Monthly Archives: November 2014

Giving thanks for rock solid Plymouth

Mayflower, madame?

The Mayflower came over on a Plymouth

An underappreciated marque for which we give thanks  today is Plymouth.  Of course, we love Barracudas, Valiants, Horizons and even Reliant Ks but we’re talking about the senior and intermediate Plymouth. It was Chrysler’s main contender in the low price field that was long dominated by Ford and Chevy. On this day we give thanks for Plymouth’s top tier, rock solid, standard bearers.

Fins were in

Fins stayed in; “charmin'” rear deck lid

By 1960 fins were on their way out; it was the year that, for the first time, Cadillac’s went lower instead of higher.  The downward move by Cadillac was a true bellwether but Plymouth gave it one last towering hurrah with this ’60 Fury convertible complete with “sport deck,” a fake spare tire imprinted on the trunk lid which some suggested resembled a toilet seat.  This black on black example was snapped on-the-run by Feral Cars Field Scout Amy Treco . This was the first year of unit body construction for Plymouth, the selling point of this commercial that uses a cover version of Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” to get the message across.

Rip van Plymouth

Satellite of love

Things simmered down by the end of the decade and the look was not anywhere as outrageous as it had been a few years earlier.  This ’68 Satellite was a mid-size entrant that did battle with Chevy’s Chevelle, Ford’s Fairlane, AMC’s Rebel and corporate cousin Coronet from Dodge. We found this plain Jane Satellite sedan in Palo Alto, California where it’s obviously been well cared for.  We like the fact that it’s neither a glitzy hardtop nor convertible but a real blue collar Plymouth, reflective of the brand’s working class roots.

The ghost of Plymouths past

Scary Satellite

The Palo Alto Plymouth’s less-well-cared-for doppelganger was spotted in Nashville and we like its tough guy persona. Who needs hubcaps anyway?

Better red than dead

Better red than dead

Feral Cars Field Scout Alex “Love Tap” Vickers shot this stunner from a moving car; it’s  a ’69 GTX convertible in screaming red with black rocker panels and white top and interior.  We’re  sure the Puritans didn’t have something like this in mind when they chowed down at that first giblet fest so long ago. This thing looks more devilish than a Salem coven. Va-va-voom!

The Forward Look redux

The Forward Look redux

Jumping around from era to era, tossing aside concerns for chronology, we note that Plymouth always seemed quite different than its Ford and Chevy competitors.  This Briar Rose and Eggshell White ’56 Belvedere carries the mark of designer Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” on its sweeping rear fenders; no low price GM or FoMoCo product of the time was more jet age-inspired  than this.  Thanks to Feral Cars Scout Candice Miller Crossley for this view that offers lots in the way of hindsight.

Senior visor

Senior visor

We now set the ‘way back machine for 1951 and a chance to view this paradoxically pimped-out Cranbrook sedan, laden with after-market accessories. These include dual tear drop spotlights, amber fog lights mounted on the front bumper, a full sun visor and period-appropriate wide whitewalls. This generation preceded the introduction of a V8 option which both Plymouth and Chevy finally offered in 1955.  Our feature car  is powered by a 217 cubic inch flat head six that developed an adequate 97 horsepower.  Obviously, Plymouth’s muscle car day had not dawned.

Fury unleashed

Fury unleashed

After fins had run their course, Plymouth went off on an “out there” tangent with this ’62 Sport Fury.  It was oddly futuristic looking and had been downsized from the previously year though to contemporary eyes it still looks quite huge. The car was a sales disappointment and Exner took the fall for it and was  shown the door.  Just the same, and for reasons we can’t fully explain, it’s among our all-time favorite Plymouths.  The styling that some found off-putting we think is totally swingin’.  There’s another red ’62 Sport Fury that’s for sale here  it’s damn expensive –$45K — and it’s not even a convertible.  Who’s unloved now, huh?

Trim is in

Trim is in

Plymouth would regain its conservative footing in later years as evidenced by this non-confrontational, straight-as-an-arrow ’65 Belvedere II.  It’s quirk-free look was a sales winner, as you might expect.

The living end

The living end

This ’66 hardtop, which could be a Belvedere or Satellite — it’s just too dark and too fast to make a positive i.d. — has a sinister presence that is, perhaps, frightening to the faint of heart.  It’s really at odds with the bourgeois bent of that upstanding sedan on which its based, no?

Night flight

Night flight

Just as Elvis Presley rose to fame and Dwight Eisenhower embarked on his second Presidential campaign, the “Forward Look” made itself very evident with this ’56 Belvedere. That zig-zaggy white lower body inset was a somewhat anomalous touch on a staid sedan but the fins seem to justify this kind of flamboyance.

