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RIP James Garner

The world lost a fine gentleman and actor this past week. We here at Car Lust express our thanks to Mr. Garner for gracing us with his craft all these years and our regrets at his passing. To help celebrate his life in our own somewhat peculiar way, we're linking to an old post of mine about the car(s) of The Rockford Files. Garner had some input into the choice of automobile for the show and did most if not all of the stunt driving himself; he was that good. And he earned kudos from the real drivers on the set of Grand Prix for learning the craft of Formula 1 racing to a high level. And if that weren't enough, by all accounts Garner was just a damned decent fellow. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Garner. And thank you.

1970-1981 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

by Anthony Cagle on February 08, 2011

You may not ever have heard of this car, but many of you over a certain age probably already know of it. The Firebird, arguably, rarely gets quite the attention that the Chevrolet division's sister car, the EspritCamaro, does but it has a nice lineage and it produced quite a few memorable cars--even though a lot of them appear here at Car Lust rather than in the big muscle car magazines and web sites.

I always preferred the Firebird to the Camaro myself, for whatever reason, and the second generation has always been my favorite, especially the later '70s. Again, for whatever reason, the first generation'sstyling never quite did it for me; it just looks to me like something that was thrown together quickly to get something into the pony car market (this is all apart from the performance which was generally stellar). The second generation's styling just seems to have been well thought out with clean lines, good proportions all around, and manages to seem elegant, powerful, and sporty all at the same time. They look good from any angle. Although I adore my Mustang II the Firebirds from that time remain my absolute favorite car.

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July 21 Weekly Open Thread--Who's Driving?

It's too nice a day to stay inside, so we're going on a picnic. Come tag along and join the conversation.

Looks yummy!Saw an article last week that I wanted to pass along to you: "17 Ways Driverless Cars Could Change America" by Dan McLaughlin in The Federalist. He writes:

Projections of the future are always uncertain, and small variations in what is technologically possible can have large impacts on what happens socially. But we know this much: in a world of driverless cars, a lot will change with the disappearance of drivers, for good and for ill. The possibilities and the risks are only beginning to dawn on us.

 The author's list of possible changes is:

1. Fewer Car Accidents
2. Revolutionizing Car Design
3. Changing The Layout of Roads and Traffic Patterns
4. Changing Who Can Drive
5: Altering the Legal and Insurance Landscape
6. Lowering The Drinking Age
7. Destroying Car Culture
8. Degrading Military Preparedness
9. Extending Telecommuting
10. Eviscerating Drive-Time Radio Ratings
11. Destroying Taxi and Driving Jobs
12. Eroding Privacy
13. Revolutionizing Law Enforcement
14. Reducing Car Theft
15. Fewer Used Cars, More Inequality
16. Increasing Vulnerability to Terrorism and Natural Disasters
17. Flying Cars?

He makes a plausible case for all of them--well, the first sixteen, anyway. I don't know about you, but I'm not really liking #7.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Illustration obtained from Desktop Nexus.

1963 Volkswagen Dunebuggy

Sometimes life gets in the way of having fun.  This is true when it comes to having fun with our cars.  Cars should be more than just tools in our lives.  Many (all?) of us dream of having a great car to have fun in, but for some of us it takes a while to reach the place where that can happen.  For others that "while" is 36 years.

2012-07-15 12.47.54

Continue reading "1963 Volkswagen Dunebuggy" »

Great Commercials--Mel Tormé for Oldsmobile

General Motors got a lot of mileage out of "In My Merry Oldsmobile," the first popular song with an automotive theme, to advertise Oldsmobiles.  For a period of time in the early 1950s, the Olds ad campaign featured "Johnny" and "Lucille," the characters from the song, singing the virtues of the "Rocket" V-8, "Hydramatic" transmission, and "Futuramic" sheetmetal.

Here they are in a 1953 installment, in which Johnny is rather abruptly upstaged by jazz singer Mel Tormé.

Though clearly flummoxed that his gal Lucille has dumped him for the velvet-voiced interloper--What's he got that I ain't got? Besides the great singing voice and the mansion and the multimillion-dollar recording contract, I mean.--but he's enough of a professional to finish the sales pitch.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Willys Jeep Wagon

Submitted for your consideration, a charming example of a Willys Jeep Station Wagon, the first all-steel wagon and the mother of all SUVs.

Willys Jeep Wagon 4

This particular Willys was spotted and photographed on the streets of Rocky Ford, Colorado, this past Fourth of July, by my friend Norman Kincaide.

Willys Jeep Wagon 6

Continue reading "Willys Jeep Wagon" »

July 7 Weekly Open Thread

It's the height of summertime, so we've closed the Car Lust Garage early and loaded up the lemonade and sandwiches and gone on a picnic.

