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About Anthony Cagle

Anthony Cagle came of age in an era when women were women, men were kinda like women, too, and cars developed a reputation for being overdesigned and underpowered--the '70s. His Car Lust bonafides include owning only one car not made during that ersatz decade of automobile history and then for only a month and a half. He currently pursues archaeology and keeping his 1978 Mustang II as clean and wickedly fast as possible, all the while defending its honor among the hordes of non-Car Lust afficionados.

Posts by Anthony Cagle

Carspotters Challenge #173: VW Edition

What all can you see here?

Volkswagen-factory-1953-7

Okay, mainly an excuse to provide a link to a series of VW factory photographs from 1953. Some of them are rather strikingly beautiful. 

Despite their subject matter. (Yes, I plan on doing a Car Disgust on the VW Beetle One Of These Days). 

May 2 Weekly Open Thread: Facebook Edition

Greetings, good citizens of Car Lust. I am proud to announce that we here at Car Lust have finally entered the. . . .well, the 2010s: We are now on Facebook!

I know, I know. Probably half of you are thinking "About time!" and the other half are thinking "Trendy pikers." Facebook-cars

Well, you know. Got to go where the eyeballs are. Besides, that platform lends itself to more terse links and posts rather than the full articles that we do here. Think of it as an adjunct rather than a replacement. We'll be linking to all of our posts over there, and also posting particular images or links to stories that don't really lend themselves to full blog posts. 

The FB page is still in progress and we will be adding a "Like us on Facebook" widget here soon so linking to it will be easier. Feel free to comment and share over there as well.

And feel free to discuss this or anything else automotive that strikes your fancy this fine May morning.

Not sure about the web site itself but the image is from here.

Carspotters Challenge #172: Mustang in Traffic

Continuing our Mustang theme from earlier in the week, from the ever-interesting Vintage Everyday comes this week's photograph:

Mustang in Traffic Omaha 1973

Titled "Mustang in traffic, Omaha, 1973".

I for one really liked the design of the turning 2nd Gen Monte Carlo. Totally one of my Ultimate Garage cars. 

A Mess of Mustangs

This popped up on my Facebook feed a while ago and wanted to share it with Car Lust fandom. It's from the Vintage Everyday web site, which you should visit regularly or Follow on Facebook. They collect vintage photos from readers, group them together, and post them as regular photo montages around some subject or other. They're very often famous people, though not always in formal photo shoots. But most of them have to do with everyday people going about their business and having some moment captured on film, which is something we seldom get to look at in our media-saturated world.  60's Mustang (9)

This installment was titled "60's Mustang – The Most Successful Cars of Ford Ever" and showcases owners with their 1960s-era Mustangs. The title is actually incorrect if one just goes by total sales (the Escort sold the most worldwide, though the F150 beats even that), but I have always been fond of Mustangs and found this series to be utterly charming for a number of reasons. 

Rather than bore you with an array of facts and figures and narrative on the evolution of the Ford Mustang, I shall just present a few of my favorites from the series and let the interested reader visit the page and see the rest. These to me give a nice cross section of the sort of people who bought those early Mustangs. While we generally associate the classic 1960s Mustangs with the muscle car era, we must remember that the Mustang was first and foremost a (really, the) pony car. It wasn't really a sports car, like the Corvette, it was a sporty coupe, for the most part a redesigned Falcon with a longer options list. Many derided that first year's Mustang as little more than a "secretary's car". . .which, in fact, it was. That was precisely the demographic that Ford was shooting for: Younger, single or recently married, with enough money to get out of a basic econobox and into something a little more sporty, but still practical. Those were certainly not the only people that bought them, as we'll see below, but that was the core group of buyers. 

Either way, as the first photograph shows, people loved their Mustangs. I'm not sure people get that excited about their first cars anymore (or any cars, for that matter) as they've really become almost appliances these days. But back then, when you got your first car, you made sure it was photographed. A lot. Preferably with you, the proud owner next to it. Or on it. . . .

Continue reading "A Mess of Mustangs" »

Is This The Most Useless Automotive Feature Ever?

I refer, of course, to the cup holders indentations that used to(?) be on the inside surface of glove box/compartment doors. The one pictured here is from my 1978 Mustang II and I can say almost for a fact that they have never been used for their stated purpose on this car. But my family had a succession of 1960s-70s domestic sedans and all of them had the ubiquitous "cup dimples" for lack of a CupHoldersmore formal term (cup holder seems generous in the extreme). As a kid I recall maybe attempting to put some sort of beverage on them but it just never seemed to work out right. Either the door was too shallow and anything but a tiny little teacup would hit the top of the compartment, or whatever cup I was using wouldn't even fit in the dimple. 

