Category Archives: Car Spots

Mark and I always have our phones ready to grab a couple of shots of spots we see while out and about. Enjoy.

Car spot: Ok, this is a plane spot

It was the hotrod of private jets

Even at 68, I’m still a huge adrenaline junky. Not only do I love fast cars but also fast jets. Did I mention I’m a private pilot? I remember one day sitting in a lowly Cessna 152 with my instructor during my training. The plane was a great trainer, sturdy to handle my occasional hard landings and forgiving enough in the air to give me a break when I got too slow or heavy on the controls. If it was a car, it’d be the equivalent of a Toyota Yaris. The Cessna goes nowhere fast cruising at 111 knots or 123 mph. That would be fast for a car but slow for a plane.

I flew one just like this. Photo: Cessna.org

Ok, back to my training session. We were number two for takeoff behind a Learjet. Tower cleared the Learjet for takeoff and instructed us to taxi into position and hold meaning we line up on the runway and wait for the jet to clear the runway. My instructor said to me to watch that hotrod accelerate quickly and rocket into the sky over Central Illinois. I was mesmerized and even though that was about 35 years ago, I remember it vividly and I think of it every time I see this Learjet parked on the ramp abandoned at Crites Field located in Waukesha, WI about 10 minutes from my house.

Dergistered Learjet parked way away from the action at Crites Field.

The Learjet was the invention of Bill Lear. The first one took flight in 1963 and pretty much created the private jet market as we know it today. Before that, he was big into radio electronics inventing the 8-track tape player. Remember those? Now I’m really dating myself. The Learjet 23 could carry eight passengers at 560 mph and cost about $650,000 fully equipped, about $400,000 less than its competitors at the time.

The jet that defined Business Jet

This year Learjet, a Model 24e, manufactured in 1973, was parked and abandoned years ago by its owner. Most likely because its owners couldn’t afford the upgrades needed to keep it airworthy. According to the FAA, it has been deregistered. Owning a jet is not cheap. The purchase price is just the beginning of the huge money hole needed to own and operate a private jet. The engines need instructions and overhauls when reaching a certain amount of hours. All maintenance in airplanes is measured in hours, not miles. Smaller turbines can cost between $200,000 to $300,000 while the big ones can cost 3 million.

November 7 Echo Juliet is one lonely Learjet
So sad. I wish I could just take it home:)

What is this plane worth now? Almost nothing. I know the airport manager and he told me that they have stripped the avionics and other parts and sold them to raise money for special events. What’s its fate? The airport is planning on building hangars on this end of the runway so most likely it will be chopped up and end up in a dumpster. Yes, this really happens to old jets. I know this because of the time I worked at Midwest Express Airlines in Milwaukee, they had a DC-9 that they had retired and stripped, and that’s how that aircraft’s life ended. So this jet sits, for now, baking in the sun, like the Cessna 152, going nowhere fast.

Be sure to check back each Friday for another car spot, or plane spot, and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Chevy SSR

A craft vehicle from Chevy that never took off

In the early 2000’s it seems that just about every manufacturer was into the retro movement. There was the Mini Cooper, new VW Bug, and PT Cruiser. One of Chevy’s entry was the SSR which stood for Super Sport Roadster.

Introduced in 2003 on New Year’s Eve, Chevy had big plans. It was built for speed and used GM’s 5.3 L 300 hp Vortec V8 making it go from 0-60 in 7.7 seconds with a 15.9 second quarter mile run at 86.4 mph. In 2005 the upped the hp to 390 by using the LS2 V8, the same engine found in the C6 Corvette. It was mated to a six-speed manual taking the 0-60 time down to 5.29 seconds. It also came with all the luxo items available at the time.

The manufacturing process was unusual to say the least. It rode on a GM368 platform specific to it, and featured a steel body retractable hardtop designed by Karmann and built by ASC. The front fenders, were made with deep draw stampings, a forming technique that had not been used in automotive stampings in decades. It sold for around 42 hundred bucks.

