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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 09:37 am:   

Looking back over my past five months' worth of posts here, I see that a whole lot of it has been serious stuff, much of it of a downer nature. Not that I haven't had darn good reason to be posting this stuff. But, I believe in balance, and I'd like to get more readers pitching in their own comments on a whole variety of stuff, not just Katrina/devastated New Orleans/Stupid Government Tricks. I've long admired Lucius Shepard's football, boxing, and movie discussion threads and how dozens of loyal posters come back day after day to vent their spleens and share their wisdom(?). I'm not a big sports fan myself, so I thought I'd inaugurate a couple of discussion threads on the subjects of two of my favorite time wasters -- cars and comic books.

My inquiring mind wants to know: what are your favorite classic cars and trucks? Which cars did you drool over as a teenager? Which classic would you go out and buy if you won the Powerball Lottery? Which recent cars do you think would be fun to collect and own after they've depreciated for ten years or so?

One classic I'd love to own someday is a 1962-64 Studebaker Avanti coupe, preferably with the Paxton supercharger option installed. I'd even settle for an Avanti II, just as long as I could find one with the original-style round headlights, rather than the square headlights from the 1980s and 1990s which ruined the car's face. I've always thought that this car's lines are unique and really gorgeous. No other stylist has ever tried to duplicate what Raymond Loewy achieved with the Avanti, Studebaker's last hurrah.

My favorite vintage truck? Well, that would be a Ford Falcon Ranchero, any model from the 1960 up to the 1965 version (after that, the Rancheros were based on the midsized Fairlane and, while still attractive, lost much of their offbeat cuteness). When I was a senior in high school, down in North Miami, I came across a gorgeous 1964 Falcon Ranchero parked behind a Carvel Ice Cream stand. It had been recently restored, with a beautiful black paint job, nice chrome, and great looking bucket seats replacing what had probably been a vinyl bench. While I stood there admiring it, the owner walked out of the Carvel. We started talking, and I told him that I'd recently bought a 1975 Ranchero, but I liked his truck a whole lot better than mine. Then he slew me -- he told me he'd just bought his Ranchero for $2000!!! I nearly fell over backwards. Boy, what I wouldn't give to find a 1964 Ranchero, in that kind of shape, for that kind of money now (heck, you could even factor in inflation; I talked with this guy back in 1981).

What recent car do I think would be a fun buy ten years from now? Well, if I didn't have to think about carting around my kids, I'd love to get my hands on a copy of Ford's most recent version of the Thunderbird, the two-seater retro convertible model which recently went out of production after being on sale for just three years. The latest Thunderbird didn't sell all that well (obviously), and lots of car journalists thought it was too porky and too soft and didn't look nearly as nice as the mid-1950s originals. But the dang things really appeal to me, especially when painted in one of those 1950s Elvis shades, bright tourquoise or coral. I'm not going to be driving it around like it's a Corvette or 911, anyway, certainly not on the roads we have down here in South Louisiana. I just think it would be loads of fun to take Dara over to the rebuilt Mississippi Gulf Coast on a gorgeous spring day with the top down. . . ten years from now, when the boys are staying with their Nanna.

What car or truck would I buy to use as a rolling billboard to advertise my latest books? That's an easy one -- a Pontiac Aztek. Widely denounced and reviled as the most hideous American-made vehicle since the Edsel, these things are going to be dirt-cheap on the used car market. They're available in a wide variety of truly revolting colors, too, my favorite being the bright orange. Their tall, slab sides are perfect for mounting magnetized ads. Give it a few years and these rolling monstrosities will be real head-turners, as people out on the roads try to remember what the heck they were and who had the cajones to try to sell them. Not only that, they actually have very comfortable seats and spacious, utilitarian interiors (I know because my stepdad bought one. . . he's a big fan of ugly ties and weirdo vehicles).
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Minz
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 10:43 am:   

Can't go wrong with a Shelby GT350 (Mustang), circa '66 or so. Nosir.

Or a Corvette Stingray, circa '69

But for me, the piece de resistance is undoubtedly the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. It may not be American, but what a fine machine...

I haven't really paid attention to cars for fifteen-twenty years, which has been a great relief to my wife, since I haven't been bothering her with crazy requests to spend her hard-earned cash on some impractical but gorgeous machine.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 12:13 pm:   

Yeah, it's not too practical to own a personal auto in New York City. The prices on those classic muscle cars have gone totally insane the past few years. What used to be a somewhat affordable hobby for middle-class gear heads, fixing up those old Mustangs and Camaros and Barracudas, has now passed into the hands of the big money auctioneers. That's why I try to focus my car lusts on somewhat affordable models. . . the folks who like Falcon Rancheros really like them, but there aren't too many of them out there. . . and maybe that's a good thing??
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Deborah
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 08:52 pm:   

Dream Car...

http://www.musclecars.net/showcardetail.php?o=537&s=1

::sigh::

(When I was in grad school I built a model of this car as an antidote to final exams one semester. It helped. A lot.)
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 07:20 am:   

Jim and Deborah, thanks for coming to play in my sandbox! Deborah, that sure is a purty Barracuda. I'm betting that now DaimlerChrysler are a little pissed at themselves for throwing away the Plymouth brand, because with the reborn Mustang being such a hit and Chevy displaying a concept for a new Camaro, the best that DaimlerChrysler could pull out of their historical trick bag was a concept based on the 1970 Dodge Challenger:

http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=108756

It's a beautiful job, but I'm sure the marketing types would've much rather called this a Barracuda. The 'Cuda is a much more iconic name than Challenger ever was (I think Dodge only made Challengers from 1970 to 1974, not including those later cars that were rebadged Mitsubishis).

