Category Archives: Fun Stuff

Here contributing editor Paul Daniel blogs about just anything that’s on his mind about cars or maybe something else. Fun Stuff.

Car Spot: 1969 Firebird Convertible

A better buy than its Camaro cousin?

So which is better, the Camaro or the Firebird? You’d get great arguments for both of them. The owner of this 1969 Firebird convertible would certainly argue for his ride. This one is cherry and I’ve seen it here before at the golf course that I work at during the summer months.

The first generation Firebird had the same Coke bottle styling shared as, the Camaro but the Firebird’s bumpers were integrated into the design of the front end, a Pontiac trend. The Firebird’s rear slit taillights were inspired by the 1966–1967 Pontiac GTO.

This body style was not the Pontiac pep’s first choice. They had been working on a two-seat sports car based on the Banshee concept but you know GM. Don’t mess with the Corvette, it’s our king, so this was what they ended up with. Not too shabby though.

While this is clearly a V8, I’m not sure which. It could have been the 350 with either a two- or four-bbl carb, 265/325 hp, or the 400 four-bbl, 330 hp.

What’s it worth? If it has the 350 in it, according to Hagerty, $15,000 for one in Fair condition all the way up to $67,000 in Concours. If it has the larger 400, its value bumps up to $20,000 in Fair condition all the way up to $95,000 in Concours. But how can you put a price on having the top down on a warm Summer day, especially here in Wisconsin where the season is so short.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Back to the Future DeLorean

THE Iconic movie car

Show of hands. How many of you have never seen one of any of the Back to the Future movies? OK, go watch one of the movies and then come back and read this post because you will know exactly what this week’s car spot, a Back to the Future DeLorean I spotted at KidVenture during EAA’s AirVenture held each year in Oshkosh, WI. This year’s event started on Monday, July 25th, and runs through Sunday, July

Back to the Future at EAA’s KidVenture

The DMC-12 was never a big hit in sales but was in the three Back to the Future Movies that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled back in time. There were actually three used in the movie, all capable of doing 88 miles an hour and jump in time thanks to the flux capacitor.

“A” car was the star car. This did the bulk of the movie work and was the most detailed. A couple of years ago it sold at auction for just north of half a million bucks.

The “B” car was used mostly for exterior shots and was destroyed by a train at the end of the movie.

The “C” car wasn’t much of a car. Used mostly for interior shots. After the movies ended it sat left to rot on a back lot. A fan bought it and used parts from other DeLoreans to construct a complete car. Its last known location was in Japan in a company’s lobby.

I’ve seen this replica car at EAA AirVenture the last couple of years. It has a super-detailed cockpit with all the dials and instruments Doc Brown and Marty would have used. The heart of the car, the flux capacitor is well detailed too. While I’ve never been able to talk to the owner, I’ve seen it driven and it attracts quite a crowd.

What’s it worth? Anywhere from $40-60,000 depending on the details. That’s about 20 grand less than a car that hasn’t been converted but about 500 thousand less than the real deal.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of the history behind the car. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Early 60’s VW Beetle

A car that generates instant smiles

When you think of all the cars ever made, there are just a handful that would be considered iconic. The Jeep CJ’s, Corvettes, and the VW Beetle. Introduced as “The People’s Car” in 1938, millions of Type 1 were produced all over the world. I’m not a Bug expert but this one looks like a 1960 or 61 and was in fantastic shape. The paint and chrome looked like it had just come out of the factory in Germany or one of the several other countries the car was built.

RELATED: Read about one of the biggest Bug fleets

There were minor changes as the Beetle evolved. 1960 models received a front anti-roll bar along with a hydraulic steering damper. In 1961 a new engine and transmission. Engine displacement stayed the same at 1,192 cc but the power was bumped up to 34 bhp at 3600 rpm. The single-barrel Solex carburetor got an electric automatic choke while the transmission was now fully synchronized. The traditional semaphore turn signals were replaced by conventional flashing directional indicators worldwide.

RELATED: Read about how I became the temporary caretaker of a Bug convertible

Values for this year have been trending up recently. A quick glance at this one I’d put in at least in Excellent Condition and according to Hagerty, it would be valued at $39,400 while one in Concours condition is selling for $65,000. A collector car lacking in horsepower but way over delivers in fun!

