Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chevy goes for the gold!

The cold weather has settled in and you might be asking yourself why the trees seems so lush in these pics? I think I shot the following beasts in late Spring/early Summer. Pickings are getting slim out there these days!
First off, look at this munchy beater:
What we have here is a 1976 Chevrolet Concours in the original color Buckskin. The Nova was produced every year of the 1970s, but in '76 they renamed their higher-end luxury trim version Concours. The year before this one it was called the Nova LN. Both were meant to compete directly with the Ford Grenada (which was Ford's meager attempt to rip off Mercedes Benz styling of the day).
It might have been a well-born hoity toity chap in its day but recently Concours has been running its mouth and somebody obviously took exception. It looks like not only did it smash into something head-on, but it then tried to immediately reverse only to have the corner of the front bumper stuck to the wreckage. At one point there was a period-correct and utterly ridiculous square hood ornament on the front of that prow. I do love the surprised look on its face like a drunk who just lost a fight that they started. Unfortunately the signature feature of the Concours is mostly missing; it once sported a fancier, more heavily-chromed grill than the regular Nova. That top piece is all that remains.
Shame about the accident because this is otherwise a remarkably rust-free and straight old Chevy. The engine options for this model were the standard 250 6 Cylinder, the 305 V8 with 2 barrel carb, and the 350 V8 with a 4 barrel. You could still order a floor mounted stick shift with any of the engines but it's doubtful that a Concours would be outfitted as such. This was more of an aspirational faux-luxury car for the bank manager as opposed to the bank president.
From the back this is just another Nova with nothing to discern it as a Concours. Something about the well balanced proportions of this design made it work equally well as a 4 door and 2 door coupe. Even those massive '70s bumpers look justified on this beast.
From the back you can confirm the vintage as a '76 because there are only 2 taillight housings on either side of the car (assuming that you knew it was a Concours and not an LN). From '77 on there were 3.
That fat body side molding is listed as an option but probably came as part of a decor package. The chrome trim under the windshield, surrounding the wheel well, and along the rocker panel are all part of the Concours glitz. That front hubcap comes from an early '70s Chevy as the originals were probably lost in the collision. The rear hubcaps are correct for this ride.
Now on to something similar but much cooler:
What we have here is a 1970 Chevy Nova in Gobi Beige (though it looks gold to me!). This is the generation before the '76 and is noticeably trimmer and more athletic looking. It wasn't just looks either as this was the height of the muscle car craze and you could order this ride with a pretty souped-up 350 in it that was unencumbered by any of the emissions equipment that would strangle later models of their performance. This example is lacking any engine size emblem above the front side marker light though, so I'm assuming it's got the base 250 Straight 6 cylinder.
I love the looks of this car and this might be my favorite year out of all the Novas. The lines in the front are clean as a whistle with that plain grill and forward-leaning stance. The hubcaps are one of the many styles available that year. I would normally scoff at mud flaps on a car but whatever the owner's doing to keep this thing rust free is working so I'll shut up.
This ride is in perfect shape throughout! I see this car drive by my shop all the time. The owner has two that are identical and they both see tons of daily use. The other one has some now vintage Obama/Biden '08 bumper stickers on it.
It is extremely difficult to discern a '70 from a '69 Nova, but the surefire clue is on display here. The reverse lights were moved to the center of the taillight lenses for this year only. Another clue is that the front turn signals are ever-so-slightly larger than previous years, with the ones on this ride being more square than the rectangles of earlier years.
I dig the green interior color you can just glimpse in a few of these pics. There were 3 different green interiors (viva la '70s!) available so I'm not sure which it is.
This is the improbable scenery in which this beauty is driven and parked every day of the year, proving that it can be done if you're a dedicated owner. This is a warehouse block near the headwaters of the mighty Gowanus Canal just a block or 2 away from the projects.
Last but not least I'll leave this 3rd gold GM product I tried to snap as it rounded a corner; a mid-'80s Chevy Monte Carlo with a landau roof.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Show Car Sunday/Monday returns with an orphan!

