Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 Cadillac ELR - Look At That Cadillac

When the falling down dump of a gym that I was going to wanted to raise my yearly fee, I kid you not, 150%, I took my gym bag and sweat socks and enrolled at the hoity toity L.A. Fitness facility that my wife has been a member of now for more than two years. For less than $100 more per year than that dump wanted to charge me I'm now a member of a gym with a gleaming amenities like private showers, carpeted locker rooms and a juice bar! What's more, I've found that the caliber of automobiles in the parking garage next to it to be considerably more blingy than the rusty hulks in the parking lot of that dump I used to go. Case in point, this absolutely stunning 2016 Cadillac ELR.

I can count on one hand with maybe two fingers the number of modern cars that make me do a double take and this ELR is one of them. It's even better looking in person than in photographs. Nice job, Cadillac. This is the best looking thing I've seen you do since your late, great XLR. 

So, what exactly is, or I should say, was, a Cadillac ELR? Well, to be honest, it's nothing more than a Chevrolet Volt with a fancier interior, debatably sharper styling, two doors instead of four and...a sticker price thirty five to forty thousand dollars more than a comparable Volt. Whoa. Chevrolet Volts are expensive enough stickering around $35,000 so, GM, what are we getting with this tuxedo of a car we're not getting with the dressed down Volt? The answer? Nichts! 

It's rumored that GM's CEO at the time the ELR was first launched back in 2013, a chap named Dan Ackerson, ordered the ELR to be sold at such an exorbitant amount so that GM wouldn't lose their shirt on each one sold. Also to help off set the tooling costs of the Chevrolet Volt. The rumor is unsubstantiated but Detroit is a gossip mill just like Hollywood or Nashville. And you know what they say about rumors, they're almost always true. 

Plug in hybrids do come with some serious government backed rebates/discounts/whatever but even a five five figure discount is not enough to off set the sticker price of the ELR so much that it makes any sense. It's a densely packed little thing with no usable back seat that is somehow able to tilt scales at nearly two tons; blame the massive battery that runs down the middle of the car for that. Coupe lover me even knows that most people are going to have a problem with paying that much money for a teeny, tiny two door car. Beguiling good looks and all. Gosh, can you just imagine this thing with the 3.6 liter V-6 and AWD? The gas 2.0 turbo even? 

It's no wonder that announced back in May that GM was discontinuing the ELR after model year 2016. Cadillac sold precious few of these dream machines in fiur years and I'd love to run into the owner of this car and ask them why they bought it. I'd buy it just because I love the way it looks, hybrid nonsense be damned. I respect the owner big time if they said the same. Look at that Cadillac! It's just the thing someone like me needs to drive to their new snooty gym in and use it's leather lined cup holder to hold a smoothie in.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

1968 Ford Ranch Wagon Revisited - Window To His Soul

It's said that your eyes are the window to your soul. If that's so, I believe that the car you drive can be as much a window to your soul as your eyes are; perhaps even more so because throughout our lives we're going to purchase a vehicle or two that perfectly encapsulate who we are and more importantly, can give the world an unconscious snapshot of our souls. 

Now, I realize that we've already hashed and rehashed the 1968 Ford Ranch Wagon that was the vehicle of my childhood a couple of times already, but that car, which was a light sky blue as opposed to this after market bluish green slathering our subject car has, remains an insatiable source of fascination for me. Reason being that car is as close to a window to the soul of the man who was my father as I could ever ask for. Even if, knowing my father, he bought the car without giving much thought to what he was doing as he was just looking to buy a cheap car in a hurry. 

If we determine that the wide spread use of "station wagons" first came about with Ford's seminal 1952 five door Crestliner "Country Squire" and ended unceremoniously with the death of the Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon in 1996, then the type of  car my father bought used from Hertz in 1970 was, just like him, by then in midlife. Some men by a sports car in midlife but not my father. Station wagon all the way. And a bone stripper, formal rental car taboot. 

