Monthly Archives: December 2013

Datsun enough for now?

The fairest of them all?

The fairest of them all?

Somehow, we missed out on the 80th anniversary of the founding of  Jidosha-Seizo Co., Ltd., on the day after Christmas in 1933.  The company, later known as Nissan, commenced to build Datsun cars and trucks, shortly thereafter, including this stellar 1969 2000 Roadster which did everything that an MG-B of the time did except break down regularly. These Datsun roadsters, which bore the Fairlady name in the home market, deemed not macho enough for American sports car enthusiasts , helped add glow to the brand whose bread and butter vehicles were less glamorous small cars and compact trucks.

From the land of the rising (Dat) sun

From the land of the rising (Dat)sun

Datsun pickups, such as this one that has been decorated with a symbol that might be associated with imperialist interventionism, were the leading edge in the small truck revolution that began in the 60s.  We doubt that the legions of pool men, pizza delivery guys and gardeners who flocked to Datsun’s rugged and appropriately-sized offerings, had any designs on Manchuria or The Philippines.

Cute widdle white wagon

Cute widdle white wagon

Datsun’s 510 line — badged Bluebird in Japan — built the brand’s reputation for quality and value.  We found a splendid 1970 white wagon that illustrates the classic appeal of the car’s tasteful design.  These were terrific rally cars and known as “the poor man’s BMW,” a reference to some engineering similarities with BMW’s 1600/2002.  The 510 was Datsun’s “big” car, the smaller offering being the 210 and 1200, known as the Sunny outside North America. We like this 1971 1200 Coupe, riding on some gnarly aftermarket wheels and tires, finished in sunburned orange with vanilla highlights like a Creamsicle® ice cream pop, a.k.a. “50/50 bar.”  The “Datsun” script on the rear fender is “classique” to our eyes.

Too much sun for Sunny?

Too much sun for Sunny?

The Datsun name was abandoned and all products from the mid-1980s onward were sold as Nissans.  Now in its 80th year, Nissan has seen fit to relaunch the Datsun brand with a focus on basic products marketed in developing countries.  Do we qualify?

The corporate image folks at Nissan offer this 3 minute  video history of what’s happened since December 26, 1933. Domo arigato!

Here’s a much better than fair Fairlady that you can make your own for the right price.

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.

 

 

Christmas tidings: papal Renault underscores vow of poverty

Popemobile clone

Popemobile clone

Back in September we reported that Francis, the new Pope, had been given a 1984 Renault R4 by an Italian parish priest.  The bare bones car, with over 185,000 miles on the odometer, is a true reflection of the Pope’s focus on the poor that was underscored on Christmas Eve when he gave gifts to impoverished immigrants living in a shelter. The Pope’s “pre-owned” Renault, powered by a 1.1 liter motor with 34 horsepower, is a far cry from the official Popemobile, a custom built Mercedes.  Pope Francis reportedly drives the humble car himself on errands around Vatican City.

We found a vintage R4, similar to the Pope’s — his is papal white as you might expect and this one is red — in the village of Girona, near Barcelona.  No, it wasn’t thrown out with the trash but we think the setting is poignantly appropriate in light of the apostolic exhortation in which His Holiness voiced criticism of “unbridled consumerism.”

 

Twingo!  No, you don't eat it, you drive it

Twingo! No, you don’t eat it, you drive it

While we’re dealing with Renault, a brand that hasn’t been sold in the United States since the 1980s, take a look at another humble hooptie from France’s top automaker. It’s a first generation (1993 model year) Renault Twingo, the name of which suggests a creme-filled snack. While not quite as spartan as the R4, it’s still pretty basic, three quarter moon headlights notwithstanding. With a 1.2 liter motor providing 55 horsepower, it has a 21 horsepower advantage over the Pope’s car but we’d still put our money on Pope Francis’ R4 if St. Peter’s Square ever becomes a drag strip. He’d have a very powerful “sponsor.”

Twizy! Maybe you do eat this one?

Twizy! Maybe you do eat this one?

Renault currently produces the Twizy quadricycle, Europe’s top selling plug-in electric vehicle.  Maybe these should be issued to members of the College of Cardinals as a way to show solidarity with Francis and the poor?  Just a Christmas thought.