A perfect day to open the sunroof....Come join us at the park for potato salad and friendly conversation.

(Photo from the SDC Forum, contributed by user "62champ.")

VW Rabbit Pickup: 1980-1983

This is what I wrote some time ago about the Chevrolet El Camino:

Ladies, you may stop reading right now. Avert your eyes, if you must, because this post is about men. Real men. Manly men. Who do manly things in manly ways, that only manly men can do them. Men who mow their own lawns, fix a leaky faucet, and change their own oil. Men who brew up a pot of battery acid every morning. Men who use after-shave, not "post-shave skin conditioner with aloe, seaweed extract and Vitamin E with a subtle scent of coriander." Men who wouldn't touch a quiche with a 10-foot fork. Men who only drink whiskeys that are named after animals or people. Men who only cry when their father or best hunting dogs die. Men who frankly, my dear, don't give a damn. Men who know every manly cliche from the last 30 years and aren't afraid to use them.

These men drive a particular type of car. A car that drips testosterone like a leaky gasket. A car that says, "I know what I need, and this is it." These type of men know that they'll never drive the length and breadth of the Kalahari, but they will sure as hell be hauling 4-by-8s home from the lumberyard (note: not the "home improvement store"). Men who don't need fine Corinthian leather or a station wagon dressed up as an Urban Assault Vehicle. No, this is the Steve McQueen of cars: no entourage, no workout video, and no froufrou drinks with umbrellas in them.

This...

"That's no ordinary Rabbit."...is not that kind of car. 

Continue reading "VW Rabbit Pickup: 1980-1983" »

June 30 Weekly Open Thread

It's that top-down time of year.

Night Convertible (SWF Jim 68cuda)

Here's the place to discuss your favorite summer driving topic.

(Photo from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by forum member "Jim68Cuda.")

Carspotters' Challenge #113--Rack 'em Up!

For your carspotting pleasure this week, a set of three photos of new cars on railroad cars from the days before fully-enclosed auto-racks.

The St. Louis-San Francisco ran from St. Louis or so to Texas and Arkansas, never getting less than 1,000 miles from San Francisco.

Railroad and location unknown.

Before there were auto rack cars....--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(All three photos come from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by forum member "Jim68Cuda.")

Car Lust Classic: 1961 Lincoln Continental

Hey folks, it's the Good Old Summertime, and what better way to spend it than in a classy convertible? And is there any more class than a Lincoln Continental convertible... one not just with 4 doors, but with 2 suicide doors as well?

This Car Lust post was originally presented by Cookie The Dog's Owner on July 14, 2011. It begins with the sedan models, but the pictures of the available convertibles farther into the post are definitely lustworthy:

Mid-century modernist design is making something of a comeback. No small number of our fellow citizens are enamored of martinis and blond wood and Barcelona chairs and boomerang-patterned Formica, eagerly re-creating the look and feel of the culture that the Sixties counterculture was countering.

It doesn't get much more mid-century than this. The mid-century movement broke out into the mainstream in 2007 with Mad Men, the AMC drama series that perfectly captures the look of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era. Mad Men wasn't the start of the trend, though: there had been a lounge-music revival and a Googie architecture preservation movement around for quite a while, you just had to know where to look for them. This fall [(2011)], there will be two new series on broadcast TV that are aiming for that Mad Men vibe: one about Pan American World Airways which features gorgeous stewardesses CGI Boeing 707s, and another about Playboy bunnies that I can't watch because my wife would kill me it'll air opposite Hawaii Five-0.

It therefore seems an auspicious time to take a look at what is arguably the ultimate mid-century automobile, a car that's a perfect summary of its time and place. It's Nat King Cole on wheels dressed in Botany 500 sheetmetal, as elegant as Jacqueline Kennedy and so swank you could fuel it with cocktails....

To see this post in its entirety and to leave a comment, please click here.

Carspotters' Challenge #112--Port Chester, NY

Where were you in '82? Whoever took this photo was in Port Chester, New York.

Speed Limit 30See anything you might like to drive home with through the time portal?

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "GTW.")

"Cruise-In" at the Templar Motors Factory

David Buehler, who showed me around the old Templar Motors factory in Lakewood for the post I wrote last winter, was interviewed for last Sunday's episode of Cruise-In, a locally-produced car show. Here's the episode on YouTube; David and the Templars take up the first twelve minutes or so.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

June 16 Weekly Open Thread: Car Lust Crowd-Sourced Data Collection Project

This week I present Car Lust readers with a challenge and a request: Science!

