Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Standard of the World (sometimes)

Caddy affords older fellas a chance to do some Harry Stylin'

Swell Caddy affords post-teen dudes a chance to do some Harry Stylin’

Apart from a car show or museum display it’s not often that one encounters a pristine 1960 Cadillac Series 62 convertible, as we did the other day.   Loaded with four madcap guys (one of whom was actually wearing a mad cap), it was about to depart when we nailed down these shots.  To their credit, the driver and passengers offered to get out of their topless land whale for our impromptu photo session but we thought the cause was better served with all four fun and sun seekers aboard.  In this instance size not only matters but is most noteworthy:  the car weighs over 5,000 lbs and measures 225 inches from bumper to bumper. Yes, it’s two and a half tons of fun and almost nineteen feet of over-the-top mid century American excess and we love it.

Partying like it 1960

Partying like it 1960

The  fins on ’60 Cadillac were less pronounced and sleeker than those on its legendary ’59 rolling jukebox predecessor.  The Eisenhower years were drawing to a close and fins were out of place during the time of the New Frontier and a new sense of sleekness became the order of the day. We covered another ’60 Cadillac, a six-window sedan, in an earlier post.  Sure, it could use a little “work” — can’t we all? —  but it still has gobs of presence!

Six windows and counting

Six windows and counting

Peter Andrews, Feral Cars Field Scout extraordinaire, found this ’76 Eldorado convertible that dates from the model year Cadillac claimed it was building “the last convertible.”  It made up for its lack of fins with an elongated hood that was more akin to the prow of a Navy destroyer.  We’re still not sure we can get our heads around a Caddy convertible without fender skirts but, as Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac,  the French explorer who founded Detroit in 1701, might have said, “chacun à son goût.”

Big, bigger, biggest

“Last” but not least

American front

American front

We go from the sublime and larger-than-life to the commonplace and hum drum.  It’s a (sort of) Cadillac.. a Catera, one of Cadillac’s numerous attempts at marketing a small car with a Cadillac crest (actually Antoine de la Mothe’s coat-of-arm) affixed.  It was actually a re-badged Opel Omega made not in Detroit but rather in Rüsselsheim. These were sold for a few years, starting in the mid ’90s,  to compete with Mercedes Benz and BMW.  Hey, they were made in Germany but that’s where the comparison, sadly, ends.

It doesn't look or smell like a Cadillac so it it really?

If it doesn’t look or smell like a Cadillac so is it really a Cadillac?

This does give us an excuse to link to the TV commercial in which supermodel Cindy Crawford, decked out like a dominatrix,  launched “the Caddy that zigs” campaign though no actual explanation was ever provided about what that was supposed to mean.  The spot debuted on the Super Bowl and was shortly withdrawn thereafter “because of concerns that the ad might offend women.”  Was it that wolf whistle on the soundtrack?  The boots?  The black leather mini dress?

Says here it's a Cadillac but it is?

Says here it is…

We found this pink Mary Kay Cadillac of fairly recent vintage that should, by all rights, offend men and anybody else with a semblance of taste. It’s a patriotic-themed horror show and we only wish that Mary Kay (the company — not the actual Mary Kay who died, bouffant ‘do still in place, in 2001) would switch to some foreign brand.  We’re thinking  a pink Hyundai Equus — their spelling, not ours — should be used as the incentive to give distributors who sell over a $100,000 worth of their face paint per year.  We have our national dignity to maintain!

Think pink (and red, white and blue)

Think pink (and red, white and blue)

Seriously, we think highly of Cadillac, the slogan for which was “The Standard of the World.” This downsized ’83 Eldorado Biarritz doesn’t really seem to true to that credo, thanks to dulled paint and a vinyl roof that is “bleeding” rust.

Eldo with "issues"

Substandard of the World

Eldo-rot-o

Eldo-rot-o

We don’t like to “pile on” but couldn’t resist providing this portrait of abject decay: an ’84 Eldorado convertible with some needs.  See?  They lied when they said the ’76 was going to be the last Caddy ragtop but, based on this tawdry example, maybe they should have really called it quits in that bicentennial year.

Trash-o Eldo

Trash-o Eldo

Illin' grill

Emergency automotive orthodontics, STAT!

Let’s bring our Cadillac celebration to a conclusion on an upbeat note.  It’s an Allanté, a two seater roadster that Cadillac introduced in 1986 to compete with the Mercedes Benz SL.

