Category Archives: Chrysler

Postwarriors: “the greatest generation” revisited

After having been so rudely interrupted by Pearl Harbor, domestic auto production resumed in 1946. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the independents — Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson — had spent the war years building tanks, planes and whatever was needed to ensure victory over the Axis powers. This United Auto Workers song gives an encapsulated history of the union’s efforts to organize Ford Motor and to rally behind the war effort.  It really speaks volumes about that extraordinary time.

Delightfullly delovely

Delightfullly delovely and, yes, that’s an AMC Hornet aft of its stern

Initial postwar cars were, essentially, carry overs from the 1942 model year as was this ’47 or ’48 DeSoto sedan we found the other day  mouldering away and dragging its tail a bit.  It’s impressive in terms of sheer mass and presence — the roof being more than 5′ 6″ above the road) and that front grill is straight out of the deco age.

Bulbosity

Bulbosity sans filler cap

We think it just hangs around the eastern fringe of Hollywood hoping to be cast in a remake of a  film noir of the era like Dead Reckoning starring George Clooney in the Bogart role and Scarlett Johansson in the part Lizabeth Scott (born Emma Matzo — no kidding!)  created.  Hard core hip-hopper culture devotees should check on this “grill.” Surely, it will soon be the envy of L’il Wayne.

Thrill grill

Thrill grill

DeSoto was an object of middle class aspirations to move up a notch from lower class Dodge but stopping short of the old money subtext underpinning the upmarket Chrysler.  The back end on this one seems to have given way though it may have been intentionally lowered. Tough guys know that a few stiffs in the trunk tend to make a car ride on the low side and draw suspicion which some might think a “dead giveaway.”

Sophie Tucker, your Uber is here.

“Sophie Tucker, your Uber car has arrived.”

In an earlier post we covered this ’49 Packard Custom 8, photographed by Feral Cars Field Scout Davin Seay.  It, too, seems to have been designed by adherents of the  pontoon school of styling back in New Deal days.  Packard was a car for patricians, Cadillac being for the nouveau riche as well as for prosperous, yet showy, ethnic types. While a DeSoto could be had for far less than a Packard, Chevrolet was very much an entry level play.

Heavy Chevy

Heavy Chevy

We’re just nuts about the patina on this, apparently, untouched mid-line ’48 Chevrolet Fleetmaster sedan. It’s noteworthy that all the trim pieces, both bright and body-colored, are right where they should be and all are in undamaged, original condition.  We do think those whitewalls and the chrome wheel trim rings are un peu de trop for a car with such unassuming working class roots.  Then, again, maybe they’re a reflection of hopes for upward mobility during that ever so optimistic post war era.

Medicaremobile

Qualifies for Medicare

The origins of the brand names of these three cars bear addressing.  Packard, the oldest marque here, was founded in Warren, Ohio in 1899 by brothers  James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard.  Chevrolet came next, founded next in 1911. The car was initially a partnership between former Fiat and Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet (b.1878 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel) and GM founder Billy Durant, then on the outs with the company, to build a low priced Ford competitor.

DeSoto is, strictly, the product of marketing.  The name on Chrysler’s one-step-down (from Chrysler, itself) and two-steps-up (from Plymouth and Dodge) marque was derived from Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. This was an obvious attempt to mimic Cadillac, named in 1902 after the French explorer who 200 years earlier, founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit.  While he’s credited for being the first Westerner to see the Mississippi River back in 1541, de Soto’s resume also includes the destruction of the Inca civilization, introducing plagues of fatal diseases to the New World, not to mention the wholesale massacre of indigenous people.  And you thought Jeep’s Cherokee is an example of corporate insensitivity!

Hernando's ride away

Hernando’s rideaway

Badging on our ’48 DeSoto is a mid-century vamp on Hernanado de Soto’s family coat of arms.  That’s a profile of the fun-loving conquistador, himself, above a stylized representation of his crest.  Class! See?

DeSoto, Packard, Chevrolet and lots of other makes are chronicled in this Noire Car video guide with a very ‘cool school’ vibe.

We sincerely urge you to purchase this extended wheelbase 1946 DeSoto Custom that has only 76,000 miles.  You’ll make the $19K asking price back in a few weeks by renting out this 7-passenger party van of its day for weddings, bar mitzvahs and bank robberies.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

 

 

Keha’s Plymouth Horizon never sets

The Blue Horizon never ends

The Blue Horizon never ends

We were delighted and amazed to meet lovely Keha McIlwaine the other day as she lounged behind the wheel of her 1986 Plymouth Horizon.  She told us she had driven the car out to California from New York a few months back and encountered no difficulties despite the fact that the odometer is closing in on 150,000 miles.  We especially like the duct tape around the parking light.  This kind of ingenuity worked for Apollo 13, so it would seem  a logical solution for a terrestrial vehicle with certain needs.

