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: Land Rover Series IIA

A distant cousin to Jeep

At one time the name Land Rover meant luxurious automobiles and the folks in England just loved them. But then came along World War II and all manufacturing shifted to supporting the war. When it ended, the rebuilding efforts did not include passenger cars, they called on tough 4×4 vehicles that could help out. This week’s car spot, a 1969 Land Rover Series 2A was a big part of that. The LR was part of the Cars and Guitars Event held this past June in Green Bay and hosted by the Automotive Gallery. A great place BTW. My friend Darrel Burnett runs it so say HI for me.

Inventor Maurice Wilks wasn’t even close to working on something like that. He had spent part of the war years working in top secret on a jet engine and had developed a gas turbine that had potential for use in passenger and commercial vehicles. But that’s not the country needed and faced with working on a a turbine, which could of been pretty cool, or closing up shop, shifted to satisfy the government’s demands for utilitarian practical vehicles which could be exported in quantity.

Having nothing like that and running around his farm in a MB Jeep, he used that vehicle as a template. Then came the Series I Land Rover which featured the ruggedness that were essential for a military vehicle and an expedition vehicle. One that was used in the African bush and the Australian outback, places where a vehicle failure could put the occupants in danger of their lives. Why this is such a British thing is beyond me.

This Series II is the vehicle’s evolution and was made in 88″ SWB (Short Wheelbase) and 109″ LWB (Long Wheelbase versions). The early examples of the Short Wheelbase came with the same 2 liter four cylinder engine as the Series I until the stock of those engines ran out in the summer of 1958. After that the new 2.25 liter four cylinder OHV engine was fitted, and all Long Wheelbase 109″ Series II were fitted with that engine from the beginning of production.

Even though I’m a Jeep guy I love the ruggedness of this Rover and the attitude the owner has with all the graphics. They could go off-roading with me anytime. These were the 4X4’s that people actually took off road unlike to ones made now. After all, who’s going to take a 100K plus vehicle off-roading? Dependability is also an issue, it sucks, but hey, you’re driving a Land Rover, right? Just like the celebs.

RELATED VIDEO: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90

One in decent shape is a solid investment with prices trending up. I found several for sale from as low as $28,000 all the way up to near $50,000.

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

Car Spot: Chevy Corvair Greenbrier

One of America’s 1st minivans?

Chevy had big plans for the Corvair when it debuted in 1960. The lineup included everything needed to sell a lot of vehicles. Besides the cars which came as a sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon, there were also several trucks like the Greenbrier, which were added in 1961, the subject of this week’s car spot, er truck spot.

I spotted this example at a recent air and car show event I was at in Oconto, WI

Like the passenger cars, Chevy followed in VW’s footsteps, ie the Transporter, placing the driver controls ahead of the front axle providing impressive cargo and passenger carrying space within a compact car footprint. The Greenbrier wasn’t alone in the marketplace competing against Ford’s Falcon based forward-control Econoline and Dodge’s similarly Valiant-affiliated A100 van which arrived in 1964.

Related Story: Read about a priceless Corvair

The Greenbrier found its niche as a camper-van. The low floor gave 1.5 inches more inside height than the 10-inch-taller Econoline, and the side doors were taller and wider. Field & Stream magazine loved it, and in a review wrote: “My test vehicle remained rigid and rattle-free over the worst roads.”

That’s a lot for what was a big, open box stuffed with all manner of aftermarket plywood furnishings including a kitchen sink. What the media wasn’t high on was the vehicle’s 80-hp engine, but in 1964 it received a bore and stroke increase that boosted displacement from 145 cubic inches to 164.

This is where the engine breathed.

Base output increased 15 hp to 95, with the still naturally aspirated but higher compression Turbo-Air engine producing 110 hp, nearly double the output of VW’s by then upgraded 1500 engine (52 hp), and comfortably ahead of the Econoline’s 105. Car and Driver‘s Barry Brown went so far as to build himself a sleeper performance van: “I am satisfied as I have never been with any other automobile — it is a business tool, family car, and sports car all at the same time.” Wow, that’s saying a lot.

While total Corvair sales totaled almost two million the van didn’t prove as popular as the cars and sold around 50,000 units. It was a hit out of the gate selling 15,806 it’s first year and just 1,528 its last year, 1965. Like the passenger versions it’s very affordable. I found many listed in great shape for around 10 grand.

