Monthly Archives: June 2015

Packard in the wild: “Ask the man who disowns one.”

Front end loaded

Front end, loaded

Dignity maintained

Dignity maintained

Packard typically occupies the same frontage in an old car thought balloon as Deusenberg and Pierce Arrow.  The truth is that for all the special custom-body, coach-built, “classic” Packard there were many more mass-produced lesser Packards.  In their day, these were driven by prosperous business people and bourgeois strivers rather than movie stars, gangsters and maharajahs.   “Ask the man who owns one” was Packard’s slogan and those Rotarians, Masons and country club members supposedly had the answer.

(Almost) the end of the line

(Almost) the end of the line

Sill, it’s not very common to see a Packard of any provenance in an ordinary street setting but a few are out there, their glory faded but not forgotten.  Packard’s ’58 model year was its last but the truth is the marque’s glory days ended on December 7, 1941 with the end of peace and civilian auto production halted until after V-J Day.  Packard was never particularly competitive against Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial in the post war era.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 2.58.09 PM

We were delighted with the images of a ’54 Clipper, Packard’s lower priced line,  captured by Feral Cars Field Scout Ben Edge in far away San Luis Obispo, California, Its rich patina can only happen in nature; it’s just not possible to replicate that kind of surface rust, oxidation and paint peel in a lab or even through CGI. This was the last year of Packard’s straight 8 cylinder motor which could be had in either 327 or 288  cubic inch versions in the “Clipper by Packard.”  Silky smooth and refined power was assured though the configuration was a rolling anachronism: all other top end domestics had already switched to V8 years before.  Our man in SLO reports that the car was found in the town’s historic district, around the corner from Clippers Barber Shop. Guess which NBA also-ran team he’s a fan of?

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams to go

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams gone to seed

Feral Cars Field Scout Matthew Reader gifted us with a singular shot of this quite perfect ’56 Packard Patrician that reminds us why these dreadnaughts are worth caring for.  It’s a car so stately that a very close copy, the GAZ Chaika, was used to ferry multiple generations of top level Soviet bureaucrats and party apparatchiks in the good old days. Is not ironic, then, Comrade,  that it takes model name from the Roman designation for aristocrat, member of the power ruling class power elite? Da! Is ironic!

Moscow mule

Moscow’s mule

The cars that Packard built after the war were exemplars of the bulbous school of automotive design, the vehicular embodiment of the look R. Crumb seems to most appreciate in terms of his feminine ideal.  This ’48 sedan is another patina machina of note.  We found it parked in a lower Hollywood neighborhood that, even in this age of gentrification, is still on the seedy side.

..and try any funny business, see?

..and don’t try any funny business, see?

It’s a ghostly remnant from the age of film noir when Hollywood was populated by hard boiled P.I.s who, invariably, took on cases presented to them by dames with gams up to here.  Just another long, throat-scorching pull from a flask full of Old Grand Dad, a fresh Lucky Strike and then it’s off in the Packard to see what her ex-husband has to say about the death of her latest boyfriend, “a fella from San Peedro, named Hubert Buckley.”  The wiseguys shooting craps on Selma Avenue called “Huckle Buck Chuck.” When he was still living…

Findadeath.com staff car

Official staff car of www.findadeath.com

We found this impressive ’48 Packard sedan with only 57,000 miles offered for under $13K in nearby Maple Lake, MN.  You’ll want to stash in your moll’s driveway until the heat’s off.

Is that Mike Wallace’s voice narrating this film that Packard asked its service people to watch and study back in ’52? Le’s hope there wasn’t a mid-term!

Ask the man who owns one.. if you can track him down.

Ask the man who owns one.. if you can track him down.

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.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Volvo 122S: Göteborg-built goer

Long runner

Long runner

Irrespective of condition, it’s always inspiring to encounter a Volvo 122S in the wild as happens quite regularly. Volvo had been selling cars in the US for a few years prior to the 1959 introduction of the 122S, badged Amazon in its Swedish homeland. The 122S was a more mainstream offering than the PV444/544, its humpbacked predecessor the design of which recalled a 7/8 scale ’47 Ford.

122S: you take care of it and it will take care of you

122S: take care of it and it’ll take care of you

Rust buster

Rust buster

Seems that Volvo continued to adhere to an implicit policy of offering styling appreciably behind the times as the 122S looks like a ’52 Ford to our eyes though we’ve been told its design was inspired by the Kaiser — the car, not the German with the pointed helmet.  The “pontoon” look notwithstanding, the 122S, like all Volvos made before the company’s acquisition by Ford  (who, in turn, sold it to current Chinese owner Geely),  was built for the long haul.  Our gallery offers real testimony to that undeniable fact.

