All posts by Larry Edsall

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State Univeristy.

61st ACD Festival celebrates ‘Year of the Cord’

61st ACD Festival celebrates ‘Year of the Cord’
61st ACD Festival celebrates ‘Year of the Cord’

It’s the “Year of the Cord” at the 61st annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival taking place Labor Day weekend in Auburn, Indiana, where activities actually began August 26 and continue until the last hammer drops Sunday, September 3, at Auburn Auction Park.

Cheers to the Festival and the Garage Cruise have concluded, but there’s still plenty of events to go. The Hoosier Tour, a four-day drive by 50 historic Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg vehicles, leaves at 8 a.m. today.

Auctions America’s ninth annual Auburn Fall sale of collector vehicles opens with a preview day Wednesday, August 30, with bidding beginning Thursday, the 31st, and running through Sunday the 3rd.

The festival kick-off luncheon is Thursday, as are the ACD Museum benefit and an ACD factory reunion.

The schedule Friday includes a pancake breakfast, ACD Club swap meet, vintage treasure sale, antique show and sale, historical presentation, cruise-in, tour of the route formerly used by Auburn-based car test drivers, various food-based events and a cruise-in concert.

Historic tours, ACD Club car show, running races, cars and coffee, historic home tours, the Parade of Classics, Miss ACD Pageant, Party in the Plaza, and Fast and Fabulous (exotic and luxury car) show and concert and fireworks display, and the Gatsby Gala ball are on the calendar for Saturday, as is the Worldwide Auctioneers classic car sale at the historic National Auto & Truck Museum’s L-29 Cord building.

1933 Duesenberg Modle SJ ‘Sweep Panel’ Phaeton by LaGrande | Auctions America photo by Darin Schnable
1933 Duesenberg Modle SJ ‘Sweep Panel’ Phaeton by LaGrande | Auctions America photo by Darin Schnable

In addition to the activities taking place in downtown Auburn, just a couple of miles to the south Auctions America stages its own mini-festival with a swap meet, car corral, children’s activities, Rust & Ruffles boutique, monster truck shows and rides, sport-bike stunt shows, helicopter rides and, on September 2, a cars & coffee gathering from 9 until 11 a.m.

And while Auburn may be the featured marque at the ACD Festival, Duesenbergs figure to be the stars of the Auctions America collector car sale, with a 1933 Model SJ “Sweep Panel” Phaeton by LaGrande carrying a pre-sale estimated value of $2.5 million to $3 million and with a 1929 Model J convertible coupe by Fleetwood expected to sell for between $950,000 and $1.2 million.

The auction docket also includes the James Bond “Astro Spiral” 1974 AMC Hornet used in The Man with the Golden Gun, the 1964 Chevrolet Corvette “Supernova” Sting Ray race car, a 2003 Delahaye custom boattail speedster, a 1907 Fabrique-Nationale Four motorcycle, hundreds of other collector vehicles, and, in a benefit for the Honor Flight and JDM Foundation, a private tour of Jay Leno’s Garage will be auctioned.

1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B | Worldwide Auctioneers photo
1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B | Worldwide Auctioneers photo

Meanwhile, the Worldwide Auctioneers’ docket includes vehicles from the Jimmie Taylor, Allen Smith and Chuck Runyon Estate collections and features a 1907 Stoddard-Dayton Model K runabout, 1930 Cadillac V-16 Imperial limousine, and 1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B on an 80-vehicle docket.

The auction preview begins Friday at 9 a.m.

Pick of the Day: 1964 Pontiac Catalina convertible

‘Rose’ is a restored beauty with an upscale interior

Meet “Rose.” She’s available from a private owner in Rockledge, Florida, for $47,000 — or she’s available in a trade involving a Peterbilt extended-hood model 359 or 379 motor home, according to the seller’s advertisement on ClassicCars.com.

Rose is a 1964 Pontiac Catalina convertible, which has undergone a restoration that includes the interior from a 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix interior has been updated

“This interior is from my grandfather’s ’64 GP that he bought new,” the seller notes. “The car was totaled. I removed the entire dash and complete interior and stored it all inside my house for 15 years (just ask my wife) while waiting for the time and the car for transplant.”

