Category Archives: Chrysler

Bittersweet Hershey Scene

Malaise Era Buick Reatta and a Brass Era Model T

A visit to the Antique Auto Club of America’s annual fall meet in Hershey PA presented this site’s gate keepers with a dilemma.  Our focus has long been to highlight cars as they are — uncurated, so to speak — in their natural environment.   That means that auctions and car shows are removed from our consideration set.

’60 Olds wears a full body condom

Just the same, we’ve decided it would be OK to offer a look at some of the sights experienced at  Hershey. On the day we were there rain fell in torrents and the setting was one of poignancy that compelled us to share the resulting photo essay.  Both gleaming show cars and beaters under plastic sheeting or left on their own to endure the elements offer, at the very least, a soupçon of feralosity (feralousness?)  There’s a real sadness in this circumstance: works of rolling art and heaps, alike, are vulnerable. Indeed, as are we all.   The sun will eventually shine again and melancholy will ultimately turn to joy.  That’s certainly our hope.  Have a look…

Rainy day sale and it even “runs and drives”

If have to go to the hospital, go Packard style or “ask the man who is prone in one”

Don’t call it “Hank”

If the shoe fits, drive it.

We’ve never seen a dry Kurtis before, let alone a wet one.

Bird sanctuary

So nice, they had to do it twice

Styled by Pininfarina in Turin, built in Kenosha by American Motors

Big ol’ wet kitty from Coventry

Back to the past

Best guess is Mustang or a big hunk of roast beef

Even wet it’s better than the band of the same name

One piece at a time..

Drenched Sport Fury is still freaky and fabulous

“Help! I’m stuck on the hood of an old Cadillac and drowning.”

Moist Cosmopolitan

Like a private railroad car but tracks are not required

Isetta got wetter

You call it rust, we call it patina

Packard didn’t make a pick up but somebody did

Speaking of pick up trucks, there’s not much to talk about here.

Yes, we can all get along

“Needs some work”

Race called on account of rain

“Heckflosse” in chains

Upright elder

Mix ‘n’ match

 

 

FAKE WOOD IN THE REAL WORLD OF TENNESSEE THOMAS AND NAF

There goes the neighborhood

There are three raffishly attired, ravishing young women and a 16-month-old baby boy named Loren, lollygagging about in a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country GTS convertible with the top down. It’s one of those fake wood-sided cars recalling the vibe of woody station wagons of yore. But those didn’t have a folding top and The Shangri-Las blasting on the o.e.m. stereo cassette unit that includes a graphic equalizer and joystick-controlled balance.  Yes, the women are a band that’s called Nice As Fuck, NAF, if you prefer. Loren is their tiny roadie.

Jammin’, MoPar style

Nice As Fuck is Tennessee Thomas on drums, Erika Spring on bass and Jenny Lewis, vocals, and they are, in fact, nice as fuck. In a way it’s a super group insofar as each of its members have come from highly regarded bands including The Like (Thomas), Au Revoir Simone (Spring) and Rilo Kiley (Lewis). They were active during the 2016 Presidential campaign with a much-lauded appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert plus an album release back then. They went their separate ways around the time Erika gave birth to Loren.

Signs of the times

This particular Town & Country, like most built over the course of four model years, is finished in an eggy white with contrasting brown hued ersatz lumber on its flanks. It’s also equipped with a “Continental kit,” an extension on the rear bumper that carries a metal shell that replicates a spare tire. We’re guessing this was an aftermarket appurtenance as it’s hard to imagine that the MoPar gang would have offered its customers something so silly looking and fundamentally pointless. On second thought, maybe Lee Iacocca was pandering to a questionable aesthetic with this add-on “feature,” no matter that it serves no actual purpose save to add gratuitous length to the car, thus making parking a tad more difficult. Did we mention that there’s no tire in there? It is a design item perhaps best appreciated by those for whom more is, well, just more. Persons equipped with an enhanced sense of irony — not the snarky kind of irony but, rather, the loving kind with which the LeBaron’s NAF occupants appear to have been blessed — appreciate it on multiple levels.

“By the way, where’d ya meet him?”

The Town & Country convertible is one of the most exalted K-Car-based vehicles and this particular example has been named “Joy De Vivre” by NAF, a sweet exercise in anthropomorphy, if ever there were. The actual Town & Country name dates back to the 1940s when Chrysler offered both a real wood sided convertible and eight passenger sedan, using shipbuilder’s craft to construct these iconic classics that had the termite population collectively drooling.   There’s one seen in the 1951 Franco-Italo co-production Les Miracles N’ont Lieu Qu’une Fois starring Jean Marais.

