Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The least likely Twofer Tuesday!

GALAXIE 1,000!!
The other day I went for a rainy walk near the Prospect Expressway. Like other sunken highways planned by Robert Moses the Prospect Expressway shoved its way through an existing and densely populated neighborhood, showing zero regard for what it might be replacing. For this reason there are some curved and dead-end street stubs sprinkled along its route with small parks the shape of acute triangles where there were once apartment buildings and shops. On one of these little 1-way spurs I found this waiting for me:
Holy Toledo! A 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible! I once passed this very ride parked on another street late at night and noted the address. However, when I went back the next morning to shoot it it was gone. Even though this was a rainy windy day where your umbrella was in constant danger of turning inside out I knew I had to document it then and there.
These cars are tremendous and have enjoyed popularity since new. The styling at Ford in the mid-'60s was space-aged cool; just look at those rocket-ship taillights! Similar big round lenses could be found on the lower end Falcon as well as the tip-top Thunderbird.
The main red color for Ford in 1964 was the Rangoon Red. However I'm inclined to think this is the brighter Poppy Red. With the white convertible top this is a tough combination to beat.
We can tell that this is a standard 500 as opposed to the fancier 500XL because the chrome spear along the side remains a thin line all the way to the back. If it were an XL model there would be an oval badge in the middle of the trim near the rear end.
The Galaxie 500 represented the entire full-size lineup at Ford in 1964, which included 2 and 4 doors in both post and hardtop versions, as well as the Country Squire station wagon. Ford was also enjoying an era of very high build quality and durability at this time, with the '64s earning a reputation of going 100,000 miles without issue. This sounds pretty weak these days but in the early-to-mid '60s it was flat-out impressive! Lap seat belts were federally mandated for the first time this year too.
In person this is a huge car, though its clean lines make it seem light on its feet and nicely proportioned. I have to call out the Route 66 plate on the front of this beast; leave it alone people! Route 66, fuzzy dice, and poodle skirts are all nostalgia hallmarks that I vote off the island due to overuse.
This big red baby is sporting some white walls and hopefully has its set of original hubcaps hidden in the trunk. If you look at the corner behind this ride you'll spot a '65 Galaxie with its stacked headlights. There's no way this is a coincidence as both must be owned by the same person. Perhaps that '65 will be giving up its drivetrain for the ragtop at some point?
*I would've featured the '65 but for the impossibly good fortune of me finding another '64 convertible. There will be a future post featuring that ride separately. 
Such great design for this year, with the rear bumpers fitting nicely into the overall shape. We can also glimpse the brighter Poppy color from this angle.
I almost bought a 2-door fastback '63 Galaxie for $750 but I passed it up because I didn't want to spring for a 30 mile tow back to my driveway in Providence. Wish I had it now!
This original '64 World's Fair plate is perfectly legal for current use thanks to an accommodating law.
The biggest bummer of this car is on display here; you can see where someone cut right into the corner of the roof where it's a slightly different white. When I owned a convertible in NYC I left it unlocked with no valuables in the car. Twice I discovered the glove compartment and console open with papers all over the place, but my top remained intact.
Now on to an impossibility:
ANOTHER 1964 Galaxie convertible, this one a 500XL!
I was riding full speed down Myrtle in Fort Greene when I came upon this sweet ride and stopped to snap a few pics. The quality isn't great but I hadn't expected to ever see another so I went for it. From the side you can see that oval I mentioned in the middle of the chrome trim denoting this as an XL.
The color on this cruiser is Wimbledon White, and it looks great with these aftermarket wheels. This car was cherry.
If you're gonna leave a tire in the bike lane parked in front of a hydrant make sure it's a beautiful classic that everyone wants to drive and you won't get a ticket!
This was one of those warm summer nights where having a drop-top is the best.
I couldn't catch a glimpse of the top color due to that red boot (that matched the interior nicely). If it has a red roof this car would look spectacular parked next to the red one.
I couldn't believe my luck finding 2 '64 Galaxies for Twofer Tuesday! I have a special folder of doubles (and some triples) that I replenish as I find them, but this got skipped to the head of the line once I encountered the red car last week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twofer Tuesday: feel the Puls(ar)!

I didn't have to stray far for the first car I'm featuring today as it was parked on the top of the block my shop is on! The houses providing the backdrop have long been torn down to make way for a mid-rise development (sometimes these pics will languish in my phone or computer for months before the timing is right).
