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Great News From The Rodder’s Journal

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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.

Keep an eye on the TRJ site here

12 Detroit luxury cars that died on the show floor – Ronnie Schreiber @Hagerty

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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 LSMercedes-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 Lincoln MK9 was introduced at the New York Auto Show in 2001, at a time when Lincoln decided to imitate European luxury automakers’ penchant for alphanumeric designations, as opposed to model names. The problem was that Lincoln chose a combination of letters and numbers that evoked some giants in its history: the Continental Mark series, starting with the landmark Mark II in 1956, through the then-recently retired Mark VIII, last sold in 1998. One would think that the MK9 would at least be pronounced “Mark Nine,” thus positioning the two-door as a descendant of the Mark III personal luxury coupe—but no. Lincoln brand managers insisted the ongoing pronunciation of MK branded vehicles would be “Em Kay.”  Were they embarrassed by the big land barges of the 1970s and ’80s?

The MK9 rode on a stretched version Ford’s DEW98 platform, which was also the basis of the Lincoln LS, 2003 Ford Thunderbird, and the Jaguar S Type. The traditional, rear-wheel-drive platform had independent rear suspension with coil springs at all four corners. The exterior styling, by Gerry McGovern, who later headed Land Rover’s design department, features a long hood fronted by Lincoln’s waterfall grille (then a defining characteristic) with a big star in the middle. In general, the MK9 tried to reimagine the classic ’61 Continental and its long, bladed fenders and belt line for the 21st century. A chrome trim line running most of the length of the car gave it a retro touch, complemented by supposedly functional vents behind the front wheels, flush aluminum door handles, and 22-inch ten-spoke alloys.

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

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What sense would a Gremlin station wagon have made? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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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.

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We pick seven of the most criminally undervalued collector cars of today – @Hemmings

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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

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This 1997 Ford F-250 brings bespoke style to the overlanding scene – David Conwill  @Hemmings

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The originally diesel-powered F-250 was almost too nice to disassemble, but its clean state also aided in getting the project underway without a lot of repair work. The ease of getting it made the team think “yeah, we’re supposed to be doing this.”

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

Thanks to minimal rust and damage, no panels were replaced on the clean, three-owner truck. Instead, to prepare for paint, a few small patches were installed, some minor cleanup was done, and some dents were pulled out using Spanesi Americas equipment.
This is just before Lizard Skin was applied to the bottom of the cab. A pure show build would have simply used paint, but functionality demands something tougher.
The graphics took a long time to nail down, but the end result (executed in paint, not vinyl) reflects the ‘90s nostalgia meets 2020s technology theme perfectly.

Body

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.

The original fuel tanks were cleaned and re-sealed using POR-15 products, then reinstalled in the factory-issued frame, which itself was cleaned up and coated with POR-15. The restored frame was then ready for the installation of new suspension.
This isn’t the complete kit from RYD, just a part of it, but it gives some sense of the number of fabricated pieces needed to marry the OBS frame to 2005 axles.

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West Berkshire Classic Car Show 2022 @Newbury Racecourse

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The annual West Berkshire Classic Car Show was the next port of call on the local show circuit. Held at Newbury Race Course in bright sunshine it was a really good day out. The show field was a real mixed bag with an expected turn out of around 1000 cars, a good number of which were American with a selection featured here.

Starting with a couple of nice Mustangs

Then on to the Corvettes

and some Cobras

Followed by some stunning full size iron

And of course some Trucks (including mine, and a a van!)

Nice Model T that is often to be seen at local shows, big deal you say? The owner is 91 and happily drives it everywhere 🙂

Here’s the rest!

The added fun was the attendance of Henry Cole and his gang including Allen Millyard (who lives locally) with his wild self built Dodge Viper V10 bike

https://automotiveamerican.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/IMG_7348.mov

Allen firing up the Viper bike!

https://automotiveamerican.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/IMG_7247.mov

Henry doing a piece to camera, we got to to meet him, and he’s as pleasant as he seems on TV.

Will Synthetic Motor Oil Cause Engine Seal Leaks? Let’s find out! – @Project Farm

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Conventional Shell Rotella T4 15W-40 compared to Full Synthetic T6 5W-40 for causing engine seal leaks in a 45 year-old Ford 5000 tractor. I bought the oil used in this video and do not have any sponsors. Thank you very much for supporting the channel by watching the commercials and through Patreon support. https://www.patreon.com/projectfarm

These Are The 9 Greatest Woodies Ever Made – Joshua Irvine @HotCars

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The real reason people still buy Woodies is not necessarily because of their charm or appeal, but because some are highly collectible and can fetch a small fortune. Woodies are also a fascinating piece of automotive history, deserving a second look. It could be argued that the wooden panels in the early era of the Woodies were a reflection of the old-style horse-and-cart. But later, the faux-wood panels took on their own aesthetic. In the ’60s, surfers proudly flaunted their “woodies,” packed with surfboards, bringing a certain coolness to the sub-culture.
The evolution of these “Woodies” has brought us some awesome models. You just need to check out these stunning modified Woody cars. Let’s check out some of the greatest, perhaps even most iconic, Woodies that once hit our roads, including some of those with fake wooden trim

Ford V8

The 1932 Ford V8 Woody is certainly a reflection of its time. Introduced in the early ’30s, the Flathead V8 engine powered this wagon. Baker-Raulang was responsible for the wooden exterior.

