Category archives: Features

Vehicle Profile: 1964-1967 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

1964 Pontiac Catalina 2+2

For 1964, in keeping with their quest to remain a major force in the performance genre, Pontiac introduced a Catalina based, 2+2 (taken from the European style, sport touring models with seating for 4, even though you could easily seat 5 or more in the Pontiac 2+2 version) optioned, full-sized, performance, driving machine for the family. While Pontiac held onto the number 3 position in the USA for vehicle sales from 1962 through 1969, nobody could dispute the dominance of the Pontiac brand for performance.

It was an impressive run for Pontiac, a company that helped launch the Musclecar Era. The Pontiac 2+2 model was a performance upgrade option to the full-size Catalina for 1964 and 1965, a stand-alone model for 1966 and again, an option to the 1967 Catalina. Unfortunately, due to lackluster sales, 1967 was the last year it would be available. Production numbers for the 2+2 were small (less than 3 percent of total production for 1964) in comparison to Pontiac’s total unit production . . . 1964 = 7,998, 1965 = 11,519, 1966 = 6,383, 1967 = 1,768.

The 1964 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 was only available in a 2-door hardtop-coupe or convertible configuration and had a 119-inch wheelbase. They were all front engine and rear wheel drive vehicles. The standard engine was the 389-cid V8, with 2-barrel carburetor producing some 283 hp and a manual 3-speed transmission with a floor shifter mounted in the center console. The optional engines were the 389-cid V8 with 3-2barrel carburetors (Pontiac’s infamous Tri-Power setup) producing some 330 hp and the 421-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor producing some 320 hp (plus a few specially tuned 421’s with up to 370 hp were rumored to be produced as well) and an optional Hydramatic, automatic transmission or 4-speed manual transmission were available. Since 1964 was the first year, the 2+2 was basically a trim option with special badging including “2+2″ on the front fenders, hood and interior. Also some interior upgrades like special door panels, Morrokide bucket seats up front and center floor console with vacuum gauge were standard or available options.

For 1965, the Pontiac Catalina 2+2 had a facelift and its wheelbase increased to 121 inches, which improved handling characteristics. It would also become the most popular and sought after version of all the 2+2’s made. The front fenders capped and were cut-back just below the upper headlamp and now contained vertical louvers or “gills” situated behind the front wheel openings. The interior upgrades for the 2+2 again included the bucket seats, full carpeting, floor console and special badging.  Outside had custom pinstriping and special hood and rear deck “2+2″ badging and under the hood they had chromed valve covers and air-filter housing.

The chassis still came standard with the heavy-duty suspension components like shocks, springs, performance geared rear axle, anti-sway bars and dual-exhaust. To put all that power, from the now standard 421-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor (producing some 338 hp), to the ground, a new 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission was optional. Still standard was the heavy-duty, full synchro-mesh; 3-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter and the option of a 4-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter was also available. A Safe-T-Track limited-slip differential was an option, as well as two other versions of yet, even more powerful 421-cid V8’s, with 356 hp or 376 hp depending on your desire. The latter was stated to achieve 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds (however, rumor has it that, this Poncho was specially tuned when tested).

For 1966 the Pontiac 2+2 (which was its own model for this year only and dropped the Catalina badging altogether) was not much different than the 1965 . The easily identified, 2+2 only, louvers or “gills” were now located in the rear quarter panels near the door’s trailing edge, the “2+2″ badging on the rear decklid and quarter panels, “421” badging on the front fenders and the dual-lens rear taillights were also an easy way to identify the 2+2. Still standard were chrome valve covers and air-filter housing, heavy-duty suspension components and a new bucket seat design. Engine and transmission choices remained the same as 1965 models, but a new-fangled, two-stage, low restriction exhaust system was standard, which used dual mufflers with dual resonators (which were located at the rear of the vehicle). Some of the other available options were front seat headrests, tachometer, Superlift air shocks and transistorized electronic ignition.

For 1967, the last year of the Pontiac Catalina 2+2, the vehicle received yet another, more significant facelift and body enhancements and was now only available with the 428-cid V8, with 4-barrel carburetor, producing some 360 hp as standard or a factory tuned 428-cid, Hi-Output V8 with Quadra-Power 4-barrel carburetor and tuned to produce about 376 hp. Some of the new body features were outboard; wedge shaped front fender tips and integral bumper and grille area, hidden wiper blades, a protruding beltline or mid-body crease running the length of the vehicle and dual lens, rear tail lights that curved downwards at each outer corner to meet the bumper. Unfortunately, due to lackluster sales, the 2+2 would become a dinosaur and not return after 1967, but would be a fabulous memory of the days when the largest, most behemoth Musclecars, roamed freely about and tore-up the pavements of the world.

