It did make that Oldsmobubble “blub-blub-blub” exhaust note through its single tailpipe. I’m not a fan, and wasn’t back then, either; to me it always sounds like a lame cylinder. But it was certainly a characteristic sound of that car. Not the only one, either; in the ’70s it was trendy for at least two American automakers to cut down on wind whistles by wiring the blower motor to run at an an extra-low speed whenever the ignition was switched on, the idea being to slightly pressurise the interior of the car so any air leaks would flow from inside to outside. What the hey, it was cheaper than properly building and sealing the body! The blower motor was quite audible, even at the very low speed—it served also, by dint of changed tone, as an indicator that a jump start would be needed in the immediate future—and for awhile it was the only thing to listen to inside the car; even in 1980, the AM radio dial was mostly a wasteland.
So dad went and had a better radio put in: a Pioneer SuperTuner, № KP-5500. Why must I remember this flotsam instead of the useful stuff I’m always forgetting? This was an FM-AM unit with a cassette player, our first such thing in a car. Somehow or other four speakers were involved, as well, which meant when sister would wheedle for KBPI (“…Rocks the Rockies!”) or KAZY or one of the other pop-music stations, dad could turn the knob to send all the sound to the rear speakers, then grouse—in an attempted guilt trip that went right over us kids’ heads—that this didn’t stop him hearing Gary Wright rasping about how he Really Wanna Know You, or Stevie Wonder bap-bap-bap-bapping about a Part-Time Lover. Dad preferred classical music or bluegrass or other suchlike.
And with the tape player on board, there was suddenly the opportunity for whatever other suchlike came to mind and hand. There was a small collection of cassettes. A Lynn Harrell cello album, a Miles Davis trumpet album, but the one that got the most play was Champions, a collection of mostly pop tunes covered by the Canadian Brass. Tiresome CanCon in its home market, maybe, but in the suburbs of Denver that was exotic music from a foreign country where they say “aboot” (so goes the persistent myth). It was many years before I discovered the origin of those tunes—”Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” was the Beatles?! “We Are The Champions” was Queen?!! The ’77 Cutlass steering wheel was shiny, hard plastic, and dad used to tap his thumbs and fingers to the beat. The one with his wedding ring made a louder tap than the rest.
There was a “map light” of sorts—in quotes because GF&L reading anything by it—above the squarish printwood panel that contained the HVAC sliders and the radio. A little black plastic lever sticking down from the right side of its lens “switched it on”, in quotes because what it actually did was slide a blue-green translucent inner lens in or out behind the clear outer lens. In the “off” position, a dim bluish light was cast on the controls; the light got brighter and whiter in the “on” position. But I think either way, it only worked if the parking lights or headlamps were on.
Speaking of which, this was the car wherein started my lifelong fixation with vehicle lighting. I was seven years old or so. Dad was driving me somewhere after dark—we were on Colorado Boulevard between Quincy and Hampden Avenues, and he showed me how there was a high beam for when the road ahead was empty, and a low beam for when other cars were around. I had enough arithmetic to reckon that out: four lamps, two beams; a pair for low beam and a pair for high beam. The maths broke down for me when I went off to summer camp, though; counsellor Howie had a VW Beetle with just one lamp on each side, and I followed the poor guy around asking him pesky questions (Yes! Yes, Daniel, I have low and high beam! Now will you please go ride horses or make lanyards or something?). The idea of two filaments in one lamp hadn’t yet occurred to me.
The Cutlass didn’t age well, though that wasn’t entirely due to inherent shoddiness. Vinyl tops attract and hold dirt, and this one never got cleaned (beyond the occasional trip through a car wash) or dressed, nor did the paintwork ever get polished or waxed. Velour upholstery doesn’t mix well with little kids; despite dad’s no-feets-on-the-seats rule, they got and stayed much grubbier than the vinyl ones in the Caprice. There was about a 3″ × 5″ vertical rectangle of gummy grey adhesive on the inside of the left rear door window, left behind by some sticker on the Deane Buick lot and never cleaned off.
