Sunday, February 26, 2017

Show Car Sunday - retirement edition

This is one of those cars I stopped to make fun of and in the time I was doing so started to like it. You know how your 1st grade best friend is usually some kid you fought and the girl you make fun of becomes the prettiest one in your eyes. Well maybe this isn't the prettiest . . .
What we have here is a 1984-1987 Lincoln Continental in two-tone Glacier Blue over Dark Blue. The Ford Motor Company (which of course includes Lincoln) altered its Continental pretty dramatically in 4 generations between the largess of the '70s to the rounded shapes of the '90s, and this is one of them. The previous generation had a stand-up flat front as opposed to this more aerodynamic shape.
Only the tiniest evidence of parking scuffles can be found on this ride. Looks like a school bus got a bit too close on the corner of the bumper.
This is the most subtle version of a Bustleback design. You can see where the line of the back window continues down past the top of the quarter panel all the way to the darker blue color. This is a shout-out to the early automobile days when the car stopped at the rear window and the trunk was an actual trunk held onto the back of the car with straps. Cadillac had an extreme version of the Bustleback in the early '80s that looked like a safe was dropped onto the trunk in a cartoon. This one manages to carry it thanks partially to that swooping chrome side trim.
Here is the signature design feature of this model: the Continental tire trunklid. The spare tire isn't actually in that space but it harkens back to the original model from the late '30s.
The trunk is very tall and as a result can hold tons of stuff. The taillights are super '80s!
Here is the Bustle on display. I have to give it up for the fuel filler door hiding in plain sight. Two different colors and a chrome trim piece accentuate the door which would make it a legit pain in the arse to replace.
Stay hydrated and claim your nickels people!
The interior is a 1980s version of stately elegance. Power bucket seats have their own control panel in front of the individual armrests. That original cassette stereo probably boasts 6 factory speakers. The black panel above the stereo contains all the idiot lights like OIL and ALT. Being an '80s luxury car the entire dashboard is digital.
Well that's that for this forgotten era Lincoln. In many ways it's not surprising that this car is in mint condition. This ride was always marketed for the recently retired as it's plush and glitzy without an ounce of sex appeal. I'm sure garages and rest home carports across America contain equally unused examples with a coating of dust on flat tires. Still, it managed to stop me in my tracks for a moment as it was so well presented so I'll give it that. Would I want to own one myself? Nah

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Probably the coolest car built in 1975

1975 was one of the worst years for automobiles in history. Almost every car from every country was terrible. Even the timeless VW Beetle was chubby and bloated as it marched towards extinction. Behold the one bright spot on the Autobahn:
What we have here is a 1975 BMW 2002 in Malaga Red. The name Malaga refers to the coastal Spanish town of the same name. However the color must come from the local sweet fortified red wine made from Pedro Ximinez grapes. It was right up there with Muscatel and Lancers in '75 though rarely seen now.
There is an inherent eagerness to these little rides that I love, especially when the front bumper has been removed like this one. Sure it's had some bumps and scrapes (the plastic grill bars are completely missing from behind the signature BMW kidney centerpiece) but she's still raring to go! Too bad she's wearing a parking ticket for being too awesome.
Look how sweet the proportions of this ride are. The tall cabin with its superlative visibility, the forward-leaning front, and the wheels out near the edges of the body give this a capable presence.
Inside is clean and functional with handsome leather seats and a sensible no frills look throughout. The fact that this is furnished with the 4 speed manual transmission guarantees this is FUN to drive.
This basic design came out in 1966 as the 1600-2 (known as the 2-Series within BMW). Several body styles were available in those first few years including a 2 door hatchback and a sweet convertible.
*Purists will insist that the earlier pre-1974 models were the ones to have with their round taillights and smaller bumpers. However I do know one former owner who strongly prefers the square taillight version. This was basically the only outward change in the entire production run.
The 1600 name referred to the size of the engine. Then 3 guys named Helmut, Alex, and Max colluded to bring us this little rocket. Helmut Werner Bönsch and Alex von Falkenhausen both worked at BMW in the early '70s (where else would you work with those fantastically German names?!). Independantly of each other they each had the larger 2.0 liter BMW M10 engine installed in their 1600-2. When they discovered that they'd both built the same hot rod they both went to the top brass with their idea to release it to the public.
At the same time Helmut & Alex were showing their bosses their sweet modified 1600-2s Max Hoffman (the sole U.S. BMW importer at the time) started asking for a more powerful version of the small car. BMW gave the project the green light and viola the 2002 was born.
Make no mistake; the 02-Series put BMW on the world stage. These cars were an immediate hit and the engineering quality finally got the recognition it deserves. If you've ridden in one you can attest to the upright seating position and 360 degree view. If you've had the pleasure of driving one of these little race cars you know the wonderful handling capabilities. They're low to the ground with an excellent front-to-back weight ratio. Long before Mini coined the term "go cart handling" this little number offered just that.
Well that's where we'll leave this little racer.
Values for these have started to climb but they're still very affordable when compared to many classics that are less fun to own and drive. The performance remains fully capable to handle modern traffic and parking isn't an issue (though don't tell that to this poor bastard who's about to discover that ticket). A quick search found a dozen or so in the 10-25 thousand range as well as a couple around $5,000. If you're someone who like to really drive their classic or would participate in a vintage rally I highly recommend a 2002.

