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Everything Olds is old again.. and again

 

Big ass Olds

Big ass Olds

It was 15 years ago that Oldsmobile introduced its last new model, the third generation Bravada which was hardly an Olds.  Rather, it was a faintly re-badged Chevy Trailblazer/GMC Envoy that was only offered with a Chevy-sourced 6,  no “Rocket V8” was available for this pathetic last gasp offering.  The handwriting was on the wall and the oldest American marque, founded in 1897, would be completely eliminated by 2004.  Feral Cars Field Scout Ben Edge spotted a very real Olds that had been produced 50 years before that Bravada embarrassment. It’s a wild 1959 Ninety-Eight, the pinnacle of the Oldsmobile line at the time that’s a bit “distressed” but holding its own these days.

Do we have to spell it out for you?

Do we have to spell it out for you?

It’s a four-door (no pillars between the front and back doors) hardtop that wears GM’s cantilever design roof and wrap-around rear window.  Shared with Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet, the ultra horizontal roof, introduced that model year, was supposed to give the impression of floating above the car. The term “rollover standards” hadn’t yet been conceptualized so the fact that there was very little structure keeping the roof attached to the car was of no real concern.  Seat belts weren’t even an option; keeping one’s head attached to one’s body in this fine car was not even a secondary concern.  Ah, the Eisenhower era – the age of innocence and/or willful ignorance.

Dashing Cutlass

Dashing Cutlass

So we got on an Olds tangent and it’s been going great guns — would “roaring rockets” be a better way to phrase this? — ever since. Of course, most of the Olds seen in the wild are more recent Cutlasses.  These mid-sized middle class models were both aspirational and, for the most part, attainable. Cutlass was Olds’ bread and butter from the mid-1960s until the Cutlass hangover of the late ’80s/early ’90s when Oldsmobile just slapped the name “Cutlass” on a broad variety of cars that didn’t have all that much in common. This brilliantly successful youngish brand within the greater Oldsmobile brand became very diluted and, ultimately, meaningless.  Way to go GM brand managers!

Rocket 'n' roll

Rocket ‘n’ roll

We like this spiffy ’72 Cutlass Coupe that epitomizes the long hood/short or sloping rear deck school of design. Isn’t it classy looking, waiting at the valet stand of a hip Koreatown boite (admission by invitation only) for a “now” and very much “with it” local entrepreneur-irony peddler.  Here’s where you can insert your own “not your father’s Oldsmobile” comment.  Thank you.

Slippery slope

Slippery slope

In a somewhat less trendy setting, we noted this ’68 Cutlass wearing the de rigueur vinyl top as well as some apparently well earned patina.  That’s quite a bit of front overhang but, then again, there’s quite a bit of rear overhang, too,   The Olds logo rear side marker lights  are as swanky as you would expect in a car that proudly bears rocket imagery,  a tradition dating back the the dawn of the post war era, the beginning of what we like to call “the age of Oldsmobile.”

That'll buff right out

That should buff right out

This drool-inducing ’72 Cutlass convertible seems to have been artfully posed for us with just a tad of spillover on the eco-conscious xeriscape lawn of this stately home. The car appears to have been immaculately maintained and is finished in gleaming Antique Pewter.  Marvelous!

Your dandy's Oldsmobile

Your Dandy’s Oldsmobile

We found another ’72 Cutlass convertible that’s all buttoned up.

Potentially topless Cutlass

Potentially topless Cutlass

That factory pin-striping really pops off the white body but, come on, how about sending the front bumper out for re-chroming?  Jus’ sayin’.

Stowe 'n' go!

Stowe ‘n’ go!

The next generation Cutlass, like this  ’76, used GM’s new “Colonnade” architecture: no more pillarless hardtops and convertible production ceased.  On the other hand, the federally mandated energy-absorbing bumpers look strong enough to take on a runaway locomotive

Twin falls

Twin falls

While the Cutlass name ended up on quite a number of disparate models, the essence of the original Cutlass carried on into the 1980s  by coupes wearing the Cutlass Supreme designation.  We kind of fell hard for this shovel nosed ’84.  “Central Car Casting? Send over a car that represents the fallen decadence of the ’80s.  No, don’t bother to wax it.”

Diana, Mary + Flo reign..

