Peak Hour Outtakes: The Americans

plymouth cranbrook

Let’s start today’s Peak Hour Outtake at the very start of one of my days. Instead of driving to the train, as I usually do, on this day I chose to take the bus to work. Having just woken up at 6:30am, I was still groggy as I walked to the bus stop around 20 minutes later. I tend to see the same cars around my neighborhood and so I was surprised when, looking up from my phone, I saw this unfamiliar Plymouth Cranbrook cruising in my direction.

It was going a steady clip so I scarcely had time to get this photo. Obviously, the black and red isn’t how it came from the factory; this color scheme seems to be popular with resto-modders. Black and red often makes classic cars look meaner and more aggressive but it doesn’t have this effect on the very upright, conservative Cranbrook.

cadillac cts 1

This may not seem especially exciting to North American Curbsiders but to those of us in Australia, a Cadillac CTS is a unicorn. It shouldn’t have been. This was the car that was to relaunch the Cadillac brand here but unfortunately its planned introduction coincided with the Global Financial Crisis. CTS sedans had already been loaded onto boats but they were instead redirected to Singapore for sale, and only a tiny handful ever actually reached Australian shores as gray imports.

cadillac cts 2

I was already fond of Cadillacs with the 1998-2004 Seville, became fascinated by the first Art & Science Cadillacs and then these 2008 CTSs really cemented my love of the brand. These are stunning cars inside and out, in my opinion, and managed to project a perfect harmony of aggressive American style and decadence with upscale quality and elegance. You will note the clear taillights: this is a hallmark of export Cadillacs as most Caddys do not contain amber rear turn signals that the rest of the world requires. This appears to be a highly-specified CTS, likely with the more powerful, direct-injected version of the 3.6 V6.

jeep wagoneer

These aren’t as common a sighting in Australia as they are in North America, which may seem surprising given Australia’s enduring love of four-wheel-drives. Go into the Australian outback and (so I hear), you will see myriad Toyotas and little else. In fact, Jeep was completely absent from the Australian market from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s; the Wagoneer, sold here as the Cherokee, was only offered from 1980 to 1984. The XJ Cherokee didn’t reach our shores until 1994!

studebaker hawk 2

After work one day, I was driving over to my Spanish class when I spied tail fins in the distance. I turned down a side street and captured this beautiful Studebaker Hawk. Studebakers are actually some of the more common American cars spotted in Australia; while the company was terminal, they made the decision to start local assembly from CKD kits in Australia. The Studebaker Car Club has a more detailed history of Stude’s Aussie operations here. Larks are more commonly spotted but at least a few hundred Hawks were sold here. I presume this Hawk owner – Hawker? – knew the owner of the Mopar it was following into a parking lot.

studebaker hawk 4

I decided not to follow the Hawk owner into the parking lot, sensing that would be perceived as a little stalker-ish. But what a stunning car! The basic ’53 Starlight shape was nicely adapted for the tail fin epoch. 
studebaker gran turismo hawk

Then, the 1960s came and Brooks Stevens was enlisted to modernize the Hawk. What an excellent job he did, giving it a very European radiator shell, a handsome Thunderbird-esque roofline and a markedly different rear end. My only issue with the redesign is the rear end: the trunk lid garnish is a bit gauche, while the rear bumper looks cheap. Still, Stevens didn’t exactly have General Motors money to spend and he did a fantastic job. What a shame that, by this point, Studebaker wasn’t long for this world.

The working week is drawing to a close. Tomorrow, we’ll look at two cars from the Commonwealth.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

Curbside Classic: 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk

Future Curbside Classic: 2010-14 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

CC Capsule: 1983-85 Jeep Grand Wagoneer