Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

Vehicle Profile: 1950s Nash Ambassador

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Just how do you suppose the historically famous Italian company, Pininfarina, ever became involved in the styling designs of the 1950’s Nash automobiles? It would have been enjoyable to be around in the days of the late forties and early fifties when these sometimes garish and over-the-top designs were created. The designs were often borrowed from furniture and appliance manufacturers. They were slathered onto the artsy designs of some of the heaviest, yet most stylish, “gunboats” to ever grace the pavements of the world.

The Italian design and coachbuilding company Pininfarina was famous for their work with the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and many other prestigious companies. They were commissioned by the Nash Motor Company to design these special edition Ambassador “bathtub styled” beauties aptly named the Nash Ambassador “Pininfarina” Country Club Coupe.

Vehicle Profile: 1969-1976 Triumph TR6

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The 1969 through 1976 Triumph TR6 was known as the quick, nimble, what-a-blast-to-drive and totally British sports cars of the day.  The Triumph TR6 was mostly unchanged throughout the 8 year production run. (unfortunately the end of a great era for Triumph and all true British sports cars, as we knew them).  The Triumph TR6 was only produced as a front engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-door convertible sports car.

The new-for-1969 body was only slightly redesigned by the famous Karmann group of Germany (while maintaining many components, both body and chassis wise, from the previous TR4/A and TR5/TR250 models). The front-end was widened and modernized, while the rear-end was given an angular, “Kamm-back” styling (which was becoming popular at the time). The only engine available was the 2,498cc (152.4-cid or 2.5L), in-line, 6-cylinder with twin “SU” (or later Stromberg) carburetors, producing around 105hp (the European market, and “British” only versions were available with P.I., or “petrol-injection” and produced in the area of 150hp). This torquey little, OHV, pushrod design, 6-cylinder, was coupled to a fully synchromesh, four-speed, manual transmission (and an optional, electrically switched, “overdrive” transmission was also available).

The wheelbase was a mere 88 inches, the overall length was only 155.5 inches, the total width was 61 inches and it was only a short 50 inches high.  It weighed a paltry 2,300 lbs (+/-). The Triumph TR6 was a great little “Sports car” package, that could reach 0-60 in approximately 8.2 seconds, run through the 1/4-mile traps at around 16.3 seconds and attain a top speed of around 120 mph. Nothing earth shattering, but a lot of fun, none-the-less!

The interior of the Triumph TR6 was typically “British” in styling and appointments. It had plenty of odd switches and levers, full instrumentation and comfy, sporty seats. It was cozy, yet, actually roomy enough for a person over 6-ft tall. It had the typical wood veneer dash board of the day, plush carpeting all over the place and a nice-feeling steering wheel. With the redesigned rear-body area by the aforementioned Karmann group, there was a lot more room for luggage and/or groceries than in most previous sports cars of this size.

For mid-1973, and again, due to U.S. Government safety mandates, a huge pair of (and most people agree ugly) black rubber bumper “over-riders” were added to both front and rear bumpers (to meet the 5 mph impact ratings). The Triumph TR6 was of steel frame/steel body design for its entire production run and had a semi-trailing arm rear, independent suspension with coil springs and knee-action, lever-style shocks. The front disc brakes and rear drum brakes were more than adequate, with the power assisted booster system. The steering was handled nicely by a rack and pinion style system, with huge 15-inch wheels/tires (Redlines were the cats-ass) all the way around.

Sketchy records indicated that some 96,000+ Triumph TR6 cars were produced from 1969 through 1976 and over 83,000 of those ended up in North America. That made the TR6 the most popular and most produced Triumph in the TR series history (the TR series ran from 1953 through 1980).  The Triumph TR6 is a very desirable and somewhat valuable and unique collectible vehicle in today’s market. Many of these cars have rusted away to nothing, leaving very few original units out there in good condition.