Despite heavy promotion, it was the 2003 Indy 500 Pace Car, it never sold well. On November 21, 2005, GM announced that it would close the Craft Center, where the vehicle was built, in mid-2006, and that was the end for the SSR. The final SSR, a unique black-on-silver model, was built on March 17, 2006. Total production was just 24,112.

Like the Cadillac Allante I shared a couple of weeks ago, the long term prospects for this GM oddball probably aren’t great. Giving it any juice right now is interest from retirement-age guys like me but the younger buyers, not so much. Even with a six-speed it’s not rare enough. So what are they going for now? According to the Hagerty Price Guide they are selling for slightly over their original sticker and the 2005 and 2006 LS2-powered SSR are the most desirable. It you’re looking for one of the 2,200 sold with a six-speed you’ll need to add, and in an extra 5 grand. I kind of like it because of its quirky design and how it stands out. I mean look, I saw this one in a grocery store parking lot next to the mundane SUVs and pick up trucks.

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

Car Spot: The much-maligned PT Cruiser

A car that could have been so much more …

Remember about 20 years ago when the car manufacturers were caught up in its nostalgia faze? That’s the period that gave us the new Mini Cooper, new VW Beetle, and Chrysler PT Cruiser. I know what you’re thinking. Either it was the coolest car or lamest car ever. That’s the way it rolled during its nine-year run from 2001-2010. But if you’re with the “lamest car ever” crowd I ask, how did it end up selling more than 1 million copies?

Clean PT Cruiser I spotted while on vacation in Fl

PT Cruiser was described as “segment busting” in the marketplace in its introduction where then Chrysler’s Dieter Zetsche (Remember: “Merger of Equals”) described it as a continuing example of the automaker’s innovation for new segments as well as “demonstrates that you can have head-turning style, practicality, and value all in one package.” The automotive press agreed. In 2001 Car and Driver named the PT Cruiser to its Ten Best list and the PT Cruiser also won the North American Car of the Year.

The interior packaging was noted for its high-roof, high h-point seating, and flexible cargo and passenger configurations—a multi-level cargo shelf as well as a fold, tumble, and removable rear seating. Chrysler designed the PT Cruiser to fit the NHTSA criteria for a light truck in order to bring the average fuel efficiency of the company’s truck fleet into compliance with CAFE standards. Engines included two four bangers, a six, turbo diesel, and turbo four. My mom had one of these and just loved it.

There were a bunch of updates and special editions available during the car’s, err truck’s, nine-year run. Among them, Classic edition, Limited edition, Touring edition, Couture edition, “Dream Cruiser”, “Street Cruiser”, “Pacific Coast Highway” edition”, and PT Cruiser GT. In fact, it was the ability to customize the PT Cruiser that made it so popular.

The non-GT Turbo (180 hp) edition models, introduced in 2004, were identified by a “2.4L Turbo” badge on the lower right-hand corner of the rear lift-gate like this one I found on a recent trip to Florida. The GT model, introduced in 2003, had a “2.4L Turbo High Output” badge on the right-hand corner of the lift-gate indicating the 215–230 hp engine version.

Car was originally going to be sold through Chrysler and Plymouth.

The car is a great example of a manufacturer simply forgetting about the car. Sales dropped off and the production run ended. But there is still a devout following for the car with owner groups all over the country. You can pick a GT up for under $3,000. Fun car for not a lot of money.

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

Car Spot: Cadillac Allanté

A Caddy with an Italian accent

I was a huge fan of the Dallas tv series that ran for 14 seasons beginning in 1978. One of the reasons was to watch bad guy J. R. Ewing played by Larry Hagman, screw his arch neminsis Cliff Barnes, played by Ken Kercheval. I remember well the car J. R. drove through parts of the series, a Cadillac Allanté.

With Mercedes and Jaguar chipping into Caddy sales in the 80s they were looking for something that would combine European design with a well-known coachbuilder and the Allanté was going to be it. I’m going to throw in a little bit of Nash history here because the Allanté utilized a similar international production arrangment as Nash did with its Nash-Healey in the early 50s where the bodies were built in Italy and final assembly was in the US.

Allanté in for service I saw on a recent trip to Florida.

