Curbside Clueless: See The USA, In A Crown Victoria, a reader from Switzerland writes:

This sounds like the right place to get some feedback on a crazy idea I’ve been toying with for some years. You could call it the Coast-to-Coast Classic (CCC).

As some of you may have seen form my posts, I am based in Europe, Switzerland to be precise. However, my wife and I have quite a few friends and relatives in various places in the US, notably Oregon, Los Angeles, Arizona, Texas (DFW area) and NYC and have long-standing plans to visit them all. Also, we’d like to take our kids (currently aged 5 and 6) along and stop in Orlando and other kid-friendly places along the way.

Now to the CCC part of this pipe dream. Any sane person would probably tell me to fly and rent cars locally but I have a different idea: I’d like to buy a nice, solid CC on the West Coast and drive it all the way to NYC (possibly even up to Maine) on as many scenic routes as possible and, before returning home, leave my now CCC in the hands of an East Coast enthusiast.

Must-haves of the prospective CCC: Good reliability and low-cost fixability even in remote areas, seating for four in comfort for long-distance traveling, AC or the equivalent in fresh air, sufficient trunk space, good visibility from all seats, purchase price of max. $6000, distinctive/popular enough to be re-sold easily and quickly on the East Coast.

Nice to have: Memorable driving experience, V8 grunt or equivalent, decent full economy, rear seat belts.

What’s the collective wisdom on this? Which car should I choose? is it doable at all? Can I get a car registered and insured in my name as a foreign resident?

Great topic to get this feature started. Ok we’ll get this out of the way at the top Panther, Panther, Panther. Now that that’s over. If you do this right you can possibly eliminate or at least greatly reduce your cost vs renting a car and the intermediate flights.

Many years ago a friend of mine who had moved to Australia and found himself married. So a trip to the US to see family and friends was in order. The difference here is that his parents still lived in the US, but they had retired to Arizona. His dad found a nice low mile 80’s Olds Ninety Eight. He, his wife and a couple of friends used it for over a month to travel the western US. Before leaving his dad had a mechanic to a complete inspection and servicing and drove it around for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure how it turned out cost wise as I know his dad liked the car and wasn’t in a rush to sell it. He fell in love with driving a proper American car so much that he ended up picking up himself up an 1st gen Aero Town Car within a year.

The Aero Panther is really a excellent choice in this case. It is the last car produced that can trace its heritige directly back to the era of many of the cars we admire here. Despite what others may say it is not the wallowing ill handling beast of yore. Especially when equipped with the HPP package a Panther loves to get out on the open road and run at extra legal speeds for hours on end. Back in the day of the R&P (reasonable & prudent) speed laws in Montana I took a couple of different Panthers across it cruising at 95 MPH most of the time, in up to 100 degree (Fahrenheit) weather while averaging 26.5 MPG (us gallon). So you can get modern items like FI, OD, ABS, Traction Control, Air Bags, Child safety rear door locks for a safety, with reasonable MPG, while experiencing some of the Curbside Classic flavor.

Now if you really need to feel something a little older, the two Boxes either a B or a Panther would be my next choice. More of the Curbside Classic float but still available with FI and OD in the later years for best driveablity and MPG. Parts for the B’s and Panthers are available everywhere in the US as is someone familiar with working on them. You’ll be giving up some of the modern safety items though.

Now if none of the Neo Curbside Classics will do and you want a True Curbside Classic I’d have to suggest most late 60s GM A and B bodies. The plus with the GM is the parts availability particularly with the Chevy models and the ease of selling it when you are done, also a little better with the Chevy models. As I’ve documented here, before my taste runs to the Buick,s and I’d take a 69 LeSabre with the 350. MPG will run around 15 and be similar with any of the “350/350” power trains offered in Chev, Pontiac, Olds and Buicks of the era and not really vary much between the intermediates and full size. You really want to get one late enough that it has the turbo 350 or turbo 400 trans. Again because of availability of used units and guys that have the parts on the shelf and can have it torn down while the case is still hot.

AZ is not a bad place to pick one up as there are many snow birds that live there only a few months a year yet keep a car there in addition to the one(s) in their home state. So there is a relatively good supply of low mile traditional large cars giving you better selection and likely a better price. One caveat with buying a car in AZ the extreme summer heat and does a number on the paint and rubber components. So you will want to pay attention to those items, possibly have them replaced, and you may want to get a new set of tires as the existing ones though they may have lots of tread could be dry rotted.

I’d start by cruising for the cities where you may start and stop your trip and/or have friends and relatives. Get a feel for the asking prices of vehicles you’d consider in the different locale’s. Also pay attention to see if those ads are deleted after a few days or the same ones keep getting re-posted.  Prices and demand can vary significantly across the US so if you play your cars right you may be able to pick up a west coast, rust free, cream puff, that you can roll into rustyville NY and find buyers willing to pay a premium.

So I’ve thrown out four platforms, but within them there are so many choices. So readers, which model of the mentioned would you choose to tour the US in, or what would be your choice for a car meeting the aforementioned requirements?

Be sure to send those questions you may have to