Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Almost the Heartbeat of America

ALMOST THE HEARTBEAT OF AMERICA
I was walking around some area of Brooklyn that looks like the pics below (Dyker Heights? Bensonhurst? My own beloved Bay Ridge?) when this '80s Bro-mobile presented itself:
Yeah Bro!
This is a 1983-1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in White.
I know this car well because I went to high school in Carmel, New York from the late '80s through the early '90s. The Monte Carlo was ubiquitous with the gold-chain-over-your-black-sweater crowd. 
The Super Sport got this nifty aerodynamic front that incorporated the bumper and grill/headlight surrounds as one piece. The standard Monte had a chrome bumper below a stand-up grill and headlights set flush into the facade as opposed to these inset ones.
This shape is familiar to anyone who drove a Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, or Monte Carlo from 1978-1988. This is the G-Body platform (though from '78-'82 they referred to it as the A-Body even though it is the same). The G-Body cars were some of the final front engine, rear wheel drive domestic rides produced en masse. Sure the Taxi & Police stalwarts like the Crown Vic, Caprice, and luxury 4 door sleds from Buick & Cadillac continued through the '90s, but the nameplates that used the G-Body all went front wheel drive after '88.
The Chevy Bow Tie emblem sitting above the trunk lock is nicely understated. Our feature Monte was built moments before the Heartbeat of America ad campaign came out (which ran from '86-'93). While I couldn't locate a commercial for this exact car I did find a vintage Motor Trend review that surprisingly extolls the high performance capabilities of the '83 SS! Never mind that a basic Honda can outperform everything but the top speed these days. *Bonus campy faux moonshiner acting really makes it a groaner to watch.
That little spoiler/wing didn't do much but it was standard with the SS. Dual exhaust was also a part of the SS option package, as was a special "race-blue" interior (according to their brochure).
Since I'm featuring a car for sale I figure I ought to include the number in case a Monte Carlo fan is looking for a clean '80s SS. Those 6x9 speakers on the back deck could only be made more period correct if there was a Bazooka tube in the trunk hooked up to an Alpine deck.
For a while in the early '80s you could get bizarre combinations in your Monte Carlo. Diesel engines were available from '78-'84 (there were only 168 diesel Montes built in that final year!). Both 3 and 4 speed manual transmissions were optional from '78-'80. The Buick turbocharged V6 was a rare option in '80 which actually became a 1 year only model in '81 called the Monte Carlo Turbo. The famous Buick Grand National was essentially a G-Body Regal with that turbo motor and it was briefly the fastest American production car available, even beating out the Corvette!
From the side this thing looks capable and mean with its aerodynamic front and rear spoilers. This body style was very effective in Nascar during the late '70s. To try and retake some checkered flags in in 1987 they introducing the Monte Carlo Aerocoupe. The main difference between the regular and the Aerocoupe was that the back window was angled from the roofline to the rear of the trunk for greater aerodynamics. It is rare today (the Pontiac version was called the 2+2 and is even rarer).
Well that's that for this G-Body ride. My very first car was an '83 Cutlass Supreme Brougham that looked just like this (except for my sweet burgundy landau roof). When I was in my teenage years and people around me were getting their licenses these were some of the most common cars around. If I had a parking space I would consider another as a daily driver. If you like to work on your car this is the last gasp for old-school technology so they're easy and simple. If you do pick one up do yourself a favor and acquire some Z Cavaricci gear so you can come correct!  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Freak show in the Rockaways

FREAK SHOW IN THE ROCKAWAYS
I was making my way to the beach at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways on a brutally hot day when I happened upon a minuscule car show!
It was a motley lineup to be sure. I only snapped a few pics due to it being a humid 92+ degrees and the beach a few hundred yards away.
On the end of this brace of classics we have a 1961 Chevrolet Impala Bubble Coupe in Twilight Turquoise.
One step closer is a 1958 Ford Ranchero* done up in the sort of Kool Kustom So Cal Hot Rod pinstriping action that made Von Dutch famous. The mini whitewalls and vintage mag rims are a nice touch too.
*The El Camino is by far the most famous car/truck combo but the Ranchero actually beat it to the marketplace by 2 years. Hudson had a truck with the front of a sedan back in the late '30s-'40s but it had a separate bed unlike the integrated Ford & Chevy.
And then there's THIS!
I'm guessing this is a 1928-1931 Ford Model A Club Wagon Woody with a homemade replacement body from the cab back. In addition they mounted the headlights onto what seems to be correct fenders (the headlights would be mounted on a metal bar spanning the space between the fenders in front of the radiator). 
