A hot weekend visit to Tucson, gem of the Sonoran Desert, yielded a diverse array of feral finds, kissed (well, maybe “baked” is more like it) by the sun. Cars that don’t have to endure humidity and snow, not not to mention body corroding road salt, last longer and we found some excellent and rare examples parked all over that spread-out ‘burg in southern Arizona.
A yellow SAAB Sonett III was truly an exciting “get” during our desert sojourn. It’s powered by a German-built Ford V4 that seems to be trying to pop out of the hood. The federally mandated protruding bumpers peg this one to be a late run ’73 or ’74 and just one of 8,368 made over a four year model run. Haven’t seen one of these in the “wild” for quite a spell — maybe 40 years.
Less uncommon but still most noteworthy is this VW Thing, the civilian iteration of the World War II Wehrmacht Kübelwagen adaptation of the Beetle platform. The Thing was introduced more than 22 years after the “unpleasantness” concluded in 1945. Those ribs in the body work are not for pleasure but, rather, to provide a modicum of structural rigidity. Despite the off-road look, Things were not four wheel drive vehicles so being stuck in soft sand and/or mud is a distinct possibility if you insist on straying from the pavement. On the road or off, the look is as funky as you could possibly want it to be. While safety regulations put an end to US sales in 1975, VW of Mexico continued to build these, under the model name Safari, until 1980.
Both more mainstream and more sun baked is this ’64 Ford Thunderbird. The paint seems past the point of rubbing it out to restore the shine but we think it looks menacing in a Breaking Bad sort of way. We leave it to your imagination to guess what might be stored in the trunk, aside from the missing wheel covers. Scary!
We were glad to happen upon this ecumenical tableau in an open car port. Housed together were an upright sedan for formal occasions and a smart pick up for work, from GM and Ford, respectively. The sedan is, of course, a 1989 Oldsmobile 98 Regency, a conservative conveyance, swathed in velour that is a reflection of the era when George Herbert Walker Bush lived in the White House, declared a war on drugs and the Exxon Valdez hemorraged 12 or so million barrels of crude oil that had just been extracted from Prudhoe Bay onto the shores — and far beyond — of Prince William Sound. Ah, what a glorious time it was! The truck is a ’66 Fairlane Ranchero, a melding of Ford’s mid-size car of the time and a pick-up, long a favorite of pool service guys over the ensuing fifty years.
We like the juxtaposition of this 1968 Pontiac Bonneville and late model Honda Civic. Both were common family sedans in their respective time and dramatically underscore how the definition evolved over the decades. That big ol’ “Pon-ton” tips the scales at more than 4100 pounds and measures just shy of 19 feet in length; the Honda is 14+ feet long and weighs under 3,000 pounds. Not sure what the point of this exercise is except to state the obvious: times sure have changed. The motors? The Honda is powered by a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder unit driving the front wheels; the Bonneville is powered by a 6.5 liter V8 powering the rear wheels. Apart from the fact that they’re both painted blue, there’s very little else in common.
Remember that ’66 Ranchero that is bunking with the Olds 98? By the late ’70s, it had evolved into this strange thing that’s finished a tasteful shade of Halloween orange with matte black accents. If the hood isn’t as long as the pickup bed, it’s damn close. This “only in America” beast is powered by Ford’s “Boss 302” V8. We know this because we can read.
Lastly, we encountered a very pristine Mazda RX7 rotary-powered sports car parked on a busy street. This one is an early ’80s example wearing — how to put this? — a see-through bra. Yes, the RX7 of this era had pop-up headlights which necessitates the bra being roll up-able. Sexy? Not really. Ridiculous? You be the judge.
We sincerely enjoyed the time spent in Tucson where the saguaro grow tall and the cars just seem to last forever. It’s kind of a low humidity paradise in some way.
We found a really sharp 1974 SAAB Sonett for sale in nearby Tallahassee, Florida for a mere $12000 here. It’s orange, too, like a certain Ranchero we recently encountered.
We thought you might like to check out this Olds 98 commercial from ’88. It’s lack of any real content is stunning but it does take a moment to disparage the imports that ultimately seals Oldsmobile’s fate. Well done, Olds!
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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.