Bennett’s Customs is an Australian is a traditional builder that does some pretty cool car and motorcycle projects, and they have embarked on a new project that must be done by September in order to go racing at the Perkolilli Red Dust Revival. This is a single seat race car build, like one that you would have seen in the 1940s and they are building it from a mix of scratch made parts, stuff that has been sitting around collecting dust, and some more traditional parts they will no doubt be wheeling and dealing for. If you are into traditional rides, like those we feature from Iron Trap Garage, then you are going to dig what they are doing here. I’m intrigued, and inspired, by projects like this because we all tend to make projects that are so complicated and big that they take forever. If instead we worked on some smaller projects, maybe we could get more of them done.
This project here is no lightweight with regards to the work required, since they are doing this all from scratch, but it sure looks like it is going to be a fun one and we can’t wait to watch it come together. Here are the first two episodes and we’ll bring you more shortly!
The Packard 120 series was a direct response to Packard’s falling fortunes in the 1930s and they were great cars. As the Great Depression wore on, the traditional luxury market softened to the point where it couldn’t support a company of Packard’s size. Competitors like Peerless and Pierce-Arrow had the same problem and soon disappeared. Cadillac, meanwhile, had La Salle and the entirety of the General Motors operation to make up for slow sales of its prestige machines.
Rather than introduce a new volume line to complement its traditional offerings (as it would later try to do in the ‘50s with the Clipper name), Packard instead introduced the 120 with Packard badging but a price that started $1,405 below the least-expensive standard Eight. A fairer comparison might be this $1,095 five-passenger Touring Sedan (the trunk-back body no. 892, with rear quarter windows; rather than the no. 893 flat-back Sedan or the 896 Club Sedan with its blind quarters) with the standard Eight five-passenger Sedan, which was priced at $2,385 on a 127-inch wheelbase or $2,585 on a 134-inch wheelbase.
That meant a 120 Touring Sedan like this one undercut not only the pricier Packards, but also the $1,295 LaSalle four-door sedan; the $1,190 Buick Series 50; the $1,165 Nash Advanced Eight; and the $1,127 Hudson Custom Eight Touring Sedan. Pricing was essentially on par with eight-cylinder Auburn models and was even cheap enough it might have stolen away some prospective Chrysler customers.
Possibly working to the 120’s advantage was not just the Packard badge, but the state-of-the-art engineering that had gone into developing the new line. Big Packards in 1935 still used solid front axles and mechanical brakes, but the 120 has an independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes. The 120 also used Packard’s traditional straight-eight powerplant, but in a scaled-down version utilizing a one-piece cylinder block and crankcase. The 256-cu.in. flathead engine made 110 hp at 3,850 RPM: Compare that with the 320-cu.in. engine in the standard Eight putting out 130 hp at 3,200 rpm and bolted into a chassis weighing at least 1,200 pounds more than the 120 and it’s easy to see why the new, budget-minded Packard sold like hotcakes in its first year. Production of 24,995 One Twenties eclipsed the fewer than 7,000 other Packards built for 1935.
What all that means for this car is that if you want a 120 to recreate that 1935 experience, you might be better off to look elsewhere. Despite the 120’s great history and Packard build quality, fully restored, this would be not quite a $40,000 car; and it would be easy to spend that or more bringing it back to Day One condition.
I’m partial to the styling of the Early Model Corvairs (1960-’64), which is widely known to have inspired the designers who penned the 1961 NSU Prinz. Here’s an example of the other way around. Back in 1960, when the Corvair first came out, someone decided they liked the idea of the air-cooled 80-hp, rear-engine, four-speed, swing-axle Chevy, but didn’t like how much it resembled other Chevrolet products and commissioned Italian coachbuilder Pinin Farina (originally named for founder Battista “Pinin” Farina but styled Pininfarina after 1961) to shroud the European-influenced chassis with Euro-style coachwork.
According to Gooding & Company, who are offering that chassis for sale this month in Monterey, that someone was GM Lead Stylist Bill Mitchell, who was seeking a design proposal. What he got back from Italy was the Coupe Speciale you see here, but not in the form you see it. As it was displayed at the Paris and Turin, Italy motor shows and shown on the March 1961 cover of Road & Track, the Coupe Speciale wore a version of this hardtop styling, but with a much more sloped, Porsche- or Citroën-style nose with single round headlamps. It also still wore ’60 Corvair dog-dish hubcaps on steel wheels.