Now that I'm really looking at it it also seems to be widened so perhaps it's all mounted on a more modern chassis? Who knows? I like it in its weird half-finished look. The running boards are just too wide as are the rear fenders for it to be from the era of the front clip. Yes those are tiki torches mounted to the rear corners folks! Fire up some Martin Denny and bug out!
I wanted to drive this rig away with the hat I'd borrowed.
On the other side we have a 1950 Ford Tudor Bullet Nose that calls itself The Jade Grenade. I've always like the center bullet on the grills of the '49 and '50 Fords. The Tudor literally stands for two door (there was a Fordor too). For whatever reason they have rear quarter windows that make them look like 4 door sedans. The next car is much more interesting as far as I'm concerned:
This ferocious beast is a 1970 Buick Electra 225 convertible in rattle can Black. The chrome front bumper is either a primed replacement or the owner just wanted less brightness in the world.
The black front seats and chili pepper hanging from the mirror let everyone know that this ride is no longer the plaything of the gentry, but rather a rough and tumble beach cruiser hell bent on ruining reputations. I would love to fire up the mighty 455 that lies under the hood of this tank and roll through the city at night.
Well there we have it; a slapdash gathering of classics in a hot beach parking lot. Maybe if this was a blog named something like "honoring the timeless classics" (The tag line of Dennis Gage in My Classic Car) I'd feature some of those flashier paint jobs you might've noticed in the lineup. However this is NYCHoopties people so the tattered, battered, duct tape adorned, and spray painted get preferential treatment here. Hope you enjoyed this interlude, now get to the beach stat!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lipstick on a Pig, or one of the hardest naturally occurring minerals

LIPSTICK ON A PIG
The more common the car the easier it is for it to go extinct before anybody notices. Think of the Passenger Pigeon being hunted to oblivion without any public outrage. Here's the final pigeon:
This is a 1992 Mercury Topaz in Cayman Blue Poly. I took these pictures because I was surprised to see one at all in 2017.
The Topaz is the twin sibling to the Ford Tempo. Both were built from 1984-1994 and picked up where the Fairmont and Zephyr left off. This is one baby step above the basic transportation of the Escort/Lynx. The full width front light bar is much like that of the larger Sable so you have to give it up for design continuity across different models.
YAWN.
This is a GS; the commonest Topaz. It is the mid-tier trim level with nothing remarkable about it. There were a few interesting variations including the GL-AWD which was all wheel drive, and the XR5 and LTS; both high performance versions with the former being a coupe and the latter a sedan.
This ride is similar to several smaller cars built around the same time that weren't quite as popular. The Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance look very much like the Topaz even though they come from a competing company.
The Ford Taurus is widely regarded as being a watershed, game changing design. It heralded the arrival of a bulbous, rounded shape in which the windows and doors were integrated seamlessly for a slippery drag coefficient. The Tempo/Topaz line shares many of those traits and is a transitional shape from the boxes of the '80s to the bubbles of the '90s.
I was feeling a bit too exposed to really press up against the glass but suffice it to say you're not missing much. 2 things are on display in this pic that are very much of the era; stereo and cruise control buttons being located on the steering wheel, and that automatic track-mounted shoulder belt. Anyone who's experienced the shoulder belt automatically trundling back until it pinches your neck hates it. Thankfully they disappeared when airbags were deemed standard equipment, but they reigned in some regard from 1975-1987, and on all new cars from 1990-1995.
Topaz the gemstone is one of the hardest naturally occurring minerals. The Topaz has a MOHS hardness of 8!
Oh yeah this little punk has been around. I was happy to see at least a little tape repair to liven things up. Being on the passengers front corner I'm gonna go ahead and blame the driver 100% for this one. Taking a corner a bit wide or not quite noticing how close the parked cars are can do this easily.
Well there you have it; an utterly forgotten luxury version of a car that might as well be called BASIC TRANSPORTATION.
Mercury as a brand is no longer with us in 2017, which is kind of a shame. From its beginnings before WWII through the 1970s Mercury built so many amazing cars. They were always a luxury offshoot of Ford but they even managed some unique and awesome muscle cars with the Cougar and Cyclone. By the time this little Topaz was sold new Mercury was relegated to only producing cars identical to Ford but with slightly better trim. Their last big hit was the Grand Marquis but the demographic buying them grew older and died off (if that sounds harsh I assure you that their own internal research found that this is how it went down!). In the very end a gussied-up Ford Explorer called the Mountaineer was the first called to the chopping block. Within a year all other Mercury products followed suit, bringing the 72 year old nameplate to a finish in 2011.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHA!!! YES!

