Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Amazing What You Can Get Away With (When You Own A Corvette)

A new friend of ours is a master carpenter and is working on this beautiful new house right on Lake Erie in Bay Village, Ohio. It's a to-die-for home in a nice town about twenty minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Last Sunday he had us drive over to the house and take a look around if for nothing else, just to see the great view of downtown Cleveland from the home's backyard.
Here's that view. Damn. The home, which is under construction, will retail for just under two million dollars.  If you say that slowly it sounds like it's even more. Views like this are expensive.  
The house itself is nice but it's this yard that is just absolutely spectacular. It's everything I would want in a yard and then some. Maybe a third of an acre back here and all the splendor of waterfront living without having to worry about flooding or waves or even a boat dock since the yard is about fifty feet off the water. Perfect. 
When our builder friend recommended that we just mosey on over and take a look, we had no idea that we would be able to not only prance all over the property, but saunter right in past the workers who needed little more than a smile and wave from us to let us in. It dawned on my wife and I just why that was; we were in our Little Red Corvette. If ever there was an automotive hall pass, it's a Corvette of any vintage.
When you own a Corvette, good, bad or indifferent, you have admittance to an exclusionary club of blue bloods and wannabe blue bloods. We're neither, of course. Just fans of the car but people just think we're rich. The workers saw us driving up in up in our Corvette and they assumed we belonged there. They even waved, gave us the thumbs up and asked me what year it was. If we were in our drab, work a day, wormy old Tahoe, I have to imagine we wouldn't have gotten past the apron of the driveway. Our dashing good looks only getting so far.
It's harmless fun to innocently appear to be more than what you are. I've learned that if someone thinks you're something you're not and it's something positive, might as well leave that alone. No sense in correcting people.
The home is scheduled to be completed and ready to move in by the end of January. I wouldn't want to be moving in at the end of January in most cities let alone a "snow city" like Cleveland. Especially considering the forecasts of a winter even worse than last year's soul crushing baddie. Then again, I'm not moving into a house like this. Some things you don't want to wait for no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

I hope that to whomever is having this house built, they never come to look at this view and think it ho hum after a while. My wife and I struggle with that when it comes to our Corvette which looks like it's a lot more than what it is. After all, a view is just a view...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance Coupe - The Last Cadillac

Here's a quickie about one that I swore that I wasn't going to write about because I've done so many of these cars of the same vintage. This one is a little different though since I, and shockingly so, didn't even know existed.

I had mistakenly believed that "The Last Cadillac", meaning the last rear wheel drive coupe, had rolled off assembly lines at the end of the 1984 model year but I failed to realize that since 1980, Cadillac made a coupe version of their range topping Fleetwood Brougham; the difference between a loaded deVille and a Fleetwood has always escaped me but I digress. Cadillac made 8,600 of these for model year 1985 and the owner of this one claims it to be the finest one still on the road today. 

Despite the owner's claims and as nice as this car appears to be, it can't escape what it really is - a thirty something year old Cadillac saddled with the HT 4100. Much has been written about these awful engines over the years and all of it bad. Cadillac worked out most of the issues with this engine by 1985 but it never made near enough horsepower and torque to move these large cars properly.

There's no telling if the owner of this car had one too many refreshments at happy hour when they posted this car for sale with an asking price of $90,000. Or if they really think their car is worth that kind of money. Even at a tenth of the asking price this car is a stretch. Email me if you're interested. Please don't all rush my inbox at once now.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bob Seger's Deuce and a Quarter

To help promote the release of Bob Seger's latest single, "Detroit Made", WMJI, "Majic 105.7" here in Cleveland is giving listeners the chance to win Bob Seger's "Deuce and a Quarter", a 1966 Buick Electra 225 convertible. No disrespect intended toward Mr. Seger but let's have some fun following the little bouncing ball and poke holes in some of the song's historic and technical inaccuracies.

Forgive me if this blog is a bit of a rambling mess - not unlike the song and the car the song pays an homage too.
I got me a deuce and a quarter, babe she will ride you right
Pick you up about half past nine
We can ride all night
"Deuce and Quarter" is street lingo for a Buick Electra 225. The term stemming from the 225 inch length of the original 1959 and 1960 Electras. Buick kept the 225 designation through 1979 even though the length of Electra 225's had been at times longer and shorter than 225 inches. Incidentally, "Bob Seger's Deuce and A Quarter" measures "only" 224 inches long.

