Wednesday, August 30, 2017

*May or may not have kept name intact coming through Ellis Island

I was biking down 2nd Ave in Sunset Park one recent morning when this beauty stopped me in my tracks:
Depending on who you ask this car has different names. What is absolutely true is that this is a Mitsubishi Starion from 1987-1989 in Mexican Red. However this was also marketed as a Chrysler Conquest during those same years in a classic case of badge engineering. I guess Chrysler chose the name because they took a car from a foreign power and renamed it as a spoil of their conquest? They should've called it the Chrysler ThankstoMitsubishiforthefavor.
Nevertheless these cars are (in my opinion) some of the coolest to come out of that era. The aerodynamic front with almost no grill and those angled hidden headlights make for an aggressive look. Those wide body fender flares are stock as is the well integrated spoiler.
There were plenty of Japanese sporty hatchback tourers from this era like the Nissan 300SX and Toyota Supra. The Starion/Conquest has some awesome '80s styling cues like the folded paper angles, blackout trim where there might have been chrome earlier (for instance around the windows and taillights), and geometric alloy rims.
Compared to how tall and rounded everything else is on the street this thing is like an arrow.
This guy is going for the classic Brooklyn combo of yuge coffee can exhaust mixed with one out of state plate. Pennsylvania? Sure bro I hear it's really nice out there.
This ride took a knock on the taillight corner which might prove kinda pricey as these cars are 30 years old now.
The U.S. versions of this ride got a 2.6 Liter turbocharged 4 cylinder with an overhead cam and fuel injection. This was a decently fun motor for a car so low to the ground with sporty suspension. Perhaps the most fun part is that they were still rear wheel drive.
*Dig that trapezoidal rocker panel below the door formed by the flared fenders.
Inside it is the 1980s all the way! A huge cassette deck with like 25 buttons rests in the dash. Climate control? Massive array of buttons. That seatbelt with TURBO TURBO TURBO written on it is in that position because it's the dreaded power-operated shoulder restraint that trundles back on a track when the door is closed. The fact that it's a 5 speed stick is great fun. 
Well there we have it; a car totally stripped of its emblems so we'll never know if it's been adopted or not. Obviously the spoiler has found a curb or two in its day but that flakey clear coat on the top of the fender is typical of the era.
Since this is the widebody version I figure it's most likely an '87 to '89 but there is a slight chance it's a 1986. If indeed it is it might be one of 3 Conquests as Dodge, Chrysler, and Plymouth all used exactly the same name for their rebadged Mitsubishi! When you achieve that level of anonymity it's hard to defend why you would even have different brands under the same Chrysler roof?
I did drive one of these back when they were just a few years old that belonged to a friends mother. It was fast enough and could out handle anything people my age were driving at the time. It was possibly my first experience driving something that wasn't either a prehistoric foreigner (like a VW Beetle or '70s Datsun/Toyota) or a domestic brick (any Oldsmobile/Ford/Chevy of the era). Ever since I've had a serious appreciation for cars that might not lay a huge strip but can tackle mountain roads. If one of these came my way I'd happily roll with it!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Strobogrammatic Savoy courtesy of Providence Pete!

