Monthly Archives: April 2014

We’re batty for this Caddy!

Totally rad Cad

Totally rad Cad

We happened upon this 1960 Cadillac Series 62 six window hardtop sedan a month and a half ago and, of course, made a mental note to post a piece about it before long.  In the interim we’ve covered some swell SAABs, amusing Mustangs, potent Packards and original Oldmobiles and kind of lost track of things. We got a vivid reminder,  just a day or two ago, when this big old Cad which had vanished from our neighborhood showed up once more.  We took its return, presumably from Arizona where it’s registered,  as a sign to do it up right.

"Marca de excellenzia"

“Marca de excellenzia”

Yes, it has some dents and scrapes but that’s why we love it.  You can always find a perfectly restored old Cadillac at a car show or a totally trashed out one mouldering under a tarp, its restoration put off “until we get around to it.”  This one is original, all the parts are there where they should be, just as they were installed, ahem, One Piece At A Time, more than a half century ago.

Of course, a smarty like Ella knows that Cadillac means luxury

Of course, a smarty like Ella knows that ‘Cadillac means luxury.’

Tail fins have always been a point of conversational departure for Caddys of this era but the ’60 model was the first time that the height of the fins went down from one model year to the next.  Its predecessor’s over-the-top, juke box style, hind quarter appurtenances were the apogee of GM styling chief Harley Earl’s Sir Mix Alot-esque obsession with big rears.  We think Ella Von Baron, our spokesmodel, was correct to call our attention to the dazzling front end with those subtle creased “v” marks above the quad headlights and the grill that screams Hollywood Regency style with jewel-like chrome protrusions.  Something like this might make you gulp hard were you to find it occupying 100% of your rear view mirror.

Insert Cadillac Ranch reference here

Insert Cadillac Ranch reference here

The fins were a tasteful approach to Cadillac’s commitment to presenting something uplifting to those who found themselves behind or having been passed by an exemplar of the far from self effacing slogan “The Standard of the World.” We think they’re the best effort since the 1956 model.  Yeah, it’s a very subjective thing so if you want to chime in please do and we do love comments.

Parting shot

Parting shot

There’s a super clean, un-restored, low mileage (only 64K) one of these offered on Ebay right now.  It’s even the same color as our neighborhood visitor so redeem those cans and bottles right away and put some Cadillac style into your life!

And, by all means, click here to view an unbiased film promoting the manifest virtues of the first Cadillac of the 1960’s, produced by Cadillac’s Merchandising Department.

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.

 

Saabulous!

Saabtastic!

Saabtastic!

The last new SAAB sold in US was a 2011 model 9-5.  It was a fairly big and conventional car and shared many of its underpinnings with the Chevy Malibu, understandable in light of the fact that both were products of General Motors.

It was not always thus as SAAB (the use of all caps reflects the fact that the car maker’s name is an acronyn for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget or Swedish Airplane Company) was once a proud independent company.

Aerodynamic!

Viggen is Swedish for thunderbolt. Now you know.

New England Feral Cars field scout Bosco “Pero” Dontonicus found this wonderfully preserved 1970 96 model parked on a Boston street corner.  First generation SAABs were powered by a 3 cylinder two stroke motor of under 1 liter displacement but SAAB went modern in 1967 with the introduction of a Ford of Germany-sourced V4 and that’s the case with this teardrop-shaped little beauty.   There’s a sticker on the trunk lid indicating the car was purchased from Lewis Auto Sales in Lisbon, ME.  While Lewis had been an authorized SAAB dealer since 1960, the firm now offers an inventory of no fewer than 21 used SAABs.

Raag top?

Raag top?

GM invested in SAAB in the late 1980s and took a 100% stake in 2000, only to walk away from its Swedish subsidiary in 2008 when it found itself facing bankruptcy and could no longer afford to keep things going in Trollhättan.  Long before this downward spiral SAAB introduced its wildly successful 900 convertible in the 1980s.  It was the brainstorm of Robert Sinclair, the company’s US President, who foresaw a market for a reasonably priced topless car of  Scandinavian origin.  We found a 900 Turbo on the street the other day and admired the fact that its owner seemed to be oblivious to atmospheric conditions, leaving the back window open to, literally, soak up environmental elements like rain and leaves.

Now with rubber baby buggy bumpers

Now with rubber baby buggy bumpers

That’s our SAAB story for today.  The last image here is of one of the very final SAAB cars  —  a 2011 9-5 sedan — to have been sold in the United States, already an uncommon site after just the three years.

Future feral

Future feral

Tony Scott, the late film director was “discovered” by producer Jerry Bruckheimer on the basis of this SAAB commercial, pitting a car against a jet fighter. Top Gun, anybody?

f 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.

 
 

 

50 years of Mustang diversity celebrated

Orange you excited?

Orange you excited?