That car turned out to be this ’64 Pontiac Catalina convertible, which the seller adds is a car that has history in California, Arizona and Florida — all warm-weather locations. The seller stripped the rust-free car to bare metal as part of the restoration process. It was PPG epoxy primed and wears dazzling and clearcoated DuPont G2 Red Fire paint.

Power comes from a Tri-Power big-block 389cid V8, linked to a 375 10 Roto Hydramatic transmission with a 2.69 highway rear gear.

Top up

The car rides on factory Kelsey Hayes 8-lug wheels with rebuilt suspension, power steering and brakes, new tires, new exhaust, etc. The power convertible top has new weather seals, as do the doors, windows and truck, the seller adds. Speaking of the top, it has a glass backlight, which the seller notes was not available when the car was new.

While the Grand Prix interior was installed, it also was upgraded with Auto Meter gauges.

“I have road proven and enjoyed this car for 17 years,” the seller adds.

Top down

“Smooth effortless highway cruising in full-size American muscle. She’s the best of everything. Luxury, Show, and Go, with a convertible top.”

The seller includes an extensive photo gallery of the car, which has less than 125,000 miles (and an interior that has traveled less than 75,000 miles).

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Tri-Power V8

Goodguys expand eligibility to include 1987 models

The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association will expand eligibility for its car shows to 1987 or earlier vehicles starting in 2018.

Those events previously were limited to vehicles produced in or before 1972.

1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

“The move is inevitable as the years peel off the clock and will open endless new debates countrywide as to exactly what a classic or collector car is,” John Drummond of the Goodguys wrote on the association’s Fuel Curve website.

“The reality is – the early ‘80s stuff was fugly with hideous and liberal amounts of plastic, god-awful bumpers and some suspect designs. It was a weird time in American automobile manufacturing as the gas crunch and K-Car syndromes began to ease. But with a drop, big wheels, upgraded suspension and some more ponies, any hot rodder worth his lug nuts can take a late ’70s or early ’80s ugly duckling and make it fly.”

1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

He added that companies such as RideTech, Detroit Speed and others already produce Pro-Touring style suspension upgrades for the later-model vehicles.

“We could talk for hours about all of the Malaise-era models suitable for modding,” Drummond continued. “The possibilities are endless really, especially when you throw the trucks, vans and grocery getters in the mix.

“For Goodguys, the move is a calculated risk, one they’re willing to take,” Drummond wrote.

“We carefully considered all aspects of a year bump,” said Harry Daviess, Goodguys vice president of events. “Over a period of two years, we discussed it with prominent car builders, manufacturers, Goodguys members and event participants. We asked our 152,000 Facebook followers for their input.

“The resulting flood of feedback and collective input suggested nearly 70 percent of Goodguys social media followers, association members and attendees were in favor of the bump.”

1984 Ford Bronco
1984 Ford Bronco

The last time the association changed its eligibility age was 23 years ago.

“Seeing 20- and 30-year-olds, longing for a chance to show off their hot cars welcomed with a nod and a smile might sound like utopia but it isn’t so farfetched,” Drummond added. “Their passion for cool cars, like everyone else, will shine through.”

Pick of the Day: 1949 Studebaker Starlight

1949 Studebaker Starlight coupe is located in Port Townsend, Washington
1949 Studebaker Starlight coupe is located in Port Townsend, Washington

The advertisement on ClassicCars.com for Pick of the Day, a 1949 Studebaker Starlight coupe, was placed by someone assisting “an elderly car-enthusiast friend who has been a long-time collector of primarily post-war American classic automobiles who desires to reduce his inventory.”

Several vehicles from the collection are available, it seems, most coming from the Chicago area two to three decades ago, with some sort of restoration started at that time. The advertisement says the cars have been kept in ventilated, insulated dry storage in Port Townsend, Washington.

Another view
Another view

The focus here is on what is purported to be a rust- and dent-free ’49 Studebaker Commander Starlight coupe which at some point got a fresh coat of Bahama Mist paint and a new set of whitewall tires.

The ad notes that the driver’s seat bottom and front bench seat need new upholstery.The car shows 95,499 miles on its odometer, has its original engine and a manual transmission.

The asking price is $16,000.

Studebaker introduced the Starlight coupe in 1947 and kept it in production into 1952. Design was by Virgil Exner, who would become the influential chief designer for Chrysler.