By the way, "station wagons" use as a family vehicle rose dramatically through the 1950's; from less than 1% of the market in 1950 to more than 17% by 1960. The term, incidentally, stems from the type of utility vehicles that hotels used to carry guests to and from train station depots in. The advent of the even more pragmatic "mini van" in the 1980's coupled with the rise in popularity of sport utility vehicles were the station wagon's double barreled death nell. 

Like most base models of automobiles back then, and to a great extenet just like my father, our Ranch Wagon was immensely capable yet lacking in ostentation. Our subject car lavishly appointed compared to ourx with its fancy chrome roof rack and white wall tires; the only "luxury" items our car had was the new and wonderful for 1968 302 V-8 and power steering. That 302 must have been like a Saturn rocket compared to the flat head six under the hood of the Rambler the Ranch Wagon replaced. Our car had black wall tires and what are referred to as "poverty" dog dish hub caps too. Those hideous fake wire wheel covers on our subject car are store bought. 

Unlike the lavish 1968 County Squire that the folks across the street from us had, like all Ranch Wagons, our car did not have a third row jump seat that increased passenger capacity to eight or nine depending on the size of the un-seat belted children who would ride back there. No, ours had steel panels with obnoxious exposed hinges for steel doors that opened up to a trunk of sorts below. Lying flat back here was not possible in our car. Our subject car appears to have some sort of neat padding over the floor. 

The rear passenger seat folded down flat too making for an expansive rear cargo area to rival any modern Tahoe or Suburban. What's more, that trunk area under the floor made way for a generous storage area; these cars could haul a lot. Our neighbor's Country Squire was not near the utilitarian vehicle that ours was since the jump seats folded into what was the trunk on our car. Unlike the jump seats in many modern SUV's, those seats on Country Squires were not removable. The spare is to the right behind a removable plastic panel. If you look closely you can see the handle for it. Pretty neat and so much more user friendly than the spare tires that are suspendened under many SUV's today. Our 2006 Tahoe has that and I've been fortunate enough to never have had to use it. 

The most remarkable piece of engineering on these cars is this "Magic Tailgate"; it could open outwards or open flat. It was a marvelous hidden tidbit, like my father's ability to draw, that many people didn't know about. You opened it to lie flat via a handle on the inside of the tail gate. The rear window could also roll down into the door via a handle and crank that folded out of the chrome cast bezel right there above the F O R D lettering. I always thought it an extravagance given how spartan the rest of the car was but all Ford wagons had Magic Tailgates going back to 1966. 

For all the Ranch Wagon had to offer as a utilitarian vehicle and what little luxury it provided at the same time, for the life of me I still can't figure out why my father bought that car. He wasn't exactly a "family first" doting father type and while he was certainly a capable "handy man" with a fairly sound mechanical intuition, being a white collar managerial executive type, this yeoman's car was out of sync with the man most people thought he was. At least an LTD sedan would have been more fitting. It's at this juxtaposition of who my father was, what people thought he was, who he wanted to be and who he knew should have been that the Ranch Wagon makes complete sense. It's a window to his soul. 

While my father was an executive, he struggled mightily with it and was always seemingly most content toiling alone on some project in the garage or basement. I've always felt he would have had a more satisfying life had he been tradesman like his father was as opposed to someone who chased VP stripes and corner offices. He was also, at far few many times to mention, endearing as a father figure but with his hands full with not only a demanding career and a rocky, loveless marriage, he was not nearly the man he could have been; or at least more of what I wanted him to be. Life boils down to at most a handful of huge decisions. Get them right and life can be beautiful. Get them wrong and you could be, like my father was, miserable. His 1968 Ford Ranch Wagon was a work vehicle, a wagon for a tradesman with some creature comforts like extra passenger room. It's starkness and simplicity, which I was abhorrant to at the time, only comes into focus as a snapshot of who my father was in retrospect. It's everything that he really was. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

1989 Pontiac Grand Prix SE - Neon Spandex

Once the story of what has become of our beloved 1996 Chevrolet Camaro is complete I'll blog about it but it's apparent demise has thrust my wife and I unceremoniously into the seedy world of cheap used cars. No, the Camaro wasn't involved in an accident; in many ways a blown engine is worse since you can't collect any insurance money for it being totaled. I just don't have the time to work on it myself and even if I did, with half the engine being under the windshield, swapping it has to be done from underneath the car. An engine transplant on any car is one thing; coming up from down under an entirely different thing altogether. I knew that deeply recessed engine was going to be the death of the car one day. I'm so upset about this whole thig that every morning when I walk past the dead hulk in my driveway I get choked up. Oh, the pain. Seriously. The pain.

