Sunday, August 31, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with a topless marshmallow yacht

I was pedaling up along the Boerum Hill/Gowanus border when this gleaming white vision presented itself to me:
A 1975 Buick LeSabre convertible in Arctic White! This is the end of the line for full-size drop tops for Buick in the '70s. In fact, only Cadillac continued to produce a convertible in 1976, which turned out to be the last domestic ragtop until 1983 (discounting of course the many limited-edition aftermarket conversions to both Eldorados and Rivieras).
This is a worthy Show Car Sunday contender as it seems to be missing only a hubcap and a lower trim piece that goes under the taillights. Otherwise this ride is in great condition throughout.
This imposing snout was for the '75 model year only. The '74 was, in my opinion, much more attractive though it was exactly the same size. This grill and light layout is unabashedly barge-like as if they took a cue from the massive federally mandated front bumper for design inspiration. The hood ornament is missing, but what do you expect from a car parked in Brooklyn?*
*Supposedly hood ornaments were mostly ignored in the city until Mike D wore a large chrome VW bus emblem around his neck while promoting Licensed to Ill, after which there was a rash of thefts relieving VWs, Mercedes-Benzs, and full-size domestic cars of their jewelry. 
The convertible was only available in Custom trim, which was a step up from the base LeSabre. We know this car was equipped with the 350V8 as it would've had a 455 badge where the CUSTOM emblem sits if it had the larger motor.
The original caps feature the same try-shield design that made up the missing hood ornament. 
Something about a white interior with blood-red carpeting makes this beast pimptastic! Combine this with the fat band of faux-woodgrain running along the door panels, that brushed metal obelisk, and burgundy padding along the top and you better just light up a cigarette and shop for a toupee.
In actuality having a white interior and white top on a convertible is genius during the summer. Take it from the guy who had a black top and black interior on his droptop; the car would be excruciatingly hot and the seats would threaten to peel the skin off your legs if you were wearing shorts.
The paint on this ride was really nice, as was the chrome. As I stated earlier one of the missing components of this ride is a white trim piece that would've run underneath the taillights and around the license plate. It is made up of a sort of rubberized plastic that becomes brittle over time so it's not surprising that something has happened to it.
On a hot and humid day such as today this is just the car to roll out to the beach in. The dimensions of the interior are the same as the Cadillacs of the era so fitting 5 of your friends isn't out of the question either. Soon enough these convertibles will have to head back into the garage for another bout of hibernation so I'm happy to run across them when I do.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Somebody needs to remind this person that their minivan is an import!

Do you love America? Do you really? How much? PROVE it!
Far be it from me or anybody else to question the patriotism of the lucky owner of this ride!
I've driven cross-country a bunch of times and have seen tons of HOO-RAH paint jobs on vehicles, but this takes the cake. 
At one point this was a 1999-2001 Mazda MPV. The legendary Staten Island group Wu-Tang Clan rapped about this ride in their hit C.R.E.A.M.: 
"Rollin in MPV's, every week we made forty G's"
Well $40,000 sure is a lot of money but this paint job looks like a million bucks!
Yes look at all the functionality amidst the border-defending armor that the stars and stripes provides. Perhaps my favorite part of this entire piece is that somebody tagged it with blue spray paint on the back quarter panel, but they only re-did the white stripes and left the graffiti peeking out from the red beneath. Maybe red's expensive? Who knows? Freedom isn't free people!
Just when you thought it couldn't get any more American; a Texas license plate! It makes perfect sense as the plate and the car have the same graphics. Why this was done to a Mazda and not a Domestic minivan is beyond me, but it also adds to the lunacy. 
The wiper, roof rack, and wheels all got the treatment. The white looks so dirty and grungy at this point that part of me wants to pony up my own can of Krylon for the cause and touch it up.
They certainly went for it all the way. The mirror gets a perfectly placed Mason Dixon line of demarcation where the red and white meet.
I just wanted to highlight the grubby blue wheel but the thick orange peel texture of the blue on the fender comes through nicely in this pic too.
You can't quite see it from this distance but the wipers are not only painted blue, but have portions of stars on them as well exactly where they ought to be. For that matter the grill has probably the most difficult star to apply on the whole vehicle positioned over the slats. I'm extremely pleased with whomever made this decision and followed through with it! Hats off (and over the heart for a round of God Bless America for that matter).

Friday, August 29, 2014

Somebody's occupying a quarry in Kerhonkson

I was on a field trip up and around the Shawangunk Mountains when I passed this retired general:
Talk about stage presence! This truck is absolutely gargantuan in scale. When I walked up to it those headlights were about the same height as my head.
Now I'm a little out of my depth with this sort of vehicle but research has me thinking this is a mid '90s M35A3, which is about as government-issue as names get. 
These brutes were built with little change from 1951-1988, and then brought back into production from 1993-1999. The truck was originally designed by REO (the same folks who built the REO Speedwagon which was a car long before it was a Top-40 hit maker). After REO it was built by Kaiser for a while before AM General took over through '88. When the order came through to restart production in 1993 they were actually produced in Canada (!) by Bombardier.  
Get a load of those leaf springs! These are conservatively rated as 2.5 ton trucks meaning they can carry 5,000lbs. This rating is for off-road though and they're rated for twice that on normal roads. Considering that this thing weighs almost 13,000lbs empty and you've got a very heavy vehicle! 
I like the function-over-form details all over this thing. Simple mesh over the exhaust so some grunt doesn't burn his hands. Mirrors held on by the sort of metal tubing swing sets used to be made out of. Completely flat glass in all window openings.
That little bit of stenciling on the body is how we can discern this as a later Canadian-built truck. The diesel engine was only available in the Bombardier versions. The engine itself is an 8.2 Liter 500 (exactly the same size as my '74 Cadillac!). Top speed was around 55 which was enough for John Rambo to launch it into the air while crashing through a road block near the end of First Blood.
Seeing as this is parked at the entrance to a quarry I'm guessing this thing on the back is a tank for spraying down the work area to reduce dust. You would definitely need something like this monster to carry a tank that big filled with liquid over loose rock and sand.
These trucks are convertibles! The roof is a basic snap-on and tie-down canvas model.  
This little curiosity poking out from under the corner of the bed seems to be a PTO, or power take off. Again, I could be totally wrong because I really don't know anything about military vehicles, but this looks like the sort of device you hook a machine or a belt to which allows you to run an accessory off of the engine power. Many tractors had these to allow farmers to run anything from large saws and grinders to pumps  from that one power source. Way back when there were kits you could buy to turn the rear axle of your Ford Model T into a PTO. There's an old abandoned ski lift in the almost-ghost-town of Inskip, California that is connected to a rusted hulk of a Model T PTO.
I caught only this shoddy glimpse of the interior, but you can see that each side of the windshield can be unlatched at the bottom and opened outward thanks to hinges at the top. 
Well there we have it; a serious departure from my usual fare. On this same field trip I had a difficult time finding cars so I shot some even more out of character vehicles which will be posted at some point in the future. For now we'll leave this beast in it's picturesque setting because IT'S OVER JOHNNY!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Twofer Tuesday returns a day late and many horsepower short

Somewhere on the ever-moving boundaries of East Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick I ran across 2 unfulfilled promises. Basically these are both either muscle cars or pony cars depending on who you ask, but in actuality they are the low horsepower neutered versions of their former selves. Allow me to introduce the mid-to-later years of the 2nd generation Chevrolet Camaro:
This first example seems to be a 1977 LT edition. The brushed metal panel between the taillights was first offered in '76, and the small black "bumperettes" on the front bumper were introduced in '77 on the LT model only. The chrome headlight surrounds and trim around the taillights and down the sides is black which could mean Z28, but this would mean the front bumper would be painted the body color. My feeling is that somebody decided to simply black out the trim at one point to be tougher. In '78 the whole front end of the Camaro changed so we know it can't be newer than '77.
The LT stood for Luxury Touring which fit perfectly into the era of lowered performance. Remember that this was the time that brought us personal luxury coupes like the Cordoba. With the Ford Mustang reduced to the Mustang II the Camaro and Firebird were the only remaining offerings resembling muscle cars in any way. For this reason the Camaro actually enjoyed several record-breaking sales years in a row through the end of the '70s.
Those body-colored Sport Mirrors are another indicator that this is one step up from the base model, as is the mild hood bulge. I believe the color is the original Light Red that is simply fading away at this point.
Nothing like a bold-faced lie to gain status at the stoplight! Despite the fact that AIR INDUCTION has been stenciled on the side of that faux scoop you can plainly see the insert plugging it up. At least have the presence of mind to paint the insert black while you're writing ridiculous untruths on your ride! Bonus points for the extremely masculine lavender pinstripe they added to the side too.
Oh yeah this is why I figure that paint's original! That wheel well is giving it up to rust completely and the trim around the windows isn't too far behind. Still, somebody's rolling around with this thing on its aftermarket American Racing rims almost 40 years after it was made so hats off I guess.
Now let's move on to the future a bit.
Here we go! This car looks like one of those people who have a disingenuous turned-down smile. What we have here is a 1979 Berlinetta edition Camaro in Gold Poly. The Berlinetta replaced the LT so this was still the "let me run out in my robe for a gallon of milk and a pack of More 100s" version as opposed to anything remotely sporty. The material of the newer-style body-colored bumper is on full display here thanks to somebodys right hook.
By '79 even that nifty wing would be gone to all but the Z28. In safety-era fashion the taillights grew to enormous proportions, gaining big orange reflectors in the process. The overall body shell and rear window design is great though, I have to admit.
When the 2nd generation was introduced it was a lean, mean, athletic machine with legitimate power to match its looks. It was given the utterly ridiculous nickname Super Hugger in commercials for reasons I can't pinpoint, though I imagine it had to do with it handling well. The funny thing is that on the exterior this is really the same car with different front and rear treatments. It's amazing how lazy you can make a car look by adding a huge sloping plastic face to it.
The passenger side has mud flaps; who knows why?
I've always loved drawing this car as the different grill, turn signal, and headlight openings somehow fascinated me as a kid. The Z28 editions of both of these years have some of the most hilarious graphics too; fat swooping multi-colored stripes down the side and Z28 written out HUGE on the sides and in front of the fake hood scoop. I would still like to run around town in either of these poseurs even though they don't hold up their end of the muscle car persona. Then again I once tried to buy an ambulance to drive around in so what do I know?  

Monday, August 25, 2014

All my automotive dreams have come true!!!

I recently spent a couple of lazy summer days out in Riverhead on the North Fork of Long Island, when I noticed a cool Cadillac with no wheels up on a trailer. But wait a minute! It can't be, can it? Is somebody actually this bold and brilliant?
YES! What we actually have here is a 1965 Cadillac DeVille convertible raised up on a monster truck chassis! Holy good god my inner 13-year-old self is freaking out with excitement!
This is kind of a quick and dirty job with seriously questionable decisions, but doesn't that sum up this entire project? For instance, the rare and original fender skirts are not only on the vehicle, but have been permanently bolted on. In addition, do you see that black circle on the lower edge of the skirt just above the knotted rope? The owner decided to route the exhaust right through the skirt! Why would you bother when your ride is so damn high anyway? Well you can't question genius.
Often when a regular car gets the super-lift treatment the chassis they use is recognizable as a Blazer or Scout or something, but this looks either homemade or so heavily modified as to be unique. If the dimensions of the truck chassis are original then it would have to have come from something at least as long as a mid-'60s Caddy, which rounds it down to an International Travelall or something like it.
She's been around that's for sure. How do you break a taillight that high up? Backing into a tree?
The scariest part of owning this beast would be filling up the tank with the original fuel filler location in that empty space where the license plate used to be. Imagine holding the nozzle neck-height to filler-up! I guess whoever was in command of this thing probably smelled like gas & oil already. 
Those rear wheels are wicked tilted in at the top. Like I said; quick and dirty redneck dream build.
I know who I am and I am comfortable liking what I like. To me, from this angle, this thing is totally awesome! Make no mistake I've drawn this car several times as a kid. My father had a Cadillac convertible and my stepfather had a Chevy Vega jacked up on a lifted Bronco chassis with a Corvette 327 in it, so this was all I wanted in life. I was actually flooded with nostalgia when I encountered this thing even though I'd never seen one before.
All gawking aside there are some correct Cadillac details worth pointing out. I love the side marker light in that rectangular chrome housing reaching from the lower headlight to the front of the wheel well. This was the arrangement on every DeVille from 1950 though this model year. Starting in 1966 the side light remained, but was free-floating on the body without touching either the headlight housing or the wheel well.
There's a lot of grill on these '65s! In previous years this expanse would be broken up with some horizontal chrome bars, and following this year the turn signals would be relocated to the grill squares immediately in from the headlights. For 1965 though they just made the entire front of the car a big clenched-teeth threat; perfect for this particular application!
You can see from the gap between the upper and lower headlight that this thing is coming apart at the seams. Off-roading in a 5,000 lb Caddy sounds great until the body starts to flex and bend under its own enormous weight. These cars were meant to glide down the boulevard, floating over potholes and speed bumps like an ocean liner, but not over jumps and through deep ditches. I still want to mash this thing through the woods though don't get me wrong!
The license plates are a sign that this is actually registered and ready for use! I'm guessing due to the tarp placement that either the windshield or side windows needs replacing or work. As a Caddy this had power windows which are always unreliable after 50 years. When combined with the fact that this is probably driven on the beach I figure corroded wiring is the culprit. Whatever, who cares? All my automotive dreams have come true and I think I need to go have a cigarette.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with tin, aluminum, or diamonds?