Suffice it to say, these things have been irritating me to some small degree for much of my life. I mean, it's not like I wake up every morning and cry to the heavens "Why, oh why are there useless dimples in my glove compartment door?". But it has been percolating in the back of my mind, lo these many years. And now, since I have this forum where all the world may partake of my (admittedly minor) little neuroses, I may possibly generate some answers. 

Actually, when I started this post it was purely out of some other, related, irritation which we shall get to in a moment. As a matter of fact, when I started searching for these things in the ol' Interwebs I was a bit flummoxed on what even to call them. I came up with "cup dimples" on the fly, but I've also seen them referred to (once) as "picnic cup holders" but nothing else (admittedly I only flipped through the first two pages of Google results). 

Am I the only one to find these things somewhat inscrutable as to their actual utility? I bet not.

Continue reading "Is This The Most Useless Automotive Feature Ever?" »

March 14 Weekly Open Thread: Fiat Edition

This (actually last) week word came down that Fiat is having difficulty in the US market:

Fiat's American dealerships seem to be having trouble bringing in customers and paying running costs. Effective March 9th, parent company FCA will allow Fiat dealerships to combine operations with Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealers, many of which are right next door. Dealers that choose to stay independent will receive monthly assistance from FCA. Sales numbers for Fiat dealers are abysmal. Less than half of the 206 Fiat dealers in the US are profitable, and two-thirds see less than 10 sales per month.

The sentence that stuck out for us was this one:

We're willing to bet that more people would accidentally see a Fiat 500 while looking for a Jeep Wrangler than would actually go out looking for a 500.

Yeah, probably. 

Anyway, I thought this might be a good time to revisit an old post of mine. Slightly embarrassing for me since I botched the cooling system in the original post, but no more than having your entire line recalled for rust problems.

And feel free to discuss this or anything else you may wish to. 

Fiat 850 Sport Coupe

"There comes a time in a man's life when he hears the call of the sea. If the man has a brain in his head, he will hang up the phone immediately." 

— Dave Barry

Some (most?) people go through some form of mid-life crisis and buy a brand new sports car, or maybe that classic muscle car they either had or wanted as a teenager. Others dump their wife/husband and kids  and take up with a trophy spouse or perhaps an old flame they recently met at a school reunion or found on Facebook. Still others decide they really feel20 again and start wearing the clothes that today's "young people" wear, listen to the music they listen to, and maybe try to skateboard or trail bike their way Fiatinto contemporary youth culture, but end up mostly skating their way into the ER.

Of course, we here at Car Lust are different. When we take a walk down memory lane and try to recapture lost youth, we often end up being seized by a mad desire to buy some off-the-wall forgotten car that no one in their right mind few would consider collectible, classic, or even desirable. Thankfully, the feeling usually passes in a few days and besides, the rarity of our objet d'Lust usually makes them difficult to find in any kind of drivable condition, although they tend to be pretty affordable (eBay and the Internet generally can be deadly in our world).

I confess here for all the world to see that despite my obvious disgust with our family's 1975 Buick Century, I did, in fact, troll the Interwebs for a couple days with the half-baked intent to find a 455 GS coupe version of the Century. Why, I don't know. Despite my hatred of that miserable car, I still like they way the coupes look and would love to have another go with it, with suitable modifications to make it a nice driver. Thankfully, financial common sense (i.e., being a cheapskate) and lack of available merchandise (not to mention a potentially murderous Spousal Unit) dissuaded me from acting on that particular impulse.

Digging into my past once again, I've recently recalled another then-hated car that I've consequently developed something of a fetish for, despite my intimate personal knowledge of its many and varied foibles. To wit: The Fiat 850 Sport Coupe. Indulge me, gentle reader, by continuing to read below the fold, but FOR GOD'S SAKE AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON'T LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ONE FOR SALE CHEAP. At least not for the next few days anyway.

To view the rest of this post click here.

The New Top Gear Hosts: There Sure Are A Mess of 'Em.

News story here. Tg_-line-up_maincloser_af1

People of the world, may we present the brand new Top Gear TV team!

We are very proud to announce that racing driver Sabine Schmitz, YouTube star Chris Harris, F1 pundit Eddie Jordan and motoring journalist Rory Reid will join Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and of course, The Stig, when the show returns
in May.