I'll blog in detail about what we do ultimately with the Camaro, I've been waffling horribly between fixing and not fixing it so I won't bore you with the details of endless "update" blogs. Thank me later. Anyway, dabbing a toe into the world of beaters had me looking at this 2004 Grand Prix GT the other night that might have been buyable if it was offered for sale for $3000 instead of $5000. It has some front end issues, a loose exhaust, a power seat that wouldn't work correctly. That's just what I uncovered on a ten minute road test. The car was also full of dings from "Grand Ma" hitting the garage time and time again. Save for the body work, all fixable stuff and the interior was very clean but the gold finish and it being a sedan where deal killers. That and the cost. Too much. I've moved on.

Leave it to me to get misty eyed nostalgic over a front wheel drive Pontiac. That drive in that 2004 GP, a nice handling car and the Series III 3800 was crisp and responsive, reminded me of the first series of these cars that debuted way back in 1988. Full disclosure, I'm an unabashed fan of the GM10 or "W-Body" platform so click away now if you don't want to read further about the car that started my quarter century plus love affair with one of the most derided yet best selling platforms in GM history. Put on the Twilight Zone theme now as we go back-back-back nearly, good lord, thirty years to 1988.

When I first read that GM was replacing what had become by then known as the "G-body" with a front wheel drive platform, I was less than thrilled. Not a fan, immediately anyways, of the "big" front wheel drive GM H and C bodies, aberrant to change me believed the "G" along with F-body Camaro and Firebird just about the only things that GM had going on in the mid to late 1980's. I had yet to discover the sublime virtues that were mid to late 1980's Toyotas. All my preconceived notions of a GM front wheel drive car changed in an instant the moment I saw a 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix for the first time. While I thought the styling as subtle as neon spandex, it was the first "new" car that wasn't a Camaro, Firebird, Mustang or Corvette, that I had remotely liked in more than a decade. Perhaps change can be good.

Contemporary reviews of the all new for 1988 Grand Prix SE were quite good;  Motor Trend gave it their Golden Calipers christening it "Car of The Year". The car was a giant leap forward engineering wise for GM as where the C and H bodies that debuted in 1985 and 1986. However, keep in mind that the Chevrolet Citation and Vega were also given "COTY" honors; clearly the award is a "vehicle" to sell magazines as opposed to an award that christens the winning automobile an instant classic. Incidentally, that goofy dashboard was silly then too. Where's the speedometer? 

History, for reasons that require more space and time to divulge than I have the fortitude to muster right now to explain in detail, has not been kind to the Pontiac Grand Prix and it's "GM10" or "W-Body" brethren.  Part of that problem, was the incredible amount of money GM spent on their development and that the GM10s were developed as coupes first and foremost. Not only was the market shifting away from coupes, the sedans based on the coupes were arguably amongst some of GM's ugliest musings. Coupe lover that I am, for the longest time I found it impossible to see what people did not see in these cars but such is youth. Part of the (unfortunate) process of maturing is being able to see things from different perspectives and I more than understand now that practicality comes first with most people. Styling be damned. 

Our boys are home from college this Thanksgiving weekend and our older son has made it crystal clear that we are to fix the Camaro as opposed to replacing it. If they were both ambivalent towards it I might be inclined to replace it and worse yet, go along with my wife's plan to replace it with something newer, more practical and far more expensive. I do enjoy, on occasion, someone else making a decision for me. The brief flashback to 1988, our subject Grand Prix is a 1989, spurred on by the blown head gaskets on our Camaro was refreshing. Can't say the same about how miserable cheap used car shopping can be.

