Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Every Silver Cloud has a custom lining

It's wedding and graduation season and so I'm featuring two classy visions that happened to cross my path. I can't vouch for the originality of either of these rides but they fit the bill for your prom:
Alright this one is the more interesting of the pair for me! This seems to be a 1959-1962 Bentley S2 4 door saloon that has been converted to a convertible. I'm inclined to think that this car started out as a true Bentley S2 for a couple of reasons. Firstly the driver is on the UK-appropriate right side.
The second reason I'm thinking this is a legit Bentley is that it is a Bentley as opposed to a Rolls Royce. When the S2 was built it was 95% identical to the RR Silver Cloud II. While production numbers were within 100 or so of each other the Rolls Royce name and trademark grill are more famous to the general public than Bentley. It is also Black when most are pearly White.
Both marques sold incomplete cars to independent coach builders for completion so there are several unique and one-off examples out there (one famous example is the 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III drophead coupe with coachwork by Mulliner Park Ward driven by Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack). Chances are better that a 4 door Bentley was professionally chopped into a convertible.
On to a creamier block of cheese:
Alright now we're getting into suspicious territory (although my footnote about coach builders still applies). At first glance this seems to be a 1959-'62 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II Long Wheelbase. I ain't buyin' it for a second!
There are a few clues that make me think this is a "tribute" Rolls specifically built for prom & wedding use. The big one is the lack of subtlety on that body side swooping line coming off the front fender. It is close to the original but a bit heavy handed. The rear door ought to cut further into that flank of the rear fender. Glaringly this is ride has suicide doors which the original would not have had. The rear roof is too tall to be legit in my opinion as well, and it has a sunroof!  
Don't get me wrong this car would make a man feel like a king and a lady feel like a princess, especially from 30 feet with a phone camera like this woeful shot, but it just isn't the real thing (I think). My thought is that this was probably produced by a company such as this one. *Scrolling through the options on the link above is interesting. I recommend the Armored Vehicle section.
Well that's that for this post. If you're like me and you scroll through Craigslist classic car ads for fun (this is sadly true btw) you might notice that old limos litter the landscape with few takers. The ultra classic lines of Rolls Royce & Bentley will always find a home, but what about the K-Car limo of the '80s? Or any number of square Caddilacs from the same decade? For a glimpse into truly useless vehicles search for "airport limo"; no orphan has fewer adoption prospects than a Cadillac with 6 doors and 3 bench seats.
I'll close this out with my favorite of that weird category; the 8 door Checker Aerobus!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What do Andrew Dice Clay, Wayne Newton, Priscilla Presley, Morris Day, and Gilbert Gottfried* have in common?**

*Also Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy), Ton Loc (Ton Loc), and Sheila E
I was walking through the East Village a while back when I found myself standing in front of this square brick of cream cheese:
This is a 1965 Ford Fairlane 500 in Wimbledon White. One of the nifty details of this year is the body color in the headlight surrounds. Another is the stand up hood ornament which was only in '65.
Originally released as a full size car in 1955, the Fairlane was reduced to mid size after 1962. This year was particularly boxy and has a look unlike any of the other vintages. The years before this had quad round headlights but they were in the grill itself as opposed to being in these housings. In 1966 the headlights were stacked.
This is a beautifully proportioned sedan with the hood and trunk being close in size and the roofline somewhat tall. Clean and crisp was the order of the day for sedans.
This car was built to be overshadowed in 1965. The Mustang was only enjoying its first full year of production and other pony cars were in the works. Muscle cars were also capturing the attention of the buying public and the dealers who were selling them. In the midst of all this excitement comes another 4 door white mid size car. As good as the result is it doesn't trigger the same emotional response as the flashier offerings of the same era.
This is the squared-off evolution of the target sight Jet Engine taillights that started showing up on Fords in the '50s. To me the high point was the '61-'63 Thunderbird taillight that looks like a straight-up fighter jet afterburner. This is a few down the list from tadpole to frog but you get the gist.
The gas cap is behind that pull down door in the dead center of the rear valance. Ford kept this arrangement with the Maverick.
From this angle you can see the folded paper look making the side attractive. If this were the base Fairlane as opposed to the 500 there would be no chrome trim along the side or around the windows.
Ford has long made the best out of what they have and as a result the drivetrain choices for this ride are the same as the Mustang for '65. It also means that aftermarket parts availability is second to none.
These cool looking hubcaps mounted on steelies are original. I won't say they are poverty caps because there is a bit of black trim and the car is a 500, but they're pretty basic.
Mercury had a sibling to this ride for a couple years named the Meteor. Meteors are super rare these days and were only produced in this iteration from 1962-'63. Given the chance I would take the Merc because they are so scarce but keeping one running would be as easy as owning this car.
The larger Galaxie for 1965 had some continuity with the Fairlane. Both had wide grills that angled forward from the sides, though the Galaxie had stacked quad headlights.
This car is a treat in this condition and probably languished in a garage somewhere until it was bought by whoever parks it in the city. Just about every inch was just shy enough away from perfect to confirm originality. I would happily roll in this daily.
**By the way the answer to the opener as you probably know already is Ford Fairlane the movie. This is not an endorsement.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Life on the farm circa 1956