The left quarter panel went to crumbly rust above the wheel arch; I suppose it’s possible this was accelerated by that time dad didn’t quite get the tire chains on properly and that one swhacked at the sheetmetal with every rotation of the wheel. If your eyes are quick, you’re about to (twice) see the ugly “repair” effected with nothing but epoxy spray paint from the hardware store, not close to matching—and you’ll see a handful of other cars, into the bargain, in these clips from when dad taught me to ride a bike:
The Cutlass had an insatiable appetite for brake light bulbs, usually left ones. And it seemed to eat water pumps and batteries and mufflers—the latter probably because of the acidic half-catalysed exhaust and Midas’ half-quality parts and half-assed work.
Starting off with an off-topic thread drift…but this post IS by Daniel Stern, after all!
At the local outpost of one of the two big USA hardware/home improvement chain stores, a Big New Feature is Sylvania automotive light bulbs (see how this has to do with Daniel Stern?). The store sells three Sylvania 9007 halogen headlight bulbs…one for around $10 each ($20/pair) is the “Basic.” For around $29/pair is the “Xtra vision” (or something like that). And at the top of the line is the “Ultra” at almost $60/pair. The hype about “reaches farther” and “greater clarity” ramps up with each hefty jump in price. But some Internet research once I got home finally revealed what is most important about headlight bulbs: HOW BRIGHT?? It turns out that there are published ratings for all three in lumens. AND THEY ARE ALL THE SAME!
What you usually get by buying SuperMaxVision headlight bulbs at the chain auto parts stores is a bit more translucent blue coating on the bulb. Apparently there’s some legal reason they have to leave the center section of the bulb clear, as headlamps must be white by law in the US, and fully coating it with blue might run afoul of that law. But it could be argued that the blue coating just turns the warm yellowish light from halogen bulbs from yellowish to white, just as GE Reveal incandescent/halogen residential light bulbs do. The packaging on XtraBrights usually leaves out how many watts it draws or lumens it produces.
Makes sense. Daniel Stern haa pointed out that blue coatings reduce the light coming out of the bulb (they can’t CREATE light) so the filament would have to glow brighter to get the same output to the road. Within the constraints of the wattage (55/65 hi/low for the 9007, any more would create too.much heat for the usual plastic headlights) this can only translate to a shorter life for the bulb. Pay more, get no more light, replace sooner. Lose-lose-lose, is what it sounds like.
It’s a lose-lose-lose deal for the buyer/driver, absolutely. But it’s a giant win-win-win for the seller!
There is nothing such as a filter that just changes the colour of the light; there is always a reduction in intensity, so the all-blue bulbs from the major makers significantly degrade headlight performance, but they are within the white box.
I certainly wish there were such a law requiring a colourless window for the filament to look through, but there’s none. Makers like Sylvania started putting out bulbs with a colourless window in the blue tint to save themselves an even harder spanking in court (see link in my other comment in this subthread). Headlamps do have to be white, but “white” has a very broad definition, and only the skankiest off-brand dark blue bulbs are too blue to violate the white spec.
Welll…no, they’re not all the same. Those “ratings” they publish aren’t the output for the particular variety of bulb, they’re just the nominal spec for the type, such as 55 watts and 1,000 lumens for the low beam of a 9007 bulb. The actual specs contain maximum allowable wattage and min/max allowable lumens—the 9007 low beam is actually 1,000 lumens ±15%, so 850 to 1,150 lumens. But if Sylvania (they’re not the only offender) were to publish the actual output of their various types of bulbs, the “brighter and whiter” hype would dissolve like cotton candy under a firehose. I recently did some tests of a Sylvania Silver Star ZxE bulb (that’s the one they advertise as their coolest, their hottest, their whitest, their oh-so-rightest, etc) before and after removing the blue coating. With the blue coating, the low beam produced 908 lumens. Without, it produced 1,489 lumens. The blue coating on the ZxE bulb steals 40% of the light!
The coating on their Silver Star bulbs isn’t as deep, so it doesn’t block as much light, but any amount of light kept from reaching the road in pursuit of a dumb, pointless fashion statement is too much. Sylvania got spanked to the tune of thirty million dollars for false and misleading “upgrade” claims for Silver Star bulbs, which are among the least-bad of an overall bad product category, so the math kind of does itself. So instead now they tie themselves in doubletalk knots with made-up, meaningless criteria like “clarity”.