Friday, November 18, 2016

2017 Mercedes Benz C300 Coupe - Nice Honda Accord You Got There

What's the point of spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a small house in the Midwest every month if people have no idea that you've spent that much? Take this 2017 Mercedes C300 4Matic coupe; does it not look resemble a Honda Accord coupe that costs maybe half as much if not more? Hope the owner really loves the car for what it is and not because of what he or she thinks it says about them. Peronally, I think it says they've wasted their money.

That's the thing with spending a lot of money on a car these days. What are you really getting that you can't get for far less money? Cocktail party bragging rights? Really? Does the owner of this car live in such a tony neighborhood that they don't think something like a Honda Accord would suffice? Point is mute - this car belongs to someone who lives in the residences at an outdoor mall on Cleveland's west side. So much for impressing the Jones' with their fat ride stuck in a parking garage. But I digress.

Years ago, yes, you did get a lot more car for your money when bought large but these days the lines between austere frugality and luxury are blurred. After all, the Honda Accord coupe (above) is a most excellent automobile. Ugly as hell from the edge of the doors back, just like the C300 coupe, but excellent nonetheless. Why is it that both the Mercedes Benz C class and the Accord four door are much better looking than their coupe variants? Same goes for the old Sigma II based Cadillac CTS and just about every sedan based coupe these days. If sedans are dying then coupes are dead.

Save for the American muscle car triumvirate, Mustang/Camaro/Challenger, coupes today suffer from weird styling details that make me look away. You give up a lot with coupes and in doing so, the syling's got to be dead on otherwise, what's the point? This saying a lot coming from card carrying, coupe lover me. I'll never buy a sedan but I can see why cross over utility vehicles are so dang popular these days; they offer styling mojo that coupes once offered. When time comes to replace our family Tahoe I know for certain that my wife is going to insist on a cross over. Gee whiz, I can hardly wait. By the way, if you're wondering, these days I'm all about the Ford Mustang GT.

Back to Mr. or Ms. Gotrocks here and this $60,000+, C300. Damn that's a lot of money. Anyway. one thing that is nicer on this car, compared to an Accord, is the interior. Absolutely stunning. However, much like the Accord and almost all coupes today, cars in general when I think about it, is that visibility all around and particularly out the back is atrocious. Blame hump back whale baby butt for that. Not a fan.

I'd love to run into the owner of this car one day, it could happen, and gush over his gorgeous car and make it seem as though I'm living vicariously thorugh him wishing that I had the means to blow a grand or so a month on one car. If I sound jealous, so be it. One thing for certain, I'd never have the the gumption to tell them snidely, if not snarkely that I love their new Honda Accord. It is fun to think about it. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - Ridden Hard and Put Away Wet

Like old songs, cars are a great way to have a high school flash back, especially cars like this Chevrolet Camaro that was all new for 1982, the year I graduated high school. Today, let's dust off our metaphorical high school year book and leaf through the now sepia toned pictures and drool over the hottest girl in class again. Better still, let's see what became of her. 

Camaro was all new for model year 1982 and I was disappointed that I would not graduate with the "Big Body" 1970 era Camaro as part of the backdrop of the year I graduated high school. After all these years I have no problem admitting that I don't, per se, like change. Who does? Now, I can grow to accept change after time passes and especially if I'm as enamored with something as I was the new Camaro. What a looker; the prettiest girl in the Class of '82. 

The 1982 Camaro was a clean break from the 1970-81 Camaro in more ways than just sheet metal deep. Save for a carbureted 305 cubic inch V-8 that was carried over, the "Third Generation" GM "F-Body featured an all new suspension featuring MacPherson struts up front and a new coil spring and shock rear. It wasn't an independent rear suspension but it was a significant upgrade over the 1970-81's leaf spring and shock set up. Rack and pinion steering replaced the old recirculating ball system. Suffice to say all the '82's had significantly improved handling. On the Z28, rear disc brakes were available. The '82 Camaro was, on average, 300 pounds lighter than the car it replaced too. Wow! Was this a Chevrolet or a Porsche? 

