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June 2010

Colborne's $2,000 Used Car Challenge, Part 3--Scherzo

Just outside of Pyramid Lake. Note the dent on the rear door. Previously on Car Lust...
Part 1
Part 2

It's up to history to judge.
- Pol Pot

Several months back, I started a miniseries on Car Lust detailing my search for a cheap replacement for my significant other's old car, a rather abominably engineered 2003 Chevrolet Malibu that inconsiderately failed at a particularly poor time for us. My goal was to craft a five-part epic, starting with the death of the car, moving on to a loaner that she drove for a month or two, detailing our adventures as we searched for a replacement, then culminating in a long, drawn out piece about the final result of the search.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Continue reading "Colborne's $2,000 Used Car Challenge, Part 3--Scherzo" »

Chevrolet K5 Blazer

K51 The presence, purpose, and acceptability of sport-utility vehicles have long been a controversial subject here at Car Lust, spurring some of the fiercest debate this normally placid site has ever seen. We even have an SUV Throwdown post and discussion thread in which we tried to confine all of the endless, circular, unproductive debate about whether SUVs represent wonderful utility, repugnant overindulgance, or simply more extroverted but less useful minivans. This post is not an invitation to reopen that argument, and if you feel yourself compelled to refight it, please do so in that old discussion thread.

However, I will say that I prefer my SUVs to follow the Jeep Wagoneer, International Scout, and Ford Bronco vein--rough, tough, impervious, and inexorable. I figure that if I'm going to have a vehicle with the compromises of a truck (heavy and with a high center of gravity), that I may as well have the benefits as well, namely the easy ability to go off-road, to tow a boat or a brace of snowmobiles, and to swallow enough gear to support a platoon of soldiers. Such a truck needs rugged body-on-frame construction, a bellowing V-8, and nothing extraneous to snag or to break.

At one time, it wasn't difficult to find trucks like this; they were the natural, motorized replacements for mountain goats, draft horses, and burros. They were as capable and basic as tractors, because customers needed maximum functionality for minimum cost. It's one of the brilliant ironies of design that this emphasis on function over form helped sculpt trucks that were fantastic to look at--their basic, elemental designs were as direct and forceful as Chuck Norris' fists. These are the trucks that created the rough-and-tumble image on which today's fancy and expensive SUVs are trading.

The Chevy K5 Blazer was one of those original workhorses. The K5 Blazer, not to be confused with the compact S-10-based Blazer, was essentially a shortened Chevy full-size pickup truck with a back seat and a removable top. The result was a truck big enough to carry a family and their camping equipment, and it was capable of getting them there without drama. In short, it was the perfect truck for making adventures and creating memories.

Continue reading "Chevrolet K5 Blazer" »

June 28 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for off-topic conversation. We have been long on open threads and light on content-rich posts lately; hopefully we can turn that around this week.

Well, I showed my 1986 Audi Coupe GT in two car shows over the weekend, the first being the large Greenwood Auto Show that serves as a general-interest car show, and the second being the regional Audi Expo. After a frantic several weeks spent polishing, buffing, cleaning, waxing, and re-cleaning the car, I felt as if I put my best foot forward.

It was still extremely intimidating to file into the show between absolutely perfect muscle cars and classic 1950s American cars, but I managed to find a show spot near some kindred spirits (a Dodge Daytona, a Plymouth Turismo, and a Fiat 131 Brava), and wound up having a blast. I'm betting the Audi didn't get nearly as much traffic as one of the roughly 200 1960s Mustangs on-hand, but it was neat to see people get excited because they had always liked Coupe GTs, had one as their first car, or simply hadn't seen one in years. And of course the rest of the cars there were amazing--there was a pristine NSU Ro80, for example, and a bunch of fantastic domestic iron. There was a beige Chrysler Satellite Sebring for sale for $4,000 that I wanted to buy (like this, only undamaged, with faded beige paint). There were many lust-worthy vehicles, only a few of which I even managed to photograph.