Jacob Rauch and Charles E. J. Lang were working together at the beginning of the twentieth century, producing electric-powered vehicles from their base in Cleveland, Ohio. They later merged with Baker electric, becoming Baker Raulang. After the war, their creations were known as Raulangs. The wooden bodies they created soon attracted the attention of other companies. The 1931 Model A Traveller’s Unit, an early camper, was also one of their builds. They were later involved in the production of industrial trucks in World War 2.

Chrysler Town & Country

The Chrysler Town & Country station wagons were distinctive because of their wooden paneling. It all started in the early forties. The roof was steel. The straight-six engine powered these early wagons.

When the war ended, the Town & Country “woody” returned. The Town & Country two-door hardtop, produced in 1950, was the last in this line of Woodies. The Town & Country brand continued, and it became one of the most important cars in Chrysler’s history.

Ford Country Squire

The Ford Country Squire has a long history, producing eight generations. The woodgrain trim distinguished them. But then consider how much a Ford Country Squire is worth today, with a 1978 model selling for $45,000 at auction.

The first generation of Ford Country Squires is considered a true “Woodie.” The Ford Iron Mountain Plant manufactured the wood panels for these cars. But we can’t go past the later models with their wood-like aesthetic.

Buick Roadmaster Wagon

Go back to the early ’90s. The nostalgic memories of the Buick Roadmaster Wagon, with its 5.7-liter LT1 V8 engine, and its practicality. It is what makes the Buick Roadmaster Wagon a classic. Of course, we cannot forget its fake wood panelling.

The ’90s are not the first time we have seen the wood paneling in the Roadmaster. The wood-grain side transports us back to the spacious Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagons of the early ’50s.

Jeep Wagoneer

The Jeep Wagoneer had a long run. Starting in the early ’60s, the Jeep Wagoneer continued the tradition of the Willys Jeep Station Wagon. It continued until the early ’90s. But now we are seeing the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer living up to the brand’s legacy.

The Jeep Wagoneer had a distinctive look: Rugged, robust, and ready to hit the open road. When reminiscing about the Jeep Wagoneer of bygone years, one thing that sticks in most people’s minds is the side paneling, with its wood-like look.

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Allentown, Pennsylvania’s NB Center for American Automotive Heritage is a refugium of 20th century skills and technology – David Conwill @Hemmings

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Have you ever gone looking for an early 1930s Buick hubcap? If you need one, good luck. The two-piece design didn’t prove very durable over the years and their scarcity can pose a real issue for anyone looking to do a correct restoration of one of the Flint-built beauties of the era. When the crew at the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, discovered the paucity of restorable hubcaps out there, their solution was not to give up or compromise, but simply to build their own run of 30 reproductions—a process that required not only casting the two pieces but also creating a crimping tool to attach the pieces correctly.

That’s a small, but typical example of the policies and practices there, on the campus that used to be Allentown’s Boulevard Theatre (they kept the screen), all of which are centered on keeping an enormous collection of typical (i.e. not necessarily special beyond having survived seven or eight decades) mid-20th century American cars running, driving, and uncompromisingly correct. Preserving the original driving experience is paramount and is as much a focus as a historically correct appearance.

This 1953 Nash is on a lift in the mechanical shop having its chassis reassembled.

Other skills kept alive despite time having marched on for consumers include expertise like interior stitchery—right down to things like handmade windlace and door panel trimming; panel beating (sometimes you just have to make a fender from scratch); woodgraining using a bucket of water, Borax, and paint; and even simply the operation of machines that have controls at one time standard, but increasingly left behind in a world of CVTs, touch screens, lane control, and whatnot.

Why the focus on 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and early ’50s cars, though? Simply put, the NB Center’s founder Nicola Bulgari (vice chairman of the luxury brand that bears his family name) early on identified those as the most emblematic of “American” cars and the middle-class supremacy of their time and place. It’s something he first recognized and came to value as a teenager in the 1950s and has chosen to help preserve for the benefit of the future—us included. One of Mr. Bulgari’s favorite utterances is that Europeans don’t understand American cars. Let us add to that neither do many Americans anymore.

The original Boulevard Drive-In screen was retained above the test track and is still used.

Consider that Billy Joel’s Allentown came out in 1982. That’s the year I was born. I don’t remember the glory years of American manufacturing—but I do. The middle-class, aspirational-yet-attainable marques that make up the bulk of the NB Center’s fleet (I like that better than “collection”—collections need dusting, not oil changes) are a living, breathing monument to that era of promise and optimism. Here to inspire today’s generation, if they’ll let it.

Many do. You might expect the expertise in a facility like this to consist solely of old timers—the graybeards that knew the skill firsthand, or learned at the knee of those who did. They’re there, to be sure, but so are a lot of up-and-comers. Fresh, young faces excited to be working on machines 50 or more years older than themselves.

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