Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

On paper, muscle cars are impractical. You take giant motors wedged into otherwise normal cars, and couple them with handling that tends to leave a lot to be desired. They're loud, they burn through gas at an unbelievable rate, and creature comforts are rarely a priority. And yet, in actuality, it's all of those things that make them so enjoyable. You've a got a massive amount of horsepower under your right foot, and in knowing that you forget about any shortcomings. These cars are ridiculous, but driving one will make you smile for days. Look at today's RCW, a 1969 Chevelle SS 396. The Chevelle was Chevrolet's primary platform, available as a sedan, coupe, station wagon, or the El Camino. The SS package turned the otherwise demure two-door into a potent street machine. The SS 396 was the most powerful SS model in Chevrolet's lineup in 1969. Depending on the exact engine variant used, performance ranged from 350 to 375 horsepower. Whereas the smaller Camaro was aimed at the Mustang and Dart, the Chevelle SS competed with Ford's Torino GT and Dodge's Coronet Super Bee. This particular car is extremely good-looking. The black paint is mildly sinister, and the bigger wheels and tires are very sporting. It's a well-preserved yet drivable machine. Plus, I bet it does an awesome burnout.

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: BMW M3 E46

The BMW M3 E46. Once a premium performance coupe, the German sports machine seems to be very plentiful nowadays. Not that that's a bad thing, just look at it's credentials. The E46 generation was produced from 2001 to 2006, and could be had as a coupe or a convertible. BMW's inline-6 powerplant boasted a reasonable 333 horsepower, which isn't too shabby in a car that only weighs about 3,400 pounds. It was electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph, but without the limiter the claimed top speed was about 170 mph. Not bad at all. Furthermore, the sporting credentials were coupled with a well-upholstered interior that one would expect from a BMW. In summation, the E46 was a good car. The issue is that they've become much more common lately, and they all look the same. 90% of the M3's you see are painted a factory color, probably a shade of silver or black, and are either bone stock or are wearing custom rims. It's a very basic formula, and it works to a degree, but it would be nice to see something a bit more...unique. Thankfully, today's RCW is just that. It's an M3 convertible, which is slightly less common than the coupe. Also, it has snow camo. Why camouflage of this type would be useful in Texas I simply don't know, but I'm certainly not complaining. It's different and it stands out from the crowd. Again, kind of the opposite of what camouflage is usually intended for, but not a problem. I feel like this is the kind of car that people either love or hate. The diehard BMW purists will probably disapprove, but those who enjoy the creativity and individuality that this car offers will think it's great. Personally, I like it. Besides, if we do ever get some real snow here in Texas, you'll never see this thing coming.

BMW M3 E46 Convertible

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cars and Coffee: First Meet of 2014

On the day of the first Cars and Coffee of 2014, the weather was good and the temperature pleasant. This combination of factors was primarily responsible for the tremendous turnout, which reportedly wound up being around 500 cars. There was a terrific mix of different car cultures on display, and everybody had a good time. Here are some of the vehicles that I personally enjoyed.

Right-hand-drive, because why not?

Can't be many of these still around nowadays.

Pushing the limits of the word "coupe" since 1955.

Lovely color combo on this one.

I miss stacked headlights.

Corvette 427. Utterly spotless.

I really like the single offset foglight. Very cool.

This one sounded healthy.

Yes, that IS a Boss 429. And yes, it sounded amazing.

GTO convertible. Nicely understated.

Among the most sinister-looking vehicles I've seen.

Almost too pretty to drive off-road. Almost.

I keep trying to imagine the type of person who buys one of these.

Stealth BMW. Note the headlight, or lack thereof.

Not many of these got built. Proper color for a Ferrari.

That BMW that James Bond drove. I wish these were more common.

Spoiler alert.

The Challenger is retro done right.

Ferrari outdid themselves designing the 458. Proportionally perfect.

1LE Camaro. Basically Chevy's Boss 302.

One of a handful of cars that can pull off a color like that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: Dodge Viper SRT-10

Few vehicles are as brash and aggressive as the Dodge Viper. Devised in the early 1990's as a swoopy roadster body wrapped around a truck-derived V10, the Viper could easily have been dismissed as a one-off concept car deemed unfit for production. Instead, Chrysler roped in Bob Lutz and Carroll Shelby to make the machine a reality. The Viper hit the streets in 1992, with redesigns arriving in 1996 and 2003. The 2003 design lasted with minimal changes up through 2010. The Viper featured here is an SRT-10 Coupe, likely a 2010 model. Decked out with white stripes over blue paint, this two-seater looks very sharp indeed. Under the enormous hood lurks a colossal 8.4 liter V10 that pumps out an ample 600 horsepower. That means the SRT-10 can do 0 to 60 in about 3.4 seconds, and 100 miles per hour arrives in a mere 7.6 seconds. Those are very impressive figures, especially for an American car. Supercar territory is usually populated by European marques, but the Viper, with a top speed of 202 mph, represents one of only a handful of modern American supercars. It also has plenty of charisma. Journalists and owners frequently describe driving the Viper in the same way; the car is evil and it wants to kill you. To get the most out of the burly snake, you need plenty of skill and a lot of respect. Ultimately, the Viper is one of the most memorable vehicles ever produced. It's unforgiving, uncompromising, and almost unstoppable. In short, it's perfect.

