Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Convertible Week continues with a Broad Channel Bow Tie

Believe it or not the following images were taken in New York City. The city is so vast that if you explore enough you can find yourself in what appears to be a small village in Cape Cod.
The Broad Channel neighborhood sits in the middle of Jamaica Bay between Howard Beach and the Rockaways in Queens. I was riding my bike out to Far Rockaway and thought I'd finally explore this remote enclave. Within minutes I was looking at this:
What we have here is a 1966 Chevrolet Impala convertible in Tuxedo Black. We know it's an Impala and not a Caprice because contrary to online rumors Chevy only produced a single Caprice convertible for '66. As a result the Impala was the #2 selling convertible in the U.S. that year behind the Ford Mustang.
This thing has seen better days for sure but it's sitting up at the correct ride height with a nice set of fully inflated tires and the roof is in good condition. There are no plates on it but it has a parking space of its own so nobody is bothering it.
The rectangular taillights of '65 and '66 were a major departure for the Impala lineup. In the years previous and subsequent to this design the Impala had 3 separate lights on each side while the Bel Air and later Caprice had only 2.
Throughout the decade of the 1960s Chevrolet was a massive seller. The Impala could be had with any number of drivetrain combinations from a 250 inline 6 cylinder to a 396 V8 with several choices between those two.
The rusty wheels on this ride look to have started out as chrome units. The identifying Impala emblems are missing from the front fenders of this car. If it were a hardtop we'd have an impossible task deducing whether it was an Impala or Caprice.
Oof! This lower rust eating right through the rocker panels and lower door are tough spots necessitating some pretty serious welding and panel replacement. Between the chrome wheels and this somewhat odd spot for bad body rot I wonder if this car road out Hurricane Sandy in this neighborhood. Broad Channel was hit particularly bad with just about everything submerged under a few feet of water. The local fire department lost their trucks and ambulance in the storm, so it's not a leap to think this poor ride might have been flooded as well.
The interior at fist glance looks complete if a bit dirty. I see a bench seat but can't make out a column shifter so I'm hopeful it has a manual transmission!
Here we can get a glimpse of the front end with its distinctive mid-60s forward-leaning stance. The more I look at this ride the more I feel like it must be a Sandy survivor. Everything from the beltline up looks too great; the windows are all plum and on track, top tight and presentable, interior complete, etc to warrant the kind of wholesale damage to the lower half.
I took these pics well over a year ago so hopefully this old Chevy has been cruising the streets this summer. It is loaded with potential and has the benefit of being a classic where just about every part is widely available in the marketplace. Maybe I'll head back down that way to check in on it and see if she's still holding down that same parking spot. If I can I'll post a follow-up
Stay tuned tomorrow as Convertible Week continues for Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Convertible week kicks off for Labor Day!

I've admired this big beauty for years now as it made its way from one side to the other in the alternate side parking shuffle. I even took these pics of it well over a year ago. I guess I took it for granted as it always seemed to be around so what was the hurry in featuring it? Well like the resurgence every band gets once their lead singer dies I'm shining the spotlight on the behemoth now that she seems to have disappeared.
This is a 1970 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight convertible in Platinum Poly. The sheer fact that the owner kept finding parking spaces for this yacht is impressive. The dimensions are downright majestic; just shy of 19 feet long, almost 7 feet wide, and weighing in at over 4,400lbs!
I call it Ninety-Eight as opposed to 98 because that's how it was written on the side of the car in this year when new. The emblems would be just behind the front wheel well but they seem to have gone missing during a repaint.
Look at this massive beast! Behind this hood lurks a totally free-breathing 455 V8 producing 365 horsepower and a whopping 510 foot lbs of torque. She may be big but she can get up and go no sweat; top speed was 124mph from the factory.
For domestic luxury cars 1970 is a tough year to beat. Technology was there for improved handling and creature comforts were similar to what we expect now. However we were still years away from safety and emissions regulations that, while saving the Earth and its inhabitants, make driving these cars decidedly less fun.
*That almost-square lens between the lower edge of the bumper and the wheel well is a cornering light. It lit up on whichever side turn signal was being used to show you what you were about to hit.
When you take in the overall scope of this beast be sure to think about the top being down. 6 people easily fit into this for a cruise to the beach. Besides the fact that this isn't a Chrysler this could be the whale Fred from the B-52s was singing about in Love Shack.
Awesome green and turquoise leather awaits inside.
A small snap is visible on the chrome trim at the rear corner of the rear side window. This is for a parade boot or tonneau cover. You can imagine a local beauty queen sitting on top of the rear seat waving with her bouquet at 5 mph.
The fender skirts are perfect as are the original wheel covers.
I took these pics so long ago that that's my old bike in the foreground. I replaced it after a repair truck backed into it, bending it into a pretzel. A local shop straightened it and sold it to the local pizza place so now I see it go by my shop every day delivering food.
You know you're in a nice neighborhood when this car can be parked for several years on the street and nobody cuts into the roof.
These taillights look more architectural than automotive. There are plenty of Brutalist* structures where the only windows on one side of a building would look much like this.
*Brutalism is a genuine architectural style from the '50s through the '70s (and beyond) comprised of unforgiving blocky structures with sharp angles, lots of concrete (or harsh surfaces like it), and very little in the way of glass or ornamentation. Of course all my architecture friends will bristle at this possibly inaccurate definition but suffice it to say I love the style!
The lines are clean as a whistle and the condition is close to perfect on this mastodon.
In the late '60s through early '70s GM furnished their rear quarter lights into the logo of whichever division the car came from. In some instances such as the Firebird the light was made in the shape of the models logo. I love these details!
As I said in my opening this car roamed within a 6 block radius for several years until not too long ago. Once I saw it sprouting a bouquet of parking tickets. Those were removed but soon after I saw it resting in a mound of cat litter. Before I could finish cursing out the thoughtless cat owner who would do such a thing I noticed a note on the inside of the windshield on the dash. It read something to the effect of "YOUR CAR IS LEAKING GASOLINE EVERYWHERE. THE FIRE DEPARTMENT CAME AND PUT DOWN STUFF TO SOAK IT UP. PLEASE FIX!!!"
A sad ending to a wonderful bit of Park Slope scenery. Hopefully I'm wrong and it will reappear but for now I'm going to regard it as the kindly old neighbor you never really noticed until they were gone.
R.I.P. Ninety-Eight