What we have here is a Nissan Pulsar NX from 1987-1988 in what I believe to be Champagne Pearl. 1987 was such a yawn-inducing year for the Nissan paint department that they offered a hypnotizing 3 beiges and 5 silvers.
This quirky little car is a design footnote remembered for its ability to be transformed from sporty coupe to mini station wagon due to its removable modular rear end. It is also one of the most '80s rides out there.
Looks like Pulsar's seen some shit. Look at that groggy half-stare and rumpled face. Pulsar grew up on the docks and has lived the hardscrabble life of an immigrant in Brooklyn.
Discerning the exact year on these is difficult as not much changed between '87-'89. The only clue I could find on this beater is that it has hubcaps that seem to have been offered for only 2 years.
You've gotta love the door handle placement on this thing!
From this angle you can just make out the lines separating the 2 removable panels that make up the roof. Take those out and you've got yourself a nifty targa top.
There's no hiding the fact that the gray color of this replacement piece means it came from a donor car. This is the modular rear end I was talking about; this could be quickly removed and replaced with one that continued the roofline all the way back to the edge of the trunk, making a mini wagon in the process. I think the way to do it is to take the roof and trunk off on nice days and cruise around in an almost-convertible. The wagon piece was known as the Sportbak. It was available only in the U.S. and Japan, and is exceedingly rare these days (in fact it looks like the prices for most Sportbaks are similar whether you're getting just the piece or an entire car with it attached!).
Yes. Those are the greatest taillights to come out of the 1980s. The only thing more '80s than this car is the Nissan Pulsar generation immediately before this one. The '82 to '86 Pulsar was so angular that it makes this thing look round! Perhaps the most audacious item ever in Nissans quest for sharp angles came in the form of hubcaps briefly available that had a large square with grid lines on it in the middle. Why make more of the wheel round than necessary?
We'll back away from this little bucket and head down the hill to the Gowanus Houses where our next car was found:
This is a 1989 version of the same ride which is somehow escaping the meter maids even though it's sporting license plates no longer legal in New York.
I can't get enough of these taillights! It's like every Jennifer Gray and Molly Ringwald movie condensed into an automotive detail.
That sweet metallic tape continues over the entire ride in dual stripe action (big shout-out for cutting the tape to fully reveal the N in NX!). All across this fair city you can find hoopties that have been adorned with dollar store trinkets. This one even has a little flag!
The Gowanus Houses were behind me in these pics, which were the dangerous projects referred to throughout the movie Smoke. These days the neighborhood's much more mild, but I still didn't feel it prudent to take any interior shots. I seem to recall it being filled up with garbage though.
I never thought about the shapes of fuel filler doors until I encountered one that was perfectly round.
These cars are very light and have tiny engines. The base was a 1.6 liter, but you could opt for the mighty 1.8 liter instead if you insisted on commanding 131 horsepower as opposed to 122! That's right; the engine upgrade earned you a whopping 9hp.
This is just lazy! You were in the store buying white spray paint, so I know you could've gotten some tape to cover the lens with. You even bought silver tape so you could have metal suspenders on your ride! But then you just spray white right over the turn signals? LAZY.
I'm not quite sure how you could mess up the tape line this bad unless you added it while the roof panels were off the car. I don't think that's what happened though; I think this shade-tree customizer started at one end and just pressed it down as they went along, only to find it didn't match up once they reached that point. Then they tried to peel up the tape as you can see from where it's torn away only to throw their hands up and forfeit completely.
Even though it's a tad rough around the edges this Pulsar is vastly nicer than the first one. I checked the color offerings for '89 and in true Nissan fashion they had 4 individual whites; Pana White, Mint White, Ivory White, and Super White. I'm pretty confident this is Pana White.
Well there we have it; 2 examples of a car that can each become 2 different cars. I had a 1988 Nissan 200SX for a while that was quick, comfortable, and handled really well, but I don't know how these would fare in comparison. All I know is that there are at least 2 of them out there keeping '80s dreams alive.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns with a sweet Signet!

I was walking around the north side of Williamsburg in late summer when this little beauty presented itself:
Nice! A 1966 Plymouth Valiant Signet in Light Blue Poly paint. The '60s were such such great years for all things Mopar (which includes Dodge, Chrysler, and Plymouth). Styling was first rate in my opinion, with yearly changes at every level. The fact that the bargain compacts such as this Valiant were so classy speaks volumes about their attention to detail.