Vehicle Profile: 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

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In 1929, Mr. Errett Lobban Cord (or E.L. Cord to most people) founded the Cord Corporation as a holding company for the many companies (over 150 total) which were under his control at the time. These companies included the likes of the Auburn Automobile Company (which also produced the Cord line of automobiles), Duesenberg Inc., Lycoming Engines, Checker Motors Corp. (makers of the famous “Checker Cab”), the Stinson Aircraft Co., New York Shipbuilding Corp. and American Airways (which would become American Airlines).

The 1937 Cord model 812 was a medium-priced but high-end vehicle (even in its day). It was the first American automobile to have front-wheel drive along with independent front suspension. Lacking the usual transmission hump and driveshaft tunnel (running lengthwise through the center of the vehicle), meant that the new Cord model 810’s (1936 models without supercharger) and 812’s (1937 models with or without optional supercharger) were low enough to eliminate the need for running boards, which were commonly used to aid in entry to the vehicle. The use of a unitized body construction for strength and rigidity was innovative and aided overall in reducing weight and increasing performance.

The unique design of the 1937 Cord model 812, which is iconic to this day, was the brainchild of Gordon M. Buehrig. He is also famous for his work at Auburn Automobile Company and was heavily involved in the design/production of the famous 1935 model 851 Boattail Speedster (some of which, may have been influenced by the brilliant, but short-lived designer, Alan Leamy).

Mr. Buehrig and his team of designers and engineers went to work on designing a vehicle that was different than the norm-of-the-day in many ways. Some examples of these differences are the hidden door hinges, front opening hood (hinged at the rear) for easier access, hide-away headlamps operated by dash-mounted hand cranks and a concealed fuel-access cover on the right rear body panel. The “coffin-nosed” front end and “louvered”, wrap-around grille design were exclusive touches which, without a doubt, informed you it was a Cord automobile coming your way.

The 1937 Cord model 812 came with an optional Schwitzer-Cummings centrifugal “Supercharger” (with 6 psi of “boost”) mounted to a Lycoming V-8 of 288.6-cid. It produced somewhere in the range of 170-195hp (depending on tuning) and sported the large, tell-tale, highly polished and corrugated exhaust tubing exiting from the engine compartment and into the top of the voluptuous, front, pontoon styled fenders. This powerful engine was connected to the forward-mounted, four-speed transmission, which was activated by an electronically controlled vacuum-servo. This was operated by a gear-selector lever mounted on the steering column. Leaving the floor of the vehicle uncluttered, hydraulically actuated drum brakes all around and a pistol grip handbrake lever under the left side of the dashboard actuated the parking brake.

The 1937 Cord model 812 sported some pretty cool creature comforts for the era including variable speed windshield wipers (most vehicles still had hand operated wipers, if any at all) and an AM radio (which would not be available, as standard, on most vehicles until the 1950’s). It also had a horn button located in the center of the steering wheel (which was also a first in the industry and most other manufacturers would later adopt this style) and a beautiful, engine turned dashboard with full instrumentation including a tachometer, an “oil-level” gauge and switches galore.

The convertible top could be collapsed and completely hidden from view inside the rear deck area.  This added to the increased interior compartment size which easily seated five people. The new Cord model 810/812 prototype made its debut at the New York Auto show in 1935 to rave reviews due to the sleek styling and ravishing great looks alone. People were climbing on top of each other and anything else they could find (other vehicles, for instance) just to get a glimpse of it. Unfortunately, the Great Depression would signal the end of Mr. Cord’s “automotive empire” in 1937.  What he contributed to the automotive industry, in a few short years, was pure genius and his ideas and designs were of legendary proportion!

Vehicle Profile: 1955 Cadillac Series 62

The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible was a beautiful, behemoth of a boulevard cruiser that enjoyed quite a reputation for not only great looks and elegant luxury, but was no slouch in the performance category for such a large, heavy (weighing in at approx. 5,000 lbs.) vehicle. This was the fourth generation, 1954 to 1956, in the long run of the Series 62 models from Cadillac (fourth out of seven total generations of the Series 62, beginning in 1940 and running through 1964). This was a lower, more streamlined version of the third generation Cadillac Series 62 models and came with many refinements and updates. Cadillac was at the top of its game, globally, in the luxury car segment and you knew you had “arrived” if you were “well-heeled” enough to be the proud owner of one of these babies!