Find a classic Pontiac Catalina that you love!

Touring Mexico in a Classic VW Beetle

Photo: Jorge

A travel operator is offering people the chance to see Mexico from the unique perspective of a classic VW Beetle.

While the Beetle was first built in the late 1930s, it was actually still in production in its vintage form until 2003 at factories in Mexico, which is why you can still sometimes find classic cars of this kind that are in pristine condition.

The tour operator’s Travelling Beetle service allows you to explore many different areas of Mexico, from the central spine of the country to the gorgeous coastlines.

At the moment, you will have to be able to handle a stick shift car in order to take part in a tour, although the operator is planning to source some automatic models for the 2013 season.

Twelve people can hire six cars for large group stints, although there are of course smaller packages for two or more people.

Spokesperson, Nicolas Caillens, said that he was aware that some people would be concerned about the safety of travelling on the roads of Mexico, but pointed out that the tour specifically avoided the small number of states in which drug-related violence is prevalent, giving tourists plenty of harmless fun behind the wheel.

Vehicle Profile: 1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe

1932 Ford 5 window Coupe

The 1932 Ford Coupe (more commonly known as the “Deuce Coupe”) is the epitome of the true, original American Hot Rod. The 1932 Ford Coupe is one of several 2-door models, of the new Model B series from Ford.  The car that started it all was born at the end of the Ford Model A run. It was a one-year model that transitioned the Model A series into the upgraded 1934 Ford model lineup (the 1934 and 1935 B models were significantly changed from the stand-alone 1932’s).

As our boys returned home from the theatre of WWII in the early 1940s, they found an outlet in hot rodding old cars (if you consider a 1932 “old” in the 40s).  They were expressing themselves with new energy, restlessness and maybe a bit of rebellion. The older cars to hot rod were readily available in large numbers and the 1932s were even more desirable than Model As, or even Model Ts, due to their more powerful Flathead V8 drivetrains (the Flathead V8s were actually marketed as the Model 18, in their day).

The 1932 Fords were produced in many variations of both 2 and 4-door models but the 2-door models seemed to make the best Hot Rods and Street Rods. There were also many different styles in which to modify these cars, like the Highboy, Lowboy, Lake, Bobbed, Gasser and Rat Rod, just to name a few. Each one became an individual expression of the owner’s (or creator’s) idea of what he thought a Hot Rod or Street Rod was meant to be.

There was a lot of part, component and drivetrain swapping going on and some people got very creative with fabrications.  Many businesses sprang up as a result of these early pioneers, builders and dreamers, and still exist to this day in what has become known as the enormous automotive aftermarket. In fact, many of the innovations born from the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding world, have been adopted by and installed on production vehicles from all the major automobile manufacturers in the world.  If it wasn’t for the early pioneers of the Hot Rodding and Street Rodding cultures, I doubt we would have all the beloved and prized muscle cars running around out there.

Vehicle Profile: 1962 Ford Thunderbird

The 1962 Thunderbird offers two different models for classic car buyers to choose from. One is the Landau. This model originally featured vinyl roofs and simulated S bars on the sides. The introduction of vinyl roofs on the Landau was the beginning of a popular design trend that continued for Thunderbirds over the next twenty years.

The other 1962 Thunderbird model is the Sport Roadster, a limited production model. This model originally featured special upholstery on the seats and chrome plated Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The Sport Roadster was also designed with a fiberglass Tonneau cover, that makes the vehicle look like a two seater. The Sports Roadster is considered the more exciting of the two 1962 Thunderbird models, by classic car enthusiasts.

Before we discuss innovations include the bases. The style was influenced by fashion, “Kalifornia Kustom” of the early 60s, the model 62 had a redesigned grille with four horizontal lines with small bright vertical bars. In front of the grid a “jaladera”. Moldings were replaced “stacked” in the back of the compact model 61 by a horizontal dashed line. After the spring, some cars were built with a horizontal chrome line along its side. Large, round taillights brand attributes were decorated with more chrome.

The price difference between each of the models was a little over $151 U.S. dollars. Apparently it was a modest amount, but it was in 1962. From 1958 to 1960 the increase in the price of the car averaged $60 per year, but the brand new T-Bird 1961 jumped more than $400 in price. An increase of $150 in 1962 would have been seen as a stepping stone for anyone who negotiates the purchase of a 1959 model. But for those who bought a T-Bird a year was less than the previous year’s effort. It is also worth noting that the convertible broke the line of $4,000 for the first time in 1960, whereas it did in 1961 Hardtop. Convertible Roadster for 1962 came to $5,000.