Friday, February 24, 2017

NYC in the '80s & '90s

I was walking along the forlorn stretch of 3rd Ave that languishes in the permanent shadow of the Gowanus Expressway when I fell into a time warp. What year is it anyway?
What we're looking at is a pair of Chevrolet Caprice Classics done up in vintage guise most likely for filming purposes. It's always remarkable when a period piece is being filmed in the city because you might stumble upon a block populated by vehicles from the '60s, '30s, or even the horse and buggy era. For more recent 1980s and 1990s productions these beasts might be rolled out.
This cab looks picture perfect (and I'm sure it is and would stand to serious scrutiny). The military N.Y.C. TAXI stencil on the rear doors and the sweet $1.50 base fare echo the 1987-ish feel. There are no license plates on this ride and I think it would be illegal to attempt registration with that vintage medallion on the hood.
Behold the 305 V8 workhorse looking like it was dusted with cocoa. 
Specifically this is a 1987-1990 Chevrolet Caprice. Previous to '87 the Caprice sported 4 square headlights as opposed to these larger composites. The collector and donk market refers to this era as the Box Chevy because it's squared off completely unlike the following:
This bloated bathtub is known as the Beached Whale Chevy to some and Shamu to others thanks to its round appearance. Motor Trend awarded the 1991 Chevy Caprice the Car of the Year award and that's the last positive thing anyone has ever said about it. We know this is a 1991-1992 as those were the two years that had these rear wheel openings. In an immediate response to withering criticism Chevy opted to open the rear wheel wells to mimic the fronts in an attempt to make it look trim.
If this indeed was an NYC cruiser this would've seen some serious action. The Crack Epidemic was still taking its toll and violent crime was at some of the highest levels in history. The police package meant this beast came with the larger 350 V8 engine. In line with the Box Chevy this is known to aftermarket customizers as the Bubble Chevy.
Of course it would be beyond illegal to register a car with red flashing lights on the roof so you know this is strictly a drivable prop.
In the late '90s when I lived in Brooklyn I made a brief attempt to sell my beloved '67 442 convertible. It was pre muscle car craze and these rides weren't terribly valuable. One guy who was interested asked me to drive him to his buddy who he thought might buy it. We drove down to this area in Gowanus and it turned out that the potential buyer ran a movie car company! I got to walk into a massive warehouse bursting at the seams with dusty cars from every era including at least a dozen taxis. They didn't take it after all but the experience was awesome for me regardless. I'm sure these cars are being prepped for that very business.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


