Category: Matt Litwin

Which hero car from these four car-chase cult classics would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

Which hero car from these four car-chase cult classics would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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In our latest edition of This or That, we’re continuing our selection of movie cars, though with a bit of a twist. Rather than focus our attention on a single film, we’ve carefully picked four different rides from four different movies released in the Seventies. Hero cars, if you will, that may or may not have been “hero cars” by the very basic definition. And rather than offer a few of the obvious, here are four that are iconic yet may have you thinking twice. Let’s take a look at this week’s platter of power, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

Released in 1971, Vanishing Point gets little ink outside of top-10-car-chase lists, but those who know, know. It’s been a car cult classic for decades. If you’re not familiar with the film, the main character – Kowalski, portrayed by Barry Newman – is a hired gun who delivers cars across the country; the latest in his long resume that is unveiled during flashbacks throughout the movie. After dropping off an Imperial in Denver, Colorado, Kowalski is tasked with transporting what is supposed to be a supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, similar to this example for sale, to San Francisco, California, within 48 hours. Even then, it probably wasn’t an impossible task, but Kowalski bets that he can make it before Sunday night, which sets off a Desert Southwest chase. While the Dodge meets an inglorious end, the seller of our featured example states:

This 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T has been highly maintained and has only 81,000 original miles. This Challenger is in excellent condition. This vehicle is original and unrestored. The car has had some exterior paint (in its original HEMI orange) at some point in its life, but it looks great and is very honest. This car drives excellent and is very tight. Has the original style Goodyear Polyglass tires. The interior is in amazing condition. Vintage Air conditioning installed.

1966 Chevrolet Impala

More than one car chase movie has started with some sort of heist, and the 1974 release of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry was no exception. In this case, it’s a $150,000 haul from a local supermarket executed by NASCAR hopeful Larry Rayder (Peter Fonda) and mechanic pal Deke Sommers (Adam Roarke). Helping their escape plan is a four-door 1966 Chevrolet Impala, similar to our featured example, along with Larry’s former one-night stand, Mary Coombs (Susan George). Pursued by local authorities, the trio ultimately ditch the Impala for a more thrifty 1969 Dodge Charger R/T conveniently commandeered at a flea market. It’s another cult classic with an inglorious ending, whereas portions of the seller’s listing of our featured Chevy states:

Sitting right in the fat part of the affordability-versus-condition curve is this handsome 4-door hardtop, featuring low ‘believed-actual’ miles on the body, a strong-running 283 V-8, and a classic White-over-Red color combination…Fortunately, this Imp has clearly lived an easy life by the looks of the sheetmetal, and with a believed actual mileage of just over 36K, it’s obvious it was only driven on special occasions. It is a survivor finish though, so there’s some light patina and minor surface rust to consider…The sheetmetal is still straight, with good gaps and body lines…All the correct brightwork and trim is still intact and in decent shape…The front bench seat cover was replaced at some point since it’s all-vinyl, whereas the rear seat cover, door panels, headliner, and plush red carpets are all original Code 847 red cloth-and-vinyl spec…the original dash with bright red paint and aluminum panels is a wonderful complement of the exterior theme. The wide instrument panel shows crisp markings on the gauges, a retro-style AM/FM/AUX stereo was installed in the factory slot, and the factory A/C system is still in place, although it could use a R134a refrigerant charge (it has been converted) to blow cold again. The 283 V-8 under the hood may very well be the car’s original, but it’s been covered with years of dirt and grime so pulling a VIN stamp has proved difficult. It is correctly coded with a GF suffix code, and it remains completely stock…The 2-speed PowerGlide automatic transmission feeds the original 10-bolt rear end, which carries highway-friendly rear gears so it’s a fantastic cruiser.

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Which domestic performance car from 1957 would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Let’s open the floodgates of the American performance car debate, specifically when the first regular production examples emerged from assembly plants. While many will quickly give a nod to Pontiac’s 1964 GTO, others will suggest the bar was raised in a far different era. The Stutz Bearcat from the Teens is a perfect early candidate. So, too, is Buick’s Century, introduced in 1936: It was a true midsize car that made use of the larger Roadmaster’s more-powerful straight-eight engine; it was reportedly capable of hitting 100 mph under the right conditions. Then, of course, there was the 1949 Oldsmobile 88, featuring the high-output Rocket V-8 engine that tore up drag strips and stock car circuits alike. Was Hudson’s Twin-H powerplant, nestled in the Hornet, a more suitable candidate, or, perhaps, Detroit’s explosion of elaborate fuel induction systems in 1957? Let’s pause here and review a handful of arguably-muscular options from the year in our latest edition of This or That, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

