Monthly Archives: May 2015

Remembering Americans in service

"My country 'tis of thee..."

“My country ’tis of thee…”

We’ve been dealing with the term “un-American” since the era of Tail Gunner Joe and the Hollywood 10.  This Memorial Day, when he honor those who served we wonder if something can be “too American.”   Case in point is this second generation 1962 Rambler American 400 convertible, finished in Fireglow Red Metallic.  We’ve long been partial to these rolling tributes to AMC’s ability to stay competitive in the face of minimal resources at hand and multiple market disadvantages.

as best can determine

aired full decade

Hold over from the final episode of "Leave It To Beaver"

Hold over from the final episode of “Leave It To Beaver”

It’s an adaptation of a car, only minimally updated, that was produced in 1954-’55. Lazarus-like, it rose from the dead and was brought back in 1958, re-badged from Nash Rambler to Rambler American. It was the initial salvo in the battle for domestic compact car supremacy that saw the introduction of Studebaker’s wildly successful Lark in ’59 with The Big 3 joining the fray in 1960 with Corvair (Chevy), Falcon (Ford) and Valiant (Plymouth).

New Frontiersman

New Frontiersman

The red, far-from-dead American is pretty swell — and we do have a weakness for convertibles — but, c’mon, what’s with the anachronistic and inappropriate lily gilding?  Yes, the Kennedy/Johnson sticker is terrific but  why would an “authentic” ’62 have a sticker from an election that was resolved two years before the car rolled off the line in Kenosha?

All for Dick

Dick digger

“Democrat for Nixon”?  This self-loathing description, perhaps drawn from the proverbial bag of dirty tricks, could relate to the elections of 1960, 1968 and 1972,  campaigns when turncoat Democrats could, theoretically have embraced Dick on one level or another. As noted about the Kennedy/Johnson sticker, it couldn’t have been applied before the car was built; that leaves ’68 and ’72 in the consideration set. Maybe, but we find that far-fetched, and the same goes for that “Morro Castle, Havana Cuba” sticker on the passenger side rear window.  Huh? The trade embargo with Cuba was in full effect by the time of the car’s manufacture so it couldn’t have been imported to Cuba and, flotation issues notwithstanding,  there’s no way its owners drove it 90 miles across the the Florida Strait  in the wake of 1961’s Bay of Pigs invasion so no way José. On the contrary, we’re for keepin’ it real, Fidel.

 Cuba Sí! Yanqui No?

Cuba sí! Yanqui not so much

OK, enough carping about inauthenticity. The owner has a sense of the dramatic and seems to have given himself poetic license and begs us to suspend disbelief.  We’ll play along and suggest you check out some other Rambler Americans of this ilk that don’t seem to be trying quite as hard but are still quite convincing to Feral Cars people who appreciate a more laissez-faire approach to onsite car curation.

The Reanimated

The Reanimated

We mentioned the earlier incarnation of the Rambler American that was the revivification of a basic body and platform that had gone out of production three years earlier.  We dig this ’59 wagon that comes off like a 5/6th version of Chevy’s Nomad. Thanks to Feral Cars Field Scout Peter Andrews for the shot.

American = manifest destiny

American = manifest destiny

Back to the ’61 – ’63 “square biz” Americans.  Here’s a very basic two-door coupe barreling along the Freeway, impressively rocking like it’s 1961.  We found another two door, curbside.  Boxy lady!

Pride of Kenosha

Pride of Kenosha

Thrill on a hill

Thrill on a hill

Let’s depart for a moment to check out the ’64 third, and last, generation Rambler American four door sedan that was captured on the streets of Palm Springs.  Feral Cars Field Scout Bill Ruttan found it and took pains to document the very innovative parking break alternative that has been juxtaposed to the leading edge of the left rear tire.  Can’t be too careful on a hill, right?

Great gilding!

Great gilding!

We ran an earlier Rambler American post and included this one.   It’s a convertible of the same vintage as our opener but with a “hey look me over” white accent that contrasts tastefully with the Sonata Blue body — no bumper stickers necessary.