The hood (and entire body for that matter) was lower and smoother and the grille was styled with an “egg crate” design that was further enhanced by a pair of large torpedo or “Dagmar” protrusions which were attached to the left and right, inverted gull wing bumper extensions. Chrome was used heavily throughout the vehicle to add to the flashy looks, but was tastefully done, not overdone. The headlamps were surrounded by stylish, chromed visors and the parking lamps were moved directly below the headlamps. A chromed ventilation “grille” stretched across the base of the “Eldorado” style, curved or “wrap around” windshield. Touches of the famed automotive designer, Mr. Harley Earl, were evident throughout the vehicle including the larger rear tail light “fins”. The gas filler was still located (or hidden) behind a door, just below the left rear tail light. The rear bumper was updated and the large, vertical ends housed a port for each of the dual exhaust pipes to exit. The rear of the vehicle loomed very large to anyone who pulled up from behind and below the trunk-lid were six chromed, vertical molding “fins” which complimented the two vertical bumperettes on either side of the license plate mount.

Under the hood of the 1955 Cadillac Series 62 was a 331 c.i. V8 pushing 250 (stated) hp attached to a three-speed, Hydra-Matic, automatic transmission and reaching a zero to sixty mph speed in, comparable to size and weight, a very comfy 11 seconds. The wheelbase was stretched to 129 inches and the overall length of the monster was about 223 inches, the overall width was about 80 inches and the overall height was about 62 inches. A 12-volt electrical system was now standard, as well as power steering, automatic windshield washers, tubeless tires and aluminum alloy pistons. Very large drum brakes (12″ x 2.5″) were on all four wheels to help bring this lead sled to a halt (that and a prayer) and the turning radius was around 24 feet or about three full lanes of pavement!

Find your dream 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible now.

Vehicle Profile: 1967-1970 Mercury Cougar

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In 1967, Mercury officially entered the Pony Car arena with the introduction of their Cougar models. The Mercury Cougar was designed to be a sport/luxury vehicle intended for the pony car market. It was also designed to compete with its counterparts not only in the USA but also in Europe.

The Mercury Cougar immediately gained acceptance and was even extremely successful in the racing circuits of the day with involvement of greats like Dan Gurney, Bud Moore (NASCAR), Parnelli Jones, Ed Leslie and former Carroll Shelby employees Nels Miller, Mark Waco and Bernie Kretzschmars. They worked together on a Cougar race team for famed Indy car owner Bob Estes, racking up a record six wins in ten races for 1967.

The Mercury Cougar was designed as a slightly larger-sized vehicle (after extensive study results were compiled by means of corporate and public surveys). It was more luxurious in options and offerings than the Ford Mustang, on which it was based. Mercury designers worked to combine all the best qualities of the Ford Thunderbird and Mustang models.

The target market for the Mercury Cougar was a younger, upscale, well-educated, more discerning, married with family buyer. It was ultimately geared toward the male ego. The 111-inch wheelbase was 3 inches longer than that of the Mustang and overall length was 6.7 inches longer as well. The Cougar also weighed approximately 200 pounds more than the average Mustang but possessed a softer more comfortable ride in stock form. The Cougar still had the characteristic short rear deck area and long hood area in keeping with the Pony Car styling cues.

All early Cougars were of the two-door (notchback-style) coupe design and a convertible was added in 1969 and continued for 1970 (culminating the end of the first generation of the Pony Car year models). The Mercury Cougar would only be available with a V8 powertrain (of several various displacements from 289-cid to 428-cid over the 1967 to 1970 year models) and coupled to a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic transmission.