It’s no secret that Chrysler Corporation set the NASCAR circuit on fire in 1955 and ’56, thanks to team principals like Lee Petty and Carl Kiekhaefer, the latter of whom amassed an astounding 52 wins as team owner, along with 52 poles and 139 top-10 finishes by 11 drivers in just a combined 190 starts–a NASCAR record at the time. At the dawn of the 1957 season, Kiekhaefer and his teams were gone, but not the powerful Mopars he loved to prepare for racing, such as this 1957 Chrysler 300C. Although the upscale and freshly restyled performance model was no longer a contender on the track – it went winless in ’57 – it was a winner at the dealership when 1,918 hardtops found new buyers, bolstered by the sale of 484 convertibles. The base price for each was $4,929 and $5,359 respectively (or $46,517 and $50,575 today), but that price also netted a standard 375-hp 392-cu.in. V-8 engine, its output made possible by a pair of four-barrel carburetors. According to the scant description provided by the seller of this hardtop:

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Five things you should know about wax and polish before shining your ride – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Winter, it seems, is finally behind us, even up here in the northern climate where it has a habit of lingering into early May. It’s time to get the vintage vehicles out of hiding and prepped for a summer of enjoyment. First on the list should always be a wash and wax. Or was it wash and polish? Wax, polish – what’s the difference, right? Therein lies the problem: More often than not, there’s a misconception about wax and polish, and what they should be used for. They are two different products that serve distinct purposes, so here are a few points to ponder after you’ve given the ol’ ride a proper wash.

1. Polish

After washing your vehicle, the first product you should reach for is polish. The misconception about polish is that it produces a nice shine. In truth, its primary purpose is to remove minute imperfections such as grease, dirt, and oxidation from a vehicle’s paint (or clearcoat) that in many instances normal washing will not alleviate. Polish also fixes minute scratches, scrapes and swirls. Here’s the catch, though: a single polish does not solve all of these surface maladies with a single stroke of application.

There are actually two types of polishes, the first being a chemical polish. Its non-abrasive formula essentially cleans the surface, removing (as mentioned) grease, dirt, oxidation, and – if caught early on – even some stains. Abrasive polishes help eliminate/repair swirl marks and scratches before they become an eyesore. This is accomplished by the abrasive compound within, which removes an incredibly thin layer of paint or clearcoat. The abrasiveness varies from one product to the next – from fine to course – to suit various needs, and some are so fine that they are not referred to as abrasive compound polishes, which means it’s important to read the label’s small print. In either case, polish is often found as a cream, spray, or liquid product, and while the surface will look fantastic when the job is completed, it’s important to remember that polish does not seal or protect the paint/clearcoat

2. Car Wax

Car wax is pretty straight forward. It’s been in use – in some form – since the early 1800s, when extending the look and life of an ornate wooden carriage was important to the family budget. It’s carryover to the automotive market was seamless. Unlike polish, wax becomes a barrier between your vehicle’s paint/clearcoat surface and the litany of contaminants that attack it, including UV rays and other airborne pollutants, not forgetting that it helps stymie corrosion. Wax also creates, or more accurately, enhances, the glossy finish many car owners aim for. Because it seals a vehicle’s surface, it’s important to apply wax after polishing the surface, lest the contaminants be locked against the surface, expediting potential damage.There are two different types of automotive wax available: natural and synthetic. As one could guess, the former has been formulated from natural occurring resources, such as waxes, oils, and solvents (crude oil distillates, ethanol, mineral spirits, petroleum, and more). A natural wax offers an incredible shine with great protection, as does a synthetically manufactured wax; however, it does not last as long as synthetic.

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These prewar-to-postwar carryovers are elegant and relatively rare – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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When U.S. automobile production resumed after World War II, eager buyers scooped up warmed-over prewar models while advertising agencies cleverly avoided the phrase, “all new.”

Take Mercury, for instance. The division’s pitch for 1946 was “Step out with Mercury.” It was simple enough, and the mid-priced branch of Ford Motor Company promptly sold 86,603 cars. A year later, “More of everything you want” became the company’s slogan. Sure, the instrument panel dials had been updated, interior hardware was now finished in chrome (as was the grille surround), hub caps had been revised, and there was a new nameplate on the hood, but there was nothing “more” to Mercury. With little effort at the factory and the swipe of an artist’s brush, another 86,383 units were built during the model year.

