Friday, March 31, 2017

Sunfire Red beauty in Red Hook

I was strolling aimlessly through Red Hook recently when I stumbled upon this majestic brute:
Yowza! This is a 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix in the outstanding color Sunfire Red. This car represents an extinct category of automobiles; the full size luxury hot rod.
The Grand Prix was introduced in 1962 as an amalgamation of the Catalina and high end Bonneville. The Catalina had a more sparse exterior without too much chrome or flash. The interiors got the Bonneville luxury treatment albeit with bucket seats and a console.
That GP grill emblem was new for '64.
1960s Pontiacs represent my favorite overall decade for a car company. The trademark split grill, stacked headlights, and gun sight turn signals all come together for me in a big way.
This is a big car with nice proportions. All GPs were hardtop coupes until the 1973 model year (the only exception being a 1967-only convertible).
The G R A N D  P R I X font is pretty assertive. This pic is fuzzy but that shape under the words is a stylized GP emblem. Those are the correct and original 39 rib De Luxe hubcaps for '64.
I see an antenna on the rear fender so I'm guessing this has the Super De Luxe transistor radio option. Few things are as colorful as the verbiage in sales brochures. Radio? Pfft. SUPER DE LUXE!
The original owner didn't bother with the optional reverse lights or they would be located in the bumper between the taillights and license plate. The taillights are described as "hidden" because the aren't red until used but they are these vertical delta openings on the sides.
The mid '60s were the high point for putting a faux grill on the rear of a car too as seen here.
The Bonneville was very similar to the Grand Prix with a couple of noticeable exceptions. The slim chrome trim along the rocker panel was a massive striped chrome band on the Bonneville. In addition the rear roof was rounded with a faux convertible look.
This concave rear window is Grand Prix only.
The steering wheel rim is clear around the top and bottom with just the sides matching the interior body color. There is a round gauge where the console meets the dashboard. This is a tachometer in one of the least useful placements ever! Imagine having to look down to the ashtray area to monitor your revs. Perhaps it was an overreaching response that Pontiac came out with the hood mounted tach 3 years later.
The paint loss on the hood makes me believe this could be an original paint car. If so it is in truly phenomenal condition! The fact that it is parked on the street is surprising.
The sky was darkening fast so I'm lucky I came across this ride when I did. Out of all the cars I've longed for and thought about acquiring it was a Grand Prix that I regret letting slip away. When I was about to turn 18 in high school I looked at a red 1967 GP convertible (!) that the guy was asking something like $1,500 for. Keep in mind this is 1992 and huge '60s cars were for the most part undervalued. Still it was the only year for a GP drop top and the seller fired up the mighty V8 for me to hear. I passed and bought a '63 Beetle instead, the engine of which I promptly blew up.
That is the only car I genuinely regret not buying. Sitting here in my 40s I think I know what to do.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The most affordable Porsche

I recently went up to Bear Mountain for some late winter nature time. Who knew I'd run across a cocaine edition '80s sports car? Behold!
This is a 1984 Porsche 944 in Black (I was hoping for a more interesting color name but no!). Everybody knows the flagship Porsche 911. The larger 928 had a starring role in Risky Business. The 944 is the forlorn and forgotten Porsche.
The flared fenders are from the factory, giving this ride a voluptuous look.
Way back in the 1970s Volkswagen and Porsche teamed up to develop a car that would be sold by Audi. This complicated alliance began to unravel while the car was being developed. At one point VW declared that they would be the only ones to sell the car. Then they decided to drop it altogether! Porsche bought everybody out, finished the car, and called it the 924. This small hatchback Porsche had an Audi engine which caused enthusiasts to turn their back on it.
This ride was introduced in 1982 as a replacement for the 924, this time with all Porsche parts. To me it has aged very well. We know this is pre-1985 because the power antenna is visible on the front fender. In addition these are the stock '82-'84 wheels. In 1985 new wheels were introduced that looked like rotary phone dials.
This sporty German has been around.
From this angle the evolution of the 924 is on full display. Both models have this large rear window.
The 944 uses a rear transaxle that helped even out the front and rear weight ratio almost perfectly. As a result handling is very good.
This was an unexpected state park find to say the least! 
The way Porsche values have been skyrocketing lately this is really the time to pick one of these up if you're so inclined. At the moment these are seriously cheap wheels. A 1983 example is currently on Ebay with a Buy it Now price of $3,000 that needs nothing but a paint job and speedo cable (supposedly). Even the most well documented mint condition examples seem to be under 10 grand. It wasn't long ago that a 911 could be had for that kind of money so act now!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2 cool cars with an identity crisis

I'm bringing us back to the halcyon days of Summer when I found the following 2 rides roosting in Moosic, Pennsylvania. That's Moosic like "moo-zic" as opposed to moose, ick.
Get a load of this color! What we have here is a 1971-1972 Pontiac Ventura II in Buccaneer Red. This is basically a Pontiac Nova in an early case of badge engineering. The Chevy Nova was so popular that GM introduced almost identical versions in each of their divisions. The Ventura was first, followed by the Buick Apollo and Oldsmobile Omega in '73.
With the quad split grill this is my favorite of the faux Novas. This grill only lasted for the first 2 years. 1973 brought a split grill in 2 larger segments.
The rear side windows come to a point in the rear which means this is a standard coupe with a trunk. Beginning in '73 these were available as a hatchback. You can identify hatchbacks by the rear window being squared off. They even offered a tent that attached to the open hatchback for camping! Those are so rare it's almost like they never existed.
This hood is Ventura-specific and helps to make the trademark Pontiac pointy schnoz look like it belongs on the car. The Nova, Apollo, and Omega all had a single raised line going down the center. Under the hood lurks either the 250 inline 6 or 350 V8. There was a sporty Sprint option that allowed for the 307 V8 as well.
The "II" suffix alluded to the fact that there was an earlier, full size Ventura in the '60s. was dropped after 1972 even though this compact version soldiered on through '77.
Enough with that flashy but correct ride, let's get goofy!
This sickly looking tough guy is a 1967 Dodge Dart in the unmistakable 1970-only color Sublime Green. The color was one of the High Impact range offered from '69-'72. The High Impact line included Panther Pink, Plum Crazy, Go Mango, and Top Banana as well as others.
I think a 1967 Dart 2 door is a great car on its own. This person obviously wanted a Hemi Dart which was only offered in 1968. However the turn signals are round on the '68 and slightly inset from the location of those above. Who could blame the owner for making a tribute? There were only 80 total Hemi Darts produced and they were reportedly the fastest muscle car of all time. Hemi Darts had the hood with massive scoop as seen above. The hood and fenders were fiberglass, bumpers aluminum, and doors acid dipped to save weight.
Other weight saving details included the omission of a back seat, no arm rests, no window cranking mechanism, and thinner glass. They were sold with no warranty specifically for "supervised acceleration trials" (that's drag racing to you rubes). From the factory the Hemi Dart was good for a 10 second quarter mile at 130 mph!
If you want to be noticed this is a great way to go I suppose. You're setting the bar high though as you'd better have an earth shattering beast of an engine under the hood to back up the look. I have to say the black wheels and blackwall tires look pretty great on this beast.
Well that's that. Summer's coming people just hold on a bit longer!

Friday, March 24, 2017

A lesson in conformity

Mopar (which encompasses Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth) was known for outlandish styling and totally unique designs both in the beginning and the end of the '60s. However the first go-round was a massive flop that almost sunk the ship. Time to reel it back a bit!
Here is the still very pleasing yet somewhat conservative result. This is a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere II in Black. This ride looks exactly how I imagine mid-'60s Mopars to look: shabby yet eager to drive.
Little ripples and dents pepper this ride but nothing seems devastating. Decades of parking bumps add up.
This grill looks great to me. It is delicate though as you can see the gauge of metal in this pic. Those tiny bumper guards were *added at some point to help keep the grill but surely they can't do much. Those are the Donald Trump Hands of bumper guards!
*I was surprised to find out that these are original 1965 Mopar items. I stand corrected.
Everything about this car is straightforward and clean.
The upmarket Fury had stacked quad headlights as opposed to these duals.
1965 was all about straight lines and flat body panels. The accent line that starts on top of each headlight and continues back to form the window base helps keep it dynamic.
This awesomely '60s V8 emblem most likely means there is the 273 V8 under the hood. There were a full 4 other V8 engines available in those heady times: the 318, 361, 383, and mighty 426 Hemi.
This sweet Belvedere II emblem denoted the mid-tier trim level. Belvedere I was a stripped down model for fleet use and penny pinchers. The top of the line was named the Satellite; there was no III.
*That dog dish or poverty hubcap is indeed  from a Plymouth but a 1969-1974 model.
This is an intermediate size car, and was described as such in the sales literature of the day. Chrysler made a poor bet in 1962 by downsizing their largest cars so that there really wasn't a full size yacht in the lineup. Unfortunately their thinking was at least a decade early and sales took a mighty hit. America had spoken and they wanted enormous cars! In 1965 they restored order by making the flagship Fury huge again. Popularity followed suit.
The roofline is subtle but neat. There is a rake to the rooftop with the rear base and trunk just a bit higher than the front. To accentuate the look the rear window goes all the way up to the roof whereas the windshield is set an inch or so down.
This beast had a lot of stage presence in 2016 when I took these pics.
The rear is no nonsense. Reverse lights? Who needs 'em!
I didn't get too close as it seemed a particularly exposed location but there's no hiding that red interior. Even a 4 door sedan is bad ass with this color combo.
One thing I can tell you without looking inside is that this year marked the return of a traditional automatic transmission shifter on the column. From 1956 on they offered a push button transmission that worked very well. Supposedly the unit cost $1 more to manufacture than the column shift and so they moved away from it.
*The strangest push button transmission of all time was undoubtedly the 1958 Edsel which had the buttons in the center of the steering wheel! Imagine honking the horn and slamming your car into reverse instead.
If you look into the rear wheel well you can glimpse the old school leaf spring suspension. These work great when in good condition but if worn out make for a ridiculously bouncy ride.
We'll close this out with the proper 1965 dog dish hubcap. I love these simple caps which manage to have plenty of style in a very simple design. You could say that about this entire car actually.
As always with '60s and '70s Mopars the parts are available and the quality is fantastic. These are the cars that will not die. If you find one in drivable condition without too much rust buy it! You'll enjoy quirky styling in cars much less common than any Ford or Chevy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tiny little Toyota in Bay Ridge