Well, stifling laughing out loud, it was no Porsche. The 1982 Camaro was panned for a rattling interior, sloppy build quality, harsh ride and for being under powered. Being in love with these cars I would hear none of that talk. Who cares if the car is a piece of crap! She's a bitch and a half? I can change her! Understand that I was driving a 1974 Mercury Comet in high school, even a 4 cylinder Camaro was a moon rocket in comparison. Anyway, after all these years it is somewhat disheartening to see that something that was so molten hot back in the day looks like it was, as they say, "ridden hard and put away wet".  

I wish that I had taken more pictures of our junker but how was I to know that I'd run into a like new version of this car years later and I'd be inspired to do a side by side comparison/juxtaposition. I have no idea how long this car sat out here exposed to the weather extremes that North East Ohio has. Hot, humid summers, cold, snowy winters. I love Cleveland but the weather here is horrible. This car stank to high heaven too. No doubt mother nature had her way with this junk yard Z28 in more ways than just drenching and sun blasting her over and over. 

The first time that I ran into someone from high school that was deemed to be of particular attractiveness back in the day and saw what Father Time had done to her I was aghast. What the hell happened? I have to admit that people may be saying the same thing about me too; I'd actually be flattered at that to be honest with you but that's just me. So, can people be physically salvaged? At our age I'd still like to think so but as for this beat up old Z28? Suzie Hotstuff, who's no longer hot, stands a better chance of shaping up than this moldy old rat's nest has of rolling out of this junk yard under her own power. I'm sure I could get it running but what would be the point? 

Our junker Camaro left the factory with Chevrolet's infamous "Cross Fire Injection" fuel injection system. Cross-Fire, which sounded so cool back then, was two throttle body fuel injection systems from Pontiac's 2.5 liter "Iron Duke" in line 4 working in tandem to help the little 305 develop 165 net horsepower. That sure sounded like a lot back in the height of the Malaise Era but it couldn't get a Camaro to 60 in under ten seconds. "Cross-Fire Injection" was notoriously fussy, needlessly complex and was difficult to work on too; have to wonder what could have been if Chevrolet had introduced at least the Z28 with port fuel injection in 1982. We'll never know just like we'll never know if Suzie Hotstuff would have gone out with me if I'd have asked her. She wouldn't have just never know for sure. I don't believe this car had been in a major accident from what I could tell so perhaps it's last owner got sick and tired of attempting to get the Cross-Fire Injection to work right. 

Our "cherry" cherry red "new" Z28 has the carbureted 305 which was actually, in hindsight for many buyers, the better choice. Although it has 25 less horsepower than the "Cross-Fire Injection" Z's, it didn't have any of the bogging, stalling and overall drivability issues these cars had. Within three years, Chevrolet did have port fuel injection on tap for these cars but by then the market was beginning to shift away from sporty, impractical coupes like this. The market got so bad for these cars that GM even pulled the plug on them altogether in 2002. Chevrolet reintroduced Camaro in 2010 on the GM Zeta platform that it shares with cars like the late, great Pontiac G8 and others of the same vintage. As solid a car as it is, it's not a real"F-Body" like old Suzie Hotstuff here. 

One thing is for sure, we're all not getting any younger and seeing cars from our wonder years destroyed like this makes us all aware of awaits us. Some of the gang from back in the day looks better than others but it's the rare person who looks arguably better with the wear and tear of thirty five years of life on their personal odometers. Sure hope those who were "ridden hard and put away wet" enjoyed the ride. 

