Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Regal Hooptie

I love this guy! He was very proud of his car, which as you will see is MESSED UP. No matter though, he caught me taking pics of it, grinned ear to ear and made sign language motions saying "go ahead and finish taking pictures of my beautiful car please!". There wasn't any of that pesky English being thrown around, just big smiles and happy gestures. I hereby declare him King of Hoopties for his poise and good humor.
Now let's get on to this dastardly beast of his:
What we have here is a slightly used 1982 Buick Regal 4 door in the jaw-droppingly boring hue Light Sand Gray. When they choose a name like that for a color you know what you're getting; the visual equivalent of Lithium. Brown pinstripes seal the deal.
This is the perfect background wall for this ride! I heard this thing driving earlier (it is LOUD) and turned my head in time to see it swing around a corner and drive away. I was so bummed as I realized I was seeing (and hearing, and smelling) a Hooptie for the ages. Imagine my happiness when I stumbled upon it parked a few blocks later! Take a good look at that hubcap because that's the only one. It's not original though; my best guess it's from a mid to late '90s Mercury Sable.
Man this thing has seen some battles! A look of determination can still be seen through its wounds of which there are many; some homemade mailbox reflector held in place by snip-cut pieces of riveted metal, lightly mashed-in bumper, grill knocked out, so many small scratches, bits of primer, rust, and dents as to be consistently terrible.
I mean really! This thing is like a leering drunk at the bar stumbling around looking for a fight because he lost the last one.
I just like the totality of it. Every inch of this car has evolved into something beyond mere transportation and more towards industrial impressionism.
Alright from this vantage point I can almost see the car as it was meant to be when it was built. By the way, something barely discernible but wholly unique to this model is on display here; the name Regal is attached on to the passenger-side taillight lens itself. This is how it left the factory, and it is the only instance I can think of where an automaker made that decision. Originally there was a bright metal trim piece underneath the taillights and trunk lid, one side of which read Buick, but this has long been sacrificed to the parking gods.
Dammit this is when I know I have a disease because from this angle voices start piping up in my head saying things like "the way the rear edge of the rear wheel well trails off is kinda cool" and "I like how the sharp line of the back window makes a soft angle to become the top of the trunk with another soft angle down the back". This car is a thoroughly used zombie but I can't help digging it! *That sporty aftermarket mirror on the door is not only black, but attached a few inches behind where it ought to be.
Somehow against all odds the hood ornament remains.
At first glance I thought the grill was missing entirely, but it's just laying back, doin' tha Rockaway. "Chrome" of this era is just a shiny veneer that peels and flakes off as you can see under the turn signals. This was the era of cheap materials for sure. This side marker light is just gone completely!
At first I thought those smoky pond water outside headlights were due to age but they might just be some sort of tint job seeing as they're so consistent.
I have to point out that this car has matching plates and valid stickers in the windshield where as most cars in this condition seem to have a single out of state plate thrown on the back. Someone is paying to keep this thing on the road and presumably it passes inspection (though it sounds like the exhaust stops right after the manifold these days). The fact that not only is this being used daily, but proudly by its owner makes me very happy! I feel a bit crummy dissing it so much but it's just asking for it. Regardless, go forth King of Hoopties and spread your message to the people of Brooklyn!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nighttime Mystery Machine

When encountering a particularly great vehicle in the city you basically have to shoot it on the spot, even if it is late at night! There was no avoiding the hour when I found myself standing in front of this boxy schlubber:
Righteous! What we have here is a 1968-1970 ChevyVan (which is how it was written in the Chevy literature). This body style was introduced in '67, but '68 was the first year for side marker lights. Other than that the color of the Chevrolet bow-tie logo changed from '68 to '69, but it's been removed from this ride so there's no way I know of to round down the year (the logo would be located above the center of the grill where that pinstriping is now).
This is the closest thing to Scooby-Doos Mystery Machine in my opinion!
