Tag Archives: collector cars

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: 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 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: 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: AMC’s Javelin hit the mark

It took on the Big 3 and won

I’ll admit that I love American Motors cars. It seemed the company was always swinging for the fence with every new car. And they had to because they never had a big development budget.

Take for example the Javelin. Tardy to the pony car party in 1968. The Mustang started it all followed by the Camaro. Mopar had its Challenger and Barracuda. The first-gen Javelin did well and to prove it had performance chops, AMC took it racing in the Trans-Am series and it did well. Like its competition, you could buy one with a big V-8 and other performance goodies.

The second-gen debuted in 1971. Designed by Richard Teague, this was totally different than its predecessor. Longer, wider, and those hump bulges on each side of the hood. This was one of those designs that were hated or loved. I love it but blogging partner Mark Savage does not. To each his own. While it won the Trans-Am title, the pony cars’ days were numbered.

This second-gen 1974 I found on a trip up to Appleton, WI was the Javelin’s final year. Faced with tougher crash and emissions standards AMC decided to pull the plug. AMC estimated it would take $12 million in engineering and design work to revise the bumpers to meet the 1975 standards so that was it.

The first-gen Javelin sold just over 104,000 units, while the second-gen sold slightly less at just over 97,000 units. The most desirable in the first-gen would be the Mark Donohue and the same with the second-gen.

The plan I’m told for this car is to restore it and replace the 360 V8 in it with a 401. These cars are rapidly rising in collectibility. A 71 Pierre Cardin edition recently sold at a Mecum Auction for over $100,000. Not too long ago they were less than half that. Glad to see people appreciating these cars.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car 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 Spotting: Jeep Gladiator’s Great Great Grandpa

Enjoying retirement in Florida

Florida is a great place to see classic cars since the weather is great. No salt on the roads means that a car can have a very long life. Take for example this Willys Jeep I spotted on a recent trip. As best I can tell, it began life as a pickup or wagon and was later converted to this flatbed. It has some restomoding but otherwise looks original. I couldn’t help but notice the shift knob that looks like it came from an AMC.

They were manufactured in the U.S. from 1946 to 1964, with production in Argentina and Brazil continuing until 1970 and 1977 respectively. They were the first mass-market all-steel station wagons designed and built as passenger vehicles. There were over 300,000 wagons and variants built in the U.S. It was one of Willys’ most successful post-World War II models.

It looks as if this Jeep’s tour of duty might be over as right now it spends the bulk of its time in front of a bar/restaurant on Matlacha Island located about an hour north of Ft. Myers, FL.

This Jeep lives in a northern clime but has never been on the roads during the winters. This 1950 Jeepster I discovered on a recent trip to The Automobile Gallery in Green Bay, WI. This is a fascinating place to visit and it’s run by my former TV boss and fellow car geek Darrel Burnett.

This Jeepster, and hundreds more vehicles, are part of a collection of Wm “Red” Lewis. Like all of the cars he owned, this one looks as if it just came off the assembly line in Toledo. 20,000 were produced from 1948 to 1950 but only 5,845 in its last year. For those looking for an entry into the collector car scene, these are very affordable going for around $20,000 and a blast to drive in the summer. And no, it’s not for sale. I already worked Darrel over on that. Be sure to check out my other car spots. A new one is added on Fridays.

Cars your rarely see on the road

Another unusual car made in Wisconsin

The Excalibur Automobile Corporation was born by the idea Milwaukee native, and world-famous designer, Brook Stevens  who sketched a concept on a place mat while at a restaurant in 1964. He was asked by his then employee Studebaker to create buzz for their exhibit at the New York Auto Show. I love Studebaker, in many ways like AMC, in that they had to swing for the fence to get noticed by automotive buyers. It was at the auto show that Studebaker announced they were getting out of the auto business.

