Sunday, February 20, 2011

Take That, Car Geek: 1969 AMC Javelin SST 290

One of the other interesting blogs I like to read is Just A Car Geek. Of all the intriguing cars that he features, one stuck out in my mind: a beige late-model AMC Javelin survivor car that was listed some months ago. I guess it says alot about our kindred mental conditions that we both like bland-colored Kenosha orphans. Now I have upped the anty with our own beige Barnfinder Javelin:

This particular first series car claims only two owners from new and shows 98,000 miles. It uses the AMC 290 "Typhoon" (love that name) motor hooked to an automatic transmission. It boasts a rust-free Southern provenance, original paint, vinyl top and all receipts and documents- right down to the original window sticker. And I have wanted one since college.

Given hindsight, this Javelin might have been the prettiest of the American pony cars. Designed by AMC's futurist designer Dick Teague, it boasted clean, modern European lines in and out. And the modest displacement V-8 engines in the range made for better balanced cars than similar nose-heavy big block Cudas an Challengers from Chrysler.

What I really find interesting about this car (and AMC in general) is the incredible audacity with which it was produced. Right alongside the Javelin in AMC's pony portfolio was the even more extreme AMX- of which little to no sheetmetal is interchangeable. Given the badge engineered world we live in now, how did a fourth position carmaker justify tooling up two completely different models to compete in the same market segment- and on the same showroom floor?

Being the underdog American manufacturer, AMC had to take chances to gain market share. Therefore their designs were edgier, more forward thinking. Think about all the interesting, emotive designs to come from Kenosha over the years...the Marlin, the Gremlin, the Pacer....whether you love 'em or hate 'em, they helped to shape the automotive world we live in now.

Time capsule cars like this are getting tougher to find. This is a neat example of a time when emotion still reigned in American auto design. History may or may not reward AMC for it's innovations...but you could grab a little piece of it for yourself to enjoy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Surfs Up in South Dakota: 1975 Plymouth Duster Hang Ten

Yeah, yeah. I can hear it now. What is so special about this car? I simply like it..and if this hobby stands for anything it is never having to explain your wacky tastes.

I have never owned a Duster or a Demon or a Dart Sport for that matter (essentially all the same cars)- though I came close a couple of times. The Hang Ten was one of many wild and wonderful decor packages Chrysler made available to peddle their otherwise standard A-body production cars. Orange colored shag carpeting, stripe patterned seats, red white and blue exterior striping, and the requisite fold down rear seat (for your surfboard, of course) when combined with a EW1 Eggshell White Duster made the Hang Ten package.

Technically, this car is not a Hang Ten, but falls into another group of painted-up Plymouths that share a common gene with the Hang Ten cars. This car actually has the even rarer A63 Cloth and Vinyl Decorator Package, along with a whole lot of other cool options like the 318 V8 engine, AC, PS, Disc Brakes, Rallye Wheels, 8 3/4 Sure Grip rearend, bucket seats, sport mirrors, full gauges and floor console. Combined with the great color combo of black with white 3/4 vinyl top and red/white waist stripe, it makes for a pretty cool car.

And how does any of that translate into value or even rarity? Unlike most domestic car manufacturers, Chrysler's cars received coded fender taqs that document each and every individual option as ordered new for that car. That set the stage for a whole cottage industry ( and accompanying value system) of de-coding such tags and identifying rare factory options on individual cars. The nuttier the option or combination of options as originally ordered- the rarer the car. Or so goes the Mopar game.

But all that- if it proves out- is just a bonus. I think it is a neat looking car, with some nice driveability options, offered at a very fair price of $3500. Lets hope this surfer spent plenty of time away from that salty sea air.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bombay Fiat: 1969 Premier Padmini

For the Fiat fan who thought he had everything....

The Premier Padmini was made under license in Bombay (now Mumbai) India by Premier Automobiles Limited. The car is essentially a Fiat 1100D, utilizing a 1098cc 4 cylinder motor. It is something of a cult car in India, having had a remarkable production run that stretched from the 1950's well through 1997. Like another cultural icon the London Taxi, the Padmini serves prominently in cab fleets throughout India even today. Indeed one has to ask...could there be more old Fiats on the road in Bangalore than Bologna?