Wagon for the ages (photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Peter "Petey" Andres)

Wagon for the ages. Photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Peter “Petey” Andrews

Byron Laurson, best-selling author and certified Feral Cars Friend, gifted up with this catch phrase that most certainly applies to these great cars that are the embodiment of vehicular sustainability.

To boldly go on when other cars no go no mo’. Volvo, the official vehicle of genteel poverty.

"That should buff right out"

“That should buff right out”

What makes these heroic Volvos, the very newest of which is now more than 45 years old, wear like iron? For one, they were made out of it.  Well, steel, actually, but not just any steel.  Car bodies were built of phosphate coated steel that made the paint stick better, ergo keeping rust out.  They were factory undercoated and not that fake-o goop that domestic car dealers used to foist on customers justifiably concerned that their new Plymouths, Pontiacs and Ramblers, fresh off the showroom floor, could soon turn to dust.  An anti-corrosive oil treatment was also part of the Volvo deal.

Unbreakable B18 keeps things rolling along

Unbreakable B18 keeps things rolling along with dual carbs

OK, so the bodies were built to last but the legendary B18 motor is — and there’s empirical proof of this —  the most durable in automotive history.  It’s the same motor that has propelled Irv Gordon’s P1800 over 3 million miles with only two rebuilds, one at 680,000 miles and another 1.32 million miles later.

High miler

High miler

Lastly, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that while one can pretty much count on the car surviving a long time the same is true of its driver and passengers.  Volvo was the first car maker to provide front seat belts as standard equipment and the first to equip its cars with three-point seat belts.

Surf's (literally) up, 122S style

Surf’s (literally) up, 122S style

You’re going to love this 122S commercial from 1962, the tag line of which is “You can drive a Volvo like you hate it. Cheaper than psychiatry.” This seems like pandering to a neurotic consumer base to us. Note that the car wears New Jersey tags. Volvo of America was established in Newark in the mid ’50s and later moved to Englewood Cliffs so we’re thinking that long before “Bridgegate” this was shot somewhere in Bergen County. . Why not buy a low mileage 122S for the fraction of the cost of a new car?  It’s sure to last another 30 or 40 years so this seems like a value proposition of the first order.  We found this swell ’67 with only 56,000 miles in nearby San Diego, CA for only $14,995.  It’s wearing those evocative original equipment Volvo mudflaps making it an even sweeter deal.

Certificate of authenticity

Factory fresh!

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.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Big bad Benzo

Two numbers and decimal point speak volumes

Two numbers and a decimal point speak volumes

It’s a given that older Mercedes have a good track record for longevity so it’s not all that unusual to encounter a superannuated Benz-o out there in the wild, especially a big S-class sedan.  We came across one the other day that stopped us dead in our tracks.  It’s a 300SEL from the late ’60s – early ’70s that wears a subtle 6.3 badge on its trunk lid.  It’s one of just 6,400 built over the 4 year model run fitted with the V8 that initially saw service in the 600, the Pullman Mercedes that was usually sold to heads of state or drug lords or some combination of the two.

Fastest elegance money can buy

Powerful elegance. Very powerful.

The philosophy behind this move is much the same as that which catalyzed the creation of  the far less lordly Pontiac GTO and Plymouth Roadrunner: take the biggest motor you can find and stuff it into a relatively lightweight body and, voila, you have a turn key hot rod. The comparison might seem far fetched but consider that 6.3 liters translates to 385 cubic inches and the GTO’s motor was a 389.  The 300SEL 6.3 weighed in at 3800 pounds, the GTO’s avoirdupois was virtually the same.  That advantageous power-to-weight ratio resulted in the 300SEL 6.3 being the fastest production sedan of its era.

Listing to port.

Listing to port.

We really love the counterintuitive thinking that made a dignified, stately sedan into a brilliant muscle car, especially the fact that, apart from the ‘6.3’ badge, there’s nothing that screams “I’m fast” about the car.  No racing stripes, no gratuitous scoops, vents or louvers, spoilers, just dead-on, no-prisoners-taken, semi-covert Mercedes menace.  And how about those body color wheel covers?  Mag wheels and fender flares have no place here; this is for adults, not children.

Amber alert!

Amber alert!

Even lesser big Benzes have significant presence so we’ve collected a gallery of some others of similar vintage that may not be as fast as the 300SEL 6.3 but do have grown-up appeal just the same.

Parked on a sunny good street

Parked on a sunny good street

We understand that maintaining a 300SEL 6.3 represents a significant commitment of resources but we think it’s a pretty good rolling investment since they don’t make cars like this any more. Here’s one in nearby Lake Geneva WI on offer for a shade under $33K.  Pretty nice car but we’d worry about how low it sits in the rear.  Might be a problem with the air suspension which isn’t something the guy at your local Jiffy Lube can fix.  This low mileage (118,000) example in nearby San Marcos CA costs quite a bit more but has a less disconcerting stance.