Audi Expo was neat as well; of course, I left wanting to buy a turbocharged Audi Quattro engine to put into my car, a 1995 Audi S6 Avant, and of course any number of things. I'm now sunburned, exhausted, but gratified--car shows are fun. I'll try to put up some photos as soon as I have gone through them.

Anyway, enough about me. What have you all been up to? Auto shows? Cleaning or fixing up your cars? Have you seen anything special recently? Lusting after anything that is either unattainable or a really, really bad idea?

--Chris H.

No politics. No, seriously, no politics.

To quote from our comment guidelines:

6. No politics or religion.

I've found politics and religion to be incredibly corrosive to respectful online conversation. There are plenty of places to talk about those subjects--places that would offer a far more enriching conversation on the topic. We're not trying to solve the world's problems here.

One exception--feel free to adopt Car Lust as your personal religion or preferred political system.

This week alone, I have seen a conversation about population density and rail travel repurposed as a slap at our last president. I have seen a comment about the Ford GT used as a springboard for commentary on our current president. This is not acceptable. The reasons why should be obvious and common sense, but I'll be as direct as I can in explaining why this is.

  1. It's completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. The Ford GT is a car. Car Lust is a blog about cars. If you have something relevant to say about the Ford GT, please say it, but don't use our topic as your soapbox to make completely unrelated statements. If you want to opine about politics, there are forums and blogs for that. This is not one of them.
  2. People who come to read about cars don't want to read about your political beliefs. This is related to the last point, but I think it bears emphasis. I don't care about your politics. I really don't. I care about discussing interesting cars and the odd emotional attachments they engender.
  3. It's a huge turn-off to the people who don't share your political beliefs. No matter how right you think you are, please try to keep in mind that, simplistically speaking, at least 50 percent of the population disagrees with you. Since people tend to be dogmatic and inflexible with their political beliefs, the end result is that half of the people reading your comment will think you're an idiot and disregard the wholly valid things you have to say about cars. Which is exactly the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish here.
  4. It's corrosive to respectful discussion and ultimately unproductive. Since people are so dogmatic and inflexible about these topics, there's no upside to these conversations--they quickly become heated. Even the smallest reference is an invitation to an argument--an argument which is completely unproductive and thoroughly irrelevant here.
  5. This blog is hosted by a corporation. While I don't trumpet this fact, this blog and my time are essentially donations from Amazon.com. Amazon is a commercial entity, not a political one, and if one of its blogs becomes embarrassing because it has become a springboard for potentially vituperative and rancorous political discussion, the path of least resistance is to simply shut down the blog. I don't want that to happen.

Ultimately, I want this to be an oasis of respectful and mature discussion in the blogosphere--a tall order, I realize, but I think it's attainable. Political discussion on this blog--even off-hand political references that solicit political discussion--is antithetical to that goal.

I have tried to be relaxed in enforcing this, because I really hate deleting full comments or pieces of comments. But this is really important, so it looks like I'm going to have to take a firmer hand.

--Chris H.

Great Commercials--Subaru XT

Submitted for your consideration, a memorable commercial from the 1980s pitching the "oddball" Subaru XT6 sort-of-a-sports car.

Continue reading "Great Commercials--Subaru XT" »

Ford GT

Seeing this thing at the Wednesday night cruise-in lurking among the hot rods and Fox-body Mustangs was sort of like going to the county airport and finding an F-117 Nighthawk parked in the middle of a row of Cessna Skyhawks.

 

It's a Ford GT, the reincarnation of the legendary GT40 endurance racer of the 1960s.

Continue reading "Ford GT" »

June 21 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for the random conversation that doesn't belong anywhere else.

A few possible conversation topics:

- Anthony Cagle and I will be showing our cars in the Greenwood Car Show in Seattle this Saturday, and if anybody wants to show their car with us or stop by and say hello, you're more than welcome. Anybody else doing the car show circuit this summer, either as a participant or as a spectator?