Talk about a fish out of water- this Padmini popped up on Chicago Craigslist touting a complete restoration in India in 2008. It features aftermarket air conditioning (a great idea for India) and heat (a great idea for Illinois) and has been craftily converted from column shift to a more modern looking floor shift unit. The car was used just once since arriving on these shores (probably the exact moment that fantasy ownership met reality driveability) and will have to have its carb and fuel tank cleaned of varnished fuel. If everything checks out on the car, the asking price of $4500 is not out of line...and those that crave a relatively rare 1100 should try their Fiat with a bit of curry.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Gets Weirder: 1972 Cosworth Vega GT Wagon

I have made the analogy about Broccoli before. Hated it as a kid, partly because it was everywhere- but suddenly giving it a second look as an adult. Here we go again.

To most of us growing up in 1970's America, the car scene was a vast arid wasteland of cheaply constructed and poor performing "economy" cars that strove to foster some desperate connection to the superior European GTs of the day. Vegas, SkyHawks, Monzas, Sunbirds, Mustang II's...all names happily lost in history. Or so we thought.

Nowadays, survivors of this species are rare...even exotic, given the mists of time. And with the benefit of two or three decades of mechanical sorting...they could even be desirable.

Chevrolet made the strongest case for the European GT connection with the limited production Cosworth Vega. Utilizing a 16 valve-head designed by Formula One constructor Duckworth Engineering of England, early iterations of the aluminum four cylinder engine produced upwards of 185 hp. However in the real world- detuned for low octane pump fuel and emission standards- the engine was a blithering mess. Bereft of the engine control systems we now take for granted and exposed to an indifferent American consumer, the engine developed numerous reliability faults that doomed the reputation of this noble experiment for good.

The Cosworth motor was never available in the Vega GT Wagon, so this is a bit of a hot rod. Think "Shooting Brake" Aston Martin or something of that ilk. This one has a Weber carb and MSD ignition, 4 spd. trans, headers and 4.11 Monza posi rear end. Lots of NOS parts were used in the build, and the paint and interior are new. All the Cosworth coupes came in black, so this one is almost there; just add repro gold stripes and alloys and you'd have a serious curiosity piece at the next Chevy meet.

Like most Cosworth guys, this seller is surely a fanatic. The cars enjoy a VERY vibrant club and website. Lots of repro and upgraded parts exist. They make good autocrossers and road racers. And you can carry your set of track tires in the back! At the asking price of $5200, you'd have an interesting ride- one that time has forgot.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Help Wanted: 1955 Flxible Clipper Coach

HELP WANTED: Position open for a young man, preferably retired, of sound mind and body, unafraid of working in cold, dark or confined spaces, undaunted by threats or doubting looks from friends or family, with hefty pension or trust fund, to undertake this project. Position will self-pay between $.02 and $.05/per hour, collectable (maybe) at completion of job. Weekend and holiday work absolutely required, with no vacation benefits for the foreseeable future. Job term to end shortly before applicants death. Ideal candidates will possess proficiency in diesel mechanics, finish carpentry, aircraft fabrication, machining, oil well drilling, auto body and paint, and antique electrical systems. Applicant should hold Journeyman's card in HVAC and be a Master Plumber. Steamfitting experience a plus. Preference given to ex-Naval Submariners. Benefits: Satisfaction of having returned a wonderful art-deco land yacht- a symbol of the open road and the promise of the American dream- to its original state. Support group available.
Please click on the link below to apply, include negotiable $2500 application fee (non refundable)

Why Small Is Better: 1969 Subaru 360

As an automotive enthusiast ages, he/she tends to go through a maturing process in their tastes. No longer consumed with the need for speed, the mature enthusiast's mind opens to the endless possibilities of vehicles available. Patiently accepting of flawed design or inception. Recognizing purity and intent of purpose. Honestly realizing that their collector vehicles will see limited, if any, street use- and that if they do that the fuel bill will not be prohibitive. And affirming one can have enjoyment in a rare collector car without exceeding the value of their home.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the Subaru 360.

