For the next vehicle in our Cuba taxi series I thought we would do something Russian. I really hoped to find a GAZ or ZIL but the stars did not seem to line up for that. The local drivers of any of the GAZ cars we saw were either not taxis or not generally used by tourists. Perhaps they thought we would not have an interest in their car. Ladas were a very popular taxi but we received those in Canada during the Eighties so set my sights on a Moskvitch. We were able to finally flag one down and take a short ride from the Malecón to the Capital Building. Ride along with us.
I know a lot of folks are burnt out on tri-five Chevys, having been overexposed to them. But since I avoid car show, and am a bit obsessed with what was going on in the car scene in the US before I arrived here in 1960, I still thrive on the remarkable history of these cars created, a paradigm shift at the time.
Road & Track had tested a ’55 with the 180 hp “power-pak”(4 barrel carb) version of the new 265 cubic inch V8 and a 4.11:1 rear axle and said: “it certainly appears…it will out-accelerate any American car on the market today!” Given the huge interest in the hot new Chevy, R&T tested a ’56 with the a revised “power pack”, now making 205 hp, to see how much that translated in faster times on the test track. It’s important to note that a bit later in the year, a 225 hp version with dual quad carbs was available, upped to 240 hp with the new optional “Duntov” solid lifter cam. So this 205 hp version was just another interim step in the rapid improvements to the Chevy V8.
And in 1957, power was upped to 283 hp, almost doubling power output in just two years. This is what the legend was based on.
(first posted 2/8/2017) No journey back in time to large European rear-engine cars like the splendid one we had today would be complete without what is undoubtedly one of the most unusual promotional films ever made for a car. But then the Tatra 603 was an unusual car, and it more than deserves the starring role in this. Don’t miss it; or watch it again. Part 2 after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
(first posted 2/8/2017) So we know the Czechoslovakian Tatras (a T603 is seen here in ’70s Bratislava), as well as those 411/412 VeeDubs with their awkward looks and poor performance, but what other big (over 1.6 litre) rear-engined four-door saloons did Europe produce? None? Well, close. Give or take a dozen…
Vintage Comparison Test: 1977 Cadillac Seville, Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge Diplomat, Lincoln Versailles – Detroit Aims For The Black Forest, Hits Bloomfield Hills
(first posted 2/8/2017) The mid-1970s were a tumultuous time for domestic automakers, with tried-and-true buyer preferences for “longer, lower, wider” morphing into “smaller and more logical,” even for more upmarket cars. European brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo were beginning to gain an unexpected foothold with affluent buyers, and the trend was exacerbated by the 1973 Oil Embargo, which made the merits of more efficient products even more apparent. Detroit finally had to respond, but how? Car and Driver took a look at the new “International-sized” premium segment in the May 1977 issue, comparing the new entrants from Lincoln, Chrysler and Dodge with the still-fresh, segment-leading Cadillac Seville.
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And one of these might still be running like this one we featured here with over 500,000 miles on it.
I’ve got a real soft spot for these postwar Plymouths. No, they’re not exactly beautiful on the outside, with their blocky tall bodies. In the immortal words of Chrysler President K.T. Keller: “Cars should accommodate people rather than the far-out ideas of designers…the styling won’t knock your hat off, but neither will getting in one of our cars…We build cars to sit in, not to pee over.”
That works for me. I love to look at low and svelte and sensuous cars, but when it’s time to actually get in one, give me tall and blocky any day. There’s a lot to love on the insides too.
In 2001 my rapidly growing family outgrew the Pontiac Sunfire coupe that had served us faithfully and reliably for 6 years. We had a GMC Jimmy that was about to be replaced by a minivan, and it was time to trade the second car in for a 4 door sedan that could easily shuttle a baby and a toddler, both in car seats, for quick trips around town without having to use the minivan. The Malibu was the only choice, and here’s why.
(first posted 2/7/2017) How many large (over 1.6 litres) rear-engined four-door cars can you name, offhand? The Corvair, obviously: the most widely-built “big” rear-engined car, over 1.6 million made. The Tatra, naturally: the first genuine production car with a motor in its tail, followed by several generations over six decades. The ’48 Tucker, of course: so cool they made a movie about it. Oh, and the sorry-looking Volkswagen Typ 4 (411/412). And… er, that’s it?
(first posted 1/7/2017) Some people lust after split-window Stingrays, or ’64 Mustangs, or Ferrari 250 GTOs. Me? One of my dream classic cars, probably my first choice if I had to fill a dream garage, is a 1973-75 Pontiac Grand Am. Some people might find that a tad batty – a humble GM A-Body, really? – but I feel if anyone can understand my desire, it would have to be my fellow Curbsiders. Read the rest of this entry »
Pierce-Arrow, a company we have not done proper justice too here, was arguably America’s premiere luxury car builder in its heyday, the aughts, teens and into the twenties. It was most notable for its giant six cylinder engines, the largest of which displaced 825 cubic inches (13.5 L). No wonder older and used Pierce-Arrows almost invariably were converted to trucks, fire engines and tow trucks; they were built like trucks!
So it was natural for the Buffalo, NY. to also build actual trucks, which they did from 1910-1934. One of these days I’d like to do a deep dive, but it’s not going to be today. But I will share a couple of ads from 1931-1932, with this coal truck representing the upper reaches of the line.
Vintage Car Life Comparison: 1962 Ford Fairlane V8 vs. 1962 Chevy II Six – The Old Ford V8 vs. Chevy Six Battle Updated, With Surprising Results
This comparison hits very close to home, as in the Niedermeyer home on Park Avenue in Iowa City in 1962, that is. My father bought a ’62 Fairlane (a base stripper, not a 500) equipped the same as the tested one, with the brand new 221 V8 and Fordomatic. He was so V8 proud, repeatedly pointing out that six cylinder engines were just not powerful enough for American driving conditions. He blatantly put down his boss for having bought a new ’61 big Ford six. Not Ernst Niedermeyer...
Even though our Fairlane proudly sported that V8 badge on its front fender, I pretty much knew it was no hot rod; far from it. But did I ever dream at the time that it was actually slower than a Chevy II with its little 194 six and Powerglide? Which happens to be exactly what our next door neighbors had, and I looked down on? I would have cringed at the thought. Or maybe not, since I was something of a Chevy guy at the time: “Ja Papa, why didn’t you just buy a Chevy II? It’s faster and you could have saved yourself a couple of hundred bucks, which you could have used to increase my allowance.”
Since we’re on the subjects of Chevy fastbacks; yes, post a photo of a Chevy Fleetline (1949-1952) at the Cohort, and I guarantee you it will end up on the front page at CC, like this one caught in a driveway by J. Solberg. And I love it in yellow, although I generally imaging having one a more drab color.
The Art Institute of Chicago had an exhibition of some of the works of French, Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne between May and September of last year. It was something I had wanted to see, but didn’t. Even if my saturation point for museums is probably between an hour or two, I was disappointed with myself for having missed that opportunity, but I also realize there are so many other things in Chicago for me to explore. At some point over the past couple of years, I decided that the value of getting out and enjoying more of this city outweighs what can sometimes feel like a little social anxiety among large groups of people. I also realize it’s likely that I won’t always be this mobile and independent for the rest of my life. That’s called keeping it real. In the spirit of thankfulness, I strive to be more intentional in maximizing my experience of life at this stage.
(first posted 1/6/2017) Can a product be so strong that it builds a nearly indestructible reputation, and one that holds for decades in the minds of many consumers, even as product quality and competitiveness lapse to unremarkable levels? Well, I can think of at least one.