Formula 1 Champion Sebastian Vettel messed around with an Twizy Sport F1 edition last spring.  Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

If we were going to buy a Renault, we’d certainly consider this ’59 4CV.   Its dignified black paint job would go well with a clerical collar, right padre?

Big daddy Caddys

“White Walls,” the current hit by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is very much an homage to the Cadillac brand and its relationship to past and current generations.  Check out the official video.

Hip Cadillac-themed hip hop

Hip Cadillac-themed hip hop

We’ve long admired GM’s “Standard of the World” which endures despite the never ending onslaught (aunschuss, wenn sie müssen) from German, English, Japanese and now Koreans marques.  Macklemore and company’s rap reminds us that cool Caddys abound, perhaps because owners of less than pristine (read: gone to seed) examples are loathe to sentence such once grand conveyances to the crusher.  It just seems less than patriotic to trash ’em so there are quite a few trashy ones around.

Booted beauty

Booted beauty

This ’63 DeVille in Frost Green isn’t going places and not because its 390 cubic inch high compression V8, rated at 325 horsepower, generating 430 pound feet of torque, is not up to the task.  See that pile of parking tickets under the wiper?  It’s matched by a “Denver boot” immobility device affixed to the left front wheel.  Let’s hope it’s out of the clink soon.

Yes, they're all bluish.. it's 'Flahriddahr,' after all

Yes, they’re all bluish.. it’s ‘Flahriddahr,’ after all

Meanwhile, here’s a Ron and Nancy era Eldorado in the midst of an “Alligator Alley” trailer park down fabulous Florida way. Yes, that faux convertible top, complete with “hungry steer” ribbing and fake wire wheels actually do make it go faster.  At least that’s what the crowd of nutty revelers seen both in and out of the car told us.

With all due respect – and we mean no harm –  to fakey-doo rag top lovers, there’s nothing like a real topless Caddy.  Preferably in white.

Really stacked! The headlights, that is.

Really stacked! The headlights, that is.

This ’68 sports a read leather interior that has obviously been subjected to the elements over the course of the past 45 years.  We think it’s soulful in a Paul Newman-as-Hud kind of way.

Rather ripped and not ashamed of it

Rather ripped and not ashamed of it

But the other side of the Caddy coin is reflected most brilliantly in this ’77 Eldorado, a Hollywood Regency-styled behemoth with presence to spare.  The colonnadestyle coupe is incomprehensibly huge, its footprint obscures more than 115 square feet of the planet and it weighs 5,000 lbs.   The motor is, accordingly, gargantuan at an even 7 liters, down from 8.2 liters (!) the year before, driving the front wheels.  Dig that opera light and rear quarter panel peek-a-boo window.  Marie Antoinette would feel right at home in this decadent milieu.

Swelleganza!

Swelleganza!

Natch, when they painted it they made a double batch of Naples Yellow and made the chrome rimmed wheel covers match.  Now, that’s ‘swank’ definitively defined.

Caddy's the wheel deal

Caddy’s the wheel deal

Cadillac is synonymous with “B-I-G” and this commercial for the Fleetwood Brougham, already a rolling anachronism in 1986, was selling just that: “the longest regular production car and full sized comfort for six adults”

Lastly, may we suggest you seriously consider the purchase of a fine motor car built by the Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors Corporation?  Here’s a delightful Carolina-based ’57 Caddy that’s a great value (Buy it now: $9500).  You only get one life so don’t put this off!

 

 

Car of future passed

Flux capacitor power!

Stainless steel deal

The year was 1981 and John Z. DeLorean, “Father of the GTO,” having gone rogue after an heroic career at General Motors, finally launched his dream car that he modestly named after himself.  Stainless steel body. Check.  Gull wing doors. Check. Mid-engine. Check.  What could possibly go wrong?  As it happened, most everything. Turns out that DeLorean’s Tuckeresque quixotic windmill tilt-a-whirl was squeezed out for numerous financial, technical and, perhaps, pharmacological reasons, coupled with his own hubris and the inclination of the entrenched auto makers to make life as difficult as possible for upstarts.

0 - 88 in 30 years

0 – 88 in 30 years

We found a well-used example in a “Doctors Only” parking space the other day that is, apparently, a commuter car for a “hipocrat.”  While the DMC12 was projected to retail for $12,000 it ended up costing more than twice that amount despite the fact that power was provided by a somewhat anemic PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) V6. The chassis, though, as engineered by Lotus, was on supercar par.