This is the absolute zero-frills base model van. No chrome for the grill, bumpers, or mirrors. Plain as day 1 color paint job. No additional windows besides the windshield and each front door. This is the beast that Ma Bell would buy by the hundred for phone repairmen. I love it!
The Vermont plates and GSC painted all over make me think this is the coolest band touring vehicle ever. The side mural shown here where the body is torn open to reveal outer space makes me think it probably reeks of weed inside. What do you expect? IT'S A WINDOWLESS VAN. A band smoking weed is the least menacing use for this plain white box.
Whoever GSC is they've got their act together; sweet chrome rims, a little paint, and that's it. When this was sold new it might not have had even a passenger seat installed depending on the use.
I have no way of proving this but my theory is that plain metal rear van doors of this age are more difficult to come by than those with windows. While the vans with rear seating and windows all around were the same mechanically, this beast was meant for work. I'm sure most of them are long crushed.
I always check the paint names even when plain like this because sometimes you'll run across a weird or cutesy name, but no. This van is officially white. One interesting thing I ran across is literature explaining to Chevrolet dealerships at the time specifying Argent Silver paint when repairing grills or bumpers on commercial vehicles. I think the fact that these are white confirms that this was a fleet vehicle where further penny-pinching is possible when placing your order.
This thing looks ominous. Just looking at this uncaring & featureless opening gives me the feeling of approaching a cellar door in a horror movie. It is remarkably rust-free though!
This pic shows some cool styling elements. The shape of the window is great and totally unique. For that matter the rear edge of the door is on an angle leaning back towards the top. The passenger version of this van had a triangular window behind the door. When driving these for the first time it's a strange sensation because you're sitting on the front axle. Instead of pointing the van you have to get used to steering wheels that are directly under you. VW buses are much the same.
Get a load of that utilitarian side mirror. I'm sure this came with no radio or air conditioning. It is possible in this era that it came without a heater too, but I doubt anything with Vermont plates rolls like that these days!
One last look at Grubby the van. The little pinstripe design on the middle front is a nice touch. It just occurred to me that this could be a GMC van as well, which was known as the Handi-Van. In that case there would be large G M C letters around that pinstripe piece. Regardless this is one cool surf cruiser that I was very pleased to see on the streets. Keep it real GSC!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Twofer Tuesday/Wednesday returns with 2 disco dinosaurs

It was the darkest days of the American automobile industry. Post gas crisis, heavy safety and emissions regulations, dwindling build quality, and an outdated sense of what the public wanted (which was smaller, more efficient cars). Most of Detroit scrambled about in a panic, rebadging Japanese imports in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Dealership lots were full of unsold new cars, some of them years old, and the dealers themselves were close to revolt over their sad offerings. One brand couldn't care less, proudly building enormous luxury barges right up to the end of the decade without apology. I present to you the late-'70s Cadillac Eldorado:
This is a 1977 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz in Cotillion White. The luxury Biarritz edition was re-introduced in the '76 model year after a 13 year hiatus. We can tell it's a '77 due to the fine grill in combination with the vertical taillights (the '78 had a grill of larger square openings and the '76 had horizontal taillights).
Just take a look at this thing! This is a 2 door car that is absolutely gargantuan in its proportions. The '77  Cadillacs were powered by the mammoth 8.2 Liter 500 V8. Even in the era of emissions equipment this ultra-torquey motor could push this 5,000 lb car around with alacrity.  
This design was getting along in years by the time this car was produced. With the exception of the front and rear this is basically the same styling that was introduced in 1972. Despite its size the proportions are somewhat balanced (though I'm prejudiced in favor of the '70s Eldorados because my father drove a triple white '74 Eldorado convertible when I was a kid).
This car actually heralded a bunch of great features we take for granted today. Anti-lock brakes known as the Track-Master, front wheel drive (making this an unlikely champion in the snow), and even air bags which were an option all the way back in 1974!
A tiny Caddy logo covers the keyhole for the original optional alarm system.
Thick padded vinyl roof, opera windows, and even operational opera lights were gaudy hallmarks of the era and standard for the Biarritz.
