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1989: It Was a Very Good Year!

Nineteen eighty-nine was a dream in a dream
We straddled the thin line between what it means or it seems
To be sure enough we left the world behind

--Grey Eye Glances, "The Lost Coast"

Though nobody expected it to be that way at the start, 1989 was a momentous year, one in which much of what seemed a permanent part of the world was left behind by December 31.

It was certainly that way in Eastern Europe. The "Iron Curtain" looked like it would be there forever on January 1, but that would soon change. In February, the Polish Communist government and representatives of the Solidarity independent trade union entered into the "Round Table Agreement" for the liberalization of the political system; the country held free elections that summer and the new government abolished state socialism and withdrew from the Soviet-dominated "Warsaw Pact" by year's end. In East Germany, a series of mass demonstrations inspired by Solidarity's success led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.

"You can bend me you can break me, but you'd better stand clear/When the walls come tumblin' down..." --John MellencampThere were other peaceful transitions to democracy in Chezchoslovakia ("the Velvet Revolution"), Bulgaria, and Hungary. The not-so-peaceful Romanian Revolution in December overthrew the brutal Caucescu regime, and the tyrant met his fate before a firing squad. Even in the Soviet Union, the seemingly-mighty empire which would go out of business completely in anticlimactic fashion just two years later, the government had begun yielding to the tide.

The tides of liberty weren't confined to Eastern Europe. Down in South Africa, P.W. Botha met face to face with Nelson Mandela, one of a series of negotiations which led to the end of the apartheid system of racial segregation. The thuggish Noriega dictatorship in Panama was put out of business Just under half of the class appears in this photo.by U.S. military intervention. Brazil and Chile held their first free elections in decades. In China, the Tiananmen Square protests captured the world's attention before the democracy movement was brutally suppressed.

On a much smaller scale of importance, 1989 was a year of great changes for me personally: I graduated from law school, moved, passed the bar, got married, and embarked on my present career. With my law school class holding its 25-year reunion in August (photo at right), and me being all nostalgic and such because of that, it seemed an appropriate occasion to look back on the automotive world of 1989.

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Miller Motorcars (née) Chinetti Motors, America's First Ferrari Dealership

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Miller Motorcars

There is an elegant structure in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. It's something of a stately 2-story Tudor with large picture windows, and graces Putnam Avenue with style. At first glance, the building could house antiques and/or art... and yes... in many, many ways, it does house fine art.

The establishment features Ferrari, Maserati, and the occasional "previously owned" Rolls-Royce Motorcar and such. Why, I even thought I saw a more-pedestrian BMW on the premises. They also feature new and, ahem, used Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, McLaren, Pagani, and Rolls-Royce. In fact, they are the only factory authorized dealership for all these unique brands in the state of Connecticut.

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4th Annual Home Depot Cruise-In, Medina, Ohio 9/14/14

Last Sunday was a perfect day for a cruise-in, so the Frazer Manhattan and I went to the one sponsored by our local Home Depot.

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There were probably close to fifty vehicles that were in attendance at one point or another over the span of five hours, and it was a pretty eclectic mix.

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Here's some of what we saw.

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The Luxury Chevette, The "1977 Leata"

They say that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. But nobody told these folks that, because they did. Sort of. In a way. Kind of.

Yes, it's our duty here at Car Lust to bring some obscure, unloved vehicles to light, and Holy Moly, do we have a winner today. Move over Mustang II Silver Ghia, step aside Vega Notchback Cabriolet, begone Levi's Gremlin... we hereby present the 1977 Leata. No, not the Reatta, the Leata.

The formula for this automobilia luxuriouso obscuriata: Take one brand new stock 1977 Chevy Chevette. Install fiberglass body panels. A rear vinyl half-roof with opera windows is a must. Nicer wheels are a definite improvement. Reupholster the seats, door panels, and everything else in that spartan interior that you possibly can.

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Notes from the 2014 Cleveland Auto Show - Part Two

We're back again with more from the Cleveland Auto Show.