THE COOLEST VEHICLE IN THE WORLD?
I was walking along ha ha hahaha never mind LOOK AT THIS VAN!
This is a 1988 Ford Econoline conversion van in what is probably Twilight Blue. It is sprinkled throughout with aftermarket doo dads like this air horns above the drivers seat.
A "HONK IF YOU'RE HORNY!" sticker is sitting on the dash because why not? You see these red windshield wiper arms and you know they mean business.
Look I know the deal; you grow up but still in the back of your mind you want a full size Hot Wheels car to drive around. No shame in that!
As this was parked facing down a hill it was hard to show just how jacked up this thing is in the rear. The front wheel is close to stock but this rear tire is absurd. Besides Big Daddy Roth style cool points  you get absolutely nothing from raising up the rear of your ride. If you had a high horsepower drag racer it might help keep the front wheels on the ground but this slab isn't pulling wheelies anytime soon. Shout-out to the mud splatters behind the wheels though!
There are so many different companies and sub contractors that carry out these conversions that I wasn't able to find out which one this is. Usually they have some goofy graphic wording on them but this one has had all identifiers removed during its enhancement. 
Aww yeah baby! Iridescent trim fills out this once boring cove along the sides.
The interior is appropriately obscured through a combination of tint and curtains.
It wasn't until I took this shot that I noticed the front and rear rims are actually the same. It looks to me like they bought those massive rear tires and had them installed, with the wheels getting a polish in the process.
That single step under the door is another example of the owner sitting around with a catalogue just looking for trinkets to spend on.
I love Ford Econoline vans from the '80s and have owned 2 myself. Here they are in order:
This is a 1989 E-150 that had been a Southern New England Telephone van before I bought it. It had the ultimate combination as far as I was concerned; a straight-6 cylinder mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. The stick shift was like 3 feet tall coming up from the floor to armrest height. I painted the stripes and the grill before moving with it to California with it. Even filled to the brim it got over 20mpg on average. I wish I had it now! Sold it to some brat for Burning Man.
 This is a 1988 Club Wagon XLT that I bought to move back from Cali with 10 years ago. This ride had a V8 and automatic with overdrive. The bigger engine drank a lot of gas and the overdrive blew before I left the state causing me to drive cross country at about 55mph max. It did have a full compliment of swivel chairs and a bench that folded into a bed in the back, as well as power windows. I liked it fine but preferred that white 6 cylinder.
On display here is a genius aftermarket addition that I wish I had on my vans; a sun, wind, and rain shield that allows for the windows to be open during all weather. The door glass goes so high up that it's impossible to crack the windows in the rain without getting soaked.
I like the top on this beast as it has a couple of skylights.
Well that's where I'll leave this slab to terrorize the tender cutlets of Park Slope.
When I moved back to NYC in the Club Wagon it was mid 2007 and gas prices started shooting through the roof. I has the most difficult time selling it even with a rebuilt engine and zero rust, finally unloading it for $850 (I paid $2,000 for it just a few months earlier). For the 6 months or so I had it I was parking on the street in the Lower East Side. If you think you have parking woes just try to parallel park a 20 foot long monster in one of the densest parts of the city! Given the space I would definitely own one of these again though as they are simple and fun to operate.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The perfect blend of luxury and crushing brutality

THE PERFECT BLEND OF LUXURY AND CRUSHING BRUTALITY
I was gazing out the front window of my shop when this improbable vision presented itself:
Yowza! This is a 1971 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 GSX 455 in Apollo White with a Red stripe. The name is a mouthful but suffice it to say that each major option added another title to this ride. 
Basically this is a Buick Skylark body (the sibling to the Chevelle, LeMans/GTO, and Cutlass/442). If you really wanted brute power you upgraded to the Gran Sport which came standard in '71 with a 455V8. If somehow that wasn't enough and you were trying for the Most Powerful Muscle Car on the Road you had to throw an astonishing $1,100 on top of the Gran Sport option for the GSX Stage 1 Performance and Handling package. Very few were built and fewer remain but get this: the '71 GSX outperformed the HemiCuda! Blasphemy they say!
That's right. The whopping 360 horsepower and 510 lbs of torque this setup produced helped the GSX outperform both the 454 from Chevy and the mighty 426 Hemi. The 455 block weighed approximately 150 lbs less than the Hemi which made a huge difference. In fact the GSX held the record for highest torque rating of any American performance car for 33 years until the V10 Viper came along. 
