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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

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. . .


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. 

The One That Didn't Get Away: Schwinn Continental II

A bit of a diversion from our usual automotive fare, but I hope you, gentle reader, will indulge my nostalgic bent for a few moments. 

A couple of years ago I did a post hoping to start a trend (yet to materialize, sadly, get with it, guys!) on a topic that we here at Car Lust have batted around on occasion, The Ones That Got Away: "Vehicles that P8120178 we either had and let slip away or ones that we had a chance to buy but neglected to take the plunge on. . . .until it was too late."

That particular post had to do with what was probably my first vehicular Lust, the Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle. In passing, I mentioned that I had moved on to a Schwinn Continental II tourer, and that I still had it. In fact, I still do have it and thought I might throw it out there for a bit of old-timey bicycling memories. 

The 1970s were many things but, as we've discussed here many times, were not the paragon of what many would call an automotive renaissance. Be that as it may, the decade had a few things going for it. For one thing, fitness. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Pumping Iron came out in 1977 and introduced the country and much of the world to the previously obscure sport (let the arguments begin) of bodybuilding. Up to that point, "working out at the gym" usually meant a few dumbbells, barbells, a medicine ball, and maybe a punching bag, usually by people who looked more like Robert Mitchum than Flex Wheeler.

That wasn't the only thing. Jim Fixx's Complete Book of Running also set off something of a craze for jogging, and its concurrent explosion of fancy schmancy running shoes (and, unfortunately, track suits). And to think, we used to run around all over the place in plain old sneakers

Cycling also got in on the action complete with its own movie which I actually don't remember ever seeing but probably had some effect on the already burgeoning bicycle boom

Continue reading "The One That Didn't Get Away: Schwinn Continental II" »

August 3 Weekly Open Thread: Welcome to Amazon, (former) Top Gear Presenters!

Dear Jezza, Captain Slow, and Hamster (Can I call you guys that, seeing as we're co-workers now?),

Now that you are joining us on the Amazon payroll (even though, to be completely forthright, we're not exactly on the Amazon payroll, at least most of us), I thought I would take the opportunity to welcome TGCrewyou to the company, late-comers though you are to this whole Internet-thingie. Admittedly, your penchant for expensive super-cars might put you a bit at odds with what we do here, but I like to think of your new role here as complementary rather than competitive. Nevertheless, although we've largely cornered the market on cheap domestics (and even some cheap exotics!), we have been somewhat remiss in covering European models that are, shall we say, not at the top of anyone's Ten Best list. We've done a few missives on your Brit cars -- Stag, TR6, and a Jag or two --  but unless it was imported in (relative) droves, we haven't given our typical Car Lust treatment to your own set of cheap domestics

I'm guessing you'll have a slightly bigger budget than we do (which is, basically, nothing nil). I actually suggested we start our own Car Lust television program at one point, but the idea was stillborn owing to the fact that it's difficult to do much on a budget of $0.00. We would have had to use our own cars for all of our road tests and challenges and what-not and just put a sticky-note on the dash that would let the viewer know what car we were supposedly reviewing:

"Now, If this were an actual Lincoln Continental Mark V, I could show you the plush velour seating, but since it's a 1978 Mustang II you'll just have to imagine that it has copious amounts of room and no chamois-colored vinyl bucket seats. . . ." Our production facilities would, of necessity, be somewhat limited; instead of our own hangar and track, we'd be pretty much limited to Hafner's driveway. 

I'd also like to offer our services as Producers. I'm certain we could find difficult and entertaining challenges for you to accomplish, even throwing in some of our own North American vehicles for you to enjoy ("Your challenge is to each buy a 1970s GM subcompact for less than $500 and then get it to start"). We can also demonstrate the proper way to drive a 1970s land yacht; please note that it does not involve "handling", but more like a long, flat highway and AC/DC. 

We might even see our way, as fellow Amazoners, to letting you guest-post here once in a while. I'm betting we'd even waive the initial writing sample. You'll probably appreciate the fact that we have little editorial oversight. If you wish to do so anonymously we could even generate noms de plume for you. You would, obviously, have a certain leeway in terms of subject matter, but you might want to leave the pickup trucks to us (cuz we're experts and stuff). 

