Tag Archives: wood sided station wagons

Catching up with Great Autos of Yesteryear’s Casual Concours

We’ve made a point out of not covering car shows or auctions.. cars in that circumstance are curated and not feral as we choose to define the term. Our focus is veteran cars of note found alive in the wild.  Nonetheless, we felt a tip of the Feral Cars kufi, fedora, boater, derby, skid lid, etc. was in order for Great Autos of Yesteryear’s tenth annual Palm Springs Casual Concours.  Great cars, fun people and for a very worthy cause (Sanctuary Palm Springs providing teens in foster care an environment of health and kindness) so we figured it would be OK to break format and display some of the “goods.”

Palm Springs has long been a haven for old cars and their owners. The traffic, for Southern California, is bearable and the weather – except in the oppressively hot summer – is tepid, conducive to round-the-clock top-down motoring. The Desert Princess Resort there was where Great Autos of Yesteryear, the largest LBGT car club on the west coast and with that acronym there’s nothing not “out” about this group of enthusiasts.  Casual Concours is the unofficial start of the Palm Springs “season” that runs through May; it took place back in October so apologies for not posting this earlier. Dubbed “the desert’s most fabulous midcentury car show,” Casual Concours is, in fact and indisputably, fabulous. It’s a truly brilliant showcase for the owners and their cars, running the gamut from full boat luxury to quirky JDM curios. We had a chance to peruse the cars, schmooze with their owners and, as the Flintstones theme intones, “have a gay old time” while celebrating automotive diversity.

Some of the highlights..

“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it..
No one wants to be defeated..”

Scott King and Sandy Edelstein’s 1991 Honda Beat won in the Best Foreign Open category. It’s a Japan domestic market Kei-class (under 650 cc) mid-engine roadster that bears the slogan “MIDSHIP AMUSEMENT” on its rear flanks. Isn’t that what happens when an aircraft carrier docks in Yokohama? One can’t really grasp how tiny it is in a photo but suffice it to note that it weights just 1,675 lbs.

Orange you glad to see this?

Accessories (and we don’t mean the J.C. Whitney kind or a string of pearls) are always in evidence at the Casual Concours: the owner of this ’73 Volvo P1800 found a set of period Samsonite luggage matching the color of his shooting brake from Gothenburg. The Porsche 356A sports a hat box mounted on a luggage rack over the boxer motor. Hatbox, boxer: get it?

Air cooled hat box

There’s a Rolls-only class at the Concours and, wouldn’t you just know it, the Best of Show was one of those selfsame Rollers. It’s Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori’s 1965 Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe by Mulliner Park Ward. It’s just one of 101 built of which 52 were left hand drive. The presence this car has is astounding, even in a field of astounding cars. David Hemmings drove one to all kinds of rich hippie psychedelic mischief in the film Blow Up, some RR-oriented highlights of which are here.

Dennis Duca and Dean Peck’s ’75 “Hang Ten” Dodge Dart (don’t you dare call it a Duster) took top honors in the 1970 – 1979 Closed Car category. Yes, the shorty surfboard came with the Hang Ten trim option. No one is quite sure how many were sold over just two model years but it’s a safe bet most were wiped out by the crusher.

It’s not clear what the story is behind the bloody “Jerry Mahoney” ventriloquist dummy resting in the back seat of a 1957 Ford DelRio, FoMoCo’s too little/too late response to Chevy’s Nomad. Actually, we don’t really want to know that story but can assure you that the jaunty green and white two-door wagon is otherwise non-creepy.

Brick, the little dog who put the “boss” in Boston Terrier, seemed enamored of this fantastic 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire done up for a mid-century camping trip. The fact that the rear portion of the roof slides forward so one can transport a refrigerator upright seems not to have affected its eligibility as it went on win in the 1960-1964 closed category.

Doggone clever idea from South Bend

Here’s a clip of a commercial highlighting the Wagonaire from the Studebaker-sponsored Mr. Ed TV series.  Yes, Studebaker spent the first part of the 20th century trying to disassociate itself from the equine realms in light of its history as American’s preeminent builder of horse-drawn vehicles. Towards the end of its corporate existence, Studebaker made it possible for a horse to come into your living room. Go figure.

