Tuesday, September 19, 2017

1968 Pontiac GTO - Fine Line

My wife and I have recently gotten into antique hunting and I've come to the conclusion that there's a fine line between what is an "antique" and what is, in reality, little more than junk. Our sad hulk here case in point; with an asking price of $2,900 someone thinks this is one hell of an antique. You almost can't blame them seeing that it's what's left of a once proud Motor Trend Car of the Year from 1968, a Pontiac GTO. Bring a trailer and get ready to drop in an engine. And a whole lot more.

Authenticity is everything in the collector car world and the "242" right there validates the seller's claim that this was, when it was born at least, a god's green earth, rubber nosed, GTO. Without this VIN prefix I highly doubt that this car would still be in one piece. Such as it is.

Who knows why this wreck is in the shape that it's in. Looks like it's been sitting for a long time. in blazing hot, fairly humid Texarkana Arkansas. Now, most if not all of the parts of this interior are available on line but it's going to cost you. I'd budget at least $3,000 for the interior resto. Don't forget the $2900 you spent on this antique in the first place and you can begin to see how this will add up. Quickly.  

Spend a good $100 or so on good brushes to scrub away the years of grime. Bet this interior smells like granny's basement too months after the water heater busted open. Take everything out and scrub, scrub, scrub away. Better yet, get a power washer.

That is, if the floor pan can withstand it. This here is what concerns me the most about this car. She's a Texas car so you'd think she'd be somewhat immune to rust but we are talking about a 50 year old GM product here; rust gets 'em all regardless of location. This floor pan has to go and good luck finding a reputable metal shop that will weld in new floor pans for you without raking you over the coals. They're out there but boy are you going to pay. I estimate $2,000 to fix that. I'm at almost $8,000 and counting. 

Oh, great. Trunk floor is rotted out too. You might be looking at closer to $3,000 if not $4,000 seeing that you might want to have all of the floor pans redone. When restoring an old car, just like an old house, always best to estimate higher. Set aside $5,000 for the floor pan project. I'm at $11,000 so far and we haven't even talked powertrain or body work yet. 

There were no pictures of under the hood and that's telling - what don't they want us to see? Obviously, there's no engine seeing how high up the front end is and that right front tire being cocked at an odd angle tells me there's front end work to be done. Let's assume there's no engine or transmission. We going with an LS swap or crate engine? We're looking at $6,000. At least. Ka-ching. We're pushing twenty large. A really good paint job could run you another 10. 

So, all in, to be on the high side you're looking at around $40,000 into this car. And then what do you have? A non-numbers matching "GTO" mutt of sorts that few collectors will be interested in since aside from perhaps looking real nice, it would have about as much cache as a clone - that's a non GTO that's dressed up to look like one. Those cars are increasingly popular as the real mccoys are getting harder and harder to find but they are what they are. And they certainly don't go for the kind of money that it would take to make investing in this car worthwhile. 

Which takes us all the way back to the beginning and the fine line between what is an antique and what is junk. Sorry. This is just junk. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

1977 Chrysler Cordoba - Two Birds With One Stone

I'm probably the only man on earth who would seriously consider trading in a Chevrolet Corvette for a Chrysler Cordoba.

