Monday, March 3, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Plymouth Fury III convertible

As most of you know, my Plymouth sightings are far and few between; however, most of Plymouths I do spot are Furys—and in turn, most of those are top-tier Fury IIIs. The basic car was sold primarily to taxi fleets and police agencies, and later would gain notoriety for use as film vehicles that would get blown up or crashed in 1970s and 1980s TV shows, like CHiPs and Dukes of Hazzard.

Stepping up a notch got you such conveniences as power steering, stereos, air conditioning, and on hardtops, a vinyl roof was available.  Since this car is a Fury III, its saddled with air, power steering, and it likely had whitewalls with styled hubcaps when it was new.

Power for these big Mopars came in a choice of engines, ranging from a meager 225 slant-six all the way up to the big-boss 440. Given that this is a top-tier model, I highly doubt this one is burdened by the 225, though I have no idea, since it lacks the corresponding badging.

As with the other Furys, this example is extremely well-kept. Unlike the last Fury III I wrote about, which was a sedan, this one sports a set of modern American-Racing wheels versus the stock hubcaps. On this car, the modern rolling stock works; despite my wanting to see more older cars on original rolling stock, these wheels work. I couldn't imagine this Fury with any other rolling stock.

On the outside, this car is very nice. I am usually not a fan of generic red or burgundy cars, but for some reason (probably the black interior and minimal chrome) the hue suits this car perfectly. The badges are nicely preserved too, and I'm glad the owner didn't go the typical route and shave them.  Based on my top two angles for front-quarter shots, the proportions make it seem like big Mopar is moving forward even when its stationary—and the modern wheels further enhance that illusion.

Inside, this thing is set up for modern life. Yes, the interior is mostly stock, but like a vast majority of classic cars, this one sports a modern head unit which likely has iPod capabilities. Quite useful for going about life now. Other than the headunit, nothing seems out of place in this interior, and I quite like that. My favorite part is the huge speedo; for some reason, it vaguely reminds me of the unit in the W110/W111 Benzes. I wonder if that's no accident?

I am glad I did shoot this Fury; while not my favorite car by a longshot, I am glad I did document it; sure beats shooting another cliched donk or generic beater classic with no hubcaps, no?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Boise Street Sighting: Cadillac Cimarron

GM has always been known for lame rebadges, and in the era where each brand had its own distinct identity, that wasn't much of a problem. Back in the 1980s, most consumers couldn't really be bothered to figure out which GM vehicles were similar to each other. In the 1970s, the introduction of the Nova (Nova, Omega, Ventura, Apollo) took the idea of rebadging to new (and indistinguishable) heights. Carrying into the 1980s, GM had this same mentality for the X-car (RWD version) replacement. Called the J-body, this new lineup of cars would replace the venerable Nova line, and once again be available in four-door sedan, two-door coupe, three-door hatch, and convertible models.

While the other bodystyles were fairly different, it was the sedans that suffered the most from GM's cost-cutting—I mean platform sharing. Take away the front clip and the rear fascia, and that midsection is pure Cavalier—or Sunbird for that matter. Point is, a cheap Chevrolet is not a Cadillac. Then again, you could apply the same logic to the Tahoe versus Escalade argument, but at least they're somewhat distinguishable. From the front clip anyway.  Not much has changed in 30 years, has it?

Unlike most Cimarrons, this example is not only dent-free, it's dirt-free as well; literally, this has to be one of the cleanest Cimarrons ever. Now, I know white is hardly the most glamorous color, but oddly it works here.  What I also find slightly odd is that this particular car doesn't have the two-tone treatment. I wonder if monotone paint was optional and two-tone was standard?

Everything on this econoCaddy is spotless and I do meant that. The little emblems on the taillights are intact, the 15" wheels are free from any sort of curb-induced blemish—and they're shiny, to boot.
Hell, even the often-torn-off dealer plaque still has a home on the trunk. I expected a clean car in Boise, but this is insane.

Kudos to the owner for not only keeps his or her Cimarron in great shape cosmetically, but kudos to keeping it literally clean. Near as I can tell, this example is quite possibly nicer than new. I am glad I took the time to shoot this, even if the pictures are pretty basic. This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime spotting.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Mercedes 500 SEL

Continuing with yesterday's theme, I present to you, another Mercedes S-Class, and no its not a coincidence that this one is the successor to yesterday's post. The W126 series was launched in 1979, and stayed in production till the end of 1993 for some markets, including the US Market. Unlike the previous W116, the W126 was available in both coupe and sedan form, a tradition that would continue on for the remaining generations.

 As with the current S-class, there were short wheelbases and long wheelbases available; in typical Mercedes fashion, the longer-wheelbase cars are denoted by an L in the nomenclature, seen here. As with many other cars of this era, the long-wheelbase versions are packed with even more luxury than the standard cars, this making these the ultimate Benz. Unless you counted the 560SEC as the ultimate Benz, that is.