Wood is good! There is always a fair representation of wood-sided (real and otherwise) station wagons at Casual Concours and the winner in the 1980 – 1995 category — open to any car built during those peak malaise years — was, in fact, a woody. It’s a 1980 Chrysler Le Baron Town & Country with glorious fake wire wheels and tufted upholstery that would be the envy of Little Miss Muffett.

Timber!!

The plate on this 1952 Packard 400 Patrician reads SDNFEAR, an homage to the woman-in-distress film noir classic that starred Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Sudden Fear, for which Crawford was nominated for an Academy Award, was set in San Francisco but Bagdad by the Bay’s steep grades were no match for Packard’s 327 cubic inch straight 8.

You oughta be in pictures..

Here’s a clip from Sudden Fear in which the Patrician is featured gobbling up a Frisco incline and disgorging Palance with no problem.

While the focus of Casual Concours is elegance and originality at least one overt muscle car was present. And, of course, it was a Rambler muscle car, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a wild 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler, utilizing the Pontiac GTO formula: stuff the biggest motor you have — in this case a 390 cubic, inch V8 — into the lightest body: a Rambler American. Sprinkle some Hurst <<ahem>> fairy dust on it and you’ve got a neck snapping factory-built drag racer. The bold graphic arrow, indicating the motor’s displacement, pointing to the over the top air intake recalls the slogan, “nothing succeeds like excess.”

Mke mine Scrambler’d

Heavy breather

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[photo of AMC SC/Rambler]

 

 

 

Roadmaster’s return.. and ultimate departure

Clean machine

Mammoth machine

From the middle 1930s until the late ’50s Roadmaster was, essentially, Buick’s line topper.  In the days when Buick hierarchy was demarcated by little fender-mounted portholes –“ventiports” in Buickspeak — Roadmasters had four on each side, lesser models (Special, Super) had just three per side.

Wasp squad car

Wasp squad car

Ventiports were tossed out in ’59 as were older model names.  Gone were Special, Century and Roadmaster and in came Electra, Invicta and LeSabre.  Yet, thirty years later and against all odds, the Roadmaster name returned. It was applied to a bulbous, Chevy Caprice-based station wagon in 1991, a companion Roadmaster sedan was added the next year.

Black out Buick

Blacked out Buick

Buick’s ’91 – ’96 Roadmaster wagons were the last of a breed.  These were definitely old school rides with body-on-frame construction, V8 power, rear wheel drive drive and offered with fake wood siding and seating for as many as eight, not to mention a  “Vista Roof” over the second-row of seats.  The third row faced oncoming traffic so kids could flip the bird to those following. Luxurious, commodious, versatile and, when appropriately equipped, fast, the Roadmaster Estate Wagon is a massive wonder to behold.

Now you see it

Now you see it

..now you don't

..now you don’t

Minivans and SUVs supplanted the role of the traditional station wagon over the past three or four decades and today there isn’t a single domestic station wagon, full size or compact, in production. You can only buy a big wagon today if it wears a Mercedes Benz three-pointed star, a BMW roundel or a set of Audi rings.

Tuff enuff

Tuff enuff

Just the same, we have a real appreciation for these land yachts bearing the Buick shield.  Sure, they have a lot of presence (over 18 feet long and almost 4600 pounds unladen) but we dig ’em because by being so traditional they were, in some real way, making a contrarian statement.  You could even order one with a 5.7 liter LT1 motor,  same as a Corvette. And that’s kind of outlaw.. even with the fake wood.

Ghost flamer

Buick flambé

We love the funky flame job on Mark Wenner’s Roadmaster.  This big Buick goes as fast as it looks, too.  GM knew it has reached the end of an era and discontinued Roadmaster after the ’96 model year but they earmarked those last year cars with special “Collector Edition” badging.

End of the line

End of the line

You may very well want to “collect” one of these and, to that end, we offer some terrific Roadmaster wagons at reasonable prices.  Now, with the price of gas lower than it has been in quite a while, you have no good reason not to seriously consider acquiring one.  Here’s a ’96  with only 123,000 miles in nearby York, PA for only $2750.  How can you not buy this?? Here’s another, a pristine beauty with half the miles, at more than twice the price in nearby Addison, IL.

Wood is good

Wood is good

We like this nostalgia-themed commercial that introduced the new Roadmaster wagon in ’91.  The good old days weren’t even all that old back 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.