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Great Commercials - Vauxhall: 50 Years (and 5 million cars) After

What do we know about Vauxhall? We know they’re part of GM and that they sell rebadged Opels as well as Holdens/Isuzus/Suzukis, etc., depending on which model we’re talking. I’ve gotten the impression that they were able to build some of the most boring cars of the UK and at the same time some of the most bonkers. But did you know that the plant producing Vauxhalls as we know it turned 50 years old? How about that it produced 5 million cars during that time frame? Just one of those two milestones is more than enough reason to produce one of the most entertaining commercials that one can’t find on Western television programming:

 

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Carspotters' Challenge #134: The Drive-In Theater

Most are gone now, but a tradition in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s was the drive-in theater. Usually on warm summer weekend nights, these places were full of cars, people, and delicious food served right there on the premises.

Some Drive-Ins charged by the car load, others by the individuals per car. So a trunk packed with 4-5 people sneaking into one was not uncommon. (Been there, bought the T-shirt, as they say ;) .)

And as the joke goes, they had very low prices for the afternoon matinee.

Drive-In Theatre CSC 1

They were also a place where both hanky and panky occurred... just don't get caught!

See anything you'd like to drive home? (Extra points if you can identify the movie that's playing. Extra EXTRA points if you can identify the cars in the movie that's playing!))

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credit: Our warm Summer evening at the drive-in image was found at DriveTheNation.com.

April 20 Weekly Open Thread: "What Is A Blueprinted Engine?"

"Hey, I have a hot rod with a blueprinted engine!"

Engine-blueprintMany of us have heard somebody say that, then we nod our heads in agreement. And some of even have a slight idea of what that means. So to help explain this, we turn to EngineBasics.com, who at least partially define Engine Blueprinting as:

"A true blueprinted motor though, is one were every single part has been measured and matched exactly to a tolerance that FAR EXCEDES the manufacturers original tolerances. On a blueprinted motor one could say there “are no tolerances”, since everything is matched at times to a hundred thousands of an inch. The amount of balancing a blueprinted motor needs is so low its off the scale. All bearing and races are measured to be with-in thousands of each-other."

They can say that a lot better than I can.

Therefore, basically, a blueprinted engine is one built to incredibly tight tolerances, mainly to avoid power-robbing vibration issues.

So there. And of course, this is also the place to discuss anything else even ever so slightly automotive related. With or without blueprints.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credit: Our blueprinted engine example came from EddiesPerformance.com.

Car Lust Quantum Leap: The Chevette

I guess it should not be a surprise that I picked this microbial minicar, since about anything you do to a GM T-Body will improve it anyway. But I have always defended this car, which was the best-selling American small car of 1979 and 1980. After all, I did own two of these beauties.

Chevette 2 door

First off, I'd keep virtually all of the external sheet metal, but build an up-to-date, high-tensile steel space frame under there that meets today's crash standards. After all, is the Chevette really such a bad looking car?

Continue reading "Car Lust Quantum Leap: The Chevette" »

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 " »

Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris (1974)

Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Introduction 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Tigerstrypes (1989) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Anthony Cagle (1962) 
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Chris Hafner (1976)

1974 was a great year.  The world population reached 4 billion people.  Elvis was still alive.  Hank Aaron became the home run king passing Babe Ruth with #715 April 8th.  Nixon resigned, and I was born.

1974 wasn't what I'd consider a great year for cars, though there were some great car still being made.  It comes just after all the fun of the muscle car era.  Styling began to change, and the OPEC oil embargo plus smog restrictions had an impact on horsepower and performance.  Despite that, I was still able to find some cars I'd love to own today.

I live in the rust belt (Minnesota).  There's not much from 1974 left for picking through here.  So for my birth year challenge, I'm looking to Dallas. And when I run out of options there, I'm going to Phoenix.  I'm going to limit my search to just these two markets. I'm not going to just pick my favorite cars from 1974, but am choosing to pick from what is available on the market today.

Orange Corvette

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1968-1973 Ferrari Daytona

Ladies and gentlemen, I declare this The Perfect Car: the 1968-73 Ferrari Daytona.