- Last week, Jalopnik ran a piece about the most annoying car owners. I don't necessarily agree with the list--for one, they have Saab owners as the most annoying, and for another, they seem to just focus on cars that people would be proud to own. But, hey, it might generate some interesting discussion.

--Chris H.

Syrena Sport

From time to time, the tale is told of an innovative, advanced automotive design which never reaches the market, not because of a failure on its own merits, but because sinister, powerful forces don't want it to. For example, there's the hoary old urban legend of the 100 (or is it 200?) MPG carburetor allegedly suppressed by the oil companies. The carburetor legend is a total fantasy (go here for the debunking), and there are other, similar tales that are just as fanciful.

Yet, history does record one clearly documented instance of an innovative prototype car kept from production by sinister forces.

The car is the "Syrena Sport," Poland's first sports car, and the sinister forces in question were officials of Poland's Communist government.

Continue reading "Syrena Sport" »

The Land Yacht Mothball Fleet

When naval vessels are no longer immediately needed, they are decommissioned and stored in what is colloquially known as "mothballs." A mothballed ship is not operable, but it's maintained in a condition that preserves its internal equipment and allows it to be returned to service in fairly short order if the need arises. There are fleets of mothballed ships in places like Suisun Bay, Calif., sitting quietly at anchor in neat rows, awaiting a call to duty.

 

Much like their nautical counterparts, these decommissioned 1970s land yachts are "anchored" in a row at a restoration shop in Newark, Ohio. Here we see a Lincoln Continental Mark IV and Mark V with a four-door 1980-81 "Panther platform" Continental alongside.

Fleets of massive capital-ship luxury cars like these once cruised highways and moored in parking lots throughout the land, their leather seats coddling passengers in first-cabin luxury, their soft suspensions and immense curb weight inducing seasickness should the captain call down to the engine room for flank speed on a twisty back road. Most of them are gone now, done in by road salt, changing public tastes, and a fatal lack of fuel economy.

These three survivors looked to be reasonably solid. They probably need a bit of "demothballing" before they'll run again--in contrast to the Mercedes at the end of the row, which will likely start right up as long as the battery is charged and there's diesel in the tank. Any of the three would be a plausible candidate for restoration, should you be inclined to re-live the disco era in all of its opera-windowed, vinyl-landaued, 10 MPG glory.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Car Disgust: 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

Lincoln_Versailles_Rear Not long ago, we here at Car Lust went back to the days of Marlon Brando, greasy hair, and leather jackets. Now let's slingshot around the sun, hit warp drive, and time-travel to the age of leisure suits, twirling mirrored balls, psychedelic lighting, and thumping dance floor music... those now-distant, dearly departed, dreaded days of Disco

I'm not sure if a more superfluous period of car (or fashion) design has ever existed. Sure, the 1950s had chrome and 3-tone paint schemes. But the late 1970s and early '80s was an era of padded vinyl roofs, opera windows, wide body-side moldings, wide pinstripes, fake wire-wheel hubcaps, flip-up headlights (some were even padded vinyl), requisite upright hood ornaments, pillowy crushed velour seating, and fine Corinthian leather. It is a period of garishly concocted automotive design that should be remembered only so that we will never repeat it again.

This time slot was all about flash, not substance. After all, how long could a vinyl roof last in the Florida sunshine? Surely nowhere near as long as 1950s chrome and paint would.

Some of these cars were designed almost from the ground up to be in this class, such as the Chrysler Cordoba or 1977 Ford Thunderbird. Others were quickly transformed from whatever was already on the assembly line, like the 1975 Mustang II Ghia Silver Edition. But in any sense, the Lincoln Versailles (pronounced ver-sigh) surely did not spend near enough time in the bake oven, and was served to us both rare and bleeding. Its origins actually trace back to the humble 1960 Ford Falcon.

Continue reading "Car Disgust: 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles" »

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

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