Car Show Classic: The Rock Island Arsenal is Celebrating 150 Years, So Why Not Have a Car Show?

A few weeks back, the Rock Island Arsenal, located on Arsenal Island in the middle of the Mississippi River, celebrated its 150th anniversary and invited the public. Events included live USO shows, open houses at the factories, bus tours of the island, and (you knew this was coming) a car show. Let’s see what’s around…

The first car that caught my eye was this ’87 or ’88 Coupe de Ville. I was a little hard on these in my ’88 CDV post, but I have to admit the 1985-88 FWD Cadillacs are rather nice–as long as they have the 1988-only 4.5-liter V8 instead of the HT4100. This one was mint.

The interior, too, was cherry. No wear on the leather steering wheel, driver’s seat or door armrest. It must have been garaged and carefully maintained since new. I’ve driven several of the subsequent 1989-93 Sedan de Villes, and they had very nice interiors that were nearly identical to this one. While the 1985-88 Cadillacs may have been a visual letdown compared with the more-classically styled 1980-1984 models, I can tell you that they rode very well.

This mildly customized 1960 Olds Super 88 looked pretty good. It was a really hot day, temperatures probably hovering around 95-100 degrees. I thought that gigantic can of pop in the background was a mirage, but it came though in the picture. You do see it, right? Right??

All the 1960 standard-size GM models got smoother, less kitschy sheetmetal and trim and, in most cases, their looks were improved. As much as I like the ’59 Oldsmobiles, this one has a much more cohesive design.

This gunmetal gray 1970 Ford XL convertible was also quite nice. In 1970, the XL was the only full-size Ford drop-top available, and it and the Sports Roof two-door hardtop comprised the entire XL series. In 1971 the XL was gone; an LTD convertible filled the XL convertible’s spot until 1972.

What I liked about this car was the custom round gauges. I spoke with the owner, who had installed them himself. The radio has been moved inside the glove compartment from its original position left of the steering wheel. Of course, I am also a fan of the white interior. Black interiors and top-down cruising just don’t mix in the summertime–too hot!

The owner,  an Ohio resident before he was was assigned to the Arsenal, was very happy to talk about his car.  This XL came from California and thus was a very easy restoration. A very nice re-do of a rare convertible, one of just 6,348 built for 1970.

Less rare, but in uncommonly good shape, was this 1985-87 Lincoln Town Car, a non-Signature Series model judging from the full vinyl roof and standard wheel covers. I have always really liked those wheel covers, but they weren’t seen much, as most Townie buyers splurged for wire wheel covers, lacy-spoke alloys, or turbine-spoke alloys.

And look–an interior that isn’t black, gray or beige! Befitting a true luxury car, there were several colors available on these Town Cars, including this burgundy; navy blue; titanium (medium gray); black; taupe; beige; and even white (available in leather only, for obvious reasons). In 1985, Cartier models got a two-tone white- and-dove gray interior with dark red piping. Obviously, interior choices were once pretty extensive.

I have always liked these cars and remember when they were new. To me, they are the quintessential luxury car, spacious, comfortable and classy. I especially liked the ones with genuine wire wheels, but Town Cars fitted with them were pretty few and far between.

Here’s a nice ’70 Challenger in what appears to be non-factory Candy Apple Red. I’ve always slightly preferred these Challengers to the corresponding ‘cudas, although my brother respectfully disagrees! These might have lasted past ’74 if the Duster 340 hadn’t offered more bang for the buck.

The hi-po Dusters may have offered similar performance for less money when compared to the E-bodies, but the Challenger and ‘cuda did do one thing better: They were sportier and more attractive looking, at least to me. Plus, no one could get a 383, 440 or 426 Hemi in an A-body – at least, not new from the factory. In the end, the Challenger had the last laugh, with Plymouth gone and Challengers back.

What I found really interesting about this Challenger was its bench seat and column-shifted automatic. I have only seen one other E-body with a bench: a ’70 Hemi Cuda, in Limelight, at the Blackhawk College car show back in ’98 or ’99. This may be a case of a whitewalled, mint green, little old lady-owned 318 Challenger getting the full Year One treatment but still, why not also add buckets and a console? Could this be the way the car was originally equipped? In any case, I like the bench seat.

And here, behind the Challenger, we can see what appears to be a ’69 Camaro–the one car you’ll see at EVERY car show, cruise-in or Labor Day parade, and I didn’t even notice it at first. This one, however, was worth a second look.

First of all, it was not modded, pro-streeted, or otherwise turned into a modern car in a 1969 Camaro suit. No 18-inch wheels, rubber-band tires, or full-cage interior, either. And what a color combination! Daytona Yellow with a white (not black!) interior. And not just ANY white interior…

Yes, this car had the houndstooth inserts to go with that white vinyl. Very sharp. I think the yellow paint, black stripes and white interior may be the best color combination on these cars. It just looked great.

It’s nice to see that some folks don’t feel the need to modify their classics. Hey, if modifying floats your boat, great, but I much prefer the original factory look.

You can tell why Chevrolet used this car, albeit in greatly exaggerated form, for the new Camaro. It just looks good. This 1969 model has the new one beat in glass area though.

I was reaching the end of the show field at this point, but I had to check out this very sharp, bottle-green 1968-69 Riviera – in GS trim, no less. Buick’s chrome Rally wheels really made this car – what a great wheel design.

The interior was fitted out appropriately for a GS – Strato bucket seats, center console and U-shaped shifter. Even though all Rivieras of this vintage should have bucket seats, a bench seat was available. With the bench, the interior didn’t look much different from a LeSabre or Electra sedan. You’ve gotta have the buckets!

This car was Bill Mitchell at his best. This car looks especially dashing in profile: smooth, clean and distinctive.

I have no idea why Buick thought the giant chrome sweepspear and fender skirts added to the 1970 model constituted an improvement. Giving in to the Great Brougham Epoch, perhaps?

Here’s a car for you flathead Ford V8 fans. This 1940 Tudor was really neat. I love seeing these in non-hot rodded form. They looked great right out of the factory.

The interior was as originally equipped too. The owner had placed vintage ads and pamphlets on the seat too. Just ignore the sunglasses, they are not a period item!

Although I was ready to head back to my car, this FE3 Panther Pink Duster 340 could not be ignored. As you might have guessed, most guys buying new muscle cars in 1970 didn’t want a pink car, so Mopars in this hue are rare – and highly valued – by today’s collectors. You can tell this one is a 1970 from the “frog’s legs” Plymouth emblem on the grille. The 1971 versions lost the emblem and gained (at least base models did) the cool “salt shaker” wheel covers.

I have seen this car many times before, and it is in mint condition. Here’s a little known fact: In 1970 only, Dusters were called Valiant Dusters. Perhaps Mopar, unsure about the car’s success, was hedging its bets; in any case, sales took off and the car became simply “Duster” in 1971.

I spotted this neat utility vehicle on my walk back. I have no idea what it is, but it had a Minneapolis-Moline logo on the sides of the hood. I bet Ed Stembridge could use this around the farm!

If anyone knows more about this doodlebug, I’d love to hear it. It was pretty cool.

I also checked out the Arsenal Museum (it’s air conditioned, which is a key factor for visitors) and took a self-guided tour of Quarters One, a very neat mansion that used to be home to the Commander of the Arsenal but now is vacant and used only for tours and special events. Unfortunately, my memory card was full but there’s a picture of it in my Boat And Talk post. The Arsenal is a very neat place, and I’m glad they decided to celebrate with the rest of the Quad Cities. All in all, it was a nice little car show. Let’s close with this vintage helicopter: