Monday, March 23, 2015

Show Car Sunday/Monday returns with faux-sporty Baroque excess

1973 was a hell of a year for the American auto industry. That was the year of the Oil Embargo by OPEC that caused the first gas crisis in U.S. history. People waited in lines sometimes hours long just to be told that the station had run out of fuel. Cars built without a shred of thought to their efficiency filled the dealership lots as people flocked to smaller rides like the Beetle. In the midst of all this the car I'm featuring today was delivered:
This is a 1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 in White. The color is really sort of a cream. There was a color choice that year called Special White that was truly bright white.
From its introduction in 1967 through '73 the Cougar was the Mercury version of the Mustang. In the beginning it was a trim and athletic little muscle car, fully capable in keeping up with the fastest rides on the road if properly equipped. However by this time it was a bloated and slow yacht sprinkled with gaudy "luxury" touches like that brown vinyl roof and garish red glass medallions. The base engine was the 351 Cleveland, good for just 168 horsepower. Stomp on the gas, have some lunch, listen to the radio, and eventually you'll reach 70mph.
Take a look at that red emblem announcing this Cougar as one of the fabled XR7 models! This option package, which took over for the extra fast Eliminator option of earlier years, amounted to things like the vinyl roof, 3 spoke steering wheel with woodgrain insert, chrome rocker panel trim, etc. When the sporty option means adding weight to the car with no additional power you know you're in dire times.
At the very least these days this beast looks like nothing else on the road with it's 3 part grill and massive ships prow front end. From experience I can tell you the ride is mushy soft and handling is akin to steering a building.
That super low roofline has a bit of a gangster look though. The rear sail panel is a flying buttress style with the rear window inset a bit. The larger Mercury Marauder had this same detail with the curious addition of the trunk being painted flat black.
This is one lucky owner to still have a set of XR7-specific hubcaps! Amazingly they are available on ebay, probably because these beasts get parted out and crushed more often than restored.
Behold the peanut butter luxury of this Cougar interior! Not a single thing is missing, and it seems to have every option available. Somebody has lovingly stored this ride as it is in immaculate condition.
I love the brindle coloring of the vinyl. This is part of the reason I'm convinced this car is a near-perfect original as opposed to a well done restoration; finding this exact material would be almost impossible. The other reason is that restoring this car would cost more than the thing would be worth when it was complete. A beautiful '73 XR7 convertible just sold on ebay for $6,500!
Here is the last gasp for the Ford/Mercury sequential taillights; when you used the turn signal the inner of the 3 red lenses would light first, followed by the center and finally the outer light. They look very cool when in action, and these are well protected behind that aftermarket bumper guard.
This vinyl roof design is specific to the XR7. The standard Cougar vinyl went from the rear edge of the door glass forward, leaving a body-colored "basket handle" on the back third.
Well we'll now leave this beast here where I found it in Park Slope. Of all the cool and uncool rides I run across in NYC it's the ones like these that get me the most excited. Rare, yet not valuable, is a combination that usually guarantees you'll never see an example of a certain car. Every so often though you stumble upon one where maybe somebody conservative bought it for their midlife crisis car, storing it carefully in a heated garage for decades. Take a good look as you may never see one again!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Show Car Sunday/Monday returns with a lovely little sapphire delivered by L.A. Rob

BMW E9 3.0CS
Some cars are so beautiful that they instantly make every other ride in the parking lot look like a dumpy clunker. The car featured today is just that; a 1971-'72 BMW 3.0 CS as discovered by L.A. Rob in the automotive nursery of Southern California. I say '71-'72 because starting in '73 the U.S. cars had larger bumpers due to safety regulation.
This fresh little number is a step in the evolution of the E9 series for BMW, which ran from '68-'75. There were 16 different variants, each with monikers starting in either 3.0 or 2800 depending on engine size. From there on it's a matter of CS, CSA, CSI, and so on (listing them all would guarantee a nap for the reader). The paint we're looking at here is most likely Bermuda Blue, but in classic BMW minutiae they offered 12 different shades of blue(!). One gets the impression that BMW does what it does so well that they just expound on a theme ad infinitum.
My guess is that this was a car originally designated for the U.S. as these rear side marker lights weren't on the German edition in '71-'72. The wheels are aftermarket replacements but the owner stuck with heritage in that they are from BMW. The original wheels on these rides are a nice blend of classy and sporty though that it's kind of a shame to see these.
These steering wheels without the BMW logo in the center seem to be only for 2002s and 3.0s of this vintage. It's interesting to note that even though the gearshift is in the console there is a rectangular attachment on the top of the steering column that displays the gear you're in.
It is a busy console though, with power window switches, ventilation knobs, and the radio all sharing a tight space with the shifter. If this were a manual transmission car it would be even more desirable.
That round plastic knob on the door panel opens the small vent window with a few cranks. Looks like genuine wood on the panel due to the wear of the finish.
The seats look like they've been freshened up on this ride.
Fit, finish, and paint are all great, as is the chrome. These rides can sell in the $15,000-$25,000 range easily, especially in this condition.
We'll wrap it up here with a shot of the vent grills that look very much like attachments for hair clippers. Due to the tight spacing and conspicuous nature of taking pictures in a parking lot we weren't lucky enough to get a pic of the front, but no matter. I would absolutely love to own one of these beauties! In the early to mid '70s these cars were serious contenders in all manner of European track racing, usually with an enormous wing and spoiler attached. However, it's just these everyday versions that remain within reach of the normal buying public. For the price of a 5 year old Honda you can be riding in style!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Back to the FUTURA

I walking way down through the Southern hinterlands of Marine Park Brooklyn in late Autumn when I ran across this forlorn beater:
"I'm still standing!" it seems to be saying long after the other guy was declared the victor. What we have here is a 1978-1979 Ford Fairmont Futura in the factory color Cream with a Dark Brown pinstripe. The Fairmont was the replacement for the Maverick as everyday economical transportation. The engine choices ranged from the inline-6 cylinder to the now-famous 5.0 V8 that made the '80s Mustang cool enough for Vanilla Ice to rap about it. Both the Fairmont and Mustang were built on the Fox Body platform which helped Ford sales remain robust while Chrysler flirted with bankruptcy.
There is a way to discern the exact year but the one clue is missing from this ride; in '78 the word FORD was written on the drivers side of the front of the hood, while in '79 it was on the passengers side. In an impressive display of cheapness all emblems of this era were plastic pieces glued on to the body rather than riveted so the fact that it's missing isn't surprising. 
A lower case f keeps this ride extra fancy. Any hood ornament still attached to a NYC ride decades after it was built is remarkable, but I'm guessing the understated look of this one helped it survive.
Oof. This thing has seen some heavy action! In these instances I think the repairs have hurt more than helped things. That putty color of the spray paint patching might have looked close to that Ford Cream on the side of the can, but in reality it makes this thing look sickly and leprous. 
The lines of this ride aren't bad actually. That forward-slanting basket handle pillar between the front and rear side windows mimic the roof treatment of the Thunderbird of this era. The front hubcap is original to '78-'79 but the rear one is a mystery item probably from the same aisle in an auto parts store where they sell Tasmanian Devil floor mats and scented trees for your mirror.
The future's looking grim from this angle folks. We've got a rare trifecta of homemade repairs on display here; snipped metal held on by tape, spray painted and covered with trim that's been screwed right on to the door. At this point I would rip the trim off and spray paint the entire thing one color, but then I wouldn't have sweet Hoopties for this blog now would I?
The interior is pretty basic with a vast bench seat and crank windows. The original owner did pony up for the am/fm radio (though they stopped short of ordering the 8-track player as it would've been below the station buttons). In a rare show of restraint I don't want to rag on the interior condition too much due to the handicap placard on the dash. This car is getting somebody where they need to go.
The exterior is open season though! 
I'm not quite sure what's going on with the missing corner piece but it looks like there's a plastic bag jammed into the space. Out of the 7 rectangles making up the drivers side taillight 3 survive intact. Again the repairs take on a dadaist approach; black tape, red tape, masking tape, and mysterious white smudging all combine to create the whole.
This corner looks remarkably intact and gives an idea of what this beast looked like before Meth. 
These mighty taillight lenses are close to the Thunderbird in scope, though the T-Bird had a reflector under the license plate to give the impression of being full-width. The reverse lens is just breaking down from age.
It's amazing how crinkled the chrome wheel trim has gotten while remaining on the car. Whitewall tires though people!
Between the pinstripes as they head over the roof is this little section of "Color-Keyed Body Accent Lines" (as they are described in the Ford literature). They do nothing but convey futurism.
In one of the quirkiest offshoots ever there was an El Camino-like pickup truck version of the Futura named the Durango. The roofline ended where the rear pinstripe is. Production numbers were very low and are up to debate today, with a range of 80 to 350 built at the factory. The reasons production numbers are so mysterious is that aftermarket coach builders also made many conversions out of standard Futuras. Should you somehow encounter a Durango in the wild you can discern the genuine article from a fake due to the presence of a mini tailgate that incorporated the taillights. The conversions had the taillights intact with no tailgate; you had to reach down over the lights into the bed. 
We will leave this faithful little warhorse at this point to hold down its corner of Brooklyn. I don't know if I'm dying to ever own one of these but I do know that parts are widely available for everything should I find a deal on one someday. True to form Fords sister company Mercury made their own  version of the Fairmont called the Zephyr (with the Futura body style being called the Z7). The ultimate in collectibility (besides a Durango) would be a Zephyr Z7 with the V8, bucket seats, and a 4 speed manual transmission. Good luck finding one though!  