Das Auto.Hyundai. Yes, Hyundai.

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Notes from the 2014 Cleveland Auto Show - Part One

The 2014 Cleveland Auto Show runs through Sunday, March 9. I was there on Saturday the 1st, and here's some of what I saw.

Ford would like one of these to be in your future.100_3939100_3942

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The Cars of Templar Motors 1917-1924

The Templar Motor Car Corporation, located in Lakewood, Ohio, was one of the 57 locally owned automobile companies that operated in the greater Cleveland area between ninety and a hundred years ago.

Templar: the Superfine Small CarThough Templar went bust in 1924, its 300,000 square foot three-story factory still stands. After Templar's demise, the building was the home of Lake Erie Screw, a maker of threaded fasteners, for many years, and now serves as "Templar Industrial Park," a business incubator for smaller companies, studio space for local artists, and a banquet hall. It's also the home of the largest concentration of Templar automobiles in the civilized world.

The assembly hall display.Templar built 6,500 or so vehicles during its automotive career, of which there are 37 known survivors. Eight of these are displayed in the third-floor assembly hall of the old Templar plant--the room where they were originally bolted together--and another is displayed on the second floor where Templar's engines were once manufactured.

David Buehler and Mr. Templar's TemplarThe curator of Lakewood's Templar collection is David Buehler, a lifelong resident who has had a lifelong fascination with his hometown's only indigenous auto company. David owns the cars in the third-floor display, and has five more Templars of his own at home--and he knows where every one of the other 24 survivors are. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Templar, from company history to minute mechanical details, and a personal collection of Templar artifacts ranging from employee ID badges to blueprints to the only known example of a Templar children's pedal car. Over Thanksgiving weekend, he gave me the full guided tour of the old Templar factory.

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December 9 Weekly Open Thread, Current Events Edition: Electric Car Sticker Shock

Come in out of the cold, grab some hot chocolate, sit down by the fireplace, and let's talk cars.

Just in time for Christmas, General Motors announced the 2014 Cadillac ELR Saks Fifth Avenue Edition, in a limited production run of just 100 vehicles, with an MSRP of $89,900.

*Bling!*

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Car Lust Classic: President John F. Kennedy's Parade Car

This review was first posted on November 22, 2011. I tried to avoid any conspiracy theories and tried to simply describe the limousine that was used in Dallas. It will always be the center of the event, and luckily it is still here as an artifact, a silent witness, and a victim.

JFK MotorcadeIt was 48 years ago today, on November 22, 1963, that the world changed again forever. We all know the horrible details of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy's murder, so I'll refrain from them in this post. But on that day, our nation and the world immediately went into unified mourning and shock, and national television was uninterrupted for four days. Nothing of this magnitude had been repeated until September 11, 2001.

He was riding in an open-car motorcade as all Presidents had done before, and none have done since.

JFK in limo (GOOD!)The President's Parade Car, known as SS-100-X (Also X-100) by the Secret Service, began life as any other 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible. Mr. Kennedy loved these cars when they came out, so they made a very special one for him.

After factory assembly, it was shipped to Hess & Eisenhardt in Cincinnati and cut in half (It is a unibody design). The car was then elongated about 3½ feet and modified with special luxuries, plus foldable jump seats, grab handles, rear bumper footrests, special lighting, flagstaffs, and a rear seat that would rise 10 inches.

To read the original post, please click here.

Limousine Week--Jetway 707

Ladies and gentlemen, following up on yesterday's look at airport limos, we present to you the airport limo to end all airport limos, the sleekest and swankest jet age marvel ever to grace a terminal loading zone: the Jetway 707 built by American Quality Coach Corporation.

"The limousine of tomorrow--in 1968!"What was your first impression of this vehicle? Did you think, as I did, that it looked like an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser that had been caught in a taffy puller, or pumped full of growth hormones by mad scientists engaged in diabolical avant garde experiments previously performed only on insects and other small, meaningless creatures?

That's actually not too far off the mark.

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

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