Here’s an article I wrote on the subject about five years, ago.
That’s without getting into the bad effect Long Life bulbs have on headlight performance—a related but different topic.
Oh wow, how do you get the coating off? If it’s a relatively simple process, it might be worth paying a few extra bucks for the blue “upgrade” if I can just soak it in alcohol or whatever to get the blue off and make it actually brighter.
It is an extremely difficult process requiring special equipment and laboratory-grade ventilation and safety protocols. There’s nothing in the medicine cabinet or under the sink that’s going to do the job. That’s not necessarily the end of the discussion, though; shoot me an email (easy enough to find on the web) if you want to pursue the idea one way or another.
Ah well, never mind then. I’m afraid I have too many other things going on to attempt such shenanigans. Thanks for the good COAL story and all the fascinating information!
Another great read. It’s hard to pick a favorite part but a young you quizzing the camp counselor about his car’s headlights stands out because it’s the kind of thing I used to do all the time. I was never interested in what the group was doing (and still am not).
At my high school they took to closing and locking the library during pep rallies, to punish kids like me who cared not at all about sportsball and saw right through the ginned up “school spirit” schtick.
Dad replaced his ’70 Nova (a medical school graduation present) in ’77 after the floorpan rotted out with a new ’77 Cutlass Supreme. That car was legendary in its unreliability. Sometime in the summer before my sister was born in the fall of ’79, we went out for Italian food at El Monaco’s in White Lake, ten miles from home on Route 55. (About three miles from the 1969 Woodstock concert site). Mom’s Valiant stayed in the driveway at home. While the Monticello crew (oneJewish lawyer, three Jewish doctors, all with growing families) fressed on sausage and peppers and ‘sghetti, something mysterious and awful happened to the transmission in the parking lot. It took two hours to get home to the new house in first gear, crawling past the resorts and the bungalow colonies.
Two engines under warranty? Something like that. Dad sold it right after buying Mom a new Caprice Classic wagon from Malcolm Konner in Paramus in ’80, and drove my grandfather’s ’70 Chevelle four more years until he bought the ’84 Olds from Kirschner in Livingston Manor.
We experienced a similar transmission malady on a family vacation. Limping along the shoulder of I-80 from Truckee to Reno, the spanking new 1972 Buick LeSabre seemingly would not shift out of 1st. The repairs provided an extra day in Reno where I spent the time in the hotel’s Olympic sized pool! That car then required an engine rebuild within a year but finally provided many years of reliable service.
And I well remember Malcom Konner Chevrolet in NJ. They specialized in Corvette’s and always had numerous models on prominent display, so alluring and exotic to a young me.
An excellent read Mr. Stern and kudos for “flotsam”. One of my favorite words.
God probably smote the transmission out there in the parking lot on account of those sausages; I bet they weren’t kosher, even before the matter of parmesan cheese enters into it!
The most interesting part of this story to me is that after such a shonda of a ’77 Cutlass, your dad went buying more GM cars, and even another Oldsmobile. I guess that’s how my dad wound up buying the Cutlass: he was happy with the Caprice, so in his mind a GM product was a good car, and Consumer Reports probably gave it at least something of a thumbs-up.
The lawyer at that meal – Perry M., erstwhile County judge, ended up going Lubavitcher for business reasons and 25 years later grumbled about the full Sheva Brachot not being celebrated at my (Orthodox) wedding. I think he’s back to the chicken parm now, though.
There were four more GMs (the ’84 Regency, an ’89 88 Royale, an ’87 Safari, and the last ’95 Caprice wagon) and then a clutch of biennial leased Continentals, and he turned Japanese at the Millennium with three Avalons and a Camry. The first two Avalons did more miles than all the Continentals and the Oldsmobiles together.
»[ AMP ]« »[ OIL ]«
(sounds of my mind’s starter cranking fruitlessly)
I’m trying and failing to imagine business reasons for going Lubavitcher. I’m terribly curious, though!
I came back to this thread a human gestation period later, prompted by your posting of the collection of links to your entire COAL series.