So that's it. If you have any questions on how to maneuver around the Amazon world headquarters building or navigate the various rules and regulations covering employment here, well, don't email us because none of us know anything about that stuff ('cepting maybe Hafner, they supposedly pay him to do this). But we'd certainly welcome your input here at Car Lust, and will gratefully accept a great deal of money to name your new show "Car Lust". FYI.

-- The Car Lust Team

Credits: Photo lifted from The Independent.

Top Gear: The Show That Made Everyone a ‘Car Guy’

Tonight we here in the US of A bid a fond farewell to Top Gear when the last show featuring the trio of Jeremy "The Orangutan" Clarkson, Richard "The Hamster" Hammond, and James "Captain Slow" May airs on BBC America. I'm sure I don't need to go into the details about how their run on the show came to an end, but there was some doubt whether we would get to see the last of the programmes that were TopGearfilmed before it all went belly up. It was a bit of a let down, just sort of petering out mid-season series like it did. I have no idea what tonight's episode will include, if anything, regarding their exit from the Top Gear stage, but at least it's something we know is coming this time and we can treat it with the profound respect it deserves. 

More or less.

When I first started this post -- if I'm honest it was about 2 months ago -- I was trying to find some clever hook by which to hang many profound insights into the allure and worldwide popularity of the show. At first I thought it was simple writer's block (heaven forbid), but then decided that attempting to be all and melodramatic 'n junk would have done a disservice to what they'd accomplished over the last 13 years. So I ditched the profundity idea and decided to just blather a bit on what I think about it. Which will, if you bear with me for a few sentences, hopefully make some sense. 

Continue reading "Top Gear: The Show That Made Everyone a ‘Car Guy’" »

July 6 Open Thread: Summer Cruising Music, Weird Edition

We've already had one thread this summer devoted to driving music and some good choices there were. I'm sure we also have our share of one or two songs or albums or even entire genres that might seem a little. . . odd. But whatever; we write paeans to Ford Pintos so what's another oddity? Here are my two:


That's right, 16th century sacred polyphony, this one by Tomas Luis De Victoria, his Responsories for Tenebrae. These were sung during Holy Week, and I first stumbled upon them several years ago when the Internet was young and I was actually searching for Allegri's Miserere (which remains my single favorite piece of music, period). Definitely a morning drive CD, I'm not sure how I came to associate it with summertime, but I think I took it along with me one summer vacation and ended up having it locked in my mind with warm mornings with few cares in the world save for having fun with my family back in Maryland and Wisconsin. Hence, I find starting out early on a cool summer morning with one of these sorts of CDs immensely peaceful. You can hear a sample here.


The great Nat "King" Cole. This favorite is more straightforward: Probably 10-15 years ago I went through a 'standards' phase: Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin mostly. Nat was a bit later, and I came to link him and summer via. . . .The Twilight Zone? Yes. The Sci Fi Channel (now SyFy) used to (still does, actually) run a Twilight Zone marathon on the 4th of July. I'm too young to have seen them originally, and didn't see many earlier in life, so these marathons really got me hooked. I love the creepiness, the cool early 1960s vibe, and, of course, the many cars. That might be where I really got my affection for that era. 

At any rate, I got that whole nostalgia thing going for that time, and then snagged a Nat CD and played it concurrently with summer and The Twilight Zone and it all kinda stuck together. Especially. . . .


Anybody else have any sort of oddball summer driving music? And, as always feel free to discuss anything else vaguely auto-related. 

Credits: Images from

25 Years of Car Lust

A short vanity post commemorating me and my Mustang II's 25th Anniversary together. I've written a couple of times before (here and here) about how this thing came into my possession and how we'd gotten to various points on our mutual trajectories. There's really nothing special happening with the old car and I this year apart from the somewhat arbitrary milestone of reaching the 25-year mark. And I have quite a few other Big Anniversaries in 2015. The Spousal Unit and I went on our first date 25 MeMustang1990years ago, I graduated from high school (*gulp*) 35 years ago, and I graduated from college (undergraduate school anyway) and moved out to Seattle 30 years ago this summer as well. So, for me it's kind of a reflective time in more ways than one.