I stumbled upon our 1977 black beauty here the other day during yet another "cheap car" search on cars. com. The search this time was to find a replacement for my aging and increasingly problematic 2002 Monte Carlo; with my  price ceiling of $10,000 the pickings are dishearteningly slim. No, dear, I am not driving a 2015 Kia Forte. I sort on "oldest" after I get bored and things always get more interesting.
At $6,000 the asking price is relatively steep for this example of the only bastion of success during the 1970s Chrysler had but she looks to be as perfect as she gets.
So perfect in fact, and pictures can be deceiving, that it occurred to me that I might have a hard time keeping her in the immaculate shape that she's in right now. Am I worthy of such a nice car? Yes. This is Corinthian leather.
However, if a car looks this good in pictures taken by someone who clearly doesn't have a photographer's eye let alone having a clue as to what lighting is all about, she might be as good as she looks. If this was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo or Pontiac Grand Prix of the same vintage the asking price would surely be double. Especially as fully loaded as this lady is.
Introduced for model year 1975, the Chrysler Cordoba was the very rare "right place, right time" automobile for Chrysler. With the personal luxury car boom in full bloom, Chrysler hit the jackpot with a combination of styling, value and marketing. The Cordoba, incidentally, was intended at first to be a Plymouth and go tail light to taillight with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. At the last moment it was moved up market to Chrysler.
Spurred by commercials featuring the impossibly cool Ricardo Montalban, who was a relative unknown in late 1974 when the first commercials were filmed, 1975 Chrysler Cordoba sales were so good that they accounted for nearly 60 % of all Chrysler's sold that year. Sales of 1976 Cordoba's were still good although they weren't as good as 1975's. By 1977 sales began to taper off. Blame Chevrolet for announcing that 1977 was the last year for the "big Monte Carlo" as Monte Carlo sales went through the roof. Those numbers had to come out of somewhere.
Fans of the model will tell you that Chrysler mucked it up with their 1978 restyle although it was for all intents and purposes the same car as what came before it. While most casual observers probably couldn't tell the difference between a 1977 and 1978 Cordoba, numbers don't lie; sales really dropped off for the updated Cordoba's. Could Chrysler have wooed disenfranchised "small Monte Carlo" buyers had they not futzed with the Cordoba for 1978? After all, the Cordoba's styling was nothing if not derivative although, subjective as it is, the 1975-1977 Cordoba was a better looking 1973-1977 Monte Carlo than the Monte was.
No, I wouldn't want this as a daily driver but as a replacement for another one of my old Chevy's, that being my Chevrolet Corvette this might/would/could fit the bill quite nicely. Negotiate the price of this down and then ask for at least $5,000 for the Corvette and I could, in theory, kill two birds with one stone. I'll mop up my 20 year old son's heart break later. After all, he's not the one who's looking at spending winter months on his back in the garage attempting to prop up the old plastic beast.
I'd be rid of that albatross that is my Corvette and I'd have an old car that I really love and is very special to me. Again, I have to be the only person that would trade a Corvette for a Cordoba. 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1958 Chevrolet Impala - Keeping The Faith

There's rumor and speculation out there that the current Chevrolet Impala, a most excellent but not very attractive automobile and certainly not compelling enough to sway the current away from cross overs, will be the last Impala. Unless, of course, in the coming years Chevrolet festoons "Impala" on a cross over, we'll probably never see the nameplate again. Never say never. Anyway, if what we have now is the last Impala, what was the first Impala? Low and behold we have one for you today resplendent in "never garaged" patina.
The 1958 Chevrolet Impala rode on GM's new X frame full size chassis design that Cadillac had debuted the year before. The new chassis allowed designers to set the body of the car lower on the frame because with it's literal "X" design, the body was not impeded by frame rails running up and down the sides of the frame. Being unencumbered by side rails, designers had a huge blank canvas upon which they did what would appear to be anything their hearts desired.
Prior to the "X" frame, GM cars rode on a "ladder frame". With the "X" frame above, there were no side rails on the frame like we'd find on a ladder frame. My red arrows highlight reinforcing rails on the body of the car. Despite what would appear to be an automobile of significant girth, imagine how this car would fare in a side impact collision.
Or any impact for that matter. The GM "X" frame was made famous once again back in 2009 when it was crashed into a Chevrolet Malibu. While this exercise was done to showcase how safe modern cars were, it also pointed out just how deadly cars were back in the day. The 1959 "X frame" Impala was destroyed. Relax. It was a '59 Impala sedan. No one cared. I mean, no one cared about the car. I think all of us were aghast at just how flimsy a car that '59 Impala was. Chevrolet used the "X frame" through 1964. Drive carefully if you've got one.
Sorry. I didn't start out this blog with the intention of getting on a high horse about the advancement of vehicle safety over the years. Trist me, I'm not that guy. However, it is worth noting that before the advent of "safety", vehicle design ruled the roost. Many things we take for granted for today, for instance,  seat belts, weren't even an option on cars in the '50's let alone on our Impala here.
Although this big old bear will collapse like an empty refrigerator box in a crash and no doubt is singularly responsible for burning a hole in the ozone, she still is a fine looking automobile no matter what shape her sheet metal is in. Her interior too. Good lord. When people say that today's Impala is "not worthy" of the nameplate, chances are when they think of Impala's they deem worth of the nameplate they're thinking of "X frame" Impala's like our '58 here. Just keep in mind that the good old days weren't always good. Or safe.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - Damn, I'm Old