After that first show season, prolific automotive designer Tom Tjaarda was called on the reconfigure the coupe as a 2+2. He also redesigned the car’s rear end in a more angular vein, expanded the side windows, and added the car’s now-characteristic ellipse-shaped headlamp housings. In this form, painted dark green and wearing ’61 Monza wheel covers, it was again on the cover of Road & Track, in February 1963. In a final restyling, sometime thereafter, Tjaarda reconfigured the A-pillars to remove the final visual connection to the early Corvair.
Given the lead times required by production and the nebulous dates connected with some of Tjaarda’s remodeling efforts, it’s hard to say how much the Coupe Speciale influenced the styling of the Late Model (1965-’69) Corvair two-door hardtop versus itself being influenced by the direction Chevrolet stylists were already taking, but the resemblance is clear and the efforts of both the great Pininfarina and the legendary Tom Tjaarda make this one special Corvair.
Took another trip to Newbury but not the racecourse as per the West Berkshire Classic Car Show. This time the venue was the Newbury Showground for the annual RetroFestival. The festival is more than a car show with lots of stalls, music and other activities to keep visitors busy. The attendance seemed a little down not really surprising due to the uncomfortable heatwave conditions and possibly the rise in fuel prices and the current increased cost of living. Nonetheless it was a really enjoyable even as always, with lots of American vehicles on display as you can see.
Great news from the Rodder’s Journal, as a Lifetime Subscriber it’s really pleasing to see the publication getting back on track.
Greetings from The Rodder’s Journal!
It has been sometime since we have sent out a Rodder’s Journal email blast to you, but we are excited to announce that we are in full swing and working hard to get back on track. It has been a tough road getting back to this point, but we’re confident we are headed in the right direction, and we are excited about the future.
You may have heard that we debuted the new issue, TRJ #85, this past weekend at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. First of all, we would like to thank everyone for the positive and supportive reception we received. Thank you to all that took the time to stop by.
We’d like to give you a quick run-down on where things stand without going into too much gory detail. You will be able to read more about all of that in the Editorial of TRJ #85.
But, first off, we do want to thank you for your patience, and your continued support in all of this. Failure is not an option and we have never faltered in our efforts to continue with The Rodder’s Journal. It has been a tough couple of years and many challenges lay ahead, but we firmly believe that we are well on track to bring the Rodder’s Journal back to its former glory.
For what seems like decades, American car enthusiasts have clamored for domestic automakers to make a serious effort to compete in the luxury-car segment. Brands such as Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial pretty much invented the full-size luxury sedan, but those U.S. brands have long since yielded to the German and Japanese. It has, in fact, been decades since Toyota upset the automotive apple cart with the Lexus LS400 in 1990.
Finally, Cadillac has accepted the challenge—and raised its sights even higher. Revealed in concept form last week, the $300,000 Celestiq leapfrogs the Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 7 Series to challenge Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Caddy’s battery-powered flagship will be handbuilt to customer specification at GM’s Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.
Of course, Detroit has tried to step into the ring multiple times since the LS400. In the past twenty years, the Big Three debuted a number of promising luxury concepts that positive reactions from consumers, dealers, and the automotive press. If not ready for immediate production, most looked quite feasible—that is, if C-suite executives had the guts. On second thought, perhaps that’s unfair to the people running the domestic automakers. As attractive as these cars were to enthusiasts, by the time some of them would have come to market, the business case had evaporated.
We’ll never know whether these high-class studies would have succeeded, but we can wonder, can’t we? Here are 12 concept luxury cars introduced by the American automakers that never made it off the display stand. While a couple of them might be better described as supercars, I think it’s safe to say that anything with a projected retail price in the six figures is a luxury item.
2001 Lincoln MK9
The MK9’s interior was trimmed in chocolate brown, with lipstick red leather and brushed aluminum. An aluminum console cascaded down the dashboard, flowing the length of the passenger cabin. In the early 2000s, lacquered wood finishes were quite popular with luxury automakers. The MK9 sports dark cherry wood floors and a white leather headliner with fiber optics that lit up like a starry nighttime sky. The seats were modeled after the famous Eames Lounge Chair, designed by the influential husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. The Eames met while attending the Cranbrook Academy of Art in suburban Detroit, taught there, and their work has been popular with the Detroit design community. Just as the Eames chair comes with a matching ottoman, the MK9’s red-upholstered front passenger seat boasts a foot rest trimmed in leather and aluminum
Since it was based on a production vehicle, the MK9 was fully functional. When Ford conducted one of its periodic auctions of concept vehicles to raise money for charity in 2010, the MK9 sold for an impressive $101,750.
