Category Archives: When they were new

Mark And I love classic cars and really cool ones too. We always have our cameras with us and are ready to snap a picture. Heck one time I passed one while riding my Hayabusa, turned around and followed it until I had an opportunity to take a picture. Yup, We love cool cars.

Car Spot: Porsche 914

A Porsche for those that couldn’t afford one …

When you mention Porsche, the 911 usually comes to mind first. It’s a dream car for many gearheads, the one car that they salivate over and long to own, but ownership usually comes with a budget-busting price. But there is a very affordable alternative for those wanting to join the club, the 914 the subject of this week’s car spot.

Talk about opposites, a road-going 914, and an off-roading Jeep CJ.

The 914 used to be the fourth cousin-twice removed from the Porsche universe because of its ties with VW as it originally was intended to be a replacement for the Karmann Ghia. It was sold as the Porsche 914 in the US and as the Volkswagen-Porsche everyplace else. This led to many diehards stating that it was not a “real” Porsche.

Found on a Wisconsin lot but the tags are from California.

Introduced in 1969, the standard 914 was powered by Volkswagen’s horizontal four-cylinder engine, producing a meager 80 hp. Later a second version: the 914/6, was powered by a six-cylinder engine with, total power output exceeding 100 hp. But in the “more hp means more bucks” universe, the extra cost made it almost as expensive as a standard 911. When production ended in 1976 almost 120,000 914s had been sold worldwide.

You can see the VW influence with the slapped-on side marker lights.
Might be cheap but at least the logo is in gold.

The basic 914 is a very affordable entry into the collector market and the Porsche club with daily drivers available in the mid-teens to low $30s however there are some that will take serious cash such as a homologation special, the 914/6 GT is a very sought-after collector vehicle as only 3,300 examples were made. Race versions of the car pumped out a heady 205 hp.

How pricey can they get? A 1970 sold at an RM Auction in Monterey, Calif., in August of 2021 for $665,000! A 1970 with just 30,000 miles and a Certificate of Authenticity sold recently on BaT for $120,000. And, there are other examples sold in the $80-ish range on the site.

Photo: RM Auctions

The 914 has long been looked down upon by the Porsche elite as a lawnmower surrounded by a metal shell, not supposed to be worth anything — fun to drive for an hour, maybe, but entry-level at best. Still, it’s a Porsche!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out this blog entry. Come back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with some of the history behind it. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 1970 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible

The last year of big horsepower

I love muscle cars. There’s nothing like that rumble from the duel exhausts and smoke coming from a burnout. I especially love muscle cars where the top comes down like this week’s car spot.

I used the headlights from our Durango in a rare night spot.

Introduced in 1964, when Oldsmobile was looking to create something to compete with the GTO. It got its name, “442,” from how it was built — a four-barrel carburetor with a four-speed manual transmission and dual exhausts. Introduced as an option package for F-85 and Cutlass models, it became a model from 1968 to 1971. Motor Trend tested an early 1964 4-4-2 with a 3:55 rear axle and ran 0–60 mph in 7.5 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 90 mph and reached a top speed of 116 mph.

4-4-2 logos let you know this Oldsmobile is special

Many 4-4-2 enthusiasts see 1970 as the pinnacle of performance from Oldsmobile. A booming time for muscle cars as everybody was in the game. I love this era. General Motors dropped the cap on engine size and Oldsmobile responded by making the Olds 455 V8 the standard 4-4-2 engine. Output was 365 hp while a 370 hp variant was available with the W30 option.

Functional air scoops gives this big engine plenty of fresh air

The revised body style, and increased performance, was good enough to make the 4-4-2 pace car at the Indy 500 in 1970. A high-performance W-30 package was offered, which added a fiberglass hood (like this week’s example) with functional air scoops and low-restriction air cleaner, aluminum intake manifold, special camshaft, cylinder heads, distributor, and carburetor. Motor Trend tested a 4-4-2 W-30 with the four-speed manual transmission and 3.91:1 rear gears, clocking a quarter mile time of 14.2 seconds at 102 mph. The fun police (ie: EPA) came in and after 1970, that was about it for exciting 4-4-2’s. The last 4-4-2 rolled off the assembly line in 1991.

This 4-4-2 looked spotless.