By then, Mercury’s boardroom was aware that its vastly redesigned cars would be ready for production in late summer 1948. Thus, the ’48 Mercurys, like this Model 76 Club Convertible, entered showrooms with little fanfare.

The Club Convertible was now one of four body styles offered by Mercury, the others being a two-door Sedan Coupe, four-door Town Sedan, and a Station Wagon. In a calculated move, the exceptionally poor-selling two-door Coupe had been dropped in anticipation of the forthcoming redesign. Not unexpectedly, each retained the same grille design from the previous year, topped by running lamps flanking the pronounced hood. Front and rear fender trim was identical to that used a year prior, and a split windshield remained. The Club Convertible’s top was available in either “natural” or black-tinted fabric.

The 1948 line of Mercurys continued to utilize the division’s 239.4-cu.in. flathead V-8 engine, which had been upgraded a year prior with the use of lightweight, four-ring aluminum pistons, and carried a factory rating of 100 hp. Likewise, a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. A full set of 12-inch hydraulic drum brakes managed stopping force, while passenger comfort was handled by “slow-acting springs” and shocks

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Restoration Conundrum: Keep it in driving condition, or give it the works? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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In October 1998, somewhere in the vast sea of Hershey vendors, I was looking at fabric samples assembled in book form by Bill Hirsch. My all-original 1952 Buick Roadmaster had seen some miles under its two prior stewards, which had caused the fabric behind each door handle to fray, while the floor carpet and driver’s-seat back had seen far more glorious days. With a snippet of the car’s upholstery in my hand for comparison, the debate running through my head was, “Which do I start with; what would be the easiest?”

At 26 years old, I was determined to take the next step in automotive restoration. I had replaced the brakes, fixed a power steering fluid leak—the system an option on the Roadmaster that year—and replaced a few weather seals. Upholstery seemed simple enough. Especially floor carpet. Frankly, I was a little more than proud to own, drive, and display the car—I wanted it looking its best, despite my meager budget.

As I pondered my ability against a “close enough” color match, I was asked if I needed help by—I assumed—a staff member. Instead, I found myself talking to Bill Hirsch himself. He must have taken a keen interest in the plight that I had to have exhibited. After explaining the situation, Bill asked, “Do you enjoy driving your Buick?” Yes, was my quick reply, to which he said, “Then drive it. I’d love to sell you upholstery today, but honestly, I can tell by your enthusiasm that you enjoy using the car. You’re young; there will be plenty of time to restore it later when the whole car needs to be done, and we’ll still be making upholstery for it. When it’s ready, call me.” And with that, he shook my hand, slipped me copies of the samples I had been ogling, and flashed a reassuring smile.

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NASCAR downsized: Which one of these sell-on-Monday cars would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Word on the street was that Detroit was introducing downsized cars for 1977. When NASCAR got wind during the ’76 season, it began exploring the idea of initiating a rule change that would mandate a 110-inch wheelbase chassis, versus the then-current 115-inch design. But once that process began, developmental cost was a concern, prompting Bill France Jr. to issue a statement: “Eventually, we will have to follow Detroit’s trend. In order to curb expenses, the teams will be permitted to use equipment they already have instead of letting new equipment become obsolete in a short time.” The changes Bill hinted at were finally scribed into the 1981 rule book, with one exception: the outgoing cars would be permitted to race at the season opener at Riverside International Raceway (in Riverside, California) on January 11. Bobby Allison won at the helm of a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. New downsized cars were permitted to compete side-by-side, even though they were not fully mandated yet. Dale Earnhardt finished third in one such Grand Prix, owned by Rod Osterlund.