Plymouth pride will out

Plymouth pride will out (NOTE: ultra feral ’68 Chevy Caprice just ahead)

Plymouth Horizon and corporate twin Dodge Omni were introduced in 1978 and the same basic car stayed in production for 12 years.  They were fielded by Chrysler to compete with Volkswagen’s Rabbit and, like that bunny, were powered by a transverse mounted 4-cylinder motor via front wheel drive. Most mass-produced cars these days are configured this way but the “Omnirizon” twins were the first American cars of this kind and were jointly named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1978.   We salute Keha who, paradoxically, pronounces her name like a certain Korean car spelled with three letters.

Hop-a-long VW

Hop-a-long VW

Volkswagen Rabbits of this general vintage are much more plentiful than their Plymouth and Dodge counterparts so we offer two such here to underscore the point.  Both of these are diesel-powered which may provide a clue to their preternatural longevity.

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

For quite a few model years, the Horizon co-existed with its ultimate replacement, Plymouth Sundance.  We’re not sure we’d exhibit the kind of loyalty Keha has for her Horizon if we had to tango with something like this over the long haul.

Unbutch: Plymouth's Sundance

Unbutch

Dappled Sundance

Dappled Sundance

Chrysler touted Horizon with lots of red, white and blue advertising such as this “The Pride Is Back” commercial that has a distinct Springsteenian undertone. The truth is that Simca, its French subsidiary, later offloaded to Peugeot, did the initial development work on this car.  Let’s keep that notre petit secret, d’accord?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

Stars, Strikes and the Grandest of Prix

As we noted earlier, when reporting on a cream puffy ’76 Ford Elite, we’re big fans of Dan Epstein’s baseball cum-cultural cypher Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76.

Bicentennial Pon-ton

Bicentennial Pon-ton

Yes, 38 years after Sparky Anderson’s Cincinnati Reds swept the World Series in four straight games, demolishing the Yankees, in the third year of the reign of Steinbrenner with Billy Martin at the helm, there’s a book that puts it all into funky perspective.  So does this stellar, “as is” 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix.  It’s one of the era’s “personal luxury coupes,” on par with Chrysler’s Cordoba, that Ford Elite and Chevy’s Monte Carlo. They all had long hoods, short rear decks for that bicentennial “eleganza” air.  Grand Prix shared its GM A body architecture with Monte Carlo and, in fact,  it was the same platform used to underpin Buick’s Century and Olds Cutlass Supreme.

What a difference a dozen years makes

What a difference a dozen years make

The pillar free hardtop, the most sought-after body style of the ’50’s and ’60’s, as seen in this breathtaking ’64 Grand Prix, was swept into the dustbin of automotive design history. That breezy look was replaced by cars with a fortress-like aspect; the rear windows, etched with decorative scroll work, were fixed in place. GM described the look, set off by frameless side windows and a thick pillar aft the front doors, as  “Colonnade” styling. It’s as much of the (Gerald) Ford era as was Oscar Gamble’s outtasite ‘fro.

“They Don’t Think It Be Like It Is, But It Do”  - Oscar Gamble

“They don’t think It be like it is, but It do” – Oscar Gamble

Feds to lead: get out!

Feds to lead: get out!

This Grand Prix carries a reminder that lead was on the way out of gasoline at that time.  New cars, from ’75 forward, were equipped with catalytic converters, incompatible with that toxic additive that had been poisoining us for decades. ’76: the year we began to breathe easier.

Collonade coupe

Colonnade coupe

Speaking of no-lead, this ’62 Pontiac, badged “Grand Prix,” was caught tanking up the other day but it’s not what it appears to be. Note that Pontiac didn’t offer a Grand Prix convertible in ’62, the first model year for the most sporting full-size Pontiac.  Huh?

Faux Prix

Faux Prix

It’s really a Catalina convertible to which every possible Grand Prix-specific piece of trim, inside and out, has been appended.  It’s a masterful creation, filling a perceived gap in Pontiac’s model line more than a half century after the fact.

We found a ’76 Grand Prix in very impressive condition here for under $10K.  You can’t go wrong with this kind of true personal luxury at a low price like this. I’s the biggest bargain we’ve seen since the Kansas City Royals shelled out a measly $126,000 to pay George Brett’s salary in 1976.  His batting average was .333 the year American celebrated its second century.

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.

 

 

 

Bicentennial FoMoCo boogie

Elite all reet

Elite all reet!