2004 Lincoln Mark X
By 2004, Lincoln had reverted to traditional names, and the Roman numeric Mark X (pronounced “Mark 10”) debuted at the 2004 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. It was a convertible take on themes introduced with the Em Kay Nine.
Also based on the Thunderbird, the Mark X swapped the T-bird’s soft top and removeable hard top with a folding metal roof with a panoramic glass insert. The Mark X’s interior was, per Ford’s press release: “dressed in Lime Sorbet with white Corian accents, polished aluminum, dark chrome, natural grain leather seating surfaces, plush sheepskin flooring and tailored tone-on-tone stitching throughout. Its four-spoke, power-adjustable steering wheel also is leather wrapped.”
Lincoln chief of design Marek Reichman was responsible for the exterior design, which did riff on some of the MK9’s themes. The waterfall grille, however, was replaced with Lincoln’s new egg-crate affair, a throwback feature from the 1960s. The Mark X was shorter than the MK9 by more than a foot, and had slightly smaller, 21-inch chromed aluminum wheels. A functional vehicle but, like most modern concepts, not street-legal, the Mark X was powered by a 280-hp 3.9-liter DOHC V-8 paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
While it was close to production-ready, the Mark X was born into the wrong time: Sales of the Thunderbird were waning, and Lincoln decided that the market was then ripe for a traditional, personal-luxury car.
Speaking of brandnomenclature, the Mark X was not the first time that name was used for a Lincoln concept, at least phonetically. In 1992, Lincoln showed the “Marque X” concept, a convertible based on the then-new Mark VIII.
The Mark X was sold by Ford at the same 2010 auction as the MK9 and, in a remarkable coincidence, it fetched the same $101,750 price. Four years later, it changed hands for $129,250.
2002 Lincoln Continental Concept
The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw a wave of nostalgia sweep across the auto industry. Retro( more properly, “retrofuturism” was in), and modern cars adopted a vintage look. There was VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, and Ford’s reissue of the Thunderbird. The Lincoln Continental Concept introduced at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show fit nicely into that ethos, expressing the look of the classic 1961 Continental for a modern audience. Perhaps the most eye-catching homage was the suicide doors, which opened a full 90 degrees. One thing the ’61 Conti didn’t have but the ’02 concept did was a powered trunk lid that opened vertically on a parallelogram linkage. Beneath it, a bumper-level draw slid out to reveal a bespoke set of Zero Halliburton luggage.
The interior featured indirect fiber-optic lighting for the headliner and door panels along with the use of LEDs, features that have since proliferated throughout the automotive world
Apparently two versions of the ’02 Continental concept were made, a display-only “pushmobile” used at some car show and a fully functional vehicle powered by a 414-hp V-12 engine (created by mating two Duratec V-6s, a trick that showed up on other FoMoCo concepts of the era), with a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, multilink suspension front and rear, and 22-inch aluminum wheels. The static display car sold for $15,400 in 2010 and again in 2014 for $27,500. The functional concept sold for $56,100 at that same 2010 sale.
Responses from the public and press were almost uniformly positive, but it would be more than 10 years before Lincoln introduced a new Continental. Thankfully, when it did offer the new Conti, it was available in a coach (or “suicide”) door edition.
2007 Lincoln MKR
Revealed at the 2007 NAIAS in Detroit, the MKR, designed by a team led by Peter Horbury, was introduced at a time when the Mercedes-Benz CLS and other swoopy “four door coupes” were becoming popular. Powered by a twin-turbo, direct-injection 3.5 liter V-6 with 415 hp that introduced Ford and Lincoln’s TwinForce engine branding, the MKR was supposed to presage Lincoln’s new styling theme, billed as “elegant simplicity.”
Exterior design, headed by Gordon Platto, featured a high beltline with a chamfered surface that ran the length of the car, a cantilevered roof that transitioned to a wide C pillar, full-width horizontal taillights, upward swinging doors, and 10-spoke, chromed 21-inch wheels. The most dramatic exterior styling cues were yet another new grille—the split “bow wave,” said to be based on that of the classic 1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet—and an expansive glass roof that integrated a structural Lincoln star. The tread of the MKR’s custom Michelin tires also bears the Lincoln star.