2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1962 Chevrolet II Nova 300

I have always been a bit on the fence when it comes to gassers. Some cars can pull off the look nicely. The 1941 Willys and 1955 Chevrolet are both popular cars to receive the gasser treatment, and they wear the look well. However, on some vehicles it just doesn't work so much. Thankfully, today's RCW is a great-looking gasser. What we have here is an early Chevy II, the predecessor to the very popular Nova. This particular Chevy is decked out with the gasser look, including the small bumper-mounted fuel cell, the tall stance, and the skinny front wheels. Fender badges indicate a 6-cylinder motor, but a look under the hood reveals a transplanted V8 powerplant, which should give this little coupe a bit more gusto. I personally like the stickers decorating the windows. It's a nice personal touch. All things considered, this classic Chevrolet is a very attractive little car, modified to be a potent performer. The gasser look either works or it doesn't, and this car definitely is part of the former, not the latter.

1962 Chevrolet II 300 Coupe

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Ladies and gentleman, 2014 has arrived. I have high expectations for what this year has in store, but let's not get carried away. To celebrate the new year, here are some of the coolest machines we came across in 2013.

There were plenty of T-Buckets to admire in 2013, but this one seems like the purest example of the genre. Souped-up V8, side pipes, big tires and a slight forward rake. Beautiful.
 Out of the Model A category, this jaw-dropping roadster from LSRU is a unforgettable machine. You can tell that a lot of man hours went into this one, and the end result is just stunning.

The 1932 Ford Roadster is a car show favorite, but this one is a cut above the rest. The black paint is almost liquid, and that FirePower Hemi powerplant is icing on the cake.

Okay, this isn't a car, but how often do you get to see an Airacobra? This definitely deserves a spot on the list of 2013's best.

Saw this one en route to LSRU. Watching it storm down an on-ramp with black smoke pouring out of the stacks was love at first sight.

This is the prettiest "lead sled" era Mercury I've ever seen. The lines on this car are perfect.

In terms of style and sheer rarity, this Nash-Healey is a winner. It's also one of the most unique cars I saw in 2013.

Of all the tri-five Chevies, this one takes the crown for me. A plain-jane Bel Air wagon in two-door guise, the lines of the car and the color combination blow me away every time.

First Metropolitan I've seen in person. These truly are tiny little cars.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, how can anyone turn up the 1959 Cadillac? Those fins are just enormous.

As far as pickup trucks go, this 1961 Apache is immaculate. Two-tone needs to make a comeback.

This old Dodge SUV is not something you see on a daily basis, and it seems to be decked out with all kinds of little custom touches to make it more practical.

Few cars will ever be as attractive as the Ferrari Lusso. This one is literally spotless.

The suicide-doored Continentals are such pretty cars, and this one is modified in just the right way.

CSX4000 series Shelby Cobra 427 S/C. You can hear this car from four states away.

Between the legendary reputation and spectacular engine note, the GT40 might just be perfect.

Impala SS 427. These big SS cars started to fade away in favor of Chevelles and Camaros, but the ones that exist sure are pretty.

Carroll Shelby passed away in 2013, but his legacy will live on through the incredible machines he created. Just look at this GT 350. Beautiful.

Rally lights and an LS swap? Sign me up. That's a Triumph I can get behind.

Custom Camaros are kind of cliché, but this one is so well done I have to make an exception. Very sinister.

Ford's answer to Trans-Am homologation rules, the Boss 302, is just plain cool. Those decals are retro in all the right ways.

This Roadrunner stood out, mostly because you don't see a whole lot of them around, and also because that is a whole lot of engine.

It's a Demon with a 440 Six-Pack swapped in. I have zero complaints to register here.

Whatever happened to all the old 1970s land-yacht wagons? This '71 Ford looks like a sweet ride.

This 1973 CHP Polara 440 was a huge highlight. It's nice to see a vintage cop car that survived the 1980's car chase movies.

Texas is not where you'd expect to find an Australian XC Falcon, but it can happen. The alligator leather interior might be my favorite part of all.

Okay, I'll admit. I love the Delorean. Stainless steel and gullwing doors are super cool. These weren't nearly as sporty as advertisements suggested, but that Giugiaro body is marvelous.

This is a case of modification done right. The Supra is one of Japan's most attractive cars, and this one has been slightly tuned with exceptional results. I heartily approve.

Probably the nicest car ever to be parked next to a Ford Expedition, a Porsche Carrera GT. Always wanted to see one of these in person. When the engineers at Porsche want to build a supercar, they really go all out.

Speaking of supercars, I've grown rather fond of the new Aventador. It's just the right amount of insane for an Italian speed machine.

Comparatively, the smooth looks of McLaren's MP4-12C are equally pleasing, and the sheer amount of innovation McLaren put into the car is both admirable and impressive.

2013 was a good year, and there were plenty of highlights, but I'd wager that 2014 will offer just as many good times and great cars. Maybe even more. Happy New Year!