I know who three of them are. Back when the **** hit the fan, someone had mentioned Sabine as a potential host, which I thought was a good idea. I wouldn't have known Chris Evans from Adam had he not been a Star In A Reasonably Priced Car once. I was surprised at the Matt LeBlanc addition, but he's certainly got the acting and comedic chops to work with. 

The others I certainly wouldn't know from Adam, although this Eddie Jordan chap I would probably think is a reincarnated Roy Scheider if I were to bump into him in a crowded restaurant. 

I guess they're going for an ensemble rather than attempting to replace the three departures with a new set. Makes sense. Kind of a new direction rather than a strict replacement. Sprinkling non-Britons in the mix makes that abundantly clear. 

I'll certainly give it a chance. I tried to like the US version, but it never really hooked me. I guess we'll just have to see. 

Oh, and why didn't I know about the open auditions?

What do y'all think? Will you not even bother? 

Great Cars of Song Books (and Radio and TV and Film and. . .): The Ford Prefect.

This post could also be subtitled "Cultural References You Completely Missed For Literally Decades". For those not much into British humour, I am referring to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. If you liked Monty Python you would probably like Hitchhiker; if not, well, you could probably skip reading the rest of this post and feel none the worse for wear for it. For the record, I don't look up to or down at anyone who finds either of these tedious and unfunny; being a live-and-let-live kinda guy, I don't consider either to be "an acquired taste" or "more sophisticated" or any of that (heck, I find farts -- even mine -- well, okay, 1024px-1948_Ford_Prefect_E93Aespecially mine -- funny). It's different and that's that. 

At any rate, I read the book back in the early 1980s and when I read about this 'Ford Prefect' character I thought it was kind of funny, but didn't think it meant anything other than that it was a goofy name. For a bit of background, Ford is an alien who hitchhiked to Earth

from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Arthur Dent’s failure to suspect this reflects the care with which his friend blended himself into human society - after a fairly shaky start. When he first arrived fifteen years ago, the minimal research he had done had suggested to him that the name ‘Ford Prefect’ would be nicely inconspicuous.

Being a young man from the midwest, I had no idea that 'Ford Prefect' was anything other than an unusual name for someone to pick out of a hat. And so I went for many years, happily reading the books and not bothering to ponder many of the references therein very much. 

Until this whole Internets thing came along. And only recently did I do a search -- for reasons I hereby state that I do not remember -- for "Ford Prefect" and discover, lo and behold, it was a car! Since that's what we do here, I figured it was ripe for a post. 

Except that I know virtually nothing about the Ford Prefect automobile. 

Not like that's ever stopped me before. . . .

Continue reading "Great Cars of Song Books (and Radio and TV and Film and. . .): The Ford Prefect." »

January 18 Weekly Open Thread: Surf Edition

No, not driving your Woody down to the beach with a couple of sticks on top for a day of catchin' waves. We have instead a car in the surf:

BeachCar

This thread may also function as a Caption This and a Carspotter thread. I saw this at an estate sale over the weekend and, although I didn't purchase the photograph, I decided to snap my own photo of it for posterity's sake. And now it will forever reside on the Internets for all to see, now and into the future. 

There was nothing on the front or back to either date or describe the photo so I really know nothing about it. I assume it's a west coast beach since I got it here in Seattle but we've got a lot of coastline out here to work with so it could be anywhere from here to southern California. My first thought was that it was taken in the 1960s and that it's a 1950s car. I thought 'Chrysler' when I first saw it.

So have at it. Throw out some guesses about the boys, the car, the location, the time. Make up a story about who they are and why they're out there. Or blather about anything else car-related. 

January 4 (2016!!!) Weekly Open Thread: Economics Edition

A couple of items that crossed the Car Lust desk over the long New Year's weekend, both involving perennial Car Lust favorites. 

First up is the 1986 Merkur XR4Ti Pace Car that is up for sale. According to C&D: 1986-Mercury-Merkur-XR4TI-pace-car-101

It’s a 1986 model prepared, says the seller, for the running of the ’87 Detroit Grand Prix. While the regular XR4Ti shared an engine with the Mustang SVO, the Stang got an intercooler but the Merkur didn’t. Roush plopped the SVO’s powertrain into this one, giving it 180 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. The suspension’s been upgraded with “special” Koni struts and high-rate springs. A full cage and racing belts were added due to the automobile’s intended purpose. It even features Jack Roush’s signature on the original title.

We covered both the Merkur and the Mustang SVO, neither of which are particularly common or highly valued these days except by a minority of enthusiasts. I'm not sure how much it might go for, but I'm guessing it won't break any records. 