1967 and 1968 were virtually the same except for larger displacement engine offerings for 1968 and some subtle styling changes (i.e. federally mandated side-marker lamps for 1968). The signature fender to fender (with center divider) “electric razor” looking grille, with closely spaced vertical chrome inserts and concealed headlamps were all a part of the more sophisticated look and functionality.  The rear, nearly body-wide, sequentially flashing turn signals/tail lights (borrowed from the earlier Ford Thunderbirds) also added to the sophistication. Crisp bodylines and angular styling gave the car a unique, aggressive tough guy look.

The sportier GT package offered more performance upgrades (like 390-cid big-block engine) than the base model Cougar.  The even more luxurious XR-7 package was offered and comprised of a competition styled cluster walnut wood grained dash/console area and steering wheel inserts, leather/vinyl covered seats and a leather automatic shift-control handle. An extra special XR-7G option (“G”, for the racing legend Dan Gurney) was offered and came with all sorts of special performance goodies like racing-style hood pins (then popular), a center hood scoop and even some Lucas fog lamps. A mid-year (1968) introduction, GT-E option, saw the use of the 7-Litre, 427-cid and even later on the 428-cid Cobra Jet “Ram Air” engine, which was intentionally under estimated at 335 hp. Some 150,000 total units were produced in 1967.  In 1968, those numbers dropped to about 113,000 units (619 were XR-7G’s and 602 were GT-E’s, only 244 with the 428-cid C/Jet engine).

The 1969 Mercury Cougar welcomed the introduction of the convertible model along with a few other subtle styling changes (including more engine offerings).  Weight was added with a wider and longer wheelbase. The grille had now changed to horizontal fins instead of the vertical style (electric shaver) models. Some optional enhancements to the front-end area included a spoiler and Ram-Air induction style hood scoop.

An Eliminator performance package was offered for the first time which included a 351-cid with 4-barrel carburetor, or optional 390-cid with 4-barrel carburetor or even 428-cid “CJ” (Cobra Jet) or 302-cid “Boss” motors. The Eliminator was detected visually by the blacked out grille area and further enhanced by standard front and rear spoilers, special striping and better performance/handling suspension package. However, the awesome XR-7G and the GT-E options were both dropped for 1969. Production dropped again to 100,000 total units for 1969.

1970 saw the final year of the first generation Mercury Cougar and only a few changes from the 1969 version. The hood now contained a center tooth which divided the new grille area in two. The black grille/headlamp covers had reverted back to the vertical electric-shaver style fins. Inside the car we saw some new interior patterns and a federally mandated, lockable, steering column to help deter theft (however, as always, the thieves quickly figured out how to circumvent that minor setback to their craft) . The 351-cid engine was now available in both the standard Windsor with a 2-barrel carburetor and the new Cleveland, 300 hp (with 4-barrel carburetor) versions.

1969 and 1970 convertibles were produced in small numbers and today are very prized among collectors. Total production for the 1970 year model dropped to 72,000 units. The muscle car era was being heavily scrutinized each coming year, until they all but eliminated performance as we knew it.

Vehicle Profile: Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda (“Cuda” for short), an aggressive sounding name for a car (and a pretty mean-ass fish, which is a deep-water predator, with a lot of sharp teeth), was unfortunately only produced for 11 years (1964 to 1974). The Plymouth Barracuda started out as a sporty, compact, fastback model based on the A-body or Valiant chassis (an entry level or secondary vehicle for the economy-minded, American family of the day).

There were three generations of the Plymouth Barracuda during its 11 year production run, the first (1964 to 1966) and second (1967 to 1969) generations were based on their A-body platform (Valiant chassis). The third generation was built on a totally new, specifically built chassis, referred to as the E-body. The release date of the Plymouth Valiant Barracuda model was April 1, 1964 (actually making it the first real Pony car model), just two weeks before Ford made an early release of their infamous 1965 Mustang Pony car.