Shangs within and without

As the “Shangs” delightfully warble their version of Jay & The Americans’ “She Cried,” (retitled “He Cried”), we find Tennessee behind the wheel, adjusting the volume control on the stereo, sharing the great girl group gestalt with the rest of the neighborhood. Tennessee and Joy reside in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, arguably one of the longest reigning hip enclaves anywhere. This version of the Town & Country, one of just 3,725 built, was introduced in 1983 with production continuing through 1986, the same model year as the one that Tennessee does her best to park in front of The Deep End Club each day. It’s her store/community center located at 1546 Echo Park Blvd. in Los Angeles. It’s just a bit north of Sunset Blvd. on the east side of the street, down the hill from the Chevron station where the road forks right to Morton Ave. Tennessee, when made aware of the T&C model run made sure to point out that the year of her birth, 1984, was within the same time frame.

“Are you ‘wheely’ goin’ out with him?”

Tennessee sells a range of items, mostly apparel, that makes a statement that underscores her belief that it’s really cool to try to make the world a better place. It’s also a community center and meeting hall, very much woven into the fabric of the community. The Town & Country parked out front, serves as a beacon to truth-seekers, peaceniks, resisters and advocates for human rights, economic equality and women’s empowerment. Joy is serving the cause most elegantly.

It’s not a gang, it’s a club!

You just can’t “beat” a great daughter/dad relationship, especially in this case

The name of her enterprise was appropriated from the personal history of her dad, the famous drummer Pete Thomas of The Attractions as in “Elvis Costello and The..” He, along with band mate Steve Nieve, in their early days on the road, made something of a habit of jumping — or falling — into swimming pools fully attired. Tennessee’s own name is derived from the state where her dad had recorded an album (Almost Blue) and “had some kind of Jack Daniels-inspired epiphany in the Great Smokey Mountains.” She was born in Great Britain but is now an exemplary American Citizen, fully documented, thankyouverymuch.

Attire that encourages

Puffy shirt inspired by the late, great Brian Jones

Baby Loren seems to dig the LeBaron’s Mark Cross leather interior and electroluminescent dashboard. Sadly, the odometer’s electroluminescence has left the building; so to speak, making it anybody’s guess as to how many miles Joy D.V. has traveled since she left Chrysler’s St. Louis Assembly Plant in Fenton, MO thirty-two years ago. Still, everything seems to be in better-than-passible shape. A 2.5 liter transversely mounted fuel-injected four cylinder motor powers Joy’s front wheels through Chrysler’s ubiquitous TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission. It’s a proven combination applied to literally millions of K-Cars, including minivans, branded Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler.

After 32 years, still in there swinging sideways.

When Tennessee moved from New York to Los Angeles, (read that again: in pure terms of geography, it’s a mind-blowing concept), she knew one of the first steps she’d have to take to make the transition would be the acquisition of a suitable vehicle. On the day Tom Petty died, she saw a Chrysler T&C. She took it as a sign and decided she had to have one and immediately started Googling. Two caught her eye: one in the nearby San Fernando Valley for sale as well as another in Minnesota. She checked out the Valley car and came away unimpressed (“It could only go 40 miles an hour.”) A friend in the Midwest checked out the one in Minnesota and was impressed with its rust-free condition, the goofy continental kit and the fact that it was able to keep up with traffic. In light of the fact that it was priced lower than the local one, the cost of schlepping it half way across the country was amortized. Joy has had some problems, like the time Tennessee drove it to Santa Monica where it hemorrhaged power steering fluid a/k/a “red stuff” and when she came back from a month-long visit to India (“recreating George Harrison selfies”) and found the car while parked in her parents’ garage had relieved itself of its transmission fluid. But, for the most part, the car has lived up to its name. Besides, Rubin, an immigrant like Joy’s owner, the ace mechanic at the Union 76 station on Hyperion is nonplussed, having dealt with leaky K-Cars for decades.

Giving the drummer some

Everybody smiles when they see this preposterous car with its top down, the Shangri-Las’ “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” on the sound system parked in front of a store that features “Give A Damn” t-shirts and urges “All Power To the Imagination.” This is especially the case when a cute baby and three super talented rocker chicks are in the more-than-OK K-Car on Echo Park Avenue.

Better combustion than premium unleaded

While we were snapping photos of the car, the members of Nice As Fuck, theorized that the title to their long awaited follow up album should be Joy De Vive. “All we have to do is write the songs and record them,” says Jenny. Seems like it’ll be a piece of cake if they cede “all power to the imagination,” as is urged as a matter of policy at the Deep End Club.

