Friday, June 27, 2014

Father's Day Car Show Coverage

Every Father's Day, the Road Relics car club sponsors a big car show in Austin, and it's one of my favorite events to attend. You never know what might turn up, and there's always a massive amount of entrants. This year, the temperature was high and the skies clear, and so cars were rolling in non-stop throughout the day. Here, in order from oldest to newest, are some of the most interesting vehicles to make it out.

To see a Model T in such excellent condition is mind-boggling. While there was a strong contingent of Model T's on display, this one was a step above the rest. It's a 1911 model, in the Runabout body style. The details on this car are astounding, from the paintwork to the trim. Even the wheel spokes are beautifully restored. This machine really stood out.

This show always surprises me, and here's an example of that. This is a 1919 Locomobile Sportif. At no point in time did I ever imagine I'd see a Locomobile at a Texas car show, but lo and behold, this one showed up. It's a truly incredible vehicle, immense and ornate in every way. It looked to be in better shape than it was when new, and it dropped the jaw of everybody there, myself included. Truly amazing.

Also falling under the "oddball" category was this 1921 Franklin coupe. Franklin was a low-volume American manufacturer, and to date I've only seen one other. This one looked very proper in its dark green and black colors, with a big grille and landau roof. This was another unexpected vehicle, and it was fascinating to look at in detail.

Any proper car show should have at least one T-Bucket, and this one is a great example. It's nothing extraordinary, with its obligatory Chevy V8, side pipes and chunky rear tires following the precedent nicely. I like the green, however, as it's not a color often seen on a T-Bucket. Most examples are bright colors, and have flames or other decals to stand out. This one, then, is a bit different.

Another antique T that caught my eye was this 1926 Ford Model TT flatbed. These trucks were used for hard work and many didn't survive, so to see one in such great shape was very cool. I like the double windshield and wooden bedsides, both very functional features.

The emblem on the door of this Model A pickup designates that it was once used by the Bell Telephone Company. If that's the case, it makes for an interesting history for this little truck, and helps separate it from the countless other Model A pickups out there. Regardless, it's in good condition, and the little bed stakes are an instant win.

Back in the day, Britain had a tax on all automobiles, but motorcycles were exempt. Also, a three-wheeled vehicle was considered to be a motorcycle by the government. Iconic British manufacturer Morgan was quick to take advantage of the loophole, and the end result was this. Essentially a two-seater fuselage with a V-twin motorcycle engine between the front wheels, the peculiar little machine was built until WWII, and just recently has been put into production again. This one is a 1931 model, and it's simply extraordinary. I love when automakers try to bend the rules, or create their own. This Morgan is a prime example of that.

When done right, a Ford coupe can be an exceptionally cool car, and this one is definitely done right. The mismatched wheels, louvered hood, and souped-up motor make for a one-of-a-kind custom, and if only you could have heard it. It was something akin to a hand grenade in a blender; a wonderful cacophony of pops and bangs strung together into a glorious idle. This was a sweet car.

This little 1937 Chevrolet wasn't wildly modified, nor was it meticulously restored. Instead it falls somewhere in between, and it looks great. The wheels are a perfect touch, and the whole car just seems right. It's tasteful and classic, and was a terrific part of the show.

This is pretty neat. It's a 1938 Buick Sedan, and it's had some work done. The bumpers are gone, and it's been slightly lowered on new wheels and tires. Capping it off is some bright red paint, something most old Buicks don't have. The end result is a very drivable classic. It's a big, comfy cruiser that's guaranteed to turn heads. I wholly approve.

In 1940, this would've been the average man's transportation: a no-frills, base-model Ford coupe. Nowadays it's a bit more desirable, although the simplicity of the car is still readily apparent. This one is still in nearly-new condition, an impressive feat.

Flash-forward a decade to 1950, and this Plymouth Business Coupe fulfills the same role. I love the proportions of this car, and its simple yet handsome design. I especially like the color on this one, and the little touches like the windshield visor. This would make a great daily driver.

This 1951 Willys pickup was simply charming. The bright red paint and gleaming chrome really brought out the best in the quirky design. I have a soft spot for Jeep trucks, so this one instantly attracted my attention.

The massive green monolith you see above is a 1953 Packard Cavalier. It's got a lot of chrome, and in its day it was one of the more desirable cars on the market. Unfortunately, Packard would collapse by the end of the decade. This Cavalier, though, lives on today, and man does it look good. It's a simple yet intricate design, and it works well. This was a nice car to lay eyes on.

I was not prepared to see this, but I'm very glad I did. This is a 1954 Dodge Power Wagon bus. The Power Wagon was derived from the WC-series trucks of WWII, and was easily the most rugged and aggressive truck on the market at the time. Bus bodies were a fairly common option for the Power Wagon, and this one is a surviving example. I didn't realize how much I wanted to see one of these until it rolled into the lot. It's certainly different, if nothing else.

