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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

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Our First Cars Week (Week Two): 1967 Pontiac LeMans 2dr Hardtop

1967-Pontiac-LeMans-3Dad's '67 LeMans wasn't the first car I actually owned, but it was the car I learned to drive in, and the car I had more or less unrestricted use of once the state of Ohio gave me permission to be out on the public roads without adult supervision.

Ours was a bronze-ish shade called "Coronado Gold," topped with a black vinyl roof, much like the one in the photo at right.  It had bucket seats and a console shifter for the automatic, and there was a V-8 under the hood, probably a 326, with a single carb. Even with steelies and hubcaps instead of mag wheels, and a mere AM radio with a single speaker in the dash, it seemed sporty enough to a 15-year old with a learner's permit and a burning desire to go faster than the law would allow as long as Mom and Dad weren't watching.

Truth be told, it wasn't all that great a car.

Continue reading "Our First Cars Week (Week Two): 1967 Pontiac LeMans 2dr Hardtop" »

Our First Cars Week (Week Two): 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

IMG_0725The Our First Cars series couldn’t have come at a more opportune time: 2015 marks the 10th Anniversary of when I got my driver’s license. With that in mind, I’ve toyed with the idea of breaking the silence and talk about “my” first car: a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo.

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Our First Cars Week (Week Two): Chris Hafner's 1986 Toyota Celica

Chris Toyota CelicaI can't say I actually feel Car Lust towards this scabby 1986 Toyota Celica GT--it's probably more like Car Love. Or, at the very least, Car Affection. It's the sort of feeling reserved not for your first love, or your first crush--those are more intense emotions--but the gentle fondness that you feel for your first girlfriend or boyfriend.

You see, this Celica was my first car. Not the first car I drove regularly, but the first car to be owned and driven exclusively by me. Because of that, and the fact that it was such a trustworthy companion, it holds a special place in my heart and first nurtured in me the love of nondescript older cars. The Celica was also my first hands-on experience with the beauty and majesty of a hatchback.

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Our First Cars Week (Week Two): Chuck's 1972 Vega Hatchback

Fair Warning Dear Readers. This may be the most positive review of a Chevy Vega since 1973.

Vega day 1I wasn't even halfway through my 16th year, but it was time to have a car. I had a couple of motorcycles up to then, but the junior year of high school wasn't far away, and I needed a ride.

For whatever reasons, the idea of a small car won out over and large or muscle cars. Or any trucks. I really wanted a '65 or '66 Mustang, but they were just considered "old cars" in 1973. A Chevy Nova would have been nice, but...

The Vega was still new to the car scene, and they were really cool in those early years. The Vega GT was the most fun and racy looking, especially with the sport stripes that were usually found on them.

One day while riding around our little town, I spotted a red Hatchback on a used car lot. We stopped in, and it looked like new. Plus it had some very desirable options... air conditioning (This was July in Tennessee after all), tinted glass, the Custom Interior, and it had a 4-speed. The Hatchback also had wheel trim rings, "bright" metal body side moldings, and the all-important AM push button radio. Immediately, I began to wonder how many gears I could bark the tires in.

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Carspotters’ Challenge #153: UNO Criss Library, April 1979

Since this week's theme is about Our First Cars, this picture came to mind. It's the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library at the University of Nebraska Omaha. 

Flickr uno criss library Color. Parking South of ASH. April 1979 5425784303_62b1eb35f2_b
Click here for bigger version.

Flickr uno criss library Color. Parking South of ASH. April 1979  5425784261_8d65333262_b
Click here for bigger version.

The reason? Many of us used our first cars to go to high-school and/or college. The time period we've attended these places may or may not be the same, but those of us that were blessed with not only a decent education but also a set wheels to get there can find reasons to relate to it.




References: and University Archives, University of Nebraska Omaha Criss Library.


Our First Cars Week: Virgil Exner's '37 Ford (Then and Now)

Mr. Virgil Exner has taken his first car, a 1937 Ford, and significantly updated it. Now called "Purple Max," the car is a sight to behold and surely would be a thrill to drive. Looking very much like a dragster, the Purple Max would cause crowds to stir at any event it attended:

  Fullscreen capture 8282015 33059 PM.bmp

PURPLE MAX  Specifications:

• Frame: Semi-Space Frame; 2” and 1.5”, 14 Ga. sq. steel tubing. 2” Dia. Roll Bar. 

 • Body: Molded & Sheet Fiberglass. Front Fenders turn & Jounce, Rears are Fixed. Tinted Lexan Canopy slides rearward and pivots down for entry. Side Grillework provides air exit and intake in several areas.