Italo-American

Italo-American

The design was by  Carozzeria Pininfarina and they actually manufactured the bodies  in Turin and shipped them back to Detroit, 56 at a time, on specially fitted Alitalia and Lufthansa Boeing 747s. Back in the USA these fetching Italian bodies were mated with chassis and power trains.  The Allanté Air Bridge lasted a few years after which production, sexy Italian-designed body and domestic mechanical soul, went totally domestic.

No dropa the car!

Ciao bella!

This one is a ’93, the last year of production and the only one in which the car was equipped with Cadillac’s vaunted North Star System, a marketing handle for a 4.6 liter dual overhead cam V8, rated at 295 hp.  In typical GM fashion, they got it “right” just as they decided to walk away from the ideal. A total of 21,430 units were built over the course of eight model years.

Information overload

Badges of honor or information overload?

Check out this utopian Allanté Air Bridge video.  See?  We can all get along!

Lastly, if ever a car could be thought of as aspirational it’s a Cadillac convertible such as the spiffy ’60 model that started this post.  You can avail yourself of that same Cadillac lifestyle for a measly $49,900 — that’s less than $50,000! — by buying this nice white one on offer in nearby Frankfort, IL.  It’s your duty to uphold The Standard of the World.

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.

 

Stolid Swede

Gothenburg-built brick

Torslanda-built brick

We were thoroughly taken by a buttercup yellow Volvo 142 the other day.  This is the big box that proved Volvo wasn’t mired in the look of the ’40s as suggested by the pre-war Ford-styled humpbacked PV544, or, for that matter, the look of the  the ’50s, as seen in the ’52 Ford-replica 122S.

Yellow peril

Yellow peril

The 140’s look came from Jan Wilsgaard, Volvo’s in-house chief designer whose motto was “simple is beautiful.” No argument. This one is a ’73 that would be supplanted by the refreshed 240 for the ’75 model year.  Mudflaps on all four wheels?  Check! Shaped like a brick? Check! This is a real Volvo with stand-up styling, rear wheel drive and a resolute attitude.  European luxury without the luxury!

Crowning number

Crowning number

This close-up of the far from flashy ‘142’ badge speaks volumes.  An American car of this era would have four-inch-high script on its flanks, a spoiler on the trunk lid and, possibly, opera lamps on the c-pillars.  It’s no wonder that these often doubled for Soviet sedans in any number of low-budget Cold War spy thrillers.

Square biz

Square biz

Despite the dowdy stance, the 142 (and four-door 144 and station wagon 145) was quite modern for its era. Bosch fuel injection was introduced in ’71 and Volvo built on its reputation for safety with three-point shoulder belts, front and rear.

Wheel deal

Wheel deal

Basic yet refined transportation was the caused served by the 140 series.  It was the most contemporary Volvo of the company’s first 40 years and far less derivative of American styling than its predecessors.  Thought to be bland in its day, its straightforwardness makes it a stand out in this day of flowing, organic and look-alike car design.

Snow White's coffin.  Really?

Snow White’s coffin. Really?

We couldn’t resist including a photo of an apparently leaky P1800ES which shares most of its mechanical components with the 140.  It’s swoopy look made Volvo showrooms of the time to be studies in contrast. It is, however, a kind of station wagon so there’s that Volvo practicality once again.

The 122S was the predecessor of the 140.  It had an inviting roundness to it and presented perhaps as pleasingly plump but certainly not on an Anita Ekberg scale.

Swedish curves

Swedish curves

Volvo’s reputation for safety was well-deserved but the company may have, ahem, “burnished” it somewhat with this commercial depicting a literal stack of 140s, the bottommost of which resists being crushed under the cumulative weight of six cars.

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.

What’s the word? THUNDERBIRD!

 

Mid Century X Wing Fighter

Mid-century X-34 Landspeeder

Star Wars fans: is this the reincarnation of the X-34 Landspeeder or what?  OK, maybe this wasn’t the inspiration for George Lucas’s take on how ground transportation looked during the glory days of the Rebel Alliance but a ’64 Thunderbird convertible equipped with a back seat cover nacelle and wire wheels was, in its time, sci-fi you could drive.   The idea to re-convert the T-bird into the two-seater it had been when launched in 1955 was carried out on ’62 and ’63 Thunderbird Sports Roadster.  The option was not all that popular, no huge surprise in the wake of Thunderbird sales having rocketed skyward after the original two-seater was replaced in the big, four-place “Square Bird” in ’58. It featured a distinctive formal angular roof line which became a Thunderbird hallmark until the “jelly bean” shaped generation that came along in 1983.

