I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a cool Corona: my very first car was a 1969 Toyota Corona sedan. A beige Corona sedan, which cost 50 bucks at the corner gas station and had a clattery pushrod four-banger at a time when my peers and I lusted after Detroit muscle cars with tunnel-rammed V8s with Centerline wheels. This was pretty much the uncoolest car possible for a 16-year-old to drive in the East Bay in 1982.
So what’s the 2015 equivalent to that hooptiefied, unidentifiable, squat little Japanese sedan? (Read More…)
It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader! (Read More…)
I’ve lived in urban areas for most of my life. When you do that, your street-parked vehicles will get hit. You walk up to the car and the fender is mashed in or the bumper is bent… and there’s no note left by the perpetrator. In my experience — and I’d say that in my 34 years of driving, I’ve had parked cars hit and damaged enough to notice (some of my cars hid damage very well) at least 25 times. Not once has anyone ever left a note taking responsibility for the damage. I hear that this note-leaving phenomenon has been known to happen, but such a thing falls into the urban-legend category for me. How about you? (Read More…)
During April, the management of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver allowed me to select and introduce four car movies, and the final one was the 1971 road-trip classic, Two-Lane Blacktop. In the bar before the film rolled (and during my introduction in the theater, and in the parking lot afterward), a debate raged, triggered by a question I’d dropped: What are the 2015 equivalents to the full-race 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door and brand-new 1970 Pontiac GTO that starred in the film?
It’s likely that most of us don’t remember the first time we ever rode in a motor vehicle— in most cases, that would be the ride home from the hospital after being born— but I’ll bet that most can figure out what that car, truck, motorcycle, or Comfortractor was. In my case, the first car I remember was my dad’s ’67 Ford Custom 500 sedan, but I happen to know that my first car ride was on icy Minneapolis streets in January of 1966, and that the car was a 1956 Oldsmobile 88. How about your first road trip? (Read More…)
Last weekend, while I was helping to run the seventh annual 24 Hours of LeMons Fall South race, I got into a debate with LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm over which team should get the accomplished-the-most-with-the-worst-car trophy, the Index of Effluency. The 1982 Renault Fuego Turbo of Interceptor Motorsports, which made its debut at that race, managed to turn 19 laps during two days of racing (the winner did 377 laps) and finished 105th out of 110 entries. My opinion was that the Fuego Turbo was the worst car sold in the United States in 1982 and thus Interceptor Motorsports deserved Index of Effluency recognition for their achievement, but the Chief Perp felt that plenty of Detroit-built cars from the Malaise Era were even worse. In the end, we gave the prize to a 1979 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (which finished in P73), but I still think that you’d be hard-pressed to find any 1982 model-year car that approaches the Renault Fuego Turbo for across-the-board terribleness. (Read More…)
As we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris Oxford MO. Whether it’s a Type 1 Beetle-beating 66 years or just a merely staggering 60 years, the passing of the Amby means that the acrimonious debate must begin: which current car has been in continuous production, in more or less the same form, for the most years? (Read More…)
One of the things I miss most about living in the San Francisco Bay Area— OK, maybe the thing I miss the most— is the proper Mission-style burrito. Here in Denver, the Midwestern-influenced salty/bland flavors, brown rice, and incorrect shape of the Chipotle-style burrito dominates, and so whenever I head back to Northern California to shoot some junkyard cars, I try to hit the taqueria that got me hooked on Mission-style Burritos in the first place: Ramiro & Sons Taqueria in my hometown of Alameda, California. Inside this place (whose burritos, good as they are, don’t quite measure up to what you’ll get in the actual Mission District about five miles due east and on the other side of the Bay; this place is my personal favorite), you’ll find a painting on the wall that’s been hanging there since 1984, and that painting depicts a yellow two-door hardtop of some sort parked in front. For 30 years now, I’ve puzzled over that painting, trying to figure out what kind of car I’m seeing. (Read More…)