Diana, Mary + Flo reign..

During the swashbuckling Cutlass years, Oldsmobile still produced conservative sedans, most of which went by unloved or unnoticed.  Here’s a 1998 Olds Eighty Eight, one of the last of Oldsmobile “big cars” appropriately finished in vanilla.  By 1959 standards, this was kind of a small car.  It’s 200 inches long while the ’59 is a foot and a half longer and weighs almost a half ton more.

Profiles in discourage

Profiles in discourage

We captured an Eighty Eight of the same vintage speeding down an inner city street in the small hours of the night.  If only GM had thought to market it as a film noir homage.  But, dash it all, they didn’t and what remains of Oldsmobile is a gnawing feeling that keeps reminding you that something important is missing that hits you in the gut every now and then. That’s the heartbreak of Oldsmobile.

Ghostmobile

Noir star car

Want the most perfect ’59 Olds Ninety Eight convertible you could ever imagine?  It’s all yours here in nearby Plymouth Township, MI for a measly $72,900. Yikes!!! A tad less costly is this ’59 Ninety Eight two door hardtop, topped by GM’s “postage stamp roof” and offered for a mere $39,500 in nearby Clearwater, FL.

We couldn’t help ourselves when we remembered that Ringo and his daughter Lee Starkey did a “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” commercial at the start of marque’s death spiral in the 1990s. You didn’t ask for it but here it is.  How do you supposed they licensed the original version of “A Hard Day’s Night” for this?  Theories? Peace and love, peace and love!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

Buick wood — so, so good!

The holiday season reminds us of more traditional conveyances than those nondescript ride share vehicles that portend a very bland future. It wasn’t long ago that a real station wagon — with fake wood, a vista dome roof window, rear wheel drive and V8 power– bearing a hallowed name from Buick history — roamed these realms.  Roadmaster was just that!  Next to a reindeer powered sleigh it’s the best thing for holiday hauling.

So much to love

So much to love

As with anything precious and rare, they are both cherished and collectible these days when the norm is a crossover SUV that is neither sporty nor, particularly utilitarian. The breathtakingly bulbous Roadmaster Estate wagon was offered from 1991 – 1996.  Its launch at the dawn of the Clinton era, represented the end of the age of body-on-frame full-size wagons equipped with third row “way back” seating.  They were the very last gasp of The Family Truckster paradigm that is so sorely missed.

Noble last stance

Noble last stance

There is, literally, so much to love about these bloated anachronisms and they truly deserve to be celebrated.  They’re huge and a bit ungainly but elegant in their own awkward way.  They’re like lovable cartoon woolly mammoths but instead of bristles of hair they sport flanks coated with contact paper-style wood grain.

Talk about cutting a swatch..

Talk about cutting a swatch..

The last generation Roadmaster Estate was the ultimate iteration of the full size Buick wagon and was preceded by the similarly faux fir-clad Electra Estate Wagon of the ’70s and ’80s.  We found two excellent examples of these grandes dames of swanky hauling.  The yellow one is, we’re guessing, a ’79 and we’re totally digging those “ventiports” on the fenders, a real throwback to Buick’s glory day of ’50s excess. It’s plausible that its designers were dyed-in-the-wood Happy Days fans.

Estatement of significance

Estatement of significance

Even this blue one, maybe an ’88 or ’89, parked on a street in Brookline MA sporting rocker panel rot has a certain bearing that commands at least a modicum of respect, if not reverence.

"You might need some fillah in those rockah panels.."

“You might need some fillah in those rockah panels..”

On a somewhat smaller scale is the Buick Century Estate wagon that was also sheathed in the finest of plastic veneer. We think this white one, an ’88 or ’89, is pretty neat, especially the fact that it’s equipped with an above lift gate crud deflector.  These front wheel drive mid-size contenders were typically V6 powered and quite durable. They’re well proportioned and handsome in the modest way of a fallen aristrocrat.

Century from the previous century

Century from the previous century

Mud be gone or, at least, deflected

Mud be gone or, at least, deflected

Those last Roadmaster wagons were cavernous. With the second and third row of seats folded down they’re like streamlined pick-up trucks without the country music cliches.  High class haulin’, indeed!

