Tuesday, October 6, 2009

1963 Imperial Custom Sedan

Imperial was Chrysler's most luxurious brand from 1955 to 1975, and with Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler, originally gave Chrysler a 5-brand structure like General Motors. DeSoto's last year was 1961, but Imperial hung on. Imperial's volume was always lower than competitors Cadillac and Lincoln, making them somewhat rare today. This 1963 Imperial Custom Sedan was spotted by chance parked in a residential neighborhood.

1963 was the last year for this body style, which debuted in 1961. The most interesting styling element of the 1961-1963 Imperials is the individual freestanding bullet headlights set in recessed alcoves in the fenders. This was a unique idea meant to recall the freestanding headlights of the classic cars of the 1930s, but the way the top of the fenders extends over them kind-of defeats the point and makes washing and detailing more difficult. But it gives these rare cars a special character.

The 1963 Imperials were actually a bit more restrained than the previous two years. The 1961 model featured large tailfins, which were already going out of style at that point. For 1962, the fins were cut down significantly, but cigar-shaped variations of Imperial's trademark gunsight taillights were perched on top of them. The 1963 models abandoned the gunsight theme and had more conventional taillights incorporated in the trailing edge of what remained of the tailfins.

Imperials from this era were available with an optional tire-shaped piece of trim fastened to the trunk lid, meant to recall the days when cars carried the spare tires on the back. This trim had originated as an option in 1957 and persisted until 1963, though this model is not equipped with it. In 1964 the "fake spare" motif became standard, incorporated into the shape of the trunk in a more restrained fashion, ala Lincoln's 56-57 Continental Mark II and the later Mark III that would debut in 1968.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

1967 Cadillac Eldorado

Though Cadillac had been using the Eldorado name for years, the 1967 Eldorado was very different from the previous models. The 1967 Eldorado is based on the Oldsmobile Toronado that debuted the previous year. Like the Toronado, the Eldorado featured front wheel drive, a chain drive and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The Eldorado also featured a 340-horsepower Cadillac 429 V8 and improvements over the Toronado including standard variable-ratio power steering, radially vented front disc brakes and automatic self-leveling control.

On a 120 inch wheelbase, 9 inches shorter than Cadillac's standard line, the Eldorado featured sharp, angular styling with little chrome and hidden headlights behind a full-width eggcrate grille, and still looks good today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1939 LaSalle Model 5019 4-Door Sedan

This 1939 LaSalle is from the marque's next-to-last year. LaSalle was a "junior Cadillac" that originated in 1927 as part of the General Motors Companion Make Program. In the 1920s, a large price gap existed between each of the General Motors brands. To close those gaps, GM has each of the the four upper brands, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac, start a "companion make." Oakland had Pontiac to fill the gap between it and Chevrolet, Oldsmobile started Viking and Buick started Marquette to handle the large gap between them, and Cadillac created LaSalle to fill the gap between it and Buick, making the new GM structure Chevrolet - Pontiac - Oakland - Oldsmobile - Viking - Marquette - Buick - LaSalle - Cadillac. Marquette lasted only for one year: 1930, while Viking lasted only from 1929 to 1931. Pontiac became so popular it quickly began far outselling its parent Oakland, and Oakland ended production in 1931. That left LaSalle.

LaSalles were stylish and featured Cadillac engines and workmanship at a lower price, and the make did quite well in its early years, carrying Cadillac through the Great Depression and outselling Cadillac 11 to 9 in 1929. In 1937, LaSalle production set a record, but a new recession in 1938 caused sales to fall dramatically. For 1939, LaSalle received new bodies, but it didn't do a lot of good. More expensive top-of-the-line Buicks and cheaper entry-level Cadillacs had also narrowed the gap that LaSalle was intended to fill, making it redundant. LaSalle would receive a minor facelift in 1940 before being dropped completely so Cadillac could focus on luxury cars.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1969-1970 Jaguar E-Type (XKE) 4.2 2+2 Coupe

This Jaguar E-Type, or XKE, is from 1969 or 1970. It represents the last E-Type Jaguars before V12 engines were introduced and major syling changes were made.

