Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1989 Shelby CSX

Carroll Shelby is responsible for some of the most iconic performance vehicles of all time. The Cobra and Shelby Mustangs are obvious examples, and Shelby also had a hand in creating the Ford GT40. That said, after leaving Ford in the 1980's, Mr. Shelby went on to partner with Chrysler, which led to the creation of many interesting machines that are decidedly less iconic nowadays. Vehicles such as the Shelby Dakota, the Omni GLHS, and today's RCW: the Shelby CSX.

The CSX was essentially Shelby's take on the wholly unremarkable Dodge Shadow, which was a compact car with about as much style and substance as a plastic school chair. The first CSX debuted in 1987, followed by the CSX-T in 1988, and this car appears to be one of the final models, a CSX-VNT. Only 500 were produced, this car being number 62. In its final iteration, the CSX was surprisingly advanced. The bodywork was considerably more aggressive than the stock Shadow's bleak styling, and it was reasonably quick as well. The 2.2-liter "Turbo IV" powerplant was good for 175 horses, and made 205 pound-feet of torque at a staggering 2100 rpm. Top speed was somewhere along the lines of 156 mph, respectable considering the car's mundane roots.

This particular car was being offered at the Mecum auction in Austin not long ago, and I believe the bidding topped out around the $6,000 mark. Depending on what you think of the car, that's either a complete steal or a waste of money. Personally, I find the CSX to be quirky and different, an uncommon trait in 90's American cars. In particular, I'm amused by the upholstery: you'll certainly never forget what type of car you're in.

I'll have more auction photos up in the near future, but until then: Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1958 Chevrolet Impala

The late 1950's were a wild time for American automotive design. Between sky-high tail fins and acres of chrome, subtle was never really an option. That said, some designs were more tasteful than others. This 1958 Chevy, a one-year-only design, is likely one of the prettiest automobiles of the era.

1958 Chevrolet Impala
In 1957, all Chevrolet passenger cars had fins, such as the iconic Bel Air. In 1959, fins were also present in a very big way. Yet in 1958, Chevrolet cars looked like this. Sure, there was no shortage of chrome, but the fins that were so popular in this era, especially in GM vehicles, were notably absent. The design comes across as less outlandish, and more handsome. The 1958 Chevrolet is a well-proportioned, neatly-packaged car.

This year also marked the introduction of a legendary Chevrolet model: The Impala. Whereas the Bel Air was aimed at being luxurious, and could be had as a coupe, sedan or wagon, the Impala was more sporty. The only options were the "Sport Coupe" and the convertible, with the Impala being the only convertible in Chevrolet's lineup other than the Corvette. Impala models were also characterized by a slightly different roofline, a longer wheelbase, sportier interior trim, and the three-taillight setup that would become an iconic characteristic of the Impala throughout the 1960's.

This particular car was spotted on a side street in Austin not far from the Capitol, and I cannot stress how perfect it is. For a car that's over 50 years old, this Impala is incredible. No scratches or dings, no rust, no imperfections of any sort. The interior is essentially a time capsule, and the chrome was so polished it looked like liquid metal. The fact that it was parked on the street is especially noteworthy, as that means it does get driven, as opposed to being a trailer queen found only at car shows.

The Impala is one of Chevrolet's most iconic marques, and this car sums up the appeal nicely. It's a dashing and sporty automobile for the motorist who enjoys driving. Sadly, the current-gen Impala is a shadow of its former self, found mostly in rental car lots or as a fleet car. That said, at least there's still an Impala at all. The same can't be said for models such as the Cadillac Eldorado, Ford Thunderbird, or Lincoln Continental. The Impala still exists, and maybe one day it'll be as impressive as it once was.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1985 Mazda RX-7

Last week's RCW was an iconic Japanese sports car. This week, it's...well, another Japanese sports car. In the same parking spot, no less! Today we look at a wonderful first-gen RX-7, an iconic car of the 1980's.

1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE
Although the concept of the RX-7 doesn't differ greatly from last week's 280Z, the Mazda stood out on account of its unique method of propulsion: rotary power. The RX-7 debuted in 1978, and had sharp styling and solid performance. In 1983 it even made the Car and Driver Ten Best list, a serious accolade.

This particular car is the top-of-the-line GSL-SE model, released towards the end of the first-gen's lifespan. It featured the fuel-injected 1.3-liter "13B" rotary engine, which was good for 135 horsepower. The RX-7 only weighed 2,590 pounds, so it was anything but sluggish. The GSL-SE also got bigger brakes and a 5-speed manual gearbox. Zero to sixty came in just under eight seconds.

