Old Cars and Old Men

 

In 1956, we lived on the main drag of the south Bronx, 138th Street between Brook and Cypress Avenues. I was four years old. From the fire escape, I’d call out the names of cars that drove by. “Ford. Chevy. Dodge. Kaiser.” The cars were so vivid, distinctive, and beautiful that even a little kid could tell them apart. That’s one reason why they called it the Fabulous Fifties. America was car crazy, even the little kids. Even inner-city kids.

As new cars went, I had favorites, and over time, they turned out to be nearly everyone’s favorites. 1956 and beyond Corvettes, the timeless 1953-’55 Studebakers, the two-seater ’55-‘57 Thunderbird, in fact just about any ’55-’56-’57 Ford, Chevrolet, or Plymouth. For decades to come, the design of many items of American life were influenced by the colorful, exuberant looks of that era, from chrome diners, to plastic portable radios, to neon signs and electric guitars.

The old car hobby barely started before the War. Occasionally, in a thirties newspaper you’d see an item about old Fossil Jones, who’d fire up his Stanley Steamer for the Fourth of July parade. Few cars were considered precious or historic antiques back then. Car bodies were mostly framed in wood until the mid-Thirties, and most cars didn’t last nearly as long as today’s do. In many cases, their engines and chassis were finished off by WWII scrap metal drives.

In the postwar era, automobile hobbyists split into three overlapping groups: collectors, who to varying degrees kept their old cars as-is; hot rodders, who concentrated on hopping up engine performance; and customizers, who mostly cared about a car’s looks.

The term “custom car” originally meant a special one-of-a-kind car, hand-made just for the personal tastes of a rich buyer. After the war, it came to mean a regular car whose appearance was altered to make it one-of-a-kind. It frequently involved a lowered stance as well as removing the chrome trim and filling in its mounting holes to apply an exotic paint job. “Candy colors” were thin transparent layers of super-saturated colors sprayed on over a silvery base undercoat. Customs often had futuristic, “car show” touches like TV sets flamboyantly positioned in the dashboard where a radio normally went.

In the beginning, keeping an old car on the road was anything but a pretentious hobby. It took some mechanical finesse. Men really knew how to do things in those days. On the farm, they were used to repairing heavy equipment, even doing their own welding, as well as melting and pouring babbitt metal for bearings. In the Midwest, ancient jalopies sold for $10 or $20, giving sixteen-year-old boys their first experience of car ownership. Even in the south Bronx, in Harlem, and neighborhoods all over Brooklyn, every Saturday morning with decent weather saw hundreds of car owners doing incredibly ambitious repairs and spray can repaints of their cherished “rides”, right there at the curb. What they knew about fixing engines, they learned in the Army. What they learned about hot wiring an ignition, they learned in the streets. My generation, the baby boomers, overlapped with and learned from that so-called Silent Generation, a car-crazy bunch.

As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear-wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

As a group, the boomers’ biggest contribution to the collector car scene has been wielding a checkbook, not an acetylene cutting torch. More and more old car owners were well-to-do investors, attorneys, and doctors, not hard-core, old-fashioned “car guys”. Gradually they were joined by well-compensated tech people who understood a few things about engineering. As this upper-middle-class group came to sheer demographic dominance of the hobby towards the end of the last century, it changed car collecting.

To be sure, there’s always been a class divide in collecting old cars. The Concours at Pebble Beach was never for the casual, mom-and-pop collector. People who buy and sell immaculate Duesenberg SSJs, Mercedes SSKs, Cords, Pierce-Arrows, and 300 SLR racers live in a different world than most of us. There are specialty publications devoted to world-class Classics. They’ll have climate-controlled storage and an attentive year-round staff to maintain them. Any of those cars could be a proud display at the entrance to an automobile museum.

But personally, I’ve always been interested in mainstream cars, ones I could have bought new or used. The heart of American car collecting is a little different from what it was forty years ago: mass-market brands made from 1950 through 1980. The older ones have either mostly vanished or become fragile museum pieces, too precious or slow to drive in the streets; the younger cars include some technically or historically interesting cars, but with few exceptions they don’t have the pop culture sex appeal of a 1959 Cadillac’s tailfins.

