There are some cars you expect to see at a museum or a classic car show. Mustangs. Rolls-Royces. Ferraris. Then, there are cars that come completely out of left field and bowl you over with their presence. It’s not a The East Glows, but this 1974 Hongqi CA-770 limousine was a delightful surprise to encounter. I’m not sure how it got all the way from China to Las Vegas, but kudos to the wealthy soul who organized its display in The LINQ Casino. It may well be the most surprising model on display, but there’s certainly plenty of competition for that title at this Nevadan gem.
I’m not quite ready to move on from this fascinating Far East limousine, though. If you didn’t already know this was a limousine built for Communist officials, FAW (owners of the Hongqi marque) sure drove the point home. First of all, there’s the name: it literally means “red flag”. You’ll note the flags mounted on the front bumpers, as well as these cute flag badges on the fenders…
…as well as this retro hood ornament which is ostensibly a flag, and brings to mind 1950s American hood ornaments.
If it’s a glorious hood ornament you are after, though, check out this graceful swan atop the hood of a 1949 Packard Super Eight Deluxe Convertible Victoria. As for that name, what a mouthful!
The height of that hood ornament is astounding, as is the height of that belt line! And you thought modern cars were bad? Sadly, this Packard was built towards the start of the erstwhile luxury marque’s precipitous decline from ultra-luxury desirability to mid-priced mediocrity.
If excellent visibility is what you’re after, could I interest you in a 1936 BMW 319? It’s fascinating to look at how far BMW has come over the past several decades. Even the smallest BMW today dwarfs this.
If you wanted more luxury from a 1930s German car, perhaps this 1939 Horch 930V Phaeton is more suitable. Pictures cannot accurately capture how gorgeous and imposing this was in person. This was apparently 1 of only 3 built, of which just 2 survive.
This Cadillac Series 75 Brunn Town Car was built just a year later. This was the last Brunn custom-built Town Car, and was built for Ohio industrialist Elroy J. Kulas.
While I question Mr. Kulas’ taste in color schemes – really, yellow accenting on a black limousine? – I can’t argue with how luxurious this looks. Look at that headroom!
This 1939 Chrysler Royal is worth a dollar. Well, that’s what Johnny Carson sold it to the Imperial Place Casino for in 1994, but he definitely spent a lot of time and money on it before that. This was the car young Johnny learned how to drive in and in which he drove his date to the prom. Years later, he tracked it down and restored it before making his generous donation. An adjacent display was playing Johnny Carson segments on a loop, including one of his hilarious Ronald Reagan sketches.
Speaking of Presidents, there were plenty of Presidential limos on display. This 1960 Lincoln Continental was used to chauffeur President John F. Kennedy; the black helps disguise the fussier detailing of these big Lincolns.
Still, the Elwood Engel-penned 1961 Continental looks like an Armani suit next to the 1959’s Seersucker. This white convertible drove the Kennedys to the airport for their trip to Dallas, which ended in tragedy.
These Engel Continentals are truly some of the most beautiful American cars ever made. Everything about the design just seems right.
There’s also not a bad line to be found on this 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale. Just 1,400 of these sport coupes were made, and their 1,570cc, 112 hp, four-cylinder engine was capable of reaching 120mph. Earlier, less powerful models bore the Giulietta nameplate.
They could call it whatever they liked with those achingly beautiful lines!
It was great to see one of the 275 Jaguar XJ220s produced. The upcoming 2016 Ford GT has a turbocharged, midship-mounted 3.5 V6, but the XJ220 did that all the way back in 1992. The difference, of course, was that power was sent to all four wheels.
These held the record for fastest production car for just one year, when the McLaren F1 came along and stole its thunder.
Another surprise of the show was this Panhard Dyna Z. Surprisingly spacious, these seated six in relative comfort. The quirky French brand was an early adopter of aluminum construction, but the costs of using that metal extensively proved to be prohibitive and the Dyna Z gradually added more and more steel.
Interestingly, these used a two-cylinder boxer engine offering 42 (later 50) horsepower. These were sold in the US, but weren’t particularly successful; the increasingly popular VW Beetle undercut them on price.
Speaking of Punchbugs, this ’73
Super Beetle caught my eye. I usually don’t give old Beetles a second glance because they are one of the most ubiquitous classic cars out there – to the point where I knew many girls in high school who ordinarily wouldn’t want a classic car, but insisted they wanted to buy an old Bug – but this example just looked so cute and friendly with its vacation essentials packed.
You saw a bug, now here are two pugs. Given Paul’s penchant for Peugeots, he may appreciate this
304 204 and 505 duo. The 505’s interior was absolutely immaculate, and its leather trim looked buttery soft.
Here’s another French connection: a DeLorean DMC-12. The French connection is, of course, the PRV V6. Such a fascinating car: designed for an American company by an Italian and built in Ireland using a French engine. One wonders, though, if these would have faded into relative obscurity – like the Bricklin SV1 – were it not for a certain action/comedy/sci-fi trilogy.
Although I missed them by a year, the 1980s were pretty darn cool in a perverse way. Big hair. Shoulder pads. Synthesisers. Dynasty. And, on cars, rear window louvers and big, multi-segmented tail lights. Don’t forget the digital instruments, either! From what I’m aware, though, DeLoreans missed out on that last gimmick.
But maybe you pine not for the 1980s’ style of modernity, but instead for the excess of the 1970s. I can scarcely think of something more excessive from the decade of disco than this Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. This is a 1978 model, the last of the big Eldos, and is fully-loaded. Why have grey striped velour and black plastic when you can have button-tufted, white leather and woodgrain trim?
This is the vehicular equivalent of a polyester leisure suit. I like 1970s style and I love Cadillacs, but this is just too much for me.
Maybe 1950s style is more to your taste. Sure, sometimes it could be excessive – poodle skirts on women and continental kits on cars, for example – but when it was done right, it was very appealing. 1950s American cars used more chrome and more colors than in seemingly any other decade, and yet it often came together so nicely. I generally loathe pink, not because it is a “girl’s color” but because it’s just not my cup of tea, but this DeSoto Fireflite in two-tone pink (with matching pink upholstery, natch) is just gorgeous. It also wears this soft color much more convincingly than my last LINQ article’s Rose Mist Impala SS.
Speaking of Mopar droptops, let’s end this article with two letter-series 300 convertibles. The first is a 1957 300C that occupies pride of place in the middle of the room when you first enter Auto Collections.
The rear three-quarter angle is the best vantage point for the 300C. With their bluff front end, these weren’t as beautiful as the stunning 300B, but the 300C marked the first availability of a 300 convertible.
Beautiful is again a word I would be hesitant to use to describe the front of the 1964 300K. Purposeful, maybe.
Something about these 1963-64 Chryslers appeals to me, though, particularly in the rear flanks. These intervening years, between the goofy excesses of early ’60s Mopar products (which I love, for the most part) and the extremely angular and crisp mid-’60s models, often seem to be overlooked. To me, though, they look almost ahead of their time. Am I crazy, or could you see something with this rear end selling in the early 1970s?
Auto Collections is a large exhibit, and I have left quite a few vehicles out of my photo tour. The only way to remedy this error is for you to go visit there, pay the paltry $14 or so, and enjoy one of the most exciting and diverse permanent collections of vehicles in North America.