Sunday, September 28, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with a Chevy Alright-Sport

I was out on the North Fork of Long Island at the end of summer when I found this beauty parked on the street:
 A 1968 Chevy Impala convertible in original Rallye Green! Not only that, but it happened to be a Super Sport as well.
The Impala was the top of the heap trim-wise for the full size Chevy lineup that included the Caprice & Bel Air. This is considered the 4th generation of the Impala/Caprice/Bel Air which was redesigned in 1965. That first year they sold an astonishing 1 million of them, which is a record that still stands!
To keep the styling looking fresh the front and rear were redesigned each year. The taillights were once again given the traditional treatment where the Impala had 3 on each side and the lesser models had 2, this time in a horseshoe shape. The 2 years previous featured a brief foray into a single rectangular taillight on each side.
This particular car is in spectacular shape throughout! 
By 1968 the fabled Super Sport package was really just a dress-up option for the Impala. The upgraded suspension, engine, and brakes of days gone by was now reduced to special emblems, striped interior, and that tiny SS in the middle of the steering wheel. I've seen different door panels on other '68 Super Sports where there was an SS badge inside those two slanted chrome strips leading from above the window crank up to the vent window, but not here. The owner actually came out and talked to me for a minute while I was snapping pics and he said he thought the car originally came from Canada. Maybe that's one of the differences?
The buckets seats with console and slapstick shifter are all options as you could've left the dealer with a huge bench seat if you wanted to save some money (or haul several extra people around).
So much junk in the trunk! These cars are crazy wide by todays standards.
To me the full size domestic convertibles of the late-'60s are some of the most perfect cruisers around. This is the sort of car you want to load up with 4 or 5 friends and roll down to the beach in.
That little side marker light/engine badge combo declares this as a 307 V8 car. Impala customers could also opt for the 327, 396. or even the mighty (and mighty rare) 427 if they were so inclined. If this were a Bel Air version the base engine was the 250 inline 6 cylinder which would be downright sedate in its performance. Full size 6 cylinder cars are still out there though, as the production numbers were so high overall.
This is the first year with the Super Sport option being spelled out as opposed to SS badges.
Well there we have it; a lovely beach cruiser for you on this lazy Sunday. I have so many cars waiting in the wings but the weather has been fantastic so the posts are few and far between. Soon enough the dark and cold will take over and there will once again be a glut of posts to this blog. For now go outside and enjoy this pleasant weather while you can!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Caged Beasts

