Sunday, November 19, 2017

4Runner 4Ever!

LAST OF THE NORTHEAST 4RUNNERS FROM THE '80S
Today I'm featuring one of those common vehicles that quietly disappeared from the streets when no one was looking (hush up California, we know you still have every car ever made in that dry heat).
This is a 1987 Toyota 4Runner in White. I've got to give it up for Toyota as they had 3 different colors in '87 named White as well as a 4th named Super White. Who knows?
Take a good look people. This is the greatest vehicle ever made! Yes this one has a funky Japanese translation of a Blazer for a body but underneath it all lies the Basic Toyota Truck. Indestructible and reliable are two words that fit the '80s Toyota Trucks so perfectly that they should take those words out of circulation unless discussing one of these rigs.
Peppered with millions of dead insects and sand but this beast still looks eager to go wherever you point it. The license plate is mashed under the bumper because of course it is! This thing probably flattens a hedge every time it leaves a driveway.
This is essentially a pickup truck with a funky fiberglass rear roof section covering the bed. You can see the line behind the front door going across the roof where the metal cab and removable rear section meet. Between 1984-1986 many of the U.S. import models came with no rear seats. This allowed for a lower import tax as it was classified as a truck instead of an SUV.
Dents and bumps abound as they should on such a capable rig. That tall ride height is factory correct.
Making me swoon even more is the fact that this one is a stick shift. The engine is the legendary 22R-E 4 cylinder breathing through carburetors, proving that you don't need a massive V8 to conquer the Earth. The smaller gearshift controls the 4 wheel drive, high and low.
This atomic security sticker confirms what I suspected. The 213 area code is Los Angeles. Of course this isn't riddled with gaping rust holes!
These are tall inside and ride nice and high up. The rear wiper and washer fluid show you how often Toyota thought people would remove the top. I've only seen one or two ever with the roof off.
The glass goes down into the tailgate like a station wagon in this era. This setup would last until 2002 when the tailgate became a lift-up version hinged at the top.
I'll give it up for the unusual assortment of stickers. Look how '80s the emblem logo is on this ride with the 4 and R being integrated! After all this was the same year that brought us Robocop and Lethal Weapon.
This looks like such a threat to the clean green Honda in front of it. It's almost like this thing is taunting it for being too bougie.
The rear side windows are pretty weird. It wasn't until 1990 that the 4Runner would be offered as a 4 door. This is the first generation which was introduced in 1984.
You have to get out and manually lock the front hubs when engaging the 4 wheel drive.
Oh yeah baby she's been around! Beauty marks.
Well there you have it; a 30 year old off-roader that still looks ready for whatever you ask of it. Toyota trucks of the 1980s have long dissolved into dust in the Northeast. Thin metal with plenty of nooks and crannies for mud and salt to get lodged in did away with them. It's a shame though because I'm sure most of them drove until their frame cracked or people got tired of water splashing up at them through the floorboards. To see one in 2017 stopped me in my tracks and make me take notice. Maybe one day I'll have to pick one up in California and drive it back (leaving the masses of smog equipment elsewhere).
Hats off 4Runner owner! Wash it often during winter because, trust me.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Florida? Kanye? Who knows but look at this big Jag!