Next is an "Ultra-rare Muscle Car. . .That's Practically Being Given Away", which may strike an odd chord to some as it's supposedly going for $55k:

Why so little money? A mystery for the ages, as one would assume it's because the car just isn't in high demand like a Mustang would be. It's no slouch on the drag strip either, as for its time the Rebel with this 390ci V8 was meant for setting quarter-mile times of 14 seconds. It's fast, a sleeper, and damn cool. So with all this flare and retaining its ability to outrun police from the past, it begs the question of why cars like this are essentially thrown to the wayside for pocket change.

The sad(?) fact of economics is that nothing has intrinsic monetary value, neither people nor things; their value is determined by what someone wants to pay for them. Mustangs and Camaros go for a lot of money because people are willing to pay a lot of money for them. It's due in part to rarity, but not all. These cars are very emblematic of the 1960s muscle car era and that's something a certain segment of the population values very highly. Hence, they're willing to pony up (heh) the dough for them. 

To outsiders, the "crazy" valuing of certain objects may seem strange. Why do people pay thousands (or even millions) of dollars for a bottle of wine they're never even going to drink? Why do emergency room physicians, who save lives daily, get paid far less than actors who play emergency room physicians on TV? Because there's a market for such things and people willing to pay money for them.

In my own little enthusiast area, vintage audio equipment, some items seem to be far more valuable than their intrinsic qualities -- age, sound quality, etc. -- would would seem to suggest. Old McIntosh equipment can go for hundreds (even thousands) of dollars.You've probably never heard of Dynaco speakers, but a really good pair from as far back as the 1960s will go for a few hundred dollars. A very good Pioneer SX-1250 stereo receiver from the 1970s usually go for at least $1000; I've seen a couple up for sale at estate sales, but I've never actually seen one since they're usually gone within the first 30 minutes. Though arguments about sound quality can sometimes get quite heated in some quarters (Heaven help you if you take a side in the Great Vinyl vs. Digital Wars), you're almost always assured to get better sound with modern equipment than vintage. But people don't buy that stuff for sound quality, they buy it for. . . .who knows? Nostalgia. Aesthetic value. Whatever, it's up to them. 

Hence, feel free to discuss the Power of the Market or anything else automotive that springs to mind. 

 

December 21 Weekly Open Thread: Fakery Edition

I suppose this could also work as a Carspotters' Challenge, but I also thought it would be interesting as an exercise in historical reconstruction. We begin with this photo of a 1950s car show:

CarShowColor

This photo was taken on Saturday, May 15, 1954 in a Thrifty Drug Store parking lot at the corner of Rodeo Rd. and Rancho La Brea in Los Angeles. Nice collection of cars, no? Well, there's something wrong with it. Have a guess before clicking below the fold.

Continue reading "December 21 Weekly Open Thread: Fakery Edition" »

Happy 50th Anniversary, Charlie Brown! (But wait! There's More!)

Christmas trees. Falconad01

Egg nog.

Festive lights. 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls.

Christmas carols.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care.

And the 1961 Ford Falcon?

Well, no. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on the television.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of perhaps the best-loved Christmas special ever: A Charlie Brown Christmas, which aired on the CBS network on December 9, 1965. I was but a wee lad at the time so I have no memory of that first broadcast; I certainly watched it later on, probably every year while I was growing up, and most years since, but whether I saw it that very first night or have any memory of it is beyond my recollection. I'd guess my parents most likely turned it on that first night, as I had two siblings that likely would have enjoyed it. 

Now, much has been said and written about the Peanuts Christmas special, and today (Monday, November 30) ABC Television will air the digitally restored version of the program along with an hour-long special beforehand documenting the making of the original, appropriately named It's Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown!.

In all this 50th Anniversary hoopla, one might be tempted to think that this was the Peanuts gang's first foray into network television. Well, you'd be almost right. While this was Charles Schulz's first feature program on television, Charlie Brown and Co. had appeared earlier in the form of TV commercials. For Ford. 

So step below the fold and we'll examine these early television incarnations of the Peanuts gang and see what they had to offer the prospective car buyer of the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

Continue reading "Happy 50th Anniversary, Charlie Brown! (But wait! There's More!)" »

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.

Continue reading "1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser" »

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. 

Continue reading "Buick Ventiports and Style Vs. Function: A Fundamental Dichotomy?" »

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*

Continue reading "Great Cars of Death VI: Washington's Lake of Death" »

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).

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" »

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). 

Continue reading "Our First Cars Week: My First Car(s)" »

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

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

2nd_Honda_Prelude_2.0Si

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. 

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

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