Guanobird

Guano ‘bird

The intergalactic glory of that ’64 is in sharp contrast to this sorrowful ’80 ‘bird that does little to disguise its very pedestrian Ford Fairlane underpinnings. “Real” Thunderbird people didn’t accept it as such despite all manner of zooty advertising and gratuitous badging.

Don't believe everything you read

Don’t believe everything you read

"The heartbreak of psoriasis.."

“The heartbreak of psoriasis..”

The C-pillars were ultra-thick, in the absence of any rear side windows, on this ’66 coupe, captured by Feral Cars Field Scout Rip Masters.  It’s comforting to recall that fender skirts made a comeback at that time

Colonialist

Colonialist

We encountered a flaming version of the same car.  Classy, no?

Cue: "Back in Black"

Big Red One

Real T-bird elegance and grandeur is reflected in this sweet ’67 Thunderbird Landau Coupe.  The vinyl roof and decorative “S” bar adorning the C-pillar gave notice that the sporty pretense of the original ‘birds had truly flown the coop.

Swank tank

Swank tank

These things have presence with a capital “P” and were also offered with four doors, the rear two of which opened out, “suicide” stye.  Check out this one that was captured in the wilds of the Highland Park barrio in Dallas by Feral Cars Field Scout John McCollough.  Please note what else is sharing a driveway with this rare non-vinyl topped four door, reputed to have been owned by alarmist radio newsman Red Alert. A Pucci-esque mod-style 1968 commercial heralds the new choices in Thunderbird body styles, though it neglects to mention that  a convertible was no longer one of them.

Suicide watch

Suicide watch

The “S” bar connotes old world elegance and serves to break up the blank mass of the thick pillar aft of the back windows just as the “porthole” cutouts had in the ’56 and ’57 hardtops.

"Exclusive"

“Exclusive”

Freak beak

Freak beak

You really can’t get much more formal than this ’68 Landau “triple black” four-door sedan.  Its massive front grill and covered headlights conjure up the look of the top end of an electric razor to some but don’t try shaving with one of these babies.

Fordoor

Fordoor

Spacial profiling

Spacial profiling

Read it and beep

Read it and beep

One of the most iconic eras of the big ‘birds ran from ’61 – 63; these “bullet ‘birds,” so designated because of the shape of their pointed front fenders, were extremely popular during the Kennedy era.  Talk about a time of hope: you could buy your very own ground-to-ground air missile from your neighborhood Ford dealer!

Cue: "Back In Black"

Cue: “Back In Black”

Dirty 'bird

Dirty ‘bird

We captured a massive ’70 Thunderbird “sport-back” rumbling through town.  Some have criticized its neo-Pontiac styling but we thinks it’s an awesome sight, especially “in flight.”

Gone 'bird

Gone ‘bird

Not quite as impressive is this ovoid mid-’90s Thunderbird LX equipped with a rear spoiler that does could double as a handrail for vertigo sufferers.  Meh.

Bland 'bird

Bland ‘bird

We close our paean to a car that seemed to be dealing with a succession of identity crises with another look a that ’64 that dropped in from Star Wars and the one that started the whole ‘bird craze:  a very rough, but original, ’55 shot by Feral Cars Scout Andy Schwartz in bucolic Tannersville, NY.

Low down 'bird

Low down ‘bird

The original is still the greatest

“The original is still the greatest…”

And that dear readers is proof that “the ‘bird is the word.”

Someone had to have the last 'bird

Someone had to have the last ‘bird

This ’64 Thunderbird convertible is for sale and we think it’s a great despite the fact that its back seat is visible.  We think it’s just the thing to transport the wisest man in the universe and a “humanoid protocol droid” which we like to think of as a nattering robot.  Set to the tune of Weird Al’s “Too White and Nerdy” is this video clip of a home-built X-34 Landspeeder replica.

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.

 

 

 

 

AMC: hey, they tried

The X stands for xtinct

The X stands for Xtinct

American Motors was formed in 1954 when Nash merged with Hudson.  The two domestic indies saw the handwriting on the wall as the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) became increasingly dominant.  Studebaker, likewise, threw its lot in with Packard.  Things didn’t work out so well in the latter case but the Hudson and Nash merger resulted in a relatively strong contender whose compact Rambler challenged the Big Three — especially in the early ’60s, when Rambler was the #3 best selling U.S. nameplate, exceeded only by Chevrolet and Ford.