Like the Volkswagen Beetle to the Germans, or the Fiat 500 to the Italians, this was Japan's "car for the masses". As such, it enjoys the widespread admiration reserved for cultural icons. Essentially a cribbed design from the little rear-engine Fiat, the 360 is interesting in it's use of a two stroke motor which produced a meager 25hp.

While a hit in its homeland, a relatively small (10,000) number of units made it to America. While here they suffered the same lack of dealer support and general disdain that seems almost quaint and endearing in the age of 5 year/50,000 mile warranties. Some of the tales are legendary: unsold units being pushed off ships at the port to form artificial reefs, etc. At the peak of the misery, one dealer offered 6 brand new cars (together!)- for $2000- the same asking price for the example shown here.

At at top speed of 60 mph, the little Subaru still has enough git-up-n-go to cart you around your gated community. It features so many of those weird, derivative styling cues that seem to hallmark early Japanese car production. And you could probably show up at your local Subaru club ice race and be welcomed like an exalted emperor.

But lets face it, the best thing about Microcars is that you can have a lot of them. Normal garage limitations do not apply here...park them sideways, upways, can always squeeze one more into the collection. And at this cheap entry price, it won't squeeze you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alfamino!: Alfa Romeo Super Pickup Truck

1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Pick Up Conversion

Although a number of special-built service vehicles were derived from Giulia Sedans back in period, a pickup truck was never one of them. Leave it to the ingenious American Alfisti to answer the question that no one dared ask: what if Alfa Romeo had built an El Camino?

This infamous car has enjoyed a long string of owners, each improving the project a little bit at a time since its inception way back in 1986. It has been raced, rusted, repaired, rebuilt and Ranchero-ed. It now sports a late model 2.0 liter with Bosch L-jet engine from a 1982 Spider. It has a claimed 17,000 miles since being rebuilt: including new injectors, high amp Bosch alternator, and custom headers and exhaust.

There are still some odds and ends that need to be done, but the car is a driver. Anyone who would buy this would not be afraid of a little work. Nor would they ask market value! There is nothing to compare it to!
However, Alfisti- and more specifically Berlina and Super owners- march to their own drummer. The current owner has had this car since 2001, hogging almost a decade of this cars ownership that some other Alfisti could have left his or her mark on. Reasonably offered at $12,000, contact us at Barnfinder
for details on taking your place in the ownership lineage of this infamous piece of Alfa folk art.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Breaker 1-9: 2/3 Scale Peterbuilt

So, you want your kid to worship the ground you walk on? Want to engage that 12 year old with a father-son project that will give him skills beyond playing video games? You cant beat this one..

This 2/3 scale Peterbuilt semi tractor and trailer were fabricated in the 1970's as a promotional unit for a radio station. The cab has been refreshed with newer paint and drivetrain, but some assembly still remains. The trailer, in matching scale, still wears its 70's radio station livery. The project is remarkably faithful to a real semi, with a tilting cab revealing a modern Cummins turbo diesel engine, full dualies in the back, and even air ride seats like a real rig.

Most of the hard stuff has been done, and this could be a great toy for Fourth of July parades or promotional use. Once restored, this is the kind of unusual stuff that would do well at an auction like Barrett-Jackson.

 With that in mind, I can't see any real harm in the Buy-It-Now price of $12,500. This piece crosses over into automobilia, but since it seems well enough engineered, you could almost do some real hauling with this rig. You certainly won't see anything quite like this, and if you are into Semis this is a unique opportunity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Still No Love: 1974 Jensen Interceptor III

How long will it be before the market recognizes the poor Jensen Interceptor as a legitimate exotic car? Other Italo hybrids like the Iso Rivolta, Pantera, Mangusta and Ghia have all enjoyed recent price booms- and aren't built nearly as well as these jewels from West Bromwich.

Using Italian coachwork by Vignale, American V8 Muscle from Chrysler and hand assembled by the craftsmen of Jensen...this car should have been a Grand Touring sensation. Lush Conelly leather seats and Wilton wool carpets made the car a bit more posh than the usual sports car, and  the languid Torqueflite transmissions that found their way into most examples further diminished its sporting appeal amongst purists. The cars were heavy and not given to being tossed about. Fuel consumption-not an issue when they were newly built- is atrocious.

