Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fiat Update: 1958 Fiat 600

It seems the Fiat 600 we featured here is up on Ebay. We thought it was a great deal at $ seems someone might get it for cheaper than that through the auction.

Vintage iconic Fiats like the 500 and 600 will enjoy new attention with the introduction of the new Fiat 500 into the American market. National clubs like FLU (Fiat-Lancia Unlimited) can highlight the experience and camraderie of enjoying these unique Italian cars.

Rare Racer: 1971 Fiat Bertone 850 Racer Sport

Unlike its plentiful cousin the Fiat 850 Spider, very few Fiat 850 Racers were ever produced. These specially bodied hardtop coupes were made by one of Italy's greatest design studios, Bertone, and produced by that company's manufacturing division. This one out of Oceanside, California looks very complete and original, and shows just the right amount of patina.

Interested parties should do their homework. Many clone 850 Racers are running around, utilizing fiberglass hardtops that were period accessories for the more plentiful Spiders. Important but small details like the "Racer" badges should be in place along with other trim details to authenticate this car as a true Racer.

The opening bid of $12,850 for this car is probably a fair price...however at this point there has been no bids. Perhaps the seller might consider a close offer.

Despite it's "racy" name, these cars are really rather slow and fragile..much like many Fiats of that era. However the unique look provided by the fixed hardtop provide some collector cachet, and if you must go faster there is 40+ years of development available for the motor through many marque specialists.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Paint It Green: 1973 Chevy Corvette

C3 'Vette prices are on the rise, but drop off dramatically after 1974 models. In most cases these cars are fully depreciated and values will soon justify full restorations of desirable optioned cars. Still affordable are the 71-73 models, which despite lower compression engines still feature the neat Mako shark styling and chrome bumpers (except for the front of the '73).

To make up for diminished performance, Chevrolet marketing introduced a series of exterior colors meant to evoke images of speed. The series took their inspiration from famous racing circuits, with names such as Bridgehampton Blue, Monza Red, Daytona Yellow and Elkhart Green- which is the original color of this particular example. Elkhart Green was a one-year only color for 1973, making this particular shade both rare and desirable and ultimately adding value to this example.

The best thing about this car is that it's a factory four speed. The 350 motor appears to need a little work, but the rest of the car remains fairly original and complete, down to the styled steel wheels. No description is given regarding the running/driving status, but the $6500 asking price is a reasonable place to begin negotiations after a thorough inspection. Factor in a great looking Elkhart Green paint job and the new buyer should be sitting pretty.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Berserk-ly: 1958 Berkeley 328

In all disclosure, an unnamed automotive publication originally coined the term "Beserkely" for one of it's project cars that featured a Suzuki GSXR 750 motor in a lightweight British body. Since then it seems swapping obscene powerplants into Berkeleys is such an accepted practice that the moniker has become a distinct sub-species.

Which is not that much of a crime: the 328 designation of this car indicates it originally left Biggleswade, England with a 328 cc Excelsior 2 stroke twin. Even the highest output option- the Royal Enfield 692cc 4 stroke (good for 90 mph in high tune) - left room for improvement given modern ingenuity.

So it is that numerous mutations of the Laurie Bond designed body are running around with alternate motivation. This example on Ebay takes that idea to the extreme. What passes for Berkeley on this vehicle amounts to about 60lbs. of fiberglass shell; the rest being a custom tube frame housing a 692cc Tecumseh engine apparently scavenged from a Kawasaki ATV. The intent of this glorified go cart is strictly for autocross competition.

If you have never seen a Berkeley in the flesh, be advised that they are truly microcars. Despite the rakish, AC- style bodylines, these are basically undriveable cars on the street. The good news is that a couple of guys could  probably lift this car and put it in the back of a full size pickup truck and you'd be off to your next parking lot Grand Prix. Even at the Buy It Now price you cant get stung too badly. Just make sure you actually fit inside the thing before you pull the trigger.

Monday, March 14, 2011

California Dreamin': 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider

If you've been paying attention to the collector car auctions in Arizona and Florida these past months, you may notice that this could very well be The Year Of The Alfa. Giuliettas are on the cusp of $100k, while Sprint Speciales and 1900 CSS are putting $150k in the rear view mirror.

Kinda makes these early Kamm-tail Spiders look like a hell of a deal.

While definitely not the same type of car as the earlier 101s, these entry-level hobby cars offer many of the same top-down visceral pleasures. Certainly the performance is comparable, and the once-maligned SPICA mechanical fuel injection is now clearly understood and optimized. Stock, early series Spiders such as this one can only go up in value.

There are many things I like about this car. I like white spiders for one. Alfa made a limited pallete of colors in these years, and this one is not often seen. I like the nicely refinished stock Turbina aluminum wheels- testimony to the Italians mastery of casting. Expensive updates include nicely redone seats, top and brakes. The underhood area seems to show some nice detailing to the 2 litre motor.