In 1970, Oldsmobile sold about 3,100 4-4-2s fitted with the W30 package. The Sports Coupe is the rarest of the bunch with only 262 units, while the convertible, like this one, is a close second with 264 examples. Because of the low numbers, and great performance, these command serious cash. According to Hagerty, in Fair condition, you can expect to pay $75 grand, Good, $115 grand, $160 grand for one in Excellent and $194 for a Concours example. A 4-speed, like this car has, will bump up the price by 20%. This car’s owner, who also told me she owns a 57 Tbird is one fortunate person owning a very important piece in automotive history.

Thanks for stopping by and check back next week for another one of my spots along with some history with it. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: The Smart Car

There’s nothing smart about this car

Known for its massive, and expensive cars, the Smart Car was something really different from Mercedes Benz. It all started in 1972 when they decided to explore what cars of the new millennium would look like. The 1973 oil crisis convinced them that they should move forward with a small city-bound car, thinking that transportation trends were going to change dramatically in the coming decades. The production version of the smart was officially introduced at the 97 Frankfurt Motor Show and in October, the first unit rolled off the assembly line. 

Found this one sitting on a car lot. Might be sitting for a long time.

Originally developed with the maker of the Swatch, (remember them?) Then CEO, Nicolas Hayek, believed that the automotive industry had ignored the customers that wanted a small, stylish car. It measured just over eight feet long, just under five feet wide, and about the same height. Essentially the size of a golf cart. A three-cylinder gas engine powered it. Later a direct-injection diesel engine version was added bumping horsepower, wait for it, up to 89 from the previous 70. Want to know 0-6 times? Anywhere from 11 up to just under 20 seconds. Yup, a gutless wonder.

There’s nothing “Smart” about this car.

Smart first arrived in the U.S. in 2008 and sold nearly 25,000 copies of the Fortwo in its first year and it was downhill after that. The bottom fell out when the gasoline models were dropped from the lineup and just 1,276 Smart vehicles were sold in the US. It wasn’t long after that Mercedes Benz pulled the plug.

A tiny area for maybe a couple of bags of groceries.

I remember when Daimler bought Chrysler (the merger of equals?) in 1998. It was the first time senior-level managers met from both companies, of course in Germany, and one of the Daimler guys took a shot at Chrysler’s minivan. The Chrysler guy had a great comeback. Well, how about all the Swatch cars that are getting destroyed when they hit a moose on the German roads? Apparently, there are a lot of moose in Germany. Good shot! “I liked driving the Smart so much, I didn’t even care when a little girl pointed and laughed at me”, said Alex Davies in a review for Business Insider.

RELATED Post: Why men should never be seen driving this car.

MSRP for a 2014 was $14,840 all the way up to the convertible at $29,050. It gets a combined 36 mpg. On the other hand, a guy could purchase a much larger car such as the Honda Insight: MSRP, $18,725, 42 combined mpg. There are also several hybrids that are priced a bit closer to the high end of the Smart MSRP that get the same or better gas mileage. What are they worth now? You can pick one up, although I’m not sure why for well under ten grand.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend. Tell your friends and be sure to check back next week for another one of my spots along with a little bit of history.

Car Spot: the Buick Reatta

GM’s other two-seater

Did you know that with the exception of Oldsmobile, all of GM’s passenger-car divisions offered two-seaters during the late 1980s and early 1990s? There was Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Fiero, Cadillac Allante, and this week’s car spot, the Buick Reatta.

I think it’s a cool-looking car but America didn’t.

Introduced in 1988, the Buick Reatta was a low-volume transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive, two-door, two-seater grand tourer/sports car featuring a 3.8-liter V6 engine utilizing a shortened version of the GM E platform. A convertible was added to the lineup in 1990. It was manufactured in a highly specialized assembly program at the Reatta Craft Centre.

In an interview with Car and Driver magazine when the vehicle was launched, Buick Advertising Manager Jay Qualman said, “We went to the market to ask people what kind of product they envisioned a two-seat Buick to be. We said to ourselves, ‘Hey if we’re really going to be market-driven, we have to look at what they tell us.’ They told us that what they wanted was an affordable Mercedes 560SL.” Welll maybe not quite.

RELATED Spot: GM tries to take the concept upscale with the Cadillac Allanté

How did it handle? Writer Rich Ceppos said, “Somewhere along the way, while Buick was busily exorcising the sports-car demons from the Reatta, it also drove out the visceral excitement that we expect from two-place cars. Where is the sharp steering response that teases you, the taut suspension that goads you to take on a twisty two-lane, the power that opens your eyes wide and sends a thrill down your spine? Not here. The Reatta is nearly viceless, all right, but also nearly soulless”.

