FAKE WOOD IN THE REAL WORLD OF TENNESSEE THOMAS AND NAF

There goes the neighborhood

There are three raffishly attired, ravishing young women and a 16-month-old baby boy named Loren, lollygagging about in a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country GTS convertible with the top down. It’s one of those fake wood-sided cars recalling the vibe of woody station wagons of yore. But those didn’t have a folding top and The Shangri-Las blasting on the o.e.m. stereo cassette unit that includes a graphic equalizer and joystick-controlled balance.  Yes, the women are a band that’s called Nice As Fuck, NAF, if you prefer. Loren is their tiny roadie.

Jammin’, MoPar style

Nice As Fuck is Tennessee Thomas on drums, Erika Spring on bass and Jenny Lewis, vocals, and they are, in fact, nice as fuck. In a way it’s a super group insofar as each of its members have come from highly regarded bands including The Like (Thomas), Au Revoir Simone (Spring) and Rilo Kiley (Lewis). They were active during the 2016 Presidential campaign with a much-lauded appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert plus an album release back then. They went their separate ways around the time Erika gave birth to Loren.

Signs of the times

This particular Town & Country, like most built over the course of four model years, is finished in an eggy white with contrasting brown hued ersatz lumber on its flanks. It’s also equipped with a “Continental kit,” an extension on the rear bumper that carries a metal shell that replicates a spare tire. We’re guessing this was an aftermarket appurtenance as it’s hard to imagine that the MoPar gang would have offered its customers something so silly looking and fundamentally pointless. On second thought, maybe Lee Iacocca was pandering to a questionable aesthetic with this add-on “feature,” no matter that it serves no actual purpose save to add gratuitous length to the car, thus making parking a tad more difficult. Did we mention that there’s no tire in there? It is a design item perhaps best appreciated by those for whom more is, well, just more. Persons equipped with an enhanced sense of irony — not the snarky kind of irony but, rather, the loving kind with which the LeBaron’s NAF occupants appear to have been blessed — appreciate it on multiple levels.

“By the way, where’d ya meet him?”

The Town & Country convertible is one of the most exalted K-Car-based vehicles and this particular example has been named “Joy De Vivre” by NAF, a sweet exercise in anthropomorphy, if ever there were. The actual Town & Country name dates back to the 1940s when Chrysler offered both a real wood sided convertible and eight passenger sedan, using shipbuilder’s craft to construct these iconic classics that had the termite population collectively drooling.   There’s one seen in the 1951 Franco-Italo co-production Les Miracles N’ont Lieu Qu’une Fois starring Jean Marais.

Shangs within and without

As the “Shangs” delightfully warble their version of Jay & The Americans’ “She Cried,” (retitled “He Cried”), we find Tennessee behind the wheel, adjusting the volume control on the stereo, sharing the great girl group gestalt with the rest of the neighborhood. Tennessee and Joy reside in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, arguably one of the longest reigning hip enclaves anywhere. This version of the Town & Country, one of just 3,725 built, was introduced in 1983 with production continuing through 1986, the same model year as the one that Tennessee does her best to park in front of The Deep End Club each day. It’s her store/community center located at 1546 Echo Park Blvd. in Los Angeles. It’s just a bit north of Sunset Blvd. on the east side of the street, down the hill from the Chevron station where the road forks right to Morton Ave. Tennessee, when made aware of the T&C model run made sure to point out that the year of her birth, 1984, was within the same time frame.

“Are you ‘wheely’ goin’ out with him?”

Tennessee sells a range of items, mostly apparel, that makes a statement that underscores her belief that it’s really cool to try to make the world a better place. It’s also a community center and meeting hall, very much woven into the fabric of the community. The Town & Country parked out front, serves as a beacon to truth-seekers, peaceniks, resisters and advocates for human rights, economic equality and women’s empowerment. Joy is serving the cause most elegantly.

It’s not a gang, it’s a club!

You just can’t “beat” a great daughter/dad relationship, especially in this case

The name of her enterprise was appropriated from the personal history of her dad, the famous drummer Pete Thomas of The Attractions as in “Elvis Costello and The..” He, along with band mate Steve Nieve, in their early days on the road, made something of a habit of jumping — or falling — into swimming pools fully attired. Tennessee’s own name is derived from the state where her dad had recorded an album (Almost Blue) and “had some kind of Jack Daniels-inspired epiphany in the Great Smokey Mountains.” She was born in Great Britain but is now an exemplary American Citizen, fully documented, thankyouverymuch.