• Engine: Ford 302 V8 (280HP Carburated) with Ford A.O.D. Trans.

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Our First Cars Week: My First Car(s)

I'm a bit torn on this one because this discussion more or less depends on what the definition of my first car entails. Is it the first one I drove almost exclusively as mine, or the first one I actually owned and drove outright? 

One might think that the latter would be my car of choice, the one I look back on with fond memories

Anthony's Buickthrough rose colored glasses and lament that I ever let it slip away from me. One might think that, but one would be dead wrong in my case. I hated that thing. That 1975 Buick Century perfectly embodied everything that was wrong with the American automotive industry in the later 1970s: heavy, underpowered, and unreliable. I did have quite a few memorable (née, nostalgic) adventures in that old Buick -- from an epic road trip from the mid-west bound for the west coast to a delightful summer on an island with a nicely attractive young blonde -- but I still hated it then and hate it now. No matter how much of my hard-earned money I spent on it (which was to say, $1; I "bought" it from my parents). 

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Our First Cars Week - 1979 Toyota Corolla (E71)

image from
"Toyota Corolla E70 4 door sedan" by Charles01 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

My first two cars were both Toyota Corollas.  I started with a 1979, and after a few years replaced it with a 1978 model.  Both were interesting in their own right.

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. So when the opportunity came to buy my great uncle's 1979 Corolla with a family discount, my parents jumped at it.  My parents drove the car for a couple of years leading up to my being old enough to drive.  I grew up in South Dakota, where you can get your permit at the age of 14, so my driving years came earlier than it does for most.

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September 21 Weekly Open Thread: "Our First Car(s) Week"

Our first car imageGreetings and salutations, dear and faithful Car Lust readers. It seems that we, your humble contributors, have been working on something special as of late. So we bring to you, for better or worse, the first cars we either owned, or drove as our principal mode of transportation, back in the day.

No, Mumsie and Daddykins didn't leave the keys to a new Ferrari next to the birthday cake; most of these machines were brought to us by our own labors. Or we shared them with others in our households.

Either way, these were the first contrivances that gave us freedoms we had only dreamt about.

We'll try to post all of these in one week, but we may go into next week as well. All I'll say is that we have some pleasant posts in the hopper. Maybe they helped make each of us the car enthusiasts we are, and/or maybe they taught us how to differentiate between a metric and an SAE Crescent Wrench.

And of course, this is the usual place for discussing anything else even remotely relating to motor vehicles.

So let's get started!

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credit: Our photo was found at

Carspotters’ Challenge #152: Is That Molly Ringwald?

Tumblr_m5xylmBaeo1rs0g9jo1_1280 I’ll admit that while I’m a pretty big fan of the ‘80s, I’ve seen very few of the Brat Pack (Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, etc.) movies. So I drew a blank when I found this pic on Tumblr. I just thought it’d make a great Carspotters’ Challenge, so I saved it. Given that this week had a bit of an ‘80s-flare to it -what with discussing what the archetypal ‘80s car is, to a new series taking place in Germany, circa 1983- I’m glad I did and it’d be a shame not to use it now. Besides, I want to know where it’s from. So please, fellow readers, would you’d be so kind to tell this pupil of the 1980s what movie is this from? You could just tell me the cars instead if you wish.




References: Tumblr

The Cars of Deutschland 83 deutschland83-staffel1-trailer_deAny series that uses Major Tom (Coming Home) by Peter Schilling for the opening can’t be bad at all!


Taking place during the 1980s chapter of the Cold War, Deutschland 83 (‘Deutschland’ is German for ‘Germany’, ‘83’ for 1983) is about a young East Germany soldier that went from confiscating illegal literature to becoming a spy in the offices of high-ranking West German military personnel so he can gather information on what was going on with the nuclear weaponry. Naturally, anything involving nuclear warfare quickly gets complicated, on both sides of the Berlin Wall, on a military level as well as on a personal level.

The series was wonderfully crafted. There was no glaring stand outs of anything that didn’t belong there, everything from the wardrobe, to the furnishings, to the music (oh, that sweet, sweet music!) was spot-on. There are well-funded movies that mess this up (*coughs* Dallas Buyers Club *coughs*). But let’s be realistic here, there will be anachronisms. As the series gets airtime in Germany (it aired first in the U.S. market), they’ll begin to pop and be pointed out. A greater learning experience, in my eyes.