This interior has been ridden in.

There were all kinds of options including 16-way power seats, and side moldings in either black or body color, a sunroof became optional in late 1988, and in 1989 keyless entry was added as a standard feature. Tech included a touchscreen computer interface, marketed as the Electronic Control Center, that included radio and climate control functions, date reminders, a trip computer, and a user-configurable overspeed alarm, as well as diagnostic access to the vehicle’s electronic systems and sensors. Later replaced with conventional push-button stereo and climate controls.

Buick hoped when the car came out in 1988 that it would add some sporty flair to the brand’s lineup, one that was pretty dull at the time, except for the Grand National. They added the convertible, but the Reatta never found the buyers Buick hoped for, and it was canceled after four model years.

RELATED Spot: Pontiac’s 2-seater was fun.

What are they worth now? Well, you’d think that with just less than 22,000 made something but they have not appreciated in value. In 1988 listed retail price was $25,000, about $58,000 now, and according to Hagerty average value is just under 10 grand. There are some exceptions though a 1990 Buick Reatta Ltd Dealer Special Ed, 2dr Convertible, 6-cyl. 231cid/165hp FI can go as high as $28,600. But for 10 grand or less, you can have a 2-seater that’s going to always be noticed in the grocery store parking lot.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend. Be sure to tell your friends and come back next week for another one of my car spots along with some of the history that goes with it.

Car Spot: A Bathtub Nash

America’s first adventure car before there were SUVs

This spot brought back flashbacks for me when I spotted it on a lot/salvage yard because we had one as a kid, a 1950 Bathtub Nash.

The pride of Kenosha.

In the late 40s and early 50s, the bathtub styling trend was hot and Nash was seen as the leader. But this was much more than just styling. Nash Engineering VP Nils Wahlberg had thing about aerodynamics, along with his designers performed wind tunnel studies with a full-sized plaster model. Almost unheard of in the automotive world and long before coefficient drag was even a factor. They found that their eventual design required significantly less road horsepower to maintain 60 mph than a comparable Buick or Chrysler at the time and came up with the name Airflyte.

RELATED Spot: See its distant cousin, the AMC Pacer.

But beyond aerodynamics, these cars were ahead of their time by utilizing an early form of unitized construction, with the frame and body shell welded together into a single unit. They also featured an independent front suspension, torque-tube drive, and coil springs at all four corners providing a plush ride. Like its American Motors’ family of cars like the Pacer and Gremlin, the styling was considered cartoonish. Meh, everybody’s a critic.

This is what you get when a company that made refrigerators, Kelvinator, and cars come up with.

But inside was bigger than big, even by today’s standards. People who were into the outdoors loved it because of its seats that turned into a reasonably comfortable double bed, living-room comfort for six adult riders, tornadic ventilation, maximum cruising range, capacious ashtrays, a bag-limit-size trunk and screens for the windows on those car-camping nights. Sound familiar?

My 1/24th scale resin cast I bought a bunch of years ago. This is probably the closest I’ll get to owning the real deal. No rust, oil changes, and zero storage space.

What are they worth now? Original MSRP according to J.D. Power was $2,223, $27,488.82 in today’s market which would still be a lot of car for the money. The average high retail is $25,600, $12,800 on average, and $6,900 low average. This one is most likely on the high end because it had zero rust, especially being here in Wisconsin.

Thanks for stopping by. Tell your friends and check back next week when I’ll have another car spot along with some history about it. Have a great weekend and Happy New Year.

Car Spot: Subaru Sambar

OK, another truck but a really cool one.

One of the cool things Mark and I love about going up to Road America is that chances are we are going to discover a really cool vehicle like this week’s spot, a Subaru Sambar.

This looks to be an early 90s example.

The Sumbar began production in the 1960s in Japan and was first based on the Subaru 360. Kie class vehicles in Japan are a maximum length of 134 inches, a maximum width of 58 in., and a maximum height of 79 in. The maximum displacement of engines is 660cc. These are essentially vehicles that spend a lot of their time in cities. This cabover truck was the first vehicle manufactured to be compliant in the Kei class in 1961. It’s now in its eighth generation.

