As the maintenance and repair schedule of my six-car antique fleet approaches the rigors and requirements of a full-time job, I somehow find it therapeutic to imagine myself trading in my troubles for others. Even on days when my patience is tested to its maximum capacity by low-quality replacement parts or phantom gremlins, staying away from the satisfying elixir of antique vehicle sights, smells, and sounds is an impossibility. Therefore, the local cruise night one town over recently offered some welcome distractions from my world of clacking lifters, chattering clutches, and wallowed-out throttle shaft bores. Care to join me for a themeless jaunt?
Local Michigan cruise nights are overwhelmingly populated by your typical jacked-up Blazers, Camaros, Chevelle SS clones, Novas, Mustangs, and candy-colored “wallet rods,” so I tend to flock to the slower stuff, the oddballs, and the beaters. I’m not sure this ’34 Ford pickup falls into any of those categories, but it was one of my favorites just the same.
This photograph sums the truck up for me: a flathead peeking out through a row of louvers, topped by an emblem that’s too cool for a 21st century world.
Trucks from the 1930s were not built for the long of leg or the wide of girth, but if you can fit, you’ll find no dashboard distractions to steal your attention from the intended purpose: keeping a leaf-sprung mechanical-braked beast between the lines.
This ’68 Buick Wildcat, on the other hand, offers no such compromises in seating or legroom. Ostensibly powered by a Buick 430, perhaps no car is better suited for a freeway cruise, or a local car cruise.
Buicks usually had wide benches and few gauges, so the owner installed his own set under the dash. General Motors idiot lights for engine temperature usually didn’t switch on until the engine reached 248 degrees, so that’s a forgivable transgression in an otherwise stock Buick. Of course, as any old car owner knows, if you have gauges, you will watch them, and you will worry when there’s nothing to worry about.
This ’65 Dodge Coronet 500 convertible seems worlds away from the expansive Buick. Even though its appearance is mostly stock, its owner has installed the obligatory Torq-Thrusts and given the Coronet a touch of rake. I’m not sure you can crank the torsion bars down quite that far, so this one may have some spindle tricks up its sleeve, but either way, it’s a nice look without being overpoweringly juvenile.
Bucket seats and a console reinforce the exterior’s sportiness.
As do its just barely tasteful chromed exhaust tips. Thank God it’s not red; red would have been too much on this particular car. In this case, the muted tone makes the Coronet one of my favorites of the day.
This one, however, was probably my favorite. It’s a chalky, beaten up ’61 Galaxie two-door sedan, probably 292 propelled. Inside, it almost certainly smells like all original old cars smell, a smell that should destroy my ridiculous mold allergies, but almost never actually does.
The period Goldwater bumper sticker adds some period correctness, and even if you identify more with the political opposition, there’s no denying that it adds a touch of authenticity to a car that looks like it’s been sitting in a garage since Goldwater’s loss to Johnson.
This Galaxie seems to have the old two-speed Fordomatic, which certainly doesn’t shift as often as a three-speed. Black and red is an iconic color combination, one of the best of the sixties, even when the paint is chalky. I love this car and I want to buy it. Fortunately, it’s not for sale.
Another striking color combination from the old days is red on red, although it may be an acquired taste (my wife thinks our ’74 Firebird is WAY too red). C3 Corvettes normally do nothing for me, but this ’70 looked great (which seems like a hypocritical thing to say considering my comment on the Coronet above).
I think I may be almost alone in this opinion, but these are among my favorite wheel covers, and the owner was in the correct minority in leaving them on.
A four-speed would be my preference, but I’m sure that by 1970, many Corvettes were equipped with a Turbo-Hydramatic for those who wanted the look but not the “leg busting in traffic” inconvenience of a manual. Anyone know what year automatics outpaced manuals in Corvettes?
A more sedate 1970 Chevrolet showed up in the form of this 307 Malibu, one of perhaps one in existence that doesn’t wear a reproduction SS badge somewhere. Other than a set of rally wheels, it looks stock, and reminds me of one of my few car-related regrets. In 2003 or so, I saw a 307 Malibu hardtop in this color on the side of a country road for sale for $3400. It was almost as nice as this one, and I didn’t buy it. Although a ’70 Chevelle is a little too popular for my true tastes, it’s a great-looking car that will almost literally never depreciate in our lifetimes. What a missed opportunity!
Another car that’s escaped my clutches is the Mercury Comet, and this ’63 S-22 was the unfortunate victim of some of my awkward ogling.
In the ’50s and ’60s, even cars that weren’t conventionally handsome were intricately detailed, as evidenced by this elaborate emblem, tail panel, and these triple jet-exhaust emulators.
The last of my hard-core automotive crushes on this particular evening was this ’65 T-Bird convertible with the uncommon rear-seat tonneau cover. It’s not a Sports Roadster, but it looks like one.
With the cover, Ford created one of the longest rear decks in automotive history. But those sequential taillights! I’m in love again.
As your mother always told you, however, you gotta go home with the girl that took you to the dance, and “Big Blue” is my girl. So, like the flying saucer she looks like, we glided down the highway at a fifties appropriate 63 miles per hour, to a home where some fresh hell certainly awaits me in the garage. But it’s always nice to dream, even if those dreams are only a temporary respite from wrench turning reality.