Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Park Slope Swinger

I was a block from my house when I walked past this sweet beauty:
This is a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger in Honey Gold. It sure looks like Honey Gold or honey mustard. I want to dip a chicken nugget right into it.
I love this car as I do all Darts from the larger 1960 original through 1976 when the baton was passed to the Aspen (the newer Darts share only a name with these cooler, earlier examples).
Pinpointing the year on a Dart means paying attention to the grill. This (the 3rd) generation lasted from '66-'76 with the body pretty much untouched. The grills changed every year.
Chances are excellent that this is equipped with the 225 Slant Six cylinder engine though it might have the 318 V8. Both are legendary for their durability, eclipsing anything else on the road by a solid 100,000 miles. It wasn't until the improved Japanese imports of the '80s and the Diesel VWs powered by Mercedes engines that there were other cars good for several hundred thousand miles.
This seems to be a lovely original example. The dot of rust in front of the rear wheel is almost reassuring in its honesty. While we're on this angle dig that intensity of the concave rear window!
Here we have one of my favorite details: the fiber optic powered turn signal indicator that does double duty in reminding you that you left your signal on as well as giving a heads up that you need to change the bulb.
This is a pretty sweet original interior! The drivers side is almost always torn at least a bit.
From those under dash vents we can see that this ride is outfitted with air conditioning. There is also a radio in the dash. The '72 Dart sales brochure brags that it was the first year am/fm was available in a Dart! Lower your expectations folks and you'll rarely be disappointed.
That single exhaust means that this is not equipped with the awesome 340 V8. Cars that have that motor are highly sought after today.
This design pleases me with its folded paper lines and clean overall look. The last Dart convertible was built in 1969 which is a shame. When you see the flat body lines going right past the roof to the front it seems a natural drop top shape.
I guess the paint is original! The fact that this sweet ride was sold new in Brooklyn and remains in the borough to this day is remarkable.
The vinyl top is immaculate. Once moisture gets underneath it will rot the metal underneath. This must have been garaged its whole life.
This was a compact car in 1972 America, and to this day it is a very parkable size.
The Swinger name with its awesome flower dotting the I was the name given to all coupes.
Well there we have it - one of my favorite cars of all time. Over the years I've owned both a '72 Plymouth Duster (a twin sibling to this ride) and a '74 Dart. Both had the 225 Slant Six and both were spectacular cars. My Duster was the greatest value of all time. I bought it for $60 (yes SIXTY DOLLARS) and delivered pizzas with it. It paid for itself in a shift or two. Then I had to replace the transmission with a $300 unit. Once the new trans was installed I drove it from Rhode Island to New York every weekend as well as trips to Philly, Baltimore, New Hampshire and Maine. Somebody ran a stop sign and smashed into it but their insurance company gave me $700 for it and I sold the wreck for an additional hundred. Fantastic cars!
PS - the Duster was gold with a green faux snakeskin roof from the factory!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What do Mork & Mindy and Salem's Lot have in common?

Alright you Mork & Mindy superfans their Jeep was an earlier model than this but you get the point. How else would I set the stage for this post? Salem's Lot?
Without further Shazbot:
This is a 1985-1986 Jeep CJ-7 Renegade in Ice Blue Poly. Everyone knows the Jeep as the basic design carried over from WWII. Unlike the Beetle the Jeep made his way into the 1980s without forfeiting its soul (the Beetle didn't even make it to the decade in the States).
This is how I want to see or remember a Jeep; roof and doors off in warm buttery sunshine. These days the trend is to make your modern Jeep super aggressive and loaded with testosterone (one of the most popular aftermarket customizations gives the headlights frowning eyebrows so your Jeep looks angry!). That's not my Jeep fantasy. Mine is pure hilarity; the possibility of pulling off the road at any time whether onto a beach or into the mountains.
Yeah dude I'm a RENEGADE!
This is such a freaking improper name for a vehicle with clear military roots that I'm at a loss for words. A definition from Google:
1. a person who deserts and betrays an organization, country, or set of principles.
synonyms: traitor, defector, deserter, turncoat, rebel, mutineer 
"he was denounced as a renegade"
Can you imagine if there was a Hummer named The AWOL?
Our hero has slight munchy rust nibbling at the edges but overall it's in great shape for a 30+ year old Jeep. I love the homemade padding on the roll bars. It's there to protect the cloth top when it's raised but also for folks standing up in the back while screaming on the beach.
The CJ-7 was introduced in 1976 to be sold alongside the smaller CJ-5. The 7 is a full 10 inches longer than the earlier models which in turn makes it a bit more car like. From that emblem under the license plate we can see that this Jeep has never left Long Island (I found this parked in a lot on the North Fork).
Just in case a blue Jeep on the North Fork wasn't stereotypical enough there are a couple of lacrosse stickers on the glove compartment door.
This dashboard, while modernized, retains its primitive roots. The speedometer is a big gauge in the center of the vehicle with a couple of smaller gauges just placed wherever. That padded dash fulfills the safety regulation but looks like the tacked-on afterthought that it is.
Rust is showing up around the windshield in troubling ways. Like every CJ the windshield folds forward and can be secured down flat on the hood. However the hinges provide a bit of purchase for the salty air to take hold.
Well there we have it; the perfect beach cruiser probably caught on a beer run. These rides are as fun as they look and remain pretty common. The mechanicals are dead basic so repairs are a piece of cake. When shopping for any Jeep the #1 thing to look for is rust. It will have rust, it's just a matter of how much and if it's structural. Be wary of any fancy looking diamond plate or chrome added to the corners of the body as they look flash but probably conceal rot.
Because I mentioned it I felt compelled to leave this link to the intro to More & Mindy.
And of course some Salem's Lot stills:

