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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.

Car Lust Quantum Leap: Ford Carousel

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen/The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'" --John Greenleaf WhittierWhat if the "fathers of the minivan" had become fathers a decade early?

In the fall of 1983, the first Dodge Caravans and Plymouth Voyagers rolled off the assembly lines and into the showrooms as 1984 models. The "T-115" minivan, derived from the K-platform FWD sedan, became one of the most influential vehicle designs of all time. The two individuals most responsible for bringing the minivan into the world are Lee Iaccoca, the CEO and public face of Chrysler Corporation at the time, and Hal Sperlich, who served under him as Vice-President of Styling and Product Planning.

But that wasn't the first experience these two gentlemen had with a minivan. Ten years earlier, when Lee Iaccoca was President of Ford and Hal Sperlich was its Director of Product Planning, one of their projects was the Ford Carousel, a prototype minivan that got tantalizingly close to production before being cancelled. So let's leap back in time to the Ford executive suite in 1973, and see what might have happened in an alternate universe where the first true minivan was the Carousel, rolling into Ford showrooms in the fall of 1974 as a 1975 model.

Continue reading "Car Lust Quantum Leap: Ford Carousel" »

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 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.

Carspotters’ Challenge #133: Morning Commute, Portland, Oregon, 1954

While I don’t see a certain ’39 Plymouth, there’s still plenty of other machinery of different years in this commute, happening one state south of said Plymouth's owner's whereabouts.

CC 4 10 15

Click here for the full-size version. 

--Tigerstrypes

References: http://rogerwilkerson.tumblr.com/

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

Continue reading "Birth Year Fantasy Garage Challenge: Big Chris (1974)" »

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" »

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

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