Love the decal on the window, Nader Vader.

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

Car Spot: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

One of the fastest SUVs on the planet

OK, I’ll admit, I’m partial to this week’s car spot because I’m a Jeep guy and love going fast. A 6.4-liter V-8 pumps out 475 horsepower while a roudy exhaust note tells you that it’s an SRT. So what Jeep did was take a standard Grand Cherokee, plop in a bigger engine, give it more aggressive bodywork, a sport-tuned suspension, and upgraded brakes.

This bad boy was parked right next to one of its older brothers.

Car and Driver ripped one to 60 mph in only 4.4 seconds, just 0.2 second slower than a Dodge Challenger T/A 392. While its smaller relative was quicker in other acceleration tests, the Jeep matched the coupe’s hearty exhaust note and responsive throttle around town.

The SRT can haul more than just ass, 7,700 pounds of fun can be pulled behind. While the SRT excels in straight-line speed, it also corners surprisingly well given its size. Its powerful Brembo brakes also helped it stop from 70 mph in 168 feet, which equaled it’s more powerful brother, the Trackhawk which I drove up at Road America and it’s a total blast but came with a 100K price tag.

RELATED Video: Hop in and go for a ride with me in the Wrangler 392 Unlimited.

This Jeeps market remains strong. MSRP for the 2021 was $72,000. While Jeep did manufacture the WK edition a short time into the new model year, I don’t believe the SRT option was available. They are holding their value too. Expect to pay north of $50,000 for one in good condition. Get while the getting is good because with all this nonsense about V-8’s being bad for the environment, vehicles like this are going the the way of the dodo bird. So sad. Too bad too that the SRT brand is no more.

Note the spoiler on the back window. This guy is serious.

This Jeep checks all the boxes for me. It’s a Jeep, looks cool, has a big V8, makes a lot of noise, and can go off-roading! What more is there?

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with some history behind it. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 1970 Chevelle SS

Classic 70’s muscle car

Even though new EPA emissions rules were just around the corner, car companies still managed to make fun cars like this weeks car spot, a 1970 Chevelle SS. The name “chevelle” has been speculated as influenced by the gazelle and Chevrolet combined, as a smaller sedan to the Impala. Doing 0-60 in 4.4 seconds it earned its name.

This SS 396 Chevelle included a 350 horsepower Turbo-Jet 396 V8, special suspension, “power dome” hood, black-accented grille, resilient rear-bumper insert, and wide-oval tires on sport wheels.

“You can make our tough one even tougher,” the brochure explained, by adding Cowl Induction. Step on the gas, and a scoop opened “to shoot an extra breath of cool air into the engine air intake….like second wind to a distance runner.” I heard this car before I saw it come in the parking lot where I work. Friends know that when I hear the rumble of a big V8 engine I have little interest in whatever else is going on. You know, like the shiny bright object:)

While the 454 is worth more than the 396, $130,000 according to Hagerty in Concours condition, these hold their own. Concours condition is $96, 100. Excellent, $82,800, Good, $66,000 and Fair, $50,000. Judging by the looks of this one with the great shape it’s in I’m thinking at least Excellent. And with just 49,826 produced, values are trending up.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back again next week for another one of my car spots along with some history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: MGB Roadster

Underrated and affordable

When you think of the perfect summer car there are a lot of options but one thing for sure is that it has to be a convertible. This week’s car spot, this powder blue MGB, is a perfect candidate. This little car is packed full of fun.

Manufactured and marketed from 1962 until 1980 first by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), and later the Austin-Morris division of British Leyland. They sold tons of these and their variants, the MGC and MGB GT V8 totaled 523,836 cars.

Fun, rugged, and stylish, and with enough old-school mechanicals to keep any shade tree mechanic occupied, MGB roadsters and MGB-GTs have been in the bargain basement of the collector car market because they sold so many of them.

Right now, you can pick up one of these in pretty good shape for under ten grand. A great deal for some solid summer fun. I did see the couple who owned this leave the restaurant we were dining at and it’s unlikely the top on this has ever been up because the guy driving was about 6 foot 6.

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

Car Spot: 1973 Pontiac Catalina

A trunk big enough to sleep five …

Big cars were still in when the Pontiac Catalina left the showroom. It rode on a massage 123-inch wheelbase and had enough room inside to seat a large family.