Reading is fun-da-mental for Ms. Thomas

Exclusive yet inclusive

Bonus: enjoy this video treatise on the greatness of the T&C hosted on Hoovies Garage.  This one’s Continental kit seems to be quasi-functional. Enjoy!

Want to buy a faux wood Chrysler T & C like Tennessee’s?  Here’s one  in nearby Calgary, Alberta that seems to be a bargain and includes the much coveted Continental kit.

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.

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Street seen: native New Yorkers

Wunderkind VW

Wunderkind VW

We recently spent part of a sweltering New York afternoon, ahem, walking the streets with world renowned performance artist Tammy Faye Starlite.  What Tammy doesn’t know about cars could fill the New York Public Library.  That’s no surprise in light of the fact that this Manhattan born and bred provocateuse doesn’t have a driver’s license and that’s a very good thing since she doesn’t actually know how to drive a car.

Bunny hoppers

Bunny hoppers

While she’s rather indifferent to cars other than taxis, she was somewhat smitten by the sight of a vintage Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet on East 11th Street.  It’s not often that one encounters a mid-80s car parked on the mean streets of Manhattan, especially a soft top like this yet there it was.  The VW convertible has long been considered the ultimate “chick car” and that’s not a slight in any way.  They’re cute and trim and when the top is folded down there’s a roll bar that looks something like a purse handle.

Tammy's bunny

Cabaret Cabriolet

These were built for VW by Karmann (as in Karmann Ghia)  in the Westphalian town of Rheine, 190 kilometers north of Cologne. That’s where Christa Päffgen was born in 1938. She would transform herself into the underground icon Nico who went on to a career of modeling, recording, acting and drug abuse.  Tammy has portrayed her in Nico: Underground, a theatrical performance that The New York Times called “remarkable and howlingly funny, morbidly fascinating night of theater.”  See how we connected the dots just now?

K-car gets the OK

K-car desperately seeks Tammy’s OK

Just one block removed from that surprisingly not-too-battered VW we encountered a domestic rag top of similar vintage.  Behold, the Chrysler LeBaron convertible for 1983.  Though not as loveable as the VW, the two cars have much in common.  Both are front wheel drive cars powered by transverse-mounted 4 cylinder motors. Are you taking notes, Ms. Starlite?  There will be a quiz!  We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Tammy’s deficiencies in automotive areas is more than made up for by her uncanny ability to inhabit characters based on real people.  Her next piece, entitled Cabaret Marianne, debuts October 1 at New York’s delightful Pangea restaurant and supper club.  It’s a performance based on the life and music of Marianne Faithful which Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called “poignant” and  “lethally honest..”  Damned if we can find a way to connect this with Chrysler’s K-Car but Marianne once recorded a song entitled “Times Square” and that’s only about a mile away from where this LeBaron was parked.  No?  How about the fact that, in her youth, Marianne had a fairly big record titled “Summer Nights”? Isn’t that exactly when you’d want to put the top down.  Hey, we’re walkin’ here!

Styling? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Styling? Fuhgeddaboudit!

We offer a bit of time travel with the great Ricardo Montalban, a performance artist in his own right, in this LeBaron commercial from back in the day.. and not a mention of “rich Corinthian leather.”  And check out this Mattel commercial for the Heart Family Car which looks strangely similar to the VW Rabbit convertible.. but much, much smaller.

What’s keeping you from buying this ’87 VW Cabriolet?  It’s in nearby Seattle and is offered for a mere (not a typo) $525!! A deal like this won’t last forever.  And while you’re in the buying mood, why not add this ’82 LeBaron convertible to your shopping list?  It’s a low mileage cream puff in nearby Palm Springs. Yow!  They’re asking $7900 for it but, hey, it’s the deluxe Mark Cross edition and one of only 505 made.

Bonus! Click here for Tammy performing Marianne’s “Sister Morphine” at Lincoln Center.

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.

 

Giving thanks for rock solid Plymouth

Mayflower, madame?

The Mayflower came over on a Plymouth

An underappreciated marque for which we give thanks  today is Plymouth.  Of course, we love Barracudas, Valiants, Horizons and even Reliant Ks but we’re talking about the senior and intermediate Plymouth. It was Chrysler’s main contender in the low price field that was long dominated by Ford and Chevy. On this day we give thanks for Plymouth’s top tier, rock solid, standard bearers.