For no particular reason here is a glossary for all the known Orkan language ever spoken on More & Mindy.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blight as an accidental classic

For a car to be officially called a classic it must be either 20 or 25 years old. Some rides are instant classics due to their rarity and/or design. Then there are things like the hooptie below that time defines as classic but the world is collectively waiting for them to just leave the party.
Good grief. What we have here is a 1988-1990 Chevrolet Cavalier in White. YAWN.
This little punk is riddled with damage. The grill is some auto parts store replacement that's committing the crime of being too clean and bright. The side light is long gone. Dents and scratches abound. The paint on the hood looks like it was touched up with White-Out.
This car is standard transportation in every way. 4 door basic, standard wheels, zero chrome, and an utter lack of decals complete the boredom.
Rust is beginning in the strangest way on this ride. It's almost like somebody brushed saltwater above the rear wheel well. The wheel is just sad. For some reason the owner taped a map to the inside of the window. Why?
All the neighbors know this car because it's the worst one on a nice block. Way back when somebody wanted to represent sports radio and a nation with some decals.
Sometimes cars get to a stage in life where they've already had their final trip through the car wash. I believe this Cavalier is in a post washing place in its path.
I knew of one cool Cavalier in my life. It was a 4 door brown (and I mean BROWN) 1985 version with 4 square headlights. What made it unexpectedly cool was that it was a manual transmission. Driving it was actually fun enough that I traded my VW Beetle for the Cavalier for 1 week (back when I was an age where that seemed perfectly normal). The car came with lots of White Zombie tapes.
This has a thoroughly boring inline 4 cylinder engine and is front wheel drive. There was a high performance Z24 version of the Cavalier as well as some sporty 2 door body styles. Then there's this.
Time to back away and wonder why I bothered snapping pics of this slab. I suppose it was the fact that it is 28 or so years old even though it causes zero excitement. When I was in high school in 1990 this would be the equivalent of having a car from 1962. Maybe there are kids today that are fascinated by this utterly ignored ride? Who knows? Eventually anything left on the road from long enough ago becomes somewhat desirable but this still has a ways to go.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sweet old 'bird by Owl's Head Park