I prefer the first series cars, which have some glitchy electrical hardware but offset it with smaller bumpers, simpler wheels and generally cleaner lines. First series cars use a shorter stroke 383 motor while the later series employ a 440 unit. Some rare birds, the Interceptor SP's ("Six Packs"), came with factory triple carbs as found on stateside Cudas and RoadRunners.

This example in Canada is a Series III with alloy wheels and the 440. I like the bronze exterior with matching carmel leather. Despite claiming California origins, be wary of rust, especially in the paper thin bumpers. Replacements are like hen's teeth.

Buy it cheaply and enjoy...but not as an investment. Yet.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

One To Buy: 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Veloce

Alfa GTVs, but more specifically earlier Giulia GT Veloces, are on the rise and this car on Ebay looks to set the current market price.

The car comes with a transparent history in mostly rust-free California. Despite a harmless red repaint, the car has a nice combination of patina and vetted driveability. The driveline has been updated from the original 1600cc motor to a sweeter-driving 1750, but the final bid will probably reflect the non-matching numbers. This car has the best interior of the line, with the "flying buttress" European seats and the faux woodgrain spartan dash. The dash woodgrain is a thin contact paper; getting one restored properly with a vacuum formed vinyl can be done but is expensive. This car needs some TLC, including a steering column cowl, but most parts should be easy to source. The original wheels look great on the car...why did so many others change them out?

If the car checks out in person, any final bid in the lower-teens should be considered well bought and a blue chip investment. I expect Step Nose Giulias to rise 20% in the next two years.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spider in a Box: '55 Dodge and '76 Alfa Spider

Here is a truly unique combination of vehicles, offered as one lot in situ on Ebay.

If a photo can tell a story- still others can be a downright enigma. One has to wonder how a 1976 Kamm-tailed Alfa Spider got stuffed into a great art-deco looking 1955 Dodge moving van with Seattle livery on it. It appears in the auction at the same Washington state loading dock where it has sat for many years, and apparently where it gained its Italian cargo.

Now, with the loading dock still handy...would you unload the Alfa and abandon the truck...or tow the whole lot away on a heavy flatbed? At No Reserve and a very low opening bid, this will be an interesting one to watch...

Friday, February 4, 2011

All You Need Is Love: 1973 VW Van

This particular Volkswagen van is not necessarily a screaming good deal at $3000. VW Vans can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands based on their condition and model hierarchy.  But this example is absolutely emblematic of the fun spirit of the eccentric VW Van subculture that I find so interesting. Sadly, it's a subculture that seems to be on the wane.

Truth be told, there are few places left in America where you can safely operate one of these vehicles. They are just too slow to keep up with modern (80mph+) traffic. They have wispy heat and zero crash protection. Both braking and acceleration require excessive lead time and input. And they rust so severely they can quite literally break into pieces. On the bright side- when they do break down, they provide for a reasonable place to nap.

Reading between the sparse lines of this van's Craiglist description, you sense a typical VW owner who is not bothered by much. It might need a battery, but who knows? Seems to run fine- I guess. Pretty good for a 1973-all things considered.  Things are sunny until further notice, and if that changes, then we will deal with it.

This van reminded me of a college buddy who bought a similar VW Van from a stereotypical hippy. The hippy was heartbroken in having to sell the VW, but saw a kindred spirit in my buddy and was at peace with the sale. The hippy listed the pros and cons of the VW with the same affection you might describe an old pet dog- especially when he disclosed that the reverse gear was inoperative.  He seemed rightly proud of his ingenuity in always parking the Van in situations that allowed him to drive forward, recounting the many years of ownership in which he overcame the shortcomings of his beloved VW. After money and well wishes were exchanged, the hippy stood in the window to see his old friend one last time. Without thinking, my buddy hopped in the seat, depressed the shifter to engage the lockout, backed the VW out of its parking spot and drove away. The hippy stood frozen and slack jawed in the picture window.

Arguably, there are few vehicles as iconic as the VW Van. Lets hope that as long as the Vans themselves survive, so too will the counterculture that embraces them.