Thursday, July 31, 2014

1975 Chrysler Cordoba - Anything Is Possible

My wife thinks it crazy of me to want this car especially when we already have an "old car" that many would die for.

While the "old car" is cool as hell and drop dead gorgeous, it's that white Cordoba my car loving nostalgic heart yearns for most. Yes. A Chrysler Cordoba.
A white, 1975 Cordoba represented a change in my life where nothing was possible to anything at least seeming possible. While I've had more than my fair share of ups and downs in the 31 years since I first got that car, I can trace the change in my life for the better back to the summer of '83 when I got, "The Cordoba".
Our lovely Corvette, as magnificent as it is, can't hold a candle to it. 

This car appears to be the base model Cordoba, just like mine (no Corinthian leather).Only difference, mine had a black interior. This light, bright interior is the same color interior that the Dodge Magnum that I bought years ago and restored to look like my Cordoba had.

The Magnum (above) was a cool car and thanks to a fairly hopped up engine was pretty fast. Much faster than my Cordoba was. Had it not started burning oil by the bucket I don't know what I would've done with it. The cost of shipping it when we moved back North, even driving it, from Dallas to Cleveland was prohibitive. The failing engine made the decision to dump it somewhat easy. Still, as nice as the Magnum turned out, it was not a Cordoba.
This beauty is for sale up in Ontario and they're asking a mere $3400 Canadian. That's just over $3100 American. Anything is possible.

The Cordoba was one of the few bright spots for Chrysler during the 1970's. In fact, during its 1975-1977 peak, Cordoba accounted for 60% of Chrysler sales. An abortive styling in update in 1978 killed much of the original's charm and uniqueness. In an attempt to make Cordoba into something more, designers instead made it less than it was. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z Convertible - Beautiful Loser

Chevrolet built the IROC-Z Camaro between 1985 and 1990.
With a pot holed driving record, hence subsequent insurance surcharges and living in a cold weather city, when I was a young man I had about as much a chance at one of these as I had at dating Cheryl Ladd. Sad thing is as I got older and eventually got a Z28, albeit a 2002 model which was supposed to be a significantly upgraded version of today's feature car, I was sadly disappointed to find that my boyhood dreams were far better than the actual car. Chalk another one up to that age old adage, anticipation better than the participation. 

IROC stood for "International Race of Champions".

My first experience with one of these was when I was at St. John's and a friend tossed me the keys to his fresh ride his parents had just purchased for him. What I recall of the experience was that the car was very fast but it creaked, moaned, groaned and shuddered. Worst of all was the ride; it was brutal but I attributed it to the horrible Queens blacktop more than the car itself. Any fault I found with the car was that I thought it perhaps overly "sporty" likening the car to a roller coaster ride. Actually, the ride quality was better in a roller coaster.
IROC was a North American race competition that was promoted as the equivalent of a auto racing All Star Game or Masters Tournament. It ran between 1974 and 2006.

Contemporary reviews of the IROC-Z, the "IROC" option mostly a suspension "upgrade" over a regular Z28, marveled at its handling, braking and acceleration but the things that matter most, like ride comfort, comfort in general and overall build quality got less than sterling reviews. My 2002 shuddered less but it too had a ride that could pound kidney stones into dust. Every pebble in the road becoming a speed bump. To own one of these is to hate it as much as love it. I can only imagine what a rattle trap a 28 year old IROC convertible would be. 
The Camaro IROC-Z featured an upgraded suspension, lowered ride height, specially valved Delco - Bilstein shocks, larger diameter sway bars, a steering/frame brace known as the "wonder bar", a special decal package, and an optional Tuned Port Injection system taken from the Corvette. It also shared the Corvette's Goodyear "Gatorback" unidirectional tires in a 245/50/VR16 size vs. the Corvette's 255/50/VR16 size, and received unique new aluminum 5-spoke 16 by 8 inch wheels. The new wheels were designed with different offsets front and rear, resulting in the words "Front" or "Rear" cast into the face of the wheels to distinguish which wheel went where.