Several Cadillacs of this generation rolled in together, but this one immediately stood out. It's not a plain-jane Series 62, but instead a proper 1955 Eldorado. Only the Eldorado featured those jagged rear fins, a glimpse into Cadillac's future, as it turned out. This was one of the nicest production cars in the world in 1955, and you had to be a special kind of person to afford one. Even today, an example this nice commands a high premium.

The original Corvette was the origin of the American sports car. A major American manufacturer building something so wild, so different, and so special was unheard of at the time. The Corvette was almost unchanged from concept car to production model, and its success is evident in that the iconic sports car has been in production non-stop since it was introduced. This 1955 'Vette is beautiful, especially in such a great color. As far as auto design goes, this was a hit.

Once the common man's commuter, now the hot rodder's dream: such is the story of the 1956 Chevrolet 210. More upscale than the 150, but not as posh as the Bel Air, the 210 was the ideal Chevy model for the average consumer. Good value, great styling, and competitive pricing guaranteed strong sales. This one has new paint and wheels, and the front bumper is gone, but all in all it's a good-looking car. The design is classically 50's, and has aged well. This one in particular comes across as being unique, but not overdone.

The owner of this 1956 International Harvester rebuilt the truck from a rusted old shell in a field. To see the before and after photos is staggering. This truck is lucky to have been saved, and is now a fairly rare piece of machinery. The basic steel wheels and lack of chrome lend a very utilitarian look to the truck.

Wow. This is a 1958 Jaguar XK150 S Roadster. It's in astonishingly good condition, and may very well be the ultimate red sports car stereotype. It's beautiful, sounds great, and plants seeds of desire in the hearts of many. It's a car that's gorgeous from every angle, and as such it was a highlight of the show.

Another Corvette, this time a 1959 hardtop. This one looks all-original, apart from the wheels, which have been pilfered from a newer C5-generation Corvette. There's not a whole lot to say about this one, other than it's very, very pretty. Red and white is a killer color combo for almost any 50's car, and the newer wheels look at home on this classic. I give bonus points for the hardtop, as you rarely see hardtop Corvettes from this time period.

Another case of a mostly-stock car riding on new rims is this 1960 Cadillac convertible. It's a monolithic automobile, which seems to stretch on for miles. Black is a somewhat ominous color, but the big chrome wheels offset the look, making it come across as an ideal cruising machine. Big, comfy, and stylish are the strong points of this car. I imagine parking might be a drawback, though.

By 1962, the Ford Thunderbird was becoming less of a rival to the Corvette, and more of a personal luxury coupe. This one has the landau roof, a popular option on the car, especially in later years. All told, this a nice, clean example of one of the better-looking Ford cars of the 60's.

The split-window 'Vette. One of the most highly-regarded auto designs of all time, and an icon of American car culture. This was some of Bill Mitchell's finest work. In 1963, he introduced the redesigned Corvette and the all-new Buick Riviera, both considered some of the best-looking cars ever built. This Corvette, in bright red, makes it easy to see why the car is so popular. It's an achingly beautiful creation, and one of GM's finest moments.

That said, some people modified their Corvettes, such as this 1964 convertible. The front bumper is gone, and the headlights are fixed units, instead of the original flip-open design. Furthermore, those gnarly fender flares and fat tires give this Corvette a new attitude. I personally love this car. It seems to be a nod towards the street freaks of the 70's, and it wears the look well. Nicely done, this.

This super-clean little GMC was remarkably well-kept. The paint was perfect, the bodywork was spotless, and it ran like a champ. It was interesting to see such an original pickup, as most of the GM pickups of this body style have been customized or are still being beaten on. This one, though, is immaculate. It's practically a time capsule.

Like I said, many of these trucks got customized, although few have turned out as well as this one. Lowered suspension and a chop top seems cliché, but this truck gets it right. The proportions are spot-on, and the lack of decals or graphics really highlights the look. I give big points to whoever did the work on this truck, because it was done right.

This 1966 Plymouth is, in a word, perfect. The lowered stance and new wheels inject a new attitude into an already attractive design. This car has little to no curved edges, and yet it looks stellar. Of course, the icing on the oh-so-delicious cake is the motor. Under the hood lurks a 426 cubic inch "Hemi-Head" V8, likely one of the most iconic engines of the muscle car era. This Plymouth looked like a fantastic cruiser, and left a great impression.

Color can make or break a car, and it's easy to see a case of the former with this lovely Chevrolet. It's a 1967 Nova, and a fantastic example. I always thought this was a handsome design, and the sky blue really brings out the best in this car. The dog-dish hubcaps and red-line tires are wonderful, and the whole thing just works. I wasn't able to catch a photo of this car last year, so I was relieved to get another chance this time around.

This 1968 Fairlane was far from perfect. Most of the dashboard was gone, and there was a large dent in the rear left quarter, although the trim carried on unscathed, thereby mapping the original shape. Despite these flaws, though, this was one of the cars I wanted to have most. The looks are a perfect mix of muscle car and luxury coupe, and the new wheels are pretty spiffy. The dents and distress simply ease the conscience, and make you more willing to drive it more often.

It seems as if the Mercury Cougar is somewhat endangered. They've become very uncommon cars as of late, and so to see this 1968 XR-7 was a lovely surprise. That exquisite bodywork conceals the Cougar's Mustang-derived underpinnings and 390 cubic inch V8. The condition of this car was immaculate, and it formed a decent crowd once it arrived. Not that that's surprising, just look at it.

This is maybe the most sinister car I've ever seen. It looks like it should be the villain's car in a 60's thriller. It's a 1968 Plymouth Fury III in triple-black. It has a 383 motor, and something close to 73,000 original miles. Those black steel wheels complete the car, and the sloping roof is a handsome design. This car was all kinds of cool.

The iconic 1969 Dodge Charger, famous for starring roles in The Dukes of Hazzard and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. This car, however, isn't an R/T model. It's actually decked out as more of a luxury car, with its vinyl top and luggage rack on the trunk. Still, the split grille and Magnum 500s are pure muscle car.

I've seen and photographed this 1969 Boss 302 on numerous occasions, and yet I still can't help but obsess over it. It's a real-deal 302, and certainly not a trailer queen. In fact, it still wears plenty of vintage modifications, like the stereotypical foot-shaped gas pedal. The yellow and black is a bright and eye-catching look, and if I'm honest, the 1969 model has always been my favorite year 'Stang. I absolutely adore this car.

Like the Nova, I wasn't able to get a shot of this car last year, but got a second chance this year. It's a gorgeous 1969 Road Runner, with a vinyl top and A12-style lift-off hood. Interestingly, the car wears a non-stock badge on the hood which reads "Super Charged" although I never got a look at the motor to confirm that. Nevertheless, this is an amazing car in fantastic condition.

Also from Plymouth's greatest hits collection is this 1970 'Cuda 440. Apart from the Cragars, it's seemingly stock, and it sounded healthy to say the least. The vibrant hue really caught the sun in just the right way, and made a great-looking car look even better. That said, black leather seats are a bit uncomfortable on days as hot as this, so kudos to the owner for bringing it out anyway.

This is a run-of-the-mill 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It was a well-upholstered coupe that could be had with plenty of options, and as such many were built. This is the first black-and-gold model I've seen, though. I doubt it's the original paint, but good lord does it look good. It's a nod to the Hurst cars and their gold trim, and it really brings out the best in this car.

Like I said, you never know what might turn up at this show. For example, I wasn't expecting a 1974 AMC Gremlin X with a bike rack and a hoodscoop, but this one turned up. While the Gremlin wasn't much of a performance car, even in "X" trim, I still prefer its looks to the Pacer. The decals are decidedly 70's, bearing resemblance to Road Runners of the era, as well as Starsky and Hutch's Torino. Plus, with some exhaust modifications by the owner, it idled like a muscle car. It isn't, but still.

Yes, that's a Bricklin SV-1. Yes, that was the funky Canadian safety car with the Ford motor. Yes, it has gullwing doors and a tacky interior. Yes, it's parked next to a DeLorean. And yes, it was the highlight of my day.
This is a 1978 Peugeot 504 which, based on the license plate, is named Señor Frog. Given the color, it's rather appropriate. The 504 has a reputation for being utterly un-killable, kind of like the Terminator of sedans. They sold well in South Africa, as they were able to handle the rugged terrain without falling apart. This car is in great condition, and therefore has probably not been to South Africa at any point in its life. Still pretty neat, though.

The 1981 Corvette wasn't a high point in performance, but it certainly looked fast. The C3 design had evolved nicely since its debut in 1968, and even now they're attractive cars. This one, with no less than three shades of red at work, is particularly nice. Few cars have worn a two-tone (or in this case, three-tone) paint scheme as well as this. Pop-up headlights and T-tops seal the deal.

