Sunday, June 14, 2015

Show Car Sunday returns with "The car you can test drive for the rest of your life"

Italian cars tend to look recognizably Italian much the way American cars look American. The following ride is so Italian it's out of control!
I found this little dart crouched on Greenwich St in Greenwich Village looking like a red arrow. From the color to the exotic, sexy shape you can tell this was built in Italy.
This is a 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV-6 2.5. The name is a mouthful to be sure! It is the high horsepower version of the venerable Alfetta (as it was known in its home country) which was introduced in 1974 and continued through 1987 with only a minor facelift in 1980. The long run without a body change is a tradition in both Italy and the UK where a car might go several decades without a restyle.
The slippery roofline is beautiful on this ride, as is the trapezoidal overall shape. Remember that this thing left Milan during the era of perfectly square cars.
This was basically a factory built hot rod which prompted the print advertising slogan "The car you can test drive for the rest of your life". The larger engine of the full-size Alfa 6 Saloon was installed in this tiny ride, replacing the standard 2.0 liter engine (and a mere 1.6 before that). The motor was too large for the bay so a pronounced hood bulge was fabricated to make room.
Pinning down the date on these rides is almost impossible as this looked exactly the same from '80-'97. However, those particular wheels were standard only for the '85 GTV-6, so assuming they are original (and the car looks to be unchanged from new) then it most likely is. I say most likely because Italian automakers are legendary for their nonchalant record keeping. I read an article once about a guy trying to restore a Fiat X-19 and he couldn't get a single straight answer about how many were built, what year things changed (often midyear with no announcement), or which parts went with which models! The prevailing attitude seemed to be "Yeah we probably built that car, and it's beautiful and fast, so what's the issue?"
It is beautiful though. That side molding jjust under the door handle is a bit of a mystery as I found some Alfas that have it but most don't. Who knows?
The wooden steering wheel is beautiful but not original as far as I can tell. It looks identical to the one from the mid-'70s Alfas that came before the GTV-6. The radio is super duper for 1985 playing all kinds of cassettes and having lots of little buttons.
Just look at this sporty little wedge!
Here you can see the additional engine clearance in the form of a hood bulge. I find the black bit of plastic on the hood confusing because it seems like the location for a hood scoop but it's all sealed up. I tried researching it but the consensus from Alfa collectors is that it was just an '80s styling add-on that served no particular purpose.
One more look at that plastic rectangle on the hood.
One detail that makes this car so much tougher looking than the pre-1980 version is the fact that the chrome has been replaced with blacked-out trim from the factory. The window surrounds, vents under the wipers, and grill would have all been metal or chrome in the '70s but it looks great like this.
A close-up shot of the Speedline "Phone Dial" wheels that mark this as an '85. The funny thing is that these wheels earned their nickname after touch-tone dialing had already taken over.
We'll leave this little red rocket here to hold down its corner of the Village. After the 1987 model year the GTV6 was finally discontinued which left a hole in the Alfa Romeo lineup that wasn't filled until the GTV was released in 1995 (which unfortunately coincided with Alfa Romeo pulling out of the U.S. market). The fact that this design, whose roots hail from 1974, looks as fierce today as it did then is remarkable.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Urban Suburban

Greenpoint has one stretch of road with so many interesting old rides on it that there must be either a car club, shade tree mechanic, or just a nest of West Coast rockabilly billet proof punks with similarly brycreemed hair and Born to Lose tattoos. Regardless, look at the beast I found over that way!
Man you just don't see things like this in NYC at ALL! This is a 1951 Chevrolet panel van in what was once Seacrest Green. There would normally be a series number (3100, 3600, or 3800) denoting the load capacity, but on each side the emblem is missing.
The trend of leaving great patina well enough alone is one I applaud fully, especially when something has as much character as this. I mean, this truck was meant to earn its living through hard work and has achieved the age of 64 while remaining drivable, so let it look like it's been around!
Over the decades this has lived a few different lives I'm sure. Not only is there a small (probably crank-out) vent installed in the roof but there's this square patch panel riveted to the side. There is a small window on the opposite side so I guess they just went for a quick and dirty fix. The seats look to have been recovered tastefully. 
The above image cements this as a 1951 model; that was the first year for the vent windows in the doors and the last for the non-pushbutton door handles. The cut-out portion behind the lower-rear edge of the door is mimicked on the other side which I'm assuming is rust repair.
The original hubcaps are still there with that cool art deco font.
Depending on the year you would get either barn doors like this or clamshell where the hinges were at the top or bottom.
I had to look up that GUIDER17T designation on the bright metal trim topping this light. Turns out this is just the part name for the combo license plate holder and light for '46-56 Chevy & GMC panel vans and suburbans. The Cali plate explains why this beast is alive at all.
This ride was a part of the Advanced Design era of Chevy trucks that ran from 1947-1955. It was the first real redesign after WWII when all civilian production stopped for the war effort. After the war all the major car companies hurriedly rushed out whatever they could produce which consisted of cars that were being built back in 1942. Even those designs were tired by the time '42 rolled around so this was a big fist step.
I love this thing. Believe it or not there was only a 216 inline 6 cylinder powering this truck when new with a 3 or 4 speed manual on the column.
That lonely bolt hole on the lower fender tells a sad story of a piece of metal that was once there. The running board is getting an emergency assist from some clothesline.
Those two holes under CHEVROLET once held the emblem that announced the series for this rig.
This grill is iconic, with the original Lowrider movement of '60s and '70s SoCal transforming tons of these trucks.
That little lens is real glass. The magnification built into that glass is key to it being noticed at all since this truck was 6-volts when new. I know from experience that 6-volt lighting is dim.
Well we'll leave this cruiser to lay low amongst its motley crew of classics and oddities. Someone has a seriously cool truck on their hands and I was glad to have found it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fort Knox