We've all heard stories about difficult people who are charismatic and what they put the people who love them through. If you're looking for a life free of drama and you have to have a Camaro get one of the new ones. Today's Camaro, which shares not a shred of DNA with this car, have had all of the bad stuff engineered out of them. They're terrific performers, well built and are infinitely easier to live with than this thing but subjectively, they aren't nearly as good looking. They're almost too perfect and that makes them boring. Not like this beautiful loser. Given a choice between the two, I'll take this rolling alcoholic over that Ivy League grad hands down.

1999 Buick Century - The Power of Value

People, in general, have about as much passion for the radio station they listen to as the brand of hand soap or paper towels that they buy. Same is true for automobiles. While there are people who are passionate about the radio stations they listen to, as there are people who are passionate about what they drive, those people are in the minority. The vast, silent majority are a conservative, no less fickle bunch and due to their size and buying power are whom businesses cater to most. That's why music radio stations sound so homogenized, regardless of format or genre and why there are or were cars like this plain jane, despite the red paint, maddenly bland 1999 Buick Century.
That's not to say there's nothing not to like about this car for there certainly is. The shape is pleasant, the seats are comfortable, the car tracks nicely, the brakes are excellent, the ride is pleasant, acceleration is ample, fuel economy is good, it is fairly feature rich with just about everything you'd need, and most quite admirably, it should've given back about 100,000 fairly carefree miles before things started to go. 
This car was also relatively cheap in its day especially compared to similar size offerings from Toyota, Nissan, Honda and VW. That, combined with its fair degree of reliability, especially compared to the crap Buick and General Motors was pushing out a generation before this car, being the primary reasons this car sold in the numbers that it did. Never underestimate the power of value.

Those of us who want something more from their daily driver than the bland, vanilla yogurt of a car like this weren't the target buyers for it anyway so who are we to judge.

My in laws had a '99 Century, it was gold not whatever shade of red this one is, and they enjoyed nearly a decade of pain free South Florida motoring bliss. Until it got north of a 100 on the odometer and things started flying off it but up until that, Mrs. Lincoln, the play was great. Mom traded the old girl in for a Honda Civic.

There is something noble about a vehicle so stoic in its mission to be nothing more than pleasantly utilitarian. I myself like a little spam in my meatloaf mix.

By the way, if you don't like my radio station there's nothing stopping you from putting in a CD of something you'd rather hear instead. Sorry, no aux hookup on this old gem. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Lincoln MKZ - I Can't So I Won't


Lincoln's naming scheme has to be the oddest vehicle nomenclature in the market today. What does "Mk" mean? "Mmmmmm, k?" As in texting short code that my teenagers use? Mmmmmm, no; Mk is short for "Mark" which harkens back to the days of the Mark II through VIII. As if anyone really cares. It is an attempt, though, to embrace the alpha (sans numeric) naming that other "rich" brands have been doing for years. Today at your neighborhood Lincoln store you have the MkS (fancy Taurus), MkT (fancy Explorer), MkC (fancy Escape), MkX (fancy Edge) and our fetching subject, the MkZ (fancy Fusion). Those "modest" Fusion bones aside, the Fusion is a great car, the Lincoln MkZ is one of but a handful of contemporary cars that I think I would purchase...if I had 50 grand to spend on a car. I don't have that kind of money so I won't be buying one. But if I did...Oh, come on. Who's kidding who. If I had 50 grand to blow on a car I'd buy a BMW or Mercedes. I should say, if I had 50 grand to drop on a car and it had to be a domestic...

The MkZ' svelte lines and interesting exterior details make it quite attractive and hide its, again, "humble", Fusion borrowed DNA. I didn't snap the interior here but suffice to say it's leather lined library gorgeous compared to the "looks a vinyl lined Tupperware bowl" of the "lowly" Fusion. Think Lexus ES 350 vs. Toyota Camry. This dyed in the naugahyde coupe lover is smitten, though and the availability of Ford's lusty, 3.7 liter, 263 horsepower V-6 in lieu of the wonky "Ecoboost" 2.0 liter four makes the MkZ all the more appealing. This particular car had the 2.0 liter turbo engine. You can not get a V-6 on the Fusion. You also can not get the Ecoboost V-6 in the MkZ. Just as well.

Testament to the MKZ' beautiful design is that people are amazed to hear that the car is little more than a dressy Ford Fusion. Now, the problem is the Fusion itself is a car that can be confused with luxury brands costing thousands more so with an average price pushing hard against $50,000, the MkZ better offer a whole more than a loaded, $37,000 Fusion. Sadly, as is often the case with "badge or brand engineering" like this, you don't get your premium dollars money's worth.

My two cents: Buy this car because you love the car and not for some notion that Lincoln has any real luxury cache. Or, wait a couple of years and look for a low mileage used MkZ that someone took the depreciation beating on.

1988 Mercury Cougar - Dead And Buried


This immaculate 1988 Mercury Cougar reminds me of  KOAI, "Smooth Jazz, 107.5 The Oasis" in Dallas when I programmed the station in the mid 2000's. Like that radio station, no matter how good Ford (Mercury was a division of Ford) made this car the model and type of car it was was ultimately doomed because of waning interest not just in the radio station but in everything the station was.

Introduced in 1967, Mercury had great success with the original Cougar. Based on the same chassis and body shell as the Ford Mustang, Cougar was able to do what no other Mercury, save for '49-'51 "Mercs" were able to do; be something more than a fancy Ford or dressed down Lincoln. Just as the smooth jazz radio format was able to be what no other segment of adult contemporary radio format was able to be; it's own format. 
As market dynamics for "sporty" two door cars changed, Ford began changing what "Cougar" meant in the market place. For 1974 Ford moved the nameplate to a fancy version of the two door, mid sized, Mercury Montego. A seismic shift in direction for the model name that was actually stronger than the image of an actual car. That image so strong that "Cougar" became a sub brand of Mercury. 
Between 1977 and 1979, all mid sized Mercury's were "Cougars". That even included station wagons.  
What was a "Cougar"? Apparently anything Ford said it was. 1981 Mercury Cougar. Reward Yourself.
"The Oasis" and the smooth jazz radio format had a significant success in the mid to late 1980's and much like two door cars, was a phenomenon unique to a point in time. To make the smooth jazz stations more mass appeal, programmers added pop music that fit the sonic and textural mood of the instrumentals. However, as years passed and fans of instrumental music or "contemporary jazz" aged out of the most desirable advertiser demographic, ratings and then billing declined. No matter what programmers did and how strategically sound decisions were, with a shrinking potential audience the overall viability of the smooth jazz format was doomed. 
Even when this '88 was new, coupe buyers had already begun moving their buying dollars to imports and SUVs. So no matter how good this Cougar was or its successor was, the market for these cars was dwindling. Ford stopped production of the Cougar (and Thunderbird) after 1997 due to poor sales. There was a reprise of sorts in 1999 but that odd little cat found few buyers.
The Oasis and the smooth jazz format has been dead and buried since 2006.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage - What Are YOU Doing Here?

The Aston Martin DB7 Vantage's beauty is so out of this world unreachable, so untouchable, so intimidating that I've found myself walking away from it because I feel I'm not worthy to be in the same air space as it is. Which is ironic because the air space that I routinely find it in is in the parking lot of the gym I frequent. That gym happening to be the dumpiest, oldest, cheapest gym in town.  

It's a long, boring, sordid, twisted tale of ownership change and lost contracts as to why I still work out at this scurvy and cholera invested dump. I have to wonder, though, why someone who drives an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage would come here. For the same reasons as I? Perhaps but there are few people as cheap as I am. Maybe, though they pinch pennies in one part of their life so they can spend it elsewhere? Like on keeping up on the frighteningly expensive maintenance of this legendary British grand touring car?
See what happens when you drive an expensive, exotic car? People automatically think you're filthy rich and that can cut you both ways. It's expensive to not only be rich but come across as rich. It's really expensive to maintain the trappings of the rich and if you want to give off the impression of being rich and you don't have the money to do so, well, good luck explaining to friends why you've gone from driving as Aston Martin to an old Chevy Cobalt. 
I just hope the person who drives this car appreciates it for what it is; a kick butt. beautiful automobile that's as much rolling sculpture as it is a transportation device. Those that see it as nothing more than a trapping of the rich end up being trapped by those trappings. It's a slippery sloped. Still, seeing this old Aston Martin in the parking lot of my gym is not unlike rubbing elbows with a celebrity you'd run into in a cheap restaurant. It happens, occasionally but it leaves you with one question you want to ask them, "What are YOU doing here?"