So, in the Borscht Belt Catskills in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s and 2000s, there were two groups of people with dough investing in businesses and land – the bubelmandas and the Hasidim. By at least an order of magnitude the various groups of Hasidim had more gelt than the bubelmandas. Per comparandum the Gilbert which became the SYDA Ashram in Fallsburg and the New Age Health Spa in Grahamsville (where Werner Mendel turned a fat farm a la Camp Shane into Marion Barry’s favorite chill spot), all the other resort properties except for the marquee Grossingers and Concord were being picked up by Hasidim and Hassidic charitable organizations. There were poultry slaughterhouses and bungalow colonies and more bungalow colonies, and Perry M. was the town justice in Monticello – the capital, the Roma Aeternam of Sullivan County, and he knew how to make things happen.
I should let the black hats describe the situation better, because they wrote an article about Perry in 2011: https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/110415/sullivans-absentees-settle-2-elections-including-shomer-shabbos-judge-perry-meltzer.html
Perry and Jill are really very nice people and their daughter had a crush on me in middle school, and the timeline for the baal teshuvication in the article is a little off. Also, I was friends with Rabbi Boruch Leibowitz’s son Uri, and Boruch was the chaplain *and* a badged deputy for the Sullivan County Sheriff, and Boruch had a prowler sometimes from the Sheriff’s patrol in the parking lot next to his house, which was the parsonage for the Landfield avenue synagogue in Monticello, and he used to give us boys – me, Uri, Uri’s older brother Chaim, rides in the prowler, which was a Dodge Diplomat, I think.
Belated thanks for the explanation, but…er-ruhhh…whazza bubelmanda?
My family had a 1977 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu estate with round headlamps, battle ram bumpers, ivory white paint, and dark brown (or black) vinyl upholstery. Why my father got the Chevelle instead of Impala was due to the corporate decision toward the fleet vehicles. He had to replace the 1973 Chevrolet Impala estate quickly, and the all-new Impala estate had a lengthy wait period in 1977.
Chevelle Malibu estate was easily one of the worst cars we ever drove. The 250 c.i.d. straight six proved to be very useless in propelling the car ahead. The mushy suspension system was no match for the rough asphalt roads in Dallas area, and we were often tossed around a lot. The car leaned so much when turning that we had to wear seat belts (especially in 1977!) to keep us from sliding across the seats.
In 1979, our wishes were granted: a new Chevrolet Impala estate with metallic brown paint and ecru cloth upholstery. Still smarting from his mistakes, my father carefully and thoroughly ticked the heavy suspension and bigger engine options as well as more visually appealing colour combination. This car instantly became our favourite.
By the way, I recalled visiting your family home about twenty years ago and seeing the “automotive lighting museum” in your mancave. Lot of fascinating stuff to see, I must add.
Some of that collection still exists, but I’ve had to pare it down viciously. Always hard to say goodbye…!
Ok spotters. What is the small red coupe visibleFrom the beltline up behind Daniel when he’s wearing the yellow shirt
My first thought is a Fiat; 850 Spider, perhaps?
I’m thinking it’s a Fiat 124 Spider with an aftermarket hardtop.
Do all dads have a memorable discussion with young sons on high beams? I remember mine. I was seven.
Dad showed me how they worked, and how the little blue light came on in the speedometer cluster of his 70 Cutlass. He also explained dual filaments. We agreed this was clever engineering since an earlier British car Dad drove had moving headlights. Dipping the lights meant the headlight housings moved downwards slightly, a system that never worked very well.
Interesting observations on the Stern’s Olds 350 engine. My guess is the carburetor wasn’t set up for the high altitude of Denver. Perhaps the car was originally sold in a lower altitude region. The strange exhaust smell, clogged cat and general poor running suggest an improper tuning. Too bad, a bit of work on the Quadrajet could have made for a more pleasant ownership experience.
Oh, the Brits had all kinds of bizarre ways of answering this question. That actual-physical-moving beam dip technique was abandoned in the early 1930s everywhere except in Britain. There was also a very common British system wherein switching from high to low beam turned off the headlamp(s) on the driver’s side of the car. Several other cockadoodle ideas, too.