I came up from the country, baby
City's where I stay
Got me a deuce and a quarter, babe
It's all I got to say
She's a Detroit made
Deuce and a quarter, babe
1966 "Deuce and Quarters" were  not made Detroit but  an hour north of Detroit in Flint, Michigan. So, calling Flint, "Detroit" would be like saying I grew up in New York City when in fact I grew up less than an hour east of the city out on Long Island. Big difference. Seger is from Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is roughly 30 minutes west of Detroit. Calling it "the country" is a bit of stretch. Having been built up significantly since he was born in 1945, it is still somewhat  "country" at least in comparison to Detroit. Then again, that's like saying where I grew is the country in comparison to mid town Manhattan. Ann Arbor is also famous for being home to the University of Michigan making Mr. Seger a "townie". He still lives there.  
Big-block she'll do all the work So we can ride in style
Leather on those bucket seats
Carpet double pile
Chrome that takes the moonlight on
Sea to shining sea
You can hear those glass pipes rumble to the statue of liberty
Although "Bob Seger's Deuce and a Quarter" has a very large "Buick" V-8 engine and its block being very big as well quite large as well, Buick engines have never been referred to as a "Big-blocks". The terms "Big Block" and "Small Block" are terms most associated with Chevrolet V-8 engines; Chevrolet engines back then as different from Buick (and Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Cadillac engines) as they were from Ford and Chrysler engines. These days, all GM engines are manufactured by GM Powertrain as opposed to each division manufacturing their own engines.
The "Buick" V-8 in "Bob Seger's Deuce and a Quarter" was the famed "Nailhead" V-8 named for it's narrow valves that resembled nails. Glass Pack mufflers, which use fiberglass to muffle engine noise and not sound absorbing baffles that conventional mufflers use, are quite loud and although they're effective at reducing back pressure allowing the engine to perform better, they're not very effective at actually muffling noise. They were not original factory equipment on 1966 Buick Electras' or an GM vehicle. Ever.  

 She a Detroit made, deuce and a quarter babe
Now when I first got out of high school
I drove an old fine truck
All the girl they walk right by me
Didn’t even say good luck

Despite the song's note about the apparent lack of attention women give to men who drive pickup trucks, pickup trucks have been the best selling vehicles in the United States for most of the last thirty five years.

Now I ride my 225, they all want to be my friend I'll pick you up later tonight now baby
You can wait till then

Deuce and Quarter, again, "street lingo" for 2-25, are also referred to as "9's; the sum of all three numbers.

Just about every cat I know wants him a coupe de ville I pay half the price and get twice as nice
And they're still trying to pay that bill
Now I can't say everything's okay riding in my car
But I got me a deuce and a quarter baby
She goes like a shooting star

Value conscious luxury car buyers knew there was little compromise in purchasing a subjectively nicer "Deuce and Quarter" over a Cadillac Coupe Deville. Both cars were built off GM's "C" body platform and shared much mechanically. Did a Buick cost half what a Cadillac did? No. The Buick would retail for approximately $4200 while the Cadillac went for roughly $6500. 50 years ago, that was a sizeable difference in cost.

The song was written in 2011 by John Hiatt.
Listen to Majic 105.7 weekdays to win $1000 and be qualified to win Bob Seger's 1966 "Deuce and Quarter". http://www.wmji.com/main.html

Sunday, October 19, 2014

1989 Chevrolet Caprice - Tommy Boy

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon this woe-be-gone, "B" outside an auto parts store near my home west of Cleveland, Ohio.