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Historically significant + beat to hell = HOOPTIE

Newer cars rarely make it onto this blog. For a car younger than 25 years old to be featured it has to be either historically significant, ultra rare, or truly beaten to within an inch of its life. Todays car qualifies for about 2.5 out of 3.
On one of the widest and most beautiful blocks of Park Slope I saw this little number standing out like a pimple on a prom queen.
What we have here is a 2000 Honda insight* in the oddly named color New Formula Red. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the first hybrid production car to hit the streets of America (beating the Prius by about half a year). You'd hardly know it was an innovator by looking into those hazy cataracts.
*The name is spelled with a lower case i that has a red dot on top. Since it's confusing to have a lower case name and I can't easily make the dot itself red I've gone with insight.
Not many were built overall even though it held the all time gas mileage record from its introduction in 1999 all the way through this year when the 2016 Toyota Prius Eco finally surpassed it. With it diminutive aerodynamic shape and gas/electric hybrid motor the Insight boasted 61mpg on the highway and 53mpg overall.
The body panels are largely made of plastic with an aluminum structure underneath. The gas tank is plastic and the spare tire mounted on an aluminum rim to further save weight. From the factory this thing checked in at a mere 1,850 lbs!
The realities of a fragile subcompact used on the city streets are very evident on this ride. The rear fender skirt is gone and there's a fat dent in front of the wheel well. With such an aerodynamic design I'm sure the missing fender skirts are affecting the efficiency a bit.
The insight is a true 2 seater with hints of the fantastic Honda CRX in its design. The rear panel is smoked glass to help with the blind spot behind the driver.
Say it loud Insight! History just might celebrate this model as a turning point in automotive history yet.
I like the fact that there's a reflection of an Acura smiling in the reflection. Honda produced Acura as a stand alone luxury division back in the '80s.
Another glimpse of the inner plastic workings of the insight.
2000 doesn't seem like a long time ago but there's that cassette player in the dash looking like a page from the history books. The fact that it's a manual transmission is sporty as the alternative was a CVT. CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission which uses a system of belts to seamlessly run through different gear ratios without actually having different gears. If it sounds like I just dropped that on the page without fully understanding it you are correct.
Here's that sweet sneaker styling in all its glory.
Oh yeah! When your body panels are plastic even small accidents can look tragic. Here we see the deep crevasse from a fender-bender. They got away somewhat easy this time as another few pounds of pressure probably would've shattered the front fender. I've seen plastic bodied cars that had been in moderate accidents driving by and they looked crazy with huge jagged open holes on the body!
Well that about does it for one of the youngest cars to ever grace the NYCHoopties blog. I almost walked by it before realizing what it was. As forgettable as it is now this may turn more heads as the years keep rolling by.
Imagine seeing one of these pull into a car show in the year 2050 (seems far away but that's the equivalent of seeing a car today from 1966). In this era of electric Teslas
 and driverless cars it's hard to tell what vehicles will look like 34 years from now. The Honda insight stands with one foot in the past and one in the future and for that it deserves to be noticed.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The price is medium . . . the action maximum . . . the car is Mercury