Wipe the lens of your phone camera before snapping pics folks; that's my lesson from today. Regardless here's a quirky little crumpet from the days when Japanese cars looked truly foreign:
This is a 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel SR-5 in Silver Metallic. The Tercel was introduced the year before but wasn't allowed to use its own name. As a result it masqueraded as one of many Corollas that populated the Toyota showrooms in '81. In fact this "Corolla" didn't have much in common except that they shared the same manufacturer. For example this is the first front wheel drive Toyota while every other Corolla continued to be rear wheel drive!
The antenna placement is a frugal solution to being carwash-proof without the cost of a retractable or hiding it in the glass of the windshield. I'd forgotten about the antenna being mounted on the windshield pillar until now, but I remember this on old Datsuns as well.
SR-5 was a trim level/option package for the Corolla Tercel. Reports vary but some sources insist that the 5 speed manual came with the SR-5. I always thought it referred to the 3 door hatchback models. Regardless it's somewhat charming to half decals so huge that it looks like this car is wearing its parents clothes.
What up city veteran?
You used to see a lot of this in NYC. People would come out to find their door or trunk lock destroyed as a result of a break in and would replace the lock with this armored bit of overkill. This is a particularly quick and dirty job as the back plate encroaches into the indentation meant for your hand! Combine that with 3 different styles of rivet and you know this thing has seen some action.
Well there's no mistaking what this car is since the owner elected to put an 81COROLLA SR5 decal in the windshield.
Black rubber bumpers and black trim around the windows make for a clean, chrome-less look. Too bad about that one dead eye.
The range of Corollas in this year was staggering: 2 and 4 door sedans, a station wagon, sporty 2 door hardtop coupe, and a 3 door liftback. The Corolla was so popular that it became the best selling car the world over. This is the reason they piggybacked the Tercel onto the Corolla for the first 3 years it was around.
The front of this ride is the same as all other body styles for '81.
I like how awkward this frumpy little body style is. The handling is adequate as the wheels are pretty far out towards the corners of the car. The current Mini Cooper isn't too different.
Military stickers plaster the windows on this car so I didn't lean in for an interior pic. You rarely see U.S. military stickers on a foreign car which was mildly intriguing.
These odd taillights are 1980-1982 Tercel liftback specific which makes them annoyingly difficult to replace. The same can be said for that rear window with its quirky shape.
Poor car had an identity crisis from the beginning!
The Tercel will become a stand alone model in 1983 with a modernizing facelift.
The front wheel drive setup keeps this from being a cult car as the drifting crowd has no use for them. The 1.5 liter inline 4 cylinder engine sat above the transmission, connected by a differential. Gas mileage was excellent, especially with the 5 speed manual.
Well there we have it; a truly gawky car in its awkward phase roosting on a Brooklyn street at age 36. Given half the chance these cars will dissolve into rust like a sugar cube dropped in boiling water so it is remarkable that this exists.
Spending my teenage summers up in Northern California this was the sort of car that my friends would have as their first. I've been in these old Toyotas on dirt mountain roads, up and down the coast, and even into the desert, and they never failed to keep on trucking. The last car I owned was an '83 Corolla wagon so you know I have a soft spot for this little punk.