1953 was big year for American cars. Which of these four would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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As it happened, 1953 turned out to be a pretty big year for the domestic auto industry. Material shortages initiated by the Korean war had ceased to be a problem, 50th-anniversary celebrations spawned special models, and several manufacturers were in the process of, or had just introduced, a new line of V-8 engines. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re celebrating the domestic class of 1953. Let’s take a closer look at four fun examples for you to ponder, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

Chevrolet wasn’t on the anniversary list this year, but it did make a mark for itself by introducing the Bel Air into its own line of top-tier cars. Simultaneously, the entry-level 150 designation effectively replaced the Special, while the 210 Series – like this four-door sedan – supplanted the mid-priced Deluxe line. With the exception of the station wagon, this would be the only four-door passenger car in the 210 series this year. Costing $1,761 (or $17,180 today), it came standard with a 108-hp straight-six engine and manual transmission. It was also the biggest seller in the series, attaining 332,497 buyers. According to portions of the seller’s listing:

It underwent a complete frame off restoration by Skyline restorations in 2010/2011 where it was totally gone through. It features a two tone Horizon Blue and Regatta Blue combo which works well on a 50s car like this. The body is all rust free and the steel panels all straight. All of the chrome and trim pieces are in good condition with a nice shine. The glass is all new, in good condition and is tinted. It has 70,920 miles on the odometer and based on its condition these are believed to be original. The inline 6 cylinder motor runs well and still utilizes its original 6 volt system but an 8 volt battery was added for extra starting power. It is combined with a column shifted 3 speed manual transmission that moves through the gears smoothly. The brakes, hoses, wheel bearings, gas tank, sending unit, exhaust, etc., were all replaced during the rebuild. The interior is done in a two tone to match the body. The upholstery is in excellent condition and it has a bench in front and rear. The dash has the stock layout and keeps with the two tone Blue theme which looks very clean. Even the steering wheel has the two tone look which looks really sharp.

Conversely, Ford was honoring its 50 years in the business of building and selling cars. But other than a little levity, not much was made of the anniversary except for special steering wheel trim. This meant the lineup remained unchanged from the previous year, with the entry-level Mainline and upscale Crestline series book-ending the Customline, such as this two-door Club Coupe. It was offered in six-cylinder guise starting at $1,743 (or $17,004 today), or with the famed “flathead” V-8 at $1,820 (or $17,755 today) without options. Our featured example contains the V-8, making it one of 43,999 built during the year. According to portions of the seller’s listing:

Inside is a tasteful gray interior. The comfortable velour-like cloth has the fresh feeling of a more recent investment, but this design has a great ’50s look that will keep you loving this vintage ride. In fact, this one really likes to keep the classic attitude going, right down to details like the working AM radio. And don’t forget to check out the steering wheel. 1953 was Ford’s 50th anniversary, and so these have a special center cap commemorating it. Ford’s flathead V8 is a legend all on its own for the power it provides, and the 239 cubic-inch displacement would be the largest installed in the Ford cars. It presents well in the engine bay with the tall oil bath air cleaner and copper-colored block/heads. This is a well-maintained package that fires up readily. You get proper control from the column-shifted three-speed manual transmission and the manually engaged overdrive adds to the cruising versatility.

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From street racing to 11-second timeslips: Dad’s Shelby G.T. 500 kept racing after he sold it – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Bride-to-be mom alongside dad’s 1968 Shelby G.T. 500 shortly after its purchase. Photo courtesy of Ray Litwin.

Twenty-four months. That’s essentially the duration my father shopped for, negotiated the purchase of, and owned his brand-new 1968 Shelby G.T. 500. On paper, the last 12 months of that timeframe doesn’t seem like one could accumulate enough enjoyment out of a dream car he financed for close to $5,000, yet he did. As discussed previously, once in his possession, the Shelby was enhanced with an aftermarket carburetor, was used as a daily commuter, burned through untold tanks of Sunoco 260 with alarming regularity, and, as I recently learned, was street raced to a perfect 3-0 record.

Dad drove his year-old Shelby G.T. 500 to Simon Ford, where it was traded in for a special-ordered 1969 Ford LTD loaded with every option, save for a 429-cu.in. engine. The G.T. 500 then appeared in this ad listing it for sale. In today’s money, that $4,195 asking price equates to $30,780.

It also was a hot ride—we’re talking engine heat—on top of already looking more and more like an impractical car for a young couple who were about to marry and buy their first house. It was enough to prompt Dad to trade the car in for something completely different: a 1969 Ford LTD Brougham. It was a car he and my mom owned for four years, which then started an endless buy/sell phase of car ownership that has been a part of the family legacy. Despite the variety of steeds, though, the one consistent question has always been, “Whatever happened to the Shelby?”