Back then I was in the midst of the graduate school paper chase, fresh off of passing my comprehensive exams ("comps") and trying to figure out a reasonable dissertation topic. Work consisted of grabbing whatever teaching positions I could wrangle, trying to get research assistant money, doing contract archaeology in my new (to me) Bronco II, figuring out this whole new girlfriend thing, and drinking a lot of beer. Graduate school is an odd thing, something like an extended boot camp for nerds. You've gone and thrust yourself into a world of arcane knowledge that can only be crammed into your brain through many tedious hours of reading equally arcane journal articles and books. In archaeology, a lot of these works can be almost as old as the subject matter itself and you occasionally find yourself doing an archaeological study of archaeological studies. Really strange things take on enormous significance, such as figuring out what exactly the difference is between intensive and extensive definitions (you really don't want to know) or the theoretical consequences of equifinality. The outside world consists of 'stuff you occasionally experience when you're not trying to get the latest assignment done or paper written' and a good weekend consists not of relaxing with family or friends but 'getting a lot of work done'. I guarantee you that the following exchange takes place at least one million times each Monday morning:

Graduate student 1: "Hey, how was your weekend?"

Graduate student 2: "Pretty good. I got a lot of work done." *heavy sigh*

Continue reading "25 Years of Car Lust" »

Carspotters' Challenge #140: Junkyard Dogs Edition

This week's photo comes from (again), Vintage Everyday:

New York City in the Early 1970's (5)

The caption for the photo is "View of Brownsville from the Sutter Ave. stop on the L line, Brooklyn, 1978".

I urge you to peruse the other photos at the link. Some of them are quite haunting, especially the World Trade Center under construction. The number of abandoned and junked cars is also rather distressing. 

June 1 Weekly Open Thread: Who Are The Best Drivers?

As my little "hook" to this little bit of theorizing, I shall remind readers of our mixed opinion on the Beige Toyota Camry. We'd kicked the Camry around a bit, and even voted it the Most Boring Car Ever, although one of our number sought to defend its honor. We have even, somewhat perversely, come to a grudging respect for its sheer indomitable will to live despite our loathing indifference.  BeigeCamry

We have also, on occasion, evinced some disgust for certain models, and -- let's be honest -- the people who drive them. We have bemoaned the utter banality with which the 1969 Camaro is held in such high regard by so many, such that you can't swing a dead torsion bar at an average car show without hitting at least a dozen. For myself, I have even written a missive attempting to articulate my disgust for a certain yuppie-mobile which, as I admit in that post, is due in part to my own hangups toward a certain segment of the population. 

But ever since then I've had cause to contemplate the following question: Who are the best drivers? I daresay most of us would answer "Why, I am, of course". Which I -- of course -- immediately thought of when I pondered the issue. 

Frankly, I'm wrong. I'm not the best of drivers. Neither are the guys in their European Sport Sedans blasting along in the fast lane, or the guys in the hopped-up ricers switching lanes every 1000 feet to get to Point B ahead of whoever they happen to be trying to get there ahead of. Certainly not the guy pretending to be on the racing circuit, coming up to within spitting distance of your back bumper and flashing his/her lights if you don't move over within 9 milliseconds of his/her being there. Nor is it the one who can do a J-turn with ease. Or scream into a parking space sideways (despite how cool it is). 

Well, okay, maybe those last two have some non-day-to-day Best Driver applicability. . . .

No, after wondering about the question for a while I came to a decision: It's the people you never even notice. Not the ones puttering along in the slow lane going 5 miles under the speed limit; you notice them and they can be a hazard if you're not paying attention. Not the ones who wait to turn left until there is at least a block between oncoming cars, or who turn on their turn signals three blocks before they actually turn. No, I'm talking about those who probably drive a near-pristine Beige Camry, drive within a few miles of the speed limit, always use their turn signals, stay in the right hand lane except to pass, can execute a parallel park on the first try, and never get speeding tickets or get in accidents that are their fault. They treat driving as transportation to get them where they need to be safely, but without fuss or muss. 

Yes? No? Feel free to discuss, and anything else that comes to mind. 

Credit: The Beige Camry is from our earlier post

Carspotters Challenge #137: Memorial Day Vintage Edition

Described as "Parked automobiles crowd Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, ca. 1920s". 


Let's see, there's a black Ford. . . .and another black Ford. . . . .

Source: Vintage Everyday. Also check their Facebook page for nearly daily updates. 

Car Lust Classic: 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO

Originally posted by Chris Hafner on Feb. 8, 2008.