I am quite sure you’re right about my dad’s car’s state of tune. A skillful carburetor rebuild and distributor overhaul, a carefully-chosen new catalytic converter, and a careful tune-up surely would’ve done it wonders.
The new active-matrix LED clusters are the right way to handle this. Forget the “low” and “high” beam dichotomy, there are dozens of LED elements that can turn on or off as needed to change the shape and throw of the beam pattern as necessary. It can be tied into oncoming car light sensors, lidar/radar sensors, and GPS navigation info so it knows if there’s an upcoming curve. The result: a long, wide beam that selectively dims selected areas only when there’s an oncoming car there. Of course, as usual, the U.S. is behind the rest of the world and these headlamps are illegal here.
At high school “pep rallies” I sat in the corner, put in ear plugs and read a book.
The teachers were not impressed. When they told me they would talk to my dad, I told them to go ahead. He had as little use for such events as I did.
When I was bringing the Grand Lady from Saskatoon to Civilisation, the cat was almost completely plugged. The exhaust pipe was hissing, one of the give-aways.
When I go to Field, British Columbia, I encountered the first Chevron station with the sans-deathanol 94 octane. I then proceeded to drive it foot to the rug up Roger’s Pass. By the time I got to Kamloops, it was running much better, so much so I buried the 130 km/h speedometer.
I filled it again and went up the Coquihalla Highway. The grade outside Kamloops is very steep, but I again put the pedal to the medal. It maintained 110 km/h and by the time I got to the summit, it was running quite nicely.
I may, however, be the only person who has ever caned a Cadillac sled over the Rocky Mountains.
I was in band, so I had to attend the pep rallies. And the football games, many a long ride on the bus there and back. And all for naught, my high school’s football team was fodder for the other schools. We had a perfect record my senior year. 0 for 10. We started joking about a season with no wins after game 7. There was a scare when one of our players nearly made it to the goal line to put us up by 1 in the 4th quarter of the 9th game against our rival school, but he was bought down before that happened. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a last game of the season played so…unenthusiastically.
At least we didn’t have to play for the basketball games.
I had a bicycle with generator powered head and tail light back in the ’70’s. The headlight had 2 bulbs, 1 pointing straight ahead and 1 above it pointing slightly downward. For high beams both bulbs lit up, with a red indicator on top of the housing, or for low beam you moved the lever to the side and only the top bulb (the low beam) would light up and the indicator was off.
And here I thought I was cool because I had a bike headlamp with amber side marker lights built in…!
Thanks Daniel, for getting the 8252525 Denver Post first classifieds jingle stuck in my head. Anyone that grew up on the front range will remember that jingle until they reach their death beds…that and the Shane Company ads.
We never had a Cutlass, but this post and comments have been great for the stroll down memory lane. I know Shane Company was based in Denver, but they had stores in the Bay Area too. “Now YOU have a friend in the diamond business”. As for one of my first experiences starting the family car, I knew to pull out the manual choke on our family Volvo. But not to push in the clutch or shift to neutral before turning the key. Luckily it was in first, not reverse, and the only thing in front of it was the woodpile a foot away. Knocked a few pieces of wood off but no damage.
We had Shane Company here in the twin cities as well. I hear that distinctive voice as I type…
Same with San Francisco, I was surprised to hear Tom Shane’s voice when I visited Chicago the first time. (“Hi, I’m Tom Shane…”) He very effectively makes it seem like it’s a very small local company in every market and that he travels with only a few select diamonds in his shirt pocket that he’s saving for you when he comes back from Antwerp etc.
Shane Company must predate me in Chicago, but we had Empire Carpet instead. I have never, in forty-something years, been in the market for wall-to-wall carpeting, but I still know that phone number more than my wife’s.
Chris Cieslak mentioned Empire Carpet. I’ve seen the same TV commercial nationwide, from Philadelphia to San Francisco:
“Eight hundred five eight eight, three three hundred, Empire!”
Never heard of Shane, but the DC metropolitan area did have some unforgettable car-dealer jingles in the 1970s. “You’ll always get your way, at Ourisman Chevrolet!”, and it went on for 30 seconds. There was Lustine Chevrolet’s “can do” jingle. Templeton Oldsmobile appropriated “In My Merry Oldsmobile” with new dealership-specific lyrics; I didn’t know until years later that it was a real song. Fair Oaks Dodge had a nice country jingle. I can’t find good versions of any of them on Youtube, although there are a couple of earlier and later renditions of the Ourisman jingle.
