Thursday, August 27, 2015

Long winded breakdown of full size GM offerings from '66 through '75

The dog days of summer have me relaxing as opposed to posting so I figured I'd drop a whole handful of rides that are close siblings. Without further ado;
What we have here is a 1967 Chevrolet Caprice in what might be Madeira Maroon Poly. While this is a sweet classic now it was one of the most popular cars of its day when built. Over 124,000 left the assembly line in this year alone!
Here she is parked on busy Bedford in Williamsburg. The forward-leaning style of the front end was a one year only design. The year previous didn't have those running lights on the outer edge of the grill (the turn signals are actually located down in the bumper), and the top of the grill was lower than the tops of the headlights in the following year.
The venerable 327 V8 powers this beast but it could have just as easily been a 283, 350, 396, or 427 (a mere 50 of the 427 equipped Caprices were built though so if you see one rotting away somewhere let me know!). Transmission options were also many, with 3 and 4 speed manuals and 2 different automatics all available.
This was the first year for the Caprice as a stand alone model and it represented the top of the heap for the full-size lineup.
I love the old dealership emblems they used to produce for cars. A decal is usually present now (or the phoning-it-in license plate frame) but the ones where they gave some effort to ape the chrome script of the factory emblems really stand out now. As is often the case this one has a couple of screws going directly through it to hold it in place.
Fit and finish is slightly wonky and scrapes and scuffs abound, but this is a solid and really good looking driver. If it were a show car you probably wouldn't want to park it on a busy street.
Look at all that trunk hanging out past the rear axle! In the '70s the trunk would shrink and the hood would grow to enormous lengths. This car is pretty huge by todays standards but it is somewhat balanced in its proportions. 
Well we'll leave this eager punk where it sits looking ready to pounce. Now on to a more sedate, later example:
Ahhh yes, here is the serene 1973 Chevy Impala in yawn-inducing BEIGE. This color looks so gentle that it looks like it came from a hospital. If your psychologist is suddenly unavailable they could let you sit on the big bench seat inside this ride and you would feel calm.
*By the way, the only way I know of discerning an Impala from a Caprice in '73 is the grill. The Impala has twice as many horizontal and vertical lines in it as the Caprice.
This is pretty darn close to immaculate which is shocking for two reasons; first of all it's a 42 year old car in New York with no rust! Second of all this was the car of choice for lowriders everywhere. So many of these got used up with 100 spoke Dayton wheels, upholstered steering wheels, and hydraulics that encountering a stock version is almost impossible.
There's some faint rust at the lower edge of the concave rear window but that seems to be the extent of the damage. The trunk lid has what seems to be a mock hood scoop which is something I haven't seen on any other car.
The federally mandated bumpers were introduced in stages. This year is on the cusp where the huge front bumpers ready to withstand a 5mph crash are already in place. This is the last gasp for rear bumpers that incorporate the taillights before the regulations for the rear came due in '74.
The stock hubcaps are nice enough, and the lower body crease helps temper the dimensions of this beast. The 350 V8 was standard in '73 but you could also order a 400 and 454. Now lets lose the roof:
Here we have an EVIL 1972 Impala convertible in Tuxedo Black. This is the last year for an Impala drop-top as it would move to the upscale Caprice the following year.
The grill has been spray painted black (for extra toughness I suppose). Those cheeseball plastic mirrors are not original and I'm calling the owner out on it! The originals were square brushed stainless steel examples that fit a large car.
You can see the lineup I was presented with on this block! We'll see those other rides in a minute.
The hubcaps on this beast are Chevy, but they come from an early-'80s Suburban.
A white roof on a convertible is a stroke of genius since it helps keep the interior cool in the sun. I had a convertible with a black top and interior once and even though it looked great the seats were 1,000 degrees no matter what.
Next we'll flip-flop color schemes:
This is a 1974 Caprice convertible in Antique White. It's very easy to date this car because it's the last year for the headlights being tucked in behind the leading edge of the fenders and the first year for the huge rear bumpers. This basic design would continue through '76 but the final two years had the a flat grill out front with the headlight pods on an angle leaning back. The overall impression of that look is a fainthearted attempt at making a square slab aerodynamic. 
Here's that ridiculously huge rear bumper hanging off like a park bench. It also gives the impression of squinting or lazy rear taillights to me. Why you would need those additional little bumper guards on there is a mystery to me.
This was the first year for a Caprice convertible. The name on the hardtop was located on the sail panel behind the rear side window. For the convertible you can see the emblem located on the leading top edge of the quarter panel.
Now on to an interloper:
Here we have a 1975 Buick Electra 225 Limited in Arctic White with a Maroon vinyl landau roof. We can pinpoint the date because this is Buicks first year for square headlights and the following years would see the turn signals directly under the headlights instead of down in the bumper.
Buick was above Chevy, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile in the GM hierarchy but still below Cadillac in luxury. Some of those extra touches exist here though like the stand up hood ornament and the cornering lamps on the sides. Under the skin however this car is the same as the Impalas and Caprices from the same year (along with the Olds 98, Caddillac Coupe de Ville, and Pontiac Grandville for that matter).
The plastic bumper extensions missing here are easily the weakest link for all GM cars of the era. Most Buicks and Cadillacs need them replaced at some point. This car is a true hooptie with the trunk lock missing and dents, scrapes, and rust all over it.
Well there you have it for GM full size beasts from '66 and '72-'75. I've ridden in at least one example of each of these yachts and they all ride nicely with plenty of power and cushy comfort. Parts for them are readily available too since all were made in vast quantities. These days one can still be had at a reasonable rate and would be a breeze to maintain.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Show Car Sunday returns with an original paint beast!