It's not a gang, it's a club!

It’s not a gang, it’s a club!

Despite that shortcoming in the propulsion department, an estimated 9,000 units were built at the factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.  Actually, not too shabby in terms of failed indie car numbers — anybody remember the Vector W8?  Cizeta-Moroder V16T?  Bricklen SV-1?  OK, they built a bunch of that latter gull-winger but not even a third of DeLorean’s output.

McFly ride

McFly ride, flux capacitor optional at extra cost.

Of course, the car had an afterlife as a very literal Hollywood star vehicle in the Back To The Future series. It was the way Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly character went back to 1955 from 1985 with all sorts of nutty anachronistic shtick ensuing.  That was a thirty year span and now we’ve come another thirty since John Z’s dream faded from shiny to black.  Of course, you need only get your flux capacitor-augmented DMC12 up to 88 mph to get back there if you so choose.

Click here to go back to Back to the Future as Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown character introduces Fox’s McFly to the perks of DeLorean ownership.   Want your very own?  There are quite a few to choose from right here but if you don’t get your bid in on time you can just borrow one and go back to a nanosecond before the auction ends.

 

80s NY street scenes

Actually, we'd rather not have a Buick this time around

Actually, we’d rather not have a Buick this time around

It was the decade of padded shoulders, big hair and eleganza style.  Yes, the Reagan era was a time of dubious taste and automakers did their part to cheese things up, per the prevailing aesthetic.  GM and Chrysler invoked Manhattan’s swankiest thoroughfares to sell ersatz sophistication to the masses. Behold the Park Avenue by Buick and Chrysler’s Fifth Avenue. Remember when Billy Ocean sang “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”?  Well, one of these could very well have been that car but  you’d probably be “Livin’ On A Prayer.”

Buick gilded its top-of-the-line Electra with a special Park Avenue edition, a rolling iteration of a rococo style 1890s bordello. We’re quite certain these came with fancy wheel covers but, in the case of our weary example, they seem to have fallen by the wayside over the course of time.  We dug out a commercial from the period in which it’s suggested that in this machine “every road feels like Park Avenue.”  Midtown gridlock, anybody?

Not taking the fifth

Not taking the fifth

Chrysler, fresh from a near-death experience which necessitated government loan guarantees at the end of the previous decade, re-purposed and minimally updated the platform that had underpinned the mostly reviled Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen intermediates.  The storied New Yorker name had been bestowed on a gussied up K-car, making the Fifth Avenue MoPar’s line topper by default. It was a tufted, tarty boulevard cruiser that had the distinction of being the last production car with semi-elliptical leaf springs to be sold in the USA.   It masqueraded as a luxury car but was a comparative value, as touted by this period commercial.

The cars took very different paths to get to the same place.  Buick went with a modern front wheel drive approach and a V6 while the ultra old school Chrysler, saddled with its (horse-drawn, not dune) buggy suspension, stuck with rear wheel drive and a V8.  Technology or lack thereof aside, both troweled on styling cues that conveyed a middle brow baroque sensibility.  Chrome, questionable Gilded Age-inspired roof padding — our Buick comes off more like an starving cow than a regal coach — and roof pillar-mounted opera lights told the world you had arrived in style, questionable or otherwise.

Swanky stuff

Swanky stuff

Bejeweled livery

Bejeweled livery

These cars were a far cry, size-wise, from their 1950s and 60s forebears which took up a good portion of a city block but they weren’t compact, either.  Still, during the time of Golden Girls and Designing Women, these somewhat downsized bourgeois barges were a cushy way to travel and, apparently, still are for some hold outs.

Nice rack! (for your Louis Vuitton streamer trunk)

Nice rack! (for your Louis Vuitton streamer trunk, that is)

 

Landau and how!

Landau and how!

Interested in berthing one of these babies in your garage?  We found a cream puff Park Avenue with a mere 187,000 miles for only $995 (not a typo!) here in nearby Waite Park, MN. What?  You want a Fifth Avenue to go with your Park Avenue?  You got it right here in Milbank, SD but it’ll cost you..  this one has only 3700 miles on it but the price is a steep $14,350.  Try averaging them out to rationalize the cost:  just $7672 each for two prestigious addresses!