I was walking around my future neighborhood of Bay Ridge (though I didn't know it then) when I stumbled upon this sweet rig:
Right on! I love these old rides and they're getting scarcer by the year.
This is a 1972 Pontiac Firebird in what I think is an aftermarket color. There was a Cardinal Red and Sundance Orange but neither are close to this one. Nice job though and an interesting choice.
The front of these cars is called the Endura nose and it serves double duty as the bumper. They are made of urethane rubber over a steel core. Pontiac bragged about it taking a good beating while still looking good and never rusting. Here is an amazing commercial from the era where they they show off how durable it is. Just because I couldn't decide between the two here's another.
There were almost no differences between the '72 and '73 Firebird but the grill holds the clue. This honeycomb pattern was replaced with a straight ahead crosshatch pattern in '73.
This well loved example is the standard Firebird. In addition you could've ordered a luxury version called the Esprit. If high performance was your bag they came in Formula and Trans Am as well. One particularly rare option was a high output 455 V8 in both 325 and 335 horsepower guise.
This body is essentially identical to the Camaro with the exception of the front and rear fascias.
Ha ha ha I've had that same window crank! Gotta love having a vice grip in an old car. Next to duct tape it's about as useful as it gets.
Even in this somewhat grubby condition I love white interiors in cars. This ride has the gauge package as illustrated by the 3 smaller lenses above the heater controls. The steering wheel is somewhat plain Jane for a Firebird with most of them coming with 3 spoke, sportier versions.
This slippery body looks great with no spoiler or wing mucking it up. Those pre-safety standard bumpers are delicate enough to not look overloaded and ridiculous. By '74 big bumpers were added but they managed to incorporate them better than most.
The famous Flaming Chicken changed slightly over the years. The Trans-Am was the ride with the sweet decal on the hood.
This is the 2nd generation of the Firebird. Introduced in '70, this design had a remarkable 11 year run before the Knight Rider version showed up in '82. When you factor in the amount of change from the very beginning of the '70s into the beginning of the '80s it is an astonishing achievement. Firebird managed to hold on to its muscle car cred too with The Rockford Files and Smokey and the Bandit building their legend.
It's amazing to think about now but the Firebird and its sibling Camaro were almost scrapped entirely due to a labor strike in '72. The workers at the Lordstown plant in Ohio held a 22 day long strike which cost GM a cool 150 million (in 1972 dollars!). A similar but much longer strike was the nail in the coffin for the IH Scout II as the company finally forfeited and just halted production outright. The legacy of the Lordstown strike was that 1972 was the smallest production year for Firebird with just under 30,000 built. For contrast the year before saw 53,000 produced and the following year 46,000.
Nothing wrong with some Cragar Super Sport wheels on any '70s ride!
Well that's where we'll leave this rare 'bird. I've always preferred Pontiac to Chevy due to the slightly aggressive and unique styling. Pontiac was the only division of GM to have the Endura front ends which look beautiful to me. Prices are climbing on these so if one catches your eye at a decent price I highly recommend snapping it up quick!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sweet sleeper of a grocery getter. Nova!

I was biking through Clinton Hill one warm day when I passed this smart little number:
Clean as a whistle!
This is a 1977 Chevrolet Nova 4 door in Firethorn Poly. I love this era Nova and feel that it gets unfairly ignored in favor of the earlier models.
From a decade of garish excess this ride sports refreshingly clean looks. The grill is neat and straightforward with small Chevy bow tie logos embossed into the turn signals. The round peg in a square hole headlights are angled gently back from the grill.
*If this were the higher trim level Concours edition there would be a chrome band on the hood above the grill making it a bit glitzier.
This is a straight-up 4 door grocery getter for 1977. It was listed as the compact offering from Chevy as there was the subcompact Monza below it in scale and the Chevelle/Impala line being larger. This is a very usable car on modern streets and remains parkable when contrasted against the personal luxury land yachts of the day.
Much has been made of the hidden joke in this name. "Nova" in Spanish translates to "Not Going" in English; just the sort of thing you want to name a car! The Nova was originally known simply as the Chevy II until the late '60s when Nova was added as almost a dual name. Finally in 1969 the handoff was complete with the II moniker dropping and Nova remaining.
Believe it or not these dog dish poverty caps are original to Chevy from this era. I love the plain style of poverty caps and these are some of the plainest ever made.
The rear is very straightforward in its design. If this were the lofty Concours edition there would be a third taillight square on each side between these lights and the license plate opening. According to the sticker collection on the bumper there are several aftermarket performance parts on this beast. I do see dual exhaust poking out in a subtle hint of what may lie underneath.
Hi. That's my hand.
I'm assuming this little vent is the outlet for the cabin air circulation system but I can't find a single word on it.
The literature of the day boasts that the '77 Nova is only 1" larger than the 4 door from 1962. Their tagline was that they've been "selling the car of tomorrow for 15 years" and that they've had all this time to really perfect it. They are pretty basic and reliable rides for sure.
Whoa buddy! Looks like the cheese delivery came to the interior of this sedate-on-the-outside ride. Replacement 2 tone buckets and door panels accentuate how huge the transmission/driveshaft hump on the floor is. TAPOUT floor mats let you know this guy (I'm gender assuming here) drives and fights! We can see the am/fm 8 track stereo which is amazing when someone spends so much of decoration. The blue tree hanging from the mirror is the New Car Scent. Nice try!
As bad as this pic is it contains the clue that pinpoints the year. '76 and '77 Novas were identical except for the dashboard. The round gauges in this image confirm it as a '77.
Well that's where we'll leave this cool cruiser. I dig the sleeper vibe of this ride with its lack of engine badges and cheapo hubcaps. This is the sort of car you can pick up for peanuts and build how ever you want. 4 door examples are probably roosting in garages all over the country having made their last trip to church for the deceased original owner. Parts are so widely available that it's laughable. If you want to get some cheap classic wheels for Summer a Nova is a solid choice.