Thursday, July 30, 2015

1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special - Sunday Morning Tresspassing

I used to visit this junkyard around the corner from my home quite often when we first moved to Cleveland five years ago and photograph what was at the time quite the collection of cool, rotting old wrecks. Sadly, they've been disappearing over the last couple of years  so I haven't bothered to go back there in quite a while. Imagine my delight on a recent Sunday morning when I hopped the fence and found something I had seen back there before; this delightful 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special.
I love old Cadillacs and these mid sixties beauties are particularly interesting for they represent the end of Cadillac's uncontested luxury market dominance. Up until 1964, if General Motors was to ask the mirror on the wall who had the fairest car of them all the mirror would undoubtedly say "GM" with their "Standard of the World", Cadillac. That changed dramatically with the introduction of the Mercedes 600 in 1964, a marvel of engineering significantly better than anything that Cadillac had. What's more, that Mercedes finally gave Cadillac something it never had before; real competition. GM is still playing catch up more than fifty years later.
Ah, but there was a time when a Cadillac truly was the fairest one in the land resplendent in amenities that mere mortals driving Fords, Chevies and Pontiacs could only dream about and the Fleetwood series like our Grand Old Dame here  the dandiest of the dandy Cadillacs. A huge, powerful overhead valve V-8, turbo hydramatic automatic transmission, air conditioning and power everything in a day when power windows and seats that moved with the flick of button were considered an engineering marvel. This particular Fleetwood, a Sixty Special, is even equipped with headlights that automatically dim at a twilight setting set by the driver. So advanced was this feature that the dial for making that setting takes up a huge spot on the dashboard to the left of the speedometer.
One of many things that doomed Cadillac's position, aside from Mercedes and other luxury makes that would soon come ashore, was that GM pushed down Cadillac's technological innovations to their lesser divisions blurring the lines between not only a Fleetwood and a DeVille but a Cadillac and a Chevrolet. What with air conditioning even available on Chevrolets costing thousands less, what were you actually getting when you bought a Cadillac besides a status symbol? Makes you wonder where Cadillac would be today had they, after the Mercedes 600 debut, continued to invest in engineering innovations that helped put them in their once lofty position in the first place.
Good news is that although I'm of a generation that has difficulty making the leap of faith that Cadillac deserves a seat at the table with the likes of BMW and Mercedes these days, it's a testament to GM's diligence of late that my teenage boys have no problem with believing that a Cadillac is every bit as good as makes and models from Europe and Asia.
I don't plan on going back here any time in the near future; this last traipse (or transgression) was particularly not interesting seeing just how many of the old Lincolns, Dodge Challengers, Mustangs and Camaros are gone. When I do go back, I hope this Grand Old Dame is still there. There's lots more to document about her. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

1988 Buick Regal - 1988 Is Calling.

Wow. Look at this; one of the automobiles General Motors introduced in 1988 to compete with the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable; the GM-10 based Buick Regal. While certainly better than what it replaced, the 1988 Buick Regal was clearly, and this is me - a big fan of these cars being brutally honest, not (good) enough.
In every way imaginable even including, subjective as it is, styling, the front wheel drive, 125 horsepower, 2.8 liter V-6 Regal was a massive improvement over what it replaced. The problem with the Regal was that it wasn't any better than what Ford was doing and was absolutely inferior to what Toyota, Honda, Nissan et al from Asia were offering.
What's more the Regal and very similar offerings from Oldsmobile and Pontiac were all coupes. As much of a coupe geek as I was and still am, even I knew back then that was odd. Especially considering that GM spent $7 billion (poof!) developing these cars. And they only made coupes? Incredibly, four door versions of the Regal, Cutlass (Olds) and Grand Prix (Pontiac) didn't appear until 1990. Ford didn't even offer two door versions of their Taurus or Sable. Clearly the market was shifting away from "personal luxury cars"; apparently Roger Smith didn't get the memo. Let's not even begin to talk about what a Camry or Accord was like back then compared to even the Ford Taurus. It wasn't even close.
Still, this fan of all things with two doors would jump on this before any two door CamryAccord even if he does know better. An '88 Ford Taurus? Even an S-H-O would get past over for this little blue on blue gem.
You either get that...or you don't. Look at all those buttons. Utterly ridiculous. Don't you just love it?
1988 is calling. Asking price is a very reasonable $3995. Answer the call before I do.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

1972 Chevrolet Impala - Babies Love Their Mothers

My affection for these cars has more to do with my liking what was new when I was a child as opposed to appreciating the cars for themselves. Not unlike a child loving their mother regardless of whether their mother is Mother Theresa or The Bride of Frankenstein; whomever that person is is going to be adored.