The year can be determined by the front details. There is no clear cover over the headlight scoops, indicating a 1968 or later model, and the turn signals are below the bumper, a change made for 1969. In 1971, when V12 engines arrived, a number of styling changes were made, most noticably a large grille opening. The 1969 and 1970 models are virtually identical.

The E-Type Jaguar was available in 3 body styles: a roadster, a coupe and a 2+2 coupe with a rear seat that was introduced in 1965. The exterior styling of the 2-seat coupe and the 2+2 coupe are almost identical, but the 2+2 is distinguished by longer doors and the associated side windows, due to an additional 9 inches in wheelbase, and the chrome strip along the top of the door below the window.

Another spotting feature that identifies this as a 1969 or 1970 model is the large taillights below the rear bumper.

When the E-Type Jaguar was introduced in 1961, it was powered by a 265-horsepower 3.8-liter inline 6-cylinder Jaguar XK6 engine. In 1964, the engine displacement was increased to 4.2 liters; horsepower remained at 265 but torque increased from 260 to 283 foot-pounds. This engine was used through 1970.

The interior of the E-Type also saw some changes in 1968, primarily in the center console, where toggle switches were replaced by rocker switches and the clock was moved among the gauges from within the tachometer.

The E-Type Jaguar is one of the most collectible classic cars, and this is a fine example of one of the last before the changes that came with the V12 engine began to significantly change the design.

1936 Cord Model 810 Westchester Sedan

This is a 1936 Cord Model 810 Westchester Sedan. The Cord was one of the most ahead-of-its-time cars ever built. It was also available as a Sportsman Phaeton convertible.

The 1936 Cord 810 originated with the earlier Cord L-29, which was made from 1929-1932. The L-29 was one of the first front wheel drive cars, but was not particularly successful, and Errett Lobban Cord, who also controlled Auburn and Duesenberg, ended the Cord brand. In 1933, Gordon Buehrig designed a new car that was originally intended to fill the gap between Auburn and Duesenberg. It was originally designed as a rear wheel drive Auburn, but was modified into a Cord using the front wheel drive developed for the L-29.

The 1936 Cord 810 featured a 125-horsepower V8 engine, a four-speed pre-selector transmission, unibody construction and styling with no running boards, a rear-hinged hood, hidden headlights, hinges and fuel filler, little chrome and a wraparound "venetian-blind" grille.

Unfortunately, a late introduction and high prices kept the Cord 810 from being successful. For 1937, it became the 812, and a supercharged 170-horsepower version was offered, as was a version of the sedan on a longer wheelbase, but sales wasn't any better, and production ended after a total of 2,320 cars over the two years.

The Cord 810 and 812 are sought after by collectors, due to their low production numbers and distinctive styling. Sedans in good condition can be worth $70,000 and up, and convertibles can be worth over $100,000.

Monday, August 17, 2009

1948 Kaiser Sedan

Immediately after World War II, Henry J. Kaiser, a steel and shipbuilding magnate, and Joseph Worthington Frazer, a 35-year veteran of the auto industry, thought the time was right for a new auto company and joined forces to form the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. The company's first cars were produced in June 1946 in the the former Ford WWII bomber plant in Willow Run, Michigan as 1947 models. There were two brands: the lower Kaiser brand and the upscale Frazer brand. Initially there were two Kaisers built for every Frazer.

By 1948, Kaiser-Frazer was the number eight automaker in the country, having passed all the other independent automakers. The car shown here is a 1948 Kaiser sedan. The styling is virtually identical to that of 1947, and the next year would see some changes.

Unfortunately, things got worse for 1949, when the company dropped to 14th place. Henry Kaiser borrowed heavily to finance new models and an all-new small car. Joseph Frazer left the company, and the Frazer brand was phased out in 1951, the same year the new small car, the Henry J, was introduced.