This MBZ promo video about the history of the S-Class includes a passage about the 300SEL 6.3 around the 6 minute mark; we find it curious that reference to the political upheaval of 1968 is incorporated into to the introduction of the subject.  If ever a car screamed “Ruling Class” it’s this 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.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

MGee whiz

B that way

B that way

We happened upon this very presentable MG-B the other day in our supermarket parking lot.  It’s a ’73, one of the last that had chrome bumpers; later ones had to wear federally-mandated energy-absorbing ugly rubber snouts.  It made us nostalgic for our first car, a ’68 MG-B, the model year was the first in which the B, introduced in 1962, came equipped with shoulder belts.  Ours was blue and had wire wheels and was pretty snazzy when we bombed around Europe that summer when revolution was in the air.

What a breeze to drive!

What a breeze to drive!

Yes, the appeal of an open sports car piloted by a craven youth, pumped up on Gauloise cigarettes and the camaraderie of  student uprisings was an intoxicating mix.  It was a dream come true for a kid barely out of his teens — actually still in his teens at the beginning of that summer — but something of an illusion because, truth be told, the car was not very good.

Sweet, sweet '67

Sweet, sweet ’67

We should have realized something was up when we went over to the London facility where left hand drive, US safety standards-compliant (shoulder belts, etc.), MGs were delivered to Americans who had pre-purchased them.  It was both exciting and frightening to contemplate finding one’s way around London in a brand new sports car that we’d be driving on the “wrong” side of the road.  But gratification was delayed for reasons never explained.  We arrived at the appointed time for delivery and waited. And waited. And waited.  After three hours, our new “B” was presented and off we went to who-knows-where in those wild and wooly pre-GPS times.

Nice rack! (sorry)

Nice rack! (sorry)

We were loathe to drive it much around London since it was impossible to park even back then.  The matter of driving on the “wrong” side with a left-hand drive car made things especially daunting but, soon, we made our way across the channel — pre-chunnel, this was via ferry — and got to open up the car on the Autoroute.  No speed limit back then so, hot damn!, driving 110 mph with the top down proved to be both an exhilarating and enlightening experience.  Our wind whipped ‘Jewfro’ stood up on end as we charged through central France on our way to the promised land, La Côte d’Azur.  On the way, at breakneck speed, we learned an important lesson: the faster one goes the more fuel (premium) is consumed.  The ‘B’ was fitted with two SU carburetors, the pre-diluvian BMC B-series 1,800 cc motor that dated from the mid-1950s. It  churned out 95 hp and mileage was supposed to be around 25 mpg. The problem is that at full throttle, fuel intake rises precipitously and the tank held under 12 gallons so we had to endure costly fill ups every 120 miles or so.

C'est "C" bon!

MT-B GT: it’s a hardtop with a sort of back seat. Photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Amy Treco

That was our fault, not the car’s.  Deeper into our trip through the continent, a red light came on the dash; the owner’s manual led us to believe this indicated unequal pressure in the brake lines.  Losing one’s stopping ability in the middle of the Apennines seemed a tad reckless even for those of us for whom speed limits seemed pointless. Off we went to a local Innocenti (BMC’s proxy in Italy) service facility where the mechanics appeared amused about our talk of la pressione non è uguale tra i freni anteriori e posteriori. Because UK and European market MGs didn’t actually have a brake pressure inequality warning light, this was alien territory to our Innocenti innocents whose company we enjoyed in beautiful Orvieto.

As close to a biplane as you can get while staying on the ground

As close to a biplane as you can get while staying on the ground

Ultimately, we gave up on ever having a brake pressure warning light to which any heed was paid and, indeed, life was the better for it.  After Italy it was on to (then) Yugoslavia/today’s Croatia.  Less than 100Km north of Dubrovnik we chugged to an involuntary stop on an incline as we attempted to wend our way to Czechoslovakia.  This was the first notable instance of electrical failure, a trait that would become a hallmark of this otherwise very nice blue MG-B.

Roadster with removable top

Roadster with removable top – best of both worlds

A truck driver, attracted, one tends to assume, to the allure of an on board glamorous companion, stopped to see how he could help.  He whiped out a pocket knife and did a whole wire stripping number on the spark plug wires and scraped the breaker points in the car’s ignition system.  The car roared to life and we were back on our way to adventures in the land of Dubček and socialists gone gooey, pre-Soviet invasion. Our MG-B with UK plates made everyone assume we were British — they were oblivious to the left hand drive and our Yank origins.  “Hey, English, want change money?” was a recurring inquiry.  It was embarrassing to explain that we weren’t English and that we didn’t want to change money because there’s not all that much to buy with it.  On a dark, moonless night in Prague we drove up a street looking to connect with groovy Czechs at some bar or club and soon realized that the street ceased to exist but the tram tracks continued.  Our MG-B was high and dry, hung up on the above ground  tracks while, of course, there was an active street car, with bell clanging insistently, stuck directly behind us.  Before long, a small crowd had gathered and were kind enough to pick the MG up, six or seven on a side, and carry it off the tracks onto a surface that connected to a passable street.  Again, not the car’s fault but certainly something notable from a geopolitical point of view.

