My Search For American Muscle – Part IX

PART IX – Interesting Hemi Dodge Coronet R/T 

I’m still looking for a classic car, and I am just a picky as ever.  I saw this 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi car pop up for sale on an auction site and got really excited.

IMG_0217
A very nice Hemi-powered 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T in a cool turquoise color.  It looks like it won a couple national awards, too.

 

The auction site listed the car as “no reserve” and with an estimated selling price of $50,000 to $60,000.  That is a steal for a Hemi-powered original car.  The car was being auctioned online only and was in Indiana, so I was very interested.

IMG_0218
The info presented on the auction site.

Then I started looking at the pictures with the discerning eye that I have developed on this car hunt journey.  First thing I noticed was this VIN tag:

fullsizeoutput_13d2a
I’ve looked at numerous pictures of Mopar VINs from 1967 and this one doesn’t look similar.  The black paint is not very clean and the rivets aren’t the correct shape.  Plus there are no Chrysler Corp. markings anywhere.  The number does decode to a Dodge Coronet R/T with a Hemi engine.
IMG_0219
As a reference, here’s a real 1967 Hemi Dodge Coronet R/T VIN plate.  I suspect that the top one is a fake.

Then there was a picture of the fender tag of the car:

IMG_0216
This fender tag decodes correctly to a Hemi-powered 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T as best as I can tell.

The fender tag seems correct for the car as presented, but I see a red flag.  My main issue with it is that it is somewhat weathered and worn.  This car is pretty well restored and the fender tag looks like it sat outside for thirty or more years.  Seeing that the tag is screwed on, which is how they were attached, it can be removed quite easily from one car and reapplied to another.  It is correctly stamped for a Dodge Coronet R/T (WS23) with black interior (P6X) and turquoise paint (LL1).  I can’t dismiss it as not being the real-deal yet, however.

Then there was this picture of the Certicard:

IMG_0215
Certicard’s were Chrysler cards that were used for warranty information that could be swiped for records purposes.  They were kept in a plastic sleeve usually in the engine compartment on the firewall of the car.

This is a major red flag.  The vehicle identification number (WP41G…) doesn’t match this car at all.  It decodes as – W=Dodge Coronet, P=Premium, 41=Four door sedan, G=383 2-barrel engine.  All of this is wrong for the car listed for auction.  But…  this card could have been from another car and just is along for the ride with this one.  Maybe someone mixed up the cards?  I don’t know, but I am sure I’m not gambling $50,000 on this car being the real deal.

Knowing all of that I now suspect that the car was originally most likely a 1967 Dodge Coronet 500, that had been cloned into a Coronet R/T with a Hemi engine.  It was a very good clone though.  The correct 150 mph speedometer was present, as was the bucket seats and console, and painted the correct trim and exterior colors that appear on the fender tag.  I’m just not buying that it is real.  What is a little puzzling to me is that it won two AACA awards.  Those judges know a heck of a lot more than I do about the originality of these cars and they still gave it a thumbs up.

I kept an eye on the auction and saw that the bidding was pretty slow and was in the $30,000 to $40,000 range for a few days.  It finally sold for $50,000.  The current market value for a real Hemi-powered version of this car would be closer to $90,000 or more.  Someone got a really nice but possibly cloned Hemi-powered Dodge Coronet R/T to drive around.  I just hope that they know that it may not be the real deal.

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part IV

PART IV – This Is Way Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

Time for another update in my search to add a classic car to my garage that I will probably only drive twice a week!  It’s been almost two months since my last update, but it isn’t because I have slowed or stopped my search, it is just taking much longer than I thought it would.  First off, winter is a tough time to buy a collector car.  You don’t want it outside in the snow, and definitely shouldn’t be driven on salty roads.  Buying a car in winter would mean I would have to store it inside, which means that I would have to park my regular driver outside.  I don’t want to do that either.  Also, it’s easy to get excited about a car you find for sale, but after the experience of looking at that Oldsmobile back in November and almost rushing into a purchase that I might have regretted, I learned to slow my roll, so to speak.  Lastly, it seems like the “pickin’s” are kind of slim, especially since I have limited myself to just a few makes and models.

Speaking of that 1967 Olds 442 convertible that I passed on, I found it for sale at a classic car dealership in Ohio, with a new sticker price of about $8000 more than when I almost wrote a check for it.

 

636864512589989504.jpg
Here’s the same 442 I drove with Kari back in November, looking shiny in Ohio instead of my garage.

 

 

THE DANGERS OF EBAY AND AUTO AUCTIONS

I should just rename this quest as “My Search For a 1967 Plymouth/Dodge B-body Convertible” because that is kind of what it has become.  When the search began I was mostly looking for a 1970 Chevelle SS or an Olds 442 from 1967-68.  I found that I really like the 1967 cars in general, they are probably my favorite muscle car year.  But after looking at the cars from that era, the Plymouth GTX and the Dodge Coronet R/T just get my motor running (pun intended) for some reason.  A couple of cars that I mentioned last time are still out there and I like them, but I’m still looking for one that isn’t that far away and would allow me to take a quick drive to go look at it.  I have recently found a couple GTX’s that fit that need.