Yep, I remember all of those!
Here are two more:
“🎶 Heritage, Heritage
(something something) car truck or van
buy a car
from my dad
He’s the Chrysler-Plymouth man…🎶”
And then my favorite, which is still pops into my head frequently, decades later:
“🎶A Capital Cadillac is
more luxury to the mile
that’s why people buy
a Cadillac Capital style…🎶”
“American Service Center, where you’ll realize your driving ambition!”
And that other Mercedes dealer that had a radio commercial that sounded similar to those DeBeers diamond ads, with frenzied classical strings building up to music with etherial vocals, before singing “Mercedes-Benz” at the end.
Word-for-word, dude. “Eight-two-five-two-five-two-five, the Denver Post First-Classifieds! You’ll sell it in ten or we’ll run it againnnnnnn…in the Post!” and half a dozen variants. It’s a curse upon those who lived there at the time.
As to the Shane Company…I don’t want to give away future COAL instalments, but for now let’s just say I know for a fact Tom Shane actually sounds like that when he talks.
I was personally delighted when GM began painting every third car in that silver-blue shade after living through the earlier part of the decade where everything seemed to come in nothing but gold/brown/green.
I have to join Eighteen Chariots and wonder if you had an altitude problem (and a bad mechanic). In my experience at around 800 ft above sea level was that a 4 bbl Olds 350 was the best part of these cars. Perhaps there were quality problems from the fact that Oldsmobile was straining to meet demand in 1977, and that situation rarely improves quality.
And as much as I like light colors for my car interiors, I will agree that light color cloth (and I don’t car what it’s made of) will eventually look grungy without regular cleaning.
Thanks for another great read Daniel.
I agree with JPC on the Olds 350, being good running engines. We had two of these late 70’s Olds 350s, one in a ’78 Delta 88 and one in a ’79 Delta 88. Both engines ran really well, even as the rest of the car fell apart. Our Olds 350s were good smooth running engines with strong smooth low end torque, albeit, not nearly as sprightly as a Chevrolet 350 of the same era. I also remember our ’78 had a clogged cat, and it actually blew out the plug on the converter one day and expelled all of the catalyst beads on the road. An exhaust shop fixed it up but no cat went back on that car. Even when plugged, the car ran smooth, just was less powerful (it felt choked).
I’m very sure dad’s car would’ve run a lot better with some skillful attention under the hood and under the floor—even if it had (say) a mistimed camshaft or other build errors.
I also agree with you that the medium metallic blue was a whole lot better than the earth-tone pallette of some years earlier.
On fascination with high beam and low beam and Oldsmobiles… A comment seen elsewhere claimed that the ’39 Olds had an extra click on its light switch called “Rural” after the regular Park and Head. In Rural, the dimmer pedal switched only the left light to high beam, leaving the right light low. Supposedly this would let you see a long ways down the center of the road while watching for mailboxes and ditches on the right.
You’ve inspired me to put up a post outside this COAL sequence—keep an eye open for it.
I always love old car dealerships; I can’t make out the building but at least Deane Buick has a masterpiece of mid-century modern signage. New (starburst!) Used (starburst!) Cars (starburst!)! Also, the big Bell System logo alerting you to the presence of a phone booth! I’m going to date that photo to mid-November 1963, just days before JFK was assassinated. McDonalds had served its billionth hamburger earlier that year (they’re now approaching 350 billion), and the cineplex is showing “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” which hit theatres on November 7, 1963.
I never knew about that Cutlass “map light”. My family had a ’76 Chevette for a few years and it had a similar light above the HVAC controls and the radio below it, but had a permanent greenish lens over it. The salesman pointed that out during a test drive, covering it up showing the overhead lighting as being necessary as the HVAC controls lacked backlighting. Why this was a selling point, I haven’t a clue.