Almost immediately after the Shelby appeared in a local newspaper ad, Lilyan McGary—a resident of nearby Fitchville, Connecticut—arrived at Simon Ford to purchase the high-performance car for her son; according to lore, it was to be his first car. Over the course of the next several months, my dad remembered seeing the new owner(s) scooting along the area roads in the Shelby on several occasions before it slipped into the realm of former-car obscurity. How often it was driven, or the nature of its use when in the hands of the McGary family, is anyone’s guess to this day. Records make it clear, however, that on April 5, 1973, the G.T. 500 was purchased by nearby Canterbury resident Cliff Williams.

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Which one of these high-strung, small-cube muscle cars would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Although the American muscle car was pretty much clearly defined by the mid-Sixties, automakers were quick to adapt the formula to different budgets, styles, and – in some cases – homologation rules. In other words, you didn’t have to have 400-plus cubes under the hood to go fast. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re celebrating a series of muscle cars that may have been small in terms of displacement, but offered big power and ample fun. Let’s take a closer look at four examples from 1968-’71 for you to ponder, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

The AMX immediately came to mind for the simple reason that AMC was the one company that was quick to offer a small displacement engine that offered spritely power at a reasonable price in racy trim. First released in 1969, the base-trim, two-seat AMX included a 225-hp 290, and cost $3,245 (or $24,933 today), helping push first-year sales to 6,725 units. The 1969 base price rose to $3,297, but that didn’t hold back sales, which rose to 8,293, one of which was this example, from the Hemmings Auctions Premium Classifieds.

The 290 was one of three available engines, the upgrade being a 280-hp 343. Of course, the top engine option was the 390, which is far more prevalent in the contemporary enthusiast market (see the link below). According to the original listing of this AMX:

This 1969 AMC AMX projects all the panache of the brand’s bold experiment, with a restoration that includes some aftermarket enhancements that amplify the AMX’s uniqueness. The seller says it was an original, rust-free California car, until he brought it to Florida in 2019, and that a rotisserie-type restoration on it was completed in 2013. It wears a custom Candy Apple Red finish and is driven by a punched-out 290 engine that now displaces 308 cubic inches

By the time 1970 rolled around, manufacturers had already found ways to pull more power out of true small-block engines rather efficiently. Arguably, one of Chevrolet’s best examples was its LT1 engine, as seen in this mid-year 1970 Camaro Z28 RS. In base trim, a 307-cu.in. V-8 powered Camaro cost $3,172; however the Z28 package delivered the LT1 engine – a 350-cu.in. small-block rated for 360 hp – for the small fee of $572.95 (or $3,959 today), which bumped the sticker price to $3,744.95 (or $25,874 today). Per our published resources, Chevrolet built 8,733 Camaros in Z28 trim. According to the seller of this example:

Front sub-frame off rotisserie restoration one year ago; everything new; numbers matching engine, tranny, differential; Mulsanne blue paint; M22 rock crusher four-speed manual transmission with 4:11 gears; LT1 V-8 engine, 360 hp.

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First-car memories fueled the revival of this 1965 Chrysler Newport – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Do you remember Susie, the Little Blue Coupe? As the title hints, it was an animated short about a cute sporty car that flirted its way out of a dealership window and into the hands of its first, proud owner. During the 8-minute flick, produced by Walt Disney and originally released in June 1952 by RKO Radio Pictures, Susie‘s care eventually slipped, and her owner reluctantly sold the rough-running coupe. A cigar-chomping, gruff-looking chap became Susie‘s next owner, though his lackadaisical attitude eventually left her painfully disheveled in a cold and scary scrapyard. That is, until she was rescued by a young lad with a dream, a touch of know-how, and a boatload of ambition

.It’s pure coincidence, but the basic elements of Susie‘s thought-provoking yet lighthearted automotive tale parallel the real-life adventure of the 1965 Chrysler Newport two-door hardtop gracing these pages. This entry-level luxury car was sold new through a New Haven, Connecticut, dealership, after which it lived many years of pavement tranquility in nearby Branford. But, by the end of 1985, the Newport silently fell into a stagnant existence that left it in complete disrepair.

According to its current owner and Lee, Massachusetts, resident Tim Schaefer, who purchased the Newport in September 2012, “It was basically a parts car. It had weeds growing off the floor in the back. The grille areas at the top of the cowl were filled with decomposing leaves, sticks, and dirt — all of which held water that slowly leaked into the interior that, after a quick glance, you wouldn’t even want to get in. It was just roached beyond belief. The headliner was hanging out of it and there was a wheel thrown on the back seat wearing a rotted tire. Really, the car was just a mess, but I bought it. Somebody had to save it.

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