Monthly Archives: March 2014

For Olds time sake: tear the roof off the sucker!

Souped up tomato

Souped up tomato

We happened upon three Oldsmobile Cutlasses, each representing a different era and each with its own way of dealing with the ever present need to go topless by hook or crook.. or hatch.

Wild Colonade style

Wild Colonnade style

The first of these is a fairly together ’73 Cutlass Supreme, finished in Crimson Red and equipped with an oh-so-seventies T-top.  Convertibles were on the wane back then when Federal roll over standards loomed large and manufacturers were so spooked that convertible variants disappeared from product lines.  The T-top was a way to let the sunshine in, Aquarius style, without having to deal with fabric of any kind.  Hatches over the front driver’s and passenger seats were removable like rooftop emergency exits on a school bus.  Hardly a wind-in-your-face solution, T-tops were, nonetheless, comparatively popular at the time.  Supreme or pedestrian, it seems as though the rubber gaskets on this one had grown brittle so the owner resorted to the age-old duct tape remedy to keep moisture intrusion at a minimum.

Weather tight and outtasite

Weather tight and outtasite

By the 80s and 90s, true convertibles had made something of a comeback.  This Cutlass was, in truth, an adapted 2 door coupe from which the roof had been torn away while the B-pillars, aft of the front windows, remained, with a hoop extending across the span from port to starboard.  Like the Volkswagen Cabriolet of the time, it was a compromise that recalled the heyday of the convertible while giving in to structural compromise.

Necessity is a mother

Necessity is a mother

This Cutlass was a dulled compromise that pleased very few and presented a lumpy silhouette.

It was 20 years ago today..

It was 20 years ago today..

The final example in our Cutlass showcase  is this noble 1970 model, a true convertible.  You put the top down and that’s it.. no residual superstructure to obscure your view of the world and vice versa. As it should be.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing

Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing

Badge of honor

Blade runner

They don’t make Olds Cutlass convertibles anymore.  In fact, they don’t make Oldsmobiles of any kind at all any more, the last one having rolled off the assembly line in Lansing ten years ago.  It wasn’t a Cutlass and it wasn’t a convertible so very few took notice.  Living and dying by the sword, anybody?

Full boat

Full boat

Let’s go back to a time when Cutlass was a newly sharpened blade.  Here’s a commercial from 1964 in which a Cutlass convertible — a true convertible — was showcased for all the world to see.

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.

Not so stinkin’ Lincoln

Faded glory

Faded glory

We found this ’72 Lincoln Continental sedan, one of 35,561 built that year, with some “needs” and just assumed it was a derelict waiting for the crusher.  Intrigued, we moved in for an onsite analysis and noted the following:

  1. It’s  parked on a street from which it has to be moved regularly lest it be towed
  2. Its tires seem to hold air
  3. Vehicle registration is up to date

Based on empirical evidence we declare it to be a feral car and not a smoldering pile of refuse left to moulder curbside.  Or both.

This one-time luxury barge, finished in medium blue metallic, is held together with acres of duct tape and a length of strategically situated chain; that trunk lock assemblage is a testimony to humankind’s innovative spirit.  Despite appearances, our conclusion is that this is, in fact, a motor vehicle that is, at the very least, in a semi-operative state.

Some fine grit sandpaper will have her looking like new, right?

Some fine grit sandpaper will have her looking like new, right?

Talk about potential!  Looks like the vinyl roof is a bit threadbare but we prefer the natural look so, to borrow a phrase from Barbara Bush, spoken about Hurricane Katrina refugees sheltered in the Astrodome, “This is working very well…”

Hideaway headlights! No need to Windex the glass.

Hideaway headlight: no Windex needed!

Frankly, we find this ghost ship from the time of Watergate both frightening and inspirational.  If ever there were to be a Feral Cars Hall of Fame, this behemoth — close to 19′ in length — would be a shoo-in.  It’s got flair, swagger, patina and is probably capable of motion.  Did we mention the chain secured trunk lid? What more could you really want?

Maybe it doubles as a Brinks truck?

Maybe it doubles as a Brinks truck? Yes, that sticker has months to go before it expires.

We found a shot of, perhaps, this very car undergoing final post-assembly inspection a mere 42 years ago.  Don’t you think that inspector would be thrilled to know his work paid off in the very, very long run?

The quality is baked right in

The quality was baked right in and the vinyl top adhered so well

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.

 

Montero has flair-o

Bitchin' Mitsu

Bitchin’ Mitsu

Feral Cars fan Byron Laursen writes to tell us about his 1990 Mitsubishi Montero. It was Mitsu’s entry in the burgeoning market for Japanese-built SUVs a few decades back when everybody and his uncle fielded a contender.   Remember the Isuzu Trooper?  The Daihatsu Rocky?  Suzuki Sidekick?

We’ll let Byron jump in here.

The Vietnam War was a real good thing for Mitsubishi. They built our armed forces a passel of Army Jeeps for the Southeast Asian Fog-of-War Follies, and then had beaucoup R&D funds for their subsequent stabs at America’s domestic market.

            Probably inspired by Ford’s Bronco and International Harvester’s Scout, and thoroughly schooled in building rugged off-roaders, they engineered a four-wheel drive machine with discretely feralicious macho appeal. Not so much hip as square of line in a Range Rover-emulating way, stealing Brit influence years before the Mazda Miata riffed on the Lotus Elan shape.

            To suggest it had lithe, big-cat manners crossing rugged terrain, they called it the Mitsubishi Pajero, after the South American Pampas Cat – or Leopardus Pajero to biology majors. Then someone told them about Mexican slang, that fecund zone of the Spanish language, in which “pajero” means “he who pummels his own pestle,” “he who wrassles his own wombat,” or “he who massages his own monsignor.”