Attire that encourages

Puffy shirt inspired by the late, great Brian Jones

Baby Loren seems to dig the LeBaron’s Mark Cross leather interior and electroluminescent dashboard. Sadly, the odometer’s electroluminescence has left the building; so to speak, making it anybody’s guess as to how many miles Joy D.V. has traveled since she left Chrysler’s St. Louis Assembly Plant in Fenton, MO thirty-two years ago. Still, everything seems to be in better-than-passible shape. A 2.5 liter transversely mounted fuel-injected four cylinder motor powers Joy’s front wheels through Chrysler’s ubiquitous TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission. It’s a proven combination applied to literally millions of K-Cars, including minivans, branded Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler.

After 32 years, still in there swinging sideways.

When Tennessee moved from New York to Los Angeles, (read that again: in pure terms of geography, it’s a mind-blowing concept), she knew one of the first steps she’d have to take to make the transition would be the acquisition of a suitable vehicle. On the day Tom Petty died, she saw a Chrysler T&C. She took it as a sign and decided she had to have one and immediately started Googling. Two caught her eye: one in the nearby San Fernando Valley for sale as well as another in Minnesota. She checked out the Valley car and came away unimpressed (“It could only go 40 miles an hour.”) A friend in the Midwest checked out the one in Minnesota and was impressed with its rust-free condition, the goofy continental kit and the fact that it was able to keep up with traffic. In light of the fact that it was priced lower than the local one, the cost of schlepping it half way across the country was amortized. Joy has had some problems, like the time Tennessee drove it to Santa Monica where it hemorrhaged power steering fluid a/k/a “red stuff” and when she came back from a month-long visit to India (“recreating George Harrison selfies”) and found the car while parked in her parents’ garage had relieved itself of its transmission fluid. But, for the most part, the car has lived up to its name. Besides, Rubin, an immigrant like Joy’s owner, the ace mechanic at the Union 76 station on Hyperion is nonplussed, having dealt with leaky K-Cars for decades.

Giving the drummer some

Everybody smiles when they see this preposterous car with its top down, the Shangri-Las’ “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” on the sound system parked in front of a store that features “Give A Damn” t-shirts and urges “All Power To the Imagination.” This is especially the case when a cute baby and three super talented rocker chicks are in the more-than-OK K-Car on Echo Park Avenue.

Better combustion than premium unleaded

While we were snapping photos of the car, the members of Nice As Fuck, theorized that the title to their long awaited follow up album should be Joy De Vive. “All we have to do is write the songs and record them,” says Jenny. Seems like it’ll be a piece of cake if they cede “all power to the imagination,” as is urged as a matter of policy at the Deep End Club.

Reading is fun-da-mental for Ms. Thomas

Exclusive yet inclusive

Bonus: enjoy this video treatise on the greatness of the T&C hosted on Hoovies Garage.  This one’s Continental kit seems to be quasi-functional. Enjoy!

Want to buy a faux wood Chrysler T & C like Tennessee’s?  Here’s one  in nearby Calgary, Alberta that seems to be a bargain and includes the much coveted Continental kit.

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.

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Feral finds abound on the streets of America’s Hippest Neighborhood®

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First of the day’s three ’64 Imperials.

We’ve been focusing on the Instagram and Facebook versions of Feral Cars of late but a recent find mandated that we go full blog post to do the subject matter justice.  This kind of abbondanza needs to be chronicled with more than just a photo and some hashtags!

 

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Eliot Ness, your car is waiting.

In search of comidas Mexicanas muy auténticos,  we recently had occasion to visit LA’s Highland Park area, a/k/a “America’s hippest neighborhood.” Apart from the record stores (vinyl only, please), hipster beard trimming emporiums, tattoo parlors and artisanal cocktail dispensaries (and the other kind of dispensaries), we were pleasantly surprised to encounter a cache of feral finds on the street and decidedly in the raw.  One block of Avenue 57, just belowFigueroa, was populated with scores of oldies but goodies, all of which carry current registrations and need to be moved, per regulation, at least once a week.  Our deduction is that all of these are fully capable of running under their own power.  The collection, consisting of American iron as well as a smattering of European and Japanese rolling stock seems to have no unifying theme — just a random aggregation of vehicles that have endured against all odds.  Inspiring!

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As we know all too well: “Cadillac means luxury.”

Our best guess is that this grouping belongs to a single visionary as these disparate (desperate?) vehicles do share something in common: massive patina.  It’s not rust in Southern California but, rather, “distressed” paint.