Car #1

First up is this 1967 GTX convertible located about 25 miles from me:

201810040403-RS27L77139199-1.jpg

I first found this car by searching on eBay, where the starting bid was around $35,000.  Now I like it a lot!  So I bid on it, with my max bid at $44,000.  I think it is worth more than that, I was just being conservative with my bid.  I was the only bidder and I didn’t hit the reserve auction price when it ended.  The dealer rep sent me a message through eBay informing me that the car had its original window sticker and build sheet.  That’s great and pretty rare to have the window sticker, but I’m not buying it for the window sticker.   So I went to their website and looked for more info.  There they had the car listed at $59,990.  Now I had sticker shock.  No wonder I didn’t hit his auction reserve price.  Most of the non-Hemi 1967 B-body cars I have looked into have sold for around $50,000 or under on average.  He was asking way too much.

It hits all my wants:  GTX with a 440, a convertible, and it is local.  I should buy it.  But it has some cons too, mainly that it is all blue, which is a lot of blue.  I bet that dark-colored interior heats up pretty hot in the sun with the top down.  The driver side armrest on the door has a crack in it.  You would think that a car that is sporting a decent restoration would have had that issue addressed.   I also noticed that the tail lights were mismatched.  The 1967 Belvedere had two styles of tail lights, one with a chrome strip and one without.  This car had one of each version.  The dealer also adds that it has “Protect-o-Plate” which is wrong.  Protect-o-Plate was GM’s warranty plan, Plymouth had a similar version called “Certicard.”  All of this makes me think he hasn’t done his research on this car.

 

201810040403-RS27L77139199-7.jpg
You can see the mismatched tail lights above.  The left one doesn’t have the same chrome strip next to the trunk lid that the right one has.

 

 

201810040403-RS27L77139199-21.jpg
The blue interior with the cracked armrest.

 

I decided to keep an eye on this car and saw that he listed it again on eBay.  I found myself bidding on it again, this time with a max bid of $46,500.  I was bidding on it against another bidder, but he was a bigger cheapskate than I was and the auction ended somewhere in the upper $30,000’s with me being the max bidder.  Then I noticed that on the dealer website they had dropped the for sale price from $59,990 to $54,990!  They came down $5000!  I was starting to believe my patience was paying off.

It was listed again on eBay again this past week with the usual $36,000 opening bid.  I bid again but pushed my max bid to $48,000 just to see if I was getting close to the reserve price.  This time I had some serious competition in the bidding wars.  I quickly got outbid until the auction ended with me losing to a max bid of $48,300, which didn’t meet the reserve, and the car didn’t sell.  It’s now listed again on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price of $59,990!  Did we piss this guy off with our low bidding?  Their website still lists it at $54,990.  I guess I might have to find some time to actually go up there and talk with them about the car and actually see it and maybe even drive it.  Heck, I may find out that I’m not in love with it, just like I did with the 442.

One thing I need to be cognizant of is that whether buying a car through eBay or at an auction like Mecum or Barrett-Jackson is that without seeing it, I’m not sure what I am really getting.  That is what is making this quest so difficult.  Some of these cars are too far away for me to go see easily, even though I’m drooling at the photos on the auction and dealership sites.

Car #2

I went back to the old Google machine and found a newly listed GTX for sale online located coincidently enough about 10 miles from the one above, so again it’s really close to me and might warrant a trip to go see it.  The downside is that it is a hardtop, not a convertible.  The positive – 4 SPEED BABY!

 

18238775229x640.jpg
An actual outdoor photo of the car superimposed on a dumb display background.  Not sure if this color is the same Dark Metallic Blue as the other car.  It looks to be a lighter shade blue, but that could just be because the picture was taken outdoors.

 

 

18238775494x640.jpg
Another blue interior that looks to be in great shape, but with 4 on the floor.

 

 

I like it, but again my eye is catching things to be leary of.  There’s a photo of the engine bay that shows that the radiator at some point in its life had a leak and has a bluish copper oxidation type material on it.  Not sure if it is still leaking or not, but that could be a red flag.  My coworker and fellow car nut Carl thinks that may be a sign of the engine running hot, and might have a good point.  I think it may just be an old car showing its age.  The thing is though, my brother was the mechanic in the family, I am “handy enough to be dangerous” with tools.  I wish my brother was still alive, this search would be much easier and probably would have been over with by now.

The website does not list a price for this car.  Even though it’s not a convertible, I may have to inquire about the price and go take a look see.

Car #3

The surfing the interwebs for cars is something I spend my evenings doing, and I still look at the offering from all of the big three.  Although I am not much of a Ford guy, the most recent issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine featured a 1967 Ford Fairlane GTA, which looks pretty cool.  I may have to look at those a little closer too.