If the looks of cars became duller, more lookalike, it wasn’t directly because of Federal meddling, but because aerodynamics dictated it. The wind tunnel became the prim, scolding master of Detroit’s stylists. Customers demanded better than seven miles a gallon, and their insurance companies demanded greater collision protection.

Boomers had a decent sense of automotive history, and their competitive bidding drove a race to the top in car restoration quality. They paid for frame-off restorations of cars that made them more perfectly powered, painted, and assembled than any straight-out-of-the-factory car that ever existed. Judges at car shows awarded or subtracted points based on trivia like the quality of the grease pencil marks on the firewall of the engine compartment, used by line workers to confirm which accessories needed to be added.

This extreme, more-perfect-than-perfect attitude spurred an equally extreme counter-reaction, a zeal for car preservation in their original condition, carried to fanatical lengths. With few exceptions in fiberglass or aluminum, modern cars have always been made of thin sheet steel, sadly subject to what our friends in the UK call “the tinworm”—rust. As Neil Young once said, Rust Never Sleeps. I’ve seen a carefully staged auction photo of a rusted chassis and four rotted wooden wheels, with shreds of cord and flecks of rubber where the tires used to be. The socially approved line seems to be, don’t touch the car no matter how bad it looks; that is, unless you’re prepared to pay for fully abandoning that prized originality altogether, with a full restoration.

That’s long been a rueful truth about car collecting: you buy a survivor at a decent price, say $25,000, and spend another $35,000 on it, hoping to enjoy it for decades and then sell it someday for $40,000. It’s not that it’s not possible to make money at it, sometimes a great deal of money; it’s that most people, like most gamblers, will not.

It doesn’t have to be as expensive as that. There are “dead spots” in the car collecting timeline. There’s less buyer interest in cars from the early Twenties, the late Forties and early Fifties, and the mid-to-late Seventies.

For the lowest prices of all, a rule of thumb that’s been true for a long time: the graph of car depreciation is bathtub-shaped. The cheapest used cars are almost always about 10 to 20 years old. After that point, the few remaining cars tend to be either already stacked for parts in a junkyard, or in the process of being restored.

A present-day example: Santa Monica’s The Church on Pearl is walking distance from here. “God’s Pearl” has its own auto racing Biblical verse. It puts on occasional neighborhood car shows in its small parking lot. One owner of a Seventies convertible told me how he’d bought the car from an elderly parishioner for $4,000 and then paid for Earl Scheib’s fanciest body prep and paintwork. It sure wasn’t $49.95, as Earl used to boast, but after dropping about $3,000 at Scheib’s, this guy drove away with what could be decades of open-topped family fun. At $7,000 total, he wasn’t going to win Pebble Beach, but he clearly wouldn’t have cared. It shows that it’s still possible to be a micro-Jay Leno, owning a presentable, half-century-old collectible car on a budget.

BTW, over the years, Leno has taken a lot of heat from Greens: “Why should anyone own 200 cars?” Well, why should anyone’s music collection have 200 songs? Why should museums have 200 paintings? He’s ensuring that an interesting chunk of popular history will still be around, probably for at least a half-century after he’s gone. After that, it’s up to the unpredictable interests and tastes of the late 21st century.

Jay Leno is 72, two years older than me. At this age, let’s be honest; anything durable that you buy is likely to be owned by someone else someday. And that gets at a troubling fact about the old car hobby: it’s slowly dying off, along with what seems like a final generation or two of old-timey, car-loving men.

Oh, there’ll always be some. The lucky, frugal one-car collector at The Church on Pearl is an example, but he was about fifty, a typical age to be involved in the hobby. There are fewer and fewer younger men, and today, women taking their places at car shows. Like listening to old radio shows, building a record collection, and bowling, activities that seemed like durable fun became narrower minority interests. Has that happened to old cars? Sometimes, it’s beginning to seem like it.

But you never know. On this site, there’s a 22-year-old conservative intellectual (hello, @kirkianwanderer; how was the kimchi?) who loves to listen to sardonic radio comic Fred Allen, who ceased to be a public figure about the time I learned to talk. Could the spirit of the old-time, old car guys survive and re-emerge in a younger generation?