Check back next Friday for another one of my Car Spots along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Early 60’s Lincoln Continental

The golden era for American luxury sedans

One of the era’s most enduring icons is the 4th generation Lincoln Continental, a car that would be forever etched in the minds of a generation who saw a President assassinated in one on November 22, 1963.

Not sure what the fate of this one I found recently is, it’s going to need a lot of work if it’s a future restoration project. For those looking to relive to Haute couture’s past, 1961-69 Continentals are reasonably priced. Final year sedans, according to Hagerty, sell for as little as 30 grand in Concours condition while excellent drivers, about half that. Convertibles will set you back quite a bit more at around $104 thou.

Have a great weekend and check back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot along with a little bit of history on that car.

Car Spot: Saturn Sky

This fun little two-seater never had a chance

If you’ve read any of my previous spots about General Motors cars, I’ve shared how the company had what seemed at the time a good idea but it ends up getting killed by a bloated corporate culture. This week’s spot, a Saturn Sky, is yet another example.

The Saturn Corporation was created by GM in 1985 and designed to compete against Japanese Imports. Everything was new, dealer network, pricing, workforce, and a brand new plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Marketed as a “different kind of car company”, its cars utilized GM’s advanced spaceframe construction with dent-resistant polymer exterior panels.

Saturn took a lot of resources and when the economy went south in 2008, GM cut Saturn’s development budget leaving them with rebadged cars from other divisions. So Saturn essentially lost its unique selling proposition and production ended in 2009. Its highest level of sales was 1994 with just under 300,000 vehicles marked. Penske Automotive saw an opportunity and tried to buy the brand but it never worked out and another brand faded into the sunset.

This Sky was a fun little car. Initially released in the first quarter of 2006 as a 2007. It was built at GM’s plant in Willmington, Delaware alongside the Pontiac Solstice. It featured 18-inch wheels and was powered by a 2.4 L I4 that produced 177 hp. There were two other options for more fun. A 2.0 L turbocharged direct-injected engine that bumped horsepower up to 260 and a dealer-installed turbo upgrade that ran the ponies up to 290. Wheeee. 0-60 times were around five seconds.

You can find these turbo Red Line editions for sale on the major car sites, anywhere from 12 grand to just under 20 on average. Prices have bumped up quite a bit in the last year or so. I even found one on Hemings for $31,500. These cars were not cheap, to begin with, and while they are holding their values, they really aren’t jumping in value so would not be a great investment but what a fun summer car:)

Have a great weekend and be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots.

1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

Auto World’s latest 1:18 pre-war model a striking beauty …

Car nuts know the Duesenberg name, but its cars were often rare, built in small quantities, while others were raced successfully, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times in the 1920s.

Duesenberg was launched in 1920 in Indy, but only lasted until 1937, a short run for such a famous name. Me being an Indianapolis native I’ve always been fond of Duesenbergs, both the racers and their high-end luxury cars known for their power.

But did you know that just two 1935 SSJ Speedsters were ever made? Yet the car is famous for its styling, speed and celebrity.

Now Auto World introduces the SSJ in a cream and tan color scheme that was the original choice of Duesenberg designers, yet none exist in this trim. The 1/18 model is another in Auto World’s vintage pre-WWII collection of die-cast metal models with opening hood, doors and steerable wheels.

The History

Here’s the skinny on the two SSJs, which were made for movie stars Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.

None of the cream and tan models remain because both celebrities had their roadsters repainted from the original Duesenberg color scheme. Cooper’s became a gray-on-gray beauty and Gable’s a red and metallic green Speedster.

What makes the SSJ so special, beyond its rarity, is that it was a shortened version of the popular and widely respected Model J, made from 1928 until Duesenberg closed. The Model J came in two lengths, the long 153.5-inch wheelbase model and a shorter 141.7 model. Yet the SSJ was shorter still, featuring a 125-inch wheelbase, making it lighter. Both were known for their power.

The SJ, a supercharged J, reportedly had a top speed of nearly 140 mph back when cars were considered exceptional if they crested 100 mph. Zero to 60 mph was said to be reached in 8 seconds, and this from a car with an unsynchronized transmission, which was the norm at the time. A special speed record version, known as the Mormon Meteor, used a 750-horsepower V12 Curtiss Conqueror aircraft engine and set various speed records approaching 160 mph.

That’s a big Straight 8 under the hood!