There's a little project I've been pondering for a while now that combines automobiles and evolutionary theory. In fact, cars are often used to illustrate various aspects of evolution, both cultural and natural. DataCarWe note that many stylistic cues on cars -- like the utterly useless VentiPorts on many Buicks after 1949 -- tend to come and go with a certain regularity, while certain other purely functional attributes -- round, rubber tubeless tires, for example -- become 'fixed' in the population, much like natural selection fixes certain traits in animals. 

What I'm interested in, and I'll be a little obtuse here so I don't give it away, is measuring the sizes of particular models over time. I realize that size has many potential components  -- length, width, interior volume, for example -- but I'm going to simplify things somewhat and use only a few attributes. Then I shall use the data to see what trends are present and when. 

So, what I would like to invite readers to do is this: find the specs on a particular model over a period of time, record them in a spreadsheet, and send them to us here at Car Lust (email is to the right). Use 'Data Collection' in the subject line so we can sift through them more easily. Try to get as many data points as possible on a model. Say, for example, all Mustangs from 1965 to the present day. Or Ford F150s through as many years as possible. Or Camaros. Or even a particular Studebaker. As long as it seems like a relatively continuous model line. Try to restrict it to the same configuration as well, say, all 4-doors or all coupes. As long as what you're recording seems to be comparable. 

As for the variables, let's just go for these:

Make/Model; Year; Overall Length; Overall Width; Weight; Height; Wheelbase. Use Inches and Pounds, please. Europeans are certainly welcome, as the broader the database the better; just make sure you note that and make the appropriate measurement conversions. 

Just stick those into a spreadsheet, enter as much data as you can find, and send it in. And please put in another column for the source you derived the data from. If it's a web site, just pop in the URL. If it's a book, just put in the author and title. Just so we can spot check some of them to make sure we're getting accurate data. This is Science after all! Here's a (hopefully) example:

Make/Model Year Length Width Weight Height Wheelbase Source
Ford Mustang 1965 181.6 68.2 2556 51.1 108 http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/showroom/1965/specs.html

So go for it, indulge your inner nerd or OCD. In a few weeks, I'll 'analyze the data' as they say, and present it in another post. Send along your name or moniker as well, and I'll make sure to provide proper credit. 

And feel free to talk about anything else vaguely auto-related.

Photo is from this site

Carspotters' Challenge #111--Pre-Flight

For this week's installment, we have the fine mid-century modernist architecture of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and a generous selection of mid-century wheels.

"Come fly with me, let's fly awayyyyy!"--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo from the Station Wagon Forum, contributed by member "OrthmannJ.")

June 9 Weekly Open Thread: Youth, the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Which is, at least in some cases, not a good thing.

I direct your attention this week to an article over at The Truth About Cars: I Flunked Driver's Ed: BabyDriver

It’s true. I write about and review cars and the first time that I took driver’s ed I flunked. How’s that for irony? Now I’m not like that Korean lady who spent a fortune repeatedly failing her driver’s test before finally passing on the 950th try. The next time I took it, I passed, then passed my road test, got my license and never had a problem on the road. 

Good article and worth a read. But this is the quote that struck me:

When I was seven and we were at my aunt’s house. I was playing in the car in the driveway, pulled it out of gear and managed to turn it right into a parked car as gravity took over and I couldn’t reach the brakes.

I'm going to go a bit Oprah now and make a bit of a confession. When I was a wee lad of maybe three or four years, I managed to make my way into my parents' car, put it into Neutral, and proceed to coast back down the driveway and into the street. Fortunately, I didn't hit anything except maybe the curb on the opposite side of the street. I do, however, recall madly (and vainly) trying to stop it by pushing down on the brakes, but my little legs just weren't strong enough to fully depress the brake pedal. Or perhaps I was hitting the clutch or the gas, I don't know. Recall that back in the 1960s (when this happened) a big ol' American land yacht with no power brakes would have been a bear to stop anyway, even if you weren't using itty-bitty 3-year old legs. Either way, what I was doing wasn't working and I do remember being in a mad panic. 

And to this day I still have the occasional dream/nightmare where I am in a car and it's moving and no matter how hard I stomp on the brakes, it just won't stop. Matter of fact, I thought of this post not only becaue of the TTAC post but also because I had another occurence of this dream just a few days ago. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I made the connection between that event and the dreams. It actually happened, by the way, it's not a false memory that I made up as an explanation. My mother till brings it up on occasion. 

I find it somewhat amazing that an experience from my childhood almost a half century ago (Did I just type that?) still affects me to this day. 

So what about you, faithful readers? Do you ever get a similar dream? Are there any particularly memorable/terrifying/exhilarating automotive experiences from your youth? Keep it clean, please. And discuss anything else automobile-related that you wish. 