Just a block away from my shop is a combination flat-fix and place to buy some fancy rims for your ride. Every once in a while they have a classic parked out front. Check it out!
This sharp beast is a 1969 Cadillac Eldorado in Shalimar Gold Poly. It looks like any old big car of the era but in reality it's a technological marvel (like it's cousin the Olds Toronado). For as large as it is this car is front wheel drive! Handling is actually shockingly good when compared to its peers.
From these angles you can see the '69 and '70 only Halo Roof option where a strip of the body color outlined the vinyl as opposed to it going all the way to the tops of the windows. The main identifying feature for pinpointing the year as '69 is that it says Cadillac in the grill. In 1970 the word Eldorado replaced it.
Sure it's a huge hood! The motor is gargantuan; a 7.7 Liter 472 V8. The following year the Eldorado would gain the mightiest engine of the decade in the 8.2 Liter 500.
I like how the paint is worn off the passenger side front fender proving that the paint and condition is original.
The jutting schnoz like the prow of a ship.
I think the turn signals are beautiful on this ride, and they play well against the bumper.
Little details abound, all very high quality. This lamp lights up when the turn signal is used to help illuminate where you're heading. The tiny Cadillac crest on the front keeps it classy.
This basic design was launched in 1967 and would continue through the '70 model year. One detail that made the '67 and '68 Eldorados extra tough was the fact that they had hidden headlights. Imagine how badass this car would be if there was just an unbroken stretch of black grill from turn signal to turn signal!
Here we can see the tiny rear side window which was power of course. You can also see the sharp downward angled crease below the lower corner of the window like a shout-out to the separate fenders of years gone by. The wheels are what you might expect from a gold Caddy parked in front of a wheel shop.
The knife-edge of the rear quarters house the taillights and are basically the remnants of fins.
The rear bumpers are somewhat delicate and serve more to add to the overall look than protect the body.
Just a few years after this Eldo came off the factory floor federal regulations required enormous bumpers. While huge rides like the Cadillacs of the day wore them better than most you still couldn't hope for something resembling elegance.
We'll close it out here with the Cadillac wreath symbol as used for the rear side marker light.
As large as this generation of Eldorado was it would gain a full 6 inches in length in 1971. These are the last that managed to look (and act) athletic and nimble, all the while able to shuttle 6 adults comfortably. I've wanted one of these ever since I saw a '68 with a chopped roof and "EL DOG" spray painted on the windshield 20 years ago. They're getting scarce now but are still somewhat  available and the prices are just creeping up. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Twofer Tuesday strikes with a rural Mercedes duo nestled amidst other faded foreign beauties

In the spirit of summer vacations I'm featuring a unique garage in the shadow of the Shawangunk Mountains. Halfway between New Paltz and the rural home of some friends of mine is Beek's Auto; a full service repair shop in an impossibly lovely location.
Ringing the parking lot is a motley collection of European classics. I pulled over and was granted permission to take some shots of the lineup.
This rusty rump belongs to a 1956-'59 Mercedes Benz 220S. From the outside this ride is almost identical to the 220A it replaced. The original color by the way is Anthrazitgrau (or Anthracite Gray to you plebs).