And to finish things up, one more Corvette. This time we've moved beyond the C3 generation into the C4 body style. This bright yellow 1987 Corvette is remarkable in that, despite almost every shape on the car being a square or rectangle, it manages to look swoopy and curvaceous in a way. The vivid color is appropriate for a sports car, and while not the prettiest Corvette of all time, this look is actually aging very well. If you want one, get it now before they start to get expensive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

1993 marked the final year for the fox-body Mustang, and the fine fellows at Ford were determined to give it a proper sendoff. The newly-created Special Vehicles Team, or SVT, was put in charge of creating a high-performance version of the Mustang. Their final result, the Mustang SVT Cobra, was a force to be reckoned with. While visual changes were minimal, the SVT team had completely reworked the mechanical aspects of the car. The powertrain was Ford's trustworthy 5.0 V8, but massaged with a host of performance parts and upgrades to turn up the heat. The result was 235 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, and a 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds. Seeing as how the Mustang was essentially a hatchback at the time, those were impressive figures. Top speed was 140 mph, adding to the car's reputation. Changes to the drivetrain and suspension rounded out the modifications, and allowed the car to manage all that added power. The SVT Cobra name would continue through the next two Mustang redesigns, but the fox-body was a one-year special, with just under 5,000 being built, along with a handful of even more powerful Cobra R models to boot. This car is a great example, and wears the most common color choice: Vibrant Red. Personally, I have a soft spot for this car, and I'd rank it among my top ten favorite Mustangs of all time. This one was in the parking garage at a Cars and Coffee meet, and hopefully I'll eventually catch it out in the sunshine for a better photo.

1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Although introduced in 1969 as an option for the Firebird, the Trans Am didn't really become a cult classic until a 1977 model starred in Smokey and the Bandit. It wasn't as powerful as the earlier cars, thanks to the emissions regulations of the era, but with T-tops, snowflake wheels and a giant flaming bird on the hood, it turned heads and sold well. Today's RCW is a Trans Am from 1979, and what a beautiful example it is. This was the first year for the revised front end and taillights, the final visual refresh to the aging F-body. This one is a brilliant blue color, somewhat uncommon for a Trans Am, as most examples nowadays seem to be red or black. The shaker identifies this car as having a 6.6 liter V8, which still only managed 200 horsepower. Furthermore, this car has been equipped with a CB radio, a fitting touch. I do quite like this car, especially with that blue color. It may not be much of a muscle car in terms of performance, but it sure does look the part.

1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 2000 Jaguar XJ-R

The idea of a performance sedan is nothing new. The German marques in particular adore the concept, with high-performance saloons available from Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW. Machines like the M5, the RS7, and the C63 AMG. The formula is the same for them all. Take a midsized luxury sedan, and give it a huge motor, bigger brakes, and some more competitive suspension bits, until at last you have what is basically a 400-500 horsepower living room on wheels. But the British have a different approach, as evidenced by today's RCW, the Jaguar XJ-R. Now, for the most part it's the same premise. Normal car with lots of power, etc, etc. But Jaguar uses the XJ as a starting point, which has a lot more luxury than the opposition. The goal is not to make a luxury track car, but instead to make a high-quality sedan with a little bit extra in the performance department. Thus, you get the Jaguar XJ-R. It's an extremely comfortable and well-upholstered vehicle, and the styling is reminiscent of classic Jaguars without looking outdated or old. Visually, the XJ-R is identifiable by bigger exhaust, a body-colored front grille, and extra badging on the rear. But mechanically, there's a lot of go-fast goodness. The standard 4.0-liter V8 has been supercharged, and now produces 370 horsepower, a massive increase from the normal motor's 290 horses. The XJ-R also comes equipped with sport suspension, complemented by wider wheels and tires. This means that despite weighing almost 4,000 pounds, this super sedan can do 0-60 in approximately 5 seconds, and can reach an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. That's not bad, especially when you consider that the driver can do all of that in complete and utter comfort. Ultimately, this is a car that doesn't compromise. A car whose philosophy is and, not or. And that's something I can certainly respect.

2000 Jaguar XJ-R

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

I really like the mentality behind pro-touring cars. Take all of the best equipment available today, and put it in the best-looking cars of the past. The end result is a classic car that can keep pace with a brand-new sports car. Muscle cars are the most common candidates for pro-touring conversions, mostly because people like the idea of a muscle car that can handle corners. Today's RCW, a beautiful 1970 Chevelle, is a killer example of pro-touring done right. In many ways, there aren't a lot of huge visual changes. The bodywork remains intact, with no crazy spoilers or LEDs to be found. It does, however, sit lower to the ground, on large aftermarket wheels and tires. This is evidence of some serious suspension work, designed to make a 44-year-old slab of American iron into a bona fide corner carver. Moreover, some tremendous Wilwood brakes are also visible, which means that stopping ability has also been upgraded. Thus, you have a muscle car that can corner. However, the modifications don't end there. A glance at the badging that indicates engine displacement tells us the owner wanted more speed, too. An original Chevelle SS would likely be equipped with a 396 or 454 V8. Maximum horsepower was the LS6 454, with 450 horsepower on tap. This car, though, boasts a 502 cubic inch crate motor from GM, which can be had with up to 600 horsepower, depending on the exact specifications. That's a lot of power to have under your right foot, and ample justification for the car's roll bar. All things considered, this is a phenomenal car. It still has all the charm and beauty of a 1970 Chevelle, but with all of the performance and capability of a modern car. Quite simply, it's the best of both worlds.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS