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Carspotters’ Challenge #160: I Want the Red One

Jalopnik 1507025077715035458

So, which color do you want yours?



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1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser

Jumbo shrimp. 1965_Vista_Cruiser_1

Military intelligence. 

Civil war.

Hot station wagon. 

Oxymorons all? In the past, I have sung the glories of a station wagon precisely once, in that case the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad which I described then as a "beautiful and gloriously dysfunctional car lust ". Then again, I probably would have happily praised the Dodge Magnum had not our own Chris Hafner already done so. 

And that pretty much covered all the bases for my Wagon Lust. Until now. There are two reasons why this one has been added to the corral of Things I Lust After: 1) Some guy in my neighborhood has an old red one he's restoring that I think looks really cool, and 2) This old C&D review of a 455 (!) VIsta-Cruiser:

It goes, stops, steers, and handles like hell. It is so fast you wouldn't believe it. It does a big 94 in the quarter-mile, with an ET of 14.7 seconds, but unlike so many cars that deliver lots of sturm und drang in the quarter, it is perfectly happy to turn a corner or stop at the end.. . .Anybody who ever criticized American cars' handling should try this Oldsmobile. With its voluptuous bodywork, trick Super Chief roof, enormous engine, and great overall size and bulk, it is as purely American as any car could be, but its behavior on the road is so impeccable that it's a machine to make converts of us all. By the same token, anybody who ever defended typical American car handling as "good enough" ought to take our Oldsmobile home tonight.

If that doesn't blow your (fender) skirts up, I don't know what will.

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Buick Ventiports and Style Vs. Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy?

In my last post on the Buick Flamingo, I mentioned the Ventiports that were present on the vehicle and suggested the topic was ripe for a Car Lust treatment. Well, here it is. 

These things have fascinated me for a while, mostly for geeky theoretical reasons. I studied evolutionary theory as part of my graduate studies in archaeology and, oddly enough, automobiles provide very good examples of a lot of the sort of evolutionary principles that can be applied to cultural phenomena; in this case those big ol' 'artifacts' that we drive around in. Cars have a 1949 Buick Brochure-02
number of functional features that have been molded by selective forces -- gasoline won out over electrics over a hundred years ago, for example -- but they also have a lot of stylistic features that illustrate the sort of cultural factors that influence their design. And then there are others that manifest the complicated history of design trends and historical "hiccups" that make for odd combinations of features that aren't really explained by either purely functional or stylistic concerns. 

And this is where Ventiports come in. At first glance, they appear to be. . . .well, what? They look like they might have some use, and in fact a lot of the questions that appear on various web sites contemplate what possible function they have or may have had at one point. Once people realize that they're really just decorative elements, they're often dismissed as meaningless. But their history is a bit more complicated and interesting than simple decoration may suggest and it offers potential for insight into how seemingly trivial design elements can tell us something of our collective automotive history. 

Plus it gives me warrant to utilize all that theorizing I did way back when. I've bracketed the geeky theoretical mumbo-jumbo section so non-nerdy (read: normal) folks can ignore that part, or at least just skim it. So put on the coffee and let us delve into Style and Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy. 

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Remembering George Barris Week: A 1928 Porter

(Originally posted by That Car Guy on April 01, 2010.)

Porter 2Today, building a new car from previously introduced components such as engines, instruments, body, and chassis pieces is nothing unique. Lotus even does it with a Toyota engine. But back just before The Great Depression, when there were practically more automotive manufacturers in America than there were cars on the road, the idea of borrowing bits and pieces from one make and/or model to complete another one was a brilliant, pioneering breakthrough.

Witness the 1928 Porter Touring Car, valued today as a rare treasure, lusted after by antique car collectors. Built by kitbashing real cars on a true 1:1 scale, the Porter engineers began with a Chevrolet frame, engine, and transmission. And why not? All the development work and costs were done, everything fit perfectly together, and it was a strong, reliable base for a grand touring car in the Roaring '20s.