Yes, there will be the inevitable comparison to The Americans, but this series has another thing going for it: It’s German. This must certainly help the period portrayal of both sides of The Berlin Wall as well as a fresh perspective to the Cold War that isn’t North American, not to mention a fresh portrayal of life in Germany in the 1980s; things that I was curious about when the series was first announced on Sundance TV. Oh, and it’s in German, the first series to be aired that way on North-American television. Get used to reading subtitles.

While I found that the ending had a bitter-sweet (more on the bitter side, IMO) open-ish ending, I still want more of it. Let’s hope that the rumors of two more seasons (said to be called Deutschland 86 and Deutschland 89) become real.

Continue reading "The Cars of Deutschland 83" »

September 14 Weekly Open Thread: Return to the '80s Edition.

I hereby throw down the gauntlet, metaphorically speaking of course. Is the Honda Prelude. . .


the archetypal 1980s car?

It's got a lot to recommend it. It didn't start out in the 1980s and it lasted well past the 1980s. I'm not even sure it was that big of a seller in the 1980s. But whenever I see one, it just screams "1980s" at me. Clean but sporting lines, a good performer, excellent build quality, the sort of car that US manufacturers hated the Japanese for but envied at the same time. It was, in a phrase, all that was good about the 1980s. 

As a side note, in the last four days I've seen two Cadillac Allantés, which also scream 1980s at me, though at slightly lower volume (and without the positive vibes). To be honest, the DeLorean might really be the Ultimate 1980s car, but so few were made that seems kind of irrelevant. 

Yes? No? Indifferent? And feel free to discuss anything else of potential automotive interest. 

Photo from Wikipedia. 

Carspotters’ Challenge #151: What Did You Do On Labor Day?

 What did you do on Labor Day?

Tumblr_msi6kuzgCp1r9qhhio1_1280 Circa 1959. Click here to find a bigger version.

Did you go to a get-together with family and friends, hopefully in fair weather?

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1977-1984 Coupe De Ville/Sedan De Ville, 1977-1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, 1987-1992 Cadillac Brougham tumblr_ml7jlz7vnj1qgapm9o1_1280Where I work, there’s a used car dealership right beside us. It holds an eclectic collection of automobiles, ranging from Hyundai econoboxes to old Ford Super-Duty trucks suited for different applications. Among them there’s old ‘80s metal for sale. Parked right outside the window I stare out of in a daydream-like haze is a worn-down, big, white Cadillac.

From that view to that dealer I’ve lusted after a neat, red Z31 Nissan 300ZX and a beater early-3rd-gen Chevrolet Camaro, to name some. Then how come that Cadillac, with mismatching whitelines and blackwalls and faded business advertisement telephone numbers still present on its rear flanks grabs my attention as much as iconic 1980s sporty coupes? Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a case of CarLust.

Continue reading "1977-1984 Coupe De Ville/Sedan De Ville, 1977-1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, 1987-1992 Cadillac Brougham" »

Carspotters’ Challenge #150: Los Angeles, circa 1979

Just another day in Los Angeles... Los Angeles (ca. 1979) tumblr_mig1j5ffL81s1f10do1_1280If one looks closely, the print from the other side of the page can be made out, so I’m convinced that this was staged. I could be wrong. The website that I got it from doesn’t say which magazine it comes from, only that it’s ‘Los Angeles, circa 1979’. Regardless, I’d totally give a listen to KMET 94.7 rock radio station, which was from Los Angeles.




References: Tumblr

Wednesday Night Cruise In, Medina, Ohio 7/22/15

Well, c'mon, it IS a restaurant, y'know.An automotive-themed restaurant's parking lot filled with classics, customs, and hot rods is a perfect place to spend a summer evening.  Here's some of what I saw at the local Quaker Steak & Lube on a Wednesday evening not too long ago.

For starters, the Batmobile!

WP_20150722_18_38_30_ProBat-wing-mobile, actually.

Sing it with me people: "Da=da da-da-dadadada da, bat-wing!"

Continue reading "Wednesday Night Cruise In, Medina, Ohio 7/22/15" »

August 31 Weekly Open Thread - Judgment Day

This is the place to talk about anything automotive. As a possible discussion-starter, let's ask the same question Nash's ad copywriter posed: how do you judge a car?

Here come the Judge(ment)!

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

2015 Studebaker Drivers Club Meet, Talmadge, Ohio - Part 4

Studebakers!One of the more surprising things at the Studebaker meet last Saturday was the microcar delegation.

Continue reading "2015 Studebaker Drivers Club Meet, Talmadge, Ohio - Part 4" »

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

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