Clean lines and nice proportions are the name of the game for this sweet cruiser. The company literature for the time stated that the Signet option was "the stylish new economy package that really lets you live . . . within your budget, and still take on a sporty feel and a prestige look." The Signet designation was only available for the 2-door hardtop and convertible, and included some dress-up additions such as that brushed stainless steel panel running along the bottom of this car. Below the Signet there were the 200 and 100 trim levels in increasing austerity.
Just about any option could be had on this car, but the standard Signet came with the legendary Slant Six engine and vinyl bench seats.
These are light cars, and the 6 cylinder is plenty to move them around in everyday traffic. You could've ordered a 273 V8 and 4-on-the-floor in this ride if you wanted which doesn't sound like much but would up the performance dramatically.
Here we can glimpse 2 prominent options; the radio and automatic transmission. Mopars of this era weren't afraid to be quirky, with a square off-center speedometer as opposed to the ubiquitous central location. These dashboards were some of the first to widely use plastic components which can be tough to locate should you be trying to restore one these days.
The paint on this ride is just about perfect.
From this angle we can just see the forward-leaning stance of the front making this ride seem eager to get out there and drive. With the hubcaps missing on such a sweet car I can only imagine that they're in the trunk or something. They were pretty cool with a wide chrome band surrounding a central logo.
I'm fond of this faux-split grill. This is the same exact car as the 2 year old Barracuda in 1966 with the exception of the huge back window and fastback roofline. The blue and red triangles that make up the logo are simply known as the Valiant medallion (try as I might I can't find the original meaning of it). All I know is that this sweet cruiser looks damn good rolling down the street 48 years after it came out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today we feature a slowpoke that coulda been a contender!

2 + 2 = YAWN
I was canvassing the area below Prospect Park for hoopties when I encountered this little footnote of the malaise era; a 1980 Chevrolet Monza 2+2 Coupe. Now don't laugh too hard when you read the next line, but there was a Sport model available too! For some reason the Sport had 4 square headlights and a grill that looked more like a hockey mask than what we have here.
These cars are now almost completely forgotten but for a short while in the late '70s they sold well. They were originally designed to take over where the Vega left off, and were built from 1975 through 1980. If the original plans came to fruition this would've been a much cooler car as  it was supposed to be powered by a Wankel Rotary engine! Unfortunately they built the car before admitting defeat with their overly thirsty and unreliable rotary, so a 4 cylinder off the shelf was used instead.
This little frumper has a polyurethane front end which in this instance looks to have come from a blue car originally. If you drive a Monza and need a body part you take what you can get!
For those of you encountering one of these in the wild, you can discern the '80 by it's front turn signals that seem to be missing. They are hidden behind the black grill slats out of sight. In '79 they were in the same spot but bright orange and highly visible.
There is a cool if somewhat dated look to the design of this ride. I am fond of the tapered oval window opening, and the overall proportions are actually pretty good. My opinion is colored by the only one I've ever ridden in; my friend Pat had a brown one in high school with an automatic. Since every time you drive anywhere in high school you fill the car with people I remember this thing as being woefully underpowered, loud, and as frumpy as can be. To top it off it was not only brown, but BROWN! Inside, outside, the kind of brown you could only get 34 years ago. It was so brown it looked like you could stir marshmallows into it and drink it on a cold day. If only they'd figured out the rotary engine these would be collected and raced to this day like the Mazda RX-7.
Well the rear fascia is polyurethane too and it looks like they weren't so lucky with a replacement. On full display here we have some safety-mandated large orange reflectors and a huge-for-the-car bumper. The 2+2 Coupe referred to this fastback body style as opposed to the Towne Coupe which had a formal roofline and tiny trunk lid. This is by far the superior look in my opinion, but the Towne Coupe could be done up in full '70s style with a padded landau roof, luggage rack on the trunk, and pop-up sunroof.
Again, I think this car looks pretty darn good from the side and the back. The lightly flared fenders are a sporty touch without going overboard, and the fact that the side trim doesn't extend beyond the wheels shows restraint in an era that was all about gaudiness.
The Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird of this era shared many components and most body parts with the Monza. Collectively they were known as the H-body platform. The Citation came hot on the heels of the Monza with its new X-platform.
The front still maintains the basic Vega roots in shape and scale.
Well there we have it; an H-body Chevy in decent shape to trigger your narcolepsy. As with almost anything over 30 years old I would happily drive this thing around given the chance, but the memory of that slow brown Monza from my past would probably persist.