The term "ridden hard and put away wet" refers to horses. Like humans, horses sweat heavily during exertion. Afterward, the hoses needs to be curried (groomed) to remove sweat from it's coat. to prevent a number of health and hygiene problems. A horse who was rode hard and put away wet would feel, look and smell awful. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

1990 Chevrolet Beretta GT Indy - Day-Glo Indy Stickers And All

Here's something you don't see every day and it's for sale too here in bucolic North East Ohio for a scant $2,500. This is one of only 1,500 1990 Chevrolet Beretta GT "Indy's" ever made. What's more, it's been "frankensteined" with something almost as rare: an LG5 V-6. The LG5 was a limited run of turbocharged 3.1 liter V-6 engines that were exclusive to the Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo of 1990-91 fame. The engine transplant was from another car of the same era so technically it sort of/kind of could have been available with it. Anyway, in lieu of that, this Beretta is interesting inasmuch as you don't see many Berettas around in general these days in any condition let alone one that's in the fairly solid shape this one is in. Although, this being Northeast Ohio and all, there's some rust on the right rear quarter panel. I'd be surprised if there wasn't any rust but to make up for it, this car is also retina searing yellow! While we're at it, lets not over look the colored keyed aluminum wheels and "day-glo" stickers.

Produced between 1987 and 1996, Beretta's, which replaced the Citation in Chevrolet's mid 1980's stable, were powered by a wide variety of GM engines and transmissions including the 60 degree 3.1 liter V-6 this car had originally albeit making just 135 horsepower. You probably can't blame someone for wanting a little more poke and the LG5 with at least 210 horsepower and 225 pound feet of torque would provide more than adequate scoot in a car weighing just 2,700 pounds soaking wet. This thing probably goes like stink.

The store bought gauges on the driver's side A pillar were my first inkling that something was up under hood. They're so big I can't help but believe that you'd bonk your head on them getting in our out of this thing. I also forgot just how sparse and cheap the interior of these cars were. That steering wheel looks like an air bag equipped wheel but it's not. Hard to imagine a car built in the 1990's not having at least one air bag but we are talking the early '90's which was really an extension of the late '80's. It didn't come with ABS brakes either. Late '80's/early '90's GM cheapness rears its ugly head once again. These Beretta's shared their "N platform" with the Chevrolet Corsica, Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Ciera and Pontiac Grand Am.

For those wanting to restore this "Indy" to it's factory fresh glory, the current owner will throw in factory day-glo "Indy" decals as part of the deal. Don't laugh, after market sellers charge a small fortune for these proprietary decals. I wouldn't be surprised if these things run upwards of $250 for a complete set. For a twenty six year old Beretta with 214,000 miles on it that has an asking price of $2,500, that's a lot of money to put into stickers.  

I do have great respect for the person who did the engine transplant on this car. Couldn't have been easy seeing that on these front wheel drivers, everything has to be done from under the car. So, someone either had access to a lift or got creative. This sort of thing inspires me to do something of the same in my garage although I'd swap an LS engine into my 1977 Corvette rather than shoehorn an engine of questionable pedigree into an otherwise forgettable little car. Day-glo "Indy" decals and all. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

1961 Cadillac - What Goes Up Must Come Down

For Cadillac's all new post war models, Harley Earl commissioned designer Frank Hershey to create an automobile based on the profile of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning. That aeronautic theme, as it were, was highlighted by "tail fins" on the upper rear quarter panels that became such a popular design element throughout the auto industry in 1950's, that Cadillac raised the height and length of them at least every three years to keep their fins larger or more ostentatious than those offered by any other manufacturer. 

Cadillac tail fins, which morphed into something that could best be described as "rocket tips" by 1957,  literally peaked in 1959. Starting in 1960, Cadillac's fins began a most merciful and graceful decline in "elevation". By 1965, on Cadillacs, for all intents and purposes, tail fins where gone.  

That subtle year to year decline in the size and angle of fins resulting, if not gloriously then serendipitously, in the 1961 Cadillac; in my humble opinion one of the most gorgeous automobiles ever created. Especially in two door guise like our blue mist subject. Personally, I think tail fins are ridiculous but a 1961 Cadillac would just a big Buick or an Oldsmobile, without them. 