NATTY BRIT
'Neen from the Empire region was at it again, snapping these pics on her postal route. If you love cars and have friends/family who are letter carriers you're in luck. Behold!
This is a 1966-1968 Jaguar 420 in Laguna Beige. Below the inner right headlight is a faux horn grill added to break up the expanse of painted metal. Every 420 I've seen has one on each side so this is either an anomaly or one was missing and they elected to fill in the mounting holes when repainting the car at some point.
The proud, leaping Jaguar hood ornament mimics the overall shape of this ride nicely. Daimler made an identical car to this one and besides the hood ornament the only way to tell them apart is that the Daimler has a scalloped top of the grill.
Every inch of this car is rounded in stark contrast to the angular American cars of this era. I love the mirrors all the way up on the fenders.
In the sales literature they still bragged about the 420 being "assembled by craftsmen", and indeed they probably were. Total production over its 3 year run was a mere 10,236. To put that in perspective there were more than a million Chevy Impalas sold in 1965 alone!
Look at this big rounded baby. This ride is almost identical to the 420G, but the G has a full length chrome spear running down the side. Under that long hood resides the 4.2 liter inline 6 cylinder XK engine. It was plenty to move this large saloon around in traffic.
This looks to have the optional automatic transmission installed. Manual trans 4 doors were getting pretty scarce in the States so many imports were outfitted with an auto.
That diminutive chrome line running between the door handles finishes in one tiny pointed piece beyond the rear door. This makes me so happy because it is the first thing a company putting cost above style will cut. I'm also a big fan of the subtle indentation between the door handles and the window glass as it wraps around the corner.
Even the rear window shape is rounded and irregular. Looks like there was a parking knock to the right side bumper guard. That's what it's there for!
They're easy to miss but the reverse lights are incorporated into the trunk lock/license plate light assembly. Check out how awesome the font is in the word JAGUAR between the reverse lights.
The rear of this ride is identical to the earlier Jaguar S-Type which was sold from 1963 through 1968. The major difference is that the S-Type had a nose as rounded as the rear where the 420 has that pronounced, forward leaning face.
We've got a house for sale with a big classic car resting on half-inflated tires (pardon me, tyres). Not to read into it too much but this is the time to strike if you've always wanted one! Often a well-timed knock on the right door will free up a car for much less than if they take the trouble to list it. Take it from someone who bought a near-perfect '74 Cadillac for $285.
Ever heard of Knock-Off Wheels? Well these are they, named as such because you take a mallet and literally knock that center spinner to unscrew it. Real-deal spinners are quintessentially British like everything on this fine ride.
The rear quarter windows pop out for ventilation. Look how lovely the mechanical opener and hinge are!
That is real-deal soft leather, probably so comfortable that it would be dangerous to drive at night. British cars of this era had the finest hides hand stitched and they age beautifully.
By the way that is real walnut along the window. The same wood is used on the dashboard and will polish up nicely.
Well there we have it; a nicely presented natty Brit ready to burn up some petrol on the motorway. In the grand scheme of things these rides are undervalued, especially in the States. They aren't complicated mechanically (though you'll have to keep the dual carbs in tune) and offer a very comfortable drive. As with other British cars of yore the electrical system is the weak spot, to the point where I highly recommend keeping a fire extinguisher on hand when driving one. Still you've be hard pressed to find a classier ride for the money. Ebay currently has 3 listed; one for a grand, one for just over 10, and a flashy yellow one looking brand new for just under 20. Considering that VW buses are trading in the 6 figures these days with no heat or comfort this would be a cool ride.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

First of its kind but last call before World War II

FIRST OF ITS KIND BUT LAST CALL BEFORE WWII
As the green leaves suggest these pics were snapped in Summer. I was driving upstate when I passed what looks to be an abandoned project. I had to turn around and pull over!
This is a 1941 Chevrolet Fleetline that may have once been painted Volunteer Green Poly. This car doesn't show up in any of the Chevy literature for 1941 as the Fleetline was a late addition to the model year. This simple 4 door was the only version available initially.
Despite looking truly abandoned this ride has many (if not all) of its components either installed or roosting in the backseat. A full set of original hubcaps still bearing a hint of the red accent swoops is present. One look at the dry rot on this tire and you know its only function will be to roll this on and off of a trailer. I was kind of shocked they held air at all.
Calamity!
This is what happens when you drop your car off for a full restoration and stop paying your bills. All of the trim has been carefully removed and most of the paint has been sanded off. Evidence of smoothed out Bondo where dents or rust repair were are visible all over. This beast looks like it was almost ready for paint when the clock stopped.
Yeah I know this is a terrible pic. I only include it to show off that upholstery.
This roofline is unique to the Fleetline as every other 4 door Chevy had rear quarter windows behind the rear doors. The worst of the body seems to be the rocker panels and lower door edges. OG paint remains only around the door glass.
The rockers on this side have been cut out completely. I'm guessing this was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Runs & Drives!" meant slowly even when new. Under this mighty hood sits the 216 Blue Flame inline 6 cylinder engine good for a mere 90 horsepower. A three on the tree transmission and drum brakes all around complete the chilled expectations. This engine was later bored out to 235cc and it was a higher performance version of that block that powered the original Corvettes from 1953-1955. Variations of this motor were produced from 1937-1963. 
The lines for this are pretty sweet in my opinion. Production of all passenger automobiles ceased in 1942 so the factories could be used for the war effort. When production resumed in 1945 there was a pent up demand for new cars so they built what they could which meant that this car was produced with very little change through 1948. However back in '41 this was up to date.
Unfortunately these rides aren't worth much even in pristine condition. I can almost imagine the series of phone calls reaching the end of the line for this thing pretty quickly.
Someone probably drove this to the shop proudly figuring it didn't need much. They removed the paint and found damage which they started to repair. Then the rocker panel bad news came along with estimates for the interior and re-chroming. At that point you realize that you can go to the classic market and buy a perfectly preserved example for what you've already put into it.
Another scenario is that the elderly owner wants to restore his first car. The project starts and the owner dies or can't drive anymore. The relatives either try to sell it or look into finishing the restoration and see that the cost far outweighs the reward. Unless you have a deep emotional connection to a car like this it is akin to restoring a 1983 Ford Escort from the ground up.
*Notice the tiny opening at the bottom of the grill above the ER in New Jersey on the license plate. That's where you would put the crank if your starter failed! A true holdover detail.
**I also have no idea what that round thing is under the right turn signal.
I include two pics of the interior to show different aspects. Here you can see a perfectly round hole in the floor under the driver's feet. In my '47 Dodge this was an access panel for the master cylinder so I'm guessing it's the same.