I like reading zero star restaurant reviews in the New York Times. Just a heads-up for those already yawning at the image below: this will be a bad review. No stars!
This is a 1984-1990 Plymouth Horizon in Daystar Blue Poly. It is very boring.
We can tell it's at least an '84 as the previous years had a grill with no vertical bars in it. After 1984 the designers went home and never returned as this ride saw no changes until it went away.
This is a subcompact car. It is pretty dull.
I can muster up some informative tidbits though. For example this (along with its twin sibling Dodge Omni) was the first front wheel drive vehicle from the Chrysler Corporation. This is rather unimpressive as GM unveiled the FWD Toronado in 1966, but it did beat Ford by a couple years.
I'm always entertained when an owner deems the antiquated anti-theft device The Club necessary to protect an utterly valueless ride. The fact that this is an automatic makes this ride slow. An inline-4 cylinder engine was the only unit available. Even though the horsepower rating was around 84 this car was acceptably peppy with a manual trans.
One curiosity of this car is that the climate controls are located to the left of the steering column as opposed to the center.
Debuting in 1978, this ride helped Chrysler stave off the grim reaper long enough for Iacocca to produce the K-Car. This little hatchback sold extremely well throughout the 1980s. It could fit 4 adults while getting good gas mileage. Yawn.
There were some interesting offshoots of this little bucket like the GLH and turbocharged *GLHS Shelby editions with a racing suspension that was very fast. There were also elongated 2 door hatchbacks called the Plymouth TC-3 and Dodge 024 that look much cooler. The most I can say about this is that it looks to be in good condition.
*The names GLH and GLHS stand for Goes Like Hell and Goes Like Hell Some more. Really. Don't ask.
One notable shortfall for the Horizon/Omni was the crash test rating. It failed both the front and rear tests. I had the misfortune of being a front seat passenger in a bright yellow Dodge Omni that ran off an icy road and into a telephone pole. Like most accidents it seemed to happen in slow motion until the moment of impact when the entire front of the car folded around the pole. There was no mistake that the car was totaled. There was also no mistake that if we were going more than 35 mph we would have been severely injured at the very least. The driver of this crash was then gifted an all original 1968 Chevelle from his aunt. I guess I would've crashed that Omni too!
*For those of you who also relish brutal restaurant reviews this is a good list of them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Winner of the popularity contest

I was walking through Bed Stuy on some hot summer day when I found this beast. Call me Ishmael!
This is a 1965 Chevrolet Impala in Ermine White. The Impala sat near the top of the heap in trim level with both the Bel Air and Biscayne below. That being said this is a pretty spartan Impala.
The heavy brow gives this either a distinctive or somewhat seedy look depending on where you're standing. From this angle the car look like it's trying to fake a smile while asking you for something. Still you've got to admire the sheer presence of this brick!
That's a hood you could play ping-pong on. From this angle the front looks determined with its forward rake and full width chrome. Behind that grill lies the base V8 engine; the 283 Turbo Fire. If you really weren't in a hurry you could still order the Turbo Thrift inline 6 cylinder.
Like all of the Chevys from this era it wears its very large proportions well. That Coke bottle bump-up that carries down the rest of the quarter panel helps a great deal. The lines are clean with no side chrome save for the rocker panel molding which is in shadow here. It's amazing the difference in styling ethos from the late '50s through the mid '60s.
Not the best shot of course but this is the proud possession of somebody possibly nearby so I had to attack and retreat immediately. We can see that there is a radio in the dash, bench seats, and an automatic transmission on the column. The round gauge closest to us doesn't seem to have anything in it but I've seen both a tachometer and a clock in that spot depending on the options. One detail I love is the mini crank to roll open the vent windows. How cute is that?
This 4 door post sedan represents the base body style in 1965. In addition there were 2 and 4 door hardtops, a station wagon, a convertible, and the hot rodders choice: the 2 door post coupe.
These taillights are some of my favorite from all of Chevrolet history. If these don't remind you of rocket engines taking off I don't know what will! As it had been since 1960 the Impala boasted triple taillights on each side while the lesser models had only two.
The clean lines and tarantula eyes on the rear are great. If this were the Super Sport the chrome panel under the taillights would be blacked out. In the following year the lineup gained the Caprice. For a time the Caprice was even higher on the ladder than the SS.
The trunk is gargantuan! The advertised capacity is 17.7 feet of space. The turning radius of this yacht is a full 44 feet so don't go expecting to maneuver a slalom course.
It is official that Chevy did everything right with the 1965 Impala as it remains their record year of over 1,000,000 cars sold. Parts are so plentiful that you can build a car with just a frame, cabin shell, and a catalog. If you're yearning for a classic daily driver you could do a lot worse than one of these beasts. Finding one that hasn't been turned into a lowrider is a legit challenge as the Impala lineup has been the darling of that community for decades. Seeing one this clean in Brooklyn was a treat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


