Car Show Outtakes: Nocturne in Brown and Gold: Falling Rockets (and other Things)

9-22-13 017

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing…

–Percy Bysshe Shelley “from ‘Ode to the West Wind'”

The west wind and blustery cold have laid waste to much of the colorful cornucopia known as autumn, but the colors have seared themselves into our lasting memories.  In an homage to the passing season, let us appreciate some golds and browns courtesy of our favorite mechanical conveyances.

9-9-12 015

Our lead car needs no introduction, as the stunning Avanti has weaseled its grille-less facade into the hearts of autophiles from Ian Fleming to me.  Its subtle rake and raspy exhaust beckon one to its aircraft inspired instrument cluster for a meandering cruise down leaf-covered country roads.

This November nugget, however, may not be so transparent: a 1972 Bel Air with “400” fender badges.  If my memory is correct, the “400” in full-size Chevrolets denoted either the “small-block” Turbo-Fire, or the “big-block” Turbo-Jet (which actually displaced 402 cubic inches).  I wonder with which this sedan was born.  A big-block Bel Air sedan fills the mind with misanthropic menace, but reality calls for a more mellow mouse motor.


Of course, Chevrolet’s traditional rival for hard-earned currency was the Ford Division of Ford Motor Company. Laying down some green for gold was the owner of this 1969 Ford XL, which now effects an Avanti-copying stance that reeks of paint-by-numbers forgery, foregoing the grace of the original.  Thankfully, subtle customization doesn’t ruin the handsome lines of the Ford, its autumnal hue worn with grace.  According to the original brochures, the XL could practically move mountains with its newly available 429, but I caught it in a quiet hour.

9-9-12 016

Rounding out the Big Three in this fall requiem is this stylish 1967 Chrysler Newport, which, like the ’69 Ford above, wears a onyx crown on its expansive pate.  This Chrysler is likely powered by the robust and mighty Chrysler 383, one of many American V8s that announces its arrival with a distinctive burble that the trained ear cannot help but identify.  Under a spectacular blue sky, this Newport can only hint at the biting cold and hibernation to come.

9-9-12 025

Oh, why not?  The last of the big Ford convertibles was the 1972 LTD.  Its Edsel-like nose confounds me, as if Ford (in its efforts to plagiarize Pontiac) didn’t learn its expensive lesson the first time, but this model’s Achilles’ heel was truly its Alka-Seltzer body structure. According to people who were there, these pachyderms rusted dramatically in only a few seasons.  I do know, however, that there are fans in the audience of these controversial bruisers, so enjoy the top down, top-of-the-line LTD while ye may.

As an aside, the turbine hubcaps are perfectly suited for this vehicle.  Thankfully, the owner decided to keep them.

7-16-12 007

How about a personal favorite–the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado?  In this case, brown may be the least desirable dye, but if ever a car could overcome its choice of color, this chocolate brown Caddy can.  At the very least, Chuck Jordan and Bill Mitchell’s timeless design and the original owner’s prescience ensured that this Eldorado looked fresh well into the ensuing decade, but gold may have been more appropriate for a car whose nomenclature is derived from the golden city.

GM Heritage Center 2011 065

Finally, my Whistler-themed title promised rockets, and I’m in no mood to disappoint.  This turbocharged 1963 Jetfire’s rocket-happy themes and ground-breaking (if not quite ready for prime-time) turbocharged aluminum V8 are perfect for conveying an unprepared world into the coldest of all seasons.  Bundle up out there, and allow the west wind to blow your blues away.