Sunday, June 26, 2016

Show Car Sunday returns with a sweet Art Deco masterpiece!

On a recent beautiful day I borrowed a friends car and drove out to the Delaware Water Gap. This little number had me jerk an egregious u-turn on the spot. Check this thing out!
It's all on the sign in the window, but this is a 1931 Willys Overland Sport 6 Coupe. When you go this far back it's a bit more difficult to pinpoint the color (not that this is original and who would know it it was). I managed to find a "Color Schedule" for Willys in 1931 and they list 4 different greens; Noblock, Russell, Aball, and Beach. Whatever, this car is awesome!
Try to imagine the world when this came off the assembly line 85 years ago! Prohibition still had 2 years to go. The Empire State Building was just being completed. Hoover was president and the Hoovervilles that bore his name were sprouting in Central Park as the Great Depression was in full swing. In fact, this car was barely built by a company that was struggling to survive by selling off plants and equipment.
*Let's just agree to forgive the owner for adding that modern side mirror, alright?
The turn signals will have to be forgiven too as this was built with none.
The headlights though are made of thick glass. I find the grill to be one of the most beautiful of the era with its double arches and scalloped details. The side louvers add to the Sport feel.
That hole in the bottom of the radiator is for the crank in case your ancient battery failed to do the trick. When this was made batteries needed constant maintenance such as topping up of the fluids, etc. Failure was common and service stations infrequent so knowing how to start your car with the hand crank was essential.  
This straddles the line between the spindly primitive cars of the teens and twenties and the rounded, voluptuous auto bodies of the late '30s.
To find a relatively untouched and wholly uncustomized example of a 1931 domestic car is remarkable. This was the sort of cheap used car available to the first hot-rodders and most of them were treated brutally. Any '30s coupes that survived were snatched up by Baby Boomers for customization later. To see this sitting pretty with its original stance and wheels is like finding a 1950 Mercury that hasn't been chopped.
This body style could be had with either a trunk such as this or a rumble seat. If it were fitted with the rumble seat there would be an actual trunk attached to the outside of the car much like a steamer trunk. There were convertibles too and they can get seriously expensive.
The gas tank is located below the trunk. That is the gas cap on the lower right above the bumper.
The name Sport 6 refers to the 6 cylinder engine under the bonnet. There was a Sport 8 as well but it would be a few years until they released a 4 cylinder.
I can't say they did a very good job of matching the paint as the rear edge of the door seems to be a demarcation between a bright grass green up front and a deeper hue in the back. Who cares though when you're rolling in a '31 Willys? Those massive running boards are functional by the way.
Who knows? Maybe an interested party will see this posting and contact the seller. I'm posting this on 6/26/16 but the pics were only taken on 6/19.
The interior looks pretty darn good and honest. I love how tall the gearshift is on this ride. The gauges are centrally located. It actually looks like there is a heater under the passenger side of the dash which in itself is pretty rare.
These whitewalls are wizened with age. The original Willys 6 emblems are awesomely Art Deco.
It was common in this era for the windshield to be hinged like this for hot days.
From this angle you can see the single windshield wiper motor. Originally I believe this would operate off a vacuum hose connected to the engine.
Well there you have it; an 85 year old car built by a company teetering on the edge of insolvency. Who would've guessed back in 1931 that this company would go on to design one of the most iconic vehicles of all time; the Jeep. Needless to say their troubles ended after WWII with Jeep production ramping up for civilian use but at this point there were no guarantees of their survival.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit special!