Mankind cave

Mankind cave

Over the years we’ve become big fans of the Roadmaster Estate.  This final edition ’96 Collectors Edition is as good as it gets.  Seeing something like this truly makes one ask oneself the eternal question:  “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?”  The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’ if the Buick in question is a Roadmaster wagon. Big Love!

Very much with the grain

Very much with the grain

This 1992 commercial for the Roadmaster Estate highlights the car’s attributes. recollecting when “comfort was kind” and “luxury meant something.”

You’d have to be certifiable if you don’t seriously consider the purchase of this ’91 Roadmaster Estate with only 16,320 miles on the clock offered in nearby Milbank, SD for a mere $17,500.  It’s the buy of the, ahem, Century but that much better because it’s a Roadmaster.

Hardly!

Hardly!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just buggin’: remembering when VW was about love, not hate

There was a time when Volkswagen was a harbinger of  good vibes, a touchstone of the counter culture and synonymous with idiosyncratic individualism.  That was long before the current era of cheating, lying and greed as typified by the scandal that has gross polluters on the road marketed as “Clean Diesels.”   Perhaps Volkswagen isn’t alone in this kind of no-holds-barred deception. Automotive journalist, pundit and renaissance man Jamie Kitman has written that  “the world’s carmakers have the long-range vision and ethical integrity of a roving band of rabid raccoons.”  While we think this broad brush characterization may be unfair to those masked procyonidae, it would certainly seem to apply to today’s VW where ethics were cast aside and the long-range vision seemed to be to continue cheating on the assumption they’d never be caught.

We all scream for ice cream

Georgia on our minds; we all scream for ice cream

We’re well aware of the marque’s Third Reich origins but in the decades after “the unpleasantness,” the VW Beetle was a cipher for free thinking and social responsibility.  Feral Cars Field Scout and Coachella Valley bon vivant Ronald Ahrens encountered such a free thinker recently.

His report:  That’s Georgia at the wheel of her ’65 Beetle. She wouldn’t step out and pose with her car. ‘I don’t know what your motives are,’ she said. But she did explain that she fell in love with Beetles after buying one new in 1966 and driving it 43 years. “I had this one standing by.” She says it has given her some problems because everything “went out of adjustment” at once, but she’s found an honest mechanic to put it back in adjustment. I pointed out the bag by her door and learned it contained ice cream she couldn’t finish. Then she asked if I’d throw it away for her, which I’ve done. It was 1.5 quarts of Dreyer’s chocolate.

Sunny bug

Sunny bug. Note: aftermarket pop-out rear windows

Inspired by Ronald’s encounter with Georgia and her 50 year-old Bug, we offer a range of images of similar Vdubs found in the wild, all of which make us nostalgic for the time when Volkswagens were thought of in the same terms as family pets rather than as polluting pestilence.

Eat your heart out Herbie

Beetle with juice

People loved their Volkswagens, they gave them names, decorated them and even raced them. They were fiercely loyal to the car whose basic shape remained the same over a span of 65 years.  Innumerable baby boomers learned how to drive behind the wheel and flat windshield of a VW and figured out how to shift for themselves with a real clutch and that rubbery gearbox.

Racy livery

Herbie’s cousin

Convertible versions, built for VW by Karmann, were especially cherchez.  The horsehair stuffed tops were folded down by hand and the resulting ‘top stack’ protruded over the back of the car creating a fabric spoiler. ..not that the VW ragtops actually need a spoiler in light of the fact they shared the same mechanical components with the standard Bug.

Vdub drop top

Topless Vdub

The number of surviving Beetles is quite remarkable since the last new one sold here dates back to early 1979 though they continued to be sold in Mexico and Brazil into the early 21st Century.

Nice rack!

Nice rack!

We’re kind of loving the roof rack on this early ’70s Bug; the white one below dates from around ’66 or ’67.

Refrigerator white

Wolfsburg white

We found an old Beetle that, based on the tiny taillights, fabric sunroof and pop-out semaphores in lieu of turn signals, would seem to date from the late 1950s.  How can you not love something as innocent as this?

Old school rules

Old school rules

Keeping score?

Keeping score?

