While it’s a tremendous and important job preserving noteworthy cars—the kinds of cars that get magazine covers and that twirl on the dais at car shows—it’s perhaps equally important from an anthropological view to preserve the everyday cars that, for the most part, get driven into the ground and rarely get restored due to lack of aftermarket support. This 1976 Chevrolet Vega Kammback station wagon listed for sale on Hemmings.com falls into the latter category, kept pretty close to pristine over the years thanks to its Texas upbringing, its decades-long rest in a barn, and a couple preservationists dedicated to cleaning it up and putting it back on the road but leaving as much original equipment on the car as possible. From the seller’s description:
This 1976 Chevy Vega Kammback Estate is truly one-of-a-kind. The car has a Dura-Built 140 4 cylinder engine paired to a 5-speed manual transmission. The car has 34,790 original miles, almost all from the first owner (I have put about 500 miles). After the original owner drove it around Amarillo, Texas for about 9 years (1976-1985), it was sold to an individual who stored it in a barn where it stood untouched for 36 years (1985-2020) with little humidity and no sun light (and luckly no mice!?). I bought it from the person that rescued it in August of 2020. He proceeded to make some repairs (new battery, tires, shock absorbers, spark plugs and wires, and a new exhaust system, among other items), He also cleaned, waxed and buffed the original paint (he specializes in classic car paint), which is in excellent condition. The car has no rust.
When I bought it, it had a couple of scratches along the faux wood trim on both doors, which I repaired, and replaced the entire original factory-installed faux wood trim with the same 3M material used originally. I then proceeded to make 30+ additional repairs to bring the car to its original best. These included among others the following: New radiator, heater core, hoses, brakes, engine mounts, air filter & casing, hood release cable, valve cover gasket, outside mirrors, A/C vents, arm rests, radio & speakers, door rubber gasket seals. All fluids where changed, engine was detailed and undercarriage cleaned. Engine and carburetor were fine tuned. It passed emission tests in Colorado.
If you’ve been paying attention to the most recent trends in automotive enthusiasm and car collecting, you’ve likely noticed that vintage four-wheel-drive trucks are hot and getting hotter. We’d like to think we were ahead of the curve on this one, because about two-and-a-half years ago, we acquired a 1976 Chevrolet K5 Blazer as a project vehicle. Of course, like so many old car (and truck) projects, this one has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but now that it’s starting to really take shape, it’s time we began reporting on its progress.
Why a Blazer? Several of us at Hemmings are Chevy truck fans and have long appreciated the different approach the division took with its first sport utility vehicle back in the 1960s. By shifting from the original plan to produce a small 4×4 on par with the IH Scout or Ford Bronco and instead using the existing light-truck platform, Chevrolet effectively created a new genre of truck. The resulting Blazer had familiar looks, a rugged chassis, and plenty of room inside, despite having a shorter wheelbase than any other Chevy truck. By the time the next generation of Chevy trucks debuted for 1973, the Blazer’s popularity was really taking off and soon they were quite commonly seen on the roads coast to coast, even in areas that didn’t typically have lots of truck buyers.
So, when the idea of a vintage 4×4 project was raised in our offices, a Chevy seemed a natural choice. Then, when local friend and occasional accomplice Glen Sauer announced that he’d be selling his personal ’76 K5 project, we jumped on it.
Glen is a car enthusiast but also a metal fabricator, and he’s worked with us on projects in the past. He’d acquired this ’76 Blazer from California some years earlier and drove it in stock form for a time while planning his own project. The Blazer had an excellent body, seemingly with no rust and still wearing much of its factory paint. Glen’s intent had been to upgrade the truck’s mechanicals and leave the weathered paint, and initially we intended to just pick up where Glen had left off. Things have, of course, escalated since then.
During those years in North America, tightening Environmental Protection Agency and Department Of Transportation certification processes created emissions mandates that nearly all automakers were forced to meet by adapting exhaust gas recirculation and catalytic converter systems.”Ford, in 1973, had just been fined what was at the time, the most severe penalty by the EPA for shortcutting its emissions certifications, and had suffered a big civil settlement,
” Norm explains. “When the Capri II debuted in Europe, it was not ready for prime time in North America.”Our ‘official’ first model year for the Capri II in North America was 1976. But in my collection of Capris, I have a November of 1974-built car. They were building them for North America in 1974, but they were embargoed voluntarily by Ford, stored in gigantic holding lots until they were allowed to sell them: I assume they were kept in Detroit, and out in lots by the East Coast/West Coast shipyards.” [Note, the lead image does not show one of these lots, but is a European representative image of a Ford holding lot.]
Not a single American auto manufacturer participated in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1976 exhibit dedicated to exploring the future of taxis. Conspicuous in its absence was Checker, the carmaker that had throughout its entire existence been synonymous with taxis and other utilitarian versions of the automobile. However, two upstart American companies did take part, and they both placed their bets on steam engines replacing internal combustion.
Near where I live is a local historic village called Mapledurham which has amongst its claims to fame is that the movie the Eagle has Landed was filmed there in 1976. The film was set mostly around the Church and Water Mill and involves a plot to kidnap Winston Churchill during WWII resulting in a standoff between German paratroopers and US Army Rangers stationed nearby.
Every year in the village there is a Mapledurham at War event which features military reenactments, recreations, dioramas and vehicle displays at the water mill and surrounding grounds.
In keeping with the plot of the film American forces are well represented in all aspects of the event.
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