Luxury Pillaging Machine
I was recently in Moosic, PA just south of Scranton when I decided to head out and see if there were any cool rides lurking about. Almost immediately I encountered this sweet beast in front of a shop. The mechanic told me to go right ahead when I asked if I could snap some pics. Thanks man!
This is a 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder in Onyx. This is a muscle car for a gentleman in the same tradition as the Pontiac Grand Prix; full size and luxurious, with mountains of horsepower to back it up. The styling was coined as the "Let's go!" look by the Mercury marketing department.
The brochure for the '64 Mercs is loaded to the gills with colorful descriptions so I'll use their words whenever possible. The brochure says this car has a "thrusting spear-shaped profile" to go with its "slender, racy roof". I just think it looks bad-ass, especially in black!
Shades of the JFK assassination Continental can be seen up front in the pointed fender and bumper leading edge as well as the convex grill. The '63 had a concave grill while the '65 was perfectly flat so identifying the year is easy on these.
This one is missing a piece of jewelry though; those three tiny holes above the inner headlight once held an emblem with Mercury written out in chrome script.
This foreshortened checkered flag is one of my favorite emblems from the '60s. That MARAUDER font is aggressive, awesome, and not typical for this era in its blockiness.
That little triangular lens tucked within the chrome is the Fender-Sight Directional. It is connected via fiber optic to the turn signal so you can see if the bulb needed changing.
The dimensions are very similar to the Ford Galaxie 500XL of the day. Most full size Mercuries had the backward-slanted Breezeway rear window that rolled down for ventilation. This sporty slanted-notch was Marauder only.
The Marauder was the reigning champion of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race in Colorado when this was built which is pretty remarkable considering the size of this ride. Pikes Peak consists of 156 turns (many of them switchbacks) over 12+ miles that increases in elevation from 9,300 feet to over 14,000 at the finish. For an 18 foot long 4,000lb car that's quite the feat!
As befits a Mercury this seems to have a nice compliment of creature comforts. The radio has station preset buttons and next to that we can see the optional square clock. I don't believe this one came with air conditioning because the units I've seen hang under the dash and have lots of chrome vents. Gotta love the clear top of the steering wheel though!
The back panel is convex like the grill and even has faux vents painted on.
As far as I can tell these chrome rectangles have no purpose except for style. Maybe the big expanse between the window and trunk lid was too much? Maybe they were covering an unsightly seam?
Trunk for days!
Here's a close-up of the trunk lid emblem complete with the likeness of the god Mercury above three stylized starbursts or crosses. The paint on this thing looks like the skin on the back of a hand.
The Marauder would continue through the 1965 model year before being discontinued. The name briefly resurfaced on a truly massive car from '69-'70 before disappearing again. Eventually it would show up on a 2003-2004 blacked out sedan that was supposed to help the Mercury image but failed. People could see it was basically a Crown Vic with no chrome and who really wants to spend big bucks on a black taxi anyway? Not many people was the answer and within the decade Mercury would cease to exist.
This car is a great example of a typical 1960s domestic car. Massive, assertive, powerful, and commanding are words that describe it pretty well. The market for this sort of full size sporty car existed really only in the early to mid '60s. Lighter, leaner muscle cars would take over at the end of the decade followed by the bloated and glacial personal luxury cars of the '70s and '80s. If your idea of a classic is one you can cruise around with 5 other people or challenge someone to a drag race this might be the perfect choice. 
After all, the price is medium . . . the action maximum . . . the car is Mercury!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Today I'm featuring DATCREAM

Along the fertile Hooptie hunting grounds of the Wallabout section of Brooklyn I passed this little number. It was looking spotless parked next to the BQE in front of a lot filled with dormant Mercedes Benz from the '70s.
This is a 1972-1979 Datsun 620 pickup truck in what I believe is the original color White. The thing is that Datsun had 2 different colors in '72 named White; #8889 was what we would think of as a normal white while #8895 had a cooler temperature and almost a faint green hue like the truck we see here. After the initial year this color was specified as Polar White. WOW VERY INTERESTING.
Datsun trucks can trace their roots back to Model 13 from 1934. With the exception of 1945 (when production of just about everything Japanese halted) the Datsun truck has continued to be built through the present day. In 1970 they started looking much like this model.
At first glance this looks like a flashy aftermarket grill but I believe it's the original plastic unit with a chrome treatment. This is somebody's show truck in the West Coast/Hawaii style (though it should really be lowered to complete the look).
Whoever did the bodywork on this ride shaved off the tie downs and removed the Datsun emblems that would've been on the front fenders. The fact that this doesn't have a rear bumper isn't too shocking however as you could order the truck without one when new.
The diminutive dimensions of this little ride makes it very usable in the city. I would be nervous about people backing into it though.
The wheels give this 620 a tough stance that I think it wears pretty well. The powerplant of this ride was the 1.6 Liter (!) L16 engine good for 96 horsepower. 1974 brought a new 1.7 Liter lump good for 100 horsepower before the mighty L20B 2 Liter engine arrived bringing 110 hp to the scene. All of these engines are dead reliable and totally simple to maintain. They were also very clean running little trucks; the stock Datsun was a 50 state vehicle meaning that it was one of the few that didn't require any special equipment to meet the ultra strict California emissions.
Well we'll leave this little cruiser in the shadow of the mighty BQE for now. In California these little trucks are still daily drivers for many folks. You can see them all over the state chugging right along, some with hundreds of thousands of miles on them. As with most Japanese vehicles of this era they rust out quickly given the chance so it was truly unexpected to see one in Brooklyn. Maybe some day I'll have the guts to pick one up in Cali and drive it back!