It just might. Streaming shows about cars and car restoration are popular, even among people who’ve never used a socket wrench. The South never abandoned their love of auto racing. A “Deuce coupe”—a customized 1932 Ford with a big chromed V-8—still turns heads wherever it goes.

For years, the Hollywood Teamsters union local 399 has put on a summertime car show at a large public park in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles’ less fashionable northern half. 399 supervises the construction and operation of special vehicles for the movies, some of which were on display, like the “Christian Bale Batmobile”, which even up close still looks like an enormous metal insect. There was a Fifties-era musician’s tour bus that had been used in biopic segments of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and Chuck Berry. L.A. customizers like Dean Jeffries, Ed Roth, and George Barris created specialty cars for Batman, The Munsters and The Monkees.

The show always attracts a big crowd, mostly a family crowd. Many were there because they were members and friends of the members of the union. Their personally-owned collector cars were on display, rows and rows of them next to the studio cars, a parallel show on the same field. By and large, they were Detroit creations raised to the highest level. Many were the same classics I recognized as a kid: popular 1955 to 1957 cars, including T-Birds and Corvettes. Later cars were also popular, like Ford Mustangs and Plymouth Barracudas. But there was also a rich assortment of less popular, more affordable but equally flashy brands; De Sotos, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, and Mercurys. It was like being back in time.

If this was once just an old white man’s hobby, it isn’t anymore. Not every ethnic group is as enthusiastic about car culture to the same degree. Black customizers and collectors certainly exist, but I suspect they’d be far more numerous in Memphis, Atlanta, and Mobile than in California’s San Fernando Valley. Here, the majority of the cars on display were owned by Latinos.

Old guys have always liked the chariots of their younger years. I was drawn towards an immaculate 1973 Olds Cutlass that was restored and driven by a friendly man in his mid-forties. He told me that it was a “restomod”; the outside looked like it had just rolled out of a Nixon-era showroom, but the engine, transmission, steering, and brakes were modern. He and two of his brothers did the work themselves.

The whole family came along to cheer on Dad’s car. His wife was cooking tapas on an outdoor grill, and kindly offered me some. They had two grown kids and two that were still in high school. The oldest daughter brought her two toddlers. The oldest son was in Army uniform. Before he went into the service, he said proudly, he helped his father paint the car.

This could have been my family, anybody’s family at a car show fifty or sixty years ago. The guy twisting the wrench was named Odierno instead of O’Malley, but the spirit was still the same. I was witnessing the results of a natural process of creating car buffs—and of building Americans. That 1973 Oldsmobile has a future after all.

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Good stuff, Gary.  Takes me back… the old man used to take us to car shows fifty years ago, where the stars were the Auburns and Cords.  Gorgeous cars, unlike anything still being made at the time.

    • #1
  2. Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack Coolidge
    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack
    @dnewlander

    Every weekend in Albuquerque and San Carlos, the car clubs meet to drive, drink, and play loud music.

    In Albuquerque, the Latinos prefer old Chevys over anything else. Here in San Carlos, the Mexicans prefer cheap cars that look fast (even though they’ll never drive quickly on Mexican roads if they care about their tires and suspensions.

    Latinos love cars.

    So do Australians, but Down Under they tend toward powerful V-8s. Or at least they did when Holden and Ford still made cars there.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Good stuff, Gary. Takes me back… the old man used to take us to car shows fifty years ago, where the stars were the Auburns and Cords. Gorgeous cars, unlike anything still being made at the time.

    Thanks, Judge! The same man, E.L. Cord, owned Cord, Auburn, and Duesenberg. Not a bad portfolio. 

    • #3
  4. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Of course, one of the things killing of the gear head as a hobby phenom is the proliferation of little teeny computers throughout the engine compartment.  My first two cars, made in ’70 and ’77 respectively, had none of that and I could do almost anything myself.  And I never had an auto shop class.  If you had a Chilton’s book and a set of wrenches, you were all set.  By the eighties, that was changing.  Now you need three million dollars of diagnostic equipment to do a tune up.

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack (View Comment):

    Every weekend in Albuquerque and San Carlos, the car clubs meet to drive, drink, and play loud music.

    In Albuquerque, the Latinos prefer old Chevys over anything else. Here in San Carlos, the Mexicans prefer cheap cars that look fast (even though they’ll never drive quickly on Mexican roads if they care about their tires and suspensions.

    Latinos love cars.

    So do Australians, but Down Under they tend toward powerful V-8s. Or at least they did when Holden and Ford still made cars there.

    One automotive novelty that Australia shares with the American southwest is what they call a “ute”, a utility vehicle that is basically a car-based pickup. Australian utes are often stylish as well as practical, although not that practical; on rough roads you need higher ground clearance, the kind that only a real pickup truck gives you. 

     

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Of course, one of the things killing of the gear head as a hobby phenom is the proliferation of little teeny computers throughout the engine compartment. My first two cars, made in ’70 and ’77 respectively, had none of that and I could do almost anything myself. And I never had an auto shop class. If you had a Chilton’s book and a set of wrenches, you were all set. By the eighties, that was changing. Now you need three million dollars of diagnostic equipment to do a tune up.

    Absolutely. And the mention of Chilton’s really brings me back. I remember when a gas station with a Sun oscilloscope ignition analyzer would display it proudly, like a prop on Midnight Science Fiction Theater. 

    The electronics did so much to help a car’s economy and emissions, but they can make a restoration a maddening experience.

    The mid-80s Buick Riviera had some interesting cars with a then-unique cathode ray tube display. Nowadays that sort of thing is commonplace in LED form. The tubes in Rivieras have been admirably durable but they don’t last forever. It’s one thing to get a bumper shop to run off a copy of a detail of a bumper. It’s another thing to try to get Toshiba to run off a copy of a picture tube they haven’t made since 1988. 

    It’s true that many of these parts, including the chips, are at least theoretically possible to recreate, using some near-future forms of 3D printing and custom chip burning. As a practical matter, few people whose income can’t match Jeff Bezos are going to ever look into it. 

    • #6
  7. Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack Coolidge
    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack
    @dnewlander

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack (View Comment):

    Every weekend in Albuquerque and San Carlos, the car clubs meet to drive, drink, and play loud music.

    In Albuquerque, the Latinos prefer old Chevys over anything else. Here in San Carlos, the Mexicans prefer cheap cars that look fast (even though they’ll never drive quickly on Mexican roads if they care about their tires and suspensions.

    Latinos love cars.

    So do Australians, but Down Under they tend toward powerful V-8s. Or at least they did when Holden and Ford still made cars there.

    One automotive novelty that Australia shares with the American southwest is what they call a “ute”, a utility vehicle that is basically a car-based pickup. Australian utes are often stylish as well as practical, although not that practical; on rough roads you need higher ground clearance, the kind that only a real pickup truck gives you.

     

    The Aussies invented the Ute: a unibody pickup that you could drive to church on Sundays.

    Nowadays, they’re disappearing from the Australian highway, because no one else really made them.

    They’ve been replaced by the Toyota Hilux and other small-ish pickups. Aussie lanes are ten-feet wide, not twelve-feet like American ones. So the F-150 and Chevy Silverado don’t really fit.

    • #7
  8. Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack Coolidge
    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack
    @dnewlander

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Of course, one of the things killing of the gear head as a hobby phenom is the proliferation of little teeny computers throughout the engine compartment. My first two cars, made in ’70 and ’77 respectively, had none of that and I could do almost anything myself. And I never had an auto shop class. If you had a Chilton’s book and a set of wrenches, you were all set. By the eighties, that was changing. Now you need three million dollars of diagnostic equipment to do a tune up.

    Absolutely. And the mention of Chilton’s really brings me back. I remember when a gas station with a Sun oscilloscope ignition analyzer would display it proudly, like a prop on Midnight Science Fiction Theater.

    The electronics did so much to help a car’s economy and emissions, but they can make a restoration a maddening experience.

    The mid-80s Buick Riviera had some interesting cars with a then-unique cathode ray tube display. Nowadays that sort of thing is commonplace in LED form. The tubes in Rivieras have been admirably durable but they don’t last forever. It’s one thing to get a bumper shop to run off a copy of a detail of a bumper. It’s another thing to try to get Toshiba to run off a copy of a picture tube they haven’t made since 1988.