The interior is actually pretty nice with the optional clock on the passenger side and speedometer in lovely condition. The horn ring is in place and the Bakelite gearshift knob is intact. My '47 Dodge had a massive under dash heater that would be clearly visible. Who knows if this came with one or not? If this ride was delivered to a Southern state there's a good chance it was never built with one. If you were a serious penny pincher you could order your Chevy without one all the way up through the mid-'60s but who would order a clock before a heater?
Well that will do it for this well worn example of a mass produced, very old car that few people want. Best bet for this beast would be for a father/son project or for someone to rat rod it out. I know it's sacrilege to say that about a running 76 year old car, but a truly stunning '46 fastback Fleetline sold recently for $3,800 so you know the cards are stacked against this thing.
Good luck faded trooper!

Monday, October 16, 2017

The weirdest, greatest supercar you'll ever see

C'EST MAGNIFIQUE!
Robin of Omaha recently sent these pics of a true oddity. Even in stellar condition its not surprising to see this ride hunkered down at the mechanic as it is fearsomely complicated. Behold!
This is a 1972-1973 Citroën SM in Jaune Bouton d'Or (also known as Buttercup Yellow). This thing was so ahead of its time that it shouldn't even be gauged against other automotive makes.
While we're staring this thing in the face let's talk about the main visual difference between the European and U.S. models. In France the SM had 6 square headlights placed behind angled glass like the middle panel above. Also in France the headlights turned with the front wheels! The glass cover and turning ability of the lights were both illegal in the U.S. which is why we can't have nice things. 
Just look at this strange creature. It could be from outer space or the depths of the ocean. The body is extremely aerodynamic which helped take advantage of perhaps the most incredible feature of the SM: it came from the factory with a Maserati V6 motor under the hood!
Those wheels are steel with stainless trim. If you preferred a lighter weight rim they offered a first-ever carbon fiber resin wheel option. As long as this thing is it won all kinds of rallies and races when introduced. When it hit these shores it won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award, a rarity for a non-domestic model at the time.
Top speed from the factory was listed at 140mph; no small feat for an early '70s luxury touring car. It is fitted with the self leveling hydro-pneumatic suspension that was made famous by the earlier DS. Four wheel disc brakes provided for the shortest stopping distance of any car tested up to that point. The suspension system was set up so that under hard braking the car would lower evenly.
The styling is so awesomely French!
Supposedly you could drive this car for hours at 120mph with no discomfort, achieving 19 mpg the whole time. The steering took some serious getting used to however. It is a unique variable powered assist that allowed for no road feel at all. Citroën recommended 50 miles of careful driving to get used to the steering as it was so sensitive. I've never driven (or ridden) in one of these but accounts are that once you get over the learning curve other cars feel archaic and old fashioned to steer.
To add to the futurism the windshield wipers detect rain when set to the lowest setting and will turn on and off as needed. This is a feature just becoming more common now. If we could pop the hood you would see a bizarre sight; a pair of honeydew melon sized spheres painted forest green are on the top sides of the motor, attached to two green tanks. They are the hydro-pneumatic suspension components but they look crazy to the uninitiated.
This car came about because Citroën bought Maserati in 1968 and they decided to marry the high performance motor to this design which was already years in the making. Unfortunately that means maintaining one of these involves a Maserati specialist and a Citroën mechanic.
The lovely sensualists of France underestimated the immovable and indifferent federal safety regulators of the U.S. and assumed they would get an exemption to the 5mph crash safety bumper regulations coming due in 1974. They did not and as a result the SM stopped being imported overnight. It is a shame as this car represented a bright future in automotive design where speed, efficiency, and pure style could work in harmony. Instead we kept producing bloated dinosaurs until the industry almost totally collapsed at the end of the decade.
Viva la France (and Italy)!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Mad Men, Tin Men, and Made Men all agree

