The Truth About Cars » Kalamazoo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:14:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Kalamazoo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Astroghini Can Be Yours! For The Low, Low Price Of… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-astroghini-can-be-yours-for-the-low-low-price-of/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-astroghini-can-be-yours-for-the-low-low-price-of/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 14:29:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487569 It's an Astro, but it's also a Lamborghini! Picture courtesy the author.

We don’t call you guys the Best & Brightest for nothing.

When I talked about finding the Astroghini in Kalamazoo a few years ago, it never occurred to me that anyone would remember the van, or the story, for very long. But as it turns out, elephants have nothing on our readers… except, possibly, nose size.

Picture courtesy the author.

I can’t decide if $3400 is a screaming deal or the equivalent of paying $5000 for an early 928 that ran when parked. The Astro part beneath the ‘ghini part should be reasonably reliable, but the rest of it is likely to be a nightmare. Reality shows rarely bust their asses to make sure their one-episode star-cars are built to the late Henry Royce’s standards. I suppose the best thing you could say about it would be that Astroghini ownership would be a relatively cheap way to get attention, but the same can be said for streaking at a baseball game.

One thing remains to be said: Aaron Cowles, the guitar builder briefly profiled in the original story, is no longer well enough to work. In addition to the Heritage Spruce Eagle discussed in the article, I also had Mr. Cowles rebuild a carved-maple Heritage H-575 and replace the original mahogany neck with a three-piece flame-maple affair.

575. Picture courtesy the author.

Oh boy, look at those solar lights. I put those in for a party. I guess I wasn’t sober before the party, either. Anyway… we’re all praying for Aaron’s recovery, but no matter what happens, the peerless quality of his work will be apparent long after he, and I, are long gone. That’s the difference between a guitar rebuilt for a lifetime of use by a master of his craft and an Astro van rebodied in a hurry for a television show by a bunch of people who couldn’t care less. The difference between craft and junk.

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Save This 1969 Checker Aerobus From Getting Made Into Chinese Washing Machines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/save-this-1969-checker-aerobus-from-getting-made-into-chinese-washing-machines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/save-this-1969-checker-aerobus-from-getting-made-into-chinese-washing-machines/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2013 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477926

I like unusual cars. I’ll walk right past a half dozen ’57 Chevys and ’69 Camaros to see a single 1961 Rambler American. The Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti is penciled in as an annual stop for me. From that info you can probably figure out that I dig Checker cars. If a Checker is unusual, then a Checker Aerobus is unusual squared . The Aerobus, as the name implies, was typically used as an *airport shuttle and came in seven and nine door wagon body styles (and 8 door sedans in 1976-77). Essentially it was an A8 Checker (taxis were A8s, retail models were Marathons) with a special double reinforced long wheelbase frame and extra doors. When I saw that one was listed locally on Craigslist, I had to check it out, or at least make a preliminary phone call.

Apparently it’s most recent use was as a promotional vehicle / billboard for an establishment named “Checkers” and the Aerobus is skinned in a checkerboard pattern. With no working drivetrain, it’s being offered as an $800 “parts car”. Of course one person’s parts car is another person’s restoration candidate.

The ad said that the interior was good, and I figured that if the body was anywhere near sound, at a near 24 Hrs of LeMons claiming price, it might be worth getting on the road, or at least salvaging as an artifact. Since Checker used an assortment of Chrysler, Continental and Chevrolet engines over the 3 decades that they made the A8/Marathon, a small block Chevy and Turbo Hydramatic drivetrain would be a relatively inexpensive no-brainer.

So I called the number listed in the Craigs ad. I asked him one question, “how bad is the rust?” His answer was kind of scary. Apparently the door frames are rusted out. He didn’t say just how badly, but I got the impression that some of the many, many doors might fall off if they were unlatched. Still, in the photos in the ad the doors seem to be sitting more or less straight. How bad could it be? Surely it could be shored up with some creative welding.

Even if this Aerobus really is beyond repair, I’m hoping that some Checker enthusiast will see this post and buy the car as an actual parts car. I doubt Checker spent the money on unique doors for the Aerobus and I’m sure that those doors and  many of the other parts will indeed fit one of the shorter wheelbase Checkers. They belong on another Checker, not as part of another Chinese made appliance.

If you are interested in saving this historic artifact, and potentially beyond way cool cruisemobile, a word of caution about price. I first spotted the car when it was $900 and in talking with the seller about how firm his price is, it’s clear that any potential buyer would be competing with the price of scrap steel. The remark about Chinese appliances was no joke. A 9 door Aerobus wagon has a curb weight of over 5,300 lbs. At $250/ton for scrap steel, do the math.

Murilee’s Junkyard Finds often elicit “someone should save that car” comments. While Murilee has a fine eye for cool cars, many of those ‘restoration candidates’ are nowhere near as rare, or register anywhere near the coolness factor that any Checker has today, let alone a 9 door gazillion passenger Checker station wagon. Think of it. Enough room for the band, the roadies and a couple of groupies, plus cargo room for the amps. Though 1969 was the Aerobus’ highest production year, Checker still only made 436 of them that year, out of about 3,300 Aerobus wagons that were made in Checker’s Kalamazoo factory from 1962 to 1974. That’s not as rare as other notable depot hacks, the 1959 Cadillac Broadmoor Skyview station wagon, or the Miller-Meteor Oldsmobile Toronado based Jetway 707,  but it’s still uncommon. How many other cars have D pillars, let alone Es and Fs too? Checkers have an active enthusiast community and how can you not love a car that makes people smile? Save this Aerobus!

*Brochures touted the Aerobus as “for businesses, institutions, resorts, service firms, schools… even big families!”

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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