A long list of standard equipment included in the high price of the car. According to Car Fax 1962, including auto exhaust system with dual output, fuel filter, oil filter, engine 390 cubic inch carburetor four throats padded dash, padded sun visors,electric clock with a second , courtesy lights, directional, deep center wheel, the horn ring and horn dual, individually adjustable front seats, adjustable rear view mirror day-night double door locks with safe, completely covered in the wheels, armrests built , carpet, vinyl upholstery, Ashtray, lighter ashtray air filter, automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering, electric windshield cleaners, hand brake (or emergency), glove box lights, ashtray, luggage, support and in magazines, heating and defroster, a movable steering column (new to the standard equipment list), a console between the front seats, and black tires 8.00 x 14. The Sport Roadster convertible included cover rear seats with padded back for the head, chrome spoke wheels and a handrail for the front passenger.

To appreciate the stature of the Thunderbird at the time, we must consider that in the period 1961-1962, the base models of Ford and Chevrolet only included directional, sun visors, and oil filter as standard equipment. The list of equipment for most cars was two to three long lines. In contrast, the T-Bird 1962 was equipped with almost all car accessories fitted quite well today (one difference may be the air conditioning, which is more common today). The T-Bird was also appreciated as extremely quiet, in a time when ordinary cars were noisy. About 45 pounds of sound-absorbing materials were placed in the car, including the isolation of aluminum, felt or fiberglass putty were applied to the roof cavity of the rough, board, instrument panel, passenger floors and floor trunk, roof panels, trunk, and panels of the compacts.

There were some additional revisions to the 1962 Thunderbird. A manual emergency brake, slight changes in trim, and adjustments in the indicators of the board were some of them. Below the car, a zinc-based coating was applied as protection against oxidation. Also applied three coats of primer or primer. On top of this, two coats of enamel “Never Wax.” Aluminum muffler also been upgraded with stainless steel sections in some critical parts in the exhaust system, such as resonators.

The T-Bird engine were made improvements in the intake system. Only in the carburetor were made 15 improvements plus the addition of a fuel filter that worked for 30,000 miles. The oil filter life also extended to intervals of 4,000 or 6,000 miles by removing a valve. At this point, most cars used antifreeze that required change almost every year. Thunderbird buyers were given a permanent anti-freeze protection to -35 degrees and had to be changed every two years or 30,000 miles. Taimen had better brakes. It said a larger master cylinder would increase the efficiency of braking with less pedal pressure. For durability and strength will be new materials used in mechanical brake. However, the T-Bird was three years of having disc brakes, something that fans of the brand thought very necessary.

Outside, 18 colors were available for simple Hardtop. Twelve of these colors were unique to the Thunderbird. A color, Blue Diamond, was added during the model year. Including Blue Diamond, there were 21 combinations of two tones. Nineteen interior options were available in four models of the Thunderbird in seven basic colors. The seats came in full on vinyl seven options, five options in vinyl and cloth, and seven full leather options.

1962 Thunderbird seats were low and soft. The heater controls and a glove compartment were incorporated in to the center console between the seats. The steering wheel moved 10 inches to facilitate entry and exit of the car, but it only works when the transmission selector was in Parking. Car and Driver (August 1962) mentioned “wide opening doors and generously sized interior” in both models. However, the magazine said that when setting back the front seats reduce the space for rear passengers’ knees and even then, the front seats do not fit enough to handle with arms outstretched.

A quick look at the 1962 body codes shows that the four models had only two different model numbers. This means that the differences between cars of similar body was in the ornaments of the chassis, rather than the body structure. There was only a minor difference of importance in the shape of the windshield or the roof line, Ford had used a different code to distinguish the cars. Both bodies had the same form of “projectile” front end and design of dual jet pipe at the back in 1961. The hardtop roof was again the trend of formal style. The convertible had a deck in the rear seat folded up and hidden mechanism “accordion” that Tom McCahill joked in May 1962 Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

“The first time I went down the roof, I thought the car was about to eat itself,” Tom McCahill said. “The roof of the rear seats opens, the panels are unfolded, the roof is straightened up, all accompanied by a noise similar to a missile launch. The spectacle of this operation is sufficient to cause thrombosis of a playboy 3rd Avenue slightly intoxicated. The total operation are seen as fellow woodcutters Buck Rogers of Abraham Lincoln and the end result, though the roof is successfully hidden, leaving less space in the trunk in a Volkswagen. ”

The convertible was the basis for the Sports Roadster. A large lid “tonneau” fiberglass made it a two-seater car. The convertible roof has to be hidden in order to install the cover and the cover can be installed or removed in less than three minutes. A Tom McCahill liked the idea of a conversion to two places and said “This vibrating glass fixture saw the T-Bird as an Easter hat parade.” Going back to 1955 (the system of baldness that Tom McCahill was used to define dates, “when he was three more in my bald hair.”) The writer had created a record of the T-Bird in speed on the track at Daytona. He liked the two places. But Uncle Tom was at the question of what to do with the cover to be away from home. “I could work in a slightly larger problem that is in the Congo,” he threatened, referring to a political issue at the time.

