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October 2010

Great Cars of ... Death

Note from Chris:

HauntedCarHalloween is a bit of an oddity among major American holidays; whereas our other holidays have uplifting messages and themes of togetherness and appreciation, Halloween (at least as it is celebrated today) is unique in that it celebrates our infatuation with being scared. Halloween even has its own eponymous horror movie that sums up the holiday's spooky and scary theme in our culture. Yes, Independence Day also has an eponymous movie that has a few minor scares, but few would suggest that the true meaning of July 4 is fighting off marauding aliens.

Halloween in recent decades has become an almost frolicsome holiday that celebrates our mild, somewhat cartoonish pop-culture symbols of evil, such as witches, ghosts, goblins, zombies, and perpetually teenage vampires. Despite this focus on creepiness, Halloween has become an almost frolicsome holiday that celebrates our pop-culture symbols of evil such as vampires, witches, ghosts, goblins, zombies. As entertaining as these things can be, they're really just cartoonish representations of real evil; it takes real people to do truly horrible things.

With one notable exception, the cars that Anthony profiles below were owned by people who did truly evil things. At Car Lust we joke about evil cars, the ones that rust out quickly, lack performance, and break down at the top of the hat, but they're no more truly evil than the caricatures of Halloween. The cars below were all associated with death--not cartoon death, but the deaths of real people that shouldn't be trivialized.

On that note, let's move on to Anthony Cagle's Halloween presentation of some cars that have been as proximate to evil as any car has been.

--Chris H.

Continue reading "Great Cars of ... Death" »

Oct. 25 Weekly Open Thread

Welcome to the swank, sophisticated Car Lust Lounge. As the uber-cool jazz trio in the corner plays Brubeck, we'll order another round of cocktails and talk about whatever you like.

Commercial_art2 Two Fridays ago, on my way in to work in downtown Akron, I was coming down the ramp from I-76E to I-77S. Preparing to merge, I looked over at the traffic on 77 and ... HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! HOLY FIBERGLASS, THAT'S AN AVANTI!

There it was, a gleaming, pristine white Avanti southbound on I-77. I couldn't get all that close to it because of the other traffic, but I did get enough of a look to make out the "Studebaker" script next to the left tail light (which is how I know this was a 1963 or '64 model and not a later "Avanti II"--not that there's anything wrong with Avanti IIs!). It's saying something for the Avanti's timelessly swank, sophisticated, uber-cool styling to note that it really did not look out of place there in the middle of all those 21st-century Impalas and Camrys and Accords. If I didn't know what it was, I very well might have overlooked it.

Only 4,647 Avantis were built by Studebaker in a little over a year's production at South Bend, making this a car you rarely see anywhere. To see one cruising in Akron rush-hour traffic on a drizzly weekday morning (in service as a daily driver?) is so unlikely that . . . well, I'm starting to think I may get arrested for violating the laws of probability.

The evening before, Car Lust published Chris Hafner's post on the Alfa Romeo Milano, which was inspired by a chance encounter with a passionate red Alfa in Seattle traffic.

How about you? What's the most unusual, the most amazing car you've ever seen in traffic, as opposed to at a museum or car show?

Continue reading "Oct. 25 Weekly Open Thread" »

Lovably Shabby, and Lustably Perfect

I have a few morsels of weekend Car Lust to share, in the form of some interesting used cars--several available and rather appealingly scabby, and one unfathomably pristine.

My co-workers are well-acquainted with my weakness for unloved cars, and so one of them (infrequent blog contributor Bernard Bolisig) very kindly shared with me a list of donated vehicles for sale in the Seattle area. I instantly fell in love with the vast majority of the cars for sale, but it was a double-edged sword. Before I received the list, I was happy, confident, and looking forward to a pleasant, thoughtless weekend. Now, however, I'm consumed with lust, wracked with temptation, and agonizing over the potential of a $650 Caprice Classic wagon.

So, what better course of action than to share with you the agony of lusting after these diamonds in the rough? Well, perhaps these are more cubic zirconia than diamonds, but you get the idea. 

Continue reading "Lovably Shabby, and Lustably Perfect" »

Porsche 914

You can think of the mid-engined, two-seater 914 as the Rodney Dangerfield of the Porsche catalog. Like any interesting older car, the "Teener" has its fans and forums, yet it often gets no respect, no respect at all from Porsche faithful, or from auto enthusiasts in general.

It really deserves better than that.