            Pajero badges disappeared, and instead the Mitsubishi Montero (meaning something like Mountain Man) was shipped to most Mitsu-selling destinations. In the UK, showrooms held  Mitsubishi Shoguns.

            The breed lasted from 1982 to 2006 in the US. This 1990 example loiters in Santa Ynez, a Sideways country town north of Santa Barbara, where its a “valley car,” a hauler in semi-retirement, approaching 200K on the odometer, running local errands and seldom traversing the mountains for which this former rock-crawler is named.

            Mitsubishi sold about three hundred thousand of these first-generation models, then sheepishly rounded off the square corners in 1991 and onward, until their Montero eventually began to, like everybody else’s Cute Ute, be drained of its former feralocity.

TILT!

TILT!

  It’s powered by a three-liter V6 and features a dash-mounted Tilt-o-meter, essentially a painted orb bobbing in fluid, only able to give accurate readings when the car is stock-still. So it can’t tell you when you’re about to tip over, but it will let you know when you already have.

Different breed of dog

Different breed of dog

            The jokey license plate frame describes the niche Mitsubishi was trying to grab –something jaunty, yet much cheaper than the notoriously unreliable Brit snob wagon, which was equally squarish but designed to make owners come off like Country Squires, and not the FoMoCo variety. The firefighter decal dates to a previous owner, but remains as an effective ticket-deflector. What local cop would ever write up a volunteer fireman?

Did you know that Chrysler offered a badge engineered version of the Montero?  They called it the Dodge Raider and, despite conjuring up the most macho NFL-sanctioned thuggery, it found virtually no buyers.  A Montero by any other name just didn’t smell right.   Our friends at Bring A Trailer found one on Ebay.  Get your bid in now if you’d like this anomaly in your carport and here’s a period  TV commercial for Montero that makes the case that its off-road attributes are appropriate for the urban jungle.  Cute but, ahem, we have no truck with that assertion.

If you’ve stalked (or own) 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.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Heaping helping of feral fun!

Heaping helping of feral fun!

Attention Feral Cars fans in the greater Los Angeles area! Here’s a chance to hobnob with all matter of old car kooks and their super duper hoopties at an event that’s tailor made for us.  Our pals at Great Autos of Yesteryear are throwing their annual Heaps of Fun car show at Woodley Park in lovely Van Nuys this Sunday, March 23.

We’ll be there with Der Blaue Engel, our 1970 VW Fastback with a perpetual slow leak in the left front tire.  Fall by and kibitz while we’re on the scene from about 10 AM to 1 PM.

Click here for directions to the park.  It’s that big green thing in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.  Enter on Victory and Woodley and have your nose follow the smells of BBQ and burnt pistons.

Volvo keeps rolling

122Sxpress yourself!

122Sxpress yourself!

The last few years have been rough for Volvo, the Swedish car maker that was sold to Ford for $6.45 billion back in 2000.  After a decade as Ford’s vassal, Volvo was unloaded to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group for a paltry $1.8 billion.  What a deal!  That corporate upheaval seems to have messed with Volvo’s focus on the US, traditionally its biggest market. Subaru has, clearly, taken over as the car favored by those concerned with safety, the environment and appearing vaguely responsible.  Volvo sold merely 61,233 cars here last year while Subaru moved 424,683 units.

'Saintly' P1800

‘Saintly’ P1800

The fact that Volvo didn’t even offer a traditional station wagon for the past few years and ceased production of its small C30 hatchback last year couldn’t have helped matters.  There’s talk of a renewal at Volvo with new models — including a station wagon — in the offing but we’re prone to looking in the rear view mirror at what made Volvo so special.

It won't die

It won’t die

The 122S, introduced to the US in 1959, made Volvo a serious contender over here with its upright, non-controversial styling, rugged running gear and emphasis on safety. It was the model that made Volvo a serious contender in this country.  Volvo, essentially, introduced the notion that safety sells and equipped these cars with front seat belts at first and then with three point over-the-shoulder belts as standard equipment.  This was a very radical departure in the era of tail fins and fender skirts.

Volvo’s P1800 sports car was, in essence, a re-bodied 122S, just as the Karman-Ghia was a VW Beetle in sports car drag, though the P1800 was much more of a sporting proposition thanks to its relatively gutsy motor.  Initially, the most famous P1800 was the one driven by Roger Moore as Simon Templar in the British spy series The Saint. That car has been supplanted by Irv Gordon’s 1966 P1800 which he purchased new and went on to drive more than 3 million miles on the original motor! Talk about a reputation builder!

Volvo = wagon

Volvo = wagon

A glass hatchback wagon version of the car, model designation P1800ES was produced for a few years, the idea being a bit more utility would be welcome even in a sports car.  Hey, it’s a Volvo and station wagons are the signature model of the marque.

Glamorous grocery getter

Glamorous grocery getter

We’re kind of inspired when we see a 122S or P1800 in daily service these days, more than forty years since the last one was built.  Only time will tell if we’ll ever see a 40 year old Subaru trundling up the freeway someday but we doubt it.  Volvo, on the other hand, used to build cars for the ages.  Literally.

Beauty is skin deep

Beauty is skin deep

It was during a drive through Alaska this past September that Irv Gordon’s ’66 P1800, made it to the 3,000,000 mile mark as  documented here.  Inspired?  Don’t just sit there! Get yourself  something undeniably real and enduring.  There are several hardy 122s available on Ebay so get clicking and buy yourself a car that could outlive you — even if you’re only in your 30s or 40s.

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.