Well, the SSJ was quick too, reportedly doing 0-60 in less than 8 seconds as it was smaller and lighter than the J models. The Straight 8 Duesenberg motor cranked 400 horsepower and the car featured 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, a Duesenberg creation.

How special is the SSJ now? Well, some consider it the most important American car ever made and it’s certainly the most expensive as Cooper’s model sold for $22 million in 2018. Auto World’s is much more reasonable at $129.99 MSRP. Many 1:18 scale models now top $175 and are made of composites.

The Model

               There’s a lot to like here, besides the car’s heritage and importance as the fastest pre-war car made. Oh, and the styling. The SSJ is beautiful.

               Auto World doesn’t scrimp on details while maintaining an affordable price point.

Nice interior and easy-opening doors.

               The model’s door hinges are metal and well blended into the brown scallops on each side of the car, the hood likewise has a bright metal hinge that allows the hood to be raised on either side to see the sharply detailed Straight 8. Wiring and plumbing are present, but most notable are the four impressive chrome articulated exhausts coming out the passenger’s side of the hood and completely visible with the hood raised.

Sharp detail under the Duesy’s hood!

               There are the air cleaner, radiator and brake fluid containers here and then on the driver’s side the raised hood reveals the full length of that massive engine and the chromed exhaust ports leading to the four big pipes on the opposite side. Cool!

               Naturally, for the time period, there’s a massive chrome grille and lights along with two big horns under those lights. Atop the grille is the art deco style arrow-sharp Duesy hood ornament. Both front and rear bumpers also are chrome.

Great looking grille and an accurate Duesenberg hood ornament.

               Likewise the large step plates on the running boards, slim door handles and windshield frame are chrome, as is the wheel cover on the trunk-mounted spare. Hub caps on the cream-colored spoked wheels are chrome with red centers.

               That windshield in front of the two-person cockpit also includes dainty wing windows to deflect air from the passengers so as not to disturb their hair or chapeaus.

Good looking dash and gauges, plus small wing windows.

               The cream tonneau cover features painted silver snaps and the interior is matte brown, similar in shade to the side scallops.

               Duesenberg featured a chrome-faced dash with a bazillion gauges and dials, all nicely reproduced here by Auto World. There’s also a “holy Jesus” handle on the passenger’s side dash, just like in today’s Jeeps and other vehicles meant for off-roading. This one was to comfort a passenger at 100+ mph.

The Duesy’s steering wheel is black as is the floor-mounted gear shift lever while a rearview mirror rests atop the dash’s center.

               For folks with mirror-bottom display cases, Auto World continues to create realistic looking undercarriages that allow you to see the engine, suspension and exhaust system, here feeding into twin chrome-tipped pipes.

               The SSJ is another well-executed historic pre-war car model from Auto World at a price point that makes it a good fit in many collections. Snazzy!

Vital Stats: 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW305
MSRP: $129.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Car Spot: 1950 Pontiac

A rolling time capsule

Every classic car has a story and Gary Sipiorski of Green Bay is a great example. He is the owner of this 1950 Pontiac, Sky Blue over Cream with a Silver Streak 8 engine. 72 years old and all original. Click here to listen to the conversation I had with him at the Cars and Guitars Event sponsored by the Green Bay Auto Museum.

Check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Pontiac Fiero

A fun two-seater that died way before its time

The more of these car spots I do and looking at the history of each vehicle I’m finding a common theme with those built by General Motors, great idea and crappy execution. This 1988 Fiero GT I recently spotted is another example.

The Fiero was conceived as a small, two-seat sports car with an all-new suspension and a V6 engine. Keep in mind that at GM the Corvette was sacred and reluctant to invest into a second two-seater so the Fiero was pitched as a fuel-efficient four-cylinder commuter car that just happened to have two seats, rather than a muscle car. Think oil crisis. This car was fast-tracked by engineers and they brought back a running prototype in less than six months.

But that was the easy part. Think big, over-bloated, don’t pee in my sandbox corporate GM. It was given a 400 million budget, small by GM standards, but how that money got spent was where the roadblocks began. Engineers were split into two categories, the car guys who would create blueprints for the car, and manufacturing guys who would work out the fabrication and assembly issues. Blueprints traveled back and forth between the two engineering branches, resulting in a waste of time and money. The project manager had to literally sit the two teams of engineers down next to one another, allowing for no excuses as to why nothing was getting done. Here’s an idea. How about building a car like American Motors did creating a platform team where everybody is all on the same team. Chrysler started doing that when they bought AMC in 1987 and it works great.

