Sunday, May 31, 2015

Show Car Sunday returns with a lovely blue baby.

Some cars become classics only due to their long term survival. The car being featured today was as plain-Jane boring cookie-cutter as it gets when it was first released. Finding one in 2015 looking like it just rolled off the assembly line is almost impossible, but here she is! 
This is a 1972 Plymouth Valiant in the very beautiful Basin Street Blue. Every single thing about this car is perfect! Actually that's not true; the dashboard has a crack, the rear deck is slightly faded, and the gas cap is black, but for a 43 year old car that is nothing.
This grill was used between 1971-1972. In fact I can't think of a single difference between those 2 model years to help pinpoint the vintage, but I was lucky enough to talk to the owner to confirm it was a '72. He said it was a literal barn find needing only a repaint and for the bumpers to be rechromed to reach the level of show car perfection you see here.
This was the definition of a midsize car for 1972; a small box on a bigger box with 4 wheels and 4 doors. This car doesn't want to race anybody. This car wants to take you to church and the grocery store.
I love these original hubcaps and their somewhat weird styling. The year before this they had hubcaps that looked like the top of a pie; plain metal with five black circles in the middle like the vent holes on a crust. 
The steering wheel, dashboard, and carpet are all as blue as the outside.
This little cruiser has the Slant-6 engine which earned a reputation as one of the most durable ever produced. In high school I had a friend who owned this exact car in beige with almost 200,000 miles on it. After treating it horribly for a year (racing on dirt roads, driving through the woods, dragging people around on a sled in winter fields, etc) he decided he was going to blow the engine before calling the junkyard because he was inheriting a Datsun. He drained the oil and left the car running with something on the gas pedal and waited. After something like a half hour he was so impressed that he decided he would try to continue driving it with no oil to see how long it could go. He drove back and forth to school for a few days and was on his way to the Danbury Fair Mall when it finally seized! That poor beast should've had a better owner as it probably would be running today.
The Valiant was identical to the Dodge Dart this year, but the Darts are worth more money for whatever reason, making this a great choice for starting out in the classic car game.
The body is straight as an arrow.
I had the sibling to this car in college; a 1972 Plymouth Duster. The only difference was that the Duster was a fastback 2-door body style. I bought it for $60 (as in SIXTY) and drove it from Maine to Baltimore to Lancaster PA, all the while delivering pizzas in Providence with it. It was gold with a green faux-snakeskin vinyl roof, and I wish I had it today.
Nonchalantly outclassing everything on the block.
This was the most conservative car you could get from Plymouth in '72. This was the era of crazy paint and interior choices (like Panther Pink and Plum Crazy Purple for colors and the Mod Flower print or Paisley for vinyl roof and interior!).
Here's to hoping this gets respect from parallel parkers in the big city.
Well there we have it; a quiet, smooth, economical daily driver turned show car on this beautiful Sunday. Next up; something a lot more rugged for sure.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Caged Bird