The car’s long-hood, long-rear-decklid design, along with its raked windshield and panoramic wraparound backlight, had some people confused as to whether the car was coming or going.

To which comedian Fred Allen reportedly promised that, “Next year, Studebaker is coming out with a model that you won’t be able to tell if it is going sideways.”

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Strangest of the strange: Self-balancing Gyro-X, the futuristic dream machine

The Isotta Fraschinis were breathtaking. The Ferraris were spectacular. The preservation-class cars and a grouping of sports cars that had raced around Pebble Beach back in the day were wonderful time capsules. But as Ken Gross wrote in the event program, the vehicles gathered together near the 18th tee of the golf links truly were “the stuff of dreams.”

After World War II, the Detroit automakers had their ideas about America’s automotive future, and they paraded them out for all to see at events such as the General Motors’ Motorama shows. But the car companies weren’t the only ones with such ideas, and thus the special class at the 67th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance showcasing “American Dream Cars of the 1960s.”

There were 10 such cars arrayed in a semicircle at the farthest end of the show field. But despite the remote location, throughout the day Sunday there were crowds of people who came to see and to become entranced by the futuristic designs — and technologies — of a revolutionary and extremely optimistic period in American culture.

Many of the designs looked like they might be better-suited to flight, even space flight, than for terrestrial travel. Some were designed by those connected to the Detroit styling studios. One was done for Studebaker by an Italian coachbuilder. Others were by hot-rodders, including Dean Jeffries and Gene Winfield, another by a Pontiac engineer, and yet another by a sports car racer. Some had four wheels, some three.

1967 Gyro-X rolls across the awards stand at the Pebble Beach concours | Larry Edsall photos

And then there was the most unusual of them all, the 1967 Gyro-X , a narrow, two-wheeler kept balanced by a high-speed gyroscope. The car also has small bicycle-style training wheels that could be employed for parking.

The Gyro-X is owned by Jeff Lane and his Lane Motor Museum, a delightfully eclectic car collection in Nashville, Tennessee. Lane provided concours visitors with a slickly printed fold-out brochure on the car, and offered a 10-page handout for media, including two pages of patent-application drawings.

Lane acquired the car six years ago and has put it through a restoration/rebuild that included a 2-year search to find a company that could produce the necessary gyroscope, then year-and-a-half wait for that device to be constructed so it could be fitted into the vehicle. Lane found the company in Italy; it builds gyroscopes that keep boats from rolling too far in rough seas.

'Training' wheels keep car upright when parked
‘Training’ wheels keep car upright when parked

The car’s roots trace to two people, designer Alex Tremulis and engineer Tom Summers. As early as 1943, Tremulis was designing gyroscopic guided missiles for the U.S. military, and in 1961 designed the gyro-balanced Ford Gyron concept car.

In 1944, Summers launched a company to produce gyroscopes, bomb sites and other devices. At one point, the company employed 1,500 people, and in 1960 was contracted by the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service to develop a gyroscopically stabilized vehicle.

Though initially funded by the forest service, Lane’s media notes point out that a Summers-built vehicle was tested using “secret” gyroscope technology he had developed for the U.S. military, and a reporter for Science and Mechanics magazine wrote that when he visited Summers’ facility, much of the gyro system had been removed from Gyro-X “at the request of a U.S. government agency.”

The gyroscope
The gyroscope

Lane said that Summers became so convinced of the future of gyro-balanced vehicles that he left his own company in 1961 to found the Summers Gyrocar Company (later Gyro Transport Systems), which produced two gyro-balanced cargo carriers for the forest service and in 1966 filed patents for gyro-stabilized cargo carriers and another gyro vehicle.

He also recruited Tremulis to design the Gyro-X, which was built by famed racecar constructor Troutman-Barnes and displayed at the 1967 New York International Auto Show. The car ran as designed, but the technology was complicated and impractical for production and for mixing with normal four-wheeled traffic.

But Summers kept trying. In 1975 promoters from Las Vegas promised funding for a three-wheeled, non-gyro car.

Cockpit
Cockpit

According to Lane, Gyro-X reappeared in the mid-1990s as collateral in a business deal gone wrong and John Windsor, an entertainer, ended up with the vehicle. Windsor sold the car in 2009 to a collector in Houston. Lane bought the car from that collector in 2011 and set out to restore it to its original configuration.

