Old Cars

Cars and coffee

There are a couple cars-and-coffee events near my home that run once a month during the warm-weather months. I like ’em all but I seem to make the one at Gateway Classic Cars most often. The pickings were a little slim, I assume because it was race weekend. That’s what we call Memorial Day weekend around here, because of the Indianapolis 500.

One fellow brought his 1966 Plymouth Satellite coupe. It originally had a 318 cubic-inch V8, but he swapped it out for a 440. He also painted it in a 1967 color and replaced several interior panels for an all-black interior. It’s got a few blemishes and imperfections, but that’s just how I like them. It makes for a car an owner isn’t afraid to drive. And what’s the point in owning a classic like this if you don’t drive it?

1966 Plymouth Satellite
1966 Plymouth Satellite
1966 Plymouth Satellite

I’ve never been a big fan of GM’s 1973-77 Collonnade cars. They were supposedly mid-sizers but they were enormous on the outside and cramped on the inside. Yet it was good to see this 1976 El Camino. That two-tone pattern with the chrome sweeps was available from the factory, but I’ll bet this particular color combination wasn’t.

1976 Chevrolet El Camino
1976 Chevrolet El Camino
1976 Chevrolet El Camino

I’m sure that for Gateway Classic Cars the whole purpose of Cars and Coffee is to get people inside their showroom to see the classics they have for sale. I have an enormous soft spot in my heart (or is it my head?) for the VW Karmann-Ghia. I tried to buy one once; read that story here.

Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia
Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia

You don’t see too many 1966 Chevrolet Biscaynes at shows and sales. The Biscayne was Chevy’s least-expensive full-sized car. Most buyers optioned them lightly if at all; the bulk of sales went to fleets. Riding in one of these you were facing rubber floor mats and, often, no radio. They were most often powered by an inline six-cylinder engine, which was no speed demon. This one, however, packs a big-block 427 cubic inch V8.

1965 Chevrolet Biscayne
1965 Chevrolet Biscayne

The 1970s were a time of increasing luxury in automobiles. Cars from many manufacturers had a “Brougham” trim level that represented the finest on offer. This 1972 Mercury Marquis is a “20 footer” — it looks great from 20 feet away, but when you get up close you see it’s true so-so condition.

1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham
1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham
1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham

My favorite car this day was a 1969 Ford Falcon Future Sports Coupe. Ford’s Mustang ran on Falcon underpinnings, so much so that lots of Falcons were sacrificed to keep Mustangs running. Also, based on my childhood memories most Falcons were the low trim levels, bought to be basic transportation. That’s why it’s so great to see this top-of-the-line Futura Sports Coupe. I’ll bet that driving it feels almost exactly like driving a Mustang of the era.

1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe
1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe
1969 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe

I made some film photos at this Cars and Coffee too. I’ll share them when they’re back from the processor.

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Old Cars, Stories Told

1972 Chevrolet K/5 Blazer CST: Don’t mess with Grandma!

I mentioned my grandmother’s big orange Chevy Blazer in a recent post. It reminded me of this post I wrote for Curbside Classic a couple years ago, about a pretty close replica of her Blazer that I found at an auction.

You didn’t mess with my grandma. She was barely 5 feet tall, but she swore like a sailor and drank like a fish. And she always drove 4-wheel-drive trucks. One of them was an orange 1972 Chevrolet K/5 Blazer CST very much like this one.

1972 Chevrolet Blazer d

Grandma was so short she had to grab the steering wheel and pull herself up into the cab. That had to really work her biceps! I’ll bet it gave her a mean right cross. But had she ever needed to defend herself, she would have instead reached for the .22 pistol she always kept in her purse.

1972 Chevrolet Blazer b

My favorite place to ride was the front passenger seat, and I called shotgun as often as I could. Even though SUVs weren’t common in the 1970s like they are today  — we didn’t even have the term “SUV” then — riding around in that seat didn’t exactly give me the rooftop view of traffic that you might think. Grandma lived in rural southwest Michigan, where serious winter snow and unplowed side roads meant almost everyone owned four-wheel-drive trucks. I was used to looking at tailgates ahead as we rolled down the road.