Elvis has entered the building

Elvis has entered the building

We have to point out that we come from a MoPar family where dad drove a Chrysler and mom a Plymouth.  Here’s Brother Eddie screwing around with a fire extinguisher between our ’53 New Yorker hardtop and mom’s completely bare bones (no radio!) ’51 Cambridge two-door sedan.

MoPar fire department

MoPar fire department

Just 90 miles south of Florida we found another ’51 Cambridge, this one serving as a Havana taxi cab.  Who knows when the cormorant hood ornament, the contrasting fender skirts and rear fender- mounted stop lights were added but that’s beside the point. This car is testimony to endurance and utility.  We think that’s reason enough to give thanks.

¡Cuba sí  ¡Plymouth sí!

¡Cuba sí ¡Plymouth sí!

Saluting a truism

Saluting a truism

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.

 

Big ol’ Olds

Ninety-eight and counting

Ninety-eight and counting

When it registered just how huge this ’72 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight LS (Luxury Series) is when we happened upon it the other day it was kind of shocking.  The thing measures 19 feet from bumper to bumper, weighs 4,431lbs and its tank holds 25 gallons of (premium) gasoline.  The pistons on that massive V8 displaced 7.5 liters and fuel consumption was, on a good day, in the 14 – 15 mpg range though miles per gallon was a term never used in Olds advertising or promotional literature because nobody really cared.  Soon came the OPEC oil embargo and a very rude awakening.

Size mattered

Size mattered

Still, we love its over the top excess.  Fender skirts?  Check! Vinyl-clad roof?  Check!  Insanely long hood? Check!  Rear deck big enough to land a small helicopter? Check! Vestigial tail fins? Check!

Something finny this way comes

Something finny this way comes

Yes, it’s actually been suggested that this generation Olds Ninety Eight sported the very last tail fins appended to any American car. This was a mere thirteen years after the ’59 Cadillac marked the apogee of the upswept hind quarters school of design.  Insert obligatory Kardashian reference here.

Trunk junk

Trunk junk

Olds’ top of the line model lumbered on until 1996 and, as we know, the Oldsmobile brand was deep-sixed by General Motors when the very last new Olds (oxymoron, anyone?) was built in 2004.  It made us sad in light of the fact that, until that moment, Oldsmobile was the longest lived domestic nameplate. Founder Ransom E. Olds had started his namesake company way back in 1897.

Lotsa Something

Lotsa Something

Public Enemy, the much lauded hip-hop practitioners, celebrated the best of the Oldsmobile range with their 1987 rap rocker “You’re Gonna Get Yours.” The lyrics include the following verses which enumerated  the vehicle’s many attributes most emphatically:

“My 98 is tough to chase
If you’re on my tail – better watch your face
Smoke is comin’ when I burn
Rubber when my wheels turn
A tinted window – so super bad
Lookin’ like the car the Green Hornet had
It’s the reason I’m ahead of the pack
It’s the reason I left them back
It’s the reason all the people say
My 98-O blows ’em all away”

How Swede it is!

How Swede it is!

Swedish pop-rock group Melony chose a big, bold “triple black” Ninety-Eight to adorn their 1996 album release Satisfaction on the Minty Fresh label and the inner sleeve is festooned with images of the full line of Oldsmobile’s offerings for 1971.  It’s a mystery why the band’s Peter Kvint, Mana Eriksson and Gunnar Norden chose this graphic approach but we’re glad they did. The album makes no specific aural Oldsmobile references but does include a track entitled “My Corona.”  For a compact alternative, give it a listen.

Wagon mastered

Wagon mastered

We’re pretty sure Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the others in the PE crew did not have this Ninety Eight-based family values laden ’76 Custom Cruiser station wagon in mind when they recorded “You’re Gonna Get Yours.”  Just the same, we’re pretty lyrical about its massive presence.

Custom

It’s fin-damental!

What a delight it is to have found a commercial for Gulf’s low lead gas starring Dick Van Patten and a 1972 Olds Ninety Eight.  Nixon was in the White House and all was well.. until it wasn’t.

OK, that’s enough traipsing down memory lane.  Why not bring a gigantic ’72 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight into your life like this one in nearby Manhattan, KS?  Purchase price is a measly $7500 but, of course, you’ll have to fill it up every now and then.

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.

K-car saves Mopar

Orange you glad they paid back the loans?

Orange you glad they paid back the loans?

Chrysler’s recent emergence from bankruptcy to become a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brings to mind an earlier time when the company’s continued existence was in doubt.  Thirty-five years ago Congress debated a measure that would reassure lenders who were hesitant about extending credit to keep Chrysler’s sinking ship afloat.   At the urging of President Carter,  the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act was passed — over the objections of General Motors Chairman Thomas Murphy who called the measure “a basic challenge to the philosophy of America.” Speaking of “basic challenges to the philosophy of America,” the Chevette was introduced during Chairman Murphy’s tenure at GM. 