I never paid much attention to headlamps themselves as a kid, but I liked the eerie blue glow most of the inside high-beam indicators had. Then I found out the recessed “fratzog” logo in my dad’s ’66 Dodge Polara wagon, which was nestled between the two huge tunneled gauge clusters, was actually a stylized indicator lamp that glowed red when the high beams were on. How cool was that? Not as cool as Chief Pontiac’s glowing-headdress indicator in Ponchos of that era, but still pretty cool to 6 year old me.
I agree on the date. Looks like what must a brand new 1964 Malibu in front of the Black Falcon.
Yep. I also missed the McD’s sign advertising the new Filet-o-Fish, which (other than a test market) made its debut in 1963.
Can anyone ID the white GM-looking sedan beneath the Filet-o-Fish sign and between the two Falcons?
’63 Buick LeSabre sedan.
What car is in the right lane, behind the black early Beetle? And what’s the light-coloured car one lane to the left, ahead of the black Falcon?
First car is ’64 Chevelle Malibu as CCFan noted upthread. I don’t recognize the second car, guessing a British, French, or Italian import of some sort, maybe rear engined? I don’t know my pre-’70s imports very well.
“It’s a mad mad mad mad world” playing at the theater.
The first time I rode without training wheels, I immediately went down the hill into a telephone pole and got a bloody nose. No parental unit involved until the neighborhood kids walked me and bike home. It was another 2 years before I got my nerd glasses at 7.
Was it the squared-off waterfall that sold so many Cutlasses?
Another fab breakfast read. Thanks Daniel, for taking this on. I’m honored to have it here.
Y’welcome, Paul; I’m glad to finally get these stories archived somewhere other than my chowdery head. Oh, hey, a day later I found I’d accidentally left some chunks out of last week’s chapter; I think you’d already read it by the time I fixed it.
A good read, and an interesting chronicle so for with the first three episodes, we can see you aging before our eyes. 🙂
Looking forward to big sis’ rides next week…
Oh, Laurie wasn’t my sister, Deborah is. We’ll hear a bit about her in future chapters.
A college girlfriend had a Chevy version of this sedan from ’75. Only my opinion, but the squared-off front end, especially the quad lamps, really don’t go with the roofline and the character lines from the wheelwells to doors.
Tangent: Like Daniel, I also remember details about all the stereos I’ve put in my old (bought used) cars. I chalk that up to the take rate on AM radios in cars staying very strong for a long time back then. Conversely, how difficult is it to buy a new car with just an AM/FM/CD in it today?
Few if any have CDs. Everybody must touch screen!
I, too, think the ’73-’75 round-headlamp front end looks more appropriate on this series of Cutlass.
It was common in the ’70s through ’90s for people who wanted a fancy aftermarket stereo to buy a car with an AM-only radio, just to get the antenna, shielding, and wiring harness installed that could be reused.
Yup, another great read. Many grins had from memories this stirred, I just love these stories.
Yes, those Cutlasses all seemed to be blue, but what’s missing from the look was the rear bumper all rusted and falling off, that’s how they looked here by about 1980.
I’m pretty sure I was a really annoying kid too, following people around asking obscure questions about cars. We were pretty much the automotive equivalent of the “Gavin” sketches on the Kids in the Hall show:
And after the crash-erific time teaching my son to ride a bike on the street, I later taught my daughter to ride a bike in a big church parking lot. No traffic, lots of space, nothing to hit, perfect.
She set off, rode a big circle around the parking lot and crashed into the side of our minivan. 🙂
I hadn’t really made the connection to Gavin, but now you mention it…!
I have been enjoying this series immensely, written as it is with style, grace and good humor. The Calvin and Hobbes references are pitch perfect!
I was a teen during most of the 1970s and I think all the downsides of Daniel’s parents’ Cutlass ownership experience were par for the course during that time. Even well-engineered cars simply did not run well or last long back then. All its faults notwithstanding, the Cutlass may well have been as good as it got among Big Three intermediates of the era and certainly beat the Ford and Mercury offerings (like the Montego wagon highlighted yesterday) for space efficiency, ride, handling, and overall liveability.
Thanks kindly, good sir! I’ll try to maintain the standard all the way through.
I think you’ve nailed it—cars like the Cutlass weren’t objectively very good, just relatively better than their direct competition.