But here’s where things get goofy. After the Allanté body was produced by Pininfarina in Italy, were then loaded on a specially equipted Boeing 747, flown 4,600 miles, 56 bodies at a time, landed at Coleman Young International Airport in Detroit and then trucked the final three miles to Cadillac’s then new Hamtramck Assembly Plant. The marketing guys came up with a name for this crazyness, the “Allanté Air Bridge”.

The car went head to head with the Mercedes-Benz SL and Jaguar XJS, and initially featured a slightly modified variant of the 4.1 L V8 used across Cadillac’s model line and later upped to 4.5 L in 1989, and upgraded to the 4.6 L L37 Northstar in its final year, 1993. It rode on a shortened the front-drive Eldorado frame.

The car was loaded with tech, especially for the time period, such as a Delco-GM/Bose Symphony Sound System, the industry’s first power retractable AM/FM/Cellular Telephone antenna, and a complex lamp-out module that substituted an adjacent lamp for a burned-out bulb in the exterior lighting system until the dead one could be replaced were all standard. There was just one option, a cellular telephone, installed in a lockable center console. The base price was $54,700 twice that of a standard Eldorado.

The first modern-era two-passenger roadster to wear the Cadillac name since the Cadillac Series 355 roadster body style of the mid-1930s was really too expensive to produce and there weren’t just that many takers, 21,430. The last Allanté built was flown from Turin, Italy on July 2, 1993, and completed at Detroit-Hamtramck 14 days later. This, to me, is another example of a big fail by GM and its history is full of them.

With such low numbers, you’d think that the Allanté might be a good investment as a collector car but you’d be wrong. A check on Hemmings and I found examples for around 10 grand all the way up to 60 grand. Still like many other examples I’ve shared in my spots, this one has a very loyal following.

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

Car Spot: Dodge Magnum

A superfast grocery getter …

Show of hands. How many reading this remember station wagons? Most likely it was your parents who purchased one to haul the family around on vacations. We had a 1967 AMC Rebel and went all over the country with it. I remember dad ordering it and opting for the 290 V8. This was the Gen-2 short-deck that produced a respectable 225 hp. That engine was the basis for AMC’s upcoming entry into Trans-Am and the muscle car era. But the words station wagon and muscle car were almost never mentioned in the same breath.

Magnum ad I found for sale on eBay

Fast forward to 2005 when the words came together in the form of the Dodge Magnum. Where, for under $38 grand you could get a people hauler that was capable of 0-60 in less than six seconds, when ordered as the RT version with its 345ci Hemi V8 producing 340 horsepower.

Dodge Magnum I spotted in for service at a shop in Florida when I was visiting

This was the handywork of soon to retire head of design Tom Gale and done before the “merger of equals” with Daimler in 1998. Don’t get me started on that because my dad was there during that fiasco.

Based on the Chrysler LX platform the Magnum RT used the Mercedes-Benz derived 5-speed automatic. It also had fog lights; a bright grille; leather seats, steering wheel, and shifter; and a six-speaker stereo along with four-wheel disc brakes and anti-locks were also part of the deal.

The car sold well and was well-received by the automotive press and in 2005 was one of Car and Driver’s Ten Best. There’s an AMC connection here because it was built in Brampton, Ontario, a plant that AMC had bought just before being purchased by Chrysler in 1987.

Like so many fun cars, this one has a sad ending.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Chrysler announced that, as part of its restructuring plans, the Dodge Magnum would be one of four models discontinued after the 2008 model year. In Chrysler’s words: “The Magnum, along with the PT Cruiser convertible, the Crossfire, and the Pacifica were not earning their keep”. Production ended on March 28, 2008.

I was at a media event just after this and was told by an insider that it was a retiring Chrysler executive who never liked the Magnum that convinced management to pull the plug. There were almost 170,000 of this iteration of the Magnum which is not a bad number when you consider vehicles that have sold less have stuck around a lot longer. Had this vehicle somehow found a fan in the company to save it for a bit longer, there’s almost no way it would still be alive in the current environment where SUVs have taken the place of the station wagon.

But the vehicle has created almost a cult following and you can pick up the RT’s more muscular brother, the SRT8, which had a bigger Hemi and could do 0-60 in just a touch over 5 seconds for under $25 grand.