As we ponder the automotive landscape of the 00's, this is the. . .well, okay, the second vehicle that came to mind; the first was my old Thunderbird post. But I will submit to you, gentle readers, that the reborn Pontiac GTO is truly emblematic of the resurgence in automotive performance that took place during this period. As Hafner notes, performance was stellar and for a really great price. The trouble was the styling; it aimed to bring back a hallowed nameplate but made not even an eyebrow raise, let alone a simple nod, to the original. One can argue the merits of whether or not styling should be a crucial issue to buyers -- and it was hashed out in the comments -- but I think it's fairly clear that simply rebadging a Holden and calling it a GTO didn't work very well. 

Which does, I suppose, make it a useful contrary note to the Thunderbird of that period. -- AJCGTO

When Pontiac announced its plans to release a brand new GTO to the motoring public after a nearly 30-year hiatus, excitement ran high. Pontiac had used the long-neglected GTO nameplate to kick off the whole muscle car craze back in the early 1960s, and the revival of the GTO represented not only a potentially exciting new car, but a chance to cleanse the palatte from the sour taste left by the last GTO, the tape-and-sticker Ventura-based 1974 GTO.

When the new GTO debuted, however, it was to sighs of disappointment. The anticlimax had nothing to do with the performance. With a 350-horsepower LS1 small-block V-8, replaced the following year with the 400-horsepower LS2, acceleration was certainly potent. Car & Driver clocked the 2005 GTO at less than 5 seconds from 0-60 and the 13-second range in the quarter-mile.

But, to some, the GTO lacked the visual chutzpah of its predecessors--and in an age of overtly demonstrative cars, that seemed a fatal flaw. The GTO's feeble sales compared to the brisk movement of the new, retro-styled Mustang just drove home the point. After only three years of production, the GTO was quietly canceled.

Read the rest of this post, its comments, and post your own comment here.


Car Lust Quantum Leap: Mustang II

As my Quantum Leap scenario, I have chosen -- perhaps not surprisingly -- the Mustang II. The main reason, of course, is that I'm rather intimately familiar with the model, its strengths, foibles, shortcomings, etc. I've also spent much of the last 25 years of owning it alternatingly defending its honor, calling it a 'sucky old car', and in the end trying to put it in its proper context and 1974 Mustang II Folder-03evaluating it that way. 

In a way, I'm almost tempted not to change anything at all, since it really was a fairly successful car for Ford, despite the many protestations that "it wasn't a real Mustang" and ought not to be considered as one. But if one does a few quick back-of-the-spreadsheet calculations on sales of all Mustangs over the years, the Mustang II did, in fact, sell very well. I compared total sales for each model year ("1964.5" and 1965 combined) with the total US population (to control for population growth) to get a per capita sales figure for each year.* The results? Out of the 45 years available (through 2010), the 5 years of Mustang IIs all appear in the top 20 sales years, with the debut 1974 model coming in at #4 (Best: 1965; Worst: 2009). Hence, despite the MII's appearance on so many "Top 10 Worst Cars" lists, Ford was obviously laughing at the Mustang II's critics. . . .all the way to the bank.

But I would still make a few changes.

Continue reading "Car Lust Quantum Leap: Mustang II" »

April 13 Open Thread: The Quantum Leap Challenge

This thread may or may not be in the process of being written by me. Or it may be someone else who is using my body temporarily to write -- or rewrite -- the whole thing in order to achieve a certain result. 

WE'LL NEVER KNOW FOR SURE. Quantum-Leap-Jennifer-Runyon-Car

And with that bit of logical conundrumness we kick off the latest Car Lust Challenge: The Car Lust Quantum Leap Automobile. . um, Challenge. . .Thingie. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Quantum Leap was a science fiction television show that aired on NBC from 1989-93. It starred Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell who. . .well, I'll let IMDB set it up:

Doctor Sam Beckett (Bakula) led a group of top scientists into the desert to research his theory that a man could time travel within his own lifetime. Unfortunately, in order to save his funding, he was forced to enter the accelerator prematurely and vanished. He then found himself in someone else's body with partial amnesia. His only contact from home is Al (Stockwell), a holographic image only he can see and hear. Setting right things which once went wrong, Sam leaps from life to life, hoping each time that this is the final leap home.