We found this brilliant TV commercial for the ’65 Volkswagen, not unlike Georgia’s, that suggested that Beetles had a resale advantage over their domestic counterparts.  This glorious ’65, offered for sale in nearby O’Fallon IL confirms the point made in that commercial 50 years ago.  It’s priced at just under $16,000, about ten times what it cost new which, alas, is probably not going to be the case for one of those newly built “Clean Diesels” in 2065.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

Jag-u-ahs lurking in the urban wild

 

About to pounce

About to pounce

Being the creature of habit that we are, we take the same route each morning for an non-motorized jaunt.  This circuit never fails to bring us into proximity with a ’69 Jaguar, an XJ 6 as it tells us in a huge font on the trunk lid.  No, we’re not going to call it a “boot” lid because boots are worn on one’s feet.   We admit the car isn’t in the best of shape but we do know it runs.. it dutifully goes from one side of the street to the other and doesn’t accrue parking tickets.  There’s a significant gash on the left side front door — you can almost see the window mechanism within and it wears just two out of four wheel covers.

Holy relic

Holy relic

Still, we’re fond of this old Coventry-born trouper.  It has an air of an old money aristocrat (or, perhaps, gone money) that lends it a certain dignity in decay. You can almost smell the moth-eaten Harris Tweed.

Lump taker

Lump taker

Look at the “cathedral” style tail light lens – a shapely work of art crafted by Joseph Lucas Limited,  the UK parts supplier that has long been the butt of rude jokes uttered, quite predictably and drearily so,  by “car guys” who think it’s funny to tell the same joke countless times. Har!      In the tighter shot, you can actually read the numerals ’68’ in bas-relief but we’re betting this is registered as a ’69 because it wears year-appropriate, federally mandated, side markers.  Sorry about all the geeking out but this car was in production pretty much uninterrupted (except by many strikes) from introduction in 1968 through three mild updates over the course of an almost quarter century run so it’s quite a significant piece.  It was, almost sheepishly, replaced by a series of Ford-fostered XJs, the styling for which was unabashedly based on their swingin’ sixties forbear.

Place of worship

Coventry cathedral

Extreme CLOSE-UP!

Extreme CLOSE-UP!

This car is a real inspiration to feral aficionados, especially because it is, arguably, a bridge to unite the automotive kind, like us, and the feline oriented ones — like us.  That leaping hood ornament is the link.

Faded Jag's "good side"

Faded Jag’s “good side”

The left side (where the steering would most definitely not be in home market cars) is quite unblemished but we’re tempted to take up a collection to buy hub caps.

Nice kitty

Nice kitty

This one is powered by the same 4.2 liter straight six used in the XK-E, officially ‘E-Type,’ but c’mon, who says “E-Type” if they’re not smoking a meerschaum pipe?  Which is to say there’s a powerful cat lurking under that formal facade.  Actually this generation XJ was quite a radical departure for Jaguar.  E-Type acceptance — there, we said it — may have emboldened Jag to discard post-war styling  that related more to the ’30s and ’40s than to the ’50s and ’60s.  The XJ6 was competitive with Mercedes S-Class, BMW’s 7 series and all manner of Lincolns and Cadillacs.  Because of, ahem, mobility issues, they’re much less common than those pretender makes.  As you are, doubtless, aware, Jaguars of this period, marked by the British auto industry’s fast fade into non-existence, don’t have the best reputation for reliability.  It’s a fact that there quite a few were converted to GM 350 V8 power in the ’70s and ’80s, a very decisive way to deal with questionable UK components and build quality.

Slick Brit

Slick Brit

It’s always exciting to behold an XJC, a somewhat limited production variant of a car that’s already highly regarded for its beauty if not its utility.  This XJC 12, a pillarless two door “hardtop” version that is, in some ways, the ultimate expression of the XJ. This example is one of just 1,873 12 cylinder ( 5.3 liter) cars built, both left and right and drive. That’s  out of a total of 10,000 for both 6 and 12 cylinder models produced over a span of just four model years, ’73 – ’78.