This RX-7 is a 1985, the last year for the first generation. It has the optional sunroof, and overall it's in stellar condition. Mazda recently announced that there are currently no plans to build another RX model at any point in the future, so original models like this one are liable to become more valuable in the next few years.

The RX-7 is an oddball of a car. A rotary-powered sports car from the 1980's? Come on, that's just plain cool.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1977 Datsun 280Z

Historically speaking, the Datsun 240Z was a very important automobile. Prior to its creation in 1969, there were no widely-respected Japanese sports cars. The Toyota Sports 800 and Datsun's own Fairlady roadster were great cars that have slowly become cult icons, but in 1969 most people in the market for a sporty car would have been looking at an MGB or maybe a Lotus Elan. Wealthier buyers could look at the Jaguar XKE or Porsche 911. Then in 1970, the Datsun 240Z arrived in America, and everything changed.

The winning formula of the 240Z was a combination of good performance, reasonable pricing, and fantastic looks. Success in the East African Safari Rally furthered the car's popularity, and to this day it's seen as an icon. Some even call it a halo car. Regardless, the 240Z eventually gave way to the increasingly-powerful 260Z and 280Z models in the later 1970s. Today's RCW is a 1977 280Z, the final iteration of the first-generation Z-cars.

Visually, the 280Z was only mildly updated from the stellar-looking 240Z. Tweaks to the turn signal markers, taillights, and emblems were trivial changes, but the massive 5-mph bumpers required by U.S. regulations did hamper the car's smooth lines, Many of these cars have since been modified with earlier chrome bumpers, or have had the bumpers removed altogether.

The car's name is a reference to the 2.8-liter inline six under the hood. The motor made 170 horsepower, as compared to the meager 151 horsepower of the original 240Z. Transmission options consisted of a three-speed automatic, along with both four-speed and five-speed manuals.

This particular car is practically spotless. All of the badges are intact, along with the bulky bumpers and the original hubcaps. Considering how often these cars get modified, this one's originality is nice to see. The light blue is sporty, and catches just the right amount of sunlight.

Today Japan is known for legendary sports cars like the Mazda Miata and RX-7, Honda's S2000 and NSX, and the Nissan 350Z and 370Z that trace their roots back to this car. The Datsun Z-cars paved the way for a multitude of great Japanese sports cars. Think about it like this: If the 240Z hadn't been built, the Nissan GT-R might have never existed, and that's a tragedy if ever there was one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: Porsche Carrera GT

Cars and Coffee is always good for a surprise or two, but every so often somebody shows up in something particularly incredible. This occurred at last weekend's event, and so I thought it would make a great RCW. An incredible piece of supercar history, it's the Porsche Carrera GT.

Porsche Carrera GT
Originally a mere concept, the Carrera GT was given the green light in part due to the hugely positive response the prototype received. Porsche wasn't unfamiliar with supercars, having already created the world-beating 959 and the homologation-special monster that was the 911 GT1, so there was little doubt in the manufacturer's ability to make another halo car.

The Carrera GT began production in 2004 and was built through 2005, with a final production total of 1,270 cars. This actually made it the first achievable Porsche supercar in the States, since only 25 911 GT1's were ever built, and none of the 300 or so 959's were street-legal in the U.S. As a result, nearly half of the Carrera GT production run was sold in America.

In terms of performance, the Carrera GT was a serious machine, The mid-mounted 5.7-liter V10 was originally created for a Porsche LMP car that never saw the light of day. In the Carrera GT, it put out 612 horsepower, allowing brave drivers to hit 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds. Top speed was a claimed 205 mph. A six-speed manual transmission was the only option, and power was sent directly to the rear wheels.

This particular car was a show-stopper, and looked great in what I presume is Guards Red (the Carrera GT only had five official color options). The design is truly something special, incorporating Porsche's iconic visual cues into a low-slung supercar shape that is guaranteed to quicken your pulse. Looking at this car, it's easy to see elements of the Carrera GT in Porsche's latest supercar, the 918 Spyder. This was one of the ultimate supercars of its decade, and in person it's very clear why that reputation still stands.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

A luxury car is usually characterized as opulent, well-upholstered, and graceful. Tire-shredding performance and blistering quarter-mile times don't often appear in the brochure. Despite this, most luxury marques offer at least one performance car. Mercedes and BMW have their AMG and M divisions respectively, and even Cadillac has the CTS-V and the upcoming ATS-V. Audi and Lexus have their halo cars, the R8 and the LF-A. The list goes on, with cars like the Jaguar XFR-S, Bentley Continental Supersports, and the Rolls-Royce Wraith blurring the line between luxury and performance. Then there's Infiniti. While the G35 and G37 were respectably sporty, they never seemed to be taken very seriously. You'd think that with Nissan as their parent company, Infiniti could raid the NISMO parts bin and put together something truly special, but it hasn't happened. Until now.