Our twenty-year-old son has made it very clear to me that if I ever get rid of our 1977 Chevrolet Corvette he will lock me up in a shitty nursing home when the comes that I need assistance wiping my ass. That threat doesn't stop me from shopping the old bomb around as trade in bait. My latest dalliance 1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS. With an asking price of about $7,500 and allegedly in mint condition, me having come of age in the '80's and always being a fan of these cars, you can't blame me for being smitten by it. Thing is, "The Boss", in this case my son, will have nothing to do with this car. And it's not out of love for the Corvette as much as he just doesn't like this car. 

Which is really telling since 90% of "old cars" that I like he likes as well. If not loves. What doesn't he see in this car that I see? By the way, I have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that a 1985 automobile is an "old car" but, holy shit, 1985 was 32 years ago. Damn. I'm old. 

Now, this isn't a b.s. 1973-1977 wanna be 1978-1980 Monte either with its silly little swoopy fender bulges. Who the hell at GM thought those cars a good idea? Those little shitters were the worst things Chevrolet came up with in the 70's. Yes. Worse than the Vega and the Monza. At least the 1981 update got the "little Monte" back to where you could arguably say they were based on a 1970 Monte Carlo design wise. 

Based on a 1970 Monte Carlo or not, Chevrolet did a wonderful job cleaning up the lines of the Monte Carlo for 1981 and for 1983, made a "high output" version of the Chevrolet 305 cubic inch V-8 standard on "SS" models; the first Monte SS since 1971. Sharing the then current Camaro Z28's aluminum intake manifold and the camshaft from the old L-81 Corvette 350 engine from 1981, the 305 HO in the Monte Carlo SS made between 175 and 180 horsepower. While a far cry from an LS6 454 from 1970, it was an improvement over just about anything else you'd find under the hood of a Monte Carlo at the time. What's more, for 1985, Chevrolet added the 200 R4 four speed automatic to the Monte Carlo along with a very aggressive (for any time period), 3:73:1 axle. Along with a performance tuned F41 suspension package and the 1983-1988 Monte Carlo SS just may have been the best balanced muscle car ever made.

All of which makes no difference to my son who, again, is only 20 years old and is able to view this car and those similar to it in a vaccum without any context to draw upon. "Back in the day", this car was a far cry from the tire shredding monsters that it inspired it. Amazing that he's able to look at this car and be as indifferent towards it as he is. Says a lot about not only this car but how special the cars he holds near and dear, like our Corvette, actually are. 

To me this car is everything but to him it's just another one of those "old cars that only dad" likes. Damn I'm old. 

This car is for sale in Medina, Ohio. Odometer reads 17,000 miles but the lot can not verify how much mileage is on it but based on its condition over all, they say it probably has no more than 117,000 mile on it. Here's the listing if you're interested. https://www.carstory.com/detail/1985-chevrolet-monte_carlo-medina_oh-1G1GZ37G4FR119787

1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 454 - IM SMILN

Unless you remember it first hand, it's all but impossible to imagine how bad the OPEC embargo of October 1973 was. The effects of it were immediate. Literally overnight the cost of a barrel of crude quadrupled and the cost of a gallon of gas nearly doubled. Sales of gas guzzling cars dried up and with the gas shortages that accompanied the price increases, people changed their lifestyles in ways that hadn't been seen in this country since World War II. My children of the depression parents, who took everything to the extreme, kept our house as dark and cold as a dungeon during that very long winter of 1974 because we had to save "N-R-G". Crazy times. One good thing about the energy crisis was that it spurred a little diddy by the Newark Boys Chorus that no one, save for me, remembers.

Makes us wonder if the original buyer of this lovely red on red, 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the oh-so-rare 454 V-8 option bought it before or after the embargo and if they regretted buying it since it probably couldn't go more than 200 miles between fill ups. The base 350 engine with its teeny tiny two barrel carburetor would have a hard time with that distance too. Maybe they got it for a song since cars like this sat on new car lots for weeks if not months with dealers desperate to get rid of them to make room for 20 mile per gallon Vega's.