Out in the fertile hooptie grounds of Red Hook I found this hardy immigrant looking for a fight:
This is a 1971-1985 Land Rover Series III in the very faded color Blaze. This is as stalwart and British as a vehicle can be though diametrically opposed to Rolls Royce in use and appearance. I would hazard a guess that any English country home that had a Rolls Royce in the drive also had one of these lurking somewhere.
This thing is built for imperialist expansion. Flatten the wild jungles before you with ease! Cross vast deserts and ford piranha filled rivers on your way to victory! 
The Land Rover was introduced in 1949 modeled after the Jeep. Originally the headlights were tucked in with the grill between the fenders but this changed in 1968 to comply with the laws of several of the countries where it was sold.
You can go ahead and place your spare tire right here.
You can see from the slight overhang on the left front edge of this hood that it's not a perfect fit. This may in fact come from an earlier model with the headlights between the fenders. In fact the only colors available on the very first late '40s-mid '50s were various shades of green. Maybe this is an original hood for the first series? Who knows?
You know everything you need to know about this truck the moment you look at it. It screams UTILITY; flat (for the most part) body panels, big wheels and tires, and a high ground clearance. Like the Jeep the roof and doors are removable and the windshield folds flat onto the hood.
Power was most likely derived from an inline 4 cylinder gas engine. They had 6 and even 8 cylinder gas and diesel versions but they were vastly outnumbered by the tried and true 4.
I love the looks of these things. To me it's much like a smaller International Scout. There is a huge difference though besides scale; the body panels are made up of aluminum alloy so corrosion isn't an issue. That's AL-YOO-MINNY-UM to you Yanks.
*That is NOT a massive assault rifle in the window though it looks like one in this pic.
So many mysteries on this vehicle. For instance, what are those two rectangular plates riveted above the wheel well? I imagine there's some ultra heavy duty side guard that could have been fitted by the factory but I can't be sure. The gas cap looks like it belongs on a tank.
Who needs a rear bumper when your arse is this burly? Everything is as basic as can be; the door hinges and locking mechanism look like simple diagrams.
I like how somebody welded a solid steel plate to the frame below the door as if to say "this is all the cosmetic treatment you get Land Rover".
Like most (if not all) British vehicle manufacturers the Land Rover company has a long and incestuous ownership history. It began as the off-road division of Rover before being combined with Triumph and subsequently absorbed into the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). In the late '80s it was owned by British Aerospace. BMW acquired it in 1994. Ford purchased it in 2000. In 2008 Ford sold Land Rover along with Jaguar to Tata Motors of India, making it an extremely late in coming spoil of their 1947 independence from Britain. The British automotive family tree looks like a twisted vine overlapping several times.
Our best indicator that this is a Series III is the plastic dashboard which was painted metal earlier. Another indication is that the gauges are in front of the driver when they used to be centrally located. Having your gauges in the center is an elegant solution for a vehicle that has been exported to the furthest corners of the earth since its inception; move the steering wheel and pedals to whichever side the country of origin dictates and everything else is universal.
I was certain that these seats were replacements but they are in fact Series III stock. The same design carried on into the Defender which succeeded it.
The mirror placement is great on this truck. Those two flaps under the windshield are just what they look like; ventilation. The rear half of the door glass slides forward which enough enough to pay a toll but those flaps would probably save your bacon on a hot day.
This is the quintessential accidental success. Rover only meant to build these for a couple of years for a quick influx of cash after the ruination of WWII. Because of this every step of the manufacturing process was designed for cheap and simple production from the flat body panels to the simple ladder frame it sits on. Right away it was outselling everything on the market so they rolled with it. Who knew it would once spin off into one of the most venerable and iconic brands of all time?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's Gold Jerry!

Somewhere in the heart of Williamsburg I noticed this very square brick holding it down. Even though it's not that old it's looking less and less like cars of today with each year.
This is a 1987 Pontiac Grand Prix in Light Driftwood with the last bastion of Malaise-era design; the padded landau vinyl roof! This is the last year for this boxy body style that was introduced back in 1978. Old Goldie here represents the end of an era. Starting the following year the wildly different Grand Prix became front wheel drive.
That smallish grill jutting out with a bit of an underbite continues a GP styling cue that harkens back to the 1969 model year. This would continue in some regard until a 1994 facelift.
Unfortunately in this decade of slow and square cars this was no different with a collection of anemic V6 and V8 choices all offering a pretty dull driving experience. You couldn't even get a manual transmission with a special order sheet for this beast (a wrong that was righted with the next generation where a 5 speed was again available).
The only way I know to pinpoint the year on this ride is to look at both the taillights and trunk lock. That small circle in the center of each taillight was introduced in '86, but the swing away trunk lock cover arrived in '87.
Like mold growing we see body colored plastic starting to cover those gargantuan bumpers. There's still no hiding that fact that the bumper was large enough to provide a nice seat behind the license plate recess. 
Well she's just getting a little rumpled and the rust bubbles are making their appearance so I would consider this a crucial time in the life of this car. Either someone os going to be one of the first folks to attempt a restoration of an '87 GP or it will continue its slide into full-blown hooptieville. My first car was an '83 Olds Cutlass Brougham in triple burgundy with the same dimensions and landau roof so I have a soft spot for this beast. That Cutty cost $250 and I would happily lay out another quarter-thousand to roll gold in this sled.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Twofer Tuesday returns with a couple of Rockets from coast to coast

On a brutally hot day last summer I stumbled upon this imposing beast around Kensington:
This is a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass in Matador Red with 2 big black stripes on the hood that I'm 90% sure were added later. These cars are cool in just about every configuration.
This was built in the middle of Oldsmobiles heyday. Their popularity soared throughout the '60s and never stopped climbing even in the dark Malaise era of the late '70s. The 1976 Cutlass was the best selling car in America. It managed to hold that title for years after too. Cars like this are arguably why it all really got going.
There were so many body styles available for each iteration of Olds in '71 that it's a wonder they didn't saturate their own market. You could get a Vista Cruiser station wagon with skylights in the roof, a convertible, 2 door coupes in hardtop and pillar versions, and 4 doors with and without pillars as well. In addition to that the base model was still known as the F-85, with the Cutlass above that, Cutlass Supreme higher still, and the mighty 442 at the top. Break it down even further and you could choose between the Sport, Holiday, or Town version of most of the above. Whew!
This is what I believe to be the lowest production number (with the exception of 442 convertibles and the '70-only Rallye 350 special editions) body style available; the 4 door hardtop Holiday. The 4 door Town Sedan had pillars between the front and rear door glass, ruining your holiday.
The opening when all the windows are down is colossal! There is a reason 4 door hardtops were referred to as hardtop convertibles. This body style was doomed later in the '70s when rollover safety regulations went into effect.
That CS emblem on the vinyl roof denoted a Cutlass Supreme. This was the highest trim level which got you all the little chrome doodads and niceties. All 442s were essentially Cutlass Supremes with the 442 option package. While 442s were only available in 2 door coupes and convertibles in '71 there were ten 4 door versions built in 1964 when it was an option available for anything but the wagon.
This one's getting a little munchy around the edges.
Even flaking apart this thing looks tough and ready to run. Dual exhaust is promising.
The taillights being integrated into the bumper was a signature look for Oldsmobile for many years. The taillights alone can be used to identify the year.
This looks like a dog just started chewing on it. I don't know what hail-Mary attempt that brown smudge is supposed to be but my man should just get to sanding and welding because it's long gone.
Sure this is a big car, but the proportions are pretty good due to the exaggerated Coke Bottle styling. This was the smallest offering from Olds in '70. The larger Delta 88 and full size 98 were both monumental in scale.
Getting into engine possibilities would fill up an entire page but suffice it to say that this probably has a 350 or 400 in it. If there were an SX badge on it we would know it had a 455.
Now onto the dusty cousin of Big Red:
This is a 1971 Cutlass in Palm Green Poly. Unlike the above Cutty this is not a Supreme but a standard Hardtop Coupe. It was also discovered in Oregon so no matter how filthy it is 100% rust free. 
Notice the larger grill openings which would continue for '72. The three horizontal chrome bars in the grill were '71-only.
I've always loved this year and think the look holds up today. As opposed to hood scoops you can see the grill openings are bulging out of the body like flared nostrils.
I would love to have run a hose over this thing as it seemed flawless under the muck.
That line running from the trailing edge of the bumper up over the quarter panel and around the rear window is sweet! The folded paper crease of the bumper keeps everything clean too.
I've seen variations of the '71 model year where OLDSMOBILE was spelled out on the trunk in individual chrome letters as opposed to being imprinted on that piece of trim on the lip of the lid. Perhaps this is the non-Supreme treatment?
Here's an angle where we can see the same pronounced rear wheel swoopy arches that the red '70 has. That tiny emblem on the sail panel of the vinyl roof is just the Olds rocket symbol as opposed to CS if it was a Supreme. I would love to own another Olds of this general era; easy to work on, responsive and quick, and almost every part is widely available.

