Monthly Archives: July 2015

Billy G’s French post-cars from Spain

Aronde, Aronde, he gets Aronde..

Aronde, Aronde, he gets Aronde..

We were delighted to receive an incoming message from Spain where ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons was spending a few weeks on break from touring, recording and being ultra-famous.  Well, he’s still ultra-famous but he did get some time off from the other stuff.  A dyed-in-the wool fan of FeralCars.com — he hosted our “DRIVEN” art ‘n’ cars event in Palm Springs last year — BFG sent us a snap shot of a SIMCA Aronde found parked at a curb in mid-Madrid.  We’ve determined it’s a ’61 or ’62.  The marque’s emblem is a swallow as can be seen in the steering wheel center.  “Aronde” is a corruption of hirondelle which means swallow — the bird, not the gulping kind.

Swallow. Hard.

Swallow. Hard.

Billy’s field notes:

“On any usual day while cruising the streets in Madrid, the sidewalk spotting may be a bit on the skimpy side when anticipating an encounter with anything classic or custom.  However, sometimes luck may be on one’s side when an unexpected runner of the road is seen sitting quietly curbside awaiting an admiring glance from any pedestrian or passerby. He continued, “In this case, this tantalizing visual treat tiptoed around a bustling and busy avenue to seek solace from an unusually oppressive Spanish summer heatwave to sit out the sangria-like sanguine sizzle with a sigh of relief. And so it sat, awaiting a smile as we strolled by.  See ya’ again soon, SIMCA…!  Now back to Cali to call out for a custom…!”

Back on the streets again

Back on the streets again

SIMCA was, for a time, marketed in the United States as the firm had been acquired by Chrysler which paired its “captive import” with select Chrysler,Plymouth, Dodge and DeSoto (!) dealers.  While some have suggested that the brand derived its name from a relatively obscure Jewish holiday, we’re here to tell you that SIMCA is actually an acronym for Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile. So that’s your French lesson for the day.

Horsing around España

Horsing around España

Well, not really as Billy also sent a shot of  a Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux = two horses) careening down a Spanish street. Our best guess is that this is a mid-1980s Dolly model, meaning it had special paint and a cushier interior than the base car. ¡Ay, caramba! meets Ooh La La!

The Pope's is white, of course.

The Pope’s is white, of course.

While we’re on the subject of French cars in Spain we thought we’d share this shot of a Renault 4L, called quatrelle in the land of its manufacturer, that we found in a picturesque alley in the Catalan town of Girona.  It’s the same type of low-end Renault that Pope Francis was given a few years back as, one supposes, a commentary on meek inheritance.  We think it’s pretty cool that the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people drives a 30 year old car with almost 190,000 miles on the odometer.  How’s that for humble?

Goddess-like

Goddess-like

We close with two more Citroëns found on this continent.  That otherworldly DS 21 wasn’t photographed in East L.A., it rides low thanks to its self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension.  DS is, of course, a play on words, it’s pronounced déesse which is French for goddess.  Please don’t tell the Pope.

The other is a 2CV we came upon in real world service, picking up a traveler at Sacramento International Airport. Apparently Its equine propulsion rating has been augmented with canine enthusiasm.

Not one, but deux cheveaux

Not one, but deux cheveux

Here’s our intrepid Madrid correspondent with his very own California Custom, a ’58 Thunderbird he calls Mexican Blackbird.  Feral it ain’t but funky it is!

¡Qué Rico Es!

¡Qué Rico Es!

We actually found this ’63 SIMCA Aronde for sale in nearby Long Beach CA but there’s no indication of the price.  We wouldn’t pay a penny over $25K for it but, then again, it’s a low mileage (48,000) cream puff. Have a look at this video an owner shot of his ’61 SIMCA Aronde at a French supermarket parking lot, real nouvelle vague masterpiece.

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.