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

Car Spot: Bugatti Veyron

A car for those with very deep pockets

A car that costs more than most homes and will go almost 400 miles per hour will always turn heads, whether it’s driving by or just parked. How many times have you said that if you won the lottery, you’d buy a Bugatti Veyron?

This is a car so many car folks lust for.

So let’s say you hit it big and have the $2 million to plop down to drive one home, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe that’s part of the reason you see them parked so much like this one a friend spotted while on vacation in Florida.

So the usual items that come with buying a car are oil changes, brakes, shocks, tires, and other maintenance items that come up. The cost of owning this ride can make your eyes water. Let’s start with the most basic item, oil and fluid changes. Bugatti recommends all fluids have to be changed each year and that costs a hefty $25,000.

Why? The car has 16 drainplugs and they are not easy to get at. A highly trained mechanic will have to take out the rear wheels and brakes, as well as the lining on the rear fenders along with the one underneath the back of the car.

But wait, there’s more! It will cost $6,400 to replace each individual turbocharger and around $9,000 in labor to replace a pair. An air cooler is $9,000, there are two of them. You would get off easy on the camshaft adjusters at about $800 per piece, but since the engine has to be taken apart, the labor costs are a killer at around $21,000.

How about tires? The car will do 0-60 in under three seconds and you know you’re going to do that often to impress your friends. Bugatti advises all Veyron owners getting new tires once every couple of years and a fresh set costs $38,000. We didn’t pay that much when we purchased our 2017 Jeep Compass.

Well as long as you’re getting new tires, you might as well get new wheels, right? They have to be replaced every 10,000 miles and that will set you back $50,000.  I’m not a math whiz but, you’d be looking at around $100,000 in maintenance costs in just a couple of years of ownership. But then again, how can you put a cost on fun?

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

Car Spot: Mopar madness

70’s classic muscle

The late 60s and early ’70s were great for car guys, and gals, because it was a great time to be into muscle cars. Every manufacturer had a solid foothold but I think Mopar did it best. Between its Dodge and Plymouth lines, you could really kick butt in any street race or at the drag strip. Mark and I went to a car show recently and found some cherry examples.

Based on Chrysler’s B body platform was the Dodge Super Bee. Originally produced from 68 to 71. This 69 1/2 is one of 51 Hemi Orange hardtops with the A12 package, four-speed manual, and bucket seats. The A12 option replaces the 383 4bbl with a 440 3-2bbl engine, including three 2bbl carburetors on top of an Edelbrock aluminum intake. A Hemi 4-speed transmission is standard with the 727 Hemi automatic being available as an option. The drive train upgrade also includes a 26-inch radiator with a 7-blade torque drive fan. Also included are the 9-3/4 Dana (410 gear ratio) rear end and four-wheel 11-inch drum brakes.

Right next to it was a 70 Super Bee. For the 1970 model, the Super Bee received a redesign and a new front end that consisted of a twin-looped front bumper that Dodge Public Relations referred to as “bumble bee wings”. 1970 was really the beginning of the end of the muscle car era as sales fell because of higher insurance rates for performance cars. Built at the St. Louis assembly plant, this came off the line loaded up with a 440 Hemi with three two-barrel carbs, bucket seats, 3.55 rear axle, Rallye Instruments, and more. The owner even has the original window sticker.

My favorite year for the Dodge Charger was 1970. This example was one of just 1,443 built with the four-speed as an RT. One item that you rarely see on one is a luggage rack.

The Dodge Aspen probably doesn’t come to mind when you mention Mopar Muscle but you could purchase one in 1977 that looked like this RT edition. The Aspen, along with its sibling Plymouth Volare replaced the Duster and Dart. This was a time when the manufacturers started to downsize reducing size and weight for improved fuel economy. Originally classified as compact cars, but were considered intermediate-sized cars by the end of their production run in 1980.

