (Outtake)

1979 Firebird Trans Am

1984 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham: GM’s Deadly Sin #8

Pontiac Transvertible and Trans Sport

1987 Sunbird GT: The Exciting Collectable Deadly Sin

1988 Pontiac Safari

1990 Le Mans (Daewoo) GM’s Deadly Sin #12


1958 Porsche 356A

1978 Porsche 928 (Outtake)

Porsche 944 (Outtake)


Renault R4

Renault R-17 (Outtake)


1968 Saab 96

1969 Saab 99

1970 Saab 95 Wagon


1991 Saturn SL2: GM’s Deadly Sin #4


1971 Simca 1204 (no original pictures) (1971 Small Car Comparison)


1961 Studebaker Lark VI

1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk


1977 Subaru Four Wheel Drive Wagon: The First Of Its Kind

1992 Subaru SVX

Subaru Legacy Wagon (Outtake)


1965 Sunbeam Tiger – The Other Cobra


1979 Suzuki Jimny (LJ80/SJ20) Pickup

Suzuki Samurai (Outtake)

Suzuki X-90 (Outtake)


1965 FJ40 Land Cruiser

1971 Toyota Corolla (1971 Small Car Comparison)

1974 Toyota Celica Coupe

1975 Toyota Hilux Pickup

1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback (editorial)

1980 Toyota Celica Supra Mk I

1983 Toyota Starlet: The Most Reliable Car Ever Built?

1984 Toyota Celica Supra Mk II

1984 Toyota Tercel Wagon

1985 Toyota Corolla EA86 GT-S

1986 Toyota Camry

1987 Toyota Supra Mk III

1990 Toyota Camry LE V6

2001 Toyota Prius

1993 Toyota T-100

gen1 Rav4 shorty (Outtake)

JDM Toyota Hi-Ace 4×4 Van


1966 (Vauxhall) Envoy Epic (guest writer)


1957 Volkswagen 1200

1960 VW Bus (Type 2) Westfalia

VW Beetle Shorty Pickup

1969 VW Type 3 1600 Fastback

1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle (Small Car Comparison)

1972 VW Super Beetle Cabriolet (Outtake)

1973 VW Type 181 “Thing”

1974 VW 412: Volkswagen’s Deadly Sin #1

1975 VW Rabbit/Golf Mk.I: The Most Influential Modern Global Car

1978 VW Dasher/Passat


1965 Volvo 122S

1968 Volvo 142 S


Ultra Van: Cross An Airplane With A Corvair For The Ultimate RV

1985 Winnebago LeSharo Turbo Diesel


The Curbside Classic Treasure Hunt: Skinner Butte District

The Curbside Classic Graveyard: May They Rust In Peace

The Official Curbside Classic Sales Lot: All $895 Or Less

Holiday Market: Eighty Parking Lot Curbside Classics

Wal Mart Concours


Art Car #1

Human Powered RV (Outtake)

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The Curbside Classics Of The Gaza Strip Fri, 16 Apr 2010 16:37:50 +0000

It’s a curious coincidence of history that the most anti-American parts of the globe are so dependent on old American cars. Havana is the classic example of this, and its still-rolling examples of classic American cars have become photographic icons, simultaneously representing both the failures of the communist government and the excesses of the preceding (but long-gone) American-backed regime. Another example of history written in the automotive landscape comes to us today from The BBC, which hosts a slideshow of cars from the Gaza Strip.

Mahfouz Caberetti is like any other classic car nut: he’s deeply proud of his still-running, classic Oldsmobile, and he gains intense satisfaction from wrestling with the wiring on his 1961 Mercedes. Unlike western car enthusiasts though, he must reckon with an Israeli blockade of Gaza, which prevents him from obtaining the spare parts he needs to keep his impressive collection of old iron running. And keeping these old cars running is more than just a hobby for Caberetti. Gazans young and old live under intense pressure and hopelessness, he says. Fixing old cars gives residents, especially teenagers, an escape from their 140 square-mile pressure cooker; it takes their minds off the constant stress of their situation. Though the travails of life in Gaza might be hard for American car nuts to fully understand, this escape into the simple pleasure of working on old machinery is a universal coping mechanism, crossing all lines of race, class and culture. And this rare point of common enthusiasm reveals our differences to be much smaller than we might otherwise imagine. In short, classic cars have succeeded in building cross-cultural bridges where 40 years of political negotiation have failed. That’s something every car nut should be extremely proud of. [Make sure to check out the slideshow, complete with commentary from Caberetti at The BBC's website, Hat Tip: reader Ron Lason]

Curbside Classic: Gaza Strip Edition? (photos courtesy: AFP, AP, and Getty Images via The BBC) Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 17