Right after we encountered a 1976 Ford Elite we got in touch with Dan Epstein, author of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76. The book is out in a few weeks to coincide with the ramp up of this year’s MLB season.  Stars and Strikes chronicles such performers as Mike Schmidt, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych and George Brett in the context of a remarkable time in sports and cultural history but Dan suggests that a car like this would be driven by a journeyman player from the days before the era of free agency.  He thinks it would be a good fit for Mets’ outfielder John “The Hammer” Milner who hit 10 grand slam home runs over the course of his career but, due to hamstring issues, never achieved superstar status.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 6.47.10 PM

Elite was Ford’s answer to Chevy’s Monte Carlo and Chrysler’s Cordoba and followed the same basic formula of those “personal luxury” coupes: long hood, short deck, rococo interior and de rigueur vinyl top.  Opera windows were all the rage back then and Ford upped the ante with a bifurcated two pane affair that virtually screams “class.”  While the car was based on the mid-size Torino, it was its own model and predicted the direction for the downsized Thunderbird that debuted the following year.

Opera window double down

Opera window double down: let the sun trickle in

No Torino

Torino? NO!

While we’re on the subject of baseball and 1976, check out this Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagon of that vintage.  With three rows of seats and easy loading thanks to the “clamshell” glide-away tailgate, it offers room for the starting nine and lots of cargo carrying capacity. By the way, this Olds is, arguably, the very last American car with tail fins, minimal though they were.

Team player

Team player

Speaking of “rich Corinthian leather,” David Less, our Feral Cars man in Memphis, shot this raging red Cordoba just the other day.  That vinyl-topped half roof is the embodiment of “swank” to these bulging eyes.

Rich Corinthian, etc.

Rich Corinthian, etc.

Let’s add another ’76 opera windowed coupe to our Stars and Strikes overview. This Lincoln Continental Mark IV, shot by Feral Cars scout Amy Treco, sports an oval opera window with etched glass plus vinyl roof top corona.  We bet Pete Rose had one just like it.

Mark IV for LXXVI

Mark IV for LXXVI

Dan points out that one of the touchstones of the magic year was the release of The Bad News Bears, starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. Matthau’s character was Morris Buttermaker,  a boozy ex-minor leaguer turned pool man.  We found a still of his pool equipment-laden ’64 Cadillac convertible, the implication is that driving a twelve year old car back in ’76 branded you as a loser.   A vintage Cadillac makes you a loser?  We beg to differ!

Bad News Cad

Bad News Cad

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.

 

 

LeBaron drop top: OK-car!

The roof goes down. What else do you need?

The roof goes down. What else do you need?

It was announced just this past week that Chrysler would not be offering a convertible version of its 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan.  The 200 convertible has long been a staple of sunbelt rental car fleets but the sad fact is that very few have been purchased by individual consumers.  The predecessor of the 200 was, of course, the Sebring which was most notably driven by the self-deluded Michael Scott, as played by Steve Carrell, in the long-running NBC series The Office. The car was cypher for the character’s being eternally clueless; it was ultimately replaced by an even more dorky PT Cruiser convertible to drive the point home that Michael was, verily, far from hip.  Hey, we’re of the opinion that just about any car is made somewhat more palatable if the top goes down but we do get the point about Michael Scott.

Trust us: putting the top down improves the profile.

Lowering the top down improves the profile. Trust us.

LeBaron was Chrysler’s pre-Sebring convertible and represented a comeback on many levels.  It was the flagship of the K-car family that saved the company, bolstered by Federal loan guarantees, that included the somewhat less glamorous Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries.  The convertible had been pronounced  “dead” following the final run of Bicentennial Edition 1976 Cadillac Eldorados but, after six sunless years, Chrysler resurrected the rag top in 1982 with LeBaron; there was joy in the land.

Zip it!

Zip it!

We found this stellar, mostly un-restored, example that underscores just how low our standards were at the dawn of the Reagan era.  To be fair, it’s a serviceable little front wheel drive car that’s seen a surge in collector interest of late with prices skyrocketing into (almost) five figures, especially for the fake wood sided Town & Country edition.  Here’s one for $9950 if you just gotta have it.

Star power!

Pentastar power!

In this commercial Ricardo Montalbán served as pitchman for LeBaron, as he had done earlier for Cordoba, but with nary a mention of “rich Corinthian leather.”

We used an ’84 LeBaron convertible as one of the official “greeters” at the recent DRIVEN art installation in Palm Springs, presented by FeralCars.  If you squint you can make out a continental kit out back.  Talk about lily gilding!  Its “pal” is a rare (for good reason) Pinto-based Mercury Bobcat.

Art parked
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.