The British magazine Motor Sport, said that the tonneau cover was “made of thin fiberglass” and questioned if this could cause annoying noise. However, the tonneau cover was very well designed. The section of the headrest was shaped like a horseshoe to adjust on the chair seat Thunderbird. A secure early release was holding the transmission tunnel between the seats. The tonneau slipped below the top of the rear seats to be attached to the rear. You could add or retract the convertible roof tonneau cover in place. With the lid on in the back seat was a hole, this allowed to keep small items from sliding below the deck, cushioned by the back seat. Access to this “hiding” was achieved simply by folding the front seat forward.

The Sport Roadster for some, resembled a toy car racing spoiler with two figurines in the front seat. Tim Howley, author of Collectible Automobile, said he gave the impression of a large aircraft with the pilot and copilot sitting in the front. Car Life magazine compared the large area between the seatback and the rear of the car with the cover the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The equipment also included Sport Roadster Kelsey-Hayes wheels ray-top nut, a fastener for the front passenger, special badges to the front of the compact front below the letters Thunderbird, and wrote off the tail of the compact rear. Tom McCahill said, “The Roadster is the only Thunderbird wheels with spokes and simulated as a nut cup.”

However, Car Fax 1962 lists it as a regular T-Bird plus a cost of $262.90 for distributors and additional suggested price list of $372.30 dollars. The Tim Ford Howley expert agreed that this was the case. It is possible that other T-Bird wheels have been sold with lightning and simulated nut cup. The tail of the compact was removed from the Sport Roadster due to problems space with simulated nut cup, but the restorers have found a way to put them. The compacts also open allowing greater ventilation for the brakes and the car make it look more sporty. The rays wheels do not work well with tubeless tires.

The new model “forgotten” was the Landau or Landau Hardtop. It was produced with a cover in black or white vinyl roof. The cover was designed to look like a leather cover. To reinforce this impression the ceiling was decorated in a more classical. “The Landau has, as might be expected,” Landau Ornaments “vertically and attractive sides of the roof panels,” reported The Motor Sport. “It’s a very nice combination with genuine leather upholstery optional . The number of built Landaus was not recorded separately, but the model Hardtop pushed sales at more than 7,000 units.

The performance of the T-Bird Road remained largely unchanged since 1961. The standard engine of 390 cubic inch V8 with 300hp gave the Thunderbird enough speed for a typical buyer of the T-Bird, though not a Muscle Car McCahill reported an average of 9.7 seconds to take the car from zero to 60mph in Sport Roadster weight of 4.530 pounds. According to Motor Trend (September 1962), in a Sport Roadter of 4.842 pounds of weight in the same test they showed a 11.2 seconds time. Car and Drive Management 11.3 seconds in a convertible than 4,400 pounds. It is possible that the aerodynamic properties of the tonneau cover has made faster Roadter Sport of McCahill, although the proximity of the two results suggests greater accuracy. The great engine of T-Bird ran smoothly and quietly tore most of the time. Car and Driver said, “is nearly undetectable.” The Convertible Car and Driver recorded a top speed of 110mph, while McCahill said his Sport Roadster arrived at six miles more than that. (Probably the old Tom is not calibrated the meter). Motor Trend said “an honest 107mph in our Weston electric speedometer.” An optional engine was available in 1962. His production was limited, “tell me that under pressure and with the help of a member of Congress, it is possible to order the T-Bird with a more powerful engine” joked Tom McCahill. This engine was a version of 390 with three Holley two progressive carburetor throats, a compression ratio of 10.5:1 and an aluminum air filter distinctive. Known as the power plant Code-M was capable of generating 340hp and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm. Car Fax showed that the engine had a cost to distributors of $ $ 171 and $ 242 added to the selling price.

Although hard to believe was true, so it only took 120 Sport Roadster M. Code A M Roadster could reach 0-60 mph in about 8.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 125 mph. Although the T-Bird was a sports car fast, it was not a Muscle Car fast. The management was slow and vague and inadequate to conduct themselves in corners. Professional management techniques were necessary for driving gear corners closed due to slow response and leadership position. “These are shortcomings that most owners never meet,” said Car and Driver. Motor Trend rated the car as fast, but printed a photo caption in criticizing the chassis. There were problems in the mechanics of the braking system. The brakes work very well under normal conditions, but the mechanisms were warming rapidly and lose their braking when driving at high speed. It was necessary to wait a long time to cool the brakes to work right again.

