Monday, September 29, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Saab 900 Turbo

When enthusiasts think of performance cars of the 1980s,  especially European brands, images of the BMW E30 and E28 frequently come to mind; for Mercedes, the venerable 190E 2.3-16 and 560SEC spring to mind. Obviously, so do the stereotypical Porsches, Ferraris and what have you.

But there's another brand that's quickly forgotten. Well, two, really, but this post will focus on one of those two.  Introduced in 1978, the Saab 900 is the quessential "classic" Saab, as its the vehicle that draws up the most recognition--at least among non-Saabophiles. I am a "newbie" at Saabs, so admittedly, the 900 (especially the first generation) is the first car that springs to mind to me. And like Volvo 240s, I consider the Saab 900 to be somewhat of a timeless car.

In the 1980s, the first age of downsizing was at its finest; the popularity of forced induction was at its peak in the US, and would remain so for at least thirty years. Small displacement engines, coupled with turbochargers were the norm, and the result was good performance (for the time), combined with decent fuel economy (again, for the time), and Saab was still carving out their niche in the US.

Packing a turbocharged four cylinder that generates a fairly decent 143 horses, the Saab 900 has performance that is likely on par with a normally aspirated Ford Focus today; my how the times have changed. But since the Saab is lighter, and is marketed as a drivers' car, it probably would be more of a treat for someone behind the wheel--and obviously saying "I drive a Saab Turbo" sounds way cooler than saying "I drive a Focus." Right?

The Saab 900 would serve both the luxury, and sport niche fairly well, depending on which model you chose and what options were ordered; however, the 900s that still remain as survivors here in the rustbelt all seem to have one thing in common-- they're forced induction models, and they're slowly appreciating.

 
This particular car is a neighborhood fixture, as its been spotted outside of several local businesses; I waited until I saw the vehicle with no distraction beside it, and this photoset is the result. Okay, in hindsight, the pictures could be a little bit better, but there's no going back.

I would've really liked to find a green or perhaps a dark blue one, but the light gunmetal example I found is nice, especially for a car that calls the rustbelt home; complimenting the paint color are a variation of the popular Saab three-spoke them, and I happen to like these wheels slightly better than the other version offered on the 900.

Inside, the typical Saabness shown through in oh-so-1980s tan leather; if I remember correctly, this vehicle was indeed equipped with a 5 spd, which is probably the best idea for the 900 yet. I don't recall any other details about this particular car's interior, unfortunately, as I was in a bit of a hurry.

I would love to shoot another 900 again; maybe I'll opt for a four-door or a convertible next?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Buick LeSabre T-Type

 Continuing our 1980's theme set by yesterday's post, tonight we'll look at another 1980s "icon". Okay, so it isn't quite an icon, but these cars do have a (limited) following. Launched in 1987 and remaining in production through the1989 model year, these cars were, like the Grand National LeSabre (yes, you read that right), a limited edition. 

Unlike the Grand National Lesabre, the T-Type did not have a rear opera window, and it came in colors other than black. Like the rear-drive Grand National, and its front-drive namesakes, these T-Types were also motivated by a 3.8L V6, unfortunately without any sort of forced induction. All is well, however, because even without being "fast", these were arguably the best looking H-Bodies.

1987 cars were the only ones to receive black and gray interior trim, and this example features black and gray interior trim, making this particular car a 1987 exactly.
I don't think I've ever seen one of these in white, and certainly not this nice. The only other ones I've seen have been maroon, and one of those I'm now certain was a clone.  On the surface, this example seems seriously well-kept, especially given the climate it lives in. I've also never seen this particular car in the same spot, so I'm certain this one is a daily driver.

The paint is very nicely kept, though as with all cars of this vintage, the plating on the badges and has flaked, and the grille has been pitted; as a daily driver, those two facts are not surprising.  Another thing I notice about this  example is the (probably recent) wheel swap; honestly, in this case, its for the better. The stock wheels aren't the most elegant examples, but being a 1980s GM product, what else do you expect? I feel that these American Racing generic specials suit the T-Type far better than the stockers do, and thankfully the owner agrees.

Does the owner know what he drives? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it's cool to see a rare vehicle that isn't locked in some old fart's garage. I can only hope that while it does get driven, it also gets regularly taken care of. I certainly don't want this rare LeSabre to fall victim to the ever-so-destructive tin-worm.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Minneapolis Street Sighting: Dodge Rampage 2.2

In the 1980s, very few automakers would have the sales success that Chrysler did with its minivan; unfortunately, not all of Chrysler's 1980s vehicles would be as successful (and revolutionary) as their K-car line was. Introducing the L-body; these vehicles included such hits as the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, and its coupe sibling, which went by more than one name in its short little life.

Along with the hatchback coupes, Chrysler also trotted out a minitruck (presumably to compete with Volkswagen (hmm.. where have we heard that before?) but... it didn't. In fact, it was shelved after two years. It's a wonder Chrysler even tried the minivan at all, seeing how their previous two niche vehicles (the Omni O24/Horizon/Turismo/TC3 and its truck brethren) failed so miserably.

Before I discuss the actual vehicle at hand, let me give a brief rundown of the history of this obscure minitruck. In 1982, the idea for a car-based front-wheel-drive pickup was running rampant at Chrysler, and this probably has to do with the success of Volkswagen's efforts; never mind that VW supplied diesel engines for Chrysler, so Volkswagen probably did help conceive this idea. This little trucklet came out for that model year, but alas was gone by model-year 1984. With a production lifespan that short, one would think that these should be pretty rare, and that's correct. Less than 35,000 were sold, making this a fairly uncommon vehicle--especially in the rustbelt.

Normally, I give "modern"  Chryslers more passing glances than probably deserved, but this was different; I have never seen one of these before. The only Rampage I have ever seen is likely the cleanest version I will ever see. Sure, the paint was faded, but look on the bright side--it had no real rust--much less surface rust.

The big 2.2 badges, and side decals were the epitome of the 1980s, all that it wrought on the auto industry; these graphics were so cheesy, I couldn't help but love them. Ditto goes for the wheels; no, the weren't as bad as hubcaps, but that design--just look at it. Yeesh. Oh, well, at least they were the original units for this little guy.

Like the exterior, the interior was as close to mint as a 30 year old working vehicle could have been; I didn't recall any rips or tears on the read/gray/black upholstery, and from what I did remember, though, the dashboard's topmost panel was cracked in several places, suggesting that this particular vehicle came from a sun-heavy climate, perhaps the west-coast?

I have only seen one of these things, ever, and boy did I see a good one. I had my doubts that I would ever see one, and lo-and-behold, one popped up. Sadly, this Rampage marks the first and last one I will ever see.

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?