To see the original post in its entirety and leave comments, please click here.

Remembering George Barris Week: The Batmobile (1966)

Originally posted by That Car Guy on May 21, 2009.)

"Quick, Robin, to the Batpoles!" Whoosh!  "Atomic batteries to power... turbines to speed". The hidden cave door drops, a sign falls, and it's 14 miles to Gotham City. ♫ "Da da da da da da da da da... 'BATMAN'!" ♫

Fullscreen capture 11102015 43259 PM.bmpThere have been "Batman" cartoons and comic books and TV shows and movies, but the one vehicle that carried the Dynamic Duo and won the popularity vote is George Barris' 1966 TV Batmobile. Originally a car show concept car, a 1955 Lincoln Futura was the donor vehicle for the Batmobile.

There would be 3 more copies later, built from fiberglass molds onto stretched Ford Galaxie frames for public displays and such. Ghia of Italy built the Futura; it was used in "It Started With A Kiss" with Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.

The Futura was sold to Mr. Barris for the whopping sum of one dollar, since Ford had no use for it and was storing it at Mr. Barris' shop anyway. The 21-day conversion included enlarging the tailfins, black paint, red trim, red flashing lights, new headlight fins, and new Bat-trim.

To see the original post in its entirety and leave comments, please click here. 

Remembering George Barris Week: The Munster Koach and the Drag-u-la

(Originally posted by That Car Guy on June 15, 2009.)

KoachTwo hilarious monster-themed TV shows, The Addams Family and The Munsters, premiered and expired the same two weeks of the same two years in 1964-1966. Both were in black and white. Each had their audience, and you were either a Munsters fan or an Addams Family fan, or both. I liked them both, but I guess I was more of a Munsters fan, primarily because they had The Munster Koach.

George Barris is a genius. He created custom cars like the Batmobile, Monkeemobile, and The Beverly Hillbillies' truck; if a studio wanted a cool custom vehicle for a TV show or movie, Barris Kustom Cars was the place to call. Barris was also wise enough to retain ownership rights to some of his vehicles and just rented them to the studios, guaranteeing him rights for displays, models, and other rewards.

To see the original post in its entirety and leave comments, please click here.

Remembering George Barris Week: "1914" Stutz Bearcat replica

(Originally posted by Cookie The Dog's Owner on November 13, 2008.)

Submitted by John Boyle

BearcatI am the owner of one of the replica 1914 Stutz Bearcats built for the 1971 TV series Bearcats! by custom car builder George Barris.

I bought the car in 1998 and spent two years restoring it while I was living in Abilene, Texas. I had never owned a unique (that's a good word for a Barris car) car before so I went into the restoration with blind faith and a lot of luck. Luckily, I had just finished helping a friend restore my 1977 Jeep CJ-5 Levi's Edition Renegade, so I was much less a "babe in the woods"automotively speaking than I would have been a couple of years before.

We did all the work locally, with the exception of some brass refinishing and overhauling the brass radiator, which I sent to a specialist who restores high-dollar brass cars in California. I was the general contractor and, with my friend Charlie's help, put the car back together. Mechanically, it was sound--the Ford drivetrain really paid off. I changed the generator to a GM “one-wire” alternator, and had the master cylinder and carb rebuilt. I was able to walk into an auto parts store with a wheel cylinder and walk out 45 minutes later with a new set--try that with a real Bearcat! By comparison, I have a friend in the Stutz Club whose '18 Bearcat was off the road for two years while he sourced a starter. No such troubles with mine. (Knock wood.) The body is all metal and required only a repaint. I had new upholstery done and a new instrument panel made with new old-fashioned looking dials. The new wood wheels took a wheelwright in Oklahoma a year to fashion out of solid hickory. They came out great.

To see the original post in its entirety and leave comments, please click here.

November 9 Open Thread: "Remembering George Barris" Week

George Barris 2Last week, we lost the greatest automotive customizer of all time. Mr. George Barris (Born George Salapatas) left us on November 5th, just two weeks shy of his 90th birthday.

