Monday, May 30, 2011

Spridget Racer: 1965 Austin Healey Sprite.

It's always a great idea to buy someones else's project. That rule is no truer than for race cars. This Austin Healy Sprite, or Spridget (as it is the same body used on the MG Midget) seems like a great value for a solid race-prepped chassis. The car raced A-production in the Midwest and looks prepared to a fairly high level with removable fiberglass body panels and Carrera suspension. The vintage magnesium rims on the car are probably worth half the asking price. The car is ready for a drivetrain and would make a straightforward father-son project.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Update: 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE Body

The seller informs us that the Ferrari 250 GTE Body we featured here is still available for $7000. The car features an alloy hood and trunk lid. The car has unusual thru-rust in the roof gutter area..yet the door, fender and rocker bottoms are solid.The exterior trim is mostly complete and we'd love to see a track car made out of this body- rather than hacking up a good stock street car for competition use.

Spring Collection

Sorry to those faithful readers who have missed our regular posts. We have just been so busy this spring with cars coming and going that we have not had a chance to write about them! Here is a quick snapshot of some new stuff that caught our eye....

No idea what anyone would do with this thing, other than to appreciate it from the safety of your computer monitor. American built, ex-military/fire service, aluminum coachwork. Big, Red, and Ungainly. At $5500, not very cheap, but probably close to scrap metal price. Love the dashboard, which seems to have more gauges than a battleship's wheelhouse. Marmon Herrington has built everything from semi tractors to tanks, and has a cult following. I guess I would not be surprised to see this in someone's heavy equipment collection.


Now this one is actually tempting. I am not sure why Traction Avants seemed to have survive in such relatively high numbers for Pre War Design/Post War Production European cars. It seems every period WWII film has a bevy of these cars running around in the background. They have great styling, lots of charm, and interesting details. This one seems like an honest project that the current owner has just tired of.

A colleague told us that the British are buying up MGAs and repatriating them in big numbers. I can't speak to that, but this would seem like a good candidate for that scenario. Its a driver, with a complete top assembly but needing paint.The price is not cheap, but I get the feeling a cash offer of up to $2000 less would not be ignored.

Assuming our negotiating skills would apply equally to this MG and we could knock $2000 off this price, we'd be money ahead on this car. Its a Texas car with an older restoration that seems to be holding up well. Fixed Head Coupes seem rarer than Roadsters and with the luggage rack it begs to tour. Its been for sale for awhile (at a fair price) so one has to think $10.5k would buy it.

Insufferably slow but wonderfully styled by Pietro Frua while at Carrozzeria Ghia this convertible Caravelle is a striking piece. This one is an estate sale needing the requisite brake work from long term storage. Black seems to suit the car well and the removable hardtop is a big bonus not found on the standard Caravelle Cabriolet. We really like this one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Be Lerch: 1957 Pontiac Hearse

Doesn't every town have a creepy guy who drives around in an old hearse? Maybe he owns a goth dance club. Or a used vinyl record store. No? Well, here is your chance to be that guy...

Truthfully, hearses represent an interesting and active sector of the automotive hobby known as "service vehicles". Most of these vehicles feature high-end custom coachwork from small, little known American custom coachbuilders. As such, it is important to find one that is complete, as some parts are just non-existent. Superior usually built most of the Pontiac coachs, which included ambulances, limos and airport livery vehicles.

This car has clearly started the transformation into something of a creepy street rod. We think that look has run it's course, and this car has elegant enough lines to warrant a restoration. An increasing number of funeral homes are showing interest in having classic livery service, and the cost of a restoration is probably cheap compared to the extravagant costs of a new service vehicle. Chalk the restoration up as a business expense.

Mini-Vette: 1970 Opel GT

Back in the 70's, the rap on the Opel GT was that they were the poor man's Corvette. The styling seemed directly derivative of the Mako Shark styled C3 Vettes, and poorly proportioned at that. Throw in some dashes of Ferrari GTO and you had the Opel GT.

Nowadays-given the mists of time- the cars design stands on its own. These are interesting little cars that are getting harder to come by. Rust has eaten most, and this one admits to a bit of corrosion.

This one seems set up how we would like it. Some attention has seemingly been given to making this one a rally/road racer. We love the yellow paint job and the chrome seems in good shape. Look for a 4 speed car and check for the rare limited slip differential.