Yep, right-hand drive for Japan!

In Japan, vehicles are usually cheaper to buy which makes them cheaper for the second-hand market. Because of that, these are brought into the US by the container load for sale at prices ranging from $1,000 to $12,000. These are used for just about everything throughout Asia such as agriculture, fisheries, construction, and even for firefighting. In the US they have found a second life used by hunters and farmers or in this case by race car teams. They offer a unique and more affordable alternative to UTVs. Plus, they’re so damn cute.

Thanks for stopping by, tell your friends, and be sure to check back next week for another one of my car/truck spots along with some of the history behind it. Have a great weekend.

 

Car Spot: Studebaker Lark and Pickup

One of the last of the independents that just ran out of cash

Being a big fan of the cars from American Motors, I can appreciate what Studebaker brought to market and how they tried to challenge the Big Three. Like AMC, at times they were brilliant, but other times, not so much. In 1939, the company entered the low-priced field with the popular Studebaker Champion, propelling it past the other independents and becoming a major automobile producer, passing Rambler at the time, and making Studebaker the No. 4 auto manufacturer.

In the ’50s Studebakers were considered to be among the most beautiful automobiles ever built. The 1953 Studebaker models were the automaker’s first new designs since 1947, and automotive historians have long agreed that they were great-looking designs. But a series of events led to the company’s downfall.

While the ’53s looked cool, they suffered from quality issues, then there was a sales blitz by Ford in 1954 that hit both Studebaker and Rambler hard, and then in 1960, the Big 3 found the compact car market. Finally, a change in leadership and a difficult union spelled the end for Studebaker, which had started as a carriage and wagon maker.

I’ve heard this story before because it’s almost the same sad ending that American Motors faced. Like AMC, Studebaker had some really cool-looking cars like the early Commander and later the Avanti. For all the issues the cars had, bland styling wasn’t one of them.

Car Trivia: Studebaker sponsored what comedy show? Click here and see if you got the answer correct. Bonus points if you can sing the opening theme song:)

This week’s car spot, a 1965 Commander I found at a Cars and Guitars sponsored by The Automobile Gallery in Green Bay this summer, is an example of how Studebaker didn’t go down swinging. This was Studebaker’s mainstream model and was most likely built in Canada since they stopped building cars in South Bend, Ind., in 1963.

This car has a great story too. It had 15,000 original miles on it when it was purchased by the current owner in 2019. And get this, it was purchased from some nuns in Green Bay who hadn’t driven it in a long time. I’m not making that up.

This is its original paint, It packs a Chevy-sourced 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder, and twin-traction. Like Corvairs and many AMC cars, a Studebaker is a great entry into the collector game. According to Hagerty, one in fair condition should run about $6,400. A cheap way of getting into the game and having a car that will almost always get noticed.

RELATED Spot: The other independent’s wagon, the Rambler Classic Cross Country wagon.

Did you know that Studebaker also made trucks?

From 1929 until 1963 from half-ton all the way up to two-ton. This one I found on a trip up to Appleton, Wis., where I was picking up a project motorcycle. This looks like a late ’40s, or early ’50s model that is up for restoration. The guy also had a Lark that he had plans for. Trucks are more valuable than passenger cars these days. One in good condition according to Hagerty is worth about $18,000. Again, a cheap entry into the collector market.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our blog. Check back next Friday for another car spot along with some of the history with it. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 71 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible

This is one sweet ride

The cool thing about an auction is that you will probably see a special car that you’ve never heard of before. Such is the case of a 71 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible that came up for sale a couple of weeks ago at the Mecum auction in Chicago this week’s car spot. Blogging partner Mark Savage was at the event and grabbed these pictures.

Like just about every collector car, it has a story, this one with a little bit of mystery. It was owned by Helen Voorhees Brach. If you’re 30 or under, you probably won’t recognize the name, but if you’re older, you have eaten the candy that her father Emil J. Brach founded in 1904.

Images: Wikitree

Emil Brach is your classic rags-to-riches story. He took $1,000 and on the corner of North Avenue and Towne Street in Chicago opened Brach’s Palace of Sweets. He undersold the competition and parlay that into four factories with a fifth one in the works in 1923 producing 2.23 million pounds of candy in 127 varieties. Name not ringing a bell? Have you ever eaten candy corn or jelly beans? Chances are they were made by Brach’s.