Credit: I got the above photo from this article at The Age regarding a Hyundai ad that was actually pulled: "The Advertising Standards Bureau requested that Hyundai pull the ad in February this year after receiving more than 80 complaints - many from parents who feared their children would attempt to emulate the ad's nappy-clad stars." 

I think we have successfuly demonstrated that you don't need some stupid TV ad to make kids do stupid things. 

Which I shall reproduce here just to stick it to the censors (below the fold):

Continue reading "June 9 Weekly Open Thread: Youth, the Gift That Keeps on Giving" »

Carspotters' Challenge #110--Lots and Lots

A scene in Los Angeles, roughly 1960 or so.

"It was midnight in Topanga/I heard the DJ say/There's a full moon rising/Join me in L.A." -- Warren Zevon

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the SDC Forum, contributed by member Bob Andrews.)

The Luxury Chevette, The "1977 Leata"

They say that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But nobody told these folks that, because they did. Sort of. In a way. Kind of.

Yes, it's our duty here at Car Lust to bring some obscure, unloved vehicles to light, and Holy Moly, do we have a winner today. Move over Mustang II Silver Ghia, step aside Vega Notchback Cabriolet, begone Levi's Gremlin... we hereby present the 1977 Leata. No, not the Reatta, the Leata.

The formula for this automobilia luxuriouso obscuriata: Take one brand new stock 1977 Chevy Chevette. Install fiberglass body panels. A rear vinyl half-roof with opera windows is a must. Nicer wheels are a definite improvement. Reupholster the seats, door panels, and everything else in that spartan interior that you possibly can.

Continue reading "The Luxury Chevette, The "1977 Leata"" »

June 2 Weekly Open Thread--Driverless Cars Update

Join us out here on the front porch for some lemonade and car talk. You can steer the conversation in any direction you would like.

This past week, there seemed to be a sudden burst of news activity concerning self-driving cars. Google unveiled its newest self-driving car project, a purpose-built electric "city car" with a 25 MPH top speed and a 100-mile range.

Prior versions of the Google Car were built for semiautomatic freeway cruising and required the driver to stay engaged and function as a co-pilot. According to MIT Technology Review,

That approach had to be scrapped after tests showed that human drivers weren’t trustworthy enough to be co-pilots to Google’s software. When people began riding in one of the vehicles, they paid close attention to what the car was doing and to activity on the road around them, which meant the hand-off between person and machine was smooth. But that interest faded to indifference over weeks and months as people became too trusting of the car’s abilities. . . . 

That convinced Google it had to give up on switching between human and machine control, says Fairfield. That also ruled out building on top of conventional car designs, because they assume a human is on hand and ready to take over in the event of an emergency.

Google is building a fleet of 100 of the new electrics for testing this summer. Under current law, those that venture out on the public roads will have to be equipped with steering wheels and other controls.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, the development of driverless Bimmers and Benzes is bumping up against a rather restrictive legal environment.

Back on our side of the pond, a company called Peloton Technology is working on a system for large trucks that combines active cruise control with short-range wireless communication to allow two big trucks to travel in a "platoon" with only thirty feet of space between them. 

This cuts down drag on both trucks--the same aerodynamic boost that geese get from flying in formation, and NASCAR drivers get from "drafting" on an opponent's back bumper--and saves fuel, as much as 10% for the good buddy in the "back door" position.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Carspotters' Challenge #109--Wagon Train

Wagon Train (SWF Jim 68cuda)

Appropriate music here.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

(Photo obtained from the Station Wagon Forum collection, contributed by member "Jim68cuda.")

Subaru Justy 1987-1994

Following a bit on my post from last week on the Subaru Outback, I thought I'd send a shout out to another of Subaru's goofy little models: the Justy. I'll be honest: I don't really lust after this car. It was Suby_justysmall and underpowered and not very interesting to look at and I'm not sure what all else, but I never thought much of it, with one exception: I really liked the commercial. 

Other than that, it was more or less derived from a Kei car, and had a tiny 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine and came with either front- or four-wheel drive. The 4WD was what really set it apart; it may not have been the first or only 4WD subcompact out there, but it's the only one that immediately springs to my mind at least. And while I gently deride the engine -- the original carbed engine put out a (none too) whopping 66 bhp -- it did get fuel injection in 1991 which bumped that up a bit and I think was a neat feature for such a tiny little car. 

And, no, I don't know where the name "Justy" came from. 

But, alas, unlike the BRAT which I would dearly love to have, I'm content to just reminisce a bit over the Justy. And it gives me an opportunity to link to their utterly and completely brilliant commercial:

Continue reading "Subaru Justy 1987-1994" »

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

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