Born in Chicago, he, at three years old, and his brother Sam were relocated to California after their mother passed. While still in high school, George was already customizing cars and started the "Kustom Car Club," and used that spelling throughout his career.

I grew up during the heyday of his work; I was 9 when BATMAN premiered. Many scale models of his creations have been assembled with these hands. And just this year I was planning a trip to Los Angeles, mainly to see iconic TV locations such as the Batcave and Andy Griffith's fishing hole, and of course, to visit Mr. Barris' shop. Sadly, part of that proposed trip may not be completed now.

The list of vehicles, from hot rods to golf carts, Elvis' limousine, and more, that Mr. Barris and company customized is too long for this post. But we here at Car Lust have had the priviledge of featuring a few of them, and as a tribute to the man and his work, we'll be showing them this week.

And as usual, this Open Thread is also the place to discuss anything else in the automotive world.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credits: Mr. Barris' image is from

Carspotters’ Challenge #159: Meanwhile, In Dubai…

Here’s a short Carspotters’ Video Challenge for ya. Haven’t done one in a while.

This is an easy one, because the guy recording this is giving away some of the answers, but not all of them. If you think that what you see at the beginning is interesting, just wait until you reach the end.

How many can you get in a row before needing to re-watch?



The 1961 Buick Flamingo and The Case For Pink

While I hope I cemented my masculine bona fides earlier with my celebration of the Ultimate Man's Cars, the El Camino and Ranchero, I fear I may be treading on soft ground here by highlighting a car that, well, tickles me pink. Yeah, I had to get that one out of the way. 

But I love this. I really do. I would be seen in it. I would flaunt its garishness and apparent femininity in Flamingopublic. And then I would mash the accelerator and let the Wildcat 445 under the hood do its business. And then I would cruise around with Bobby Darin playing on the radio and pull in to the local drive-in and have a Coke and a sundae and let all gaze in wonder at the over-the-top pinkness of it. 

And I would get a vanity license plate with 'PANTHER' on it. Oh yeah. . . . .

Sadly, none of that is going to happen; this car never made it to production; it was a one-off concept car and was probably crushed and/or shredded shortly after it was shown. But, oh the possibilities. . . .

Continue reading "The 1961 Buick Flamingo and The Case For Pink" »

Great Cars of Death VI: Washington's Lake of Death

Make sure you read the above in a deep, sonorous voice, with appropriately creepy music playing in the background. 

As the skies darken and the wind picks up, blowing the dry leaves through many a yard decorated with Crescent
ghouls, goblins, jack-o-lanterns, and all too many large inflatable decorations, we once again delve into the mysteries of the automotive netherworld to bring you another installment of Great Cars of Death. 

Florida has its Bermuda Triangle. Scotland has its Loch Ness. Lake Champlain has its inaptly named Champ (I mean, really, "Champ"?). And British Columbia's Lake Okanagan has its both inaptly and decidedly un-frighteningly named Ogopogo. While a certain amount of myth and mystery surrounds all of these bodies of water, only the Bermuda Triangle can reasonably be argued to have quite a few actual deaths associated with it. In contrast to the various monsters of the other lakes in question, Washington's Lake Crescent has no monsters, but quite a few corpses or near-corpse experiences associated with it. Herein I will relate three of these episodes. Two are directly automobile related, but the other is so creepy that I decided that it needs to be included anyway. 

And so, boys and ghouls, pour yourself a steaming cup of witches brew, put your feet up, and read on. . . .if you dare!

*the usual mad laughter*

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Carspotters’ Challenge #158: The Pop Culture Is Strong With This One

Thanks to Back To The Future Day, I was able to use on of Scott Park’s BTTF-themed works in one of our Carspotters’ Challenges. Inspired by the rest of his portfolio, I decided to showcase more of his automotive-pop culture-themed artwork.

Tumblr_mnn7uwVNGN1std30ho1_1280Click here for bigger version.

Tumblr_n19xt3Ru841std30ho1_1280Click here for bigger version.

