Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How about a classy offshoot from the FDR era?

LaSalle by Cadillac
This post is proof that you never know what you'll see driving down the byways of the boroughs. I was way out in Marine Park when I saw this beauty parked in front of an old school Italian joint:
Yes! This is a 1939 LaSalle Series 50 2 door sedan in some sort of recent Burgundy. LaSalle was a short lived affiliate of Cadillac that shared many of the components as well as the overall luxury feel. However there wasn't a Caddy paint color anything like this and I can't for the life of me find any reference to LaSalle color codes.
Check out those torpedo headlight buckets! This car is dripping with sweet '30s style; everything is stretched and streamlined to a curved point (this was when most streamlining was for looks as opposed to aerodynamics, Chrysler/DeSoto notwithstanding). The center grill flanked by the two more on the sides is clearly a Cadillac feature. Those grumpy and beat-down fog lights on the bumper are original believe it or not.
The 2 door sedan refers to the long rear quarter windows which do roll down. The 2 door coupe had a much shorter rear roof section with pop-out windows.
*I think its safe to say this belongs to Salvi as opposed to FRANK'S.
The trunk, while built in to the body, still alludes to a decade earlier when there was an actual steamer trunk lashed onto a shelf. I've seen the spare tire in a LaSalle like this and it is laying on the right side of the trunk floor with a shelf on top. Believe me storage is still plentiful. 
This car had an unbelievable option available when built; a sunroof! It was known as the Sunshine Turret Top but we would recognize it today. Reverse lights are still decades off.
LaSalle debuted in 1927 as a subdivision of Cadillac. They would continue through the length of the Great Depression only to drop off after the 1940 model year. Such a shame to trudge through that decade as a luxury producer only to get shut down, but hey - talk to Packard, Studebaker, DeSoto, Maxwell, and all the others to see how they feel. The history of the automobile is littered with hundreds (probably thousands) of false starts.
A V8 engine! This was the 5.3 liter 322 from Cadillac. Even back in '39 it was known for smooth power at a whisper quiet level. The only transmission was a column mounted 3 speed manual.
Here we can see that the rear fenders are almost entirely incorporated into the body. After decades the appendages were disappearing like the feet of a tadpole.
When you're standing next to this beauty you realize how tall it is. We're used to steeping down into cars today but with this beast you climb in.
I almost missed this sweet detail; La S is in the middle of the hubcap in an art deco moment.
The brochure tagline for the 1940 LaSalle went like this: "LaSALLE is built by CADILLAC and that's the finest recommendation any car could have". 
Alright who doesn't knock back a Haagen Dazs bar when driving a classic show car?
The curtain is being pulled back a bit with this shot as that steering wheel says APOLLO on it. I'm assuming from the vintage of that wheel that the drivetrain (or at least front end) has been changed to Buick's version of the Chevy Nova. Whatever allows you to fire this thing up and drive with ease is worth it in my opinion. 
One detail that is unique for cars of this era is the hood. As huge as it is it opens conventionally with a hinge in the rear. Most rides this old have a central hinge running down the middle and the hood would open up on each side like wings.
Well that's where I'll leave this 78 year old ride. Those little square orange lights mounted on top of the headlight buckets are a mystery but I'm not against adding basic safety items to a car driving in modern traffic. The antenna implies that there's a radio inside which is pretty cool. For the most part if you have a vehicle with this much age and presence but manage to use it regularly you are my hero. Hats off to you LaSalle owner!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What do you get when you mix a deadly viper with a fox? COBRA!