How to Choose a Classic Car for Restoration

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Starting a restoration begins by choosing a vehicle that fits your interests. Many of you may already have a vehicle in mind or already have one in your possession. Sometimes, these vehicles have been in the family or picked up in the name of a “good deal”. That’s fine, but if you’re a first time restorer there are a couple of things that you should consider before making a vehicle choice.

The first question should be: “Is the vehicle in driveable condition?” This is a very important point for the first-time restorer. Unless you have a lot of space to store a vehicle during the entire process, look only for driveable candidates. Even if you have the space, you should consider only driveable vehicles for your first restoration. The reason we suggest this for the first-timer, is that an inoperative project sitting in your garage will become very unpopular in a short amount to time. A vehicle that you can drive and restore at the same time will be much more satisfying. Believe it or not, it is very common to lose interest in a classic car restoration project. This happens when an individual takes on too big a project for their time and/or pocketbook. So it’s best to save the frame-off projects until you build some experience.

Another piece of sage advice: don’t get sucked into “Basket Case” vehicles. These types of vehicles fall into several categories. The first is a vehicle that does not run and needs absolutely everything replaced to get to the final product. Next, is the vehicle that comes in many boxes. Usually these are projects that others have given up on. Missing parts is the biggest concern here, not to mention trying to figure out where all the pieces of the puzzle go. Leave these projects to the die-hard restorer. Most professional restoration shops won’t take these types of projects on and the ones that do, want a blank check when you drop off the parts. Another good thing to keep in mind about “Basket Case” type restorations is that they eat up a lot of time and cash! The fun is in doing the restoration work, not in chasing after a ton of parts or going broke. Therefore, you should look for solid, complete vehicles when choosing. The more you start with the less you have to buy new or hunt down.

Research!

Once a choice has been made, the education process begins. This is where you will need to “do your homework”, because that’s really what you’ll be doing once you decide on your area of interest. As an example, let’s say your area of interest is 1955-57 Chevrolet cars. The next step will be to learn all you can about these vehicles. You will want to find out about the history, factory production totals and aftermarket parts that are available for your selection. Good sources for this type of information are bookstores, car clubs, special interest magazines and of course, the ever growing Internet.

The research process includes requesting parts catalogs from vendors dealing in parts for the vehicle you are considering. Educating yourself about the cost of parts is a good idea before you actually make a purchase. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to tell whether a vehicle is in your budget and if there are adequate parts available to complete your restoration.

This information also helps a great deal when looking to buy. You will be able to better judge a vehicle’s condition by knowing which parts are missing and the cost of replacing those parts. If you see a missing part and you know its not available in reproduction, it could be a deal breaker or a bargaining chip. You can then use this information to leverage the seller into adjusting his or her price. Information is powerful, so do your homework, and save.

William Durant: the General of General Motors

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William C. Durant was born on December 8th, 1861 in Boston Mass. He quit high school to begin work in his grandfather’s Flint, Michigan, lumberyard. By 1885 he had partnered with Josiah Dallas Dort to organize the Coldwater Road Cart Company, which would become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. By 1890, Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the nation’s largest carriage company, producing approximately 50,000 horse-drawn vehicles a year.

In 1904, Billy Durant was approached by James Whiting of the Buick Company to promote his automobiles. Whiting persuaded Durant to join Buick as General Manager. In his first act as Buick’s GM, Durant moved the Buick assembly operations briefly to Jackson, and then began construction on a large Buick complex in Flint. In three short years Buick led the U.S. automobile production by manufacturing 8,820 vehicles. Between 1904 and 1908, Durant was made Buick’s president and established several essential parts and accessory companies such as Weston-Mott and Champion Ignition Company

By 1908 the top four auto producers in the U.S. were Buick, Reo (headed by Ransom E. Olds), Maxwell -Briscoe, (headed by Benjamin and Frank Briscoe) and Ford (headed by Henry Ford). Benjamin Briscoe wanted all four producers to merge and form one large company. Negotiations began in New York with J. P. Morgan’s son-in-law, Herbert Satterlee, and ended when Ford demanded cash instead of stock. and along with Reo pulled out of the deal.

Still determined to start this new auto company, Durant, at Satterlee’s suggestion, dropped the proposed name “International Motor Car Company” and settled on “General Motors” as the new name for his company.