I was riding through Red Hook a while ago when I stumbled upon this hardy beast. It was parked in a delicious cloud of barbecue smoke behind Hometown. I asked some folks who were unloading firewood for Hometown if I could snap some pics and got something like a muttered "go ahead":
This is a 1956-1957 International Harvester S-120 in Chesapeake Grey. The S-Series was introduced in '56 and only lasted for 2 years before being replaced by the A-Series. This is not to be confused with the IH S-Series that came out in 1978 and continued on for a decade. The newer S trucks were much larger and have nothing to do with the truck here. They simply elected to reuse a name.
I realize this pic is inscrutable with the glare but rest assured there isn't much to miss. The grill consists of a simple loop with turn signals for molars. The grill actually looks like a mini truck front end jammed in a larger opening of the same shape.
This iH logo is known as the Man on the Tractor. The lower case i is the farmer and his square head while the H makes up the large tires of a tractor that he's piloting. This is a decidedly Jet-Age version.
On the lower rear edge of the hood you can see that piece of chrome about 3 inches tall by 1 inch wide. That is a handle and there is another just like it on the other side. Uniquely, the IH S-Series hood is hinged on each side and as a result can be swung open to the right or the left, or even lifted off completely. That basic school bus style turn signal is function over form to a T.
The two holes above would have had the INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER emblem originally.
This beast sports locking front hubs which means it is equipped with four wheel drive from the factory. IH started offering 4x4 as an option across its entire line in 1953 due to the popularity of aftermarket conversions. I have no doubt that in first gear with 4-wheel Low engaged this truck could pull stumps out of the ground or move a small building. Top speed in 1st Low is probably around 10mph.
I love how unforgiving these tires are. They look old as hell and meant for mud & snow.
The running boards under the doors are making their last appearance with the S-Series. The A-Series which debuted in 1957 stood for Anniversary to celebrate their 50th birthday as a company. The newer trucks were much more modernized and really some of the glitziest vehicles ever produced by IH. That cab was more of a cohesive unit, sitting lower on the frame with doors going down to where these running boards are. They also had heavily chromed front ends and stacked quad lights.
I don't know what is in this wooden box but I love it. This primitive beast is all utility so I'm assuming there are tools or jumper cables or something within.
This stake side bed may indeed be a dump truck. Some of the S-Series trucks of this vintage had dumping capabilities even in the normal pickup style bed.
This thing is ready to work!
The gas tank is ridiculously basic; a tank under the cab with a filler tube attached. Zero frills.
Well that's where I left this brute while it awaits instructions from its master. If you can keep the rust at bay and provide the most basic of lubrication and maintenance you can drive one of these trucks forever. I had a '79 IH Scout and even though they look very different the basic running gear of this and that rig were more similar than dissimilar. The engine blocks are massive, heavily cast lumps that are meant to stay in the lower RPMs. Measured, deliberate power is the name of the game for IH who made their name providing lifeblood machinery for farms. The original owner of a truck like this might come to town every other week and spend the rest of the time on their land repairing things themselves. To see a stalwart old rig like this in Brooklyn was a treat.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A fish somehow caught between larva and pupa stage