Neither the new full-size Kaisers nor the new Henry J were particularly successful. In 1954, Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland, builder of small cars and the famous Jeep, to become Kaiser-Willys, and the HEnry J was discontinued. Kaiser sold the Willow Run plant to General Motors and consolidated production in Willys' plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The situation didn't improve, and the US production of both Kaiser and Willys passenger cars ended in 1955. The company continued on with the Jeep product line as Kaiser-Jeep and the simply the Jeep Corporation, which was acquired by American Motors in 1970 and survives today are part of the Chrysler Corporation.

1948 Chevrolet Limousine/Car Hauler

OK, this isn't anywhere near a stock production vehicle, but it is pretty darn cool:

This Limousine/Car Hauler is based on a 1948 Chevrolet truck cab that has been stretched 11.5 feet, but the chassis is a stretched 1986 Chevrolet 1-Ton pickup chassis. Underneath the 16-foot car hauler bed is a 442-horsepower 502-cubic inch Chevrolet V8.

Inside the stretched cab is a lot of comfortable seating including captain's chairs in the front and a bar area in the back. It's hard to imagine a classier way to tow a classic car to a car show.

1957 Packard Clipper Town Sedan

This is a 1957 Packard Clipper Town Sedan. It looks suspiciously like a Studebaker sedan, and there is a reason for this.

In the early 1950s, George Mason, President of Nash Motors since 1948, had a dream of America's independent automakers banding together to form a fourth major auto company that could challenge the big three. In 1954, he started to make his dream a reality. In April 1954, Nash merged with Hudson to form American Motors. In October of the same year, Packard, under the leadership of James J. Nance since 1952, bought Studebaker to form Studebaker-Packard. This was part of the plan: after the dust had settled from those mergers, Studebaker-Packard was to merge with American Motors. But this never happened. The same month Studebaker and Packard merged, George Mason passed away unexpectedly, and his assistant, George Romney (father of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney) took over American Motors. Romney changed direction, abandoning the plan to merge with Studebaker-Packard and eventually abandoning the Nash and Hudson names altogether, replacing them with Rambler.

This left Studebaker-Packard in trouble, as Studebaker had serious financial problems before the merger. The company tried to continue on, creating the Packard spinoff brand Clipper in 1956, but things rapidly went downhill. Nance resigned in August 1956, and Studebaker-Packard was taken over by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. With the company needing to cut costs, and with Packard's body style already several years old, the 1957 Packard line shared the Studebaker body. Unfortunately, this was obvious to most car shoppers, who saw no reason to pay the premium Packard price for what was a thinkly-disguised Studebaker. These cars became known as "Packardbakers."

Despite being considered inferior to the earlier "true" Packards, the 1957 Packards weren't bad-looking cars, although that would change for 1958, when quad headlights and another layer of tailfins were tacked on rather poorly. What buyers Packard had left were turned off, and between that and the recession, sales fell even further, and 1958 would be Packard's last year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

1939 Bantam Roadster

This 1939 Bantam Roadster was built by the American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania. The roadster was one of several models of Bantam built from 1937 to 1941. this diminutive car is based on a British Austin and is powered by a 20-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.

1957 Buick Hardtop Estate Wagons

In the 1950s, hardtop styling was all the rage. It started with hardtop coupes, and then spread to sedans. In the late 1950s, even some station wagons gained hardtop styling and lost their B-pillars. Among these were the 1957 & 1958 Buick Special Riviera Estate Wagon and Century Caballero. Buick's were not the only or even the first hardtop wagons. There were also Oldsmobile versions of the GM hardtop wagons, and hardtop wagons were made by Rambler, Mercury, Chrysler and Dodge as well.

This is the Special Riviera Estate Wagon, the lessor of the two Buick hardtop wagons. The Special line was Buick's "entry-level" line, as signified by its having only three portholes instead of four, though since Buick's position in GM's structure placed it below only Cadillac, even the Specials were well appointed. Thus, the Special line was prestigious enough for the hardtop wagon, though a pillared version was also available.