I was somewhere out in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn amidst somewhat anonymous buildings when I stumbled upon this sporty little number:
A 1980 Datsun 280ZX! This is not some normal Z-car though, this is one of 3,000 10th Anniversary Black Gold special editions. It is rare, collectible, and in pristine shape. The 280ZX was treated to some of the more dynamic 2-tone paint arrangements, one of which is on display here. The 1st generation Transformers had a 280 named Bluestreak which had the same pattern as this car, but with the hood silver and the body blue.
These Z-cars started life as the Datsun Fairlady back in 1969, and changed little in the ensuing decade. In the States it debuted as the 240Z in 1970 before briefly becoming the 260Z for only the 1974 model year. From '75 on until 1983 it was the 280 (going from Z to ZX in '78). 
These things are so fun to drive! I had 2 friends that had them over the years and despite the long hood with somewhat heavy straight-6 cylinder motor they handle really well. You basically climb down into them and feel like you can reach out the window and touch the ground once you're seated.
From this angle we can really appreciate the condition of this sleek ride. 2,500 of the 10th Anniversary editions were Black Gold like this one while 500 were Black Red. I've capitalized the color names because that is how they were referred to in their literature. T-tops are an amazing hallmark of the era, as are the body color accented sporty rims.
We've got a few fonts busying up the screen here between the tires, emblem, and decal, but this fat-numbered wreath arrangement is how it announced itself to the world.
The funny thing about the 280ZX is that is represents a top-to-bottom redesign of the 1975-1978 280Z, but you'd never know it. It is extremely rare in the automotive world to have a car go through massive changes underneath while keeping the outside looking intact. Most domestic cars were given different grills, lighting arrangements, or entirely different bodies before the guts were swapped out. This is all due to the design team headed by a Mr. Yoshihiko Matsuo; hats off to him for creating a truly timeless design!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Nova by any other name is sometimes a Skylark

Parked up against the ramp leading to the Pulaski Bridge in Brooklyn was this smart little ride:
This is a 1978 Buick Skylark in the beautiful color Light Green Poly. This was one of the many Chevy Nova variants of the era. The Nova was so hugely popular that in 1973 GM decided to offer a version from each of their sub-Cadillac divisions. The faux-Novas were the Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Ventura, and Buick Apollo. After being known as the Apollo for years the 4 door Buick Nova brought back the storied Skylark nameplate.
I think this car looks sharp as a tack! The proportions of the 4 door are, to me, perfect. In addition the formality of the front end makes it hard to believe it's the same car as a Nova. I love the fact that this car has a matching light green interior to really underline the greenness of it all.
This particular Skylark is in almost impossibly good condition considering nobody in their right mind would bother restoring a basic 4 door from this era. I'm sure the paint is original, as are the matching hubcaps.
That trim line on the side leads up to the trademark Buick portholes, stylized into rectangles by '78. The only way to identify the correct year on these rides is the grill which had all vertical bars in '77 and a prominent central horizontal and vertical bar on the '79.
These cars are mostly forgotten today as they were a modest step-up from Chevy but grocery-getters nonetheless. If you were looking for the trademark Buick luxury you went with either Electra or Le Sabre, but if you wanted a Nova with fake wood on the dash and comfy seats you got this.