In the past 5 years we've seen many of the great automotive marquees go the way of the dodo bird; Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth, and Saab all became victims of the Great Recession. Before this recent stretch you had to go back decades when referencing defunct nameplates. Studebaker started all the way back in 1853 making wagons, but went quietly into the night in 1967. Packard built cars from 1899 through 1958 (the year of a relatively small recession that was the straw that broke that camels back). Others like DeSoto and Edsel were simply divisions of existing brands that underperformed. Then there's this little beauty:
What we have here is a 1968 American Motors Corporation (AMC) Rambler American. Technically this is known in the car world as an orphan since its parent company is no longer. In reality the AMC nameplate was one of many small fish swallowed up by the mighty Chrysler Corporation. Before being consumed themselves AMC absorbed Hudson, Nash, and the Jeep line from Kaiser-Frasier. I realize this is yawn-inducing stuff so let's continue!
I love this space-age A logo. This car was built during the very heart of the space race so even though it's more utilitarian than flash it still gets a styling cue of the era. The year after this logo was the same shape but it was divided into red, white, and blue thirds as opposed to a letter A.
AMC was a true independent in the auto world that built their cars 350 miles away from Detroit in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The American was their compact introduced in '58, and was actually sold under the moniker of Rambler as opposed to AMC. When production ended in '69 so did the name of Rambler. 
This smart little ride was roosting up in Greenpoint looking very sharp and serious in its factory color choice Classic Black. Part of what makes it so sleek is that this is the lower trim level; the upmarket American 440 had a chrome spear along each side. 
How about those original hubcaps though? As someone who's been writing the name Rick all my life I totally approve of that sweet R. We can see some scuffs and small dents on the lower inside of the wheel well in this shot but the overall condition is remarkable. I mean, this car is 46 years old and parts are extremely hard to come by, so this ride gets Show Car designation from me.
Believe it or not that rectangular lens on the side of the car was bright red when new.
This sedan is the basic small box on a big box design, but subtle cues are there to be found. That concave rear panel between the taillights is mirrored by the body lines running from the bottom of the door glass to the back corners of the trunk. 
AMC made yearly changes to their cars regardless of budget which was a bold move for the last of the independent automakers. The easiest was to discern the vintage of a Rambler American is to scrutinize the grill and taillights. However, in the years leading up to this one the rear window was a wrap-around model, and there was a chrome emblem on the drivers side of the trunk that spelled American in script.
Seeing this ride parked on the street today is charming because it's so old and squared-off, but the thing that's most surprising is its scale. This car is about the same size as 4 door cars of today which means that it was downright tiny in 1968! This was a true compact car when new when there were few domestic cars even close to this size. To enhance the frugality even further the price was lowered to a mere $200 above the VW Beetle in '67 after an AMC exec noticed the price disparity between U.S. and foreign compacts. 
I just like these snazzy door handles with their concave elliptical pushbuttons. 
Nothing says "base trim level" like those frumpy seat covers. Even though it looks like taxi or school bus upholstery its probably either correct or darn close.
Rubber floor covering instead of a carpet! Those 2 aftermarket gauges mounted under the dash are a good idea, and suggest that the owner is probably on top of the engine situation. That engine is most likely an inline 6 cylinder much like the ones that powered Jeep for decades. When shopping around for old cars I like to see signs of current upkeep such as extra gauges (if they work).
One more shot of the concave styling on the top of the front fender.
1969 brought about quite the last-hurrah for the American with the special edition S/C Rambler. Known as the Scrambler in the muscle car world it was a 2 door version of this ride with the mighty 390 V8 under the hood! It was not only terrifyingly fast (competing directly with Hemis) but easily the most outrageous looking muscle car of all time. The color scheme was red, white, and blue, with ridiculous details like the word AIR written huge on the hood with an arrow pointing into the scoop. No options were available for the Scrambler at all. If you see one of those let me know, otherwise consider yourself lucky should you run across any AMC these days!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful - Grateful - Grateful Dead - VW Bus? Why not?

