Saturday, December 31, 2016

Green green green green green

I was exploring central PA when I was blinded by a nuclear lime vision:
This is a 1952 Dodge B-Series Truck in OH-MY-GOD-COULD-IT-GET-ANY-GREENER Green. There was a light pastel color choice called Silhouette Green but it was nothing like this.
This center breastplate that says Job-Rated was originally plain metal (I believe). The lettering in stamped into the surface and would have been filled in with red. The vertical green bars above and below those words were black. These lend themselves to backyard customization by restorers so well that they usually end up painted whatever color catches their fancy.
The B-Series was introduced in 1948 to replace the pre-war designs that had carried Dodge into and out of WWII. The hood is still the old design where each side opens up on a central hinge. That tall cab with the generous amount of glass was known as the Pilot House.
If you can look past the color it's easy to see this as a simple beast. The bed looks like some cobbled together homemade item tacked on to the back of a truck. In many ways that's how it was; the cab and drivetrain attached to a frame were the same across the board. However you could've purchased this with a dump truck bed, no bed at all, or even a van or woodie rear body.
I like the wheels which are good and honest originals. I'd love to have seen this before the paint.
That Mustang II will have to wait for another post as I snapped plenty of pics.
The taillights are in the original location but they were small circular versions from the factory. These are definitely '70s/'80s GM truck taillights which must make the Dodge bristle.
The tailgate is as basic as it looks; unlatch the top corners and it folds down on that metal bar at the bottom. Zero though was given to the beauty of the truck bed. This is a utilitarian appliance.
There were optional quarter windows you could've gotten on the corners of the Pilot House. They were smaller than the others but afforded almost 360 degree visibility.
Well there we have it. This was parked across the street from an ice cream parlor on a bright summer day so I couldn't take snaps of the interior. I'm pretty sure this was strategically placed across from the parlor and it totally looked the part. You can find these roosting in fields all across America just waiting to be woken up and put back to work.  
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Silver Anniversary Luxury Liner!

I was somewhere between 4th and 5th Avenues in Brooklyn near Atlantic when I stumbled upon a duo of classics. I featured a '71 Caddy like the white one earlier this week, but how often do you see something this old in a regular spot?
This is a 1939 Dodge Luxury Liner in Black. The internal company name was the Dodge D-11, but all of the promotional copy says Luxury Liner. This is a 1 year only car built from October '38 through October '39 only. To encounter one 77 years after production on a Brooklyn street is amazing!
How long ago was 1939? When this ride was brand new sitting in an art deco showroom World War II was breaking out in Europe, Lou Gehrig gave his famous "Luckiest Man in the World" speech, and the rightfully maligned La Guardia Airport opened for the first time. 
This year was the Silver Anniversary for Dodge which started producing cars way back in 1914.
The hood opens up on each side with its hinges in the middle. This car is just as stately as can be in black with all that classy chrome. I found an original copy of the brochure online and the verbiage is great. They call this the "most stunning front ensemble" ever created, noting that the fenders "flow outward with the grace of an eagle in flight". Yes!
This was the first year for Dodge having their headlights on the fenders as opposed to hanging off of supports connected to the sides of the cowl. The luxury automaker Pierce-Arrow first moved their headlights to the fenders in 1914 and patented the move in a stroke of genius. From 1914 until Pierce-Arrow went out of business in '38 every other domestic automaker had to have their headlights exposed in their own pods, keeping them looking like they were much older than they were.
I love the milk glass turn signal lens and the thick glass headlights on this Liner.
From the side you can really see the prow of this ship jutting forward at full height. This actually looks like a luxury ocean liner slicing through the waves of the fenders.
Art deco streamlining accentuates every detail of this ride, right down to the awesome hubcaps. The brochure called these "whorl-style" caps.
This is a beautifully balanced design without a hard edge to be found. What the hell is that person in the background doing? I failed to notice when I was snapping pics.