It’s possible that Platto’s team settled on a glass roof to show off the impressive interior, promoted as “guilt-free” luxury, filled with premium amenities that were environmentally friendly. The instrument panel is made from a piece of recycled black oak that extends from left to right, flowing down into a two-level center console. Ice-blue ambient lighting illuminated the interior, which feature self-standing “floating” seats made with soy-based foam, glossy exterior shells, and upholstered with cashmere leather tanned in an environmentally conscious chromium-free process.
2003 Mercury Messenger
While it wasn’t branded as a Lincoln, I’m including the Mercury Messenger concept because a grand touring sports coupe could have been part of Lincoln’s portfolio. (Also because I think it’s a very handsome automobile and deserves attention.) “In my opinion, it’s as good looking as any Ferrari,” concept vehicle collector Joe Bortz, who owns the Messenger, says. “This car could’ve saved Mercury.”
The Messenger was supposed to send the message that moribund Mercury was about to undergo a rejuvenation. Unfortunately, the brand would die just seven years later
What would a Gremlin have been without Bob Nixon’s on-a-budget barf-bag-sketch chop back truncation? What would it have been with any other silhouette behind the B-pillars? Correct, it wouldn’t be a Gremlin at all, which is fairly obvious given the Gremlin’s successor, the Spirit, swapped the chop back for a liftback and nobody ever confused the latter for the former. But what if AMC’s designers tried to give the Gremlin more utility by turning it into, say, a station wagon?
Granted, there’s no information attached to this image of a wagon-bodied Gremlin-nosed AMC small car that the Gateway AMC club recently posted to Facebook that would suggest that was the intention behind the mockup. In fact, there’s no information attached to it at all, and AMC enthusiasts have been trying to discern whatever they can from the image since, including the location of the photo. We know, for example, that the schnozz comes from a 1977-1978 Gremlin, though those wheel covers came on 1973-1975 Hornets.
We know from Pat Foster’s “American Motors Corporation: The Rise And Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker” that AMC execs were looking to keep Gremlin sales from collapsing during the late Seventies – hence the redesigned front end, along with several other changes like a larger rear window, more standard equipment, and the newly available Audi-built 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Could the mockup above have been another proposal for juicing Gremlin sales?
Above, the Gremlin G-II. Below, the Hornet GT and the later Concept Grand Touring.
Then again, as mentioned above, the Gremlin wasn’t the Gremlin with a different profile, and AMC had already toyed with semi-wagon small-car rooflines and with the Gremlin silhouette. First, there was the circa-1973 Hornet GT, a sort of shortened two-door Hornet Sportabout on the Gremlin’s 96-inch wheelbase—a running prototype with two different rear side window treatments that eventually became the circa-1978 square-headlamp Concept Grand Touring with a different interior and an odd vinyl top. Then there was the 1974 Gremlin G-II, another show car built on the Gremlin’s wheelbase with Hornet front fenders, though this time with a Spirit-like hatchback and aggressively wide rear quarters. They all looked sharp, but unlike, say, the 1974 Gremlin XP, they had no real resemblance to the Gremlin.
Whether it’s a six-figure Samba, the bubbling up in Amphicar prices, or microcars with macro values, it often appears that the overdriven collector car market of the last few years has overvalued every old car of interest. Who would’ve thought, for instance, that squarebody GM pickups—almost literally a dime a dozen and the epitome of low-buck, anti-style utilitarianism for so many years—would become the hottest thing since the sliced bread that they so resemble?
But as we all know, the economics of old cars is neither predictable nor is it rational, and just as some cars end up selling for more than the experts believe it’s worth, some sell for less. We’re not talking about individual sales here and there, but entire generations of cars that, for some reason or another, remain valued far less than one would expect given the esteem many collectors hold for them. To illustrate this point, we’ve asked the Hemmings Editorial staff to select some of the cars that consistently sell for far less than what those staffers think the cars should be worth. We’re not necessarily looking for bargains or good investments here; rather, we’re talking cars that we appreciate that haven’t (yet) appreciated. Any prices quoted below in general reflect what we’ve seen in the Hemmings classified and auction listings.
Yes, this is an entirely subjective exercise, so once you’ve perused our choices, suggest your own criminally undervalued cars in the comments below.
1960-1964 Corvair Club Coupe
The swing-axle Corvair Club Coupe is a sleeper value. There were a lot of them made and there’s still a strong enthusiast base for the more exotic ’Vairs (turbocharged Spyders, the convertibles, the wagons, and the vans), which means support for the workaday versions. On the other hand, their quirky mechanicals (and a largely unfair black legend about their safety) scare off the big-money folks who like Mustangs and Camaros. The Porsche and Volkswagen crowd, seemingly more sympathetic to their engineering, don’t seem to think much of anything wearing a Chevrolet badge.