Love the rear spoiler and Corvette tail lights.

As the car started coming together it was looking pretty cool, sort of like a Ferrari or Porsche. Nothing like a typical GM car. The plan was for a, high-performance, aluminum-block V6, but the cost of developing a new engine would be more than the production of the whole car itself. In typical GM style they were forced to settle for the already manufactured four-cylinder engine, the “Iron Duke,” nicknamed for its heavy iron block. It didn’t fit so they put a smaller oil pan making the engine run on less oil. This was just one of many issues. Another was weak connecting rods that would shatter, blowing pieces through the engine block and dumping oil on hot exhaust components. There were several Fieros that caught fire because of this. Like other GM cars, to save costs, it shared components. Here’s a great example. The front suspension was derived from the Chevette. The automotive media’s response was “meh” but the car sold well and initially GM couldn’t keep up with demand when it debuted in 1984

The word Fiero means “very proud”, “fierce”, “bold”, “haughty” “cruel”, “severe” in Italian, and “wild”, “fierce”, or “ferocious” in Spanish.

But it took four years for the car to look like its original design. Finally, in 1988, numerous changes were made to the Fiero to bring it in line with its original design. The suspension was completely redesigned suspension to finally click with the mid-engine layout and included new two-piece brake calipers and upgraded brake rotors, items cut originally by GM. While the engines saw improvements, the planned turbochargers never came, sales were declining, and the years of mismanagement led to the cancellation of the car after the 1988 model year.

The car is cheap fun. The later years with the V-6 cost the most but are still very affordable. According to Hagerty one in Fair condition is under two grand. The four cylinders should be avoided. One in Concours condition goes for under nine grand. They are not trending up much at all. Too bad. This is one of those GM stories that could have been.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

2022 Cars & Guitars Show

Green Bay car show packs in everything from Vettes to Rovers …

This 1958 Chevy 310 Apache is as sharp, or sharper than the day it drove off the showroom floor.

Summer is car show season and it’s a short season in Wisconsin, so buddy and videographer Paul Daniel and I hit the Cars & Guitars show in Green Bay recently.

The awesome Automobile Gallery on Crooks Street in downtown Green Bay sponsors and organizes the show, which is limited to 400 cars, many by invitation. But the show includes everything from current Dodge Challengers and Chevy Corvettes to snazzy 1950s lead sleds and everything in between.

Old Rovers are the coolest Rovers as this 1969 model proves.

Ferrari? Yes there was one! Ancient Land Rover? Yes again.

Plus many, many Mustangs, Firebirds, Camaros and Vettes of all ages and descriptions. Paul will be doing a video of one special car soon. But we wanted to post up some of the unique cars, truck and images from the show. So here goes!

Enjoy, and next year mark your calendar for the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend. And thanks to The Automobile Gallery’s PR guru, executive director, and walking car encyclopedia, Darrel Burnett for showing us around. … and the Guitars? Oh, that’s the super music the show puts on stage behind the museum and that can be heard all the way to the far end of the outdoor show area!

Note too that there are about 90 cars and trucks displayed regularly at the museum, some pretty incredible and special stuff too, including an early Electric back when gas, electric and steam were all being tried out for propulsion. The cars rotate through as some are owned by the museum and others on loan, permanent and otherwise.

So a great day outing and you could even stop and see a big football stadium when in the neighborhood, OR take the kids to Bay Beach.

Watch for some special Car Spots coming soon from Paul. Oh, and which car or truck that you see here would YOU like to own?

1957 Chevrolet 3100 Stepside

Auto World’s newest 1:18 pickup fuels truck nostalgia …

If you’ve ever doubted that trucks, pickups in particular, are the kings of today’s roads, consider this. The three top-selling vehicles in 2021 were the Ford F-150, RAM 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado, in that order

Each sold more than 500,000 units last year, the Ford a runaway leader at 726,000 trucks sold.

Well, this isn’t Auto World’s first rodeo, so unsurprisingly it is jumping into the truck parade. But as befits the brand, the Indiana-based die-cast firm is offering 1:18 scale vintage pickups.