It's easy to see from this angle that this is the era that bore the VW Beetle. The brochure brags about the fact that the luggage compartment is completely concealed as opposed to the former trunk style bump. This is the final step in evolution from actually having a steamer trunk held on to the back of the car with straps to being fully integrated. The origin of the name trunk is an actual trunk!
These were trumpeted as being "deep-cushioned, lounge-style, Chair-Height seats" though the upholstery was much different than this redo. It's kind of a shame because this car is so well appointed and restored that the owner should really pony up the extra cheddar to do the seats right as these are almost a phone-in job. Too harsh? Too bad! Nice headliner though FWIW.
That's right - if your car is 77 years old you can just park wherever the hell you want without fear of a ticket or towing license plates be damned.
Why is there a black garbage bag sticking out of the trunk? Who knows?
The 1939 brochure also states that daredevil Jimmie Lynch uses a new Dodge for all his antics. I found a short advertising film featuring Jimmie and his new Dodge from 1942 that shows him driving over railroad ties, climbing a staircase, and even jumping the car to show off its durability.
The gearshift is on the column for the first time for Dodge in 1939. The clutch was said to be an "Easy Pressure" version where only a touch of the foot was needed to shift gears. "Women particularly will like this new feature!" the brochure states! The brakes had a pressure equalization feature meant to reduce pulling to one side when stopping hard. The split windshield was said to have airplane-style visibility by wrapping around to the sides.
Well that's all I've got for this beauty. I had a 1947 Dodge that was remarkably similar to this because of the dormancy in auto production during WWII. This is the era where cars finally became what they would be like until the 1980s. Technology would change, safety and emissions equipment would develop, but for the most part a 1939 car and a 1979 car were more similar than dissimilar. 
These everyman cars from the pre-WWII era are not very valuable for the most part (convertibles and luxury editions notwithstanding). If you found one in decent shape and wanted it for a weekend driver I would recommend it. The maintenance and repair is so straightforward on these rides that you'll never look at a new car the same way again. In addition you're basically on parade every time you climb into your rig and drive down the street.  
Tomorrow at midnight this car will turn 78 years old so Happy New Year & Birthday Dodge!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Escape Machine

I was walking around the area of Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn when I saw this unlikely survivor in great shape:
This is a 1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom in Viking Blue Poly. Oldsmobile called all of the vehicles in their 1970 lineup Escape Machines. As large and in charge as this ride is it was still just the midsize offering from Olds in '70 with the colossal 98 being the flagship.
This is the standard 4 door car of the day positioned between Buick and Pontiac in the GM hierarchy. Power comes from either 350 or 455 V8 engines mated to an automatic transmission (the 4 speed manual was discontinued after '67 for the Delta 88). This ride was built in the same year that the Environmental Protection Agency was established which would go on to control the amount of pollution automobiles produce. However in '70 the engines were free-breathing without emissions controls and exhaust went through mufflers whose only purpose was to lower the volume. 
The panel fit is pretty bad on this ride as shown by the hood gap. This car gives the impression of being used as a daily driver parked on the streets even though it is in great overall condition.
There are aftermarket doodads on this ride I don't agree with like the wheels and that cheesy wing. The lines are great though with the flared fenders from the factory and integrated bumpers.  The lack of side trim going down the middle of the body makes for a clean look.
Like any veteran of the city streets this has an anti theft device. There is a heavy duty metal collar padlocked around the steering column holding the gearshift in place. We can see from this angle that the climate control systems are out of reach from the passengers. Cadillac had similar placement.
The vinyl roof is in perfect condition which is remarkable for a 46 year old ride. I'm guessing this spent its first few decades in a garage somewhere.
Somebody gave this beast a good knock, taking out the taillight in the process. I suppose the 3 is for the late Nascar racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. but it's not the correct 3. Who cares?
This is the pillared sedan where the door frame goes around the windows. There was also a 4 door hardtop where the opening would be unobstructed when the front and rear windows were down but they lack the rich chrome surrounds that this model has. From this angle you can see the rectangular pattern of the seat leather.
That's where we'll leave this blue beast. This is a 1 year only design as the '71 ushered in a different front where there was a pointed prow on each side between the headlights. The year before this had the headlights contained within the grill openings. 