On September 16, 1908, Durant incorporated General Motors of New Jersey (GM) with a capital investment of $2,000. Within 12 days the company issued stocks that generated over $12,000,000 in cash. General Motors then purchased Buick with stock. Six weeks later, GM acquired the Olds Corporation of Lansing, Michigan.

img-article-12Next, Durant completed a deal with financially troubled Oakland Company. Oakland was located in Pontiac, Michigan, and would later be renamed — you guessed it — Pontiac. Finally, Durant sought to acquire Cadillac Motor Car Company from the Leland father/son team. The Leland’s did not want stock and like Henry Ford, would only settle for cash to the tune of $4.5 million.

GM could not raise this amount of money, but Buick, the cash cow, could. So, Cadillac was bought with Buick funds, thereby becoming a subsidiary of Buick.

Eventually, though, GM purchased Cadillac from Buick. During this same period, Durant also acquired many truck and parts supply companies, including AC-Delco, which he helped form with Albert Champion and still bears his initials today.

In an 18 month burst of aggressive wheeling and dealing, Durant purchased, acquired or incurred a substantial interest in almost 30 auto makers. However, all this wheeling and dealing came at a price. Durant became financially overextended and consequently, lost control of GM to banking interests in 1910.

Undeterred, Durant partnered up with Louis Chevrolet to form Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911 and used the profits from Chevrolet to regain control of GM in 1915. However, Durant’s management style once again proved troublesome and he resigned in 1920 under an agreement with, then GM president Pierre Du Pont in exchange for Du Pont’s paying off Durant’s debts.

Determined to regain his place in the automotive marketplace, Durant formed Durant Motors in 1921 and produced a line of cars bearing his name for the next 10 years. However, a declining market and the Great Depression ended Durant’s automotive career in 1933.

Durant continued to create innovative ideas, but he no longer had the money to execute his plans. Near the end of his life, he operated several bowling alleys in Flint near the Buick complex. Durant was not bitter, nor did he regret his actions. Instead, he put his energy into new ventures. He believed bowling alleys were the next big thing – every family in America would spend their leisure time at bowling alleys. This venture too, proved to be unsuccessful and marked the end of long string of personal tragedies and failures that plagued Durant since the fall of the Durant Motors in 1933.

From 1934 until his death, Durant dabbled in stocks, politics, and social issues. None of these later ventures reflected his former industrious thinking and he faded from public life. On March 18, 1947, William Durant died in New York City, the same year as Henry Ford, thus, marking the end of a remarkable era in automotive excellence.

Vehicle Profile: 1968-1969 Ford Torino

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In 1968, Ford Motor Company forged ahead with their intermediate sized (116-inch wheelbase) muscle car selections.  They added the Torino name to the upper end offerings of their redesigned Fairlane model lineup. The Fairlane badging was discontinued after 1970, when all models would be badged as Torino (with various option/package levels through 1976).

The new larger and heavier Ford Fairlane/Torino was available in a 2-door coupe, fastback (or SportsRoof as they called it) and convertible (very rare, due to minimal production numbers). It was also available as a 4-door sedan and a 4-door station wagon, which was the only model in the lineup which actually had a shorter (113-inch) wheelbase.

The 1968/69 Fairlane/Torino again had 4-headlamps. Two each, placed side-by-side, at each end of the recessed grille opening, as opposed to earlier models where they were stacked vertically on top of each other at either end of the grille area. Parking/turn signal lamps were located in the front fenders at each corner just above the chromed bumper and wrapped around to incorporate the side marker lamp as well (to keep in step with Federal mandates for side-marker lamps).  Similar to previous models, the taillights were a squared style with the backup lamp located across the center of each lamp (either vertically or horizontally, depending on specific model). Keeping with the advantages of vehicular rigidity, safety and lower production costs, the unitized construction style of build was used.

Engines ranged in displacement from 200-cid L6-cyl in base model Fairlanes and 302-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor in all base model Torino GTs, to late addition (April 1968) of a 428-cid V8 Cobra Jet big-block motor (with supposed underrated hp of 335) in the rarely seen Cobra Jet optioned models. Also available, in various models, were the 289-cid V8 with 2-barrel carburetor, 390-cid, V8 big-block with either 2 or 4-barrel carburetor and the even more rare (like ghostly rare) 427-cid V8 big-block. The 427-cid V8 big-block was an initial offering but no records of a car actually being produced with this engine seem to exist.