The first generation Barracudas came with a huge rear fastback glass area (14.4 sq. ft). It was designed in cahoots with the PPG Company (Pittsburgh Paint and Glass) and at the time was the largest wrapped (curved down to meet the rear body panels) glass area ever installed on an American-made production vehicle.  All models were of the 2-door coupe design with that distinctive fastback glass area. The 1964 Barracudas were offered with either a standard slant 6, 170-cid (101 hp) or 225 cid (145 hp), 6-cylinder engines or the Chrysler Corporations’ 273 cid (called the LA design), V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor which produced 180 hp. This would also be the only year with the optional, dash-mounted, push-button, 3-speed, automatic Torqueflite transmission. The standard transmission was the 3-speed (“3″ on the tree) manual transmission.

For 1965, the Barracudas remained cosmetically the same but they had a few changes under the hood and in the interior departments. Also, to give the Barracuda its own identity, Plymouth decided to drop all Valiant badging from the vehicle in order to keep the Barracuda model exclusive. The base engine would now be the 225-cid, 6-cyl (in all U.S. models), while the 273-cid, V8 with 2-barrel carburetor, would remain as the entry-level V8. An optional Commando version of the 273-cid V8, would be offered and produced 235 hp via a 4-barrel carburetor/intake, a higher compression ratio, a special camshaft with solid lifters and some fine tuning.

A Formula S package was added which included things like the 273-cid, Commando V8 engine, a tachometer, special badging, a sportier suspension system and larger tires and rims. Factory installed air-conditioning and front disc brakes were made available later in the production year. The 1966 Barracuda would receive a minor facelift including new front-end sheet metal, new grille work, larger bumpers and some new tail lights. The interior sported a new dashboard which included areas for the optional tachometer and oil pressure gauge and for the first time, a center console was an option. The 1966 also sported the new fish logo along with the Barracuda nameplate.

Second generation Plymouth Barracudas came with all new and exclusive sheet metal (not sharing with the Valiant models, as before) and was now available as a notchback coupe and also, a convertible (all were still 2-door vehicles). The wheelbase was extended by 2 inches to make it 108 inches and the exposed racing-style gas cap was located on the left rear 1/4 panel. Even though the exterior was all new and exclusive, the Barracuda still shared many components with its sister Valiant models, to keep manufacturing costs down. Some of the unique new design features were more rounded looking body panels, a concave deck panel at the rear/trunk area and the rear fastback glass area was more flattened out. As for the enlarged engine compartment area, the 225-cid Slant 6-cylinder was still standard, the 273-cid V8 with 2-barrel or 4-barrel carburetor options and newly available, but rarely-ordered, was the 383-cid Big-Block Super Commando V8 powerplant (only available with the Formula S package).

For 1968, the exterior remained basically the same except for the federally mandated addition of side-marker lights. The 273-cid V8 was replaced with the 318-cid V8 and a powerful 340-cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetor was offered as an option. You could still opt for the 383-cid Big Block Super Commando V8, with approximately 300 hp, if the mood struck you. There was also the very special (as only about 50 were made), Hurst-built Performance editions which housed a 426-cid Hemi V8 with two 4-barrel carburetors. These were designed specifically for SuperStock drag racing. This monster was capable of running the 1/4 mile in the mid-10’s, right off the showroom floor. Wow, really? A production car? Yep, made and sold by the manufacturer in 1968. It did, however, come with a sticker/disclaimer that stated something to the effect that “this car is not for use on public roads”. (Yeah, right, got it officer.)

Again for 1969, there were minimal changes to the general appearance. To keep with Plymouth’s emphasis on building and supplying performance minded vehicles for their performance minded clientele, some powerhouse drivetrains were available to meet your desire. In keeping up with the times, a Mod Top option was offered which included a floral (like “flower-power” man) designed vinyl roof with matching seats and door panels. The ‘Cuda package (based on the popular FormulaS package) was born.  It was all business and set the tone for the release of the all new ‘Cuda for 1970.

The third generation Plymouth Barracuda had come into its own and was a force to be reckoned with. The fastback was gone for good and the coupe and convertible models would carry on. The Barracuda was now 100% removed from any association/sharing with the Valiant models and was a stand alone vehicle built on the new “E” Body platform.