When Harley Earl retired in 1958, one of the first things his replacement, Bill Mitchell did was tone down Cadillac's fins. However, rather than eliminate them in one fell swoop, Mitchell changed them subtlety, their "decent" evolutionary versus the sudden erection that was the design leap from 1956 to 1957 or the priapism that resulted in the goofy 1959 fins. The fins on the '60 were still comically high but for 1961 Cadillac models, something suddenly went right. If for only one year. The '61's tail fins still retained some of the fluidity of the 1959's while not being as horizontally bolt straight as the '62's. It works beautifully to compliment the overall look of the car; even if the aviation/aerospace theme is all but a foot note. If it's a cliche to say they don't build 'em like this anymore so be it. All I know is there's nothing on the road today as gratuitous of design as a 1961 Cadillac.

I'm not sure, honestly, if that's a good thing or not as I'm personally enamored with so few designs today despite the fact that modern automobiles are generally fantastic, bullet proof reliable, transportation devices. One thing that I am sure of is that you can't confuse this 1961 Cadillac with some plebeian, soul less although very dependable appliance; if for no other reason that the car is just so damn good looking.

It's been said that today, the sedan is dead or dying. One of the reasons for that is that people want more from their vehicles than said reliability; cars today, despite being rock solid, are, with some very few exceptions, boring. That's why buyers looking for more than just an appliance are flocking to cross overs because in addition to their dependability and practicality, "CUV's" offer something style wise that they can't find in a sedan. CUV's, for better or worse, have a soul. If the sedan has any chance of a future, and that's a big if, designers would best be suited to look to the incredible GM designs of the early 1960's for inspiration. Not so much to copy the designs or pay homage to them but to be inspired to add much needed chutzpah to whatever it is they're working on. Judging by what I've seen of upcoming 2017 models, they could learn a thing or two from the designs of the past.

Located along the south side of I-40 just west of the Amarillo city line, "Cadillac Ranch" is a roadside homage to the evolution of Cadillac tail fin design from 1949-1964. You're encouarged to deface them with spray paint. Spray cans in hand, my family and I stopped by during our south west driving trip in 2010 just prior to our move to Cleveland, Ohio. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1969 Meyers Manx Dune Buggy - Assembly Required

"The Hillbillies", as my parents referred to the family that lived in the duplex across the street from us on Long Island, not only changed automobiles with fascinating regularity but they also built some of their own cars as well. Well, not exactly built, more like assembled - they built "Dune Buggy's", just like our 1969 Meyers Manx, from kits. 

The elder "Hillbilly", a mechanic by trade, bought fiberglass bodies from a Meyers Manx distributor and would bolt them to the running gear of junked Volkswagen Beetles. He and his sons, the youngest a good five years older than me, would dismantle the junked VW, cut out a section of the chassis to shorten the wheelbase and would bolt the whole thing together. All in their backyard over the course of several weeks. Amazing. He'd sell the finished Buggys soon after but not before us neighborhood kids would get rides in them. My first ride in one with the windshield laid down flat as thrilling as the first time I rode a motorcycle. While my myriad traipses to watch and sometimes even help with a project mortified my mother, the wonderland of car parts, tools, sweat, grease, blow torches and the sound of an exhaust free air cooled VW engine was far more interesting than anything I could ever find in a book.

I don't know if it was my mother's inexplicable disdain for those people or contempt for people who made a living working with their hands in general that irked her as much as it did. Any interest that I had in anything that wasn't of some sort of intellectual pursuit irritated her to no end and my time spent "across the street" would be the first of many points of consternation between the two of us. My brothers never stepped out of line and they've done quite well for themselves; my older brother a real estate tax attorney, my younger a CPA. Me? Well...My mother either did me the greatest service or disservice by ultimately dissuading me away from a life she sarcastically referred to as a life in "the pits". Jury's out on that one. She may have dissuaded me but she couldn't douse what has become my life long interest. I sure would like to try and assemble one of these myself. That would be fun.

While VW Beetle chassis are as hard to find in junkyards today as would be finding a Model T in one, a modern subsidiary of Meyers Manx sells almost complete. air cooled, rear engine Dune Buggy kits starting at $13,995. Almost complete meaning you still have to find your own engine and trans axle. A fully loaded Manx can be had for $18,995 plus shipping. Remember, assembly required. I'll take a "Kick Out" in sparkly blue, please.