This particular Caddy is immaculate and ready to roll up and claim a car show trophy on the spot. The plastic fender extensions between the side marker light and the chrome taillight housing are almost always either cracked or missing altogether, but this ride sports perfect paint and pinstripes throughout.
From this angle you can just make out that it has a large retractable glass sunroof. Known as the Astroroof, this was a high-dollar option, adding over $1,000 to the price of the car.
If you've never seen one of these with the trunk open trust me; it's truly a sight to behold! People use terms like "you could fit a body in the trunk", but really, you could fit 10 bodies in this trunk.
One strange feature that I remember from my fathers Eldorado is the automatic trunk mechanism. Basically you close the trunk to within 6 inches or so and a motor takes over, closing and locking it automatically. I'm sure many people broke their auto trunks by slamming them closed. I also remember that there was a trunk release button inside the glove compartment which was pretty neat for the '70s. In addition each fold-down visor had 2 lights framing the mirror that came on automatically when you flipped up the plastic cover. They even had high and low settings!
Safety regulations make these side lights mandatory, but Caddy took advantage and made them badges.
We'll leave this beauty to rule over Greenpoint where I found her and move on to a more heavily used example:
Even though this beater has serious wear all over it the fact remains that it is a convertible which makes it lovely in my eyes. This is definitely a 1975 Eldorado due to the clear front turn signal lenses in concert with the square headlights which were introduced this model year.
Those fender extensions I was pointing out on the white Caddy? This is more like it; they're just gone, leaving the metal decorative trim standing like tombstones in their honor. The difference between high and low beams is on display here but way more exaggerated than need be.
The color on this Hooptillac is Commodore Blue Poly, and actually looks great when in better shape.
Cadillac hood ornaments are some of the most inviting things out there for passing vandals. These folks found a solution though; tape a massive gold winged woman to the remaining stump! Amazingly this is a Cadillac hood ornament, but off of a 1940 Fleetwood Sixty Special. It is rare and valuable on its own.
Smoky, foggy, glazed over eyes give an idea as to how much use this beast sees.
Ugh the interior is disgusting! A torn-to-shreds pink tank top as a seat cover? Large plastic animal lurking in the backseat? I felt like I could smell the interior through the glass! At least being a convertible you could drop the top and let it air out for a while, but it's nasty.
This car's got a new top which is not cheap so somebody has plans for it. Looks like the auto-trunk mechanism might be shot on this one.
That rust hole between the rear window and the trunk is a really difficult spot to repair! My guess is that this beast was parked somewhere for a while and wet leaves settled on that area. I've seen otherwise decent cars with huge rust holes all over the hood and roof due to neglected leaves which get extremely corrosive when allowed to rot.
This beast is holding it down on the Long Island City/Astoria border in Queens. Hopefully when the weather gets nice again I'll catch it rolling by, but for now at least she's got that new top for winter.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What's round on the ends and hi in the middle?

Just a quick post today on one of the greatest quick-fix repairs I've ever run across.
I was riding my bike down Kent Ave near the Brooklyn Navy Yards when my eye caught this little punk:
Dude really. Aftermarket wheels? Check. Nascar commemorative license plate? Check. Focusing the worlds attention to the worst part of your ride? CHECK CHECK CHECK!
Everybody gets in fender benders and not everybody has the funds to do a proper repair, but using the triple threat combination of black & white cheetah print party tape, black electrical tape, and pixelated camouflage tape to cover it all up? IT'S NOT WORKING!
Also, I can only imagine that the owner of this ride either owns another hardware store or was fired by Ace to give the company this kind of billing.
I really didn't know this kind of tape existed. Is it for those times when you need to repair your camouflaged vehicles in Atari 2600 Combat? Only in a gray scale world of super low resolution would this obscure anything. And is that green camo tape beneath? Does this vehicle get prepped for the appropriate season?