Best of both worlds

Nice rack! (even sorrier )

About three days before Soviet forces deposed Dubček and installed a puppet government, we found ourselves in West Germany when the MG-B came to an all too familiar halt on the side of  a four lane highway.  It was a re-run of our Croatian experience on a certain level but the cause was an accelerator pedal cable that had snapped, the pedal flush to floor.  Soon, a US Army vehicle pulled up and a grinning kid jumped out.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He was a helicopter mechanic from a nearby base.  He fixed the collapsed accelerator pedal with some — yes! — bailing wire and we were back on our way.

Falling in love again..

Falling in love again..

The car survived the streets of Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Amsterdam and back to Paris from which it was dispatched to the New World and a rendezvous with its ever hopeful  owner. Back in New York, things were going well with the car except for the time when it was started and flames shot out from under the motor.  Luckily, the firemen were busy doing something more worthwhile than saving a flaming MG.  The conflagration diminished in short order and the car continued to charm and vex.

Rubber noses aren't funny

Rubber noses aren’t funny (Amy Treco photo)

We drove it out to California — Berkeley, natch — and made a side visit to Madison to pick up a new set of points, condenser, ignition coil and rotor though we admit that we didn’t go there in the MG.  It was stuck on the side of the road in the Wisconsin Dells, 50 or so miles away.  Our trip to Mad City was in the chase car we were fortunate to have accompany us out west.  It was a VW bus, slow as molasses but, taking into account MG breakdowns, it registered a higher coast to coast average speed that the car whose corporate motto was “Safety Fast.”  Glad we didn’t have to test the former and, as noted, the latter only pertained intermittently.

Survivor!

Survivor!

Later, after another cross country trek, It broke down in a snowstorm in the middle of the wilds of New Jersey, necessitating a knock — how cliché! — on the door of a farm house since cell phones were decades away.  We’re honest when we tell you that absolutely no shotguns were involved in that episode. Ultimately, an exhaust system that detached in the middle of New York’s Columbus Avenue and some touch and go overheating adventures manifested during bumper-to-bumper jaunts to Jones Beach actually began to help it sink in that this wasn’t really such a good car.

It seemed like a consummate act of disloyalty to abandon and/or sell the car that had failed you on numerous occasions over the course of its short history.  In the end, reason, of a sort, prevailed and the blue MG was traded in on for a blue 1970 BMW 2002.  While the ink was till drying on the 2002 purchase agreement the MG showed up back in the new vehicle area at the BMW dealer.  Seems the used car manager realized the car had its — how shall we say? — shortcomings.  Our salesman was instructed to raise the purchase price of the BMW to compensate for precipitous and instantaneous depreciation of the MG that we had traded.  I took this as a sign that it really was right to get that glorious MG out of our lives.  I held my ground and threatened to walk since the contract had been unilaterally broken by the dealer and I was certainly in the legal right. It was not my concern that they had bought a pig, albeit a good looking one, in a poke (which must be some kind of dark garage).  A deal is a deal and so it was; the MG-B was, kicking and screaming, out of our lives.

Not so hot mess

Not-so hot mess

That’s the story of a first car, an MG, that provided, as they now say, some wonderful “teaching moments.”  These include to not go 110 miles per hour down a French Autoroute and expect to maintain your hairdo or win the Mobilgas Economy Run.  It’s also not a great idea to try to translate the English language owner’s manual (U.S. edition) into Italian while your car is on a lift and the staff is having a lunch with wine break. We also advise against driving at a high rate of speed in an East Bloc country on a road that turns into a trolley line.  We also recommend having both an on board fire extinguisher and several spare sets of critical ignition parts for inevitable need.

They tried, then they just kind of gave up

They tried, then they just kind of gave up

We also learned that when an MG-B, when it works, can be the source of great fun and excitement and lots of stories on which you’ll look back and wonder what the heck you were thinking.  OK, we remember: you were thinking “I must have a British sports car as soon as possible!”  That dream did come true and we survived it. We’re somewhat the wiser for the experience but probably not all that much.

We’re wildly nostalgic to see this ’67 MG-B that’s for sale in nearby Vero Beach, FL. You can get one for less than half the $12,900 asking price but it probably won’t be anywhere close to as nice.  If you’ve got a spare 18 minutes you might want to watch this mini-documentary about the rise and fall of the MG-B.  Get out the Kleenex.

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.