 

Chevette: cheapstakes survivor

 

Yes, there is a cheaper way to get around

Yes, there is at least one cheaper way to get around

GM built the Chevette from 1976 through 1987.  In terms of sales, it was one of the most successful, albeit rudimentary, cars ever offered for sale in the United States.  It was the corporation’s entry level hatchback,  a front engine, rear wheel drive low tech showcase that found millions of buyers around the world in numerous badge-engineered incarnations marketed as a models of Opel, Vauxhall, Isuzu, Pontiac as well as Chevrolet.  Almost three million units were sold in the U.S. over that eleven year model run but the percentage that have survived seems to be miniscule.

Muscle machine

Muscle machine

Cheapness was Chevette’s calling card.  You could buy a new one for under $3,000; used cars were its main competition and, as a result, Chevette was thought of as something quasi-disposable in its day.  We can’t remember the last time we saw one on a city street so the sight of a first or second year (there’s no discernible difference) example in very presentable shape stopped us in our tracks.  The car is simplicity itself and powered by a 1.4 four cylinder motor that developed just 53 horsepower in base form. But Chevette wasn’t about 0 – 60 times (for the record: a glacial 19.6 seconds), it was about, well, being cheap and that it certainly was.  It had rear drum breaks and the headliner was made of cardboard but really who cared?

Hatch? Natch?

Hatch? Natch?

We’ll tell you who cared: a woman of our acquaintance who graduated from high school in the late ’70s.  Her parents told her to go outside and see what was in the driveway and there it was: a new Chevette with a bow on it,  a  graduation gift.  She burst into tears; her parents thought they were the joyful kind but we know otherwise.  The car, even in its day, was anything but aspirational.

Shining Starlet

Shining Starlet

Chevette was GM’s answer to two problems:  addressing the shortcomings of its predecessor, Vega and to staunch the tide of Japanese imports.  Vega had a well deserved horrific reputation. They were prone to self-immolation when the aluminum and iron in its ill-conceived motor  expanded and contracted at different rates, making engine cooling to an oft-times theoretical matter.  Speaking of metal, Vega’s body, especially in proximity to road salt,  was prone to rust within just a few months of purchase.  Chevette was more corrosion resistant and its cast iron motor swelled and shrank at a uniform rate.

Starlet bright, Starlet light...

Starlet bright, Starlet light…

As far as the Japanese imports were concerned, Toyota and Datsun, before it transformed into Nissan, had been major players in the automotive “cheapstakes” for many years.  Their products vanquished Volkswagen, the previous low price leader, and with good reason.  They were economical to buy, to operate and they weren’t all that crappy.  Sightings of vintage Japanese entry level cars are, therefore, a somewhat less uncommon sight than surviving Chevettes.

Datsun 'nuff!

Datsun ’nuff!

We were pretty thrilled to happen upon a Toyota Starlet, probably an ’82, the other day that beat Chevette at its own game.  It, too, was rear wheel drive and powered by a small (1.3 liter) four but seemed to have been put together with more attention to detail.  Starlet was only sold in the U.S. market for three model years and, as a result has something of a cult following.

OK, B-210, see if we care!

OK, B-210, see if we care!

We found a pristine Datsun B-210, probably a ’78, the other day and were taken with its strange proportions.  It seems like a tiny blimp on little wheels but who are we to throw esthetic stones?  It got 50 mpg and this one is in great shape so let’s call it a real value proposition.

We're not lying, it's really an Isuzu

We’re not lying, it’s really an Isuzu

Lastly, we found a late ’80s Isuzu I-Mark, a woeful little hatchback that had previously shared much DNA with Chevette. Despite appearances, this one was a more modern car with front wheel drive and was sold with different badging as the Chevrolet Spectrum and, later, as the Geo Spectrum.  A rose by any other name, eh? Isuzu was GM’s Japanese chattel brand for a time and turned tail and fled the U.S. car market by 2006.  There’s not much remaining evidence of the brand’s presence in the market save those Joe Isuzu commercials you can find on Youtube.

Blue- ish

Blue- ish

Just as this post was going to bed we happened on another Chevette so maybe they’re more durable than we thought.  This was a later (’84?) four door model that fairly defines the phrase “basic transportation.”

Maybe it's not such a dog..

Maybe it’s not such a dog..