The central theme is that Beckett would go back in time each week and inhabit someone else's body for a time in order to right some wrong that took place in the past. For example, he occupies the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and tries, unsuccessfully, to avoid assassinating Kennedy. . . .but we find out that in the original time line Jackie Kennedy was also killed, who he manages to save this time. I was never a fan of the show myself, but I always thought it was kind of a neat concept. 

But it recently got me to thinking: What would I do if I could go back in time and be in a position to change the way some automobile was made? I mean, we all sit here and b*tch about how GM should have done this or that with the Vega, or that AMC should have done this or that with the Pacer, assuming that with a few changes this or that model would have been AWESOME.

So here is your challenge, Car Lust readers: If you could go back in time and inhabit some auto executive's or designer's or engineer's body for some length of time and change the course of history for one model, what would it be? And how would you go about it? No need to be super detailed ("Yeah, I'd lengthen the trailing arms on the front by 6.8 mm, and then bore the cylinder out another 0.5 mm. . . .") but give enough detail that we get an idea how it would change things.

This might be a big thing, like, say, to give an example of something really dumb that would never happen in any sane universe, decide not to assemble cars in a separate country by flying them back and forth across the globe on 747s, or maybe something more modest, such as changing the suspension somewhat and avoiding the resulting bad press (misguided though it was). 

I'll have my choice out this week and my confrères will be getting theirs together in the future to sprinkle in as we go. Feel free to make yours in the comments or even send more detailed plans in and we'll publish them in the future. 

And feel free to talk about anything else that catches your fancy. 

If, in fact, it's really you doing the typing. . . . 

Image here.

Car Lust in the early 1950s: A Boy And His '39 Plymouth

A bit of a digression from our usual fare for this post. Over the last couple of years I've developed a bit of a hobby with old diaries. I'd always wanted to maintain a diary/journal, though not so much because I think I have so much of importance to say for posterity. After my dad died several years ago, I realized that all of the stories he'd told us over the years now only existed in our memories; we couldn't go check them with him or hear them again, they were all lodged only in our imperfect memories as something of an oral history. I made a few attempts over the years to keep a diary (even when I was a kid) but they never lasted, I 1939 Plymouth Ad-07think because I never thought I had anything of profound interest to write. 

Then one day on a lark I bought a diary at an estate sale and started reading it through. That one was from 1948 written by a 60-something-year old Seattle housewife by the name of Lillie May (Reasoner) Smith. She wasn't anything particularly special and mostly she just recorded her daily doings. . . .which I found utterly fascinating. Instead of profound thoughts on Life and the Big Events of the day, she recorded her shopping trips, her husband's work as a longshoreman, picking berries on Orcas Island, dinner parties they attended, etc. Such a different world from the one I inhabit here in the later 20th and early 21st century with our computers and Internets and cable television and cell phones and such. So, I started my own diary, online this time, and went through and transcribed Lillie's  entry for the same day ("On this day in 1948. . .") and then entered my own doings. And I kept at it, I guess, partly out of a feeling of obligation to give the world her story as well as my own. When the year was up (her diary only was for a single year), I found another and started in on it. The second one was for 1967, a man this time, and he was kind of dull. 

But I found another one that was fairly complete for almost three years from 1952 to 1954 and started in on that. To be honest, for the first month or so I thought it was a teenage girl -- there was no identifying information in it -- but turned out it was written by a teenaged boy from Yakima, Washington. And he had a 1939 Plymouth coupe, much like the one pictured here. He was 16 at the time and the Plymouth kept popping up as he went through his daily teenaged high school boy life.

While we were both teenaged boys at one point, like Lillie May, it was a different world from the one I grew up in. He's had a few adventures in his Plymouth and many, many problems with it, some of which were his own fault. But the way he related to his car and the things he did with it are far different from what I experienced, and I thought I'd share some of his entries with Car Lust readers. No doubt some older readers will relate to what he went through, and younger ones may find the actual writings of a car-loving guy from the early 1950s enlightening. 

A couple of notes: He had very small, cramped writing and it was often difficult to make out words. Those I've put in [brackets] with the the word I think it is or in some cases just the letters it looks like in hopes context can render it intelligible to someone. More on the diarist below the fold. 

Continue reading "Car Lust in the early 1950s: A Boy And His '39 Plymouth " »

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

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