Three models of the new performance based vehicle were now available, including the base model Barracuda, the Gran Coupe (a more luxury-inspired model) and the Sport and high-performance model, ‘Cuda. This new chassis design was a shorter, wider version of their “B” bodied cars (Road Runner, etc) and had, of course, a larger engine bay (reportedly to more easily house the 426-cid, Hemi V8 for true production vehicles). Another, smaller 198-cid, Slant 6-cylinder engine was added to the base 225-cid version, and over six different versions of V8s were available including, 318-cid, 340-cid, 383-cid Super Commando 2-barrel with 290 hp or 4-barrel with 330 hp in base and Gran Coupes, 335 hp in ‘Cuda models as its base engine, 440-cid 4-barrel, 440-cid 6-barrel (3-dueces) or 426-cid Hemi with two 4-barrels. The 440-cid and 426-cid Hemi engines were always complimented with a heavy-duty suspension package and strategic, structural reinforcements to ensure the power got to the ground.

For 1971 the Plymouth Barracudas would get a new grille (also, the only year that they would have four headlamps and faux gills on the upper-rear, front fenders of the ‘Cuda models), new tail lights and some new trim options and seats. Otherwise, they would remain cosmetically the same with most powerplant offerings still available except for the 440-cid, 4-barrel engine. Some desirable options on 1970 and 1971 cars was the Shaker hood, Dana “60” rear axle, various graphics packages and some interestingly, vivid colors. (Note: only 11 of the 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles were produced and some examples of these have sold for over two million USD at auction).

The 1972 through 1974 would remain basically the same (except for available powerplants, no more big blocks were available, how sad) after the upgrades in 1972 to the grille, switch back to dual headlamps and new, circular, quad tail lights, incorporating the back-up lamps. Some other minor changes over the final three years would be conforming to new federal standards pertaining to safety, but mostly to the front and rear bumpers. Also, mainly due to tougher emissions standards and somewhat due to increasing insurance rates, the oil embargo, etc., the vehicle became extinct on April 1, 1974 (exactly 10 years to the date after its start) as they removed the vicious bite from the venerable ‘Cudas.

Find a classic Plymouth ‘Cuda’ that you love!

Vehicle Profile: 1933 Packard Twelve Series

1933 Packard Twelve

The 1933 Packard Twelve was the second year in a production run, from 1932 through 1939, of the awesome Twelve series (of which a total of some 35,000 vehicles were produced over that period). These expensive, powerful and reliable cars were manufactured to exacting standards by the Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit, MI.

James Ward Packard, the founder of the company, had started the company up in Warren, OH in 1899 to build the Packard vehicles, with the idea that he could build a better car than the “Winton” he had purchased. From meager beginnings with small, single-cylinder, driven motorcars, the Packard brand, would eventually become the “supreme combination of all that is fine in motor-cars” and one of the finest vehicles in the world (especially for the price). Considered one of the three “P’s” (Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Peerless) of American motoring Royalty, Packards were built to higher standards and proved to be very reliable in every aspect.

When their new 3,500,000 sq. ft. production plant opened, in Detroit in 1903, it was the most modern automotive manufacturing facility of its kind in the world. In fact, by 1929, more people owned stock in Packard than any other company, except for General Motors. Packard concentrated its efforts on building up-scale automobiles, specifically for wealthy customers both here and abroad.  This proved to make Packard, the Social Standard of the American public.

The Packard brand lasted some 59 years, from 1899 through 1958, and is still one of the most revered automobiles in the history of motoring. The Packard brand always brings the big money at auctions and are truly, a solid investment.

Some significant changes were made to the styling and chassis of the 1933 Packard Twelve series. The 142-inch chassis, was stiffened-up with the introduction of their new tapered X-Frame which included cross-member bracing and the new 17-inch wheels were smaller than those used on previous models. All Packards were rigorously tested to ensure quality, performance and reliability.