    It’s true that many of these parts, including the chips, are at least theoretically possible to recreate, using some near-future forms of 3D printing and custom chip burning. As a practical matter, few people whose income can’t match Jeff Bezos are going to ever look into it.

    It’s not copying the chips that’s the real practical matter: it’s talking to them.

    Modern fuel-injected cars basically tune themselves, since they don’t have carburetors or any other way of manually adjusting the fuel mixture. For 90% of drivers, this is a good thing, as long as you replace your filters regularly.

    For hot-rodders, it limits what they can accomplish without either reprogramming the car or buying after-market parts that can be very pricy.

    • #8
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    US manufacturers have been pretty clever about rationalizing brands overseas. “Badge engineering” is meant as a joke, but for countries in the small and midsized range of population, it’s a necessity. So for decades, Canadian Mercury dealers also sold the “114”, a thinly disguised Ford with a Mercury grille, and Canadian Ford dealers sold the “Monarch”, supposedly a fancy Ford, but actually a thinly disguised Mercury with a Ford grille. 

    Holden exported the Monaro as the Pontiac GTO in America, the Vauxhall Monaro in Britain, and as the Chevy Lumina in the Middle East.  

    • #9
  10. Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack Coolidge
    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack
    @dnewlander

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    US manufacturers have been pretty clever about rationalizing brands overseas. “Badge engineering” is meant as a joke, but for countries in the small and midsized range of population, it’s a necessity. So for decades, Canadian Mercury dealers also sold the “114”, a thinly disguised Ford with a Mercury grille, and Canadian Ford dealers sold the “Monarch”, supposedly a fancy Ford, but actually a thinly disguised Mercury with a Ford grille.

    Holden exported the Monaro as the Pontiac GTO in America, the Vauxhall Monaro in Britain, and as the Chevy Lumina in the Middle East.

    At least they put a different hood on it, with scoops and everything!

    But it was hilarious, because the Monaro was a family sedan in Oz. stbew’s parents drove one after they replaced their Commodore.

    • #10
  11. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Some recent two seaters that are collectible without being all that expensive: the Mercedes-engined Chrysler Crossfire; and from the late Eighties, the Pontiac Fiero and Buick Reatta. 

    Among bigger Detroit cars in the cheapening range: Oldsmobile Aurora, Buick Park Avenue, Pontiac Grand Prix. 

     

    • #11
  12. Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack Coolidge
    Ultra MAGA Mexican Jack
    @dnewlander

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Some recent two seaters that are collectible without being all that expensive: the Mercedes-engined Chrysler Crossfire; and from the late Eighties, the Pontiac Fiero and Buick Reatta.

    Among bigger Detroit cars in the cheapening range: Oldsmobile Aurora, Buick Park Avenue, Pontiac Grand Prix.

     

    The problem with two-seaters is the insurance in the US. Provided you intend you drive them in the US, that is.

    • #12
  13. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    When I moved to Australia my first landlord was a Daimler fiend. So the house was full of dodgy (heroin addicted) mechanics doing piece work on the various mechanical skeletons out back, but when there was a Daimler ready to go we all rode in style to the local Walmart equivalent. Happy days. 

    • #13
  14. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Re – “Could the spirit of the old time, old car guys survive and re-emerge in a younger generation?”

    Indeed it can.

    I like cars but am in no way a “car guy.”   And I’ve never successfully fixed anything motorized without having a few pieces ‘left over.’  So it must be one of those things that skips a generation.

    But my son IS a car guy.  Taught himself to drive a proper manual gearbox.   He takes a hand to his own maintenance … oil, fluids and brakes.   He has owned some old beaters that he and AutoZone and YouTube have kept rolling by grit and sheer force of will.   There was also an old Jag (that spent as much time up on blocks as it did on the road)   And my favorite…an ancient Volvo that he was slowly converting into a rally car.   There is now a kit-car repro of a Shelby Cobra.   That project isn’t rolling yet…but it is a labor or love.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    And the mention of Chilton’s really brings me back.

    And Hemmings . . . JC Whitney . . .

