Muscle Car School

March 16th, 2011

As long as I can remember I’ve been into cars. I still remember seeing a brand new 1967 Firebird convertible one evening when my Dad took us to the local Burger Chef drive in. I begged my Dad to buy one, but we were a wagon family, so something as sporty as a Firebird was out  of the question. At least I had my Matchbox car collection to keep me going and when Hot Wheels came out in 1968, almost all my playtime with my friends revolved around racing our Hot Wheels.

For a boy who was as into cars as much as I was, it came as quite a surprise when I our school organized the classrooms into teams named after the cars of the day. I started on the Wildcats but was also on the Mustangs and Road Runners while I attended the school. The other team names included  the Camaros, Firebirds, and the Barracudas. I’m not sure what the girls thought of our team names, but for my friends and I it was pretty cool to be part of muscle car school!


10 Automotive Turkeys

November 24th, 2010

The Edsel

Introduced in 1958 at at a development cost of 400 million dollars which is equivalent to 3.026 billion dollars in 2010, this turkey is the greatest automotive failure in history.  Ernie Breech, the chairman of Ford said “someone hopped on that front end and called in a toilet seat and it was dead from that minute” After disappointing sales in 1958 and 1959, the plug was pulled after only 2,846 models were produced in 1960. Luckily for Ford, the Mustang wasn’t to far off.

Studebaker Scotsman

This car was so bare bones buyers probably felt lucky to have wheels. Introduced in the Fall of 1957 the Scotsman went 0-60 in a whopping 21 seconds.  Every expense was spared in the Scotsman. Exterior chrome was on the bumpers only and almost all Champion body trim was removed or painted. Paint colors were Lombard Green, Admiral Blue and Highland Gray, all flat and industrial looking. Utilitarian interiors came with “breathable Naugahyde and pin-grain vinyl” upholstery, fiberboard door panels, no armrests, a single visor and vacuum operated windshield wipers. To top off the features of the Scotsman, turn signals and a basic heater were included.  If you wanted a radio,  whitewalls or a cigarette lighter you would have to look elsewhere. Even the dealers were prohibited from adding these extras.

Ford Pinto


As a former Pinto owner I can attest to what a turkey this car was. I will give it credit for always starting. It didn’t always run but at least I could fire it up. Knowing that these cars could explode on impact Ford ruthlessly weighed the cost of fixing the problem for $121 million versus potentially paying out victims for $50 million. Way to go Ford.

Pontiac Aztek


I think the term “fugly” can be traced back to the Detroit auto show when this monstrosity was unveiled.  It’s bad enough the car was so ugly,but the colors of these beasts were just as bad. The coroners report listing Pontiacs cause of death has listed  the Aztec as a contributing factor.

1958 Packard Station Wagon

What do you do when two automobile companies merge and there’s no money to retool? You take parts from both, hire a welder and come up with the “Packardbaker” the sad result of once proud Studebaker and Packard desperately trying to survive.

Ford Probe

I’m sure this is a perfectly fine automobile but what the hell is a Probe?  Is it a car or a proctological procedure? What marketing genius came up with this one?



Never has a car been the butt of so many jokes. Here are a few.

Q. How do you double the value of a Yugo?
A. Fill the Tank

Q. What is found on the last two pages of every Yugo owner’s manual?
A. The bus schedule.

Q. Why do Yugos come with heated rear windows?
A. To keep your hands warm while you’re pushing them

Q. What do you call a Yugo with brakes?
A. Customized.

Q. How do you make a Yugo go faster downhill?
A. Turn off the engine.

AMC Gremlin

Take an AMC Hornet, chop off the rear end and your left with the Gremlin. A turkey that competed with two other turkeys, the Vega and the Pinto. AMC actually sold a lot of these cars and they had a loyal following. These cars were as brutal to drive as they were to look at.

1960-1962 Plymouth Valiant

Chryslers entry into the compact market in 1960 the Valiant had  controversial “Italian Styling”  but the questionable styling was the least of Valiants problems. The Valiant was plagued with problems- leaks being one of them. Drivers were known to find puddles of water on the floor and trunk after a heavy rain.  On a positive note, Valiants were equipped with an indestructible slant 6 engine.

Chevy Vega


When I think of the Vega I think of rust. Visible rust within a couple of years of leaving the dealership was common. If the rust didn’t kill your Vega the engine did. Engines routinely failed at the 50,000 mile mark. Maybe the vertical shippping method that Chevy used to ship its cars by rail was the problem.

The first Amphicar?

October 28th, 2010

Could this be the first Amphicar? These pictures show a much different Amphicar that was first sold in the U.S. in 1961. The New York  license plates date the photos to 1960.  Notable differences from the production Amphicar include the lack of a front bumper, a flatter front end and different looking fins that include stacked round tail lights. It’s quite possible that the manufacturer needed to make the modifications to satisfy the DOT and the Coast Guard!