Contributor Max stumbled upon a record shattering 3 Ramblers over a 2 day span recently. All are rare by definition but this one takes the cake:
This is a vary late 1965 or very early 1966 Rambler Marlin in two-tone Caballero Medium Tan Poly with Frost White accents. The colors and wheels weren't around until '66 but the word RAMBLER was only on the Marlin for '65. There are no hard and fast rules when regarding the independent Rambler/AMC company from Kenosha, Wisconsin so the vintage blurring isn't terribly rare.
*While we're up front dig the body color spanning the center horizontal grill bar.
Behold the optional and rare Turbo Cast wheels painted in the body colors.
Rambler/AMC launched the Marlin in '65 as a mid size fastback personal luxury car to compete with the Mustang and Barracuda. Styling was unique as with all AMC products.
Here is the awesome and odd body on full display. Those massive rear side windows roll down making this a true hardtop. In an arrangement I don't remember seeing before the accent color wraps around the window opening in a boomerang shape. The corrugated chrome rocker panel seems to have only been added to a percentage of '66 Marlins.
The Marlin is weird! That center panel is all the trunk lid you get even though the trunk capacity includes the space behind the taillights. The incredible sexist copy in the sales brochure brags about the trunk space as something sure to calm "wives in a dither". They actually go through step-by-step instructions on how to manipulate your wife into accepting such a sporty looking car using imagery like protection for her patent leather heels while she's ferrying cub scouts around. It's worth a read as a period piece on relaxed everyday misogyny in the mid '60s.
That word RAMBLER under the trunk lid disappeared officially for 1966 as Rambler became AMC fully. This ride straddles the fence.
Check out this awesome Marlin emblem!
The Marlin was only around for 3 years. The final year of 1967 saw a much larger Marlin, then based on the full size Ambassador series with stacked quad headlights. While all Marlins are rare the '67 saw only 2,545 total built.
I love the Marlin and have only seen a couple over the years. For me this is the beginning of AMC going bonkers in their styling. Just a few years after this car was built legends like the Gremlin and Matador X would arrive, bringing with them Levis interiors. AMC released a special line of station wagons in 1967 that were like nothing from the other automakers. Here is a link to an article describing them in detail. Sales material featured a model holding a pistol and wearing an eye patch!
Given the chance I would own a Marlin in a flash. If you see one grab it!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The perfect device for colonial imperialism

I was walking through Windsor Terrace recently when something appeared that seemed as foreign and out of place as the Coke bottle in The Gods Must be Crazy. Behold!
This is a 1978 Land Rover Defender 109 in what I believe is Spring Green (I think British Racing Green is a little deeper in an evergreen sense as opposed to this hue).
 Make no mistake - even though this is parked in a lovely neighborhood this beast is safari-ready. It is positively dripping with aftermarket heavy duty upgrades.
This is the long wheelbase station wagon that is really just a few steps away from its prehistoric ancestors. The Defender was originally launched in 1948 and ran all the way through the 2015 model year. While there were plenty of changes and series over the decades it remained remarkably true to its initial design over those 67 years.
You've got to give it up for the full external roll cage on this thing! In addition it has a roof-height snorkel for the engine. Everything about the presentation says it's ready and capable for serious off road adventures. How it got to Brooklyn is a mystery to me. Maybe it drove along the bottom of the ocean?
I have a close friend who drives a newer Discovery with these same wheels. He calls them the "U.N. wheels" because Land Rovers stationed around the world tend to sport these no nonsense white steelies.
I can't think of a single custom touch that this isn't already outfitted with. That spotlight on the roof even has a protective metal screen over it as if this were exploring a rugged continent. 
 From this angle it's plain to see how utilitarian these older Defenders are. Exposed hinges, simple metal body panels, big expanses of flat glass, etc. While this company went on to produce luxury SUVs and crossovers this vehicle harkens back to the need to traverse faraway lands with no paved roads. I'm sure this is cold in winter, hot in summer, and pretty loud and rattly on bumpy ground. It is 100% honest is what I'm trying to say.
Well that's where I'll leave this conquerer to enjoy semi-retirement. The fact that the license plate is mashed up under the bumper alludes to possible adventure so hopefully it's not retired at all. Either way I'm impressed and somewhat in awe of this hardy British beast.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lovely little Variant in Oakland

