Category Archives: Chrysler

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?

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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
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DRIVEN was a wild ride

FeralCars is delighted to have played a role in last week’s DRIVEN installation at Palm Springs’ Stephen Archdeacon Gallery, attended by scores of cognoscenti in town to celebrate Modernism Week.

Art parked

Art parked

“Bob,” a swanky orange Mercury Bobcat begged the question, “Would a Pinto, by any other name, would still explode on impact?” Bob, along with an anonymous though glamorous, in a 1984 K-car kind of way, Chrysler LeBaron convertible greeted guests at the event celebrating the ‘car noir’ art of Eric Nash, hosted by ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons.

DRIVEN co-conspirators: Matthew Reader, Bob Merlis, Billy F Gibbons, Eric Nash

DRIVEN co-conspirators: Matthew Reader, Bob Merlis, Billy F Gibbons, Eric Nash

Matthew Reader, a/k/a “Mr. Palm Springs Modern,” curated the collection of cars deployed in the area that included a “Smokey and The Bandit” style Pontiac Trans Am, complete with “screaming chicken” hood treatment, an Oldsmobile 98 the length of three Smart cars, a Lincoln Continental Mark IV plus a “plain Jane” Ford station wagon that is the subject of one of Eric’s pieces.   His set design sense was spot on with matches strewn around the Bobcat along with a gasoline can, a vintage lunchbox exhibition in the “wayback” of the Ford wagon and a literal “trunk show” of women’s shoes in very large sizes next to the Olds.

"Atlanta to Texarkana and back in twenty eight hours? That ain't never been done before." "That's cause we ain't never done it."

“Atlanta to Texarkana and back in twenty eight hours? That ain’t never been done before.” “That’s cause we ain’t never done it.

Kickin' it Oldschool

Kickin’ it Oldschool, curbside

After sundown, Feralcars presented a breathtaking slideshow in which 190 images were projected on an outside wall of the gallery.  We’re told that some of these could be seen from the International Space Station but this has not been confirmed.

Pura Vida powered non-Pinto

Pura Vida powered non-Pinto

Let’s take stock: great art, legendary rock ‘n’ roll star host, curated cars, Feralcars slideshow. And, oh yeah, our friends at Pura Vida Tequila were kind enough to send along Sara Abbas who most artfully and responsibly poured the finest agave-based cocktails we’ve ever enjoyed at an art installation.

Portrait of the artist with a portrait of a feral Ford wagon

Portrait of the artist with a portrait of a feral Ford wagon

Life imitates art

Life imitates art

When she pours she reigns

When Sara pours she reigns

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.