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“From a Buick 6”.. a ’48 to be specific

On display were a ’64 Cadillac, a ’65 Imperial Crown, a ’48 Buick, two VWs (a Bug and a Karmann-Ghia), a first generation Mazda RX-7, a ’57 Chevy tow truck, frozen in tableau, hoisting a ’47 Cadillac (original California black plates which appropriately read ‘SAD326’), a Smokey & The Bandit era Trans Am, a Fargo-worthy and very woeful Corvette and something very unexpected.  Yes, a ’36 Nash in better shape than any of the other cars seems to occupy a special spot at the top of the street. That machine, built in Kenosha at least 81 years ago, presented much better than quite a few half its age though a ’63 Valiant convertible was surprisingly fresh looking, too.

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Slant sixer

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Tow, tow, tow your boat..

Later that day, en route to El Hurache Azteca on York Blvd. for an infusion of gut-busting goodies, we came upon a fix-it shop (“Bernie’s Transmission”) where we found still more feral treasures though it’s not clear how roadworthy some of these are.  Yet another Imperial of the same vintage as the one we had seen on Avenue 57 was in repose as well as a ’64 Ford Galaxie that had seen better days.  We were taken with a seemingly perfect ’64 Pontiac and a gorgeous green ’56 Ford wagon.

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Impish

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There’s a Ford in your future but it’s probably not this one

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That Pon-ton is a clean machine, same goes for the Ford wagon

Remember those two ’65 Imperials?  We ended the day with another MoPar line topper of the same vintage in our sights.  It was being transported aboard a car carrier down the 101 Freeway and we implored Wendy Abrams, a certified Feral Cars Field Scout, who had been riding shotgun to shoot a snap of it.  What are the chances, right?

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Back in the high life again..

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Fireturd / “if it’s brown, flush it down”

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Veteran Vette

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Two tone rotary; yes that’s a ’55 Chevy (non-Nomad) wagon in the driveway

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Ghia got gashed

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Bug needs love

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As close to a Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta as it gets in Highland Park

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.

Feral treasure found in Tucson

 

SAABaritic sports car

SAABaritic sports car

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.

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

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.

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

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.

Letting it all hang out back

Letting it all hang out back

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!

'Bird, man

Big, bad ‘bird, man

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.

Yes, actually it is your father's Oldsmobile (and your pool man's Ranchero)

Yes, actually it is your father’s Oldsmobile (and your pool man’s Ranchero)

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.

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

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.

"Orange" you glad you saw this?

“Orange” you glad you saw this?

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.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

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!

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.

It’s pronounced “Rruh-no”

You had me a Marchal rally lights

You had us at Marchal rally lights

A French strain of feral fever just struck close to home and, in the spirit of liberté, égalité and fraternité, we’re here to let you know that a 1968 Renault R10 has just joined the fleet.  It’s the damnedest thing when an off-the-wall purchase seems to make sense but that’s the basic story.

Moment of transition

Moment of transition

Air vs water

Air vs water

We had two rear engine cars in the paddock: a ’67 Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) Giardiniera baby station wagon and a ’70 Volkswagen Type III Fastback.  Both of these have air cooled motors stashed under trap doors in the back.   Both have trunks in the front and room for cargo above their respective motors.  The water-cooled Renault R10 is the last rear engine model that the #1 French builder exported to the US.  Their later offerings, the R5 (marketed as “Le Car”) and Kenosha, Wisconsin-built Renault Alliance didn’t really find a market here, especially in the face of the ’70s Japanese car invasion.  After Renault sold its controlling stake in American Motors to Chrysler, it was all over for the offerings of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault as far as the North American market was concerned. Some Renaults, however,  were sold by Chrysler as the Eagle Medallion (in concept, a great car for Sammy Davis, Jr)  and Eagle Premier which sounds like the code name for a South American dictator. 

Respect pour les anciennes

Respect pour les anciennes

We’re now down to just the “new” Renault and the little Giardinera as the Volkswagen Fastback was quickly sold off to make room for the Gallic newcomer.  Maybe it was just too “normal” to make the final cut but it was the most powerful of the three pushers with a 1.6 liter motor developing a whopping 65 horsepower.  The Cinquecento is powered by a minuscule two cylinder motor displacing slightly less than half a liter, making freeway cruising mostly a theoretical endeavor.

Open skies all'italiana

Open skies all’italiana

The Renault R10 falls somewhere in the middle of these two with a 1.1 liter motor that produces 48 horsepower.  It’s vaguely competitive on the freeway — meaning it’s capable of 65 mph under ideal conditions.  The point of its acquisition was not performance but.. hmm.. what was the point?  Oh, yes, the point was that we hadn’t had a proper French car since dear mom’s 1968 Peugeot 404 and a recent visit this winter to the giant Rétromobile* vintage car expo in Paris fired up one’s inner Francophile feelings on a certain level.  There’s always a reason, isn’t there?

Giardinera = gardener, capice?

Giardinera = gardener, capisce?

