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The Forgotten Mustang

As of this year, the Ford Mustang, the prototype, archetype, and trope maker of the "pony car," has been in production for half a century. In all the discussion of the Mustang's golden anniversary, and its unquestionably important place in the history of the American automobile, I've seeen very little about the other Mustang, the Mustang that came before the Mustangs that we all know and love.

Ford publicity photo, 1962The "Mustang I" concept car of 1962.

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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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2013 Nashville British Car Club Show... "Brits At The Parthenon"

"Brits At The Parthenon"

2013 Nashville British Car Club Show 058

Well, we're back again. And it's another unbelievably perfect Autumn day, October 12, 2013, to be exact. We're in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee, to see the 2013 Nashville British Car Club Show.

And does it get any better than a British Racing Green Jaguar E-Type in front of the Parthenon? Yes of course it could, but only if the Vanderbilt University Marching Band was practicing right across the street... which it was.

This was the fourth year in a row (2010, 2011, 2012) that I have motored into Music City USA to see this event. And never has it been disappointing. This year's theme was simply "Brits At The Parthenon," which didn't single out any particular make, model, or time period. And I think that was a good thing.

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1958 Facel Vega Coupe

For the Tuesday installment of French Cars Week, we're going to take a closer look at the '58 Facel Vega coupe that was at the SDC Meet in Tallmadge back in August.

"Allons enfants de la Patrie,/Le jour de gloire est arrivé!/Contre nous de la tyrannie,/L'étendard sanglant est levé, l'étendard sanglant est levé...."The car is owned by Roger Hicks, who did the restoration himself.

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Sometimes It's Better To Give (Back) Than To Receive

NARTOne of my most valued life possessions was a cloisonné Ferrari North American Racing Team (NART) badge, given to me in 1978 by my late friend, George Arents III. This badge, maybe two by three inches in size, was on his racing car when he raced in LeMans, Sebring, Bridgehampton, and a few other places as well. It has a few scratches from here and there, a mute testimony to many brutal laps on world-class racing courses.

And in fact, George, Luigi Chinetti, and Jan de Vroom started NART, though some sources give that lone credit to his business partner, Mr. Chinetti. The 48 stars indicate that NART was formed in 1956, before Alaska and Hawaii joined our great Nation. NART won LeMans in 1965, and Chinetti Motors was the first Ferrari dealer in North America. It was originally located in New York City then later moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, and is now known as Miller Motorcars.

Being the heir to the American Tobacco Company, the family could afford to race in the most prestigious auto arenas of the world. George's father, who passed in 1960, was also a race car driver, and was seriously hurt in an accident in a Vanderbilt Cup race in 1904 in Westbury, Long Island. And following his rich tobacco history, in 1942 he gave his collection of 6,000 books on tobacco (The world's largest collection) to the New York Public Library, where it remains today and has enlarged.

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Pop's Cruise-In Car Show, Wadsworth, Ohio, August 3, 2013

This past Saturday, there was a charity car show in nearby Wadsworth benefitting the local youth basketball program. It was a perfect day for such things, sunny and comfortably warm with low humidity.

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Here's some of what I saw.

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One Big Project (Finis)

025Last week, as you recall, I started yapping about replacing the folding top on the 12-year-old Miata. The top was dirty and worn, was beginning to let light through, it leaked, and it stank a little bit. The leak had soiled the rear deck carpet and turned it from tan to moldy black, so that was to be replaced as well.

I had decided to replace the front floor carpet while the seats were out with a new piece from the Mazda dealer. And, by chance, I found some brand new Miata floor mats online from an out of state Mazda dealer. They match perfectly and even still have that "New Car Smell."

So, off we went. The fiddly bits and the old top were removed, and soon the new one was being screwed, glued, bolted, squeezed, and riveted on. I saved the old top for a while for references.

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A Miata is tiny until you bring it into the house. Luckily, I had an empty room to store the carpets, seats, the old roof, and the small parts.

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1972-1976 Volkswagen SP2

VW-SP2_895225iWhile searching images for the Buick Centurion / LeSabre post, I stumbled on this car by accident. I had never heard of an SP2... and now I'd love to have one.

But I'd probably have a better chance of going to Mars than getting one. Only 670 of them left their home in Brazil, and none of them ever came to the United States as new cars.

That racy bodywork included a rear-mounted engine under a hatchback lift gate. Not an easy trick to design, I'm sure. And it's got to be safe... look at all that front crush space. The only styling reservation I might have is that I think a little more time should have been spent on the grille-less front end... though it does grow on one after a while. And just imagine some rallye or fog lights there.

VW SP2 profileAn SP2 is stunning to look at, even 40+ years later. The long hood/short trunklid styling screams Italiano! As well it should, since the SP2's designers included Jose Vicente Martins, Jorge Oba, and Marcio Piancastelli, who studied under the great Luigi Segre at Carrozzeria Ghia. Its cabin appointments were also first class for the time, and the rear engine area shows engineering packaging of sheer genius.

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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: Chris Hafner

Higher EducationWhen Cookie the Dog's Owner proposed the $100K Fantasy Garage challenge, I was immediately intrigued. Who among us has not dreamed about which cars we'd purchase if only we had the funds available? This challenge is a license to mentally catalog our old and new favorites, weigh pros and cons, and show our tastes and brand loyalties through the creation of a carefully curated collection.

The genius in this challenge is the $100K value limit. Without that, we wouldn't have anything to keep us tied to reality. After all, why add a Mazda to your list when you could add a Maybach? Why add a CRX when you could add an FXX? But the $100K limit, combined with the requirement to include one brand new car, is almost perfect. A cool hundred grand sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn't go as far as one might imagine. I could easily concoct a scenario in which two very nice but still fairly ordinary vehicles consume the whole budget, so turning this into a true fantasy garage requires some creativity.

I chose to put my own spin on this challenge by laying out a series of tasks that I want the cars in my garage to fulfill, and then picking the cars I thought would best fill those roles. This required a lot of revision, as I shifted resources from one bucket to the next, and leaves me without some of my all-time favorites (omitting the Porsche 928, E28 BMW M5, and GMC Typhoon was pretty painful). Overall, though, I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Since in some cases I'm linking off to listings on Craigslist and eBay there's a chance that those links will be dead fairly quickly. My apologies for that, but I'll try to capture some of the pertinent details in the text so that the story doesn't suffer too much.

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

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