We looked far and wide for Chevettes for sale but drew a blank.  We did find a great commercial for Chevette from an Elmhurst, IL dealership.  The “Shee-cah-go” accents are worth clicking to hear.  You can get this pretty swell ’81 Toyota Starlet in nearby El Paso, IL for a mere $2400.  It has under 78,000 miles on it so there’s lots of life left in this little number!

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.

 

 

 

Hooray FORD the red, white and blue!

Clue: blue

Feelin’ blue

This being the 4th of July we threw down the gauntlet to ourselves. Our aim was to find red, white and blue examples of the same basic car in celebration of our nation’s founding.  Our constraint was that it had to be a domestic brand and a major model therefrom.

Better than dead

Better than dead

Our algorithmic search yielded two separate but very much related Ford lines: Falcon and Mustang.  The fact is there would never have been a Mustang if Falcon hadn’t existed to donate its platform to the original pony car, introduced 51 years ago.  Falcon, an austere compact, had been on the market for four years prior to Mustang’s glamor play.

White but not uptight

White but not uptight

All of the examples we conjured up were found in ordinary circumstances, at the curb  in  supermarket parking lots. In short, these fine products of the Ford Motor Company underscore the indomitable American spirit.  It’s a wonderful country where a basic working class car can be transformed into an iconic, très cherchez, vehicle with sporting pretense   Mustang’s humble Falcon underpinnings were expertly obscured by the trappings of upward mobility.  Ain’t that America?

Falcon forever

Falcon forever

The blue Mustang is a ’68 and was a car Vietnam-bound conscripts dreamed of coming home to. The red convertible is a ’65, powered by a 289 cubic inch V8. It’s equipped with OEM fake wire wheels that didn’t really fool anybody but were, in some way, a gauche paen to old money. That’s a ’65 coupe in white and it’s wearing standard wheel covers that were more honest in their appeal.  Badging indicates it’s also powered by a 289 V8 though it could be had with the same humble inline six that was standard Falcon issue.

White flight

White flight

Our red (and white) Falcon is a ’63 Futura, the top-of-the- line bucket seat model that features a Thunderbird-inspired squared off roof.  The white convertible, is also a ’63 Futura.  The fact that the more costly trim package was so popular speaks to the fact that Americans are always looking to better their relative circumstance, even in ways that are, essentially, void of real content or quantifiable value. The blue ’61 “Tudor” (that’s Fordspeak for a two door coupe) is stunning in its mid-century simplicity and note that the roof line is more natural and flowing then that seen on the Futura so favored by arrivistes.

Blue bird

Blue bird

Feral Cars has something in common with Mustang and that’s not because we like to horse around.  We, too, began because of the existence of the Falcon.  Years ago, we noted more old Falcons in service than just about any car of equivalent vintage and coined the term “feral Falcon.”  The concept evolved to include other older cars found in the wild which brings us to this ongoing effort to chronicle these time machines as we have lo these many years.

Profile in courage

Profile in courage

Ford cleverly associated Falcon with Charles Schultz’ beloved Peanuts characters in a series of TV spots that killed us with cuteness.  Watch this one and you’ll soon be chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

OG 'stang

OG ‘stang

You will swell with pride when you watch this mini documentary about a ’64 1/2 Mustang that was the very first Mustang ever purchased (for $3400) in the USA. It’s still in the hands of Gail Wise, its original owner whose Chicago accent is also a treasure.

Wounded pony

Wounded pony

Because so many were built and survived it’s not difficult to buy a Falcon these days. We love the back story about this ’61″Fordor,” originally awarded as prize on TV’s “This Is Your Life.” It’s offered at only $4995 in nearby Aruendel, ME.  Why not make it a part of your life?

Simplicity patterned

Simplicity patterned

Let’s go back to a 1961 episode of “This Is Your Life” in which former heavyweight champion Joe Louis is profiled and his tax problems are actually noted.  Reality TV at its inception!

No looking back

No looking back

Like its Falcon donor, there’s no dearth of early Mustangs to choose from if you’re of a mind to add one to your stable.  We kind of love this very basic (6 cylinder, three speed manual transmission) ’64 1/2 convertible for sale in nearby Freeport, ME.  At only $16,900 you’d have to be insane not to 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.

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.