I first saw a Porsche 914 in, of all places, the pages of Boys' Life magazine--specifically, the August 1971 issue. There was a race-prepared 914/6 on the cover, and a feature article illustrated with a number of beauty shots of a red 914--that's a scan of that particular page on the right--that I could still picture in my mind's eye decades later. Not long after that article appeared, I started seeing 914s in the wild.

Why did this car capture my imagination so? Well, I was a young boy, and young boys are naturally drawn to things that look cool and/or go fast. The 914 looked pretty cool, with more than a little of that car-of-the-future feeling going for it, and it also looked fast. It was also just about exactly the right size for a kid my age, had we been able to get driver's licenses.

I also had a fondness then for British roadsters like the TR-6 or MG. (Still do.) Though not as futuristic by any means, those British cars looked like they'd be a lot of fun to drive. They also often looked like they'd been slapped together in haste by disgruntled employees with epic hangovers, and they had a terrible reputation for unreliability.

One look at a real live 914 was all it took for me to conclude that the 914 had to be superior to what the British were offering. It appeared to have been assembled by fanatical German craftsmen who made sure to line everything up properly and torque everything down to specification. (In the 1970s, this was no small thing.) The pop-top roof promised the infinite joys of open-air motoring, and the engine gave off a cheerful German-engineered buzz that said you could have all of that fun with none of those annoying unscheduled roadside maintenance stops that Triumph owners had to put up with.

The truth of it wasn't quite so sunny. The 914 wasn't a bad car by any means, but it also wasn't a great car either, and it really didn't live up to the Porsche nameplate. Still, for all its flaws, I would submit that the 914 is a worthy subject of your attention, one that perhaps has gotten a bit of a bum rap from the critics

Continue reading "Porsche 914" »

2010 Nashville British Car Club Show

011In Athens, Greece, high atop the Acropolis, stands the remains of the Parthenon. It was completed somewhere around 438 BC, and destroyed on Sept. 26, 1687 AD. Doing the math, the building stood strong and proud for about 2,125 years before facing its early, violent demise.

The only full-sized replica of the Parthenon in the world is in Nashville, Tenn., and it recently served as the background for an amazing presentation of British cars, motorcycles, a truck or two, and an armoured scout vehicle.

And yes, that's a real 1966 Shelby Cobra, says its windscreen informational paper.

The date of this dashing display was Oct. 9, 2010, which coincidentally was John Lennon's 70th birthday. So what better way to celebrate British heritage and peace on earth than to observe both events on the same crystal-clear, warm autumn day?

Continue reading "2010 Nashville British Car Club Show" »

Oct. 18 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for the random, off-topic discussion that doesn't really belong anywhere else.

I just want to remind everybody that we'll have an Our Cars week upcoming. From my original announcement:

---

I'm delighted to announce that we'll be holding another Our Cars event in the next few weeks and are now accepting reader submissions. For those unfamiliar with this somewhat awkwardly named feature, the Our Cars feature is our semi-regular reader-powered feature, in which readers are invited to share the stories about their own cars that they have loved and despised over the years. Car Lust's contributors will likely chime in as well, but this is really about readers sharing their stories.

It's also worth mentioning that virtually all of our Car Lust contributors began their career with this blog by contributing Our Cars posts. If any of you are interested in contributing to this blog, Our Cars is the way to start.

So, if you're interested in participating, here are some suggested steps and guidelines:

  • Choose a car (or, I suppose, multiple cars) with which you actually have some personal experience. Ideally, this would be a car that you personally owned, but it's possible to put together a great Our Cars post on a car that you drove regularly--like a friend's car, a company car, or a parent's car.
  • Tell the story of why you found that car interesting; the more the car interests you, the more it will likely interest the rest of us.
  • Don't feel bad if the car you'd like to write about isn't a supercar; most of us find everyday cars as interesting, or potentially even more interesting, than exotic hardware.
  • Include some pictures to help us follow the story and appreciate your car. Ideally, they would be pictures of your actual car, bu representative images are fine as long as you credit the source.
  • E-mail your piece to me at the e-mail link in the right column.
  • If you're looking for some good examples, read this, this, and this. Or, simply browse through all of our Our Cars posts; the farther back you go into the archives, the more reader-submitted posts you'll see.

--Chris H.