Few things are as dear as real estate in Brooklyn. However, if you head out far enough beyond the reach of the subway you can still find large abandoned lots with random vehicles scattered about.
This is a 1975 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am wearing the remnants of the factory color Graystone. 
All of the original decals and emblems are missing with the sole exception of this tiny Firebird on the schnoz. When the car was new it sported a full array of the graphics that made Firebirds famous including this iconic "Flaming Chicken" image large enough to cover the entire hood. Since this is a gray car the graphics would have been in blue and silver.
Aww yeah she's got patina to spare, not to mention some '80s Camaro Iroc-Z rims. The spoiler wrapping under the bumper from the front wheel well was included with the Trans-Am option.
This vent behind the front wheel is another component of the Trans-Am package as is that particular hood scoop (the Formula option package had dual hood scoops on the front of the hood above the grill openings). The fact that the hood scoop is sunken into the opening is troubling though. Is the engine not in the car? Is the engine in the car but resting on the ground due to a rotten cross member? Who knows but that engine was most likely the 400 V8. There was a 455 V8 as an option but unfortunately by this year it was no longer the same super high performance unit of the early '70s. If you opted for the 455 in 1974 you got the same engine as the Safari Station Wagon.
Looks like this beast hasn't been on the road for a solid 28 years! Those wheels were actually pretty new when this got parked so I'm guessing something big like the transmission or engine blew and the owner never got around to it.
The lower quarter panel looks solid so the salty winters never got to this ride. The overall rust looks more like a car from the southwest. Due to the lack of decals and a couple of old bondo filler spots I figure someone sanded this ride down to do some paint prep for a paint job that never came.
Check out these totally radical louvers for the rear window! You just don't see this sort of thing anymore. 
The downward sloping taillights with horizontal dividers were introduced in 1974 and continued on up through '78. That wing was a part of the Trans-Am look.
Of all the shows to binge watch on Netflix I recently started watching The Rockford Files. The lead character Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) drove a gold Firebird Esprit starting with the 1974 when the show was launched. For the next 5 seasons he bought a new Firebird in the same gold color. I love the show with it's obligatory car chases in every episode and the fact that it takes place in Los Angeles during the '70s so the cars are amazing throughout. This forlorn little bird with its clipped wings is the same year as the one I'm watching in season 2 right now. I've seen this car explode, crash, drive on the beach, and do countless stunts. To see it all caged up and forgotten is a little sad.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Show Car Friday? Whatever, here's a Bed Stuy Beauty!

I've said it before, said it again, and will now say it again-again; the streets of Brooklyn are littered with vintage Cadillacs! If I wanted to do a blog of only 20+ year old Caddys I don't think I'd have a problem. Nevertheless, this big show-stopper caught my eye while riding through Bed Stuy recently.
This is a 1976 Cadillac Coupe DeVille in either Crystal Blue Firemist Poly or something close to it. This is the Devil in a Blue Dress.
'76 was the second year for square headlights. The only way I know of the differentiate this year from the 1975 model is this wrap around turn signal/cornering lamp; the '76 has those 2 slight horizontal bars spanning the length of the lenses while the '75 had none. If you look closely at the lens you can see that  it is actually divided into 2 parts; turn signal in front and a square at the rear that lights up the side you're steering towards when you have your signal on.
These cars are unabashed in their largess! That chrome top of the grill is a common aftermarket addition. That, combined with the weight of this enormous hood, is probably why the hood is sitting a little lower than the fenders.
Someone installed some 28 or 30 inch rims on this beast and it looks kind of normal actually.
In the sunlight this color was really incredible! The name Firemist on several of the Caddy paint codes refers to a special metal flake that catches the light in a truly beautiful way. I had a '74 Coupe DeVille in Seafoam Firemist Green, but being 18 years old I painted flames on it proudly:
R.I.P. The Olympic (as she was known) 
 This beauty still has the original fender skirts mine was lacking. You can see this was a repaint if you follow the chrome wheel well trim from back to front; it looks like they accidentally painted over half the chrome on the rear!
This dual exhaust pipes are no joke. This beast left the factory with a 500 cubic inch V8! While they were only rated for something like 200hp they are extremely torquey motors that have no issue moving this 5,000lb ride around like it was a much smaller car. My '74 got somewhere in the realm of 8-12 miles per gallon though so I had to pay for every burnout.
Somebody just had to swipe the Caddy emblem that covers up the trunk keyhole.
It looks like rust is starting to creep out from under the vinyl roof where it meets the trunk. This is an unfortunate but all too common problem with any vinyl roof of this era.
Those fender extensions are the closest thing to fins you could find on any car in '76.
She's being coy hiding behind the planter like an elephant behind a telephone pole.
Blue cars with white interiors are my favorite. The fact that somebody thought an additional pillow was needed on the backseat means that either someone's sleeping in this thing or the Princess and the Pea sits in the back.
The thing about this ride now is that all you need to do is park it in front of a row of old buildings and it looks like you're filming a Scorsese flick.
You can tell by the lack of leaves on the trees that this was one of the first discoveries of the year for me. I have so many waiting in the wings . . .
That's the last we'll see of Big Blue for now. A doppelgänger of this ride in white with a white vinyl roof pulled into the mechanic across from my shop while I was finishing up, but really; is that very surprising?