The Sawzall approach to sports car design

The Sawzall approach to sports car design

AMC walked away from the Rambler brand in 1970, but the move to badge their passenger cars as AMC was already underway by then.  They fielded Javelin, a Mustang/Camaro “pony car” competitor in ’68 as well as AMX, a smaller 2-seater that was in some way a Corvette alternative. The one you see here was discovered by Feral Cars Field Scout Lynda Keeler.  We’re not crazy about the fact that the bumpers have been painted body color, but otherwise it’s mostly untouched.  This one is powered by a 390 cubic inch V8. Potent stuff.

American Audi /  Dairlyand Subaru

American Audi / Dairlyand Subaru

As the years dragged on, AMC found itself in a somewhat desperate situation with not enough capital to develop new products to compete with the Big Three, let alone the onslaught of Japanese and European imports.  AMC acquired Jeep from Kaiser, which had earlier inherited it from Willys.  Jeep was a valued asset, and was one of the compelling reasons why France’s Renault bought into AMC in the late ’70s, and ultimately owned a controlling interest.  One of the unique products produced under the French regime was the Eagle, more or less a “lifted” AMC Hornet equipped with four-wheel drive borrowed from the Jeep division.  It wasn’t a massive sales success but development costs were minimal so it actually generated a profit.  The other day we found this ’82 wagon — they were offered as sedans and coupes, too — and its chatty driver informed us that she was only the second owner and seemed to be quite proud of having beaten the hell out of it over the course of the past 25 years.

AMC: re-purposing leader

AMC: re-purposing leader

Eagle was, in fact, the last car to carry the AMC brand during the time Renault built its ill-fated Alliance at AMC’s Kenosha, WI factory.  There’s an analogy to be made here to those Japanese soldiers on remote islands who didn’t surrender until the war had been over for decades.

Not just some

Count ’em: all 4!

Bowed but unbroken

Bowed but unbroken

Feral Cars Field Scout Andrew Keeler (it’s a family thing) encountered another Eagle wagon. This one is painted a sandy hue that AMC called Jamaica Beige.  We think it looks like it could have been a great staff car during the Desert Storm “war to begin all wars” but was out of production by the time of that conflict.

Desert camo?

Desert camo?

AMC was far ahead of the curve with the Eagle concept.  Four-wheel drive vehicles had usually been truck-based or passenger cars modified by aftermarket outfits. Here, then, was a factory built four wheeler that wasn’t “trucky.”  Like Subaru and Audi,  Eagle was in the vanguard of the idea that a four-wheel drive car might have some appeal, especially to those who drive in snow belt states.

Audi A3, anybody?

Audi A3, anybody?

After the demise of the Rambler American, Hornet became AMC’s bread-and-butter car. This chalky ’74 was one of the company’s standard bearers, along with the lamented Gremlin and Pacer during the dark days of the OPEC embargo. We kind of dig its formal look, especially the thick “sail panel” aft of the rear doors.

Profile in courage

Profile in courage

Just for the heck of it, we offer some AMC predecessors here. This ’54 Nash, built the year the Hudson merger was consummated, was styled by the legendary Pinin Farina and wears a saucy continental kit that adds even more bulk to its already generously proportioned body.

Freshman classy

Freshman classy

We like the mossy patina on this ’51 Nash Ambassador, the voluptuousness of which is truly breathtaking.

Tub 'o' Nash

Tub ‘o’ Nash

It wouldn’t be an AMC story without reference to the Metropolitan.  It was built in England by Austin and  marketed as either the Nash Metropolitan or Hudson Metropolitan beginning in 1954.  After those brands ceased to exist in 1957 it became a free-standing marque sold by Rambler dealers.  Yeah, we think it’s pretty cute, too.

Smarter car

Smarter car

These colors don't run

These colors don’t run

Check out this introductory Eagle commercial.  It has us convinced that four is better than two. Hey is that driver a young Jeff Daniels? Sure looks like he could be.  Like that hot AMX?  You can buy one now but get to it quickly.  Collectors have discovered them and prices are on the way up,  which leads us to conclude that AMC is still about value.

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.