1972 Chevrolet Blazer f

Grandma preferred the lightly traveled gravel back roads to the highways, though, and so I got to take in a lot of Michigan’s beauty while riding with her. Even when I had to ride in the high and upright back seat, I had a good view. That seat also sat a good distance back from the front seats, giving unbelievable legroom. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but now I think GM should have moved that seat a foot or so forward to give more aft cargo space. It was pretty tight back there.

1972 Chevrolet Blazer c

Grandma and Grandpa had been a one-truck family (a 1972 Dodge Power Wagon, orange over white) until the grandkids started coming to visit for extended stays every summer. Riding four abreast in Grandpa’s truck worked while we were all very little, but as we grew the cab became too cramped and so Grandma bought the Blazer. We ran around all over southwest Michigan together running errands and visiting various taverns for lunch or dinner and, for Grandma and Grandpa, always a beer. I knew then that back home in Indiana I wasn’t allowed in taverns. Maybe Michigan’s laws were different. Or maybe it helped a lot that Grandma and Grandpa seemed to know every law-enforcement officer in six or seven counties. Perhaps Grandma’s smile, nod, and words of greeting to any deputy who stopped in were enough to secure us. We were certainly less uptight about such things forty years ago.

1972 Chevrolet Blazer a

After Grandpa finally retired, they sold both trucks and bought a top-trim 1978 Bronco in gold with a white top. The CST package meant Grandma’s Blazer was top-trim too. This is what passed for luxury in an SUV in 1972. Today, these big body-on-frame SUVs are all but gone out here in rust country.

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Old Cars

1968 Chevrolet Impala SS 427

1968 Chevrolet Impala

I have mixed feelings about this big red Chevy. The ’68 Impala is my favorite car of all time, thanks to my mom’s best friend owning a wonderful ’68 hardtop sedan in turquoise when I was a kid. And top-down driving can be such a pleasure. But so much of the styling zest of the ’68 Chevy lies in the hardtop roofs.

1968 Chevy Impala

Ah, there; that’s better. Such smooth lines! And that kickup on the rear passenger window: bliss. I almost bought one like this about 15 years ago, except that between the time I said I’d buy it and the time I scraped together the money, the seller managed to destroy it in a stupid accident. Sigh.

1968 Chevrolet Impala

Not that I’d turn down this Impala. If I could afford it, that is; it’s probably worth more than my house. That’s because it isn’t just any Impala convertible, but a fire-breathing SS 427. Just check RPO Z-24 on your build sheet! This one comes with Positraction and a 4-speed gearbox. It’s a fairly rare beast: one of 1,778 built in 1968. By the time these came along, people were looking much more to mid-size platforms — Chevelle SS, GTO, 442, Charger — to satisfy their performance lust.

1968 Chevrolet Impala

Ooh, looky: strato-buckets! You could apparently order these with a cloth-covered bench seat. Good lord, why would anybody do that? If you’re going to own the most powerful ’68 Impala, go all the way.

I can prefer the two-door hardtop ’68 Impala all day — but one was not to be found during my visit. And this potent Impala is plenty pretty. It is my favorite car at the 2015 Mecum Spring Classic.

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1973 Chevrolet Impala

Tail lights, 1973 Chevy
Canon PowerShot S95
2015

Old Cars, Photography
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1968 Chevy Chevelle SS

I saw one of these being pulled along on a flatbed trailer the other day as I drove home from work. It even had the same “396” badge on the fender, meaning it packed big-block V8 heat. But I care less about the engine underhood than I do about styling — and I always liked the way these looked. I especially like the canted front end. I used to draw cars all the time as a boy, and I aped this front end over and over in my sketching.

I took this photo at the Mecum auction in 2010, using my Argus A-Four on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros film. That Argus is a capable little viewfinder camera that I keep meaning to shoot again. I’ve owned two, and photos I took with both of them are in this Flickr album.

Old Cars, Photography

Captured: 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

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1962 Chevy Nova

1962 Chevy Nova
Canon PowerShot S95
2014

Old Cars, Photography
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