I’m surprised you didn’t provide one of your sound effects for the first time you started up the Cutlass.
Here’s my guess: ZhshizitZhizitZhizit(continues for a while….) Zhiz…sput….sput..sputtt….sputsputSPUTSPUTSPUTTTT!!!
(*insert visual of black smoke coughing out catalytic convertor pellets out and turning the snow behind the car carbon black before melting it))
My Cutlass experience was with a friend’s family I lived with for a couple of years in mu college days-they had a green 1973 Cutlass Salon-the 4-door model with the bucket-seats-and-console. It actually was a cool car (Disco Stu’s inspiration would’ve still grumbled about it being a 4-door, though)’ even though it was green-they nicknamed it the “Green Latrine”.
I’ve got a non-COAL post in the works about car-specific sounds. Some of them are imitable, even if everyone does it differently (Chrysler gear-reduction starter, e.g.). Others can’t really be reproduced by mouth and voice.
Dad’s blue one wasn’t my first close encounter of the Cutlass kind. When I was very small I had a babysitter from time to time, name of Andi Black, who lived not far away and brought a guitar with her—two songs I remember her playing were Tom Lehrer’s “Pollution” and Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”, which was a very new song at the time. She drove her mother’s brown ’73-’77 CutSup—also a four-door.
Daniel, my instant impression of the light-colored import in your photo was “Renault Dauphine”—borne out by this image:
Being almost 80 has its benefits ! Great piece, by the way . . .
Does look like it, and Paul N confirms.
(Thanks and thanks again!)
Great read, Daniel. Your work is always top-notch. That bike video is priceless.
Much obliged, Brent! 🤓
Sure enough, dad’s Cutlass Supreme 2-door was that same blue, with white vinyl top and interior.
Great read. Thanks Daniel. I love the part about Disco Stu’s test drive.
In his hell, all the cars have four doors and automatic seatbelts!
I suppose Disco Stu couldn’t read, because the ad clearly said “4dr”!
Great COAL story!
I had a good laugh at your description of an Olds V8 sound. I rather like the way they sounded (my dad had a succession of 3 Oldsmobiles) but as a child I do remember hearing an occasional early ’60’s Olds that did sound like your description. They were usually rusty, pretty clapped out and beat to hell, with engines way out of tune and bad or no mufflers. They did make that “blub blub” sound.
When I was little there were a lot of them in traffic, many of them pretty used up. I called them “dumb cars” because it sounded like they were going “dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb”.
I did laugh – and slightly cringe my eyes – upon looking at the cycling video, as I’ve been there, done that, and have the photos of the wobbly steering, the proud and distracted grin, the warning-yellow skivvy and the big-ass glasses to prove it. What a dag!* Love it.
No summer camps in Oz, or much collective jingoism stuff (then, anyway), but I also couldn’t much see the point of the rah-rah-rah-sis-boom-bah collective cheer-on-jocks-in-their-boring pursuits either, and have vague memories of sitting around bugging sideline teachers with trivial arcana myself whilst such things dragged on.
Lots of fun here Mr Stern. Looking forward to what gets dug out of the snow next time.
*dag, an Australianism rather like nerd, but far more affectionate: a person unfashionable, a bit out of place, also often said of someone more normal when they do something a bit awkward or funny, inadvertently or otherwise. Writer of this comment a lifelong, card-carrying example. (Also, bizarrely enough, means the little clumps of pooh on a sheep’s woolly arse; for complete clarity, not meant that way here)
What a great write up on a frequently forgotten car. I was born in january 1976 so I think we are very close in age. Having lived through the carbureted era where we had to warm up cars for 10-15 minutes to keep them from stalling in ATLANTA winters, I have no nostalgia for that era. Tuning a car of that era was something of a black art and 70s build quality meant that you could get it perfectly to factory specs but that didn’t mean it would run right. The factory parts weren’t very good and were indifferently assembled. If it made it to 1987 it was a pretty good car in its day. At least, as has been pointed out, it wasn’t quite as bloated, ugly, wallowing, wheezy, and space inefficient as the montego wagon.
We have Shane company as well! Prior to reading this I always thought they were local to atlanta. Interesting.
“It’s a mad mad mad mad world” playing at the theater.