It's not like people didn't know that their cars sucked on gas before the energy crisis; it almost didn't matter seeing that gas before the crisis was like 29 cents a gallon. Even before the gas crunch, auto manufacturers were moving away from marketing performance, or the pretense of performance, to focusing more on creature comforts because insurance surcharges on anything construed as a performance car left said "muscle cars" languishing on dealer lots.. Therefore, the 454 was a curious option available on the nadir of the personal luxury car of the 1970's. Originally part of an "SS" package on 1970 and 1971 Monte Carlos, by 1972, again with insurance surcharges and all, the SS nomenclature was gone,. The engine, however, remained an option through 1975. Although, seeing that the beast had been detuned down to 235 horsepower for 1974 and 215 for '75, it didn't make much sense as a performance option. To pull a boat or trailer? Maybe. But as a go-faster option not so much. 

Regardless of what engine the 1973-1977 Monte Carlo had, what made them sell so well was was their styling. The big swoopy fenders were said to emulate the classic cars of the 1920's and '30's but that probably mattered little to the bourgeois; they just loved 'em. Honestly, though, I preferred the conventionally styled Malibu coupe this is based on but I've come to appreciate these as icons of a bygone era; much in the same way I appreciate the styling of our wretched 1977 Corvette. And somehow a set of fat tires and Chevrolet Rally wheels works on these cars too. Note the lack of a vinyl roof. Nice.

You'd think, though, that an automobile as large as this on the outside would have the interior capacity of a small motor home but that was never the case with cars back then. Big on the outside, cramped on the inside. Actually, when GM downsized in the late '70's, many of their larger cars gained some interior space. Sadly, when they downsized their intermediate of mid size cars, that was not the case.

Wonder how many times the original owner of this car stressed that they'd run out of gas waiting in line for gas? Hopefully they found some solace in this handsome interior. These are the famous "swivel buckets" that would "swivel" out for easier ingress and egress. Ridiculous, of course, but it made more sense than Ford's tilt-a-way steering column of the 60's. Other GM A body coupes featured these seats as well. Note the window crank, tilt wheel and console. Along with the 454 engine and lack of a vinyl roof, this is one oddly optioned car. Then again, power windows weren't as prevalent on cars as they are today but this is another example of how it's all but impossible to find two cars of this vintage optioned the same way. That shifter in park looks like it's in another county compared to the driver's seat back, doesn't it?

There are very few if any cars made after 1973 that have any real value on the classic car market today and the reasons for that are as clear as mud. Some say it's because of the drop in engine compression after 1970 while others blame safety bumpers. Others blame emissions controls and whatever. In any event, it is what it is. Cars made after 1973 have less value and that's why you need to be careful not to over pay for anything from what is called "The Malaise Era" - generally speaking  that's any car made between 1974 and 1982.

But if you're going to make the plunge and buy one, you'd be hard pressed to do any better than a 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the 454. Maybe they'll even throw in the vanity plates.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

1970 Buick Electra 225 Hardtop Coupe - Keep This Between Us

Good lord, not another Buick. And a 1970 Electra too. What can I say? I love these things and I'm nothing if not consistent. While I'm not a fan of the white vinyl top, and wait until you see the interior, I love the 1970 Electra hard top coupe and this GM brownish/gold that was very popular on Buicks and Cadillacs from about 1965 through about 1980 too. Best is, compared to the convertibles, these are available for a song. And they're better cars too.

GM had a handful of designs back then that actually got better looking with each model year change. The '64-'66 Malibu went from ugly duckling to belle of the ball; so did the '67-'69 Camaro. Same could be said for the '68-'70 Buick Electra. The '68 and '69 Electra look very similar but they don't come close to the '70. And the '71 was a different car altogether. The slicing and dicing from modl year to model year paid off beautifully for this car in my very humble opinion, This, this is my idea of what an automobile should be. Big, grand, luxurious, comfortable, powerful and capable. Without being too ostentatious. The most modest house in the ritziest of zip codes; that's what I like.