I've been busy lately and lagging with the posts so I thought a wrap-up of several random finds was in order. These will be shots where I saw something in a yard, through a fence, or simply parked somewhere obviously on private property and could only manage a quick snap. Without further ado;
Well here we have my very favorite Camaro of all time! Yes indeed this is a 1969 Chevy Camaro convertible resting in a huge fenced-in lot in Red Hook. Can I get a shout-out for that piece of wood being employed as a chock for the front tire?
The late '67 into '68 Camaro was the first iteration of Chevrolets answer to the Ford Mustang, but it wasn't until 1969 (the last year of the first generation) that it really hit its stride. In that I mean I like the grill and headlight treatment better because that's most of the difference. This one has a mild hood scoop alluding to an engine upgrade, as well as a set of Ralley IIs (the Chevy muscle car wheel of choice for this era). *Also in the background; a first generation Ford Mustang fastback from probably '65! Spencer For Hire drove one of these while solving '80s crimes you know.
On to the next . . .
I was riding my old bike through the hinterlands of Atlantic Avenue where gentrification hasn't wiped the industry away when I caught a glimpse of the scene above.
Yes! Way off in the distance is a second-generation Chevrolet Corvair convertible from anywhere in the range of 1965-1969. The first generation had 4 round taillights floating on the rear panel of the car while the second-gen had that chrome outline encapsulating the entire rear. It looks to be on a trailer but who knows what its fate will be?
Onward to a busy little shop in Bed Stuy:
Again the wealth of finds was undeniable, but they were all behind a chain link fence.
From what I can gather the black car near the center of this pic just past that super red Neon is a 1963-1965 Buick Riviera. Those cars were so damn cool and ahead of their time that I won't bother writing too much with only this shot as a reference. Suffice it to say that this design is heralded as one of the greatest in the last century! Even the notoriously condescending European automotive press of the era called it the most beautiful car America ever produced.
Just to the left of that Buick nestled under the branches of that tree is a RED 1960 Chevrolet - either Biscayne or Bel Air. You can tell it's not an Impala as it has only the 2 taillights on either side as opposed to 3. The 1959 was identical except for the fact that the taillights consisted of one wide "cats eye" lens on either side. In 1960 the design was totally revised and those cool fins dropped.
Nearer to us on the right side we have a 1978-1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Brougham in Dark Blue Poly with a white vinyl landau roof and pinstripes. The pinstripe treatment for these years is a little odd in that it angles downward at the lower edge of that small rear window only to start up again above.
Next up I got a peek at Big Connie roosting in the shrubs. Now this might be Bushwick; Fun Artsy Kid Capital of the World, but this particular lot gave off an uninviting vibe so I chose not to enter.
What we have here is a 1968 Lincoln Continental in Ascot Gray Poly.
It looks to be in pristine shape! This is the second-to-last year of the famous suicide door treatment where the rear doors are hinged at the back. Even the vinyl roof looks perfect. Somebody better bring Connie inside stat!
Right down the street from Connie was a site that made me feel like I wandered onto the back lot of a VW dealership in the mid '80s. Look at that row of vans!
If you were wondering where they all went this is your answer. What we have here are several vintages of Volkswagon Vanagon. The orange one is from 1983-1985 as it still has its round headlights but also has that lower black grill which means it has a water-cooled engine (pre-1983 was still air-cooled so there was no need for a radiator). The ones with the rectangular headlights are from 1986-1992, after which they became rounded off and not as charmingly boxy. At least 6 are showing and I think there might've been more towards the back.
The one closest is my favorite because it's a crew cab pick-up version! You can't see from this angle but this is actually a 3-door truck; there is a smaller door on the passenger side to allow access to the back seat/inside storage area. These were always rare and usually died off as they were put to hard work while most of the regular vans shuttled kids to college and on relatively gentle road trips. To make it even more rare and desirable is the word SYNCRO written in white just below the windshield. This means it has the optional 4-wheel drive.
Well there we have it; a veritable grab bag of odds and ends. I'm finally a bicycle owner once again so the hunt for new rides will continue!

Friday, September 19, 2014

You think you have a hard time parking in NYC?

I couldn't believe my eyes. There before me, stretching out into the horizon, was the Elephant Man in a tattered tuxedo. How? Why? Who knows exactly, but what I can say is that this is a 1964 Cadillac Series 75 Limousine parked on a busy street in Kensington, Brooklyn. Really!
I was riding my now-stolen bike (which you can see laying on the sidewalk next to this beast - RIP) down a busy and relatively harrowing street when I came upon this vision. I knew immediately what I was looking at, but it didn't register somehow. It didn't make sense that there would be a 22 foot long car parallel parked where Hondas were having difficulty finding spots. I rode up on the sidewalk and jumped off to really take it all in.
What a fall from grace! What was once the top of the domestic automotive heap has obviously had a difficult life. This is the Chet Baker of automobiles; talented genius with Hollywood looks turned addled junkie via decades of self-abuse and several failed marriages. At one point though a president, king, or prime minister wouldn't think twice about getting in to this behemoth (as long as somebody opened the door for them). For now it sits alone with its disconcerting 1,000 yard stare.
If you squint just right you can still make out the classy lines of this Caddy. Sure the enormous bumper is hanging on for dear life, the top half of the grill is missing, and the paint looks like that powdery black licorice Necco Wafer that nobody wanted, but the determination remains.
Arrr matey! A 3-eyed lunatic with an underbite walks up to you and what do you say?
The dual horns visible behind the grill produced a deep foghorn sound; more tuba than trumpet. Upon close inspection the car's not only missing a headlight, but the chrome surrounds as well. Still, from this angle the body is remarkably straight.
With no hubcap, the chrome bumper extension that ought to fill the space between the wheel and the grill missing, and a finish this finished, this beast looks truly worn out. The wrap-around windshield, however, remains majestic in its scope. It's interesting to point out that the windshield on all other Caddys this year had already gone to a more modern non wrap-around design. For whatever reason the limo kept the same glass treatment.
The Series 75 consisted of the factory-built Cadillac limousines from 1936 through 1987, and they were always built in small numbers. For instance, they only produced 808 of these in total for 1964. This doesn't include any possible commercial conversions done on the same size chassis. However, most ambulances and hearses were based on the non-limo Series 60 Fleetwood which was plenty big. One Lincoln Continental hubcap found its way to the party.
The wipers are missing from this beast, but the intricate mesh ventilation tray is there beneath the glass. I took this shot to try and highlight the spiderweb crack radiating out on the passenger side of the windshield but the lighting and tree shadows make it tough to see. A replacement windshield (one of the largest ever produced) is not going to come cheap for this ride! There's currently a non wrap-around windshield for a '65 on ebay for $1,100, and this one is larger and harder to ship. 

Oh man what a terrible mirror to have on that door! We can be pretty sure that the door is a replacement due to the slightly different finish and lack of chrome above the window. No door handle for the rear door though!
Who knows why the roof was painted in this magenta hue? Perhaps it's a primer? If this car was built with a vinyl roof it very well could've rusted underneath which would necessitate some sanding and priming.
That trunk looks like it might've come from the same donor car as the drivers door. Top of the taillight on the drivers side seems to be missing, but whatever. Of course we have the international symbol of a non-registered car parked on the streets of NYC: the single out of state plate in the back! It's just thrown in the window too, they didn't even have the decency to place it in the correct location, choosing instead to leave the gas cap exposed like a begging bird waiting to be fed.
This would have come from the factory with the 429 V8, good for 330 horsepower stock. This was plenty of motor to get up and go even in such a huge ride. with the amount of sound insulation and muffling this had it would do it almost silently too.
Too bad the small triangular lenses on the fins are missing, but with tape on each side maybe they've just been removed for now? Those clear lower lenses are brake lights; the bulbs were red instead of the lenses.
Those two white squares at the corners of the roofline are puzzling. Those spots are the locations of the air intake for the rear air-conditioner unit. They basically looked like those metal periscope-looking vents on the decks of old ships. Since they've been removed and covered with tape I'm beginning to think this is getting prepped for paint!

Again with the door handles! More paint preparation I'm sure.
It looked like the inside was piled up with garbage. Upon further inspection it seems to be filled with all the parts missing from the outside. Now I'm convinced that this is someones restoration project parked on the street.
The driver is greeted by a very clean and trim steering wheel. Cadillac did away with the chrome horn ring in the late '50s and stuck with this sort of delicate look. That seat must have been redone at one point, which for a chauffeur-driven car is not always the case.
This is why I say chauffeur-driven; a divider window is still lurking in the down position behind the front seat! Even though this was the factory built model it is a true limousine. Good thing it's here too because finding a replacement piece of glass for the divider would mean getting one made to order.

One more side angle of this majestic storm cloud of a ride. This thing must weigh somewhere in the 3 ton range, and to its credit it's standing upright and not sagging to any one side. At the very least the shocks have all been replaced, and I wouldn't be surprised if the springs were swapped out as well. With the terrible finish but straight body & beautiful roof, parts stripped off and hiding in the back, and normally fragile details such as the front seat being new I'm sure this beast is part of the way through a restoration. When all is said and done they will have one of the most impressive vehicles in the city, which is saying a lot! Imagine pulling up to any restaurant or venue in this thing once it's done in glossy black with the chrome shiny. Definitely the type of car the boss instructs the valets to
leave parked directly in front.
And if it's not being restored? Well this just about sums it up.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with a distinguished European gentleman

In the midst of the most fully realized gentrification since Soho (Williamsburg) I came across this smart little number. Black, shiny, and classy as all get-out, this is a 1958 Mercedes Benz 220S.
Talk about a timeless design! This manages to look right at home on the modern streets even though it was built 56 years ago. The roof rack made me wince a bit, but it really just means this is remaining viable as daily transportation for someone. There's even a baby seat in the back! Good for that family.
These rides are known as Ponton, which is the German word for pontoon. This refers to the fact that the fenders are now incorporated into the body as opposed to the separate units of yesteryear. Since the look of a solid side of a car was relatively new someone decided it looked like a pontoon and the name stuck. The name of the era of cars that came after these was known as the Fintail. Mercedes nicknames have never again been so charming unfortunately.
The 220S came right after the 220A, and the two models are almost identical. The only way to distinguish between them that I know of is that band of chrome running along the side from the headlight to the rear of the front door which was missing from the 220A. Both cars had a 2.2 liter straight 6 cylinder engine, but the 220S had dual carbs, giving it a bit more juice.
I didn't look through the window due to the heavy pedestrian traffic around me but this car might be equipped with a rare-for-Mercedes mechanical flop! There was a 4-speed manual transmission available for this car that had an automatic clutch called the Hydrak. You would shift as normal, but the clutch would automatically disengage when the shifter was moved by way of a series of mechanical switches. If it sounds complicated that's because it was! Impossible to keep working and maintain, most people elected to have them removed after the first need for a repair. Incidentally the Hydrak shifter was on the column, making it a semi-auto 4-on-the-tree. 
The owner of this ride is taking advantage of a New York concession to classic car owners; if you find a matching set of license plates from the year of your cars manufacture you can register them for use. They need to be in good condition, as these from '58 certainly are.
I was trying to figure out why the small lenses under the headlights are orange on this car when they're clear on 50% of the Mercedes from this era. Perhaps the orange ones are for export models and the clear ones are for those cars purchased in Germany? I'm not sure but some expert out there can tell me hopefully.
I love these cars for their functionality and looks, but they're relatively cheap too; right now on ebay there are a couple in the $5,000-$8,000 range. When you consider that the 220S was built in the same factory and by the same workers as the 300SL Gullwings from '58 which are now going for 1.5 to 2 million apiece, these are an absolute steal! Now keep your dirty mitts off that hood ornament and go find your own.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sweet Cutty in a rare hue

One of the very first rides I featured on this blog was a beat-down 4 door Olds Cutlass in gold with a missing grill. The car looked rough and ready; capable of jumping full-speed on to the highway, devouring small children, and smashing newer cars to smithereens with the slightest miscalculation in parallel parking. Well here is the same car in lovely condition!
Indeed this is the 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Town Sedan in the rarely seen factory color Bittersweet Poly. The Town Sedan was the 4-door body style with the chrome post in between the front and rear doors as opposed to the wide-open hardtop. Both the '71 and '72 Cutlasses had the dual rectangle grill openings which continued in form as dual prominences emerging from the hood. I love the Cutlass from this era!
The easiest way to distinguish the '71 from the '72 is to look at the taillights; in '71 you see these 2 clean rectangles of red on each side while in '72 each of those rectangles would be divided into 3 smaller segments.
This Olds is wearing its original hubcaps and looks just about flawless overall. The design manages to retain some swoopy details like the exaggerated rear fender hump even though it is the dowdy sedan. Being a GM product this Cutlass is very similar to the same year Chevelle 4-door, though the sides, bumpers, and grills were different.
The missing trim along the rear door seems to be the only lost part of this ride which is pretty good for anything parked on the streets of Clinton Hill. This is the first time I've seen this color in person; when you run across an ad for the muscle car version of the Cutlass (the 442) in this hue it is a true rarity. To discover a less valuable body style in Bittersweet Poly in good shape is even rarer! Here's to hoping this thing continues rolling the city streets for another 43 years.