Most "car people" don't share my appreciation for these massive automobiles. Those of us who do love them for what they are are a small lot as opposed to the masses who believe the 1957 Chevrolet,  the most beautiful or coolest car ever made. Sorry. I think the 1957 Plymouth was a better looking 1957 Chevy than the Chevy was. And the 1972 Impala, as big and overwrought as it was, was the better looking car as well. Love is blind and most importantly has no reason.

There are more affecionados of this '68 that came before these 1971 vintage dreadnaughts. Remarkably, this '68 is but an inch and half shorter than our '72.   
The '72's smaller "shoulders" on the rear flanks lending the eye to tell the brain that the car is larger than the car it replaced. While it is a bit larger, it is no where near as large as it would appear to be. 
I've yet to find any evidence that there was any point to the '72's bulk; its cautious, evolutionary styling further suggesting a car that soldiered along with very little attention to purpose or concept. If you've spent any time behind the wheel of one of these you know that these things are quite the handful in anything more than being driven in a straight line as well. Then again, most if not all cars of this vintage were pondering oafs as well. The big GM's actually better than similar sized fairings from Chrysler and Ford. As big as this car is, starting in 1973 it got bigger. Government mandated safety bumpers pushed the front end out an additional five inches. Another five inches got tacked on in 1974 when the rear safety bumper was bolted on.
If you share in my appreciation of these cars and this one in particular let me know. While ambitiously priced at $8,000, I'm sure you could talk the owner down to a more reasonable six grand or so. The color doesn't help the value of this thing either but if you're looking for an old ride at a reasonable cost, you could do a lot worse. The owner claims 37,000 miles on her for what that's worth. Car is located in Pittsburgh.

Friday, July 3, 2015

1968 Chevrolet Impala - Trust Four Year Old Me

My father traveled quite often for work when I was young boy and part of the fun of his returning home was the "company cars"; his lingo for rental cars that his company would pay for. That stipend, naturally, was nominal and he more often than not came home with something as dreary as the Rambler we had. On occasion, though, he'd come home with something exciting like the time he came home in a Chevrolet Impala coupe just like our feature car here.
In my mind, this car still looks fresh and new and was the pinnacle of the Bill Mitchell era; everything Chevrolet had done before led to this design. It was spectacular. Trust four year old me; I never knew more about cars than when I was four. By the way, Chevrolet hasn't done anything worth a damn with the Impala since.  
"Dad's Impala", being a rental, didn't have rally rims, vinyl top or a 327 but it was, most importantly, a coupe. Back in those days coupes, actually this car is technically a two door sedan, were less expensive than four door models so it made sense that Hertz stocked up on them. Coupes were less expensive but they had ten times the panache of the mechanically identical sedan it was based on. Ten times the always impossible to define je ne sais quoi.
There was a time when two door sedans were very popular and looking back at it now you have to wonder why. They're not exactly family friendly no matter what the age of the kids and if Granny is coming along, the poor thing had to do a gymnastic maneuver to get into the back seat.
You have to look at coupes from a historical perspective to understand that the first cars, in essence, were coupes and that sedans were more expensive to engineer and produce. As sedans became less expensive to produce they became less expensive to buy thus more commonplace. Today, Chevrolet doesn't even make a two door car that isn't a Camaro or Corvette.
That's too bad, really but it is what it is. I've seen some handsome mock ups of the current Impala but Chevrolet has no plans to do one. That means I'll just have to gaze lovingly at pictures of this '68 and remember that day years ago when we was cool. The next trip Dad came back with a dark blue, four door Plymouth Fury.