Well, here's the interior and it is a horror. It's remarkable it's in the shape it's in but ugh. That upholstery looks like frilly old lady underwear. This interior is not "not buy the car" because of it horrible but I do wish it had the really nice vinyl interior like my father's 1970 Electra four door had. Yeah, vinyl; they called it "Naugahyde" and it was nicer than any leather interior Cadillac offered after 1964. Kid you not. Buick did not offer leather upholstery on any of their models back then. I know. Odd. Then again, GM. 

I never got to drive my father's Electra but by all accounts, that 370 horsepower, "455-4" down there was one hell of an engine. "455" is for cubic inches and the "4" denoted a 4 barrel carburetor. It was also advertised to make 510 foot pounds of torque. Heady stuff although those numbers are SAE "gross" and not "net". I'd approximate the net numbers to be closer to 300 and 400 respectively. That's still pretty impressive. That power came at a cost though. This thing inhales gas. I mean, in-hales it. 8-10 highway if you're lucky. Around town, 5-6 miles per gallon. Weighing nearly two and half tons with this engine and a 2.73 axle, this car was expensive to operate.

She's not perfect, though. On luxury cars of this vintage, the driver was almost an after though. Look at this dash board design. tad cluttered, is it not?  Look where the head light nob is. Holy smokes that's bad design. That an AM radio? And also, the horn for this car is embedded in the rim of the steering wheel. To blare the horn you squeezed the rim. Genius or madness? 

No shoulder harness marring the look of the interior - as horrible as it is. There was a shoulder harness tucked into the headliner; oursy to use only if you chose to do so. Also, those rear quarter windows went up and down. Fabulous. Although, if the kids wanted a little fresh air back there but dad kept his window up, hold your breathe hoping that it would find it's way back up running along side the back of the front door window.

I'd trade my 1977 Corvette in for this in a half second given the opportunity although my family, especially my 20 year old, would kill me for doing that. I'm not sure why I find these cars in particular so alluring; it's not waxing nostalgic for my youth either. Trust me on that. I just like it. When people ask me what my favorite car is of all time, I hesitate about being honest with them and telling them I like 1970 Buick Electra's. I usually tell them 1970 Challengers or 1969 Camaros or what not lest they think I'm some grey haired fuddy duddy.

Just keep this between us, ok?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cadillac ATS4 2.0T - Ummmm, No.

Last weekend I was doing the front brakes on my 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo when I noticed a fair amount of green fluid leaking from somewhere underneath it. I (hopefully) deduced that it was coolant - I think I over filled the reservoir last time I topped it off and the angle of the car on my jack stand may have drained out the excess. What else could it be? The quick and not so subtle panic attack it caused me to have got me seriously thinking though; good grief, what if I needed to replace my car! What I replace it, with?  How about a Cadillac ATS4 2.0T coupe? 

Umm, no. That wouldn't happen even if I had to get another car like, now! And the reason for that is quite simple - I just don't like this car enough to buy it. Even if used ones can be had for a relative song I just don't have a "jones" for it. And, when you're a car guy, a car guy who keeps their rides forever, deep automobile lust is key to making that 48-60 month commitment. Good lord, I've seen 72 and 84 month "paper" these days too. Incidentally, deep lust in any relationship goes a long way towards being happy.

Last time I ran into one of these things I was on vacation at my mother in law's place down in South Florida last Christmastime. That one down there was a hopped up ATS-V and not an "entry" level baby like our subject here I found in the back parking lot of the office building I work in outside of Cleveland Ohio. Darnedest thing, somehow it looks better in photos than it does in person. In photos you can't tell just how half a size here and there too small it is. It throws off any shot at balance and symmetry the design might have. Too bad. Based on GM's most excellent Alpha platform, that also underpins the latest Chevrolet Camaro, this is a strong performing "little" car.

Us coupe lovers are about as fickle a bunch as you're going to find and you would think I'd at least like this car let alone love it but it has always left me cold. And no matter how spectacular a performer it may be, I'd rather drive something that performs less well that stirs me emotionally. The current Camaro leaves me cold as well. Sigh.

Overall, I do like this better than the CTS coupe that this car replaced in the Cadillac lineup. Remember that thing with it's freaky 1950's sci-fi movie rear end? Oh, my eyes.

Since the weekend my Monte Carlo has been running well with no more dripping coolant and my new brakes are absolutely fabulous. Thank goodness. Because if anything were to seriously go wrong with my car I honestly don't know what I'd do to replace it.