1985-1992 Alfa Romeo Milano

Matrix-proverbial-red-dress-22 There's a scene in The Matrix that I find very compelling and a metaphor for this particular Car Lust. In this scene, our heroes are walking down a virtual sidewalk filled with a steady stream of completely homogenous professionals garbed in black, white, and dark gray. It's an image of mindless conformity. But then, as a splash of colorful contrast in that colorless setting, there appeared a splash of vivid color--a beautiful woman, clad in a slinky red dress. The effect was so seductive that one of our heroes was distracted into a potentially fatal mistake.

I would compare my work commute to that virtual sidewalk. For a car lover, commuting to work on a crowded interstate is a bit like what I imagine it must be like for an epicure to browse through a greasy-spoon buffet--there's lots of selection available, AlfaMilano1but very little of it is truly exciting. Yes, every so often I spot a Ferrari 360, an Alfa Romeo 8C, or a Jensen Interceptor knifing through traffic, but for the most part I share my commute with anonymous modern sedans and SUVs, their characterless curves cloaked in stealthy Earth tones.

I was commuting in that drab setting yesterday when, in a flash, I saw my own lady in red. It was a scarlet Alfa Romeo Milano V-6 and it was oh-my-God perfect.

You know how the lady in red in the Matrix caused our hero to do a potentially fatal double-take? Well, I was so thunderstruck that I nearly swerved and caused an Alfa Milano/Audi Coupe GT pileup. I'll bet that specific accident doesn't happen very often.

Continue reading "1985-1992 Alfa Romeo Milano" »

AMC Hornet--The Best Bond Car Ever

"He's mad, I tell you, mad!"

No, I'm not. ("Denial! That's the first sign!") Friends and fellow Car Lusters, before you start composing angry emails to management berating them for letting a raving lunatic type his incoherent rantings into the blog, first lend me your eyes and allow me to make the case.

At first glance, no, the lowly AMC Hornet does not appear to be anything particularly special. It's never TMWTGG_Hornet1 been as famous as some of the other Bond cars--at least in and of itself. And in terms of either sheer performance or coolness, yes, it probably falls pretty short (see? I'm not totally off my rocker). I'll grant that the original DB5 carried a certain panache (not to mention a .30 caliber machine gun and ejector seat) and the Lotus Esprit was not only elegant but handled well ... underwater. Yes, all fabulous cars and nearly everyone, myself included, would love to have a licence to kill to have one in our garages.

On the other hand, as we archaeologists are fond of saying, context is (nearly) everything. Most of those other cars were pure fantasy in that, outside of the magic of special effects, they didn't do a whole lot of things that many, many other equally capable cars of the time were able to and did. But the Hornet is something special. It actually did what those other cars could only sit in their clean, well-lit garages and dream about doing: The Stunt.

Continue reading "AMC Hornet--The Best Bond Car Ever" »

Oct. 11 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for the random, off-topic discussion that doesn't really belong anywhere else.

I just want to remind everybody that we'll have an Our Cars week upcoming. From my announcement last week:

---

I'm delighted to announce that we'll be holding another Our Cars event in the next few weeks and are now accepting reader submissions. For those unfamiliar with this somewhat awkwardly named feature, the Our Cars feature is our semi-regular reader-powered feature, in which readers are invited to share the stories about their own cars that they have loved and despised over the years. Car Lust's contributors will likely chime in as well, but this is really about readers sharing their stories.

It's also worth mentioning that virtually all of our Car Lust contributors began their career with this blog by contributing Our Cars posts. If any of you are interested in contributing to this blog, Our Cars is the way to start.

So, if you're interested in participating, here are some suggested steps and guidelines:

  • Choose a car (or, I suppose, multiple cars) with which you actually have some personal experience. Ideally, this would be a car that you personally owned, but it's possible to put together a great Our Cars post on a car that you drove regularly--like a friend's car, a company car, or a parent's car.
  • Tell the story of why you found that car interesting; the more the car interests you, the more it will likely interest the rest of us.
  • Don't feel bad if the car you'd like to write about isn't a supercar; most of us find everyday cars as interesting, or potentially even more interesting, than exotic hardware.
  • Include some pictures to help us follow the story and appreciate your car. Ideally, they would be pictures of your actual car, bu representative images are fine as long as you credit the source.
  • E-mail your piece to me at the e-mail link in the right column.
  • If you're looking for some good examples, read this, this, and this. Or, simply browse through all of our Our Cars posts; the farther back you go into the archives, the more reader-submitted posts you'll see.

--Chris H.

Mediocrity

This is a gag, I think . . . I hope  . . .

Actually, it's part of a Subaru marketing campaign--which doesn't make it any less amusing, or  (unfortunately) any less true.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

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

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