The car we have here is powered by the 5.0L V8 and made about 240 horse and 300 lb/ft of torque. While no acceleration monster, this engine, combined with a weight of about 3600 lbs was enough to propel the big luxoboat to 60 in 8 flat, and onto a top speed of 137 to 147 depending on year. 
Unlike the white W116 in lurking in the background, this W126 seemed to be in great shape; no evidence of rust, and the paint was still shiny—and it didn't resemble a cheapie MAACO respray either. Again, unlike the car in the background, the trim shown here was still gleaming under the summer sun, and if I am correct, the last time I saw this example, it still is.

The wheels on this particular W126 aren't factory fresh but they're not bad; I liked them, and they seem to suit the car well. I would have liked to see this W126 sporting Pentas, though, but those were fairly rare when this 500 was new—and they still are.

I am glad I shot this car for two reasons; I have always liked the W126, especially in sedan guise, and I haven't seen many of the long-wheelbase cars.  Also, when I do run across Ws these days, they're likely beaten to within an inch of their lives. Sad, really, but what "old luxury car" that hasn't yet reached collector status isn't?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Mercedes 450 SEL

Its not a secret that Mercedes currently makes some of the most technologically advanced luxury cars on the market today-- but what may be hard to grasp is that the concept of Mercedes being at the forefront of the luxury car game is nothing new. Enter the Mercedes S-Class; first debuted in 1954 as the "Ponton", the S-class would move up the rankings to eventually become the luxury car everyone benchmarked for their own cars--and the car that no one has come close to beating, in terms of ride, handling (for a big car), styling (which is now hideous), and technology.

Over the years, like all cars, the S-class got bigger, and it gained V8 engines in the W111 series. It was in 1972 with the introduction of the W116 that having a V8 no longer meant having the very top-tier model. The 450s were the top of the non-special order series and as the name suggests, these cars had a 4.5L V8, good for roughly 230 horsepower, and roughly 300 ft/lbs, the 4.5 in these big cars was no slouch.

Granted, it was no 6.9, but the regular 4.5 was a decently performing car—and for the people who bought these, that's what mattered most. Oh, and luxury mattered too. That's why these cars had Zebrano wood in the dash, the instrument surrounds and in the center console. and leather on about every other surface—and that includes the headlining.  About the only thing that wasn't very luxurious about these cars, and this goes for all pre-W123/W124 Mercedes is the rustproofing—which were pretty much non-existent. The complete opposite of Volvo's strategy.  More on that later.

 As I explained above, this generation of Mercedes S-Class was notorious for rusting, even in drier climates. Here in the rustbelt, a vast majority of these cars have already met their fate, and this one looked to be doing the same. 

When viewed from across the street, this example appeared relatively clean. Problem was, on closer inspection, it wasn't. While the white paint looked generic at first glance, it probably was original. However, on this poor example, that's not saying much.  Deep down, this big Benz harbored a very dark (and quite sad) secret. Rust—and lots of it, if the crevices were any indication.

Since I shot this car about four years ago, this one has likely met its maker. Here's hoping that before it did, it provided a new owner with whatever decent body parts it had left.

Am I glad I shot this? Yeah, because I haven't seen another one driving since.  Yes, I have been by this adress, and there's a boring Oldsmobile Alero out front. Sad day, I suppose.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Boise Street Sighting: Honda Civic wagon

Everyone knows by now that Boise is cream of the crop for old car sightings; but those sightings aren't just limited to American iron of the 1960s and 1970s. Pre-1990s Japanese cars are fairly common out west as well. Must be something to do with the combination of lack of road salt, and immensely strong reliability records. Even in the junkyards, the Japanese cars sitting on death row were visibly wrecked rather than just mechanically dead.

Like Toyota, Honda (as well as Datsun) started off small, making a rather tiny imprint in America's growing import market. One of the first nameplates from the brand to really take off was the Civic nomenclature. While we did get the CVCC in the US, changing the name to "Civic" really put Honda on the map. No longer was it seen as the "rollerskate on wheels" that cars like the Z600 were seen as. The Civic marked Honda's place in the economy car market for good. However, the Civic also signified something else for Honda--that reputation sells. 

Introduced in 1980, this generation of Honda's venerable compact would last three model years, and then would replaced by a more modern design (which unfortunately didn't include a wagon.)  All of our Civic wagons were one-spec, and were closely aligned with the DX trimline. While not "loaded" by today's standards, the Civic wagon was nice little grocery wagon--especially when you considered what the small-car competition was.

As a longtime Honda fan (expect for the more recent models), I tend to geek out over anything older than say, a 1990, two-door Accord DX.  Being brown, being a wagon, and being a vintage Honda (yes, I did just write "vintage Honda", so STFU), all of my attention was focused on this little car. Unfortunately, like the neighborhood it resides in, this poor little Honda is quite dirty.

Aside from the surface "patina", this example was very clean. No dents, only minor dings, and nary a bubble of surface rust; the stock wheels were in great shape, all of the correct moldings were there, and the delicate bumpers and grillework were still intact.  Time capsule Honda? Quite possibly. Yes, I realize that this one was far from "mint condition", but a thirty year old Honda Civic is amazing in of itself--let alone a wagon.

I am very happy I found this, and even in the rustbelt where my chances are extremely slim, I might have a chance to spot one again--in a shady neighborhood.