The automotive world is full of curiosities. The following ride encapsulates several of them and may or may not be what it seems (which is already an approximation of something else). What? Look:
Ok, ha ha ha what we have here is obviously a ferocious muscle car ready to kick ass and take names! It might also be an aggressive Pinto tarted up in sports gear. What we know is that this is a 1976-1978 Ford Mustang II possibly outfitted in the optional Cobra trim package.
This car does share more than a little with the Pinto of the same era. The front fenders and overall look of the body are very similar.
How do you fake something that's already fake? This is one way: replace the non-functioning hood scoop with another, even faker, non-functioning hood scoop. Despite that HIGH PERFORMANCE decal on the side this is just a plastic shape glued to the hood. Look how the front edges are lifting up! Also, if you're going to go this route why continue the bright paint and pinstripe on what is attempting to look like an opening? Come ON people! This car looks 90% correct why drop this ball?
The faux-ness continues under the front. This front spoiler was never offered on a Mustang II. Most of the Cobras had a spoiler that followed that bumper indentation above it, retreating a bit on the sides. The last gasp top of the heap King Cobra package for 1978 had a solid spoiler spanning the width of the car but it was huge and went straight down from the edges almost like a plow.
*I also could find no evidence of the word COBRA written in this location.
When this car was introduced in 1974 it was marketed as "The right car for the right time", and boy were they right. The gas crisis had ravaged domestic car sales and left dealership lots full of the huge full size barges with their 8mpg gallon ratings. In addition the true muscle cars of the late '60s and dawn of the '70s were strangled by federal safety and emissions regulations at the same time insurance providers were tacking on huge premiums for horsepower. This diminutive Mustang is more closely related to the original 1964 version with its small car dimensions and lower horsepower engines.
Say what you want about this being a maligned non-Mustang; this was a massive success with hundreds of thousands sold each model year.
*Genuine Cobras had a decal on the lower part of the door.
Those louvered windows are '70s radical and correct for the Cobra. In this era you could order them for literally any car or van though from JC Whitney and the like.
Just to pile on the minutiae pointing towards this being a fake I'd like to point out that the original stripes on the Cobra should not be on the taillight panel. In addition the stripes never went over the tops of the bumpers, but would run from the bottom to that bumped-out edge.
The COBRA wording always had a II next to it in this location.
I didn't want to ruffle any feathers by approaching the window for an interior shot.
Being parked in front of an ice cream parlor in front of that green Dodge truck made me think that these two vehicles were on display on purpose.
The grill has a chrome cobra emblem just like this which is correct from the factory. In this Mustang II era though the side cobras would be tall decals. These are widely available as a 3 cobra set that are meant for the 1994-2004 Ford SVT Cobra.
Well that's where I'll leave this little wanna-be tough guy. I actually like some Mustang IIs as well as over the top graphics from the 1970s. However as a stickler for detail my thought is either you do it right or not at all. I would prefer this to be a normal II in regular trim, but who cares? Peace out Fauxbra!