The Original Bond Cars

October 8th, 2010
1959 Bond Minicar Mark F
1959 Bond Minicar.  Image via Wikipedia

When you hear the words ‘Bond car’ you immediately think of sports cars kitted out with everything from Stinger missiles to ejector seats…but, in reality, the original Bond cars were something very different.

Founded by Lawrie Bond in Preston, UK in 1948 Bond Cars Limited were renowned for making economical three-wheel family cars.

The first of these produced was the Bond Minicar Mark A, a four-seat family car that was powered by a front mounted, 122 or 197cc, single-cylinder, two-stroke Villiers engine. As you can see from the posters, it was cheap on gas, tax and insurance!

As this was effectively a motorcycle engine the car could be driven on a motorcycle license. The downside of this was that the car had no reverse gear but, as the engine, gearbox and front wheel were mounted as a single unit, the car could turn a full circle within it’s own length by turning the steering wheel up to 90 degrees either side of the straight-ahead position.

Van, estate and convertible variations were also available and the last version ever made, the Mark G, rolled off the production line in 1966.

The Minicar was then superseded by the Bond 875, a much more powerful three-wheeler, relatively speaking,  that was powered by a rear mounted, 875cc four-cylinder four stroke engine.

In 1970 Bond Cars Limited were bought out by Reliant, another British company famed for their three-wheelers, who commissioned Tom Karen of Ogle Design to come up with a prototype for a fun sports car.

A two-seat, three-wheeled sports car, the Bond Bug  ran on a front mounted 700 cc Reliant light-alloy four cylinder engine and it’s design and color could not have come from any decade other than the 1970s!

One final note, designer Tom Karen was also the man that designed the Land Speeder for 1977’s Star Wars movie…the comparisons are there for all to see!

1971 Dodge Challenger 383 Road Test

October 1st, 2010

Here is a period road test of a 1971 Dodge Challenger 383. The clip comes from the show “Car and Track” which was hosted by Bud Lindemann and aired on CBS from 1967-1975.

Even though the term “muscle” is used to describe the cars power, Bud refers to the cars as “super cars”. In this road test, Bud can already see the end the the “super car” era noting that skyrocketing insurance rates will likely kill them.

The $100,000 Volkswagen

September 29th, 2010

1963 volkswagen bus

$100,000 Chevelles, Cudas and GTOs are pretty standard these days at Barrett Jackson auctions but seeing a 1963 Volkswagen 21 window bus sell for that price was pretty shocking. Yes this is a fantastic vehicle and I’m sure it’s perfect in every respect but it’s hard to imagine a car that was designed as a utilitarian vehicle could demand such a price.  Nada Guides lists these cars  high retail price  at $44,300. Time to resurrect all those abandoned  VW buses!

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Maybe this is what killed the electric car

March 26th, 2010

Just in time for the OPEC oil embargo in October of 1973 the First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development was held in the Mariott parking lot in Ann Arbor. Unveiled that day from GM was the Urban; a suspicious looking cross between a golf cart and a Gremlin. Not to be outdone was the space-age-kit-car-looking Sundancer that cranked out 8 horses using a dozen 6 volt batteries.  Inside the Mariott lobby an exhibition reminiscent of a high school science fair was held.  We’re still waiting for the Second Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems.

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Vintage Billboards

February 5th, 2010

I know in her “Beautification Campaign”  Lady Bird Johnson fought to remove billboards from America’s roads, but some of these billboards are works of art.

Just like Mom,  women’s clubs were always looking out for our well being.

This 1950’s  billboard looks very 1970’s.


When cowboys ruled a kids world.


Looks like a nice Jaguar and Lincoln.


The never ending quest for a clean restroom.


This one has me hungry for a piece of cake!


I guess this makes her the Queen of National Sign Week.


Without checking, I’ll bet Bob Hope was the host.


I used to love these rotating signs. I wonder if it rotated to Don Drysdale and Maury Wills?


Magic Highway 1958

December 18th, 2009

1958 Disney short exploring the future of American automotive transportation. A utopian view where everything is effortless and automated. Some of the predictions in the movie have come true; rearview cameras, real-time traffic updates, automatic navigation and giant drills that can cut through solid rock.  The idea of exercising must have been eliminated by the Disney futurists as even walking is by conveyor.

Vertical Car Shipping

December 6th, 2009

In an effort to cut shipping costs with it’s brand new 1971 Vega Chevrolet worked with Union Pacific to develop “Vert-A-Pac” which allowed 30 cars to be shipped versus 18 that a normal boxcar could carry. Because of the vertical shipping method, the railcars were taller than normal forcing the railroad line to follow special routes to avoid low overpasses.

According to Collectible Automobile The Vegas had four removable steel sockets inserted into the undercarriage. As the Vert-a-pac car doors were lifted and closed the Vegas would roll forward an catch on hooks on the doors. When the doors were fully shut the Vegas were suspended side by side, roof to roof.

The Vega’s engine oil pan had a special baffle to keep oil from seeping into the number 1 cylinder while the cars were vertical. The battery caps, carburetor float bowls and windshield washer fluid reservoirs were also designed to prevent fluids from leaking during shipping.


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