In case you were wondering this is a 2002-2004 Oldsmobile Bravada; easily the best argument for making what was Americas oldest automotive brand extinct. However this one has transcended the medium to become something else. Whoever owns it is obviously a maniac, I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. I almost wanted to take myself to the nearest Ace hardware store and buy a rol of white tape to help this car out!
And there's your case of the Mondays people.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Show Car Sunday returns with a staggering find from L.A. Rob!

I mean really. Look at the picture below and think about the fact that L.A. Rob just rolls down the street one day and passes this scene. This picture alone could be the Chamber of Commerce brochure for Southern California! Let's get to it;
The lighter color car is a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray with the one-year-only split rear window. To me this is hands-down the most desirable 'vette and really one of the most badass sports cars ever to come from the States. The "lake pipes" side exhaust and wheels are aftermarket additions but the rest, including those big gills behind the front wheels, is factory. But enough of that, there seems to be one of the rarest Ferraris of all time parked directly behind it!
What this appears to be is a 1971 Ferrari (Daytona) 365 GTS/4 Spyder. The name Daytona was actually given to the car by the automotive press after Ferrari won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the 1967 24 hours of Daytona race. This car is exceedingly rare (only 122 convertibles ever produced) and valuable (trading well into the millions when they do come around). Why is it parked on the street?!?
Ferrari built the Daytona from '68-'73. Should you encounter one of these (which you WON'T) you can identify the 1971 and earlier cars by the plastic covered headlights. The '72 and '73 model years had pop-up hidden headlights instead of the covers. The Spyder (convertible) was only produced from '71-'73, so combined with the covered headlights this can only be a '71. 
Every bit of this ride is sexy and athletic. This car is notable for being the last front-engine Ferrari produced before they sold 50% of the company to Fiat in 1969. While they continued an unprecedented string of supercar successes after the merger, the models designed previously were truly hand built machines by a handful of craftsman. This is the last Ferrari built in that tradition, with body panels being hammered out on wooden frames one at a time.
It is hard to not be a bit distracted by that stunning Corvette! The race car style gas cap under the split window, 6 round taillights, and split bumpers are all class.
The 2 large vents on the Daytona hood provide air for the 4.3 Liter V12 and its 6 Weber carburetors. 
The round taillights continue as a design hallmark of Ferrari to this day. Rob says he encountered the owner who was all too happy to show off his ride, even firing it up while he was there! The owner said that this was his daily driver which makes him a king in my book. The fact that the guy sounds nice and generous with someone gawking at his wheels makes me wince a bit when I write the following inevitable truth: this is not a genuine Ferrari, but a high-dollar almost perfect replica based on a '72 Corvette chassis.
Please don't confuse this with any old kit car! In its own right this is a spectacular ride; well engineered (and possibly as powerful as an original Ferrari), beautifully appointed and assembled, and 99% correct in its approximation of the real 365 GTS/4. With only 69 Spiders imported new to the States there was always more demand than supply. Along came a company in San Diego named McBurnie who used to produce these kits in the '80s. For $8,000 you could buy all pieces necessary to transform your 'vette. If you'd rather buy the finished product ready to drive away they would sell you one for $40,000. In 1989 Ferrari won a lawsuit against the company which halted production.
Keep in mind that $40,000 in 1989 amounts to a little over $80,000 in todays money. That was enough to buy a very serious set of wheels back then, so this is no joke.
The only visible clue I can find that this isn't an original is the lack of vent windows on the front door. The McBurnie rides even came with correct Ferrari valve covers to dress up the engine (though nobody will miss the fact that it's an 8 cylinder as opposed to 12). Regardless I would absolutely LOVE to roll around town in this beast! Here she is taking off with its VICE TOO license plates. Rob said it sounded great, and I have no doubt.
*Last but not least a factoid from Rob; a replica such as this was carrying Crockett and Tubbs around in Miami Vice until Ferrari made their fury known. The producers of the series wrote the faux-Daytona out of the script by launching an RPG at it, blowing it to smithereens. Ferrari was please enough by this act to donate the Testarossa they used for the rest of the shows run.