Playing all the angles

Playing all the angles

But we digress.  Over at Chrysler, once Public Law 86-185 was enacted resources were poured into marketing the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, the legendary K-cars, so named for the company’s internal code for the front wheel drive platform shared by both.  We can’t get over this 1980 commercial for the Aries in which no less a light than the real Chairman, a certain Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra declares, “America’s not gonna be pushed around any more!” Give ’em hell, Frankie!

Pentastar star car

Pentastar car

The cars were well made, comparatively reliable (Reliant — get it?) but were, essentially, dull as dishwater.  Styling was straightforward in a way that recalls a child’s typical depiction of a car as one box atop another — with windows and doors.  Nonetheless, the K-car twins were smash hits, giving Chrysler Chairman Lee Iococca, the company’s onscreen pitchman (“If  you can find a better car, buy it!”), a tremendous public profile that obliterated thoughts about the role he had played in the Pinto disaster back when he ran Ford.  The loans that the government had guaranteed were paid off ahead of schedule and, as a result, the U.S. Treasury got a $350 million bonus, though it was probably all frittered away in the Iran-Contra deal.

MoPar goes topless!

MoPar goes topless!

Chrysler, cleverly, used the K-car platform as a kind of automotive Hamburger Helper, creating new products from the same basic components.  The Chrysler brand launched its tarted up LeBaron derivative which became the basis for the first new American convertible since the demise of Cadillac’s much vaunted “last” one back in 1976.  Dodge gave the Aries an upscale treatment (and a convertible) and, inexplicably, named the result “400.”

Dodge drop top

400 of what?

Sign of the olden times

Sign of the (olden) times

Chairman Lee seemed to be enamored of fake wood and, in short order, launched the LeBaron Town & Country station wagon and convertible, both festooned with gobs of grainy goodness. An early LeBaron convertible, slathered with bogus timber, is for sale for under $7,000 here in nearby Woodland Hills, CA.  One of these went for almost twice that much at a recent auction so we’re thinking this could be the buy of the century, if not the millennium.

The answer to the deforestation crisis

The answer to the deforestation crisis

The platform was stretched, like so much pizza dough, for longer models including Chrysler’s New Yorker and the Dodge 600, though, again the Dodge’s model number seems to be a reference to nothing in particular. The K-platform underpinned the wildly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans and even the seldom seen (or purchased) Imperial, Chrysler’s line topper that had come back from vehicular purgatory for a short run beginning in 1990.

Up with U.S. Imperialism!

Up with U.S. Imperialism!

My how you've grown

Imperial cruiser

That Imperial looks like two or three cars were grafted together to make one strange, billowy barge. Profit margins on these rococo K cars were higher than bare bones Aries and Reliants so they found clever ways to squeeze some additional dollars out of a dumbstruck nation.

Behold: the top of the K line

Behold: the top of the K line

The K-car marched into the next decade under a variety of names.  This Plymouth Sundance gives some indication of the abuse these stout machines could take.

Undercover K

Undercover K

That’s not just a festering dent on the right rear of this ’87 LeBaron; it’s a mark of character.

Le K

Le K

We really like the profile of this ’89 Dodge Shadow as seen on the mean streets of lower Manhattan.  A tip of the hat to Feral Cars Field Scout and self-proclaimed “car guy” Jim Bessman for this stunner!

Still life

Still life

Oh K!

Oh K!

Dig this archetypal Chrysler commercial with Chairman Lee closing the deal.  “Buy it!”

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.

Jeep transcends its parentage

Chrome dome

Chrome dome

When the Jeep Wagoneer was introduced in 1963 the words “luxury” and “SUV” had not yet been commonly juxtaposed.  In fact, nobody called vehicles with off road capabilities SUVs.  They were, for the most part, just called “Jeeps.” Seven years after Wagoneer’s debut Land Rover introduced its Range Rover and it was just a matter of a few decades before everybody — Porsche, Cadillac, Mercedes, etc. — got into the act.  SUVs wearing Bentley, Maserati and even Rolls Royce badges are in the offing but let’s revisit “ground zero.”   Here’s a super clean Wagoneer Limited that’s one of the very last produced. That parking ticket doesn’t sully its thoroughbred look but rather imparts a sense of horsey hauteur.  That’s a tiny red, white and blue American Motors corporate logo on the grill.