Some cars have languishing in my computer for no particular reason. I snapped these pics in Oakland at least 2 years ago. Look at this sweet freaking face!
This is a 1970-1973 Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback in Yukon Yellow (with the exception of a door and quarter panel that are in the color Amber). I can tell you from experience that this is a great car.
The Beetle was the Type 1 and the Bus Type 2. These were known as Type 3 or Volkswagen 1600 depending on the market. The Type 3 was launched in 1961 and initially consisted of the 1500 Notchback; a 2 door coupe with a front and rear trunk. These were never imported to the U.S. and as a result are very collectible today. The U.S. market first saw the Type 3 in 1966 when both a Fastback and Squareback 1600 were offered.   
These rides have a pancake motor which is essentially a flattened version of the 1600cc VW air-cooled 4 cylinder. It was compact enough that it set underneath the rear cargo floor. You open the rear hatch, lift up the black rubber mat, and there is a metal trapdoor that unlocks and opens to expose the motor.
The '60s Type 3s had smaller front turn signals, taillights, and bumpers as well as a slightly smaller body overall. Of all the myriad cars whose lights and bumpers grew to meet regulations I think the Squareback wears them exceptionally well.
The Squareback was known as the Variant in the rest of the world.
While there was a fully automatic transmission available for these the manual is the way to go. They are outfitted with the Freeway Flyer transmission which benefitted greatly by having taller gears for highway cruising. I once drove 4 people 4 hours at 70mph without issue in one of these.
The louvers along the top of the quarter panel feed air into the engine cooling system which worked very well even in hot climates. By 1969 these rides came with Bosch fuel injection standard. A major percentage of the VW community believes converting those old injection systems to dual carbs is the way to go. I had a 1970 Squareback with F.I. and it was fantastic; always starting in any weather, smoothly accelerating with plenty of power, and never needing adjustment for the 5 years I drove it. The caveat is that our car came with a manila binder full of records and someone had replaced the computer "brain" for the system years earlier for $1,200. In 1990s money that was a lot but it worked a treat!
Well that does it for this charming little daisy.
I was out at Ocean Beach in S.F. with my girlfriend at the time and we saw one of these in Baby Blue with a for sale sign in the window. After admiring it we walked into the Surf Coffee Shop talking about how cool it was. The guy sitting by the door said "wanna test drive it?" and handed us the keys! We didn't know that guy at all but we took him up on it. 5 minutes later we were back negotiating a deal for the car (I think $2,200 down from his asking price of $2,500). The clock didn't work but it was set to 4:20. The ashtray was full of roaches to boot.
We drove that car for 2 years in while living on California St. in S.F., and then trailered it back East to Western Massachusetts. There we continued driving it for another 3 years, parking it only for the few worst winter months. Each Spring she would start right up. After that the Squareback made the move to New York with us and she stayed with my ex as it was always really her car. I heard it was sold to someone in Pennsylvania and hopefully she's driving as I write this.
If you see one in good shape and running condition don't hesitate. These are spectacular, hilariously fun cars to use every day.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Ich bin eine Furt! Warum magst du mich nicht?!"

"Ich bin eine Furt! Warum magst du mich nicht?!"
Poor little Sierra. Handbuilt, quick, sporty, and modern all sound like the sorts of traits that make a car popular. That's not the way it went down with this little punk though . . .

This is a 1988-1989 Merkur XR4Ti in Diamond White. To the rest of the world this is a Ford Sierra XR4Ti. The name breakdown is as follows: eXperimental, Racing, 4th generation, Turbocharged, fuel Injected.
These cars were each hand built by the Karmann Coachworks GmbH (kind of German for LLC) in Rheine, Germany. This is the same firm that collaborated with Ghia on the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Merkur as a company was founded to try and woo back buyers of American luxury brands that were heading towards BMW and Audi. However with only the above hatchback and a luxury sedan called the Scorpio brought over from Europe there was never much excitement or sales. The plug was pulled on Merkur just 4 years in. 
 The Sierra was popular in Europe and ran from 1982-1993. Several body styles were available in 3, 4, and 5 door configurations. There was even a van! The U.S. only got this 3 door hatch.
I blame this person even more than Debbie Wasserman Schultz for putting a Bernie 2016 sticker under the bad omen of a Merkur emblem. Go back to Maine!
This example is in shockingly good condition. The earlier 1985-1987 XR4Ti had a double wing in the back with the higher one about 5 inches above the lower.
 The U.S. spec cars had a turbocharged 2.3 Liter 4 cylinder in the as opposed to the 2.8 Liter V6 in the European Cosworth version. The Cosworth Sierra was fast, boasting a top speed of 150 mph! There was also a 1.6 Liter engine available in Europe only that boasted 51 miles to the gallon. That's getting into Prius territory.
This one is fitted with the 5 speed manual transmission which means it's probably a lot of fun to drive. Behold the manual Lumbar Support adjustment dial on the side of the seat; 1980s!
Well that's where I'll leave this little oddity. Like many automotive footnotes this ride found itself the butt of jokes. However unlike other punchline rides there's no real tragedy to pin its failure on. It never blew up like the Pinto, wasn't horribly made like the Yugo, or had a spectacular and criminal scandal like the DeLorean. No, this little car is more like the Edsel; introduced to great fanfare and quieted shown the door within a few years. To see one now is like seeing the future, 1980s style.