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    • #16
  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Of course, one of the things killing of the gear head as a hobby phenom is the proliferation of little teeny computers throughout the engine compartment. My first two cars, made in ’70 and ’77 respectively, had none of that and I could do almost anything myself. And I never had an auto shop class. If you had a Chilton’s book and a set of wrenches, you were all set. By the eighties, that was changing. Now you need three million dollars of diagnostic equipment to do a tune up.

    My brother-in-law describes the same scenario. And the modularization of whole parts became a problem too. You can’t replace a single little piece anymore. You’ve got to get an entire unit of some sort. 

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Of course, one of the things killing of the gear head as a hobby phenom is the proliferation of little teeny computers throughout the engine compartment. My first two cars, made in ’70 and ’77 respectively, had none of that and I could do almost anything myself. And I never had an auto shop class. If you had a Chilton’s book and a set of wrenches, you were all set. By the eighties, that was changing. Now you need three million dollars of diagnostic equipment to do a tune up.

    My brother-in-law describes the same scenario. And the modularization of whole parts became a problem too. You can’t replace a single little piece anymore. You’ve got to get an entire unit of some sort.

    And replacing the computer module in your car costs more than a gaming laptop . . .

    • #18
  19. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    As an additional safety  feature, in the event of a rear end collision, your Ford Pinto will automatically turn into a long lasting, bright burning safety flare.

    • #19
  20. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Stad (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    And the mention of Chilton’s really brings me back.

    And Hemmings . . . JC Whitney . . .

    Takes me back too … but I contrast the topic of the OP, my connection to Chiltons was that they were the unlikely original publisher of Frank Herbert’s Dune

    • #20
  21. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Some of us are reverting back to their salad days.

    I had one of these in college which I got for a song (because that is all I could afford). It became a restored hot rod, with no changes to the bodyworks, but I installed a Old’s aluminums 215cid V8, Camero transmission, and a Corvette rear end. It was your classic embodiment of the “Q” ship.

    It marked an inflection point into what became my professional life. (When you blow the doors off your father’s VP of Engineering in an impromptu drag race it opens your door).

    It was also the mate to my wife’s car, which I also restored, a 1965 TR4. The above picture was taken last summer, purchased on a whim, and highly encouraged by the lady of my life from high school to now (as she so casually leans on the bodywork). So I am in the market for a clean TR4A w/ IRS to finish the reversion to our youth. Given the ridiculous prices I see fully restored TR 4 going on Bring a Trailer, I think I need to find clean bodied candidate that I can do the mechanical refurbishment myself.

    If anyone knows of a barn queen with little to no rust, a straight un-rusted frame but has not been running for a decade or so give me a call.

    Wire wheels a very desired plus, it’s the embodiment of British motor sporting.

    • #21
  22. randallg Member
    randallg
    @randallg

    Stad (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    And the mention of Chilton’s really brings me back.

    And Hemmings . . . JC Whitney . . .

    I did a lot of work on my first car – 1972 Toyota Corolla – with the Haynes manual. I had little mechanical experience.

    Tune-ups, brakes, rad flush, shock absorbers, even a clutch overhaul (needed help from a smarter friend for that one).

    • #22
  23. randallg Member
    randallg
    @randallg

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    Heh. A friend’s parents had a Pinto back then. We fashioned a similar explosive symbol on the rear end. They drove around town like that. We didn’t paint the body though.

    • #23
  24. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Some of us are reverting back to their salad days.

    I had one of these in college which I got for a song (because that is all I could afford). It became a restored hot rod, with no changes to the bodyworks, but I installed a Old’s aluminums 215cid V8, Camero transmission, and a Corvette rear end. It was your classic embodiment of the “Q” ship.

    It marked an inflection point into what became my professional life. (When you blow the doors off your father’s VP of Engineering in an impromptu drag race it opens your door).

    It was also the mate to my wife’s car, which I also restored, a 1965 TR4. The above picture was taken last summer, purchased on a whim, and highly encouraged by the lady of my life from high school to now (as she so casually leans on the bodywork). So I am in the market for a clean TR4A w/ IRS to finish the reversion to our youth. Given the ridiculous prices I see fully restored TR 4 going on Bring a Trailer, I think I need to find clean bodied candidate that I can do the mechanical refurbishment myself.