But that wasn’t the end of the Excalibur. The car received so much attention the Excalibur Automotive Corporation was formed to produce the cars. The engine and drive train came from General Motors while the bodies and interiors were hand-crafted in West Allis, suburb just west of Milwaukee. The car was pretty quick utilizing a Chevy 327 engine. With the same engine used in the Corvette and the standard 3.31:1 rear axle, acceleration from 0–60 mph took less than six seconds.

And it looks even better stretched

Which is why I stopped to take a picture of it. In an era where everything from Chrysler 300’s to Hummers are stretched into limos, this one would still attract a crowd. In fact, it has more value in the collector car market than the original car. You can find Excaliburs from the mid 1960’s all the way through the late 1980’s and very affordable ranging in prices from $37,000 for a Series 3, to a 1989 Roadster Convertible for $65,000.  Not bad considering there were just around 3,500 copies made.

The limo, much less, around 13, according to their website. These are the ones made in West Allis, not ones stretched by other companies. My best source for pricing came from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) where they listed the 1989 model with a low retail of $94,000, average of $177,700 and high of $280,300. You will find lots of the stretched versions around $50,000 or less. How much for this one? Good guess. Looks like it was just parked and forgotten with a group of unremarkable vehicles. Would make for an interesting restoration project and a fun ride. The body’s not in bad shape but will need some work as will the interior.

An electrifying sports coupe

My buddy and I had just finished lunch at a McDonalds in Lomira, WI and spotted two cool black cars parked next to each other near the back of the lot. One, a 1972 Chevy Monte Carlo, the other, this bad boy. I had to hop out and take a closer look, one because it was so cool looking, and two, I had no idea what it was. A Beemer? Nope. A Fisker Karma.

In case you have forgotten, and I did, here’s a little refresher.  Fisker produced the Karma and it was one of the world’s first production luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The Karma debuted in Detroit at the 2008 North American International Auto Show when Tesla was just getting going with its Model S. Deliveries began in 2011 but Production was suspended in November 2012 when its battery supplier, A123 Systems, declared bankruptcy. Just over 2,400 cars were built at its manufacturing plant in Delaware which used to be owned by General Motors.

In February 2014, Fisker Automotive’s Karma vehicle design, tooling and a manufacturing facility in Delaware were purchased by Chinese auto parts conglomerate Wanxiang Group who really wanted the battery side of the business. Founder Henrik Fisker, hung on to the Fisker trademarks and the Fisker brand and launched a separate company, Fisker Inc, in 2016. Wanxiang later renamed its new company Karma Automotive.

This car is over the top cool and even though a couple thousand were built, they are not expensive at all to buy now. Getting them serviced, well that’s another story. A quick search of the used car sites like TrueCar.com had several listings starting at just $32,950, all the way up to $52,500 and with low miles. Not sure I would ever purchase one but they are sure cool to look at.

 

 

 

Holy crap, I think that car might have been mine!

My one shot at a collector car

promotional model cars, AMX, AMC, American MotorsCame in 1987 while living in Green Bay. I always kept an eye out in the papers, this was before that interweb thing got big, looking for, well, I wasn’t sure. Then, bingo, a 1970 AMX was for sale in Milwaukee similar to the image of this model I built to remind myself about the experience. I had to have it. Never mind I hadn’t even seen it yet. They seller didn’t want too much for it, $2,500, which should have been a red flag, but I was laser focused. I needed fast cash since I didn’t have that much saved up and this was an impulse purchase so I went to my local bank Continue reading Holy crap, I think that car might have been mine!

For the Rekord

Photo: WikiCommons
Photo: WikiCommons

Spellcheck went crazy with this

Lots of red lines below my copy when I wrote this blog entry about the Open Rekord. It kept wanting to change it to “Record”. You know me and odd ball cars. I was actually running through eBay looking at promo models when I came across a Record, oops, Rekord. More about the promo model in a minute but first I needed to find our more about the real deal since I’d never heard of the car. This car was no one-hit wonder as there were approximately ten million sold between 1953 and 1986. It was produced by GM’s Opel brand and was the second best-selling brand in Europe behind the Volkswagen Beetle. Check out the spot but brush up on your German. Continue reading For the Rekord