Here the classy lines are on display. Mercedes of this vintage were known as Ponton (German for pontoon) due to the shape of their fenders. On the smaller Mercedes the look is charming and rounded, but on these larger saloons it cuts a powerful yet elegant stance.
The only surefire way to identify a 220S from one of its elders is that the front bumper is 1 piece as opposed to 3. I think this ride has the earlier bumper from a 1954-1955 MB. Of course this hood ornament is long gone!
The roof is what got me most excited about this ride though. This car is fitted with the Webasto sliding sunroof which, when opened, provided an enormous amount of fresh air and sunlight. I had a Beetle with a similar canvas sunroof and it was like a convertible where your hair wouldn't get messed up.
Down the line a bit seems to be a parts car for the other Mercedes. This one looks to be an earlier 220A by the fact that the lower portion of the taillights are orange as opposed to red. The color might be Indigoblau.
Oh poor 220 had its schnoz stolen right off its face! My guess is that this ride provided the 3 piece bumper and grill to the 220S. These older rides had slower 4 cylinders compared to the 6 cylinder of the 220S, which along with the sunroof makes the choice of which to save obvious.
Next down the line is a car that's so English it may as well have a cup of tea. What we have here is a 1952-'54 Austin A40 Somerset Saloon. You rarely see these in the States!
Everything about this diminutive little ride is cute as can be. Rounded overall, with scooping lines, a smug face, and the coolest flying-A hood ornament ever add up to one sweet cruiser!
The grill sports a wheel at the top with a set of soaring wings, and this crest behind the crazed glass. The engine was a tiny 1.2 liter inline 4 cylinder that managed to get this car up to 70 or so mph.
The Austin was sweet and all but there is legit gold hidden in the back!
What we have here is a Jaguar XKE Series 2 roadster. It's missing almost every little identifying feature so getting the year straight is beyond me, but if it is Series 2 it would be '68-'71. 
These odd headlights are why I'm guessing Series 2 as they look like they were meant to be open as opposed to the glass covered versions on early US and all Euro models.
Being a convertible means that this car will be restored at some point. Most likely the bumpers, door handles, and everything else are resting inside Beek's somewhere.
The bubbles of rust creeping around the trunk lid allude to potential horrors beneath.
Nestled next to the Jag is a Fiat 850 Spider from the early '70s. The most unique thing about this car is that its tiny (843cc) engine ran counterclockwise as opposed to almost every other engine out there.  Despite the size of the engine this car managed a top speed of 90mph when new. 
The 850 was universally praised for its almost perfect balance and clean lines. They were briefly infamous though for a recall in the U.S. due to rust! The recall was for cars going back 10 years that had prematurely rotted out. To see one at all in the Northeast is rare.
Well that completes the Beek's roundup. This place has always seemed to acquire incredible old rides, even having an early '50s Packard hearse/ambulance for a while. Can't wait to see what they get next!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Brown Streak

I found myself in a far corner of Astoria recently when I saw a rotted old hulk crouching at the curb. I mean look at this thing!
This is a 1950 Pontiac Straight-Eight (or Silver Streak as it was alternately called) that might have been black 65 years ago. At first glance it is the most beat up ride in town.
The Straight-Eight got its name from the inline 8 cylinder engine beneath the hood. The big straight eights were common from the 1930s with most domestic auto makers. By 1950 they were heading towards extinction thanks to the more powerful and efficient V8s. Packard was the last to produce one in 1954, a year after Pontiac went for the V8.
Even the wheels are tired on this thing, but they match. After looking at them for a minute it dawned on me that they were very much on purpose.
This logo is so futuristic! Nobody did the future as well as the past during the '40s and '50s.
Oh yeah look at this monster! This is like a big muddy catfish trolling the lakebed looking for children to eat. Those headlights confirm what the wheels were hinting at; this is actually somebody's ultimate rat rod. I like this so much better than the standard flat black paint with red wheels and baby moon caps. Every second of the 65 years this has existed is written on its rusty mug.
That fat chrome stripe is where the Silver Streak name originated. This was also the last gasp for split windshields. In many ways this car has more in common with cars from the '20s than even those built 5 years later.
It's obscured behind the scratched glass covering but within that circle is the stylized head of Chief Pontiac residing within. Originally his image would've been the hood ornament too (in chrome on this car but in lit-up amber glass on the Super Chief!). 
Grumpy punk.
For a 2-door coupe this ride is pretty huge. I imagine fitting 4 people in the backseat wouldn't be an issue.
That little blue sticker on the vent window is the only other visual clue that this is a well loved car.
Inside we can see what's really going on here! There is a very short stick shift hiding beneath some terrible but newer seats. That massive dash mounted aftermarket tach with the red light telling the driver when to shift, the 4 gauges below, and the two red switches amidst those gauges all tell me this is a serious drag racing machine!
The dual exhaust is barely visible here as they used dark or possibly rust-treated metal. It looks to me to be 2.5" or 3" exhaust though so whatever's under the hood these days has plenty of grunt. I really like how the pipes angle outward in an effort at even more subtlety. The taillights have a blue dot in the center which is a classic hot rod detail.
You can just make out EIGHT in art deco lettering on that half circle over the propeller. Even better is the cheesiest/worst/best license plate holder I've ever seen!
Hats off to the mystery owner of this masterpiece hiding in plain sight. I've seen a lot of junky cars, rat rods, and hot rods, but this is the single best combination of the three I've witnessed. I would love to see this pull up to a light and get challenged by some chump in a Mustang only to blow its doors off.
Bravo, Pontiac owner!