The Special Riviera Estate Wagon featured a 122-inch wheelbase, seating for 6 with a rear seat that folded flat for cargo space, and a 250-horsepower engine. Options included a split rear seat and a third row seat to provide seating for 9.

The higher-model of Buick's hardtop wagon was the Century Caballero Estate Wagon. It had the same wheelbase as the Special Riviera Estate Wagon, but featured a more powerful 300-horsepower V8 engine.

2008 Saleen Dan Gurney Signature Edition Mustang

The limited-edition 2008 Saleen Dan Gurney Signature Edition Mustang features the 465-horsepower supercharged 281-cubic inch engine used in the Saleen S281SC, a five-speed manual transmission with a short throw shifter, and unique styling including a "stinger" hood, "duck-bill" rear spoiler and graphics replicating those on Dan Gurney's 1969 Trans Am series Mustang. This example in Vista Blue 9one of the only three colors available, spotted at Cruisin' Sherwood on June 13, 2009, is #53 of only 300 to be produced.

Race Car Driver Dan Gurney is one of only two drivers to win Grand Prix, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car races (Mario Andretti is the other) and is the only US citizen to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction. He won a total of 51 races in his 15 year racing career, including 7 Formula One races, 7 Indy Car races, 5 NASCAR Winston Cup races and Trans-Am, Can-Am and Sports Car races at Nuerburgring, Daytona, Sebring and LeMans. He has finished on the podium an additional 47 times, including 2 second-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500.

1957 Pontiac Chieftain Catalina

In 1957, the Cheiftain was Pontiac's entry-level model. But being as Pontiac was a distinct step up from Chevrolet, even the entry-level Chieftain was available as a Catalina hardtop coupe, while in the Chevrolet line only the mid-range Two-Ten and flagship Bel Air were available as hardtop Sport Coupes. 1958 would be the last year for the Chieftain name; in 1959, Pontiac's entire entry-level line would be named Catalina and the hardtop coupes would be called Sport Coupes like their Chevrolet cousins.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS

I've already discussed the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro in an earlier post, but here's a look at the SS version of the 2010 Camaro, spotted at Cruisin' Sherwood on June 13, 2009.

Standard equipment for the Camaro SS includes the 400-horsepower LS3 V8 engine with 400 foot-pounds of torque and a six-speed manual transmission. Options on this example include ground effects, 21-inch black wheels, and sunroof. The window-tinting and blackened emblems are aftermarket.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1994 Dodge Viper

This 1994 Dodge Viper was at Cruisin' Sherwood on June 13, 2009. It is typical of the first generation of the Viper from 1992 to 1995. Powered by an 8.0-Liter V10 engine with a 6-speed manual transmission, the Viper offered performance that far surpassed the American competition, at a price that was lower than European exotics.

The Viper's 8-Liter V10 engine was designed as a cast-iron truck engine, but made its debut in the 1992 Viper with an aluminum-alloy block and heads. The truck version didn't appear until 1994. In the first generation Viper, the engine produces 400 horsepower and 465 foot-pounds of torque. The Viper would accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds and would reach 100 in 9.6 seconds and reach a top speed of over 180 miles per hour.

Aside from its performance, the Viper was quite no frills. It featured side curtains of fabric and clear plastic instead of side windows and a manual soft top that folded to fit in the trunk instead of a more typical convertible top. The Viper also lacked traction control and anti-lock brakes, and air conditioning did not become available as an option until 1994. This would change with the 1996 debut of the second generation Viper, which not only included many of these features, but was also available as a fixed-roof coupe.

Porsche 356C

The 4-cylinder Porsche 356C was produced for the 1964 and 1965 model years. It was the last and most powerful version of the 356 series with up to 95 horsepower and was built at the same time as the first 6-cylinder Porsche 911s. The 356C also featured 4-wheel disc brakes. Over 10,000 356Cs were built for 1964, an all-time high for the 356 series. After the 356C was discontinued, its 4-cylinder engine was used in a new entry-level model call the 912 that shared the 911's body. This 356C was spotted in The Dalles, Oregon on June 10, 2009.

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