White cat coupe

White cat coupe

The big bumpers of this ’77 compromise the machine’s inherent grace but it’s still lithe looking for such a heavy car. That vinyl top was applied out of necessity.  Explanation: because the car’s structure lacked the bracing that a solid pillar between the front and rear side windows affords, it had some tendency to flex which would crack the paint on the roof.  Necessity, being the mother that it is, prompted Jaguar to adopt the American look of vinyl topping but we think they pulled it off quite tastefully.  Please note the lack of opera lights and/or gratuitous stuffing and tufting as one would expect in an analogous domestic car that relates to this niche market such as Cadillac’s gargantuan Eldorado or Lincoln’s Continental Mk V, offering in Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Pucci designer editions.

Crack the code in style

Crack the code in style

One on this on each side: ambidextrous fill-ups

One of these on each side: ambidextrous fill-ups!

Feral Cars Field Scout Bonnie Ruttan captured this big bumpered XJ, probably an ’80 or ’81, on the mean streets of Pasadena, CA. The roulette wheel-themed steel wheels are a sporty but, somehow, generic, touch.

Rubber bumper buddy

Blue pate special

To the best of our knowledge the motor hasn’t been swapped out for a GM 350 as found in Chevy Malibus, Olds Cutlasses and all manner of Buicks and Pontiacs though we do understand that a member of nobility must do what one can to keep up appearances and occasionally avail oneself of trustworthy transport.

Place your bests, black or alloy

Place your bests, black or alloy

We found this pretty awesome ’73 XJ6 in nearby Wilton, CT. It’s a low mileage (70K) beauty in great shape offered for a mere $14,500.  What could possibly go wrong?  Just to confirm we’re not blowing smoke about switching to Chevy power click here to see about modular conversion kits to put an American heart in your British kitty.

Cat's eye view

Cat’s eye view

Dig this French commercial for the XJ from back in ’76.  The tag line translates to “Jaguar, one of two or three better things that a man should demand of life.”  This has us thinking about the the other one (or two) things implied here.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Nova: GM’s UAW-built Japanese car made in California

Bowtie in front, Japanese guts

Chevy bow tie up front, Toyota parts everywhere else

Let’s give an almost-Labor Day shout out to the UAW members who worked at NUMMI in Freemont, California between 1984 and 2010.  New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. was a joint venture of GM and Toyota on the site on an old GM plant.  The idea was for GM to learn the ways of Japanese manufacturing efficiencies and for Toyota to put together pick ups without having to pay the famous “chicken tax” on imported trucks.

A Corolla by any other name..

A Corolla by any other name..

GM revived the Nova name for its badge-engineered version of Toyota’s home market Sprinter, which was, essentially, a Corolla variant.  From 1985 to 1988 Americans could buy a Chevrolet that was designed by Toyota and built in California by 4,700 UAW workers.

Profilin' but not stylin'

Profilin’ but not stylin’

It’s axiomatic that cars that were expensive to begin with have more longevity than those that were cheap to buy in the first place.  We’re guessing that a combination of factors contribute to this phenomenon.  A cheap car is usually not cherished as an indicator of success; if anything, it’s a marker of disappointment to those for whom upward mobility is only theoretical.  With this notion in mind we found it surprising to come across quite a number of superannuated NUMMI-built Novas in recent days.

Toyota guts!

Union made

While they’re dull as dishwater, lacking that “wow factor” in just about every regard, we salute these survivors of a noble experiment.

Alternate spelling of "Corolla"

Alternate spelling of “Corolla”

In some ways, that experiment continues. After the plant closed following the dissolution of the GM-Toyota joint venture, it was acquired by Tesla Motors and was gutted, rebuilt and renamed ‘The Tesla Factory,’ and is where every all-electric Tesla Model S is built with the aid of the most advanced robotics in the business..  While GM and Toyota produced nearly 8 million cars and trucks over that span of 25 years, Tesla projects it will have produced 100,000 cars by the end of the year.  The question remains if we’ll spot any Teslas a quarter century from now and write do post about them for Robot Day 2045.

Newly registered!

Newly registered!

“Absolutely right!” was Nova’s introductory slogan as seen in this commercial from ’85.  Nice perm, too.

Cush!

Yes, it reclines, just like in the Toyota version.

Novas from this generation, unlike their US-designed predecessors which are likely to have been turned into hot rods, were far from aspirational objects at the time of introduction. For the most part, that still holds true but we kind of think that this not-so-perfect ’88 Nova offered on Ebay Motors for a mind-blowing $1000 buy-it-now price is worthy of consideration.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.