Providence Pete has had incredible luck recently finding old rides. He recently sent me a couple teaser snaps of the car below and I begged him to head back for more. Behold this quirky spaceship from the most recent Strobogrammatic year!
This is a 1961 Plymouth Savoy with remnants of its original Mint Green visible amidst the rust/primer/patina ruckus. This car is awesome and you should show respect. Doff your caps!
Come on already! Few rides are as outlandish as the '61 Plymouths in the front.The grill, when taken on its own, is the shape of an anvil. Not only that but it curves rearward as it goes down. It has legit eyebrows and an eager (if kinda off putting) expression. The center of the bumper has that ribbed section drawing the air into its mighty maw. The movie car from Christine was a '58 Plymouth but this is easily sinister enough to have filled that role.
This golden emblem in the grill is a combination of hyper stylized images. The original logo for Plymouth was of the Mayflower (Plymouth Rock, get it?). By the late '50s it had become so abstract that you couldn't really tell what it was. Then the Valiant debuted in 1960 with a streamlined rocket emblem in the upright launch position. This looks to be a combination of the two, and a proper precursor to the Fratzog (a made up word for the 3 pointed emblem that would arrive later).
Look at this overhanging aggressive stance! The frowning eyebrows hang over the headlights, which in turn are leaning over the bumper.
The original parking brake; a log.
The rusty drippings on this beast make for crazy patina. Moments of Mint Green can be seen just above the wheel center and on the rocker panel.
The Savoy wasn't putting on airs. The dealership sales brochure from the era calls it "The economy line for 1961". Above the Savoy was the Belvedere, and above that the mighty Fury. That line running back from the eyebrow over the wheel well originally had a bit of chrome on it (only in the very front). The Belvedere had the same short chrome trim on the front fender but the rear chrome extended to mid-door. The Fury had an unbroken chrome line from front to back.
The rust pattern on the hood is so odd I figure it must have had a pile of leaves on the drivers side or something. I've also seen cars that spent years under a tarp for their protection completely rotted as any moisture couldn't escape.
 Give it up for Siddartha Guatama chilling on the front seat! A full width bench was the Savoy standard. The brochure bragged that the dealer could adjust the seat height and angle to perfectly suit the new owner.
The dashboard is stupendous! First of all the steering wheel has clear acrylic top and bottom, with that space age rectangular horn ring. The push buttons to the left of the wheel are the transmission controls (I'm 99% sure it's sitting in Drive). The buttons to the right are optional heating controls (below the furthest button is a lever for opening the vent). The white square below the speedometer is where the close would be had it been ordered. One amazing (not included) option that was available for this car was an under dash record player!
Even the smallest details are well thought out in this era.
This chrome spear would've continued further towards the front had it been a higher trim level.
From this angle you can see the huge reverse light on the back panel. This was an option in '61 with the sales literature going so far as to point out that it was a safety item.
This is the taillight housing for 1961. They just hung on to the side of the car like rocket boosters. It certainly looks cool when they're working properly but are very susceptible to damage.
A little more Mint Green remains on this side. The short roof 2 door with post is a Savoy exclusive. Both the Fury and Belvedere had a long, sloping roofline in a hardtop style.
Original poverty caps on Mint Green steelies complete the thrifty look. That tire with its dry rot and years of dirt in the flat crease says this hasn't moved in years.
Well there we have it; a super sonic space age slab holding down a driveway in Providence. Nothing beats the oddity of '60s Mopar design in my book. Every Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth in this era had weird touches like square steering wheels, these overhanging eyebrows, pushbutton transmissions, and unique but equally crazy dashboards. These are unibody cars so tackling a really rusty restoration would be daunting. However the drivetrain technology is tried and true with everything easy to work on. Even the quirky pushbutton trans worked very well; it was only discontinued later in the '60s to save something like $1 per car. Some day I would love to own one of these. Pete - if you see a sign on this wreck one day hit me up!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Puerto Rican pony con Señor Frijole!

I was walking into Red Hook from the area around the Hugh Carey Tunnel (that's the Brooklyn Battery to you ol' timers) when I saw the most Puerto Ricanist car ever!
¡Mano! This is a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach-1 in flat black with the Puerto Rican flag straight-up painted onto the hood.
The Mach-1 gave you a spoiler, this double scoop hood, a wing, and some graphics. Who's that behind the wheel?
BWAHH HA HA HA yes! Mr. Bean's face was hanging down from the visor in a supreme move of goofy humor.
I've featured all kinds of Mustangs lately because it seems that they're head to head with old Cadillacs in sheer numbers on the Brooklyn streets. I won't bother with too much in the way of actual information on this ride.
Around the time of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC you see cars draped with flags. There are always a few folks who take an entire flag and wrap their hood but I've never seen it painted on until now.

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).