Socialismo or muerte!

Socialismo o muerte!

That “Morro Castle/Havana, Cuba” sticker reminded us of a senior Rambler, a ’58 or ’59, as best can determine, that we happened upon in Havana.    The HERO61 license plate, we’re educated guessing, relates to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that slammed the door shut on the possibility for reconciliation with Cuba until just a few weeks ago.

This means it’s not as difficult to travel to Cuba these days and when you do get there you may wish to take a Classic Car Tour of Havana.  Click here to book in advance of the inevitable Starbucks and slot machine invasion.

We found this pretty swell ’61 Rambler American convertible in nearby Redlands, CA.  It’s not cheap but can you really put a price on patriotism? Check out this commercial, titled “The Young American,” that aired full decade before David Bowie’s song of the same title made its debut. Jamaica’s Max Romeo collaborated with Lee “Scratch” Perry on “Norman,” a reggae classic about a degenerate gambler who drove a Rambler.  Hey, it rhymes!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.08.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.06.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.05.50 PM

Che bella macchina!

Multo sportivo

Molto sportivo

It’s just a matter of time before  Fiat is going to start selling a new sports car here and they’ll badge it 124 Spider.  Like the Fiat 500 before it, the 124 Spider takes its name from one of the big successes in Fiat history and its greatest, ahem, triumph in the U.S. market.  Fiat’s original 124 Spider was built from 1966 to – 1979 and essentially the same car was sold as 2000 Spider from 1979 to 1982.  Thereafter, through the 1985 model year it was re-branded Pininfarina Spider Azzura though it was Fiat in every other way.

Bosco means "woods" in Italian

Bosco means “woods” in Italian

The forthcoming 124 Spider will be the first car to be sold by Fiat in the U.S. since the marque’s relaunch through Chrysler that is not a “500.” The latter day expanded Cinquecento  line now includes the 500L, 500e, 500X, 500 Abarth, 500 Cabrio and and we’re not even going to reference that oh-so-tasteful Gucci edition.

Tom Traajera for Pininfarina

Tom Traarda for Pininfarina

The new 124 Spider will be built in Hiroshima by Mazda, not in Turin by Pininfarina as was the case earlier for its earlier namesake.  The fact is that the next generation Mazda MX5, which we’ll always going to call “Miata” no matter what they tell us, is a car that will share quite a bit with the new 124 Spider.  The Mazda alliance was initially going to yield a clone Miata to be sold as an Alfa Romeo but Fiat Chrysler has moved Alfa into a more rarefied segment so the new roadster becomes a Fiat and will, in truth use a Fiat motor, not a Mazda mill.

Who bit the canole?

Who bit the canole?

The original 124 Spider had Pininfarina’s haunchy, hiked-up-in-the-hind-quarters, look that was also an element of the earlier Alfa Romeo Giulietta  as well numerous Farina designs for Ferrari. Modern day examples are not all that difficult to find as there are numerous survivors in regular service around the country. “Fix it again Tony” jokes notwithstanding,  these were very popular over here:  of the 200,000 original Spiders produced over car’s production run 150,00 were sold in the U.S.  That was a big slice of the sports car market pizza for Fiat when MG, Triumph, Sunbeam and Datsun were all vying for some extra cheese with their respective offerings.

Big bumpered beauty

Big bumpered beauty

We especially like the wonderful yellow one that’s gone topless in Palm Springs.  It’s an early, pre-federal bumper mandate example that has a proper, almost British sports car like, wood veneer dash.

Venetian Spider

Venetian Spider

The black one with the gash in the trunk lid was spotted in Memphis by Feral Cars Field Scout Emma Less.  Even with the oversize bumpers, it has a certain rough appeal like Anthony Quinn in La Strada.

Nice rack!

Nice rack!