Yesterday I featured a faded raspberry Mustang GT from the early '80s. Providence Pete snapped these pics recently and sent them along to me. This is the exact model that yesterdays GT replaced!
This is a 1979 Ford Mustang Cobra in White with a fantastically awesome decal on the hood. We know it's a '79 due to this egg crate grill that lasted for only 1 year.
Turbo?!? Yes indeed Ford got into the turbocharging game along with GM at the end of the Malaise Era. In this case it's a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder. The overall horsepower was a low 117 with only 135 lbs of torque. This was not a sprightly car by any stretch, reaching a top speed of only 112mph! However the 5.0 liter 302 V8 available for this year was detuned and lethargic, sipping too much gas through its carb while delivering a pitiful 140 horsepower. Top speed on the V8 was just 120mph (116 with the auto trans). The one thing the Turbo Cobra delivered was better gas mileage.  
These Fox Body Mustangs are looking better by the year though. The crisp, angular styling is pre-'80s appropriate without being too severe. I dig the original rims on this ride too. Every '79 Cobra had the bottom half of the body and bumpers blacked out like this.
The Cobra option package added a cool $1,200 to the base price of the Mustang; no small cost in 1979. That decal on the hood didn't even come with it but was an additional $78. How could you not order it if you were already ordering the Cobra package?
Inside we see the floor mounted 4 speed manual transmission. It looks like this not only has an 8 track player installed, but there's a tape hanging out of it too! The steering wheel is sporty enough but that center cap is not where the horn is located. Like the Fairmont the horn is activated by pressing the turn signal stalk in towards the column. Frustrating in an actual emergency to be slamming on the steering wheel in silent fury!
Who knows why this car is so immaculate? It's not the sort of classic that will give you a big return on your investment if you restore it. There might be a clue in this pic though; even though the original purchaser opted for a rear window wiper there doesn't seem to be a rear defroster on the glass. My guess is that this car comes from somewhere warm and dry like SoCal.
Another 1 year only Cobra detail are the lower headrests on the front seats. Starting in '80 they were much higher, basically framing the shape of your head as opposed to bracing your neck.
These faux louvers behind the rear window were black on all non-Cobra Mustangs.
This interior view shows the TURBOCHARGED emblem on the dash.
I've seen some '79 Cobras that had the COBRA decal on the rear of the door too. I don't know if that's a personal choice after a repaint or if there was variation at the factory.
Well that's that for the coolest/goofiest looking Mustang of all time! The smaller Mustang II had Cobra and King Cobra editions that sported even bigger graphics and lettering but I think this psychedelic image takes the cake. In researching this ride I've seen lots of complaints on the fragility of the engine inner workings and turbo system itself. Since the payout is meager horsepower and merely acceptable gas mileage I don't know what the point would be of restoring one of these unless you were a serious Mustang collector. Still if one came along running well for cheap I would happily grab some orange reflective Oakleys off eBay and crank the Toni Basil while cruising to the arcade!
*Here's a bonus clip of 72 year old Toni Basil rocking some dance moves that are genuinely astonishing. Go Toni! You're almost forgiven for writing a catchy bubble gum hit with a name that sounds exactly like mine (all Rickys my age will agree).

Friday, August 18, 2017

I ran across a Faded Player recently . . .