To see a non-sexy body style like this standard 4 door sedan in great shape is curious in the States but that's not true around the world. In Australia and New Zealand 4 door sedans make up most of the classic muscle cars. Here in the U.S. convertibles, hardtop coupes, and station wagons are all more valuable and sought after than sedans, but that's what makes this one special. If you want a usable classic and one of these comes up for sale you can rest assured that all parts are still available and the price ought to be reasonable.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cannonball Gold Caddy that took the Bronze

I'm going to take a minute to feature yet another '70s Cadillac because they seem to live forever. Way out in rural PA I passed this dusty beast sitting in the Summer sun:
This is a 1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille in Chalice Gold Firemist Poly. You can call it Chalice Gold but let's face it this thing is BROWN.
As massive as this car is it looks sleek with those awesome taillights that trail the quarter panel edge top to bottom.
Build quality was top-notch for Cadillac as we can see here by the tight and unblemished vinyl roof. This roof treatment is known as the Halo Roof as it doesn't go all the way to the tops of the window openings. This is a hardtop coupe as there are no pillars between the front and rear windows.
The interior is a super comfortable expanse of various browns (called either Carmine or Saddle in the brochure). The dash wraps around the drivers seat a bit even though there isn't much to see. GM figured that anyone buying a Caddy didn't need to mess around with gauges other than the speedometer and the fuel level. The prodigious ashtray is open only adding the overall brown feel.
This long hood holds a monster of an engine; a 7.7 Liter 472 V8 producing 375 horsepower and 365 ft lbs of torque. The only available transmission was a 3 speed automatic. Even though these beasts weighed in around 5,000 lbs their sheer power make them fun to drive hard. Amazingly the engine to succeed this one was even bigger! 1975 ushered in the 8.2 Liter 500 V8.
A bone stock '71 Coupe DeVille just like this one placed 3rd in the original Cannonball Run (this was a real yet unofficial race that was run 5 times in the 1970s). It managed to hold the highest average speed of the race at a whopping 84.6 miles per hour! To average that speed over almost 3,000 miles means hours at over 100mph. They reported an average 8.9 miles per gallon for the race but with a 27 gallon gas tank they still had a while between fill-ups.
This car is as wide as it looks. The '71-'76 Cadillacs had the most door-to-door interior space at 64 inches. Three people can easily sit abreast in the front seat.
Why anybody would bother swapping the Coupe and deVille words so that it reads deVille Coupe is beyond me but whatever. This beast is sporting new tires which can be pretty expensive for such a large car. I don't mind the letter tires and mudflaps on this ride actually.
It's too dark to see but this little housing on top of the fender has 3 small lenses. These are connected via fiber optic to the lights and turn signals to let you know when they need to be replaced. Being a Cadillac it has its own compliment of chrome trim to keep it classy.
Overall this ride is in solid shape with only surface rust emerging here and there. It's sitting nice and tall which makes me assume the suspension has been redone. The ride in these cruisers is like floating on a cushion of air. It can take some getting used to, but things like speed bumps appear in the windshield only to be reduced to a slight movement when passing over them. In addition to the ride these cars are almost silent in stock form. There is sound deadening equipment throughout and the exhaust has a resonator in addition to the muffler to keep it quiet.
This is the sort of car I grew up in. My grandparents had a succession of Cadillacs through the '70s that they would pass along to members of the family when it came time to get a new one. When you're a small child in the backseat of one of these monsters it's like sitting in a room. Power windows and ashtrays (usually full) in every door were the norm.
In high school I had a '74 Coupe DeVille with a less powerful engine than this and I still laid strips constantly (I was 17 years old what do you expect?). It was such a hilarious car because it was super fast while enormous. Gas at the time was around 90 cents a gallon so it was doable. I remember once getting my Shop Rite paycheck and filling the tank from almost empty with the best gas available. even at that low price 27 gallons left me with only a few dollars extra, but what else did I want to do at that age?