All Fairlanes/Torinos came standard with the 3-speed manual transmission, with an available 4-speed manual (which also had staggered rear shocks to help eliminate inherent wheel-hop, while performing burnouts) and C-6 “Cruise-O-Matic”, automatic transmissions as options. There was an exclusive, Torino GT only, handling-suspension option available which gave you heavy-duty springs, shocks and larger front sway bar. However, any V8-equipped model, could be ordered with a heavy-duty suspension which also gave you heavier springs and shocks. All cars came with drum brakes, but could be upgraded to front discs and even power assist. Suspension was carried over from previous models and had rear, solid-axle, dual semi-elliptical leaf springs, with independent front coil springs and upper/lower control arms.

On the interior front, we saw a new cockpit area with four cylindrical gauge openings placed in front of the driver.  The cockpit area included the fuel gauge and engine temperature warning lamp in the far left pod. The second pod had a 120 mph speedometer (situated directly above the steering column). The third pod had an “idiot” light for charging system and low oil pressure warning (also available was an optional tachometer) and the fourth pod was empty but would house the optional clock when ordered.

The more breathable “Comfortweave” upholstery was available in place of the standard vinyl upholstery. The Torinos came with color-coordinated carpets, additional interior trim and exterior enhancements (including fancy crests on the rear, side-roof areas). The Torino GTs came standard with bucket seats, center console, courtesy lamps on inside door panels, special badging and exterior trim and hub caps. The Torino GTs are quite rare in today’s market, as only 98,000 coupes and fastbacks were produced and only 5,300 convertibles for 1968.  This is due to several factors, including low production numbers, deterioration problems of sheet metal and chassis components and abnormally low resale values. The factors caused many units to end up in junkyards.

Few changes to the 1969 Fairlane/Torino were evident, but quite a few performance upgrades were made. Subtle changes were made to the grille area and the taillights were more squared looking. Two new Cobra specific models, a 2-door hardtop and a 2-door SportsRoof, were added to the lineup in 1969.  The Torino Talladega was added to specifically reach the NASCAR market and participate in races. It afforded Ford a total of 26 victories during the 1969 Grand National season and a total of 750 (including prototypes) of these were produced.

Ford’s Torino (which is Italian for Turin, a city in Italy) name was chosen because Turin has been compared to Detroit, MI, in respect to being an automobile manufacturing Mecca.

Find a classic Ford Torino that you love!

Vehicle Profile: Mercury “Lead Sled”

One of the most significant and easily recognized vehicles to emerge from the post WWII era of prosperity had to be the awesome looking 1949 Mercury, also known as the original “Lead Sled”! The coupe was the most sought after of the offerings, but the 4 door sedan, complete with “suicide rear doors” and even the convertible models weren’t too rough on the eyes either.

This car (built 49 to 51) was the dream of Ford’s, then design guru and styling chief, Bob Gregorie and his team. He fought hard against the “powers that be” at Ford management and its bean counters to gain approval to ready his cutting edge, factory customized behemoth and beloved brainchild for production.

When they constantly refused to have any part of it, mainly due to costs of bringing it to realization as a profitable production vehicle for the masses, he turned to the Mercury Division of FoMoCo and pitched his concept to them. Once gaining the approval of Mercury’s management and getting the green light for the project sometime in 1947, he pushed to have it ready for the 1949 year model production run. The beloved “Merc” was born!

His “dreamy design” was complete with styling cues he gleaned from some of the early west coast customizers of the time and included such things as a much lower, wider stance, longer sleeker lines, low roof lines, “fade-away” styled fenders and blended quarters, huge chrome grille and mammoth bumpers and actually, a car that looked fast just sitting still! He is many times credited with creating the first “factory customized” production vehicle and I for one am not going to dispute that credit.

Who can forget the Bob Hirohata ‘51’ Merc and the rage it created? A genuine original, which I believe, was the first fully customized (post-factory that is) “Merc” out there. This awesome looking monster of a vehicle was completed in 1952 by the artisans and craftsmen at the now infamous Barris Kustoms Garage in southern California! It still carries on thru time as one of the greatest, all-time, bad-ass lead sleds out there! This is definitely one car that I would love to own someday!

Click here to view all 1951 Mercury “Lead Sled’s” for sale on ClassicCars.com

The Classic Cars of Perry Mason

Decades before modern day Law and Order, Perry Mason ruled the TV court room and the roadways too. Airing from 1957 to 1966, the show followed a ruthless Los Angeles defense attorney commanding the court room with crafty cross-examinations, often revealing unexplored evidence and solving murder mysteries in his client’s favor during the proceedings. Perry was just as notable on the highway as he was in the courtroom. Perry and company drive from episode to episode in some of the most coveted classic cars in the collector’s world.

Although Perry drives a myriad of automobiles during the shows nearly ten year run time, he’s most often seen in classic Ford and General Motors models in the early episodes. Take a look back through time at some of Perry’s retro rides.