Technically, yes, it's the Ferrari 365 GTB/4. But really, it's the Daytona. And it's wonderful.  Ferrari-daytona_1475650c

A while back I made up a bit of a fantasy post, specifying that if you had to have a single vehicle -- and only one -- for the rest of your life, what would it be? I gave two options, a real world one (you pay for everything), and a fantasy one (someone else buys it, insures it, gasses it, and maintains it). For mine, I actually went all practical and chose a couple of SUVs, a Honda Pilot for the Real Word and a Range Rover for the Fantasy Realm. 

But I dunno, I may rethink the latter and throw caution to the wind and get my (fantasy) self into a Daytona. 

I'll let you just gaze at that photo for a bit before clicking to read the rest of this post. Take your time, I'll wait. 

Continue reading "1968-1973 Ferrari Daytona" »

Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Chris Hafner (1976)

Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Introduction
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Tigerstrypes (1989)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Anthony Cagle (1962)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Chris Hafner (1976)

Spirit 76At first glance, it might seem foolish and misguided to assemble a $100K Fantasy Garage exclusively from cars available in my birth year of 1976. Compared to the classic 1950s and high-horsepower 1960s, the 1970s seem to be remembered by enthusiasts as the decade in which car enthusiasm cratered.

The first fuel crisis and emissions standards had sapped horsepower and drivability, leaving the fire-breathing muscle cars of the 1960s largely extinct by the early 1970s. Imports were still rare and out of the mainstream, the domestics were experimenting half-heartedly with downsizing, and the disco era manifested in the size and styling excess of the personal luxury land yachts.

This is a pretty dire picture, but I'd argue that there were still good cars made in 1976, and even those cars that weren't empirically good are at least interesting for a car enthusiast in 2015 who doesn't need to depend on them for daily transportation. In fact, the relative unpopularity of mid-to-late 1970s cars makes them much less expensive and more accessible than the more universally loved cars out there. Interesting and inexpensive? Sounds like a perfect formula for Car Lust.

I outlined the rules in the introduction, but I included a few personal rules. For example, I excluded any cars that I have already owned--which explains the absence of the Jeep Wagoneer, Cadillac Eldorado, Ford Gran Torino Wagon and Plymouth Valiant from my list. I also organized my choices into specific roles to curb my natural inclination to invest solely in land yachts and sports coupes. I chose average values from Hagerty and NADA in cases where actual listings weren't available; Hagerty's average value corresponds to something between Condition 2 (drivable show car) and Condition 3 (very nice driver), which perfectly fits my expectations for these cars. The eBay listings I chose were finished, above-reserve listings, in which the car actually sold.

In many cases I was faced with tough choices in a given category, but in the case of a tie I tried to break that tie in favor of the car more evocative of its time and most likely to put me in a 1976 mindset. Below I'm starting with my chosen daily driver and then working from most expensive choice to least.

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Carspotters' Challenge #132: "Where Were You In '62?"

I guess this Carspotters' Challenge fits in with this week's Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge. After all, these beauties of yore were then and are now treasures to behold. But being born five years before 1962, few if any of them meet the requirements for my own Fantasy Garage Challenge.

One of the best car movies of all time is "American Graffiti," set in the year 1962. After all, car-wise, 1962 was also A Very Good Year as well. So here are a few scenes from the movie with some great cars:

Mel's wide

A nice wide shot of "Mel's Drive-In."

Continue reading "Carspotters' Challenge #132: "Where Were You In '62?"" »

Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Tigerstrypes (1989)

Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Introduction
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Cookie the Dog's Owner (1961)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Tigerstrypes (1989)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Anthony Cagle (1962)
Birth Year Fantasy Garage--Chris Hafner (1976)

Let me give you further evidence to why 1989 was A Very Good Year.

IROC-Z 1LE 1989 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 IROC-Z 1LE – IROC-Zs have always been a long-time favorites of mine. While any IROC-Z would do, I couldn’t pass up on picking up the best one of all: the 1LE. It included unique goodies intended for SCCA Showroom Stock racing.

Continue reading "Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Tigerstrypes (1989)" »

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

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