The featured works are Star Cars and Star Cars Vol. 2, respectively, a series which showcases a vast array of pop-culture vehicles from movies and TV, as well as comic books and videogames throughout the years. Ya like? Get ‘em here and here, respectively. My only quip is that the artist used the 2008 movie version of the Speed Racer Mach 5 instead of the original, but that's about it.

So… how strong is the pop-culture with you?




References: Tumblr

The 2015 Nashville British Car Club Show

If I were to put this year's Nashville British Car Club Show description into a few words, they would be...

"Quality, not Quantity."

For the last few years ( 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 to be exact), I've had the pleasure to try to showcase the magnificent automotive examples presented at the Nashville British Car Club Shows. But sadly, 2014's event was washed out by heavy rain. There was a make-up show in November, but yours truly never heard about it until this year's show. And from what I heard, not many folks were able to reschedule their cars for that show as well.


So Saturday, October 10, was this year's date. And the day before we also had some rain, which is why I suppose few drove the distance (Cars have been here from Ontario) to attend this show. The ground was still a big mushy, and there was straw in a few areas to cover the mud. But overall it was a very pleasant day, and the lesser number of displayed vehicles gave time to enjoy what was there, rather than being rushed to take them all in at one viewing. Oh by the way, there were many nice cars in the show that weren't featured here, mainly because I've shown them in posts of yore.                                                 So let's get started!

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Carspotters’ Challenge #157: So Many Cars, So Little Time…

Because I’m still pumped over Back To The Future Day, I decided to continue celebrating just a little while longer…

Cii7t57wcldt9vo3kffbClick here to get a closer look.

During the world-wide countdown to October 21st, Jalopnik featured the image above. It was done by Scott Park of Scott Park Illustration, a talented artist who’s not unfamiliar to the vehicles of pop-culture. This piece is titled 88 MILES PER HOUR (referencing the time machine’s speed it needs to be traveling in order to time travel), featuring 88 cars from the trilogy (I’m sure there are more that don’t repeat themselves, but the artist did outdid himself. Besides, the BTTF 88mph reference works here).

The script at the bottom is the answer sheet. How many can you make out without cheating—er, double-checking your answers? Can you point out any that appear in the trilogy that’s not included here?

If you really like this poster enough to buy it, you can get it here, among other wonderful artwork from not only the same artist, but others as well.




References: Jalopnik

Back To The Future Day: The Future Is At Bob Statler Toyota

2016-toyota-tacoma-statler-back-to-the-future-teaser-02If you’re a Back To The Future fan and are also good with math, then October 21st might hold a special meaning: It’s the date certain teenagers and eccentric genius scientist come visit the year 2015 in a souped-up time machine sportscar.

I’m not here to bemoan the lack of certain future-tech (there are plenty of other people doing that) that even BTTF head-honchos Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale knew they weren’t going to happen by this date, but decided to add it to their franchise for the fun of it.

We’ve seen plenty of BTTF-related news articles, movie re-runs, merchandise and marketing campaigns, all of which were kinda inevitable, given the popularity of the franchise, though I'll admit that it's a little overwhelming how many companies have jumped the Back To The Future Day bandwagon.

Which brings us to today’s post. Some time ago, I’ve found an article telling the story about Marty McFly’s black Toyota pick-up truck, its fall from grace and how its current owner is restoring it. Thinking that I found a follow-up story, I stumbled on another BTTF-based marketing campaign. After getting over the brief disappointment, I checked it out. It was pretty neat; I never realized that Hill Valley’s Statler Toyota had their roots in selling horses way back in 1885! Then, the following teaser scene appeared:

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October 19 Weekly Open Thread: And The Great American Car Is. . . . . .

The Dodge Viper? 

So sayeth Jack Baruth over at Road & Track: Gallery-1444918538-viper

This is the way the Viper's world could end: not with the bang of obsolescence or defeat at the hands of its megabuck Eurotrash competitors, but with the whimper of a union contract that just happens to close one small-scale manufacturing facility. The supposed end of the Conner Avenue plant in 2017 would also be the end of the Viper. There's just no case to be made for restarting production somewhere else. It might impact FCA's ability to turn out more crossovers or something like that. 