Monday, June 20, 2016

If this is your car I'm sorry but you must be anhedonic.

Back to basics people. I started this blog to celebrate and/or openly mock cars that looked like they shouldn't be on the road anymore. This fussy little brick fits the bill to a T!
What we have here is a painfully dull and utterly forgotten footnote in automotive history. On paper it is a 1984 Buick Skylark Custom in Light Sand Grey. Even the color name makes my eyelids heavy.
This is what George Orwell meant when he wrote 1984.
The dystopian paint job is giving up everywhere at once. Paint jobs and clear coats were prone to failure from the early '80s through the mid-'90s for whatever reason. Find me a single Beretta or Lumina with a nice factory paint job and I'll buy you lunch.
Buick was always #2 in the General Motors hierarchy below Cadillac but above Olds, Pontiac, and Chevy at the bottom. In 1984 this meant that the X-Body Chevy Citation would inevitably be fitted with more stately styling cues and a Buick emblem. This is classic badge engineering.
That one smoky dead eye is unnerving.
A more formal grill that its siblings, and a more squared-off, upright design set the Buick apart from the Citation, but under the skin it was identical. Does anybody remember the Cadillac Cimarron? It almost killed Cadillac off by employing the most egregious badge engineering in history. One look at the Cimarron and you knew it was a Chevy Citation with leather and gold emblems.
*Spell check wanted to change Cimarron to Macaroni. Most Cimarron owners would gladly trade their car in for a whole bunch of delicious macaroni.
This lump is powered by the Iron Duke inline 4 cylinder engine, built by Pontiac. This venerable, if not actually loved, engine could rocket all 2,600lbs of Skylark up to 96mph! Ready to merge onto the highway? Plan ahead as 0-60mph took a very leisurely 15 seconds. Count to 15 seconds so you can feel how long that actually is.
The interior consisted of a collapsed sun shade and some throw pillows. The door panels actually look like brown tweed. Buying this car new was a declaration of boredom.
There is a car I like even less than this one and it happens to be its successor (though only for the 2 door models). In 1986 the Somerset Regal hit the market which looked like you cut the width of the rear doors out and attached the back window to the back of the front door. It was all hood no trunk and looked ridiculous.
That gas door screams lack of interest to detail. Huge, square, and taking up most of the quarter panel, it is the definition of just going through a checklist of what needs to be on a car in order to function. I can't think of a design where it is more of an afterthought.
This is the tail end of the Malaise era. Even though the X-Body cars were introduced in 1980 the bumpers have the look of designers caught by surprise when the federal safety regulations hit in 1974. These days we take it for granted that bumpers are integrated with the body, but this sports chrome guardrails that look 2 sizes too big.
This is the lowest trim level available for 1984; the Custom. No vinyl roof and no side trim at all.
The emblem whispering to anyone that will listen that this is the base model is tiny! This car seems to be staring at the ground a lot in embarrassment. I mean look at that acne!
Are there any high points? The X-Bodies were all front wheel drive which was a leap in the right direction for small car handling. Also, the distance between the wheels is pretty substantial so I'm guessing it's pretty sure-footed. You'd be going so slow though that it wouldn't really matter.
There was a sporty version of this ride called the T-Type. Not to be confused with the turbocharged T-Type Regal, it nevertheless came with a high output V6 engine. The T-Type was only available in 2 door coupe form. With the H.O. V6 and a manual trans you could hit 116mph and (more importantly) go from 0-60 in 8.6 seconds; almost half of this stock slab.
Well we'll leave this thing looking at us from its best angle. This is the classmate whose yearbook never got signed. It arrived, continued along for awhile, and dropped out of existence without leaving its mark at all. Nobody collects these and nobody is looking for one. The fact that it exists in 2016 Brooklyn was enough for me to take a moment but genuinely expect for these X-Body Skylarks to be extinct any second now.