I was walking through the Northern end of Bay Ridge the other day when this well chewed blob of bubble gum made its presence known:
Okay, alright, there was once something to work with here.
This is a 1982 Ford Mustang GT in what might be a very faded Medium Red. The GT had special colors and the Medium Red leaned in this raspberry bubble gum direction but this also might be a flashy custom color from the go-go '80s.
This hood scoop does nothing at all. If the sun weren't so bright you'd see that it's blocked off with a body-colored panel. That Mustang emblem in front of it was a foggy as it looks in this pic.
The GT took over where the Mustang Cobra left off the year before. From '79-'81 the most powerful Mustang engine available was a turbocharged 4 cylinder! The V8 from '80-'81 was a smaller 4.2 liter 255 which got better gas milage than the classic 302 V8 of the previous decade. Our feature car today  brought the return of the famous 5.0 302 V8.
The GT has a great look with a special front spoiler and air dam, that mini faux scoop, and a wing on the rear. This was a cusp model bridging the gap between the first Fox Body Mustangs in '79 and the redesigned next step for the Fox in 1983. After the '83 redesign (more of a minor tinkering than a complete overhaul) this basic design carried all the way through the decade and into the early '90s.
Definitely trust the milage quoted by the seller of every classic car, especially when the dashboard has been completely torn to shreds! This dash has been WORKED; look at the hole smashed into the top in the middle. The dash pad, face, and vents have all been torn out. I can see that this is a stick shift though which makes this one fun car to drive.
Here's the 3/4 view of this hatchback pony. The dimensions are tidy for a rear wheel drive V8 sports car. Beginning in 1983 a convertible would be available for the first time in 9 years. Those are Mustang rims from a slightly newer car.
A single out of state plate is holding this thing down while the cops and tow trucks pass it by. Does this really look like a Vermont car? Can you imagine driving this thing in any amount of snow? Might as well sit on a diner stool and swivel in a circle.
D & D Autoworks had their hand in this beasts creation many moons ago as you can see from the faded lettering next to the trunk lock.
As munchy and weathered as this thing is it is standing up at the proper height with all its lighting and glass intact. Besides scuffs and scrapes there are no major dents to be found, and just a few rust spots are staring to creep.
Well that's where I'll back away from this '80s tough guy vision.
The 5.0 Mustangs of the decade were crazy popular and filled the streets when I was in high school. They remain affordable and are very easy to work on with parts availability second to none. If you want an easy classic to take to shows or just roll around in for summer you could do a lot worse.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The forgotten Monte Carlo

I was a block from the shop one recent morning when I saw this beauty idling in front of a deli:
This is a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in some sort of Black Cherry (I couldn't find an exact match for GM in 1978). This was a very short-lived generation of Monte, built for only 3 years; '78-'80. 
I love this forward leaning facade in its simplicity. There was originally a stand-up hood ornament on this ride but to me it looks better without it. That V shape on the hood mimics the prow of a ship like the much bigger '73-'77 Monte. This generation weighed 800lbs less than its predecessor and is a full 15" shorter. That one big square headlight on each side is a vast improvement over the stacked square headlights of the '77.
Two out of the Big 3 automakers had transitional years between the largess of the '70s and the more compact '80s (Chrysler decided not to participate and their enormous dinosaurs almost sank the company in the process). Ford had a particularly awkward Thunderbird for 2 years based on the Fox body Fairmont. Chevy did a much better job with this Monte. It has many of the hallmarks of the huge ride it replaced but doesn't look like an incapable afterthought. Indeed with some noticeable changes this body continued on through the late '80s.
The owner of this ride was standing next to it and was enthusiastic when I asked if I could snap a few pics. He confirmed that it had the original 305 V8 under the hood. The base engine was a 231 V6 borrowed from Buick. You could get a manual transmission for your Monte Carlo for the first time in several years in '78. A 3 speed was the base offering (listed as standard equipment with the V6) and a 4 speed was optional with the 305.
There were a couple of odd drivetrain choices which are now pretty scarce. One was a diesel 350 V8 built by the Oldsmobile division. The ultimate rarity for this generation Monte is the 1980-only Turbo Monte Carlo that used Buick's 231 V6. Finding one now would be pretty astonishing as it was a single year model without the support of a large ad campaign like the turbo Buicks. 
This ride is immaculate. I was actually offered a free '78 Monte back in high school. It was light brown with 1 purple door and it had no reverse. I was close to accepting it but due to an embarrassment of riches I passed it up (in those days free cars that ran were fairly common and running wrecks that cost less than $500 were all over the place). I did like the body style and still do.
Well that's where I'll leave this swoopy Chevy. The owner was rightfully proud of his ride and said it came from the midwest originally. Finding a rust free example is getting tougher by the year. If you encountered one of these for sale relatively cheap it would be a great purchase as everything that can wear out on this ride is available today. If you do buy one you can put a little distance between you and the crowd. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The wrong car at the wrong time