No, the greatness of the Viper is in its very spirit, its very conception. It's the idea that supercars can be built in Detroit. It's the idea that the hyper-rich sheikhs and software moguls and Russian oligarchs out there don't get an exclusive monopoly on driving a six-hundred-plus-horsepower nightmare chariot with wings that wouldn't disgrace a Bleriot monoplane. It's the idea that a working-class man in Phoenix can save up most of his life and spend his hard-earned money on something built by other hard-working Americans in Michigan and that at no point do we require the approval of Enzo Ferrari or Ferdinand Piech to make that happen.

Of course, he then goes on to relate all of the Viper's shortcomings with respect to other supercars. Frankly, this wouldn't be on my short list of what may constitute The Great American Car (my first thought would be that it was actually a truck) mainly because it never quite seems to have caught the imagination of the wider American public like, for example, either the Corvette or Mustang did. And it was never really what one might call a World Beater so I doubt many beyond our borders would think "Viper" if asked about a classic American car.

Still, even if the Viper isn't my favorite car I do agree that I love the fact that such a thing exists in the first place.  

I got this link from Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit where there's a healthy (and interesting) discussion in the comments. So I thought I'd throw the idea out to our own Car Lustentsia: What would you rank as The Great American Car? And what do you think of the Viper? 

And, of course, anything else you may want to toss out for consideration. (Photo is from the R&T link).

Carspotters’ Challenge #156: Detroit, Michigan Traffic

  Detroit, Michigan tumblr_m95xekDI8O1r9qhhio1_1280Click here for full-size version.

Has Detroit, Michigan changed… traffic-wise?





Carspotters’ Challenge #155: Waiting Time

Tumblr_m5ppm0vl6p1qc2alio1_1280 I’m curious to know what’s the average waiting time a racer has to endure to make a pass down the track on a good (full) day/night.




References: Tumblr.

Going (Semi) Topless: The T-Top

Ah, the T-top. Like the opera window a classic from (mostly) the 1970s. This semi-convertible feature was designed to give you the open-top experience of a convertible while getting rid of flimsy and leak-prone rag-tops, giving the driver a coupe-like quiet inside and maintaining some semblance of structural rigidity. Pop the panels off, stow 'em in the trunk (or garage if the rain chance is low), and you can cruise around admiring the sky and feeling the wind in your hair.  1978_Trans-Am_bandit

That was the idea anyway. What many ended up with was a leak-prone roof that didn't make much appreciable difference in what was considered 'handling' back then. Whether installed at the factory as part of the options package or put in later, T-tops seemed like such a great idea but never really worked as well as their billing suggested. They've made an appearance off and on since their heyday in the 1970s, but for the most part they've been supplanted by traditional convertible tops (that actually work well), single-piece removable tops (ala, the modern Thunderbird), or more modern retractable hardtops. 

I've often thought that the T-top was a great idea -- a happy medium between the true convertible and the coupe -- that manufacturers would find some way to bring them back, make them work well, and give us nostalgia-seekers a little feeling of semi-convertiblism in our modern, comfortable, and well-performing automobiles. It's been 30+ years, the time must be ripe. . . .right?

Probably not, sadly. 

Continue reading "Going (Semi) Topless: The T-Top" »

Carspotters' Challenge #154: "Sha-za-yum!"

Many of us grew up watching "Gomer Pyle, USMC," if even in reruns. But one episode probably appealed to us car nuts the most. That episode followed Gunnery Sergeant Vincent Carter's most beloved possession, his car, left in the "trusty" hands of, you guessed it, Gomer. Needless to say, the car looked different after Gomer had it for a while.

Here's the "Before":

  Sgt Carter's car

Continue reading "Carspotters' Challenge #154: "Sha-za-yum!"" »

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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