By on August 21, 2017

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Detroit in August. Hot streets, hot cars, and no shortage of gawkers lining the sides of Woodward Avenue during the annual Dream Cruise.

All that iron. All that muscle. Wall to wall desirability. Well, not quite. The Dream Cruise remains an inclusive event, meaning every proud owner of something he or she feels is unique and exciting and rare has a chance to let it all hang out.

What follows is our picks of the rear guard. The oddballs. The head-scratchers. The secretly-desirable-but-we-don’t-want-to-admit-it vehicles. Oh, and there’s an extra-special Oldsmobile surprise at the end.

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As you can see from the top photo, this erudite-looking Isuzu VehiCROSS owner wasn’t too happy to see our photographer. That’s okay — it was just nice to have a second setting sun join the one already casting a late-day glow on the onlookers.

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Who doesn’t spend most of their day talking about the late-1980s Suzuki Alto Works RSX? Good luck finding someone who doesn’t.

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Did someone order safety and acrylic panels? This Bricklin SV-1 has both in spades, along with an AMC or Ford V8 and a (very) brief Canadian history.

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Not the most popular vehicle at the time, but given the surge in bland, four-door crossovers these days, don’t we all pine for a first-gen Isuzu Amigo? Especially one with teal lettering?

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There’s always room for Edsel, unless we’re talking about Ford Motor Company’s lineup in the late 1950s. The ’59s, arguably the prettiest to emerge during the 2.5 model years of Edsel production, included this Ranger two-door sedan.

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A solid early-80s Buick Electra limousine, popular with executives looking to appear budget-conscious (but who wouldn’t be caught dead in a K-car-based LeBaron limo).

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A rare drop-top example of Chrysler’s most famous and well-respected car, improved (if such a thing is possible) with the addition of purple paint.

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Front-drive sports cars, if indeed they’re deserving of that title, proliferated in the ’80s. Charging out of Chrysler Corp. during that heady decade was this Shelby-tuned, Omni-based Dodge Charger GLHS.

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As you can see, we’ve reached the reward section of this trip down oddball lane. Yes, that’s a 1978 Oldsmobile Starfire with the desirable Firenza package, which adds rallye suspension, a front air dam, rear spoiler, and flared wheel arches to the Monza-shaped fastback.

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Built from 1975 to 1980 in Quebec and Ohio, the Starfire shared its rear-drive underpinnings with the Pontiac Sunbird, Chevy’s aforementioned Monza, and the Buick Skyhawk. This example dispenses with the standard (85 horsepower) Iron Duke four-cylinder and optional 3.8-liter V6 in favor of a 5.0-liter V8, mated to a four-speed manual.

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In the lean late 1970s, this was as hot as the domestic compact class got — at General Motors, anyway. Competing with the GM compacts was Ford’s Mustang II, available in 5.0-liter V8-powered Mach I guise.

This owner certainly did an admirable job maintaining his Starfire — a task made all the more difficult by Detroit’s build quality and interior finishings, which weren’t exactly at their zenith during the Carter era. Take a good long look, as the owner apparently has no plans to sell this time capsule. Yes, our photographer inquired.

[Images: © Vincent Massimino, Adam Tonge]

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37 Comments on “Forget the Eclipse – Here’s the Other Woodward Dream Cruise Cars Deserving of a Little Love...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I don’t understand what Paddington Bear is doing in the backseat of the Sebring Convertible.

    “Built from 1975 to 1980 in Quebec and Ohio, the Starfire shared its front-drive underpinnings with the Pontiac Sunbird, Chevy’s aforementioned Monza, and Buick Skyhawk.”

    Pretty sure that’s a RWD vehicle.

    The HO Olds 307 from the mid 80s would be a nice swap.

    • 0 avatar

      OUCH!

      The underpinnings are from the Chevy VEGA.

      I owned a ’75 Monza 2+2 from 1982-85, with the 262 V8 and a Saginaw 4-speed.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I want to talk to your boss

    • 0 avatar
      Steph Willems

      Ahoy. Right you are. A mental slip brought us here; maybe I was still thinking of that Shelby while typing. The text of the story has been updated to reflect the very correct information that these poor-man’s Camaros are indeed rear-drive.

      As an aside, I have quite fond childhood memories of my dad’s ’79 Sunbird, red paint over white vinyl, with the 3.8/auto. That thing was no slouch with the 3.8. You never see these on the roads anymore, and the last place I actually saw one of these – a Monza – was in the unlikeliest locale: The Northwest Territories. I can’t imagine starting an Iron Duke-powered car at minus 45. I don’t want to.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I cannot believe that the matching carpeting on the top of the dashboard was a manufacturer’s option.

    Somebody has ‘gone too far’ with their interior customization attempts. Perhaps to hide a cracked dash?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, am I the only one who had a soft spot for the Monza/Starfire/Sunbird?

    Say what you want about it being junk, but it sure was a good looking car.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Please tell me there was a Lumina z34 there.

    Or a Mercury LN7

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I’ll do you one better; I saw a Lumina Z34 in dressed up as Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR.

      I took some of these pictures. My biggest issue was that I was working on Woodward most of Saturday. When I would see something cool, it was either too late to take a picture or I didn’t have time.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I actually have never been to the WDC. Wasn’t able to get to it back in its early days, and now that it’s become over-corporatized and taken to nonsensical extremes (seriously, does this justify shutting down the entire Woodward corridor for a bloody week +?) I don’t go on principle.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    That was great, I was more interested looking at the pics of these various derelicts and misfits than I would have been had you simply featured the “usual suspect” classics/muscle cars.