Current NADA values for 1961-’63 model Club Coupes range from $2,300 (1961 500) at the low end to $17,500 (’62-’63 Monzas) at the high. The 1960 “Cave Man” cars, which have a lot of one-year-only parts, should go on the average of $7,500, and the 1964 seems to be the sleeper’s sleeper, with a value of $2,425 (500) ranging upward to $16,900 (Monza) at the high end, despite a bigger engine than ’61-’63 cars and suspension improvements.
Perhaps the outstanding example of this criminal undervaluation in our classifieds is this 1964 Chevrolet Monza Spyder Club Coupe shorn of its turbocharger and priced at $4,950. It’s got a black-vinyl interior (claimed original) with the coveted Spyder instrument cluster. Outside, it wears what I assume is Palomar Red paint. The car comes with an unidentified two-carburetor replacement engine wearing an alternator (suggesting it’s a ’65-’69 unit) coupled to a four-speed and an unidentified gearing that should be 3.27 or 3.55. The seller says it’s a “good car to restore” either with a replicated 150hp turbo engine or some hot rodded version of the replacement unit which is good enough that the car currently “runs/drives.” – Dave Conwill
1984-1996 Chevrolet Corvette
The fourth-generation Corvette should have a lot going for it at the moment. Besides the fact that it’s a Corvette—America’s sports car, the everyman’s exotic, the eternal halo car, loved by legions—it almost perfectly fits the aesthetic and the character of the post-malaise Rad-era cars that have enjoyed a surge of popularity over the last several years. And yet while third-generation Camaros, Fox-body Mustangs, OBS trucks, and all manner of Nineties imports have become far more popular (and more expensive) than casual observers could have imagined, the fourth-generation Corvette has not kept up at all. Sure, there’s the ZR-1s and the Grand Sports and the Callaways that all fetch decent money for 30-year-old sports cars, but we’re constantly seeing lower-end hardtops and even the occasional convertible in good, if not perfect, condition selling for four figures. Take, for instance, the all-white 1988 35th Anniversary version for $9,900 or the loaded and recently serviced 1988 for $9,950. Spend any more than $20,000 and it better be one of those special versions mentioned above. While they don’t perform like modern Corvettes, the digital dashes and other gizmos haven’t aged well, and aftermarket support for these cars is thinner than for other Corvette generations, they still perform well for cars of their era and the minimal upfront investment into a fourth-generation Corvette should bend the fun-to-cost ratio in its favor. – Daniel Strohl
Design by committee doesn’t work, but that doesn’t mean that a large team can’t come together and build something spectacular. In the August 2021 issue we introduced Project Artemis, this 1997 Ford F-250 crew-cab pickup whose ambitious build was undertaken by 41 partners, including Hemmings. Wisely, most of the detail choices were left to the discretion of Crystal and Kurt Lawrance at KTL Restorations in Danville, Virginia. They’re not big on titles at KTL, but Kurt is owner and president of the business that he founded with his late father, and Crystal is his wife and enthusiastic business partner.
KTL is just now expanding into overlanding builds from the muscle-car restoration and restomod field, bringing a fresh sensibility to what has become a rapidly expanding market. Partnering with KTL in this capacity was a decision that paid off, as the company’s vision pioneered not only several technical developments in the off-road/overlanding field but has sown the seeds for an expansion of that field into 1992-’96 (and early ’97) “Old Body Style” (OBS) Ford trucks.
That expansion includes both OE-style reproduction parts, notably from Complete Performance (aka CP Addicts), in Jasper, Texas; and in modified (by Kurt) off-the-shelf pieces from places like KC HiLiTES in Williams, Arizona, and Clackamas, Oregon-based Warn Industries
In case you hadn’t noticed, 1990s-’00s nostalgia is hot—both among the millennials who lived it and the Gen Z kids who wish they had. There was no question that the classic OBS elements had to stay in place among the state-of-the-art overlanding bits. Thankfully, the crew-cab F-250 was found (“on a little bitty car lot in North Carolina”) with almost preternatural speed. The dry, Southwestern truck needed minimal bodywork and was treated to BASF Glasurit paints in pearlescent white and two shades of blue. The underside was sprayed with blue-tinted Lizard Skin for a durable, yet attractive, undercoating. The mountain and stripes graphic package was initially conceived by Crystal’s 16-year-old daughter.