Recently I reviewed AW’s sharp 1956 Ford F-100 Diecast: 1956 Ford F-100 pickup | Savage On Wheels . Now comes an equally impressive 1957 Chevrolet 3100 Stepside in a very 1950s Ocean Green.

The History

Part of the fun and uniqueness of Auto World die-cast metal models is that many are based on an actual vehicle that you may have seen at a car show or in a Hemmings Motor News magazine. This one is the later, appearing on the April 2016 Hemmings cover featuring Chevy trucks, and the cover is prominently featured on the model’s wonderfully illustrated box.

This gorgeous green model is based on the 1957 Chevy 3100 Stepside owned by Pennsylvania’s Doug Yoder who found it in Idaho via the internet. A total renovation followed, including a body sandblasting, dent repairs and finally coating it all in epoxy primer and four coats of urethane-based paint. That should keep this iconic pickup looking sharp for years.

Yoder also added a four-speed automatic tranny to replace the original three-speed, along with a new front suspension.

A little background on Stepsides, which were first offered in 1955. They were highly practical farm and work trucks as they were easy to load from the side due to their built-in step. Pretty sure some of my Hoosier relatives had these on their farms when I was a wee one as there was a then family-wide hate on for Fords.

Styling was new for 1955 with a wrap-around windshield standard and a wrap-around rear window optional for Deluxe models. Likewise power steering and brakes made their debut, the first time GM had offered them on trucks. There also was a flatter hood and the egg crate grille hung on until the 1957 model year, the one AW models.

That year the grille opened up more with a big oval in its midst. But for 1958 the grille would change again. There also was a Chevy emblem mounted within a chrome horizontal line on both front fenders.

In 1957 the average US household income was $4,450 and a Chevy 3100 ran between $1,430 and $2,435, depending on engine choices and trims. The base powerplant was an inline 6 with 140 horsepower while two V8s were offered, the most popular being the 265 cu.in. version making 155 horses.

The Model

               The color is Ocean Green, the interior featuring matching green seats and steering column, but Bombay Ivory trim on the doors and dash, plus an ivory-colored steering wheel.

Love the classic windshield visor!

               To me, the coolest features are the droppable tailgate and the cool windshield sunvisor that makes this Chevy look like it should be hauling feed out to a Midwestern stock pen, or hay to a stable.

               Naturally there’s chrome everywhere as all 1950s vehicles were loaded with it. Window trim, mirrors, gas cap, wiper stalks, door handles, headlight hood facings, grille, and front and rear bumpers are sparkling chrome. So is the hood’s lower nose that carries the gold, red and blue Chevy bowtie logo and trim.

The tailgate flips down and neatly latches in place so it can be posed either way.

               In addition to the textured opaque headlights the truck includes small clear blinkers below and tiny red taillights that are housed in chrome frames. There’s also a chrome and red styling streak on both front fenders, starting about mid-wheel well and extending nearly to the door.

               The truck’s bed is black but textured like wood and Chevrolet is spelled out in white across the tailgate, which folds straight down.

               This being the Stepside model there are indented steps just behind the cab and in front of the well-shaped rear fenders. Hub caps are chrome with a green ring matching the truck’s color and white-sidewall tires that are treaded, but carry no branding. Much of the undercarriage also is detailed, so you see the suspension, transmission and exhaust system.

               The opening doors not only include large mirrors, but feature chrome-outlined vent windows and chrome cranks inside on the door panels, plus ivory door trim. More ivory accents are trimmed by chrome on the cab’s B-pillar.

Dashes were as simple as could be in the 1950s.  This one has the big triangle chrome-trimmed instrument panel and speedometer and five other chrome knobs for heat and radio tuning. Two tubes under the dash could direct heat to the riders. There’s also a black center hub/horn button on the wheel with a bowtie logo at its center.

Under the hood is a big orange engine block, round black air filter atop it and a black hose leading to the radiator. The battery is mounted under the hood on the passenger’s side firewall. On that side too, you can see the matte silver exhaust pipe leading off the side of the engine.

Here’s the Chevy engine with air filter, plus the batter on the firewall.

I love cars, but AW’s latest truck is a dandy that brings back memories of childhood for us Boomer types. Can’t wait to see what’s next in this Hemmings-featured truck collection.

Vital Stats: 1957 Chevrolet 3100 Stepside

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AW293
MSRP: $115.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com