Top of the line

Top of the rectilinear line

www.wagoneerworld.com

The Wagoneer, styled by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, was launched when Jeep was part of Kaiser Industries.  Jeep, in fact, was the only surviving automotive division of Kaiser, the company which had the foresight to have gobbled up Willys, the company that had introduced the civilian Jeep (CJ) almost directly after VJ Day.  The Wagoneer was meant to replace Willys’ Jeep Station Wagon (catchy model name, eh?) which soldiered on for another two years. Wagoneer continued in production until 1991 though the brand and its assets changed hands many more times.  AMC bought out Kaiser, Renault bought AMC, Chrysler bought Jeep and, thereafter, Daimler (Mercedes Benz) acquired Chrysler. Daimler unloaded Chrysler which then went bankrupt and has  now reemerged as a unit of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).  This means that the vehicular icon of America’s efforts in World War II was, at one time or another, under French, German and Italian control, though FCA is, technically, based in the Netherlands.  Go figure.

It's got a case of the Willys

It’s got a case of the Willys

The Jeep Station Wagon, seen here in a shot contributed by Feral Cars Field Scout Andrew Keeler, was the first all-steel station wagon though the the car had vestigial hints of timber in its embossed body panels, much in the style of Tudor tract houses.

Wood is good

Wood is good

This AMC-era Briarwood was a variant of the Jeep Cherokee which had actually been designed and initially produced under Renault’s aegis, continuing through the Chrysler and DaimlerChrysler reigns.  The Wagoneer was its “big brother” until replaced by the Grand Cherokee in 1992.

Live/work

Live/work

Wagoneer shared much with a two door variation, confusingly named Cherokee but unrelated to the later one, and was the donor vehicle for the Gladiator pick-up, the production of which continued for 26 years. We found a very early one bearing a camper on its bed one foggy day. Looks like somebody’s into “roughing it” on wheels.

Identity crisis Jeepster

Identity crisis Jeepster

We also encountered two latter day Jeep products and this seems as good an opportunity as any to share.  That contraption, in ‘Renegade Plum’ paint and wearing a most un-Jeep like nose, is a ’72 Jeepster Commando.  These were introduced back in ’66 to compete with the likes of International’s Scout and Ford’s (pre-OJ) Bronco.

Going Commando

Going Commando

We much prefer the look of this earlier Jeepster Commando which is more true to its military heritage. This black beauty, vintage ’68, is a contractor’s everyday work truck: not much luxury but lots of utility.  Its steering wheel center (below) gives some indication of a labor intensive life.

Dirt at work

Dirt at work

We close with a shot of a much less pampered Wagoneer than our opener.  It’s only a few years older but far less pristine. It still has a lots of rugged presence, accentuated by a standup hood ornament we find silly but marketers apparently felt it denoted luxury, as if the fake wood siding weren’t enough.

Grand illusion

Paint your Wagoneer

Upright citizien

Upright citizen

One last look at that quite perfect  and very snazzy Wagoneer Limited. Note: AMC/Jeep badge on the left.

Back atcha

Back atcha

As you would expect, there are experts out there who cater to those who fetishize these brilliantly enduring machines.  The top dog in the field is Kerrville, Texas-based Leon Miller a/k/a “The Wagonmaster.” He buys, restores and sells Wagoneers and has lots of virtually perfect ones on offer if you have the itch.  Check out www.wagonmaster.com to view the current inventory, priced between $45,000 – $58,000.  Certainly not cheap but, as noted, they don’t make them anymore.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  Leon has some competition some 300 miles away in Richardson, TX, the home of www.wagoneerworld.com.

If time travel is your thing, go back to 1966 and watch this Wagoneer TV spot filmed “down the shore” in Avalon, NJ.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red gets to choose her Halloween ride to Grandma’s

Not your grandmother's Oldsmobile

Not your grandmother’s Oldsmobile

Feral Cars friend and fan Amy got in touch with her inner Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.  Before setting out for Grandma’s she had to choose between a slick ’64 Oldsmobile Starfire and and sensible ’74 Dodge Dart Custom.  The Olds was fielded at the time of the “personal luxury” explosion, an analog to Pontiac’s Grand Prix, though it was far less popular with just over 15,000 sold that year.

Dodge that Big Bad Wolf!

Dodge that Big Bad Wolf!

The Dart  was long in the tooth by the ’74 model year as it was, for the most part, an update on a car that had been introduced eleven years earlier.  Energy absorbing bumpers were fitted to comply with new federal safety standards but locomotion was provided by Chrysler’s fabled “Slant Six” motor that kept going, zombie style, long after it could have been declared dead.

Room for a whole pack of wolves

Room for a whole pack of wolves

Ultimately, “Red” chose the Olds in light of its 345 hp motor that helped her race away from the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf.  Then again, that “means business” look on her face has us convinced that she clobbered ol’ Wolfie and stuffed him in the Starfire’s very commodious trunk.

Speaking of scary stuff, check out this commercial for the ’64 Starfire in which the car is used to tow an intrepid hang glider.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  Equally scary is the asking price for this ’67 Dart GTS convertible.  Yes, it’s just one of five made and has just 37 miles (!!) on the odometer but $109,900 still seems frightening to us.

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.