The above quote is from the Beastie Boys classic Rhymin' and Stealin', and in 1986 when it was released Mike D wore a gold plated VW bus emblem around his neck. Immediately upon the arrival of Beastie Boys videos on MTV no bus emblem was safe! Kids everywhere were ripping them off to hang around their own suburban necks.
Regardless this is one of the most recognizable images in the automotive world, so let's get down to it:
What we have here is a 1968-1972 Volkswagen Type 2. Known as the Bus by everybody but VW fanatics, the Type 2 was so named because it was the second model offered by the company since the Type 1 (Beetle). In its earliest incarnation the Type 2 was very similar to the Beetle, with a rear mounted air-cooled engine, transaxle, 6 volt wiring, and famously inadequate heat.
While the factory authorized Westfalia campers are the most common for VW buses, there were several aftermarket conversions available throughout the late '60s and '70s. The one we're looking at here seems to be an Adventurewagen high-top that has been further modified. Another company called Safare also produced fiberglass high-tops, but theirs had an unbroken middle crease mid-roof where this one angles down towards the front door. Other aftermarket versions dropped down to about half-height for the back 3rd of the roof as opposed to remaining full-height from front to back. The custom van style round bubble windows were added later on, as was the central Tetris-shaped central skylight.
From the VW factory the standard bus had difficulty in high crosswinds, so with the additional 3+ feet of height they could be downright terrifying!

I love these crank-out Jalousie windows.
Even with the roof painted white the upper bunk area can get stuffy and hot during the summer months. That little pop-out sunroof would be a lifesaver.
Nice to see this thing is still being used as intended with a bed arranged in the back. Originally there would have been a cot that pulled across from one side of the roof to the other at the point where the metal and fiberglass meet. In the daytime you could stand up in with no issue, and at night you could have 1 or 2 people sleeping up top with others sleeping below.
I believe the sliding window on the drivers side is the only one original to the roof.
The color of this bus might be Poppy Red, but there's a chance it's Bahia Red as well (or some repaint color not listed by the factory). It looks mighty smart though with the red/white two-tone, white walls, and white painted bumpers.
Of course there's a VW service manual laying on the passenger seat! The original radio is still representing in AM glory on the dash. Below the radio is a T handle sticking out from under the dash; this is the E-brake. The 2 vertical slots to the last of the radio are the heater controls which are essentially cables that open a small chamber to let warm air from metal boxes hugging the sides of the motor leak into the cabin. The heat in Beetles was bad, in buses worse, and in buses with the extra area of a high-top basically nonexistent. You'd get used to driving with a blanket for your lap pretty quickly.
Starting in 1973 the turn signals became perfectly square and were relocated to the sides of those vents above the emblem, and before 1968 the windshield was split down the middle and there was a large V embossed into the front sheet metal. Pinpointing the year more specifically than '68-'72 is beyond my bus knowledge but I'm sure there are some subtle cues that bus experts will recognize. As far as a vehicle that combines practicality, impracticality, extreme fun, and membership into a secret club these buses can't be beat. If you're interested in acquiring one I would suggest doing it asap as they are gaining in value and becoming more scarce with each season. If you do look for one be sure to go for the most rust-free example possible, but you can take comfort in the fact that there are more parts sources for these rides than almost anything else.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Twofer Tuesday returns with a couple of Cadillac-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-acks (you oughtta know by now)!

1967 was a very complicated year for the United States and the World. The Vietnam War was really underway, race riots were spreading across the cities of the U.S., and LSD was setting the stage for the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and lots of privileged kids tuning in and dropping out. Some stalwarts held fast in the midst of all this change though, and Cadillac was one of them.
Here we have a '67 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in Black. This example of straight-laced American luxury couldn't care less about anyones plight. This car says "I'm powerful, I've made it, and you're going to park my car in the best spot away from the others".