No sooner had I popped off a half dozen shots or so when the owner, a kid in his early twenties, came out of the store and asked if he could help me with something. People who catch us car bloggers photographing their cars have mixed emotions about it; one time a person was very agitated when I was taking pictures of his late '90's Grand Am and insisted I delete the pictures off my phone while others, like the young man who owns this Caprice, are all too willing to talk about their rides. Naturally, I prefer the latter but to be honest with you I always hold my breath when taking these pictures preferring no human interaction at all.
This kid, who's name is Zack, was so willing to talk to me because he wanted to unload this thing. He sees a grey beard like me snapping pictures of his car and he figured he had a buyer. He was wrong and didn't seem exactly enamored of the fact that I wanted pictures of his car for my blog. Nonetheless, we got into some details about this 1989 Chevrolet Caprice.
He's had it only a couple of months and he wants to get rid of it and get something a bit better on gas. He said nothing about the overall horrendous condition of a car that should be shredded. With his commute of approximately 30 miles per day and with his minimum wage "salary", gas, at $3.25 or so a gallon, is a major expense for him. Even if the throttle body fuel injected 305 is delivering very respectable gas mileage in the low twenties. Me thinks, though having not been born yesterday, there's more to the story.

There isn't a square inch of this car that hasn't been ravaged by time and the elements. Northeast Ohio weather is not kind to any car especially old ones like this. Young Zack claimed the person he bought the car from said this car had come up from the south meaning a life free from really bad weather and road salt. This blowout rust hole then, I would have to assume, is what, fresh?. You know what they say about assumptions.

The grill, which is loose, was the best part of this car that has had what I guess could be best described as a partial restoration.

Yeah. That's a Chevrolet truck grill. The "restorer" getting points for originality if not frugality. Zack claimed he didn't even realize the grill wasn't the original. It's crooked too.

We parted ways amicably enough; me prattling away making nervous, idle chit chat since I felt so embarrassed about getting caught taking pictures of a car that I found no interest in other than writing about it.

My parting words where if this was a coupe I might have an issue trying to explain my latest purchase to the wife. My growing nose striking the young man in his chest as I spoke.

I still have his number if you're interested. I can't recommend it, though. Pictures don't do it justice just how beat to death it is. Odo claiming 145,000 clicks. You haven't seen the interior either. Remember David Spade's character's GTX in Tommy Boy after the deer woke up inside the car? That car's interior was in better shape. He's asking $900.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

1988 Cadillac Seville - Play Up

There's an expression in tennis where players play up in order to improveIn other words, they play against people who are better and/or stronger than they are.

Cadillac was not playing up when they came out with this car in 1986. As much as I've always liked the "little" Seville of 1986-1991 vintage, going so far as to say during those six brutal years it being one of the few things Cadillac did right, Cadillac was, if anything, playing down instead of up when they designed it.
Playing down in that they made a much improved version of what they had already done rather than play up against the German makes. While it was arguably the best Cadillac ever to that point, by the mid 1980's "Yuppies" (young urban professionals), had moved onto BMW as the vehicle they preferred to have parked in front of their condos. The Sevilles they did sell where to repeat Cadillac customers, not new customers. "Yups" wouldn't have been caught dead in this thing.

It's not fair to say that even if Cadillac had played up thirty, thirty five years ago that their fortunes would have been any different or better but it does make you wonder. What is reality, though, is that the tidal wave of change from Germany stole Cadillac's cache in a very short period of time.

It's a miracle the brand is even around today considering how weak in comparison these cars were. Cadillac is far from out of the weeds these days even though their cars are the rival of anything coming from Europe or Asia. The issue now is price; Cadillac has priced their wares at the level of those haughty German and Japanese makes. Sometimes playing up is not what it's cracked up to be but when in doubt, it's the best way to play.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1968 Cadillac Sedan DeVille - A Life Lived Well