One thing we would lose is the side pipes...again another nod to the early Corvettes. These cars should stand on their own. This would be a great car to see at any club event.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Magic Bullet: 1950 Hudson Pacemaker

This old Hudson satisfies two long held desires of ours: to own a Hudson, and to build a rat-rod.

When you think about collecting cars at its very core, it's about getting admission into different groups of enthusiasts. We'd love to have an interesting car to hang out with the the retro-gearhead, rockabilly crowd. This one fits the bill.

Maybe why Hudsons appeal to us is the high belt line, slab styled flanks and narrow glass. It seems very European. The cars appear chopped from the factory. Add to it that the car is a "step down"- meaning the floorboards are nestled in between the frame rails- and you have that ever-so-cool ergonomic.

We love the surface rust on this thing and wouldn't change a thing. We might even take more of the paint off and patina the car with a mild acid wash in spots. Faded door livery of some sort might be cool. The fact that it currently runs is no small feat, even if it just means that it can move on and off a trailer until it is thoroughly vetted.

Luckily the cars trim seems complete. The bumpers, grill and headlight trim seem intact. We would repaint the steel wheels and add new rubber, then go through the cars mechanical systems to make it a solid driver. Exhaust, brakes, suspension, charging system and drivetrain would need to be bulletproof. If the engine doesn't pan out, we have a 4-cam Maserati 4.9 motor that would be a trick combination.

But the best thing about having it would be not having to worry about scratching the paint. There is room in the garage for something like that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

More 70's Cop Cars: 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II

If every young American boy growing up in the 1970's wanted a white striped Ford Torino, then every young girl certainly wanted a Wimbledon White and Blue striped Cobra II- just like Farrah Fawcett drove on the girl-cop TV series "Charlies Angels". Whatever the case, it sure seems Ford-Lincoln-Mercury was very efficient in product placement back in those days.

The Cobra II was basically a trim package on a standard Mustang, which in fact was not a Mustang at all but a Ghia-rebodied Pinto chassis. An anemic 302 V-8 was optional but was strangled by emission standards of the day. The car was loaded with the blackout grilles, scoops, spoilers and stripes that marked most American "performance" cars of that lost decade.

Still, in hindsight the cars seem appropriate to the times. The fuel crisis was dictating smaller and cleaner cars, and Europe and Japan were responding with very competent offerings. The seemingly impossible task of bringing the classic Mustang into the next generation was gamely taken up by Ghia of Italy (by then owned by Ford). The deep front spoiler, small hood scoop and louvered quarter windows seem directly cribbed from the '65 Shelby. The paint scheme sealed the deal.

Ford sold a whole bunch of these Mustangs. But the Cobra II's fell into a group of "sticker-pack special" cars (like '78 Indy Pace Car Corvettes, 1978 Dodge Lil Red Pickup Trucks, etc) that guys put away thinking they would be future collectibles- which never really materialized. So there are some very decent cars out there for very reasonable money.

Here are two offerings, on the opposite ends of the spectrum:

This one is a bit of a project, but has a new (and hopefully uprated) 302 motor in what seems to be a fairly solid body. A previous ad for the car asked $2500 firm and admitted to some rust around the rear window. At this point you have to believe the seller will take any offer. Nothing is worse than a project that is clearly upside down- and unfinished.

If you don't fancy a project, this one seems complete and ready to go. It strikes me as one of the aforementioned "future appreciation" cars that were well kept in hopes of a payday that may never come. This one has been for sale for a long time. I think the seller might listen to a more realistic offer at this point. There is no foreseeable upside to these cars, but they have a kitschy charm and can be made to handle and run better nowadays then they could in period.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Starsky Redo X Deux: 1974 Ford Gran Torino

Longtime readers of this blog will undoubtedly remember a feature we did on The 1974 Ford Gran Torino and it's significance as a pop culture icon.

Not only have we stumbled on one- but two- replica Starsky and Hutch Torinos at prices that would make them impossible to duplicate.

I believe we have already used up enough virtual column space on the dubious attraction of these cars in our previous post, so we will refrain from it here. Again, these seem to have lost their cultural lustre here in the States but may find an oddly enthusiastic offshore audience.