I found myself upstate recently when this glorious vision of Patriotism washed over me. Behold Z34!
This is a 1990-1994 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 in Red. Remember the Lumina? Maybe not, but if you do did you have any idea that there was a high performance version?
This is firmly in the category of rare cars that aren't worth seeking out or repairing. However if one falls into your lap it might be a fun ride to stink up a local car show with.
The Lumina was the replacement for the Celebrity which is like trading one big yawn for another. To be fair the automotive landscape from the early '80s through the early 2000s was bleak. Think Chevy Beretta, Corsica, Dodge Spirt, Plymouth Acclaim, and the like. Lumina showed up just in time to provide utterly forgettable transportation for the '80s hot shots that lost everything in the crash of '89.
Styling was "meh"; kinda slippery in the wind tunnel but about as exciting as a blank sheet of paper. The Z34 was gussied up with ground effects, a wing, a solid panel covering the grill area, and tough looking vents in the hood. There were only 6 colors available and I think the Red does a fine job of conveying a sporty vibe.
The main competitors for the Z34 were the turbocharged Dodge Spirit RT and Ford Taurus SHO. Out of the three I think this one looks the toughest but it was actually the slowest.
Top speed for this bad boy when new? A mere 113mph. Zero-to-sixty took a little over 7 seconds which isn't bad for a standard sedan, but this is the sport edition! Both the aforementioned Spirit RT and Taurus SHO would eventually make their way up to 140mph. 
Beneath this gleaming red hood lies a 3.4 liter V6 good for a modest 210 horsepower. A manual transmission was available if you really wanted to squeeze every bit of action out of your Lumina.
Back in the Gulf War era this was The Heartbeat of America! These days it's just a forgotten outfielder on Old Timer's Day. The asking price was $2,500 OBO which is about a grand higher than most value guides suggest. My memories of driving and riding around in early '90s American cars makes me feel like I never need to get into one again. I'm always amused to see a sport version of a family car or any special edition from this forlorn era so here it is. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Show Car Sunday returns with a flawless Ford

Contributor Max came through recently with a picture-perfect advertisement for both the Ford Mustang and New York City itself. I mean really, can you get any more iconic than a first generation Mustang and the Village Cigars sign with a festooned subway entrance?
This is a 1966 Ford Mustang GT Sportsroof in Silver Frost Poly. Of all the early Mustangs I love the fastback/Sportsroof design best (excluding convertibles because they transcend all vehicles in my eyes). This one seems 100% correct and perfectly restored. By the way if your car is this nice you can walk away with the windows left open and somehow the gods will protect it! 
Up front we've got the awesome fog light grill and period correct plates.
That little emblem lets us know that a 289 V8 resides under the hood. There were both regular and high performance versions available. The original GT wheels are perfect and the double Red Line tires as correct as everything else on this show stopper.
The interior has cupholders but other than that looks to be as it was when it left the factory in '66. It has an automatic transmission and radio as well as air conditioning. I'm assuming from the overall presentation that there are other options too.
*Adding seat belts and cupholders to cars that never had them are the 2 customizations I'll always approve of in otherwise correctly restored show cars. Cupholders are more convenient than you realize until you're without one, and the seat belts my buddy Dave Link added to my old VW Beetle before I owned it probably saved my life!
As with the rest of the car the rear is flawless.
It is very difficult to discern between a 1965 and 1966 Mustang GT. Reverse lights were optional in '65 and standard in '66 so no help there. The gas cap and paint color are really the only reliable clues. The GT cap seen here wasn't available on the '65, nor was this shade of Silver. With a non-GT Mustang there are ways to check with the grill and dashboard but they are mostly identical.
I'll close this out with the least exciting car chase I've seen in a long time. Robert Ulrich drove a '65/'66 Sportsroof in the '80s TV show Spenser for Hire. Here he is taking on the bad guys at speeds of up to 30mph in foggy slush. Bonus points for a square headlight Grenada hitting a Tempo on its way to spontaneously flipping over. Hey, they can't all be Jim Rockford!