Monday, March 9, 2015

L.A. Rob comes through with a mottled Rambler

L.A. Rob isn't an elitist; no matter how many Ferraris he spots on a weekly basis he's always happy to snap some pics of a multicolored Hooptie should he happen upon one in the wild. He actually sent me these pics a while back, but it wasn't until I was sent a pic of the same car by another friend in Cali that I was reminded of this trove. Check out this Ramblin' beast!
What we have here is a 1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country. The basic car itself was introduced this year as the Classic, with the wagon being given the additional moniker Cross Country. Engine choices were limited to an inline 6 cylinder or a small V8.
Hey this thing has been around and seen some serious sunshine. I'm talking about the sort of sun that strips a car of its paint, warps the dashboard uncontrollably, and destroys the parts of the seats that are exposed. In California cars die from the top down as opposed to the salty, wintry East.
The original color on this Rambler is Berkeley Blue Poly, but it seems to have picked up an Alamo Beige door along the way.
From this rear quarter angle we get a sense of how quirky this design is. The station wagon roof section  and rear posts were basically added on to the standard 4 door Classic body; the back window on the sedan had wraparound glass that started at the same rearward-leaning angle as the rear side glass here before curving around the back of the car. The upgrade for a wagon over a sedan cost a mere $339.
The rear of just about any wagon of this era is cool, and this one's no different. Pointed gothic taillights are tucked under the batwing fins, and the whole rear window is set under the roofline to allow for ventilation when it's raining. 
Cross Country is written in script under the rear window. From here you can see more of that funky roofline. A rusty roof and clean underneath? This thing might originally be from the desert where sand works in concert with the sun to ruin your cars surface.
This cool ride was ingenious as it's actually a basic design from 1956 that was given some fresh skin. It certainly worked as Rambler was the 3rd biggest selling automaker in the U.S. for that year (the only time it ever attained such popularity). While Rambler was a part of AMC (American Motors Corporation) in '61, the name Rambler was dropped from all vehicles in 1966. To go from #3 in the States to a defunct nameplate was unprecedented, but the company lived on in robust fashion after buying up AM General in '71, who produced the iconic Jeep.
I love this funky ride and it just goes to show that being unique can make you more noticeable in the crowd since 2 different friends sent me picks of this exact car out of the auto paradise of Los Angeles.