Cadillac Series 62
Throughout the first few years of the series, Perry seems to favor the Cadillac Series 62, which is no surprise considering General Motors was a major advertiser for the program and network. Perry cruises from crime scene to court room in the convertible model known for its unique tail design. He is seen in the 1957-1959 models most. The body featured iconic bullet shaped tail lights embedded in a fin shaped bumper, a departure from the more rounded shape of prior models.

The Cadillac Series 62 was a fairly diverse model. It was available as a 2-door and a 4-door, and also as a coupe model. Production of the Series 62 continued into the mid 1960’s, until it was eventually replaced by the Cadillac Calais.

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A 1958 Cadillac Series 62 featured in Perry Mason

Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
Perry also favored the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. Produced from 1957 to 1959, the Skyliner might seem like a standard convertible to the laymen. But classic car lovers can agree that the Skyliner was an innovative model for the 1950’s: featuring a unique a retractable hardtop, the first of its kind at the time of production. Perry is seen in the model both at work and at play. He is seen driving around town with the top up, and charming ladies on night time cruises with the top down.

The retractable roof fueled sales for the only three years of production. But aside from the novelty of the roof, consumers were relatively unimpressed with the build and performance compared to other Ford models of the time. Especially because of the price. The Fairlane 500 Skyliner was priced a lofty $400-$500 above similar convertible models. Production plummeted from over 20,000 models in 1957, to a little over 12,000 in 1959. But because of the unique hardtop function, it’s still a favorite for classic car collectors.

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A Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner featured in Perry Mason

Check out more of Perry Mason’s favorite cars at the internet movie cars database.

Vehicle Profile: Black Panther Camaro

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While Ford was fighting off the early successes of the Chevrolet Corvair and Chevy II with their introduction of the Mustang in August of 1964, GM began work on a counter-punch experimental project named XP-836. The XP-836 project directly targeted the Ford Mustang mystique and the new youth market that emerged from almost nowhere in the eyes of GM marketers. The surprising popularly of Ford’s Mustang framed the XP-836 project from the very start and incorporated the “Mustang formula” in the early years of production.

In the winter of 1965, the XP-836 project turned out a prototype car based on some cobbled-up Chevy IIs. While crude, the new Chevrolet was shaping up to run well along side Ford’s Pony car. Now named the “Panther”, the project and the proto-types were written about in great length by the automotive press with all the excitement of a pending rivalry with the Mustang.

img-article-1Given a name that the public could latch onto, the “Panther” was quickly being promoted as GM’s Mustang-fighter. Sometimes called “Chevy’s Mustang” the “Panther” evolved conceptually using much of the Mustang marketing formula.

Now branded with the “Panther” script and leaping-cat emblems similar to that used by Jaguar, the proto-types advanced with an outward confidence that Chevrolet’s sleek new cat would be chasing down the Mustang. By early 1966, Ralph Nader was doing a hatchet job on the Corvair, and GM management sought to tone-down the image of their new car in hopes of not drawing the attention of safety crusaders with the aggressive “Panther” name.

Seeking a “clammier” image for the new car, the marketing department looked to their current line of Chevrolet monikers, the Corvair, Corvette, Chevelle, and Chevy II for inspiration. Desiring another “C” name brand, merchandising manager Bob Lund and GM Car & Truck Group vice-president Ed Rollert poured through French and Spanish dictionaries and came up with “Camaro”. Meaning, “warm friend”, the new name offered GM an excellent label to compliment the current Chevrolet line and introduce their new car with a much tamer image. Though the “Camaro” name was replacing the various project names the car had been developed under, outside the company some controversy over the meaning of the new name was causing a potential image problem for the new car. In an unprecedented national conference call with some 200 journalists, GM released the ” warm & friendly” Camaro name to the public ahead of the cars introduction to dealer showrooms. The effort was successful in quashing any “image killing” interpretations of the new Camaro moniker.

In 1967, amidst the phenomenal success of the Ford Mustang, General Motors pulled off a sensational introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro by delivering over 212,000 units to dealer showrooms that year. Keeping in fashion with the Mustang formula, the Camaro was offered with a laundry list of options at both the factory and dealer level. Camaro customers could custom build their own car with a host of options previously only available on Chevrolet’s higher-line models.

Desiring the same custom performance treatments being offered by Shelby America for the Mustang, Camaro enthusiasts looked to the dealerships in hopes of finding these performance options. Happily, the folks at Toronto-based Gorries Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealership answered the call to incorporate their race knowledge into the new Camaro. The result was the “Black Panther” Camaro.