This past Friday I took a vacation day off from work to renew my license at the Department Of Motor Vehicles. Nothing serious- just a new thumbprint and photo, as well as a vision test. With the rest of my day free afterwards, I decided to take care of some other personal business. That’s when I chanced upon two aged beauties, just 2 miles and 10 minutes apart.
After leaving the DMV I headed to Frio Automotive, a small independent shop in Westchester, Ca., to get my daily driver ’95 Lexus smogged. For many years, Frio’s has been my official “go to” shop for handling vehicle repairs that I myself am too lazy, tired, insufficiently skilled, or strapped for time to deal with. In the past they’ve done many repairs on my Lexus, including the dreaded timing belt / tensioner / water pump replacement. They do excellent work and charge very fair prices, and I highly recommend them to anyone. The manager, Mike, and the service writer, Cliff, are great guys who really know their stuff.
My history with Frio and its senior staff goes back nearly three decades. When I started taking automotive repair classes at El Camino College in the winter of 1987, I met the guy who would eventually become my best bud, also named Chris. He worked at Frio’s old location, a Chevron station on La Tijera next to the 405, as the nighttime cashier and occasional mechanic.
Me and several of our other mutual friends would occasionally drop by and shoot the breeze with Chris, Mike, Cliff, and whoever else happened to be on duty. My dad also knows Cliff from another Chevron station he worked at many years before, where my dad was a frequent customer.
The old garage was demolished and the property remodeled a long time ago. It’s still a Chevron station, still owned by the same family, but now sports a mini-market with a Wendy’s restaurant inside.
The smog check was a washout due to Mike’s only smog technician quitting and moving out of the country just days earlier, but I did get to thoroughly examine this gorgeous ’73 Dodge Charger SE. When Mike saw me snapping pics, he nicely allowed me to take pics of the inside and under the hood as well. For a long time I never cared for this generation of Charger at all, but in recent years they’ve grown on me.
The owner is a longtime customer of Frio’s, and has owned this brown beauty for many years. I’ve seen this car here before, but never really got to check it out until now. On the day I snapped these pics, one of Frio’s mechanics had just finished installing a four barrel manifold on the car’s swapped-in 340, replacing the two-barrel that it wore for many years.
By 1973, Dodge’s legendary musclecar had moved firmly into Brougham territory. The top-of-the-line SE model took it to an even further extent, as demonstrated by this plush interior. Rich-looking seat upholstery complete with button tufting, generous amounts of woodgrain trim, a full vinyl roof, and the unique triple opera windows make this Charger seem more like a downsized Imperial than a psuedo-musclecar. I have to admit that it does look rather comfy in there, even if a bit dark.
Another nice touch are these fiber optic turn signal indicators. I never even knew that those were available on these cars, until I saw this one. You learn something new every day, I guess.
The heart of the beast- 340 cubic inches’ worth of small block Mopar topped with an Edelbrock intake and big Holley four barrel. I don’t know the engine’s specs, but if it goes as good as it looks, this is the view you’re most likely to see if you challenge it:
This generation of Charger pales in comparison to its swoopy and menacing-looking predecessor, but standing on its own, it’s not that bad. I certainly wouldn’t kick one out of my driveway. With the right color combination, they can look quite handsome as long as you keep the JC Whitney / Fast And Furious crowd away from them. I hope this one gives its owner many more years of driving enjoyment.
And now for something completely different, we move from America’s heartland to the balmy Mediterranean- car wise, that is. After arriving at my backup smog place, I spied this sexy Italian at the small repair shop next door. Like all aging sex goddesses, this one needed to have a bit of work done, as evidenced by the multiple fender covers and missing front decklid.
The mechanic on duty explained that the owner of this 1978 Ferrari 308GTS had just recently moved from Florida and brought the car with him. He’s owned it for many years and it was in the shop receiving extensive repairs including a new radiator, brake master cylinder, pads, calipers, and other stuff. He said just finding replacement parts for these cars can be a real challenge, never mind the cost when you do find them.
From a distance it doesn’t look too bad, but up close you can tell that this particular Ferrari’s existence has been less than pampered:
That little bit of rot isn’t terrible, but it does make one wonder what more is lurking beneath the shiny black paint and in the dark, hidden crevices of the bodywork.
Another sign of a rather hard life is this car’s interior, which has clearly seen better days. Note the severely cracked and worn leather upholstery, the aftermarket ignition switch crudely mounted to the center console, and the control stalk for the aftermarket radio. Also note the fire extinguisher- a wise addition when you consider how mid-engine Italian sports cars often have a tendency to spontaneously combust.
I have to admit being slightly taken aback by how small the stock rollers are on this car. 14 inches??? Even the lowly Volkswagen Beetle of that era rides on bigger wheels than that.
Overall, the car isn’t in that bad a shape and has a lot of potential. The fact that it is being fixed, as well as the old Florida “ANTIQUE” plates, indicates an owner who knows what he has and is trying to bring the car back to its former glory. I wish him the best of luck. Living with a sex symbol is never easy.