MAD MEN, TIN MEN, AND MADE MEN ALL AGREE
I was riding my bike along the warehouses of lower Sunset Park when this mighty vision appeared:
Yes! This is a 1962 Cadillac Series 62 convertible in the appropriately named Olympic White.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; the streets of Brooklyn are littered with old Cadillacs but this one manages to tower over the rest even in shabby condition.
Cadillac was the undisputed king of class in 1962. There were more expensive cars out there (not many) and several that were more exclusive but none more damn American than this. One look at how stylized the logo here had become will show you how streamlined the entire look was.
It is a coincidence that this is a Series 62 from '62 as the Series 62 name was used from 1940-1964. It represented the entry point for Cadillac but let's put that in perspective. First of all this is absolutely a luxury car, and a convertible to boot. The lowest Caddy is like the most humble Rolls Royce.
*The one surefire way to pinpoint the vintage on this ride is the shape of the turn signals. The otherwise identical 1961 Caddy had perfectly round signals as opposed to these rectangles.
This sleek front end treatment was only produced from '61-'62. The massive yachts of the '50s had brooding eyebrows hanging over the headlights, a look that would return from '63 on. For these 2 years there is a fresh faced eagerness to these big rides that suits it beautifully.
One great design element left over from the previous decade is the fact that the front bumper makes up the leading edge of the wheel well. These bumpers are absolutely mammoth.
My favorite features of the '61-'62 Caddys are the lower fins that start just behind the front wheel and emerge as sharp points in the rear. This car has 4 freaking fins! At the same moment when they were leaving the automotive scene Cadillac decided to double down.
Few cars are such natural convertibles as these big Caddys.
Dig the faux grill treatment on the rear - another design holdover from the 1950s. The Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters was based on a Caddy from just 2 years before this example. These fins, while prominent, are massively downsized from the 1959 peak.
Even grubby and schlubby the lines on this ride are unbeatable. A little bit of black electrical tape is securing the end of the fin. Those fin lenses do light up with the larger taillights by the way.
A free breathing 390 V8 lurked under the massive hood which had plenty of grunt to toss this beast around as if it were a much smaller car. Cadillac was proud of the performance and handling, something you might not expect from a 4,600 lb car. Since they were the flagship of the entire General Motors company they spared no expense in perfecting these rides as best they could. Starting price for this ride before options was a whopping $5,588!
Anyone who watched Mad Men knows the deal with this ride and they weren't exaggerating the lifestyle. This Caddy came from the factory with 4 individual cigarette lighters and ashtrays! If they offered an ice machine and martini bar option they would've sold a million of them. The somewhat forgotten Danny DeVito/Richard Dreyfuss movie Tin Men featured Caddys like this as part of the backdrop. It goes without saying that this was THE car of choice for the Mafia (not that there is a Mafia of course because the Mafia doesn't exist).
If those pointy spoke wheels didn't already give it away we can see from the interior that this ride has led a couple lives. This is flashy period correct early '80s lowrider style upholstery. Seeing the fender skirts in the backseat means that this ride is only missing a front signal lens.
Chrysler tried with the Imperial and the Ford Motor Company tried with their Lincoln Continental (losing money on every one they sold) but nobody made a convincing attempt to topple Cadillac from the top of the automotive heap. In this era the Old World stalwarts Rolls Royce and Bentley produced bloated, out of date cars by hand. As a result the production would remain minuscule and prices astronomical. Cadillac produced 16,800 Series 62 convertibles in '62 alone while Rolls and Bentley combined for less than 6,000 cars.
Out of the many vintages of desirable Cadillacs the '62 is a wonderful choice for the collector or classic car fan who wants a drivable ride. The mechanicals are widely available and easy to work on. You'll never save on gas money with one of these but you can sit in it while parked and still outclass everything on the street.