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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eastbound and BROWN

Man this car is a hero to me and tons of dudes my age! This is the same year, make, and model of the car Burt Reynolds made famous in Smokey and the Bandit (though theirs was a Trans-Am Special Edition with the amazing "Flaming Chicken" hood graphic). What we have here is a somewhat forlorn 1977 Pontiac Firebird parked out in Queensbridge.
That split grill with pointed prow was particularly beak-like just this year and '78 and I love it. I mean this is 1977, arguably the worst year in automotive design, and Pontiac managed to produce a very tough looking muscle car! For this they should be commended.
The 4 square headlights with a similar grill arrangement was also used on the compact Pontiac Sunbird for this year which made for a cool-looking if slow & tiny car.
This beast is still parked on the street, resting on tires that are holding air. The decades of hard living are on display though, with wheels of varying vintages and body panels in different colors throughout. That rusty gold rear wheel is indeed from a Firebird, but one from the '80s. The other three wheels are probably worth as much as the rest of the car (if the 4th one is around somewhere). They are the 1979 10th Anniversary Turbo rims used for the turbocharged Trans Am of that year.
Yes that is a functioning shaker hood scoop announcing the 6.6 liter 400 V8 hiding underneath. Don't get too excited though as the regular 6.6 was rated at an abysmal 180 horsepower. Ugh. Almost more insulting is that you could upgrade the 6.6 to a whopping 200 total horsepower. What's the point?
Don't call this car brown by the way, as the color is Buckskin Poly. The hood looks to be Glacier Blue which isn't a hue you'd normally see on these, especially cars with the cutout for the hood scoop. The blue donor car must've been something when it first left the showroom.
From this angle it's just a beat-up old Pontiac with terrible paint deterioration and a shabby overall feel. I still like it though because I fell in love with this car the moment it outran the cops on screen.
180 horsepower is enough to lob decades of salty slush on to the lower quarter panels so they can rot completely away. When this was built it was an enormously popular car for Pontiac with over 150,000 sold that year. For this reason and the fact that they were slow the value has never really gone up. Just now after so many have disappeared from the landscape are they starting to be sought after.
Inside is complete but doesn't look like it would smell very fresh. The cloth seats are intact, as is the console complete with power window switch behind the shifter. The dashboard is highly reflective turned metal for a totally awesome look.

You have to give it to Pontiac for the most elegant solution to the federally mandated bumpers that were required in the '70s. They made huge polyurethane moldings that incorporated the bumpers, grill, and headlights as opposed to having big chrome monstrosities hanging off the ends.
Well there we have it; a multicolored Brownbird roosting in it's nest. I'd like to think someone will restore this Firebird and get it in fighting shape again. Most likely it'll be a quick and dirty job of filling up the holes with bondo and painting it shiny black with a big Flaming Chicken decal on the hood. I'll still enjoy seeing it roll by even if it's in this chewed-up state because nostalgia will do that for you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns after a long hiatus!

Here we see the final result of Project Ajax.
This car is a mountain range in Italy. This car is a pimp who was framed with stolen furs and thrown in prison. This car, ladies and gentlemen, is Dolomite.
A 1980 Triumph Dolomite Sprint that is! In the mid-'60s Triumph launched Project Ajax, which was the automakers name for a new line of small cars. These included the underpowered 1300, the slightly better 1500, and the Toledo. The 1300 and 1500 were both front wheel drive, but the Toledo had the more traditional rear wheel drive layout of the Triumph Herald which the Ajax line replaced.
It is true that this spelling is not the same as the classic Rudy Ray Moore character Dolemite, but it is also true that Blaxploitation flicks from the mid-'70s have provided me with some of the greatest movie quotes of all time. I'll just leave this line from Wikipedia which happens to be the 3rd out of 3 total sentences summarizing the Plot: "However, Dolemite is no stupid man and has a lot of "warriors" backing him, such as his call girls, who are karate experts, and many more."
This beautiful little ride was roosting next to the entrance to the Pulaski Bridge linking Greenpoint to Long Island City, and it has no business being here at all! Unfortunately for us the Dolomite was never imported to the States when new.
It sure is a tidy little car though; plenty of room for your mohawk or fedora with that tall roofline, nicely proportioned throughout, and loaded with subtle styling cues that are so much more classy than the iron America was cranking out in that lowliest of design years.
To me this car looks coiled up and ready to pounce! The slight curve to the roof is mimicked on the hood and trunk line to give the sense of motion.
Check out that line that starts at the front of the rear wheel well before fading back into the quarter panel; a very cool detail also suggesting speed. This car is so perfect that I feel compelled to point out the only damage I could find; the chrome trim that ought to frame the lower portion of the vinyl roof is missing from this side, and the rear door doesn't seem to be adjusted correctly as illustrated by the upper door trim not synching with the quarter panel section. Miniscule things of course that only attest to the impossibly beautiful presentation of this 34 years old British mid-market car.
The rear panel is flat black and set in a bit from the edge of the trunk, and the whole piece is framed in chrome giving it a clean look. These thin bumpers are so elegant compared to the federally mandated monstrosities that were hanging off of the Detroit rides of this era.
The nameplate is very 1980. It seems to be sporting the original Euro license plate from its homeland.
The rear window is also set in from the edge of the roofline like the rear panel, giving the overall design a nice consistency. Those barely noticeable holes under the roof overhang must be a part of the fresh air ventilation system.
Something they offered for many European automakers over the decades was the extra large sliding canvas sunroof. I had a '63 Beetle for a while that had one and it was the greatest compromise between hardtop and convertible.
Again the Brits are laughing at our use of cheap plastic and vinyl while they install actual wood in the dashboard and door trim of even the more basic rides.
This little Sprint must be fun to drive with the 4 speed manual trans. The Sprint was a serious upgrade to the standard Dolomite, with a 1998cc straight-4 cylinder motor that was the first production car in the world to have 4 valves per cylinder. In addition the suspension was lowered and brakes upgraded. This car was a direct attack on the BMW 2002 Tii which cost over a thousand pounds more. The factory brags that this little cruiser could hit a top speed of 119mph!

I believe this is the original factory color Carmine Red.
These sweet little alloy wheels are the factory originals for the Sprint. The fact that the plastic spoiler is still attached to the front makes me feel that this thing must live in a garage.
Well there we have it; an extra tough, extra cool little cruiser giving 4-doors a good name. These cars are extremely rare anywhere in the world as a mere 493 were built in 1980, which is also the last year they were produced. Coming across one in Greenpoint is just amazing! With the rarity, eager split-grill look, and genuinely sporty underpinnings this is one car I would love to take out on some mountain roads.
*Special note to my 7 or so readers: Obviously the blog output has been meager lately due to me being busy at work, and out of town during my free time, but the cars are still collecting in my phone. If the offerings are scarce now rest assured that there will be plenty of hoopties waiting in the wings for the dead of winter.