The restoration/rebuild was completed just days before the car was displayed at Pebble Beach.

A four-cylinder Austin Mini-Cooper S engine and four-speed transmission provide power to the car and gyro flywheel, which can balance the vehicle as soon as it spins up to 2,400 rpm. When parked, the flywheel continues to spin, fast enough to keep the car balanced without its retracting stabilizer wheels for as much as half an hour. Operating only on the flywheel, the car can achieve speeds of 30 mph.

Summers believed that fully developed, the car could handle an 80-horsepower engine, achieve speeds of 125 mph and bank at 40 degrees without tipping. His idea was that such a car would enable roads to be made narrower or for current roads to handle twice as many vehicles without congestion.

Museums: Strong representation at Monterey Car Week

Car museums were well represented on the 18th fairway at the 67th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last weekend, as well as at other venues during Monterey Car Week.

Five of the eight cars in the Open Wheel Race Car class were museum vehicles, and four of the 10 cars in the American Dream Cars of the 1960s class ventured out of their museum homes onto the 18th fairway.

Continue reading

James Bond’s spiral jump car on Auctions America docket

The AMC Hornet that spiral-jumped river in 'Man With Golden Gun' head to auction | Auctions America photos by Teddy Pieper
The AMC Hornet that spiral-jumped river in ‘Man With Golden Gun’ head to auction | Auctions America photos by Teddy Pieper

Those of a certain age, or those who have binge-watched James Bond movies, will remember the scene in The Man With The Golden Gun in which 007 attacks the remains of a wooden bridge in a red car with white pinstriping along its flanks. The middle of the bridge was gone, but the car executes an amazing corkscrew spin as if flies over the abyss and lands relatively smoothly on the carcass of structure on the river’s opposite bank.

That very same car — a 1972 AMC Hornet hatchback — is being offered without reserve at Auction America’s Auburn Fall sale over the Labor Day weekend in northeastern Indiana. Continue reading

At Pebble Beach, Mercedes showcases Laguna Seca slot-car track

Slot Mod's version of Laguna layout filled 25 x 25-foot space | Larry Edsall photos
Slot Mod’s version of Laguna layout filled 25 x 25-foot space | Larry Edsall photos

You didn’t have to go all the way out to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to take in some vintage-racing action during Monterey Car Week. A slot-car duplicate of the famed track was assembled in the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge and was available for hot laps.

Created by Slot Mods Raceways as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mercedes’ AMG racing and hot-rod division, the scale-model Laguna clone was 105 feet long and filled a 25-by-25-foot area, but still left room in its infield for a real Formula One car raced by Lewis Hamilton. Continue reading

Monterey auctions post $317 million in total sales

A 1991 Ferrari Testarossa is on the block at Russo and Steele's Monterey auction | Bob Golfen photo
A 1991 Ferrari Testarossa is on the block at Russo and Steele’s Monterey auction | Bob Golfen photos

After four days, six auctions and 1,277 vehicles across the block, the final hammer has fallen on the 2017 collector car auctions on the Monterey Peninsula and the total tote stands at $317 million according to Hagerty, the classic car insurance and vehicle valuation-tracking company that provides daily updates from major auction venues.

Hagerty reports that while that $317 million figure is better than was expected by its marketplace experts, it falls 6 percent short of 2016 results for Monterey auctions. And it also figures to increase slightly as post-sales transactions are included when the auction companies report the official results in the coming week. Continue reading

DriveShare: Hagerty’s Airbnb for the collector car community

Who wouldn't want to rent a car such as this 1966 Mustang convertible? DriveShare photo
Who wouldn’t want to rent a car such as this 1966 Mustang convertible? DriveShare photo

McKeel Hagerty admits he was taken aback, to the point of speechlessness, when Ziv Aviram, co-founder of Mobileye, the Israeli company developing cameras and software for autonomous vehicles, told him, “Sorry, I’m going to put you out of business. You have to find something else to do.”

What Aviram apparently was saying was that self-driving vehicles that avoid collisions will eliminate the need for car insurance companies, perhaps even those such as Hagerty’s that specialize in insuring classic vehicles. Continue reading