Spotted in the parking lot of the golf course I work at during the Summer.

At around 38 hundred bucks, the Catalina sedan was the least expensive big Pontiac, but it still came loaded compared to its Chevy counterpart. It came with a two-barrel, 400 cu. in. V8, good for about 255 hp, automatic transmission, variable-ratio power steering and power front disc/rear drum brakes. With mpg in the low double digits, it passes everything, except the gas station but then gas was only 39 cents a gallon. Yup, and check this out, people were freaking out at the possibility of a dollar a gallon.

RELATED Spot: Meet this car’s great grandpa, a 1950 Pontiac.

With a tach this most likely has the big V-8 in it. And yes, that is a new Corvette parked in the background. I want one of those so bad.

Inside, the Catalina had cloth-and-Morrokide (whatever that is) upholstery, while convertibles and station wagons featured more weather- and kid-friendly all-Morrokide seating.

RELATED Spot: Read about Pontiac’s pony car entry, the Firebird.

So what’s something like this worth now? Not a lot. I found a lot of them for sale and the ones in reasonable condition were anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000.

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

Car Spot: A Chrysler with an Italian accent

This was Lido’s idea

Lee Iacocca did a lot of great things in his automtive career. He invented the Ford Mustang and the pony car market and the mini van while at Chrysler, again creating another market. In fact he is credited for saving Chrysler in the 80’s but he had a few clunkers like the Chrysler TC by Maserati, this week’s car spot I found at a reseller near my home.

Lee Iacocca at the introduction of the K-car.

After Chrysler become an investor in Maserati in 1985, Lido set the wheels in motion for a joint development car and claimed that the planned “Q-coupe” would be the prettiest Italian to arrive stateside since his mother immigrated. Ummm, sure. The luxury roadster, which resembled a Chrysler LeBaron because it shared many of the LeBaron’s components but took five years to complete mainly because Chrysler and Maserati engineers didn’t play well in the same sandbox. The original plan was for the TC to be introduced before the LeBaron.

It was powered by a variety of engines sourced from anemic Chrysler and Mitsubishi engines but they were cheap and kind of off the shelf stuff. Then they upped the game. 500 cars were built with an optional drivetrain consisting of a Getrag manual transmission and a 16-valve head version of Chyrsler’s 2.2 L. It was called the Maserati engine because it was assembled by Maserati and has a Maserati-branded cast valve cover.

The 200 hp engine’s parts came from all over. The cylinder head was cast in England by Cosworth and finished in Italy by Maserati. The pistons came from Mahle GmbH in Germany. It used a specially-made 2.2 block, upgraded crankshaft, and rods. A turbocharger was sourced from IHI. The rest of the engine used common Turbo II parts made in the United States.

The car’s platform was based on a shortened Dodge Daytona chassis with suspension and axles from the original model, except for the 5-speed Getrag with “Maserati” engine. The bodywork was produced by De Tomaso. The struts and shocks were specially designed for the car by Fichtel and Sachs, and a Teves anti-lock braking system was standard. The special wheels were made in Italy by a company that was a supplier to Formula One.

Does this opera window remind you of another car? How about the baby Bird?

Just about every Chrysler executive hated the car and thought it should be witten off but Iacocca refused to accept responsibility for its failure pinning it on his marketers because the car had not been positioned propery in the upscale market.  Most outpoken at Chrysler was Bob Lutz who said the partnership resulted in only the TC, a “misadventure” that wound up costing Chrysler “close to $600 million in 1985 dollars. The cost in 2021 dollaars would be $165,930 in 2021 dollars. Yikes!

Yes, that is a cellular phone.

So what would you expect with a car that was overpriced and poor design? It was projected to sellbetween 5,000 and 10,000 units, ibut only hit 7,200. In contrast, the LeBaron GTC had more color choices and exactly the same features at a considerably cheaper price. Reviewers call it out for not luxurious and only nominally European. Does this all sound vagely familiar? Read my car spot on the Cadillac Allanté. What are they worth now? Around ten grand will get you into one of these “european type sports cars”.