As I gather parts for my 1941 Plymouth sedan road-racer project, I’ve also been slogging my way through the bureaucratic obstacle course that is registering a title-less car that spent 45 years sitting in a Colorado high desert field. I’ve lived in three states during my car-owning years: California, Georgia, and Colorado. Each is what I call a Front License Plate State (FLPS), meaning car-registration procedures are less informal than what you get in states that issue only rear license plates, and so my car-registering experience features many episodes that might have been scripted by this guy. In a FLPS, you will find yourself shunted down numerous tail-chasing infinite loops when attempting to, say, get license plates for a ’58 DKW on a ’70 Ford Courier frame that you bought from a mysterious out-of-state guy who then became the Antarctic Consul for Lesotho. My search for a ’41 Plymouth title has (so far) involved a title search, a lien search, a certified VIN verification (not to be confused with a regular VIN verification; the certified type may be performed only at the office of one of four authorized police departments in Colorado), an appraisal by a registered Colorado car dealer, a surety bond for twice the appraised value, and a dozen lengthy trips to my local DMV… and, compared to some of my California experiences, this is easy. How about you? (Read More…)
In my role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, prospective racers often ask me questions that go something like: “I have a (car type known to be fast and/or expensive) that I got for (credulity-strainingly cheap price) and I would like to race it in LeMons without getting hit with penalty laps. How can I do this?” In most cases, the car will turn out to be a BMW M3, Acura Integra GS-R, or C4 Corvette, and I tell the questioner to seek another type of car. Still, you can get genuinely horrible C4 Corvettes for LeMons-grade money, provided you sell off some trim parts and so on, and that’s just what happened with this bunch. No problem, I said, just drop in an engine that will anger the Corvette Jihad and all will be well (it helps that the Chief Perpetrator of LeMons racing was the owner and editor-in-chief of Corvette Magazine for years, and he can’t stand the Corvette Jihad). I suggested the Toyota 1UZ V8, as found in Lexus LS400s and SC400s, but perhaps there’s an engine that would raise the blood pressure of Corvette fanatics even higher. What engine would that be? (Read More…)
Back when I was looking for a cheap suspension-donor Lexus SC400, I had a couple of friends tell me to be careful when I went to go look at clapped-out Americanized Soarers with three-digit price tags: “All worn-out SC400s, in fact all worn-out Lexuses, are owned by murderers! You’ll see!” As it turned out, none of the cars I looked at had trunks full of quicklime, shovels, and duct tape… but that got me to thinking about the “murderer car” thing. Which car available today has the image of being owned by the scariest, manslaughteringest individuals? My answer, which I know to be the correct one, may be seen after the jump. (Read More…)
We won’t get into the politics of emission-control laws here, except to observe that you’re either a Marx-quoting, global-warming-duped, vegan one-worlder who wants to crush personal initiative beneath tons of bureaucracy and force everyone to ride an electric bus to their groat rations at the communal kitchen… or you’re an Ayn-quoting, gun-fondling, toxic-waste-spreading wingnut who cackles with glee at the mental image of inner-city children shriveling like salt-soaked slugs beneath tons of lead, oxides of nitrogen, and unburned hydrocarbons. Now that you’ve all chosen sides, imagine that every official in every level of every government in the world waved their magic legislative pens and put the kibosh on all emissions-related regulations concerning motor vehicles. Would you go clean, dirty, or in-between with your next vehicle purchase? (Read More…)
In recent years, there was no way any car customizer in the world was going to come close to the absurd lengths that practitioners of Bōsōzoku Style in Japan went to when modifying their vehicles. Six exhaust pipes sticking ten feet straight up out of a slammed Corona with an octo-wing? Not enough! That’s a shame for patriotic Americans, because we once ruled the world when it came to brain-scrambling, utterly senseless customized vehicles. But wait! The love of 84s and old-timey lowrider-style kandy paint in Houston has led to a renaissance, and the SLAB (Slow, Loud, And Bangin’) may be knocking the Bōsōzoku Style machines off their pedestal. (Read More…)
Since my brain threw a code and made me buy the 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe Junkyard Find yesterday, I need to choose a suitable modern engine and transmission combo for the thing. I’ve hired a rocket scientist and weirdo hot-rodder (the lunatic who built the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-engined Renault 4CV) to execute a chassis modernization program on the old Mopar, and I need to make my drivetrain choice ASAP. Suggestions? (Read More…)
After my tirade about big fat luxury cars in the 24 Hours of LeMons, I got to thinking about all the once-boring luxury machines I’ve seen with brutal slam jobs. In so many cases— yes, even with a vintage Audi 100— dropping the Chairman of the Board’s luxury ride about a foot works wonders for its appearance. (Read More…)