The media has been abuzz with news and notes on the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Ford’s Mustang.  We’re celebrating this milestone in our own way with some lesser lights that have galloped through the years.  Thanks to Feral Cars field scouts Rip Masters, Andrew Keeler and Matthew Reader for some of these examples of automotive horse flesh. The Mustang II which supplanted the original Mustang for the ’74 – ’78 model years has been called “the lost pony.”  Fielded by the Dearborn brain trust in the wake of the ’73 oil crisis, it was based on the much reviled Pinto.  Unlike its donor car, the Mustang II was ultimately available with a V8 which is kind of paradoxical since its original purpose was to be economical while fronting as sporty.  There’s an analogy to be made with NBC’s Tonight Show.  Typically, when there’s a review of hosts  — Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno  — leading up to Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien’s tenure is given short shrift; same goes for the Mustang II.  It’s part of history so just accept it.

Clydesdale style

Clydesdale style

The Mustang II was in reaction to “the fat years” Mustangs of ’71 – ’73. These cars were more than 800 pounds heavier than the original and bigger in just about every way except interior space.  On reflection of the original (’55 – ’57) Thunderbird having been transformed from lithe little roadster to four passenger luxury barge, this should have come as no surprise since Detroit’s collective wisdom back in those days usually equated to “bigger is better.”

Not so mellow yellow

Not so mellow yellow

Even first generation Mustangs could be desecrated such as this vinyl top-metal mudflap- chrome rim-full moon wheel cover wearing example: a lily gilded or, if you like,  a stallion gelded.

Rode hard and put up wet

Rode hard and put up wet

Except for the big deal wheels, this first year Mustang wears its age proudly. What’s a little surface rust when you’ve reached a milestone like this?

Show some respect for your elders!

Show some respect for your elders!

There are so many old Mustangs around that they don’t seem all that remarkable but the fact is this car launched the ‘pony car’ movement, begetting such followers as Camaro, Firebird, Barracuda, Challenger, Javelin, Cougar and Celica.

II and I

II and I

As seen above, Mustang is a ‘big tent’ kind of phenom with lots of room for different looks and sizes over the years.  Maybe this kind of inconsistency is the secret to the name having endured over the course of the last half-century.  Certainly, something worth celebrating.

Let’s set the Wayback Machine for 1964 when this teaser commercial ran in advance of Mustang’s launch 50 years ago.

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.

 

 

Film noir car in white

Phillip Marlowe marshmellow

Phillip Marlowesque marshmallow

Davin Seay, intrepid FeralCars Field Scout First Class happened upon this remarkable 1949 Packard Custom Eight in a driveway in his suburban bastion of Woodland Hills, CA the other day.  Like the saying goes, “You hardly see these anymore.”  Truth be told, you hardly saw them back then since only 15,000 Packards were built that year.

The emblem as seen at the top of the flouted grill was derived from the Packard family crest. The four flowers on the shield represent four Teutonic crosses above which is an armored knight topped by a cormorant, all of which is said to symbolize sacrifice and charity, two things not normally associated with luxury car owners.

Glory gone by the wayside

Glory gone by the wayside

Packard’s advertising slogan was “Ask the man who owns one,” so Davin spoke to this car’s owner but she’s just not a man but, rather, a woman who identified herself as Zoe.  She explained that she bought the car after having seen the film Gangster Squad.  Encountering a 64 year old Packard is unusual but finding someone who actually saw Gangster Squad is an equivalently rare occurrence. The film cost $60,000,000 to make and its domestic box office was $46,000,000 but it sure had some nice cars in it.

The bird is the word

The bird is the word

The huge hood ornament is a representation of the cormorant (water fowl) on the family crest.  Scary to think about the damage suffered if you had the misfortune to be gored by that winged chrome critter.  Ouch!

Shiftless

Shiftless; skull and crossbones optional at extra cost

This old boat was equipped with Ultramatic Drive, Packard’s answer to GM’s Hydra-Matic automatic transmission that had been offered by arch rival Cadillac. The two-speed automatic was first introduced in the ’49 model year so whoever bought this car back then would, in contemporary parlance, be considered an early adopter.  The designation could not, rightfully, be applied to the in-dash radio.  Packard offered radios starting in 1934 but we do like the stacked push buttons on this one: very streamline moderne!

No soap!

No soap!

The car presents a ponderous profile, a portrait bulbous delight and it was a heavyweight at approximately 4500 pounds, about the same as a current Ford Explorer but with approximately 100 times the class.

Big stuff

Big stuff

We found some photos of two of the Packards of this vintage seen in Gangster Squad.  It always helps to wear a hat to pull off that film noir tough guy look.

Box office be damned

Box office crime buster

The victim is down, the comorant is up

The stool pigeon is down, the cormorant is up

Got a spare $75 – 80K burning a hole in your pocket? There’s a breathtaking convertible version of this car for sale here so gather up those deposit bottles and pawn your jewels and you’ll be on your way to being asked what it’s like to own one.

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.