Fins were in

Fins stayed in; “charmin'” rear deck lid

By 1960 fins were on their way out; it was the year that, for the first time, Cadillac’s went lower instead of higher.  The downward move by Cadillac was a true bellwether but Plymouth gave it one last towering hurrah with this ’60 Fury convertible complete with “sport deck,” a fake spare tire imprinted on the trunk lid which some suggested resembled a toilet seat.  This black on black example was snapped on-the-run by Feral Cars Field Scout Amy Treco . This was the first year of unit body construction for Plymouth, the selling point of this commercial that uses a cover version of Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” to get the message across.

Rip van Plymouth

Satellite of love

Things simmered down by the end of the decade and the look was not anywhere as outrageous as it had been a few years earlier.  This ’68 Satellite was a mid-size entrant that did battle with Chevy’s Chevelle, Ford’s Fairlane, AMC’s Rebel and corporate cousin Coronet from Dodge. We found this plain Jane Satellite sedan in Palo Alto, California where it’s obviously been well cared for.  We like the fact that it’s neither a glitzy hardtop nor convertible but a real blue collar Plymouth, reflective of the brand’s working class roots.

The ghost of Plymouths past

Scary Satellite

The Palo Alto Plymouth’s less-well-cared-for doppelganger was spotted in Nashville and we like its tough guy persona. Who needs hubcaps anyway?

Better red than dead

Better red than dead

Feral Cars Field Scout Alex “Love Tap” Vickers shot this stunner from a moving car; it’s  a ’69 GTX convertible in screaming red with black rocker panels and white top and interior.  We’re  sure the Puritans didn’t have something like this in mind when they chowed down at that first giblet fest so long ago. This thing looks more devilish than a Salem coven. Va-va-voom!

The Forward Look redux

The Forward Look redux

Jumping around from era to era, tossing aside concerns for chronology, we note that Plymouth always seemed quite different than its Ford and Chevy competitors.  This Briar Rose and Eggshell White ’56 Belvedere carries the mark of designer Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” on its sweeping rear fenders; no low price GM or FoMoCo product of the time was more jet age-inspired  than this.  Thanks to Feral Cars Scout Candice Miller Crossley for this view that offers lots in the way of hindsight.

Senior visor

Senior visor

We now set the ‘way back machine for 1951 and a chance to view this paradoxically pimped-out Cranbrook sedan, laden with after-market accessories. These include dual tear drop spotlights, amber fog lights mounted on the front bumper, a full sun visor and period-appropriate wide whitewalls. This generation preceded the introduction of a V8 option which both Plymouth and Chevy finally offered in 1955.  Our feature car  is powered by a 217 cubic inch flat head six that developed an adequate 97 horsepower.  Obviously, Plymouth’s muscle car day had not dawned.

Fury unleashed

Fury unleashed

After fins had run their course, Plymouth went off on an “out there” tangent with this ’62 Sport Fury.  It was oddly futuristic looking and had been downsized from the previously year though to contemporary eyes it still looks quite huge. The car was a sales disappointment and Exner took the fall for it and was  shown the door.  Just the same, and for reasons we can’t fully explain, it’s among our all-time favorite Plymouths.  The styling that some found off-putting we think is totally swingin’.  There’s another red ’62 Sport Fury that’s for sale here  it’s damn expensive –$45K — and it’s not even a convertible.  Who’s unloved now, huh?

Trim is in

Trim is in

Plymouth would regain its conservative footing in later years as evidenced by this non-confrontational, straight-as-an-arrow ’65 Belvedere II.  It’s quirk-free look was a sales winner, as you might expect.

The living end

The living end

This ’66 hardtop, which could be a Belvedere or Satellite — it’s just too dark and too fast to make a positive i.d. — has a sinister presence that is, perhaps, frightening to the faint of heart.  It’s really at odds with the bourgeois bent of that upstanding sedan on which its based, no?

Night flight

Night flight

Just as Elvis Presley rose to fame and Dwight Eisenhower embarked on his second Presidential campaign, the “Forward Look” made itself very evident with this ’56 Belvedere. That zig-zaggy white lower body inset was a somewhat anomalous touch on a staid sedan but the fins seem to justify this kind of flamboyance.

Elvis has entered the building

Elvis has entered the building

We have to point out that we come from a MoPar family where dad drove a Chrysler and mom a Plymouth.  Here’s Brother Eddie screwing around with a fire extinguisher between our ’53 New Yorker hardtop and mom’s completely bare bones (no radio!) ’51 Cambridge two-door sedan.

