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Toyota Celica Supra 1978-1981

1979-Supra comboToday's little post is just a follow up to Anthony Cagle's superb coverage of the 1970s Celica. In fact, this report is just a shadow of the last generation Celica featured in his post.

My admiration for this car began one day, as a 21-year-old, when I saw an ad for the first Toyota Celica Supra. The glossy presentation literally blew me away. Here, for the first time in my automotive history, was a small car available with all the refinements of any larger machine. It had power windows and door locks, a tilting steering wheel, a luxurious, plush interior, cruise control, a snazzy console, multi-adjustable bucket seats, and even a sunroof.

That ad showed a dash featuring an amazing array of seven gauges (Including the clock), a large sum of instruments not easily found on any other car of its time, nor even today. An industry-leading AM/FM 4-speaker radio was there, as was (dare I say it?) an 8-Track tape player. In 1979, leather seats and automatic climate control was offered, again, unheard of in a small car on these shores.

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1973-77 Pontiac Grand Prix

I've no shame whatsoever: I see that photo off to the right there and I just want to lick it, it's so gorgeous.

I think this could quite possibly be the genesis, the dawning, the ultimate source, the Patient Zero of my youthful Car Lust: a maroon 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. It's certainly the first real car I recall developing a mad crush on, apart from the usual panoply oGP1976_1f TV cars that I've mentioned over the years. Oddly enough, it was actually a Catholic priest that piqued my interest in these things. Fr. Tony, newly installed assistant pastor at our little 'burgh in central Wisconsin, showed up driving one that looked identical to the brochure image here. He was a neat guy (still is, actually), quite different from the usual stodgy priests I'd known up until that point, and he eventually became a good friend of the family.

As fine a shepherd as he was, it was that Grand Prix that really captured my eye. We'd had a similar vintage GM Century (which we all pretty much loathed), but Tony's Grand Prix was a definite step above the old family hauler and grocery getter. Two doors instead of four, a long, luxurious hood ending in a, to my mind, elegant upright split grille, and a short deck accented with opera windows. And it was quiet inside: even though it had a V8 instead of our pathetic V6, the noise didn't intrude much into the passenger cabin. And it was quite noticeably quicker than our misbegotten tank.

Of course, it might have been a similarly unreliable piece of junk for all I knew. . . . .but I digress. It.Was.Awesome.

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David's Greatest Hit: The 1992 Mercury Marquis

DD Grand MarquisNathan of Brainfertilizer Fame:  I never met David. We didn't spend extra time talking via emails, and I never once heard his voice.  We never shared a special friendship above all others.  But we shared something: a silly love for cars that didn't always deserve the passion.

John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Do not ask for whom the car horn honks; it honks for thee.

I hope that my alteration of the quote isn't taken as a lack of respect.  It is my first reaction to try to lighten serious moods, to make it easier to carry the burden.

At times, as I've participated in various online communities, I've wondered what would happen if I died.  How would anyone know?  How would I be remembered?  Would I be missed?  Would my absence even be noticed?

David, you are remembered.  You are missed.  This man, whom I have never met...his friendship, the bond created through a common love, touched me in ways I never realized until he was gone.

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$100,000 Challenge, Take 2: Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame's Max Cars Edition

After reading Chris Hafner's post, I realized that if I hadn't gone so Mazda-heavy, I could have gotten some great 20- and 30-year-old cars in my garage.

I wanted to try again, with a fresh slate.  I hope you'll indulge me, and I hope you even find it entertaining.

But I've got to change the rules, slightly.  I'll still have limitations, because limitations help channel and inspire creativity.

First change: no "car currently on sale" requirement.  All cars need to be 20 to 30 years old.  Maybe 15, at most.  The point is to get cars that are old enough to be great value, but not so old as to be "classic".  The point is to catch cars near the bottom part of the trough, where the value has declined as much as possible, but not to the point where the value starts to rebound from rarity/coolness.

Second change: I have to have exactly 20 cars.  No more, no less.  The point is to see how close I can get to the $100k total without going over, for exactly 20 cars.

Third change: All car prices will be according to the NADA "clean retail" price, but here's the twist: if you can manage to find a 20-year-old car in "clean retail" condition, it won't really be ready to go.  The coolant system will be having problems, or it will consume oil as lustily as Vikings drank mead, or the paint will be starting to flake off, or a few minor rust points, or the alignment will be horribly off, or...you get the picture.  A 20-year-old car that wasn't lovingly restored to new condition is going to have some issues.  So right off the bat, I will budget $2000 per car to get it up to speed.  That might go to a tune-up, or a paint job, or a replacement door + paint, or an alignment, or a new radiator, etc.  That might be an underestimation, but we are starting with a "clean retail" example, so I think an average of $2000 will work.

That leaves me with $60,000 to get 20 cars.  So I'm looking for cars I can get for averaging just about $3000 each.

That's the rules I have.  Let's see what I come up with.

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$100,000 Fantasy Garage Challenge: Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame

Let's start off with the cars my family needs:

2014 Mazda6:

Mazda_6_2013_MIASThis very nearly was a 2010 Mazda6.  I love my current daily driver car.  It has plenty of power, plenty of room for 4 adults on long trips, handles amazingly well, looks nice, and is generally very satisfying to drive in almost any circumstance.  However, the rules state you have to have one brand new car, and after thinking long and hard, I decided my daily driver would be the best choice to select a brand new vehicle.  The main reason for the upgrade is that the brand new Mazda6 looks nice, has plenty of interior room, has plenty of power, and handles just as well as my 2010...but with the SkyActiv technology, its gas mileage improves by nearly 30%.  To have a non-hybrid family sports sedan that gets 38 mpg highway is very exciting to me, because I am not a fan of the massive batteries necessary for hybrids: the environmental impact of creating, storing, and disposing of the battery pack really bothers me, and I don't like the idea of having to spend several thousand dollars to replace the batteries to keep the car in less than 10 years.