Keep in mind that this is a Buick; second only to Cadillac in the GM hierarchy. Unlike the miserly list of delete options the Mopar Hemis sometimes required you could get your Buick fully outfitted in creature comforts. You'll never see a GSX with a factory delete rear seat or heater, and the body parts are all regular steel.
I barked out to this guy "is that a '71 Stage 1?" and he yelled back "yup, with the 455!". Then he proceeded to light up the tires for me as much as he could in heavy traffic.
I love the idea of a Buick walking into the final round at the muscle car table only to drop a royal flush and walk away the victor. The value is plenty strong with auction prices for these getting close to $200,000 for numbers matching examples. However it is still a Buick so fit and finish were excellent and the non-performance parts are widely available. This is the perfect example of a car that can be eviscerated with rust but still worth your while to restore as long as the drivetrain, vin number, and build plate are intact. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Most Famous Car Chase Car of all Time

THE GENTLEST BRUTE
These pics are hot off the press! I stumbled out of my house this morning to grab some coffee beans and look what was waiting for me just a block away:
YEEEEEE-HAAAAAAAAAWW!!!!
Yes indeed this is a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T in Yellow. This car in this color is this is the most punk rock thing I've seen in a long time. Picture this: It's 1968 and you want a muscle car. Not only that, but you want a car so brutally powerful and dialed in that it can compete in Nascar or on the drag strip the moment you leave the dealership. And then you find yourself taken with that gentle sunny yellow color more commonly seen on Darts and station wagons! Since I have a special place in my heart for odd colors and/or tough guy rides that go against type I LOVE this ride.
At first glance you might think this is the exact car that the General Lee started out as. It's very close; that one was a 1969 with a central vertical bar dividing the grill. This one has its power headlights in the open position but when they're closed it's just one menacing expanse of black.
*Big shout-out to the turn signal repair. The original lenses have been replaced with completely generic hardware store lights that probably cost $5 for the pair. Keep in mind that there are 4 '68 R/Ts on eBay right now and they're all in the $80,000-$95,000 range (this is excluding a $300,000 custom show car).
The R/T stands for Road/Track and was the high performance model of the Charger. A set of Bumble Bee Stripes wrapped around the trunk in either Red, White, or Black on the R/T. It seems the original owner preferred to skip the stripes (they could be deleted at no cost). 
The base engine for the R/T was the 7.2 liter 440 Magnum V8 rated at 375 horsepower! Officially the top speed was 136 mph but many owners reported speeds of 150mph in stock form. The only engine more powerful for this car when new was the 426 Hemi, itself a $605 option. Not many Hemis were built and fewer survive today.
Since it was behind the velvet ropes I didn't want to get too close so I can't tell what transmission this has. The steering wheel is aftermarket but so out of style at this point that I dig it. The small paint loss on the hood and rust creeping around the window trim makes me believe this might be original paint.
That symbol above the word Charger is known as the Fratzog. As far as I know there's no known origin of the name other than the fact that it was the '60s and they had to name it something.
Let's go ahead and get this over with: This is the exact year/make/model as the famous bad guy car in the movie Bullitt. Due to copyright laws they've uploaded it in 2 parts so here's the second half where they climb up into the hills above San Francisco. The cars reached speeds of over 110mph during filming! Supposedly the Charger was so much faster than the Mustang in real life that they had to keep letting off the gas to make it seem close.
In my opinion the car chase from the Seven Ups has the greatest finale and Bullitt is tied with the French Connection. Regardless the legendary stunt driver and actor Bill Hickman is driving in all three (though he's not shown in the French Connection).
That deep set rear window aped the GM versions seen on the Le Mans/GTO and Cutlass/442 the previous year. Those quad round taillights were replaced with a single wide unit on each side for 1969 (the year of the General Lee). Speaking of the General Lee, here's a compilation of every jump they ever did with their '69 Charger across 7 seasons and 2 movies! Terrible in many ways as somewhere between 256 and 321 cars didn't survive filming.
Well there we have it; one of the most famous and famously abused cars of all time. I, like many people my age, have loved this car since I was a kid. They were actually built in large numbers with something like 17,000 R/Ts out of 96,000 total Chargers built. These days they are very sought after in any condition and so there are really no cheap examples out there. A couple of times at car shows I've seen non-R/T Chargers that left the factory with the slant-6 cylinder engine under the hood! Those are unbelievably rare as most that did exist have had their engines replaced with big V8s.
Enjoy the lazy 4th weekend everybody!