The key to keeping any car in pristine condition is to take care of it.
When the first radio station I worked for changed from a music format to what is known as "news talk", the company that owned the station apparently thought enough of me not to fire me. Being just 23 at the time and not appreciative of their kind gesture, I believe they didn't can me because they'd never find anyone who would do the job they moved me to, executive producer and desk writer, for less money. I stewed over what I believed was my wretched plight longing to be back on the air playing music and not producing talk shows that focused on local politics and writing kickers for the news anchors.
That includes keeping it out of the elements all year long, changing major fluids regularly and fixing things that break as quickly as possible.
The station, honestly, was a train wreck. A misbegotten tangle of huge egos, bad ideas, sloppy execution and abhorrent planning, I somehow was able to enjoy myself not in the work but by immersing myself in the lives of the talk show "hosts". A most interesting blend of mature professionals ranging from financial planners to pediatricians to chefs, none of them had done radio before and you could hear it on the air as they were terrible broadcasters. Very intelligent people, mind you and most likely more than adaptable and trainable given the right coaching and instruction but during the short time I worked with them they were awful. However, all of them appeared to me to have one thing in common - they were all extremely happy people.
To maintain originality, try to replace parts with OEM or NOS parts. Historical accuracy is key on any older collectible car.
I was particularly enamored of the host of pediatrics show, "The Baby Doc", Dr. Prestano, who did a daily two hour talk show that catered to new moms. "Dr. P", who was in his mid 60's at the time I worked with him, was the most delightful, positive and charming man I had ever met. His enthusiasm was infectious and everyone at the station loved him. He was in terrific physical shape too and claimed never to have been sick a day in his life.
It's also important to appreciate your older car for what it is as opposed to being upset for what it's not.
He attributed his happiness to several very simple principles. First, he advocated a strict diet of non processed foods, no smoking, little to no alcohol and most importantly he said, positive perspective. For without it, there would be no way you'd be happy and being happy helps your body to perform at its peak.
It's obvious what older cars have had a life lived well and which ones have not.
He said the key to being happy, in addition to taking care of yourself, of course, was to live your life well and not waste your time doing anything that doesn't make you happy. He said it was ok, to a point, to be selfish to that happy end. Afterall, if you're not taking care of  yourself to make sure that you're happy, there wasn't anyway that you'd be any good to anyone else.  
Today, I don't stew over the plight I experienced years ago at the station instead I look back fondly at working with people like Dr. Prestano. He passed away in 2011 at 88.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The New York Islanders - Victims of their Own Success

These young fans either like to tailgate conveniently (you can't tailgate at Rangers games) or they're what's left of a fan base that should never have existed in the first place.

When the Islanders limp out of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the end of the 2014-15 season for what their owner believes will be more the prosperous confines of Brooklyn, it will mark the end of the longest fade of a professional sports team in history. A fade to black, more like blue and orange, that began as far back as before the first puck was dropped for their first game back in 1972.

Much of the Islanders problems over the last quarter century have, wrongly, been centered on the team's very humble home, the Nassau Coliseum.
The "Islanders" fade to black beginning before the first puck of their first game because the team never made any sense. Established to block the long defunct World Hockey Association from gaining a toe hold in the New York metropolitan area, their biggest problem has been that they play in the middle of Nassau County, not exactly a hotbed of NHL fans. Say what you will; outside of Canada and say Detroit, Boston and Chicago, is any city in the United States a hockey hotbed? 

With the move to Brooklyn, there is little chance this will never happen again seeing that if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup in the future, the celebratory parade won't be on Long Island. Not that it matters, Islanders fans being fickle and sparse. As Steve Jacobsen has pointed out, if Long Island really cared about the Islanders they wouldn't be leaving.

With the Rangers home less than twenty five miles west, the Islanders had to carve out a fan base from the Ranger's fan base; the Islanders' original owner, Roy Boe having to pay the Rangers $5 million dollars in territorial fees when the team first launched to offset losses in revenue. With a uniquely localized team identity, if you're not from Long Island why would you be a fan of a team called the Islanders -  (?), in addition to the limited appeal of hockey, to have a chance at surviving  the Islanders best bet was to quickly become more competitive than the Rangers. They did that and so much so that they became a victim of their own success; had they never had that success early on the franchise wouldn't have remained on Long Island as long as it did.

Enigmatic, polarizing, and the most important player on a team of remarkably strong players, Denis Potvin is without question one of the best players in NHL history if not its greatest  defenseman.

The Islanders came of age  in the mid 1970's taking many disgruntled, Long Island based Rangers fans with them when the Rangers were in a foggy rebuilding flux (some things never change). Their rapid assent from door mat to contender seeming like a rebirth of the Yankees of yore as opposed to an expansion team. When they stopped winning, however, those "loyal" fans, again,  many of them being disenfranchised Rangers fans, as the Islander's ever astute GM Bill Torrey had feared, stopped showing up en masse. Mr. Torrey having no idea, of course, of how long the losing would be.

Butch Goring, Potvin and Bryan Trottier with first of four Stanley Cups won consecutively between 1980 and 1983. No major league sports team has won as many consecutive titles since.

As remarkable as the team was early on, they have been consistently and remarkably lousy for way longer than they were good. In the twenty five years since the retirement of Denis Potvin in 1988, they've made the playoffs a mere 8 times and have advanced past the second round only once. Conversely, during their first 16 years in the league, save for their first two seasons, they made the playoffs 14 years in a row to say nothing about their four straight Stanley Cup wins.

Bob Nystrom scored the overtime goal that made Rangers fans cry. It gave the Islanders their first Cup in game five of the 1980 finals against the Flyers.

Blame an NHL changed through multiple lockouts and strikes making it difficult for smaller market teams (Long Island is a large market but it might as well be Indianapolis) to be built the way the championship Islanders were built, farcical ownership changes, bizarre decisions and a bankrupt Nassau County all plying against the organization's chances of putting a consistently good team on the ice. You can't blame the fans for staying away.

The future of the Coliseum is in doubt. Most likely, since it's in the middle of one of the most densely populated and wealthy areas of the country, it will be demolished to make way for office parks, shopping malls and residences.

Will the Islanders, find the financial resources they never had on Long Island when the move to Brooklyn next year? Anyone's guess. One thing is for certain, if they don't win, win consistently and win quickly once in Brooklyn, regardless of what the team is called,  fans there will be even more ambivalent towards them than the ones they leave behind. The Islanders will fade to black again. 

The fact that the team, at last report, will retain the name "Islanders" after they move being another odd footnote in a team's history that has been nothing if not unusual. A team name that so aptly if benignly now describes their fan base will soon be completely at odds with the identity of where they will be playing. Understand that Brooklyn, while on the same land mass as Long Island, is not, oddly enough, considered part of Long Island. So, the "Islanders" being called "Islanders" in Brooklyn makes as much since as calling them "Islanders" if the team had moved to Cleveland.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme - Where Is The Puck Going To Be?

The night in January 1988 when I picked up my infamous and dreadful 1982 Buick Riviera from long since closed Celebrity Oldsmobile on Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, I happened upon two brand new Cutlasses sitting in the showroom. One of them was the "old" Cutlass, handsome in two tone silver with factory painted pins stripes and a gleaming, Quadrajet equipped 307. Oldsmobile had rechristened, it "Cutlass Classic". The other one was a red on red version of one of these; the new for '88, front wheel drive Cutlass Supreme. I have to tell you honestly, it had me at hello. Had I not needed to purchase a cash car to save money on insurance, I probably would have found a way to swing the cash for one of these new Oldsmobiles.

While history has not been kind to these cars and many all but blame it and others of its ilk, the infamous GM10 or W body platform for the demise of General Motors as we knew it, this car gave me, big coupe loving man, a very good first impression. Stylish, spacious and with winter weather friendly front wheel drive, I felt it an acceptable replacement for a car that become all but an icon. An icon that needed updating.  

GM did the miss the boat on several fronts with these cars, though. Designed as coupes, first and foremost as most of the big GM coupes had been going back twenty plus years at this point, the sedan versions of these cars looked as goofily out of proportion as anything GM has came out with. Prior or since. What's more, by 1988 the market that was most interested in coupes was shifting away from coupes towards SUV's. It was a huge mistake considering how much money, time and effort went into these cars.

I've had five GM W-bodies over the last twenty five years have never had a moment's trouble with any of them that wasn't attributable to normal wear and tear, age or aftermarket nonsense. My current "W", a 2002 Monte Carlo, is running as strong today as the day I got it more than four years ago. They've all been screwed together very well; especially compared to the cars it replaced. Amazing how people forget that and took the reliability of modern cars for granted as quickly as they did.


Designed and engineered in time when coupes were still extremely popular, the GM10's were updated versions of an aging design idiom and ethos. My own coupe loving opinion be damned of course. What do I know anyway? I tell record label reps all the time that they should actually be concerned if I like their music.  

With regards to the GM10, in sports vernacular, GM went to where the puck was instead of moving to where it was going.