At any rate, it’s fun to drive and gets more comments than the VW since it’s so unusual and, let’s face it, kinda cute.  So there you have it or, more appropriately, voici la voiture.  Fun to drive, fun to say:  we’ll call that a win/win.

Room for tous les copains

Room for “tous les copains”

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font?

If you’re interested in acquiring your very own Renault, we wish you good luck.  There are very few for sale in this country, probably because they were thought to be disposable but we did find a doppelgänger — is it OK to use a German word in describing a French car? — in nearby Arudel, ME for just $8500.   Enjoy this commercial for the R10 from 1970 in which the car is favorably compared to a horse.

*Here’s our Rétromobile coverage for Automobile Magazine’s website.

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.

Yes, it is Chelsea’s mother’s Oldsmobile

We just caught wind of the fact that an ’86 Olds Cutlass Ciera that once belonged to Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton is up for sale.  That gave us an excuse to delve into our extensive image bank and retrieve some examples of similar cars we’ve captured in the wild.

Hill's ride

Hill’s last ride

The Cutlass Ciera was a GM A-platform car that had much in common with corporate siblings Pontiac 6000, Chevy Celebrity and Buick Century, distinct from the rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme and smaller Cutlass Calais.  We have no idea what Ciera is supposed to mean but we’re thinking that Ford of Europe used Sierra so maybe GM just improvised something that sounded similar. Oldsmobile had so much luck with the Cutlass nameplate that their marketers were profligate in applying it to just about anything that wasn’t a full size Ninety-Eight or Eighty-Eight.   The ploy worked; over the course of its 14 years of production the dull-as-dishwater Cutlass Ciera was Oldsmobile’s best selling model.  We found a very clean, not to mention very boring, ’90 Cutlass Ciera S wearing fake wire wheels recently and had the foresight to photograph it.  Like the former First Lady and would-be 45th President’s ’86 Cutlass Brougham, it wears badging that includes flags of many European nations plus Canada.  This was meant to denote a level of technical sophistication and worthy of consideration for potential foreign car buyers.  As if!

USA! Canada! Belgium! Finland! Italy! Great Britain! Netherlands! Switzerland! France! Portugal! Sweden! Spain! Denmark! Italy! Germany! (but not East Germany!) Norway didn't make the cut for some reason.

USA! Canada! Belgium! Finland! Italy! Great Britain! Netherlands! Switzerland! France! Portugal! Sweden! Spain! Denmark! Ireland! Germany! (but not East Germany!) Norway, where are you?

According to current owner and former White House gardener — we’re not making this up — Mike Lawn, the car which wears its original Arkansas plates may very well have been the last car which she personally drove, hanging up her keys when her husband was inaugurated on January 20, 1993.  It seems to have been retained to give First Daughter a hooptie on which to learn to drive.  If only those WH family residence walls could talk: “Thanks, mom.  My father is the leader of the free world and I have to figure out how to parallel park with this?”

The excitement builds!

The excitement builds!

The car that Mr. (really his name) Lawn is selling has only  33,000 miles on it, a reflection of the fact that the Presidential limo (a ‘93 Cadillac Fleetwood-based car) obviated the need to run up any miles on the car for an eight year span.  It offers a modicum of middle class  elegance — it has blue crush-velour seats — but is, in fact, very basic, despite the fact that it wears a the quasi-luxury “Brougham” badge.  Yes, it has crank ’em up windows.   Then again, with power from a mighty 4-cylinder, 151 cubic inch “Tech IV” motor generating 110 horsepower and 135 pounds of torque, who would really voluntarily drive such a vehicle if they didn’t absolutely have to do so?  

The wild blue yawn-der

The wild blue yawn-der

We found an Cutlass of minimally more recent vintage, a Ciera SL, that proudly wears an ABS badge on its his ample aft.  This denotes that it is equipped with an anti-lock braking system,  the equivalent of having an “I’m trying to be responsible” sign on the back of one’s car. We’re OK with that but not the fact that the trunk lid seems to need adjustment.

Trunk funk

Trunk funk

There’s a walk-around video of Mrs. Clinton’s former car and we feel compelled to share it with you in the spirit of full disclosure.  Try to stay awake through its duration and, for heaven’s sake, don’t post nasty political comments.  It’s just someone’s old car so try to restrain yourself if you truly want to make America great again.

If you’d like to purchase your very own Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera there are many to choose from.  We especially like this ’89 in Washington.  Washington, Indiana that is. It’s price to go at just $1900 and the sales pitch on this ad could very well be appropriated by a Presidential candidate. To wit: “How comforting is the low-mileage of this great 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass? This terrific Oldsmobile is one of the most sought after used vehicles on the market because it NEVER lets owners down.”   How can you NOT vote for that?

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.