Another car from that era that I really like was the American Motors AMX. I think its styling was at least a decade or two ahead of its time. But the chances of that nameplate ever being revived are about as good as D.C. bringing back the Pacer.
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Deborah
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 09:23 am:   

Yeah, the Javelin and AMX were cool. My first car was a '74 GremlinX with the 3.2 litre straight six that was in a bunch of the AMCs and Ramblers back then. If you think about a six cylinder in a car that light...well...it was a cute little thing that got up and went.

I think your'e right about the Challenger-Cuda thing. There are plenty of folks my age who would probably be all over a new Cuda. I blush to confess that I might be one of them.



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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 07:23 am:   

Wasn't the original Barracuda somewhat famous/infamous for having a back seat that could be flipped down into a bed-type contrievance beneath that huge rear glass? I'm sure that not just a few members of my generation owe their conception to that little trick feature.

Javelins were beautiful cars, too, until A.M.C. restyled them with an extended nose and completely ruined the look. My mom had an A.M.C. Hornet Sportabout Wagon, bright yellow, for many years. Probably the most attractive vehicle in their stable at that point (the years of the Gremlins, Matadors, and Pacers. . . what a lineup!). She got about eight years good service out of that car. In the days before child safety restraints, she used to throw a bunch of blankets and pillows in the back before a long trip, and my little brother and sister and I would ride back there and play and nap to our hearts' content.
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Deborah
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 10:28 am:   

Yeah, that's true about the 'Cuda...it was also a feature of the old Rambler American.

I bought my Gremlin in '76 and drove it hard until it fell apart in '84, which, for those times, wasn't too bad at all. That's eight Ohio winters!

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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 10:33 am:   

Considering the Japanese makes' dreadful rusting problems in the 1970s, you probably did much better with your Gremlin than you would've done with a Datsun B210 or a Honda Civic from those same years. I always heard that the A.M.C. compacts, despite their small size, didn't get mileage any better than the largish mid-size cars of their day. What was your experience?
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Minz
Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 09:40 am:   

my first car was affectionately known as HB (short for Hulking Behemoth). It was the handmedown family car: 1972 98 Olds. Had the 454 Oldsmobile "Rocket" engine (4 barrel, of course), and while it wasn't nimble enough to beat out some of the smaller cars in the quarter-mile (a friend of mine had a mint 72 Nova that could beat me regularly in the quarter), give me a halfmile and I'd own 'em all.

So much of my high school life revolved around good ol' HB
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 09:56 am:   

I miss Oldsmobile. I really do. I think General Motors made a big mistake in killing that division and giving the finger to all the Olds loyalists. My father and my grandfather were both big fans of the make. One of my favorite cars during my high school years was the 1969 Olds Cutlass convertible owned by one of my best friends. . . wow, what a car! I also liked some of the more recent Olds models, particularly the first generation Aurora (and the second generation model wasn't bad, either). Good thing you had a 1972 Olds to drive in high school rather than a 1974 or later model. . . from '74 to the mid-1980s, pollution controls killed the power of those big V-8s, resulting in what I called "boat anchors," big hulking motors that got crappy mileage but which couldn't get out of their own way. The 351 Windsor motor in my 1975 Ford Ranchero was a good example of the breed. No laying down twenty feet of rubber with that car!

Hey, hope you get over your flu soon, Jim. Take care!
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Maury Feinsilber
Posted on Sunday, February 19, 2006 - 11:44 pm:   

Well, it seems that I won't have too much competition in my fantasy purchase of a couple of Corvairs -- one pre '65 because they have so much character, and the other one being the Spyder model with the turbocharger, post '65 as they're rather cool looking.

Now, as for a contemporary car...er, a hemi MiniCooper???

Okay, a sort of contempory car, for those of us, like yours truly, who are temporally challenged -- the re-issued Impala SS from around '94. VERY cool car. Truly understated.

And, since we're at it, I sure wouldn't mind something like an old '61 SS with the 409... Or how about a '65 GTO with the 389 and six-pack???

One day...
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, February 20, 2006 - 06:58 am:   

Well, I understand that a certain someone has a wedding coming up. . . perhaps put a Corvair or a GTO on the gift registry? I'll bet eBay has a gift registry service now, and, as we both well know, one can buy ANYTHING on eBay. . .

Speaking of that special occassion, as soon as Mr. Feinsilber decides on a date with his lovely bride-to-be, I'll be purchasing an Air Tran ticket to get my heiney up there to Brooklyn for the big event. Rumor has it that the nuptials will take place sometime in April, so I should have a really nice opportunity to see lots of my NYC friends fairly soon.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, February 20, 2006 - 07:21 am:   

Oh, yeah, I'm a fan of the mid-1990s Chevy Impala, too. It was a terrible car in standard trim (as the Caprice), but painting it all black, putting big wheels on it, giving it bucket seats, and (especially) dropping the Corvette's motor in the engine bay gave it so much character. I wish Mercury could've done a better job with transforming the Grand Marquis (a much better car than the Caprice, by the way -- my wife Dara simply adored hers) into the Maurader. From the reviews I read, the problem was that they put a high-revving OHC V-8 in it that, in comparison with similarly-sized GM engines, lacked low-end torque. The whole point of a car like that is low-end torque, and given the fact that a standard V-6 Altima or Accord could beat the Maurader from 0-60, the Maurader was a big miss with its target audience. But they only produced it for a couple of years; I'm sure that if FoMoCo had given that car a little more leash, they could've found the right parts in their corporate parts bin to make the car feel right. It certainly looked good. Heck, even with its lack of low-end torque, I'd still put it on my list of interesting late-model used cars, especially given that the basic car was so enjoyable to drive.

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