While this generation of Cadillac ran from '65-'70, there was a major restyle for the '67s. For the first time the front end received this menacing forward-leaning slant.
The back also got a refreshing with the tail fin ends each having sharper points at the top and bottom, as well as only 1 red lens per side where there were 2 previously. The rear bumper is actually enormous, but the lower half was painted the body color to help lighten up the look.
With a 340 horsepower 429 V8 under the hood this was a common view for other drivers. These cars always illicit nicknames like Land Yacht or Barge, but those who have driven them know that they have volcanic power for both going and stopping, and can easily be driven hard like a much smaller ride. Despite its relative agility you're not going to suffer any bumps in this cushy ride and can steer with a single finger thanks to overbuilt power steering. 
The trunk is patently absurd in its dimensions. Of course these Caddys sported a full-size spare but even that took up no real space as it was mounted up under the rear window, leaving the entirety of the main trunk wide open. You could move a desk or 10 bodies easily.
Most of the flash from previous years is gone by '67. A single skinny trim line goes down the side of an otherwise unadorned body. The folded-paper like creases are the most distinctive feature from this angle.
This formal roofline treatment was new for '67 too, and modeled after a show car where the rear window slid backwards into the rear sail panel. In the production version the rear window slides down into the body in a more traditional sense, but the extra wide sail panel remained. If you were sitting in the backseat you could be assured of almost total privacy.
Inside it's seating for 6 full grown adults wearing hats or the big hair of your Goomah. From this view it looks like this car has 2 radios but this is an illusion; the radio is the lower rectangle closest to us and both dials for it are positioned to the left of it. Beyond thee dials is the rectangle housing the heating and a/c controls, with the ignition key on the far side.
This beast had the standard single-out-of-state-plate on the back making all meter maids look like simpletons when combined with the outline of recently removed NY registration and inspection stickers, but what do I know? Maybe this car IS registered in Indiana and just happens to be parked on the street in front of an auto body shop that has another '67 Caddy parked in its lot!
On to more of the same yet different . . .
Here we are staring into the mighty maw of yet another de Ville, but this one is a 4-door Sedan. *One way to identify a '67 is the top of the grill opening which is straight across. In '68 the center section was taller than the sides housing the turn signals, and in '66 the front wasn't leaning forward like this.
This is the definition of a lowrider or hooptie! lights and pieces missing, several colors on display, but still long and low with great lines. Both of the feature cars today are hardtops as there is no post between the front and rear windows. With NY Historical plates and stickers in the windshield this owner is playing it straight and forking out the $100 or so per year for classic insurance.
This is where you can truly soak up the dimensions of this beast, and this isn't even the limo for this year! The front fender closest to us is an obvious replacement, as are the hood and the trunk. I believe this Caddy is still wearing evidence of the original color choice Capri Aqua Poly.
Yeah this thing is rotting to pieces but there's no denying that the light-up side marker incorporating the logo is classy. Also, that chrome script is referred to as "Tiffany Style" writing in GM literature.
Both the hood and trunk came from a donor car painted Baroque Gold Poly.
 That trailer hitch is no joke as the towing capacity for these beasts ran between 6,000-7,000lbs! Hitch an airstream or boat up to this ride and instantly become the envy of everyone (who owns a gas station).
The trunk still has evidence of the FLEETWOOD moniker that used to live on the right side; several body parts are interchangeable between the 2 models.
From this angle we can see the slight green tint to the glass which was from the factory. I had an old Beetle with this same treatment but can't recall any other American cars sporting green tint with the exception of the skylights in the Olds Vista Cruiser and Buick Sportwagon station wagons.
With a complete set of original hubcaps and some body parts being replaced it seems this cruiser is being given a lazy restoration. Riding in these Caddys today is like being in a parade of your own due to the amount of road it commands, but there are few rides this comfortable or roomy from any era.