Just had to share

Old cars are fun to drive. When I’m behind the wheel of my Metropolitan, I get smiles and waves. I get all the ego strokes a guy could want.

But there’s a dark side. Even while I’m smiling back and giving the Queen wave to awestruck admirers, I know that my Met will try to grind my gears. Break my spirit. Crush my soul.

It happened this past Saturday night. My American Motors product broke down. The gas stopped flowing right at a major intersection. Two good guys helped me push my rusting, Unitbody-constructed hulk into a parking lot. Then I called the tow truck.

Met on tow truck

Then I forked over $70 to The Man.

Todd pays up

When you have an old car, breakdowns are inevitable. Sometimes you have friends with you who can help. Sometimes you’re driving solo. Many times, you’re just SOL.

This incident made me wonder how you feel every time your classic orphan ride leaves the garage. Joy or dread? Fun or fear? I’ve re-activated the Comments section of the blog (below). Tell me your story! I’d love to hear how you deal with the inevitability of mechanical failure.


British films DVD update #2

Hey, Rootes Group film investors!

I have great news! Your DVDs are done! I’m assembling them now, and I’ll be shipping them shortly. Keep an eye on your mailboxes. You’ll be getting them soon! (And when you do, please tell me what you think. I’d really appreciate your feedback.)

Remember: this DVD will feature the following Rootes Group promotional films:
1) Alpine Challenge (about Sunbeam Rapiers in European rally competions in 1959)
2) The New Hillman Minx (1959)
3) The New Sunbeam Alpine (1959)

Stay tuned!

DVD cover
Rootes DVD label


Glenn Pray in Hemmings Classic Car

Dave LaChance wrote a great article about Glenn Pray, the man who, for one brief, shining moment, brought the Cord 810 back to life. (Hemmings Classic Car, September 2009)

You might not like reproductions. You might not like Corvair engines powering your reproductions. But you have to admire Pray’s dream and his persistence.

After doing a little bit of internet research, I found that Pray is still with us. However, it looks like he’s pretty frail.

Look for more info about the man at The Glenn Pray Cord Group web site.

Lucky Lee Lott in Garage Magazine

Back in the day, it seems like every car manufacturer had a group of stunt drivers who jumped, burned, wrecked, and tortured its cars at public events like county fairs.

Kaiser Frazer had the Aut Swenson Thrillcade. Plymouth had the Hurricane Hell Drivers. And Nash had Lucky Lee Lott.

So imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I saw a picture of the late Lucky Lee Lott in Issue 18 of Jesse James’ Garage Magazine. (Nash fans, don’t get your heart rate up. There’s no story about Lott. Only some chest thumping from Garage at Lott’s expense.)

The picture shows an older Lucky Lee behind the wheel of one of his stunt cars. A reader sent in the photo claiming that THIS is the kind of guy who reads Garage.

I laughed, and it’s all in good humor. But Garage reminds me of some nerd who has to stand in front of the mirror and tell himself every morning what a badass he is even at the expense of others (like Lucky). He can weld. He can fabricate. He has tattoos. Friends, if you have to loudly announce your garage cred to everyone who cracks the spine of your magazine, then you, sirs, are not really badasses. Just asses.

But, hey. There’s an awful lot that Garage does right. Design, layout, stories, cheesecake. It’s all done really well. Only the self affirmation is overcooked.

AMC Concept 80 cars in Hemmings Classic Car

If you’re an AMC fan, you need to check out Patrick Foster’s latest article in the September 2009 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

Foster tells a great story about his personal trip in 1977 to AMC’s Concept 80 show in New York City. AMC was showing some automotive ideas to the public, and Foster was there. In fact, he was escorted around the show floor by John Conde (AMC’s unofficial historian and public relations executive) and styling guru Dick Teague.

The article features all of the Concept 80 cars, but there’s one total standout: the AM Van. AMC coulda/shoulda built this stylish minivan and beat Chrysler to market by three or more years.

Even though the article features several great color illustrations of the cars, there’s no substitute for being there. So we dug through the Torq-O Media Archive and found this vintage 1977 news film. (We bought the film from John Conde himself several years back.)


1966 AMC Ambassador convertible in Cars & Parts

The folks at Cars & Parts (right up the highway from us in Sidney, OH) often give the guys who work for the Hemmpire in Vermont a run for their money.

Their cover story about the ’66 AMC Ambassador 990 convertible in the July 2009 issue is a great example. Richard Truesdell wrote a great story about what American Motors was doing at that time. He talks about how owner Ken Norman’s car is tricked out with every factory option except the tachometer.

But I felt the story needed a little hot sauce. So I burrowed deep into the Torq-O Media Archive until only my feet were sticking of the hole. When my assistants pulled me out, I was feverish and babbling. The 16mm commercial spot that they crowbarred out of my hands is the secret sauce for this article.

Here’s a 1966 Ambassador TV commercial for your contextual pleasure.

In 1966, AMC promoted themselves as the “Friendly Giant Killers.” And they spent a ton of money doing it. They produced one of their traveling dealer introduction shows that toured the United States. They recorded and distributed an original cast recording on a vinyl LP.

They also spent some coins sponsoring big television shows. Here’s a short movie featuring actor David Wayne pitching American Motors. You would have seen this video running in the middle of some big TV special on one of the big three networks at that time.

Did this advertising investment work? Not unless you consider the President’s unceremonious dumping in January 1967 a serendipitous career change.

Nevertheless, for one glorious year, AMC showed that the littlest American car company could write checks just as big as the Big Three.

Hudson, DeSoto, & Muntz in Collectible Automobile

Collectible Automobile (STILL no web site) hit home runs with each of its three Photo Features in its August 2009 issue.

First up is a 1952 Muntz Jet. It looks like a long, sleek, beautiful vitamin tablet with headlights. Very streamlined. Very slab sided like a lot of postwar cars. Very low volume. I’d love to drift my way through the weekly cruise in with this car. I can practically see the question marks over gawkers’ heads.

Next is the 1947 DeSoto Custom Club Coupe. It has one of those painted-on, fake wooden dashboards that were so popular in midsize cars like Nash. Thank God they stopped building tanks for war and reverted to building tanks for the boulevard.

I’m sure it’s no accident that the first picture in this Feature is a closeup of the hood ornament. Naked woman. Hair flowing. Arms extended like wings. And protruding boobs pointing the way forward. It’s the kind of design statement that says, “Wherever you’re going, I’m following.”

The last spread in this issue is a pretty 1941 Hudson pickup. I’ve always liked these trucks along with the ’46-’47 Hudson pickups. Very handsome. The truck bed looks long enough to haul my Metropolitan.

Check out Volume 26, #2 for yourself.