The seller shows some underbody photos that reveal an impossibly clean bottom for a 37 year old car. The car claims California heritage and seems to show it. I just love the stock steering wheel, stock Turbinas, and great stainless bumpers. The car even seems to have the original body moulding and radio antenna. It's so nice to see a car that has not been cut up for a stereo, dropped with lower springs or updated with 5-Star Cromodora wheels. Clearly this car was loved and sympathetically maintained- just the way you like to buy them.
I'l be watching this auction. My best guess is that this is a good buy anywhere south of $9500.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bugeye in a Box: 1960 Austin Healey Sprite

 If there was ever a car that could be easily and quickly bolted together, it might be the Bugeye Sprite. The skill set needed barely exceeds that of an advanced Erector Set. Here is an estate sale in the Chicago suburbs that would be a great chance to test that theory.

Most of the body is in primer. The chassis sits upside down on a crib and the underside looks decent. A nicely detailed 948cc A-Series motor sits on an engine stand, and a nice looking dash assembly is included. The rear end appears to be rebuilt, and the seats are very solid looking.

Given that most Sprites nowadays seem to be track cars, this assembly of completed components could be built to a race-car standard without excessive further expenditure.A little finish body work is needed, as well as paint, but this could be a terrific chance to try your hand with a project of reasonable scale. Asking price for the lot is $3000 or best offer. Also of interest is an early MG Midget that can be sold separately or with the lot. Show up with cash and a trailer and make your best offer!

This one wont last long. The Bugeye is one of the most charming British roadsters out there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Clampit's Augusta: 1934 Lancia Augusta

                                                                   1934 Lancia Augusta

This old Lancia popped up on Ebay yesterday, but has been floating around the web for a while with the asking price of $5950. The car is offered by a seller who seems to specilize in old tractors and farm equipment. As much as I love old Italian cars-and Lancia is particular- this car has a full balance sheet of positives and negatives:

Rarity, rugged Lancia build quality, car seems to be all there and seems in reasonable restorable condition. Price is right and the car is in the U.S. Unusual to find a car of this vintage in this (relatively good) condition.

Not the most glamorous or technically interesting Lancia. Lump of a four-cylinder engine only good for 35hp. Not a good candidate for a rebodied special and very conservative existing coachwork. Not much financial upside in a restoration of this car- it has to be done out of love.

Someone fascinated with early Italian cars, who likes to physically take apart and marvel at ancient engineering and craftsmanship. Or someone hoping to get a bit part in a period Italian movie. Please do not hot rod this car!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tears of a Clown & a Renown: 1964 Fiat Multipla and 1949 Triumph Renown

If there were automotive equivalents to zombies...these two walking dead would warrant a bullet through the brain to put them out of their misery.

Wow, this one is really sad. The Renown is an extremely rare example of pre-war "Razoredge" styling and craftsmanship in a post-war package. It is perhaps the highest quality and most elegant Triumph ever produced, using Connelly leather hides, Wilton wool carpets and real burlwood dash pieces over Smiths gauges. The body contruction, by Mulliners, was aluminum stretched over ash frame. Fit and finish when new was impeccable, and the car looked and acted the part of a 2/3 scale Rolls Royce.

This ad on Ebay claims it is one of three in the U.S., which is highly believable figure. More plentiful are the Mayflowers, a skewed and disproportionate evolution of the car that carries none of the charm of the original Renown/2000 line. Sadly I am at a loss as to what to do with what remains of this one. Its chassis and Standard 4 cylinder motor are gone, and the body has been heavily modified. The original frame is included but might just put the whole project past the tipping point of a viable restoration. The sellers suggestion that it make an inspired hot rod might be the best route left.

The Multipla was the official Fiat response to those who insisted on stuffing six adults into their standard Fiat 600 cars. Like all 600s, it was wonderfully functional... and like all Italians, wonderfully fashionable. The car was used in a Taxi variant throughout Italy-though admittedly at a 0-50 time of 45 seconds, it was not for getting anywhere in a hurry.

This particular car has been so molested that I feel the need to include a photo of a stock vehicle just to give reference. A few feet has been trimmed from the midsection of the floor, making this small car even smaller. Most American readers will instantly understand the perverse nature of the modifications herein, but for our international readers an explanation is in order:  The "Shriners" are a fraternal organization  who dress as clowns and drive ridiculous vehicles in parades to  raise awareness for their charitable efforts. This particular Fiat, formerly the property of Pere The Clown, offers a fairly unique vehicle at a No Reserve price. It looks a bit rusty underneath, and the engine will need some work- make that reassembly- but you'd surely have a unique specimen.