So this will be my daily driver.

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Great (?) Moments in Badge Engineering

"Badge engineering" occurs when an automobile manufacturer sells what amounts to the same car under two different brand names.  It's not to be confused with "platform sharing," where two or more different cars share some or all of their basic engineering. To illustrate the distinction with an example: the first-generation Chrysler minivans shared the K-cars' platform, but a Plymouth Voyager was a completely The Reliant K, not to be confused with the Aries K...different vehicle from the Plymouth Reliant--that's platform sharing.  On the other hand, the Reliant and its Dodge Aries counterpart were identical in all but minor decorative touches--that's badge engineering.

Economically, it makes sense to use as many common components as possible across multiple product lines, and carmakers have been doing this ever since Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik started offering two model lines way back in eighteen-ninety-something. Platform sharing is so common we almost don't notice it anymore, and VW is taking the concept a step further by developing a "construction set" platform that all of its vehicles will eventually share. 

The problem arises when the manufacturer gets too focused on keeping costs down (or too lazy, take your pick) and shares more than drivetrain components or platforms between cars. Share too much, like, say, all of the outer body sheetmetal, and soon what are allegedly "different" cars become indistinguishable, whether viewed from twenty yards away or from the front left seat. We look down on the practice today as the bane of automotive variety, but the first recorded instance of automotive badge engineering was actually welcomed by consumers.

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1969 Buick Riviera

Buick 2 frontThings are different when you're 12. Especially when you're really beginning to notice cars... and other things. When I was a dozen years old in early 1969, the original Star Trek series was still on, and we had not yet landed on the moon. As a nation, we were still recovering from the horrific events of 1968, including the public murders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

And despite the bad times, we really had no idea how well we had it back then. During the Summer, we got chaufeurred everywhere, had our meals taken care of, paid no rent, and, oh yeah, had the swimming pool at our disposal. In the cold months, there was the game room with pool table and juke box. Plus all the milk and cookies we could eat, brought to us by the lovely Miss Thelma.

Buick 1I guess I'm getting a little "The Wonder Years"-ish here, so lets move on to cars. And the car I remember most from this time was the one my best friend's father brought home one night... a brand new '69 Buick Riviera.

Everything about this car was a class act. From the outside, its gold paint and tan vinyl roof made its clean yet modern lines look elegant but simple. Its proportions were perfect, save for just a little extra overhang behind the rear wheels. But that's the only styling criticism I have of this car.

The fastback profile more than made up for that. This was a car you not only wanted to ride in, it was one you wanted to be seen in. When Miss Trudy picked us kids up in this, we knew the fun had just begun.

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1985: It Was a Very Good Year!

October 1984 C/DIt was "Morning in America," a time when men were real men, women were real women, and hair was real big. Ronald Reagan had just been sworn in for his second term after winning one of the most lopsided Presidential elections in American history. and the "national malaise" of just a few years before had been replaced by a mood of confident optimism. Technology was on the march: personal computers now had floppy drives and 12 MHz processors, fully-functional mobile phones were down to the size of a box of Girl Scout cookies, and used DeLoreans were being retrofitted with aftermarket flux capacitors. On the big screen, besides the one with the time machine, we had Out of Africa and Witness and The Breakfast Club and Rambo: First Blood Part II. On the small screen, you had The Cosby Show and Hill Street Blues and MacGyver.

On the radio was Springsteen, Madonna--this was way before Nirvana--there was U2, and Blondie, and music still on MTV. The cars then were old school, and you might think them uncool, but this post will be occupied with cars of Nineteen Eighty-Five.

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1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

It's not every day you see one of these in the church parking lot.

Straight outta South Bend....Studebaker's Hawk series of "family sports cars" were the sort-of successor to, sort-of continuation of, the magnificent 1953-54 "Loewy coupes" styled by Robert Bourke of the Loewy & Associates design firm. In the nine years they were produced, there were a whole flock of Hawk variations: Flight Hawk, Power Hawk, Sky Hawk, Golden Hawk, Silver Hawk, the short-lived Packard Hawk, the just-plain "Hawk" Hawk of 1960-61, and this version, the Gran Turismo Hawk of 1962-64.

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Four-Door Thunderbirds (1967-1971)

Tbird 1 It's certainly no secret that yours truly is in lust with cars that have suicide doors. There's just a curiosity about them to me, especially on newer cars (Later than 1960, if you will) that catches my eyes. This may have started with the 1960s Lincoln Continentals, but the cars that I dream about most in my driveway with center-closing doors are these four-door Thunderbirds.

Why? Maybe because they are smaller than the mighty Continentals, therefore possibly awarding the driver a somewhat more pleasant driving and parking experience. I mentioned the Lehmann-Peterson Lincolns as my favorite car to be driven in, but if I were to drive one of these, it would surely have "Ford" written on it, not "Lincoln."

By 1966 (when the 1967 models were introduced), the Thunderbird was competing with Ford's own strong-selling Mustang. So to separate the two models, Ford moved the Thunderbird upmarket, maybe even scratching at Lincoln territory. No longer a small sports coupe, the T-bird finally came of age. I feel these cars are more "Lincoln" than "Ford," with all their unique touches and styling cues and posh, overstuffed interiors.

Its styling may be over the top by today's standards, but these cars were built while our Apollo space program was in full force, and we were landing on the moon. So if the design went a bit into the future, so much the better. They also came out the same year "BATMAN" premiered, and any resemblance to the TV Batmobile is strictly coincidental. I think.

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

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