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

Car spot: Dodge Durango 5.9 R/T

The Durango Hellcat’s dad

Dodge has never been shy about jamming a big V8 into one of its cars and trucks. A great example is the Durango, I own a 2017, introduced to the public in 1998. Just two years later the 5.9 R/T arrived with 17-inch alloy wheels and a standard 5.9-liter V8. Other goodies included a standard limited-slip rear differential with a 3.92:1 final drive stiffer different shock absorbers, plus a sportier exhaust that gave it a nice grumble. Rounding out the package inside, the R/T got leather and suede-trimmed seats.

While it looked fast, not so much. Its engine put out 250 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. My 2017 with the Penstar V6 has almost 300 horsepower. It did zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds. Mine will do that in just over seven seconds. The first-generation Durango 5.9 R/T was one of the earliest performance SUVs. It sold for around $35,000.

These are really cheap to pick up now, lots under $5,000. This one is considerably less because of all the rust. I spotted it in Monona, WI where my daughter works. A fun ride though. With the push for EV’s, I hope Dodge doesn’t forget its roots in muscle cars with big V8s but fear that’s the road they’re going down.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with some history.

Car Spot: The Chevy Vega

A car that rusted right off the assembly line

It was a car that was doomed almost from the very beginning. Code named the XP-887, the Chevy Vega was meant to stop shoppers from buying the many cars being imported from Japan that got great gas mileage but when GM’s corporate engineering staff finally delivered its first prototype to Chevrolet, it lasted just eight miles at GM’s Milford proving ground before the front end fell off.

Vega Pro-Street driven by one of my coworkers at the golf course I work at during the summer months.

When John DeLorean was named Chevrolet’s general manager in 1969 with the project already late in developement, he convinced his staff that no matter how much they disliked the XP-887, it would be judged as a Chevrolet, and it was in the division’s best interests for it to succeed. They tried naming it the Gemini, which tied into the US space program at the time but GM president Ed Cole insisted on calling the car Vega, even though the name tested poorly.

RELATED: See John DeLorean’s most famous creation

Introduced in 1970, the car couldn’t make its targeted base price of $2,091 which was $311 more than the Volkswagen Beetle and $172 more than Ford’s new Pinto, while AMC’s Gremlin’s base price was $1,999. It was also 200 pounds over its one-ton target weight.

Despite all this, the automotive press loved it. It was Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 Car of the Year. After that, it was all downhill.

In 1972 Chevy recalled half a million Vegas because rear axle shafts could separate from the housing, causing the wheels to literally fall off. But that wasnit it, faulty brackets on the single-barrel carb jammed the throttle open. The optional two-barrel engine could backfire violently enough to split the muffler, blowing hot exhaust on the fuel tank and causing it to expand, rupture, and ignite. Yikes.

An undiscovered defect in the new rust-proofing system left the underside of the front fenders unprotected. In typical GM fashion to save money it had rejected plastic fender liners leaving Vegas prone to rapid corrosion not only in the fenders, but rocker panels, lower doors and front suspension parts as well.

The train wreck continued with its engine. If it got too hot the cylinders would distort, wearing the coating on the walls and forcing coolant past the head gaskets and if a Vega owner didn’t keep the coolant topped off, the Vega could, and often would, destroy its own engine. Chevrolet did its best duck and cover by extending the engine warranty and retrofitting an overflow bottle and low-coolant warning light, but not before many owners got replacement engines to go with their replacement fenders.

Oh and one last goofy GM idea, how the cars were transported. General Motors and Southern Pacific designed “Vert-A-Pac” rail cars to hold 30 Vegas each, compared with conventional tri-level autoracks which held 18. The Vega was fitted with four removable cast-steel sockets on the underside and had plastic spacers—removed at unloading—to protect engine and transmission mounts. The rail car ramp/doors were opened and closed via forklift. Vibration and low-speed crash tests ensured the cars would not shift or suffer damage in transit.

Despite all this fun and games, Chevy managed to sell just over 2 million Vegas before the plug was pulled in 1977. Compared to 3.1 million Pintos, which had its own set of problems, and 671,475 AMC Gremlins. Still this car has a loyal following like the owner of this Vega who had stuffed a 427 V8 in it and owns two more. The most valuable Vega is the Cosworth. Chevy only built 2,061 cars in 1975 and 1,447 the following year. Perhaps that was because of its $6,000 price tag. Today, it’s easy to find a low-mileage Cosworth Vega. According to Hagerty, one in Excellent Condition sells for around $15,000 so if the Cosworth Vega was a Vega for the price of two when it was new, now it’s about the price of ten.

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

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.