    If anyone knows of a barn queen with little to no rust, a straight untrusted frame but has not been running for a decade or so give me a call.

    Wire wheels a very desired plus, it’s the embodiment of British motor sporting.

    Please tell me you replaced all the Lucas electrics . . .

    • #24
  25. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    And it was a self-inflicted wound on Ford’s part. They made a similarly sized car in Europe, the Capri, which was marketed in the US as a subcompact Mercury. The Capri’s fuel filler and fuel tank were much safer. Ford knew it, but at that point in the Pinto’s (rushed) design process, it would have cost something like $6 per car to rearrange the gas inlet, and Ford figured it would be cheaper to get sued over the relative handful of fires that would result. The cost to their reputation, as it turned out, would be severe. It’s one of the few things Lee Iacocca never bragged about. 

     

    • #25
  26. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Every car collector dreams of a “barn find”, but they’re far more elusive nowadays. Too many cars were put away with gasoline in the tank, which goes bad and eventually eats through the tank. They’re placed under a well meaning waterproof cover, that traps moisture and ensures rust. In many areas of this country and in the UK, rodents manage to nest inside, where they consume the upholstery. The car’s emergency brake was left on, and is now too corroded to release. Many modern cars have unitized construction–that is, no frame underneath–and like an eggshell, every part of the shell reinforces the strength of every other part, so when one spot goes, the whole body is weaker. Pistons get stuck inside their cylinders and have to be driven out with judicious use of solvents and a sledgehammer. 

    • #26
  27. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Stad (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Some of us are reverting back to their salad days.

    I had one of these in college which I got for a song (because that is all I could afford). It became a restored hot rod, with no changes to the bodyworks, but I installed a Old’s aluminums 215cid V8, Camero transmission, and a Corvette rear end. It was your classic embodiment of the “Q” ship.

    It marked an inflection point into what became my professional life. (When you blow the doors off your father’s VP of Engineering in an impromptu drag race it opens your door).

    It was also the mate to my wife’s car, which I also restored, a 1965 TR4. The above picture was taken last summer, purchased on a whim, and highly encouraged by the lady of my life from high school to now (as she so casually leans on the bodywork). So I am in the market for a clean TR4A w/ IRS to finish the reversion to our youth. Given the ridiculous prices I see fully restored TR 4 going on Bring a Trailer, I think I need to find clean bodied candidate that I can do the mechanical refurbishment myself.

    If anyone knows of a barn queen with little to no rust, a straight untrusted frame but has not been running for a decade or so give me a call.

    Wire wheels a very desired plus, it’s the embodiment of British motor sporting.

    Please tell me you replaced all the Lucas electrics . . .

    What, and miss out on all of the delights of British quirkiness? Pshaw sir, pshaw.

    • #27
  28. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Great stuff Gary. But a ’73 Olds vs. a ’67 Mustang convertible? WTF?  Still want to slit my throat after passing up on the ’67 Mustang my dad offered me when I went into the Navy after law school. Turned it down as I thought living in Manhattan who needs a car? A year later when I discovered I could  use one it was too late the Mustang was gone. So we bought a Chevy Vega. What a disaster that was. 

    • #28
  29. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    We knew the family whose daughters were killed in the most publicized of the Pinto rear end collisions.   

    • #29
  30. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: As kids and teenagers, boomers got to witness some of Detroit’s last truly popular styling breakthroughs, the pony car, muscle car, and personal luxury coupe. In the Sixties, car designers began to incorporate “custom” style. Pontiac rose to its greatest sales with long, dechromed flanks, rear wheel skirts, turbine-influenced wheel covers, and hood scoops. By putting the V-8 from their biggest sedan, the Bonneville, into the engine compartment of the compact Tempest, they created the GTO, the first muscle car.

    We knew the family whose daughters were killed in the most publicized of the Pinto rear end collisions.

    It was inexcusable. It cost Ford far more than fixing the problem would have, as pointed out by Gary.

    I’ve worked with systems that the term “safety of flight” is applicable. You don’t get do-overs, and you can’t get away with “99.9% is good enough.”

    • #30
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