As ridiculous as it may seem you could order a 305 V8 and even briefly a 350 in the Monza before it was discontinued, but these heavy engines would weigh down the front of the car considerably, making handling an afterthought. In addition, those V8s of the late '70s/early '80s were so starved for power and strangled by emissions equipment that I would rather have the 4.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Twofer Tuesday returns with 'birds of a feather

Usually I try to pair up almost identical vehicles for Twofer Tuesday. However, today I am offering up 2 vastly different rides sharing the same name and color to show the evolution of a nameplate. I present to you a brace of Ford Thunderbirds in burgundy:
First off we have this beauty; a 1965 convertible in Royal Maroon Vintage Burgundy Poly (easily the longest factory color name I've seen to date!). This model is from the 4th generation Thunderbird, which ran from '64-'66. I'm not alone in considering this generation and the one before it (3rd gen from '61-'63) as being the high water mark for Fords personal luxury car. There are plenty of fans of the smaller mid-'50s design, but these rides were more brash.
For 1965 this was a seriously capable car! The standard engine was the 390 V8 good for 300 horsepower. Incredibly, front disc brakes were standard in '65 as well. Disc brakes were rare in those days and were typically available as a high-cost option on the few cars that offered them.
Look at that 1965 face! Four round headlights, downward-sloping catfish mouth of a grill, stylized thunderbird emblem on the leading edge of the hood, and a prominent but fake hood scoop all combine for a very '60s look. This generation sold extremely well thanks to its somewhat formal/somewhat aggressive design. The suspension was all big-car though with a wishy-washy overly cushioned ride as opposed to a taught sports car feel.
The bold lines were the one constant for the Thunderbird from the '50s through the late '70s. Even the design missteps such as the bloated beached whale of the late '50s could never be called uninspired or boring. The generation after this one was one of the most daring, with a full-width grill hiding concealed headlights and the only 4-door T-bird ever produced, with suicide rear doors no less!
This forward-leaning chrome decoration just behind the front wheel well is the quickest way to identify this as a '65.
This car is about as close to mint condition as any classic parked on the street. Here we can glimpse the interior including the convertible top mechanism complete with chromed hinges. Check out those wraparound rear lounge seats! Above the fold-down armrest in the back is a center speaker. In the age of mono sound this was plenty. 
Here we have the signature feature of the '65; sequential taillights. When you used the turn signal the squares of the taillight would light up in twos from the center of the car outward in the chosen direction. This would reappear on Mercury Cougars of the late '60s/early '70s before being forgotten to the ages.
But enough of this classy chrome spear of decadence and power! On to the next chapter:
Oh MAN! "Where has the time gone?" this T-bird seems to say as it squints through blind eyes. This, ladies and gentleman, is a 1980 Thunderbird in what seems to be Medium Bittersweet Poly with a White "Valino Grain" vinyl landau top. You can tell definitively that this is the '80 due to that bit of simulated grill on the front bumper.
I featured a car identical to this one in the early days of this blog but that post was about a blue car in truly horrific condition. To find one this nice anywhere at all is ridiculous! I feel like there must be a story behind it along the lines of it sitting in the window of a Ford dealership since new for it to be in such nice shape.
 This generation T-bird was built on the Fox platform along with the Mustang and the Fairmont. Unfortunately for customers still holding on to the belief that this was Fords flagship of luxury the 8th generation 'bird was really a heavier, tarted-up Fairmont. 
A wing? Dude, seriously? You have the only museum-condition 1980 Thunderbird in the world and you screw a black plastic wing on it? That wing is holding NOTHING down as this ride could barely reach 99 mph (that's the official score too! Ford wouldn't even fudge the 1 extra mile per hour for glory). With the woeful (and now thankfully rare) 4.2 Liter 255 V8 as standard the only way you'll ever see those sweet full-width taillights is to park behind one.
Okay I found a flaw on this car; the faux chrome housing on that last bit of taillight that wraps its way around the corner is flaked off or missing. That's it! Looking at this pics now I feel foolish for not checking the tires to see if they're factory originals because that is how perfect this ride is. Whoever installed that wing should feel very bad.
Enough is enough this is the worst Thunderbird ever made by far. Still, it's an interesting time warp and a fine comparison to the earlier Burgundy Bird. To think this was offered to the public a mere 15 years after the 1965 is mind boggling, but those years were some of the most difficult to navigate in automotive history. This small square of a ride is indicative of the year Reagan was elected and the U.S. boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow, and the Kansas City Royals lost their first of 2 World Series (so far). Go Royals!