Today's RCW is a very unique car, the one-of-one Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge prototype. Supposedly intended for production in the near future, the Eau Rouge takes its name from the famous uphill corner at the Spa Francorchamps race course. So what are the specifications, you ask? Visually, the car takes the already-attractive Q50 and integrates some fancy aerodynamic witchcraft derived from contemporary F1 cars. That wild paint color may turn out to be exclusive to the prototype, but one can hope to see it on the production car, too. The reworked visage is aggressive and steroidal compared to the standard Q50, and there are so many details integrated into the design that you can walk around the car for hours on end, finding new things you'd missed the first time around.

Swanky bodywork aside, all those looks are meaningless unless you have the horsepower to back them up. This is not a problem for the Eau Rouge. Under the hood is the same twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 you'll find in the Nissan GT-R. That means there are 560 horses on tap, comparable to the Cadillac CTS-V. The GT-R also donates its brakes, a necessary feature when you combine that much power with this many doors. Also helping to manage that power are a very spiffy new suspension setup with adjustable coil-overs up front, as well as the AWD system from the Infiniti Q70. In short, should the Eau Rouge come up against the corner it takes its name from, it will be aptly prepared.

Overall, I love this car, and I hope to see it make production sometime very soon. This could pave the way for more Infiniti performance cars, and that idea is ripe with potential. Even if it remains a one-off, it shows the versatility of the Q50 platform and the sheer creativity of the design team at Infiniti. Now please, just build the thing.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge prototype

That's Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, by the way...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1962 Ford Thunderbird

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, Austin comes alive with cool cars. High-dollar exotics, hot rods and classic muscle cars roam the streets. But with blue skies above and a nice breeze, a red convertible is the way to go. Today's RCW, a 1962 Ford Thunderbird, fits the bill nicely. I've seen this particular car before at some of the local car show events, but I'd never really had a chance to properly photograph it. On this occasion it was parked at a hamburger joint on the drag, along with one or two other classics that arrived later. This is a great car to take out for a weekend drive, and the owners were doing exactly that.

1962 Ford Thunderbird

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Buda Gearheads Annual Car Show

I've covered the excellent Gearheads show on this site before, and I've made it clear how much fun it is every time. This year set a new record for most cars registered, and all of them were pretty spectacular. I see something new ever year, and you can bet I'll be back next year. Until then, enjoy these photos!

Beautifully simple Ford pickup.

Malibu muscle.

Nice shade of blue on a stock C-10.

Boss stripes on a sweet Ford.

Pastel colors work well on this clean '56 Chevy.

Remarkably unmolested Pontiac Tempest.

Monstrous drag Nova.

Classic Mercury street machine.

Wild twin-turbo mill in a '69 Chevelle 300.

Gorgeous paint on a very clean Chevy pickup.

Heavily-modified Beetle.

Sporty '65 Mustang with uncommon vinyl top.

Great stance on a six-cylinder '63 Chevy.

White-walls and chrome on a stylish Buick.

Clean early Chevelle.

LS1-powered Chevrolet street rod.

Very tasteful Ford coupe.

Cool colors on a '68 Camaro.

Modern muscle was included, too.

406-powered Ford Galaxie.

Amazing paint on a lovely '55.

Well-worn Model A.

1972 GSX "tribute car".

Unrestored and oh-so-nice 327 Camaro.

Pro-stock Nova, in orange.

Great colors on a '64 Galaxie, previously seen at LSRU.

One of the finest products of the 1980's.

Ultra-sinister custom Challenger.

Pumpkin orange Dodge.

Another vinyl-topped '65 Mustang.

Very cool '57 Chevy.

Monster Chevy provides shade for the kids.

Dignified '66 Galaxie 500 with 390 V8.

Lightly-modified Oldsmobile sedan.

Thunderbird with luxurious landau bars.

A regular at local car shows, this 1971 Roadrunner never gets old.

Awesome Willys gasser.

What could be cooler than a GTO wagon?

Gorgeous paint on a first-year Riviera.

Increasingly-rare Oldsmobile Starfire.

As-yellow-as-possible Cutlass ragtop.

Superb 1969 Oldsmobile 442.

Wild Pontiac hot rod rocking ghost flames and an LT1.

Ruggedly sinister '55 wagon.

Was once a Volkswagen, maybe.