The mammoth, 445.5-cid, V12, 160 hp, side-valve engines were run for an hour by a large electric motor before being initially started. After that, they were run for another six hours under their own power before being installed in the vehicle. Then they spent another hour being run and tested on a dynamometer and finally a thorough road-test (of approximately 250 miles) was performed. A single, dry-plate, vacuum servo-boosted clutch assembly coupled to the three-speed, selective, synchromesh manual transmission, hypoid-gear rear axle, Bijir central chassis lubrication system, “Ride-Control” adjustable shocks, driver-adjustable, vacuum-assisted, freewheeling mechanical drum brakes, a new “Stromberg” downdraft carburetor which included an automatic choke mechanism and fast-idle circuit, and of course the “Packard Stabilizer”, chassis vibration dampers incorporated into the front bumpers, were featured.

The updated exterior featured the clamshell styled fenders complete with skirting and all the usual Packard finery. “V” type radiators with body-painted cowling and thermostatically-controlled shutters was standard, as well as, the new controlled body-ventilation system. The interior was also upgraded, refined and treated to a lavish looking Carpathian Elm Burlwood dashboard with American Elm accents. The speedometer now included a tachometer and the electric fuel gauge also contained an oil level read-out. Luxuriously appointed and custom interiors were the norm at Packard and the vehicles could cruise, smoothly and quietly, all day at highway speeds of 60 to 70 mph. Due to a torque rating of 322 lbs/ft, the Packard Twelves had a quick take-off from a standing stop and could effortlessly reach close to 100 mph at top speeds, making it one of the fastest cars of its day.

In fact, Maurice D. Hendry, a top authority on Classic Cars in New Zealand once stated “If you set out to design a luxury car that would have high performance, but be far quieter and smoother than a Duesenberg; that would rival the refinement of the Cadillac V16, but be mechanically simpler; you would have your work cut out for a start! . . . But, if in addition, you sought a car Europeans rated superior to the finest Old World contemporaries, you would face a monumental task. If you succeeded, you’d be able to congratulate yourself on a job uncommonly well done. Packard succeeded!” (This was printed many years ago in “The Packard Cormorant”, the magazine of the Packard Club.)

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Vehicle Profile: Porsche 356

Porshe

The 1964-1965 Porsche 356C was the last generation for the model 356 production run (with four generations during its run, model “356” from 1948 to 1955, “356A” from 1956 to 1959, “356B” from 1960 to 1963).  Spanning from 1948 to 1965, it remained basically unchanged by looks, but made dramatic evolutionary and technological changes underneath that curvy exterior.

The 356 model is also the first, full-production vehicle, offered by Porsche. The Porsche 356 model was created by Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, the son of the founder of the company, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. It featured flat, 4-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive configuration in a lightweight sporty package with quick-handling, sure-footed suspension.

It quickly became very popular on the racing scenes all around the world. The pan style chassis was attached to the body making a sturdy unitized construction design. Most of the original mechanicals were borrowed from the Volkswagen Beetle (designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche himself), and improved over the years to enhance performance and make it more Porsche-like.

Initially and throughout its 18 year run, it took some time to build enough numbers to supply the demand it had created and by the time it had run its course, the little 356 had quite a reputation for driving pleasure, quality of build and racing prowess. It is believed, that over half of the 76,000 units produced, are still in existence today.

The 356 was offered in both coupe and convertible (or cabriolet) models and were about 50/50 split as far as production numbers go. The 356C’s were built with disc brakes at all four corners, the most horsepower (1582 cc and 88 hp in stock form, 95 hp with “SC” model) of all the pushrod pancake Porsche motors and many upgrades in both suspension and creature comfort areas. The 356C, which remained almost completely and painstakingly, hand-built, was certainly the most refined and therefore most desirable of all the 356 models.

In fact, in a 2004 article, Sports Car International ranked the 356C as the 10th position of Top Sports Cars of the 1960’s. Certain limited production models, like the 356 Carrera, can bring over $300,000 at auction and almost any 356 model will bring from $20,000 to over $150,000.