I was rolling along Hancock Street in Bed Stuy a month or 2 ago when I saw this:
This is a 1970 Buick Electra 225 in some semblance of gold. When this car rolled off the assembly line it could've been painted any of 3 different factory gold hues (Desert, Cornet, or Harvest), but none of them look like this.
*Incidentally this is quite the block for visual satisfaction. Check out this image from the last time I was passing by those garage doors in the back:
WHY? Anyway, back to the Buick . . .
This is a great year for the Electra; it is the last hurrah for this body before a massive facelift was introduced in 1971. At the same time it is the first year the mighty 455 V8 replaced the aging 401 Nailhead engine. With things like emissions control equipment and catalytic converters still years away this beast, while heavy, could move around very quickly.
The swooping accent crease going from the front wheel to the rear bumper is a Buick hallmark. Without it this would be more of a heavy brick in appearance. Can I get a shout-out for how much junk is in this Electras trunk? Could it hold 5 bodies? Maybe 8? No problem.
Well what we have here is pride of ownership people, and no I'm not mocking anybody. These original Buick wheels came from the factory with those inner sections painted black. The owner seems to believe that brown would go better with the gold, and so be it.
*Also, if you look through those rectangular vent holes in the wheels you can see metal lines. These are the finned aluminum drum brakes that were used from at least the '50s through this, their final year. Hot rodders love them as they polish up beautifully for use in old-school customs where the front wheels are exposed. I had a '65 Electra and they stopped the car much better than expected.
Even in gold this looks like the consummate hitmans car.
The sinister look of the wide taillight bars nicely understated.
The trunk lock has been replaced with a reinforced unit after someone got overly curious. From this angle you can see the reverse lights placed vertically on the rear edge of the quarter panels.
I took these shots at the beginning of Spring so here's a nice flowering tree.
The reverse lights once again with a view of the side marker light. General Motors made brand-specific rear quarter lights in this era, with the Pontiac Firebird having one the shape of the Firebird logo, and the Oldsmobile having a light-up rocket. Here we see a Buick crest within the circle.
The gentleman in the background with the hat on is the owner and he was nice enough to let me scramble around taking pics of his ride. At first he yelled something out like "You like it?" or something, to which I started asking him specific questions like "Is that a '69? Does it have the 401 Nailhead in it?". He warmed right up and left me to check it out.
It's a bit pitted but the Buick-specific mirror is cool. This car was positioned just below Cadillac in the hierarchy of GM so little details and touches abound.
In fact from this angle you can see the similarities to Cadillac. The 1970 Coupe DeVille is almost the same car with the main cosmetic difference being that swooping side line on the Buick, and the grill/taillight designs.
We'll leave this beauty with a look at that mighty split grill, seen in '70 for the last time since it was introduced in '67. I loved my Buick from this era as it perfectly combined cushy luxury with brute power. The fact that this golden beast is still representing 45 years after it was built is a testament to the original build quality. Hats off Goldie!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mercury Grenada

I was wandering around South Williamsburg admiring the blooming flower mural next to a tattoo shop when something caught my eye.
Wait a minute! What is that blue box with its arse hanging over the crosswalk? A Ford Grenada?
Whoa! This unexpected find is a 1976 Mercury Monarch in 2-tone Silver Blue Glamour Poly and Light Blue. This was the Mercury version of the Grenada which meant a plusher interior and better appointments overall (though much of that amounted to useless glitz in '76 like this wheels). That mural really presents it well though.
Both the Grenada and Monarch were intended to replace the Falcon in 1970 but the annual safety regulations were such that Ford decided to start from scratch with an entirely new design. This held the project up for 5 years. When they were finally released people claimed (some with pride some with anger) that they stole their looks from Mercedes Benz. I find this pretty laughable myself and file it along with the comments that the Pontiac Fiero was too far ahead of its time.
Ah yes the upholstered gas cap cover! A feature all too rarely seen on ANY ride. This being the heart of the '70s you would encounter taped-on "luxury" cues everywhere.
This thing is in close to perfect condition for sure. Those outsized bumper guards are practical. 
Being a Mercury also gets the owner a strip of upholstery between the front and rear windows. 
The round headlights lasted from '75 through '77, being replaced with big square examples in '78. The technology on this ride is really basic; front engine with a carburetor powering the rear wheels.
The fine tooth grill and chromed-out turn signals are the most recognizable difference between the Monarch and Grenada. While the eyelids are an aftermarket add-on the body colored headlight surround is a nice touch. This is certainly trying to be a big luxury car in miniature. 
This M in a circle hood ornament is Monarch-only from '75-'80.
She's a stately little brick if I do say so myself.
Oh yeah people step inside and shove that mighty 8-track home for sweet hi-fi sound! There was a high-end version of the Monarch called the Ghia that would've included leather bucket seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but even this regular model has plenty of options. The power window switch looks like the tacked-on box that it is, having nothing to do with the rest of the door panel or interior.The subtle door opening is interesting; you reach down through the armrest opening and squeeze. The fake wood couldn't look any more faux than it is!
*Under the dash below the radio you can just see a small chrome switch hanging down. I believe this is the passenger-side mirror control which was basically a little joystick connected via cable for adjusting the mirror from the drivers seat.
These wheels are confounding because at first glance I thought they were hubcaps with a fake-spoke treatment. I believe these are the 14-inch cast aluminum wire wheels that were advertised as standard with the Ghia. They might have been options for the regular or were found used.
Well there we have it. The old saying goes; "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king". In the mid-'70s the Mercury Grenada was a Monarch. It's all relative!