While watching the Mecum auto auctions recently, a beautiful Plymouth GTX came thru on the auction block. It got me thinking about the rash of brand-icide we’ve seen these past ten or so years. As they pass, others come in. (Read More…)
I have very little love for nostalgia because, to be frank, the auto auctions I visit every week are overflowing with it.
As the Rivethead, Ben Hamper, was fond of saying, “The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence until you start cutting that shit down.”
For me that fecal threshing consists of repairs, recon work, and getting a car from yesteryear in the hands of someone who loves it far more than yours truly.
But I do have one tender spot in my heart when it comes to true automotive works of art. Especially when they’re loaded with old school kitsch and delusional fantasies.
The Chinese Army was a great admirer of Benzes, so much that they built their own. Bamin State Automobile Works, or Bamin Automobile for short, was based in Minhou in Fujian Province. The company was owned by the Chinese army, it was also called the ‘PLA 7427 Works’. Bamin Automobile started business in the late 1980′s with a local licensed variant of the Beijing 212; the Bamin BM212A/BM213A. (Read More…)
Mother’s Day last weekend got me to thinking about the first car ride I ever took: a cruise home from the hospital in my parents’ 1956 Olds 88. Thing is, that car got destroyed by a combination of Minnesota rust and Minnesota deer a few months later and I don’t remember it. My first identifiable car memory involves crawling around on the slippery blue vinyl back seat (without benefit of baby seat or even seat belts) of my dad’s late-60s company car: a 1967 Ford Custom 500 sedan with three-on-the-floor and overdrive. What’s yours? (Read More…)
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.
The early 90s were tough times. Stock markets had crashed, real estate bubbles had popped, budgets were slashed. The fabled Daytona 24 hours endurance race survived (barely) with Rolex as a sponsor.
In 1992, the field was down to 49 cars, one of them a newcomer from Japan, Number 23, fielded by Nissan’s Nismo (Nissan Motorsports International) factory team. (Read More…)
Remember Sakura and Fuji, the two tiny Datsun 210s that went to “The World’s Cruelest Rally” and came home with a trophy? This story has a sequel.
In 1958, two Datsuns, named “Fujii” and “Sakura” entered the Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. Surprisingly, “Fuji” won its class title. “Sakura” finished fourth.
Half a century later, the cars were found in a warehouse in Japan. (Read More…)
Brethren, we are once again gathered together to mourn the passing of another automobile company. Saab was of that rare breed of car that always had a band of devoted, aye, fanatical followers. In her prime, Saab could not fail to ignite the after-burners of anyone with a predilection to genuine character, speed, innovation, intelligence, and even sexy good looks (at times). Not bad for a company that never once designed a clean-sheet new engine and borrowed more platforms than Heidi Klum. But when you’re small and from Sweden, resourcefulness is essential: Saab finagled an existence in this brutal industry far longer than might have been expected. But now she joins an august group of other fallen automotive heroes in Valhalla: Borgward, Panhard, Tatra, Kaiser, Glas, TVR, Jowett, etc…better that then whoring herself to another rich benefactor. But Saab’s story is worth retelling. (Read More…)
It was known as “The World’s Cruelest Rally:” The Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. In 1958, there were two entries, regarded as a joke by the burly Aussies: A pair of tiny Datsun 210s, named “Fuji” and “Sakura”.
The suicidal idea was had by marketing manager Yutaka Katayama. Aged 102 years, he is still alive to tell the story: (Read More…)
The LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA won’t be completed until June, but the NY Times reports that it aims to become on of the premiere automotive museums in the country, rivaling collections like the Peterson and Harrah museums. And at 165,000 square feet, the building that is rising in Tacoma needs to be huge: though “only” 750 vehicles will be exhibited at a time when the building is done, the LeMay collection is far larger than that. Although even curator David Madeira isn’t sure how many vehicles actually belong to the collection.
“I don’t know,” Mr. Madeira said recently in an interview at The Times, when asked how many vehicles were in the possession of Harold LeMay, the garbage-disposal magnate whose collection of American automobiles would comprise the majority of the museum’s holdings. Mr. LeMay, who died in 2000, was prone to buying a barn or even a field containing old automobiles just to prevent their contents from landing in a junkyard. “He was not a connoisseur; he was a true collector,” Mr. Madeira said.
Once holding at least 3,500 vehicles, the collection has been cut to “north of a thousand” aimed at representing the sweep of American automotive history. And those will be joined by vehicles from the collection of watchmaker Nicolai Bulgari in order to create an automotive museum that founders hope lives up to the name “America’s Car Museum.” Since it’s right up I-5 from me, I’ll be sure to report on the collection and whether it reaches that lofty goal when it opens to the public next Summer.