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Vehicle Profile: Oldsmobile 442

Oldsmobile442

The Oldsmobile (a Division of General Motors) answer to the Musclecar craze that began in 1964, was the F-85/Cutlass “4-4-2″ mid-sized model. “4-4-2″ initially stood for a special option package of their F-85/Cutlass mid-sized models, which came equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission (or four-on-the-floor) with dual exhaust from the factory.

For the “4-4-2″ units produced with an automatic transmission, the first “4” stood for 400-cid, V8 (which was the base engine supplied); the second “4” stood for four-barrel carburetor and again, the “2” stood for dual exhaust. By 1968, the  “4-4-2″ was flying solo as its own distinct model, which would continue through the 1971 year models. After that, it would revert back to an option of the Cutlass models and carry on through the mid-70’s.  The “4-4-2″ option/model/badging would reappear several times after that, through the 80’s and into the 90’s, but did not necessarily designate a four-barrel, four-speed with dual exhaust.

The performance specifications on the most powerful of all the “4-4-2″ models was the “Hurst/Olds 4-4-2″, with a 455-cid Big-Block V-8, producing 380 hp, and was stated to reach 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. A 1/4-mile run was clocked at approximately 103 mph in 14.03 seconds. Not bad for a box stock, factory issued, hulk of a car that possessed pure performance, coupled with awesome handling for a vehicle of its size.

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Vehicle Profile: De Tomaso Pantera

The De Tomaso “Pantera” was a mid-engined, production “Musclecar” made and designed in Italy (with support from the Ford Motor Company, mostly for powertrain components) and destined mainly for the U.S. market. It was produced from 1971 to 1991 and evolved over it’s 20 year-run into one of the worlds most unique exotics ever produced! This was also, in-part, due it’s odd (at the time) blending of “Italian” design, handling and craftsmanship and good-ole American V8, raw musclepower! I say, odd, because the “purists” do not consider it a “real” Italian sporstcar due to it’s half-breed combination of Italian and American components. However, it has remained a cult-status vehicle in it’s own right and has stood the test of time as one of the most respected, feared (by other makes that cross it’s path) and sought after marques of it’s time! Although this car was designed in Italy at Ghia (another company owned by De Tomaso at the time) by a US-born designer, named Tom Tjaarda, it is steeped in “Italian” history and exoticar styling. The De Tomaso Car Company of Modena, Italy, was founded in 1959 by Alejandro De Tomaso, an Argentinian-born immigrant and at one time, also owned the likes of the Maserati and Moto-Guzzi brands.

The “Pantera”, meaning panther in Italian, replaced the short-lived “Mangusta” model, which was De Tomaso’s second-ever production vehicle (which also was powered by mid-engined Ford V8) introduced in 1966 and running through 1971. Their first, was the even shorter-lived, “Vallelunga” mid-engined model, which used a European Ford, Cortina 4-cyl powerplant. The “Pantera” would also be the first De Tomaso vehicle to use an updated steel “moncoque” chassis, which replaced the aluminum “backbone” chassis of earlier De Tomaso mid-engined vehicles. The V-8 supplied by Ford was the 351C (Cleveland) model and was/is considered by most, to be the best of the Ford small-block, V-8 family. It made it’s first, official public debut in Modena, Italy in March of 1970 and then made it’s U.S. debut a few weeks later at the New York Motor Show to rave reviews. Production was brisk ,at first, and from 1971 through 1973 Modena pushed out over 6,100 units (some 7,260 total production in over 20 years)! But once the big oil “crisis” reared it’s ugly head (also in 1973) and the oil embargo started, not to mention the poor fit, finish and quality control problems they were experiencing at De Tomaso, the Ford Motor Company decided to pull the plug on importing these Italian/American musclecars, which they sold through their Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. De Tomaso continued to build the “Pantera”, mostly by hand (at about 100 per year) until 1991 (some say a few models trickled out until 1993), at which time all production ended and the “era of the Pantera” was over. More than a footnote in automotive history, the “Pantera” is a legendary vehicle which seemed flawed only by it’s human “handlers” of the day.

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