    The Bricklin is just fantastic, and the GLHS and Firenza must be about as rare as turtle fur these days!

    The other stuff is more mundane perhaps, but the fact that they can cruise along loud and proud with the perfectly restored 6-figure muscle is one of the greatest things about the event.

    • 0 avatar

      The Bricklin and DeLorean clubs get together for the Dream Cruise up on North Woodward, near the Mercedes Benz dealer.

      The GLHS isn’t really that rare. There is an active Shelby Dodge club.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Any of the “new” DeLoreans built by the company in New England with all the NOS bits (and maybe stampings, too), or are they all survivors? (Mr. Fusion a bonus! There’s one in Ohio with “88 MPH” vanity plates!)

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “Built from 1975 to 1980 in Quebec and Ohio, the Starfire shared its front-drive underpinnings with the Pontiac Sunbird, Chevy’s aforementioned Monza, and Buick Skyhawk. ”

    Nope, they were RWD. the H-bodies were descended from the Vega.

    front-wheel drive didn’t happen for the Sunbird and Skyhawk until the J-cars in the early ’80s, and the Monza name was dropped in favor of Cavalier for Chevy’s J car.

  • avatar

    Love me some Amigo. For some reason I search Craigslist frequently for one.
    The Charger is a nice find as well.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “A rare drop-top example of Chrysler’s most famous and well-respected car…”

    No. Sebring convertible is not rare. I still see them around. There was plenty of those in the hay day.

    What about yellow CRX? That’s an instant sunburn.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      The sarcasm wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was, hmmm.

      The Sebring, especially in rentavertible form, is possibly Chrysler’s more INfamous projects.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        They still running around, what’s the problem with it then?

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Anything will keep running so long as you keep fixing it. There is really no excuse for putting a 2.7L Chrysler product back on the road, but it happens.

          I do see quite a few of them for cheap with “needs [something big mechanically]”. They’re pure junk, just like most Chrysler products of the era. Head gaskets, electronics, engines, trans, you’ll spend a fortune keeping them going. I’ve seen cars that cheap that have a laundry list of other repairs where the owner had spent thousands in recent repairs only to have it take a $hit again. I know the feeling, my Chrysler Concorde did it to me. Oh, and these aren’t super high mileage. Many well under 200k miles, and all these examples have under 150k! Pathetic!

          123k, needs engine
          https://gulfport.craigslist.org/cto/d/for-sale-2005-chrysler-sebring/6242827370.html

          132k, needs engine.
          https://dothan.craigslist.org/cto/d/2006-chrysler-300/6233709806.html

          135k needs engine
          https://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/cto/d/06-chrysler-pacifica-towing/6248356455.html

          140k, needs engine
          https://atlanta.craigslist.org/sat/cto/d/2006-chrysler-300/6244833217.html

          Need I go on? No, they aren’t all Sebrings, but show exactly what I’m saying about the corporate products of that era.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have always been a secret admirer of the Amigo. One feature I just could not unsee was the lower cladding – looks like someone got mad at the car and gave it a fat lip.

    Deal-breaker for me.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    No wonder the Sopranos guy looks unhappy with the pic.
    That Isuzu is supposed to make him invisible….

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    I once knew an E-5 who re-enlisted and used his bonus as a down payment on an ’87 Shelby Charger (this in a time when slightly more reasonable meatheads were re-enlisting and buying 5.0’s). Washed and waxed on a weekly basis, he’d cruise up and down the B10 (Pirmasens-area, Germany), hitting the discos and looking to score w/easy locals. They would overlook his crap mobile, he would overlook their armpit hair. Gut times…

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Kinda reminds me of the mid 80s being over there where tons of young enlisted folks used their re-enlistment bonuses to attempt to take advantage of the very favorable DM to $$ exchange rate. They’d go out and buy nice, new (or slightly used) German metal…and then not be able to afford gas or insurance.

      Been on the B10…but I prefer a stretch of the A8 between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. Saw 154 MP/H indicated one time.

      As for Woodward, my FIL takes his final-year Firebird Firehawk out of the garage for the event. It’s really about the only time the car sees the light of day anymore. He bought it to eventually gift to my son one of these days, though I’m not 100% sure my son (26 years old now) really wants it. I drove it one time, as my FIL just couldn’t stop raving about it. Sure, it was quick, but I enjoyed driving my 2000 VW Golf more, and that says something.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    VehiCROSS- yes!

    Edsel- maybe.

    6 door Buick- yes.

    Starfire- meh, maybe.

    Rest- no thank you. There are other JDM cars I’d easily take over the ‘zuki, but I acknowledge that it is interesting.

    “Forget the Eclipse…”
    I have tried, both the later ugly boy-racer junky cars, and the current crossover.

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    I want that GLHS. I test drove one back in ’87 but couldn’t afford it at the time. I’ve had a carbureted Shelby Charger and it was a lot of fun. But that GLHS was genuinely fast, especially by ’80s standards. Seems like everything makes that much power or more now, 175hp in a four cylinder was a lot at the time.

  • avatar

    @71charger_fan: My brother had one along with an earlier Shelby. Got to drive his one time. I had an 84 Shelby Charger at the time and the clutch on the GLHS “felt” weird to me. My brother explained that it was a “turbo clutch” – I suspect meaning it worked differently in light of the car being turbocharged. I never investigated it further so I’ll never know unless one of the B&B cares to explain.

    I liked my 84 and his GLHS was nice, feeling comfortable. Not sure when he sold it as he took care of it like he was going to keep it a long time. I would still like to have one in brand new condition. It was a fun car to drive.

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