The beige one was parked on the mean streets of Venice.  No aftermarket flotation device was necessary as we’re talking about Venice, California not that other Venice that’s been trying to copy it since who knows when.  Farina’s badge reflects not only the firm’s design,  credited to Tom Traarda, the American who was also responsible for DeTomaso’s Pantera, but also that Pininfarina was the actual manufacturer, building Spiders on behalf of client Fiat and, later, on its own.

Farina is good for you

Farina is good for you — unless you’re gluten intolerant

"Solo benzina senza piombo"

“Solo benzina senza piombo”

In its time, Fiat’s 124 Spider was something of a value proposition.  You got a serious fun, high revving, twin cam-powered roadster from the land of exotic cars, designed and coach built by a revered carrozzeria, a five-speed transmission for a very competitive price. MSRP was under $4000 for the first seven years of the model run.  Fiat would do well to offer the new 124 Spider at a fair price to build the kind of momentum enjoyed by its earlier namesake which, need we remind, was actually built in Italy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.06.45 PM

 

We found a very nice ’81 Spider with only 71,000 miles in nearby Sherwood, WI for under $9,000. The car’s equipped with a roll bar so you’ll be completely safe. What’sa matta you not buyin’ this?

We like this great 124 Spider commercial from the car’s inception that emphasizes such features as the horn and lighter.   Hey, no disrespect!

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.

 

Life imitates Dart

Whitey bulbous

Whitey bulbous

Remember when hipsters were called slackers? It was back in the early ’90s and those groovy layabouts, stavting artist, no-visible-means-of-support, Big Lebowski types tended to drive first generation domestic compact cars, usually Ford Falcons, Plymouth Valiants or Dodge Darts.  Over the years, the Chrysler-built compacts earned a reputation for enduring reliability thanks, in no small measure, to the legendarily unbreakable “Slant Six” motor that propelled most of them.  Even those equipped with MoPar’s small block V8 seemed preternaturally durable.

Dodge 'em

Dodge ’em

Dart and Valiant, “A body” cars in MoParlance, were mechanical twins but Dodge’s compact had added flair.  Dart styling was just a bit more accomplished, reflective of the look of its larger corporate siblings. Darts was far less generic looking than the efficient appliances that followed in later years.  Compact Darts were built from 1962 through 1976 and are warmly remembered. So much so that Fiat, Chrysler’s current corporate overlord, saw fit to revive the name in 2013 and applied it to the current entry level Dodge.

We canvas the world to find these beauties

We canvas the world to find these beauties

Our gallery includes a well preserved but unrestored ’65 Dart GT in white.  The GT model was Dodge’s top of the line Dart offering with bucket seats and three mock “ventiports” slapped on the lower front fenders.  We’re thinking that a refugee from Buick moved over to Dodge around that time and brought along this idea.

Rag and roll

Rag and roll

Of the same vintage is this nice convertible that does a pretty good job of mimicking the hardtop’s roof line in fabric.  That huge plastic back window really let’s the sunshine in, no?

White flight

White flight

We found another convertible, this one a GT, stashed away in an underground garage. It’s a ’69 and underscores how Dart wears its big car looks so convincingly.

Gold standard

Gold standard

What about this just about perfect ’73 Dart Custom four door sedan that’s somebody’s daily driver?   Showroom fresh after 43 years!

Almost the end of the line

Almost the end of the line

We would be remiss if we didn’t make mention of the Dart’s swinger model designation introduced in — yes! — ’69.  It was a refresh of the basic 2 door body style and energized sales to no end.  (Here’s where the key party joke goes.)

Yikes! Stripes!

Swing-a-ding-ding!

There are still quite a few Darts in service these days though despite the fact that hipsters have moved on to bike sharing, smart phone-summoned livery services, not to mention artisanal pogo sticks.  Hey man, the Dart abides.

What goes around..

What goes around..

We found this very presentable ’64 convertible for sale in nearby Freeport, ME.  It’s priced at under $11K and it’s the last model year with push button gear selection.  What are you waiting for??

Check out this commercial for the ’64 Dart, “the new kind of compact in the large economy size.”

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.