Who knows if it's still available but since it was for sale and I snapped all these pics I figure I might as well give the seller a plug. You could do worse for this money if it's in as good repair as I suspect, and if it is still available I'm sure the price is much lower. Good luck!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's the opposite of a Christmas miracle?

Take a good look at this slab of iron weighing down all of America. This is the purple torpedo that sank the Chrysler ship. The fact that they built what is basically a car from the 1950s for the cusp of the '70s and '80s decades makes it fitting that this car has its eyes closed. This is 3,800 lbs of sadness.
This is a 1981 Chrysler New Yorker in what might be Ginger red. This was the wrong car at the wrong time and despite all my seemingly over the top superlatives it really did bring mighty Chrysler to its knees. The custom plate is awesome though!
It was the 1970s and the gas crisis was still fresh in everyones mind. Quirky little Japanese cars were selling better than ever with their owners boasting of 35 miles per gallon from engines that ran so clean they didn't need catalytic converters. Ford downsized across the board, and so did GM. Chrysler did a little bit but still trotted out an old-school huge American dinosaur that they bragged was "traditional sized". The public shrugged and looked the other way.
Under that long hood resides a 318 V8 good for 130 horsepower. If you had the time you could supposedly coax this barge up to 100mph. Driving like that would probably hurt your 17mpg factory rating however. A review from the era found that with the air conditioning on they only got 12.8mpg. It went on to say that the air conditioning of their new test car stopped working during the review, as did the brake lights. In addition the digital clock went out and a map light turned on every time the brake pedal was pressed! Build quality was horrific with Chrysler actually planning on something like 1,700 defects per 100 cars sold. Chrysler, what!?
The tact here was lazy luxury steeped in patriotism. The 1981 was the third and final year of this generation New Yorker and only 6,548 were built. The following year there was a redesign which sold over 50,000 units. 
To see this utterly forgotten automotive footnote is mint condition 2 days before Christmas in Brooklyn is amazing. There can't be many left as there were few to begin with. The New Yorker had 2 siblings this year; the Newport and St. Regis. The lowest end of the spectrum was the Newport with its exposed headlights. The St. Regis had one of the weirdest details ever put on a car: translucent headlight covers that opened when you turned them on. This meant that when the lights were off they were behind milky glass but still visible. Why, Chrysler? What were you maniacs thinking?
Alright here is the next evolution of the malaise-era opera window: a vinyl roof so powerful that it ignores the fact that the door is there and creeps over it like moss. Chrysler claimed that these cars were "pillared hardtops" which makes as much sense as dry water. This car has extra pillars as opposed to none so how is this a hardtop? Obviously there were no adults at Chrysler in the late '70s or some of these basic questions might've been asked. Then again we've all known someone who keeps on a deliberate path of doom somehow unable to see it. From now on we'll call those people the R Bodies.
From this angle it looks like any old car on the city streets. With its '70s dimensions it's almost stately.
Get a little closer and the strangeness continues. I love full width taillights. Some Mopars of the early '70s had them, as well as Buicks from the '60s. This is more of a collection of red rectangles kind of stacked on each other. I guess the center portion comes out to accommodate the square trunk bulge that's not quite a Continental kit. Why, Chrysler? 
Some huge cars pull it off. I LOVE the enormous cars of the '60s and '70s but somehow this looks like the trunk will break off under its own largess. Remember that this is a downsized version of the pre-'79 New Yorkers.
That baleen grill makes this thing look like a blind whale looking to feed. The fancy stand-up hood ornament once had a crystal insert but this one seems to be missing.
Look I know I bagged on this car relentlessly but I was legit astonished to see one in the wild. Chrysler took on so much water from these R Body rides the Lee Iacocca was brought in after being fired by Ford to save the company. He immediately brokered a guaranteed loan deal with Congress and green lighted both the K-car and minivan. His plan was an unparalleled success, righting the Chrysler ship and creating an entire automotive category in the process. Amidst all this heroism these forlorn beasts marched off the line to uncertain futures. Good luck enforcing from the velour throne of your R-Body ride, Sir!