MoPar fire department

MoPar fire department

Just 90 miles south of Florida we found another ’51 Cambridge, this one serving as a Havana taxi cab.  Who knows when the cormorant hood ornament, the contrasting fender skirts and rear fender- mounted stop lights were added but that’s beside the point. This car is testimony to endurance and utility.  We think that’s reason enough to give thanks.

¡Cuba sí  ¡Plymouth sí!

¡Cuba sí ¡Plymouth sí!

Saluting a truism

Saluting a truism

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.

 

K-car saves Mopar

Orange you glad they paid back the loans?

Orange you glad they paid back the loans?

Chrysler’s recent emergence from bankruptcy to become a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brings to mind an earlier time when the company’s continued existence was in doubt.  Thirty-five years ago Congress debated a measure that would reassure lenders who were hesitant about extending credit to keep Chrysler’s sinking ship afloat.   At the urging of President Carter,  the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act was passed — over the objections of General Motors Chairman Thomas Murphy who called the measure “a basic challenge to the philosophy of America.” Speaking of “basic challenges to the philosophy of America,” the Chevette was introduced during Chairman Murphy’s tenure at GM. 

Playing all the angles

Playing all the angles

But we digress.  Over at Chrysler, once Public Law 86-185 was enacted resources were poured into marketing the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, the legendary K-cars, so named for the company’s internal code for the front wheel drive platform shared by both.  We can’t get over this 1980 commercial for the Aries in which no less a light than the real Chairman, a certain Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra declares, “America’s not gonna be pushed around any more!” Give ’em hell, Frankie!

Pentastar star car

Pentastar car

The cars were well made, comparatively reliable (Reliant — get it?) but were, essentially, dull as dishwater.  Styling was straightforward in a way that recalls a child’s typical depiction of a car as one box atop another — with windows and doors.  Nonetheless, the K-car twins were smash hits, giving Chrysler Chairman Lee Iococca, the company’s onscreen pitchman (“If  you can find a better car, buy it!”), a tremendous public profile that obliterated thoughts about the role he had played in the Pinto disaster back when he ran Ford.  The loans that the government had guaranteed were paid off ahead of schedule and, as a result, the U.S. Treasury got a $350 million bonus, though it was probably all frittered away in the Iran-Contra deal.

MoPar goes topless!

MoPar goes topless!

Chrysler, cleverly, used the K-car platform as a kind of automotive Hamburger Helper, creating new products from the same basic components.  The Chrysler brand launched its tarted up LeBaron derivative which became the basis for the first new American convertible since the demise of Cadillac’s much vaunted “last” one back in 1976.  Dodge gave the Aries an upscale treatment (and a convertible) and, inexplicably, named the result “400.”

Dodge drop top

400 of what?

Sign of the olden times

Sign of the (olden) times

Chairman Lee seemed to be enamored of fake wood and, in short order, launched the LeBaron Town & Country station wagon and convertible, both festooned with gobs of grainy goodness. An early LeBaron convertible, slathered with bogus timber, is for sale for under $7,000 here in nearby Woodland Hills, CA.  One of these went for almost twice that much at a recent auction so we’re thinking this could be the buy of the century, if not the millennium.

The answer to the deforestation crisis

The answer to the deforestation crisis

The platform was stretched, like so much pizza dough, for longer models including Chrysler’s New Yorker and the Dodge 600, though, again the Dodge’s model number seems to be a reference to nothing in particular. The K-platform underpinned the wildly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans and even the seldom seen (or purchased) Imperial, Chrysler’s line topper that had come back from vehicular purgatory for a short run beginning in 1990.

Up with U.S. Imperialism!

Up with U.S. Imperialism!

My how you've grown

Imperial cruiser

That Imperial looks like two or three cars were grafted together to make one strange, billowy barge. Profit margins on these rococo K cars were higher than bare bones Aries and Reliants so they found clever ways to squeeze some additional dollars out of a dumbstruck nation.

Behold: the top of the K line

Behold: the top of the K line

The K-car marched into the next decade under a variety of names.  This Plymouth Sundance gives some indication of the abuse these stout machines could take.

Undercover K

Undercover K

That’s not just a festering dent on the right rear of this ’87 LeBaron; it’s a mark of character.

Le K

Le K

We really like the profile of this ’89 Dodge Shadow as seen on the mean streets of lower Manhattan.  A tip of the hat to Feral Cars Field Scout and self-proclaimed “car guy” Jim Bessman for this stunner!

Still life

Still life

Oh K!

Oh K!

Dig this archetypal Chrysler commercial with Chairman Lee closing the deal.  “Buy it!”

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.