The family company was sold in 1966 for $136 million, around $1.24 billion in today’s dollars. Helen’s husband, Frank, died in 1970 leaving Helen’s share of the Brach inheritance equated to nearly $149 million in today’s dollars. Helen spent her time socializing with friends, and loved the color pink, all her Caddys and Roll-Royces were pink. In 1973 the story gets interesting when she met a young guy through her show horse connections, Richard Bailey, He had a history of scamming the high-income show horse set and did the same with Brach.

On February 17, 1977, Brach headed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, and never returned. There have been investigations and books written about her disappearance. Bailey was not convicted of Brach’s murder but sentenced to thirty years for defrauding her. In May 1984 she was officially declared dead. In 2019, the case was still considered open and unsolved, with no one ever facing state murder charges for her death. A Who Done It for sure.

OK, back to the car. A super-clean 71 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible with just 16,000 miles with an automatic transmission, off-white leather interior with coordinating Magenta piping, and finished in the specialty color known as Brach Candy Purple. Some lucky bidder took this car home, along with a hell of a story for $99,000.

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

Car Spotting: An under appreciated Mustang

A Mustang fully loaded

Most of us think of the performance-based Mustangs targeted towards the youth market yet there was one that took a different direction, the upscale Grande. Produced from 1969 to 1973 it was only available as a hardtop. It had tons of options, 45 to be exact, which was a lot at the time and included “Comfortweave” hopsack upholstery, extra-thick carpet on the floorboards, two-tone narrow stripes, faux woodgrain dashboard, padded interior side panels, racing-style mirrors, chrome rocker panel moldings, and wire-style wheel covers.

Mustang Grande I spotted this summer while working at Ironwood Golf Course

Ford also gave drivers the option to order any Mustang engine for the Grande, even including the 428 Cobra Jet V8. This option drove up the price significantly, especially combined with the more elegant Grande package. That said, any surviving Grandes with miscellaneous engines have become very collectible, and only 62 Grandes were built with a 428 Cobra Jet in 1969. Hagery lists an average price for all four years of production at around $12,000 with almost $30,000 for a Concours level example making it a very affordable collectible like this one.

An excellent example. Bodywork looked great

My car spots appear every Friday here on SavageOnWheels.com. Be sure to check back and keep your phone out and ready to snap that next great spot. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

So that’s a Matador

AMC’s entry into the personal luxury market.

American Motors almost always had to swing for the fence when it came to introducing new products because they didn’t have the big budgets to work with like GM, Ford, and Chrysler did. The same went for their marketing.

Enter the second generation Matador in 1974 and with the Ambassador being dropped became AMC’s largest car. With its second generation, the Matador became AMC’s largest automobile after the discontinuation of the Ambassador. A lot of effort went into this entry in the personal luxury market, one which AMC was looking to cash into. Premium trim levels of the second generation Matador coupe were marketed as the Barcelona and Oleg Cassini.

One of the many AMC ads I’ve collected over the years.

The Barcelona edition was loaded with a 360 V8, auto transmission, tilt steering, air conditioning, 8-track player, matching vinyl landau roof, rear opera windows along with unique interior markings and seats your butt could get lost in.

There was a love-it-or-hate-it mentality regarding the Matador coupe even among AMC geeks. I liked it. It beat the coffin-nose front end that the Matador adopted when it replaced the Rebel in 1971. My first car was a 70 Rebel SST with the one year only aluminum side molding.

My first car. Had a 360 V8.

The coupe, designed by Richard Teague, sold well the first couple of years, outselling the four-door by nearly 25,000 units in 1974 but dropped to less than 10,000 in 1978 just over 2,000 and the company pulled the plug. It had a claim to fame being featured in the James Bond movie Man with the Golden Gun where it flew.

The last Matador. Photos: BAT

These don’t sell for a lot of money. According to Classic.com an average of just short of $20,000 which makes this one sold on Bring A Trailer for $41,000. An eye-popping price even for me. That’s quite a return on a car that listed for around 7 grand. This is the kind of money that first-gen AMX’s sell for!

What makes this one so special? According to the listing it was built for its designer, Teague, and was the last one off the line. It went up for sale with only 7,000 miles and the original window sticker. Like most of the ones ordered, this one two was well equipped and lived in Minnesota. Check out that interior. Those seats were pure butt vacuums. Love the license plate. Hope it found a good home.