The R/T coupes were the performance trim levels. They came with E70x14 tires, “rallye” wheels, a grille blackout treatment, body striping, and identifying decals and medallions. A 360 V8 option was rated at a sad 170 hp. Not particularly quick in the quarter-mile, a Motor Trend test had them doing 17.4 seconds with a top speed of just 86 miles an hour. Yup, not fast and this was really the last shot at anything quick because their replacement was the K cars.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Classic Vette

It’s Spring (nearly) in Wisconsin

The snow melts, the birds start chirping, baseball begins, and classic cars come out of their long winter hibernation here in Wisconsin. Not that this third generation C3 Corvette would have to worry about rust but they don’t handle well in snow.

Patterned after the concept car, the Mako Shark, in 1968 it was the first of many Corvettes to be a pace car for the Indy 500. The 350-cu.in.  engine replaced the old 327 as the base engine in 1969, but power remained at 300 hp. 1969 was the only year for a C3 to optionally offer either a factory-installed side exhaust or a normal rear exit version with chrome tips. The all-aluminum ZL1 engine was also new for 1969. Listed at 430 hp but it was reported to produce 560 hp and propelled a ZL1 through the 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds.

In 1968 there were 28,566 produced, a jump of about 5,000 from the previous C2. I couldn’t see what engine this example had but assuming it’s the base 327, Hagerty values one in good condition, which this one appeared to be, about $25,000. Not a bad price for vintage late ’60s early ’70s muscle.

Stop back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot to share and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 2nd gen Z28 Camaro

Iconic pony car took on the Mustang

The late 60s and early 70s were great times in the auto industry because it was all about American muscle. Ford had just launched the Mustang to kick off the pony car era and Chevy followed up with its answer, the Camaro. It first went on sale on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year. It was code-named Panther but in keeping with Chevy starting the name of every vehicle with the letter C, named Camaro. Automotive press asked Chevrolet product managers, “what is a Camaro?” and were told it was “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustang.

The Z28 was created at launch by Camaro to make them a force in SCCA’s Trans-AM series and that time from 69-72 was really its golden era.

RELATED: Read Paul’s post about racing Trans-Am on a budget.

This is a 1970-ish Z28 that I spotted in a garage while helping my daughter move into her new apartment. She actually saw the car first.

This is a second-gen Camaro that was totally different than the one it replaced. It featured a new Z28 engine that was essentially the same as a Corvette LT-1. But because in Chevy world the Corvette has to be the big dog the engine was rated at ten less horsepower (360 vs. 370), while torque ratings were the same (380 lb-ft). This one looks like a project that is close to completion, still missing the turn signals, front bumperettes, rear bumper, and tail lights. Definitely ready to race though with the wide-body flairs, spoiler, four-speed, and roll bars. I think it might make a great autocross car.

A quick check on Hemmings found these cars to be affordable selling for the mid-40s. Too bad the Camaro goes away in 2024 and be replaced by a four-door electric car. I call them toasters. What a wasted opportunity. Check back next Friday for another car spot and have a great weekend.

RELATED: Read Paul’s argument on why this rush to electric cars is crazy.

Car Spot: This Midget was a King

Billed as the World’s Most Exciting Small Car

Just after World War II ended the car business was booming. All those GI’s coming home wanting something new and/or cool to drive. Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt cashed in on that and created the King Midget in 1946. For a time, their company, Midget Motors Corporation was the sixth-largest auto manufacturer. The car was built until 1970. I spotted this at a recent car show in town.

The Model 3 was sold fully assembled, and advertised in magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated. It was powered by a rear-mounted, air-cooled, one-cylinder Wisconsin or Kohler engine making 9.2 or 12 horsepower mated to a two-speed automatic transmission. It has a fully independent suspension and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. It gets around 50 mpg and had a top speed of about the same. The 177-inch runabout rides on eight-inch wheels. The car ranged in price from just under $900 up to a bit over $1,000 during its 13-year run. If you’re looking to get into the old car hobby, this is a great entry point. According to NADA pricing, today’s low and high values are $4,300 to $13,000. This car reminds me of Corvairs and VW Beatles in that their smiles per gallon factor are huge.

RELATED POST: See my story about one of the last VW Beatle Convertibles.

Be sure to check back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot. Have a great weekend.