But this 1968 Buick GS convertible definitely caught my eye.  The first impression is that the photos jump off the page.  The sky blue color really pops.  I must have a thing for blue.  Another thing that caught my eye was the price – $34,900!  Now we are talking!  But the car is in Florida.  And closer inspection of the photos show some little things here and there that give me pause, mainly the door and trunk gaps, but cars built in the 1960s weren’t really that high on that type of quality.  My inlaws live in Florida, maybe I could get my father-in-law to go take a look at it.  I can hear him now:  “It’s very nice.  It’s blue.  It has four wheels.”  That would be the assessment I would probably get out of him.

 

861_main_l.jpg
Pretty sweet!  400 cubes.  Very sexy curves!

 

So that wraps it up for this edition.  What it is coming down to I guess is that I am going to have to get off my butt and actually interact with these sellers to make a decision one way or another.  I need to get on it – summer is coming quick!

 

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part III

Hey everyone!  It has been a while since I thrilled you with my search for a classic car, so let’s return to another edition!  (If you need to get up to speed, you can read my previous posts at the links at the bottom.)

 

PART III – Why I Suck At Buying A Muscle Car

This was supposed to be fun.  This could have been simple.  Find a car you like.  Contact the seller.  Pay some money.  Get a car.  Nope.

Back in November of last year I got excited about a 1967 Olds 442 that I wrote about in Part I, and I rushed up to the northern Chicago suburbs to take a look at the car, test drove it, almost reached into my back pocket for the checkbook, and then hit the brakes.  I just had a bad feeling.  I felt like I was rushing into it too fast, and that I was buying on adrenaline fueled impulse.  The adult in me told me to take a pass and make sure I knew what I was doing.  I kind of regret that.  That car was pretty good, it was priced well, and the wife and I would have looked great in it cruising around town on the weekends.  That car is gone, and I needed to move on.

And move on I did, onto a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX convertible located in sunny Los Angeles, California.

1967-plymouth-gtx-1
’67 GTX in Turbine Bronze Metallic!

This car looked great in the pictures online and I was hooked – hooked in the same way I was with the 442.  I think part of my problem is that these cars are pretty rare.  You could argue that the market for old muscle cars is plentiful, and there are plenty, but there just are not that many 1967 Plymouth GTX convertibles in turbine bronze metallic paint with white on black interiors.  Trust me on that one.  It’s not like you can go down to the local Plymouth dealership and place an order for one like they did in 1967.  (Plymouth doesn’t even exist anymore, so there’s that too.)  So when a cool optioned car becomes available, you kind of need to act on it if you want it.  But with the 442 lesson learned I decided to wait.  In late December we were going to be in Pasadena for the Tournament of Roses Parade with my daughter’s marching band.  I had the great idea that since we would be in SoCal for the parade, I would take a ride to Chatsworth, CA and take a look at the car.  But the trip was already pretty heavily planned out, and I had to take a pass on seeing the GTX.

I wrote in Part II of my search that I had done a little more digging into the history of the GTX and found out some things about the car that gave me a little pause, mainly it’s history of being auctioned three times, and that it had been in Virginia and Florida when the dealership was advising that it was an Arizona/New Mexico car.  But that didn’t really deter me, so I kept a close eye on it.

I was kind of sitting in the midwest in the middle of the typical winter polar vortex, and I came to the conclusion that trying to buy a car and have it shipped here in this weather was a bad idea.  But a few weeks passed and we moved into February and eventually I decided that I liked the idea of owning that car enough that I should either book another flight to California to see it myself, or have someone go look at it for me.  Guess what, there are people who are experts at classic cars (i.e. the opposite of me) that you can pay to inspect it for you!  I finally contacted one that I thought was trustworthy and was told that for my $400 I would get a detailed inspection of the car with an awesome report and tons of pictures.  All I wanted him to do really was to drive the thing and give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, but what he was offering to do was cool too.  So I contacted the dealer and told him I was going to send this guy over to look at the GTX and got the following email reply:

Hi Chris,

Thanks for reaching out.

The 67 has sold.

I have a 68 Hemi Coupe and a few other cars that I will be happy to have inspected.

All the best.

Bummer dude.  That’s a real drag, man.  He had the gall to suggest I buy a 68 Hemi Coupe.  A Hemi.  A HEMI WITH AN $80,000 PRICE TAG.  Sir, you mistake me for a Rockefeller.  And if I am heading into the year 1968, I’m buying a Road Runner, not a GTX.  They are basically the same, but the Road Runner is much cooler.  (I may regret that statement.  Okay, I already do.)

Okay, the car is gone.  Actually the second of two cars that had me drooling are gone!  What the heck?  I suck at this!  Turns out being patient and making sure I was making the right purchase was dumb too!  Buy on impulse = bad idea.  Wait and make sure it’s the right one = also bad.  I am really bad at this!

But I am learning, and I will keep looking.  Here are some cars that are on my current wish list, that I am sure I will not be owning any time soon:

 

63917270-770-0@2X
A 1968 Olds 442 convertible in green that looks pretty good, but is located in Maine and the dealer says the A/C isn’t working.  On my gotta have it scale it is a 6/10.

 

65110156-770-0@2X
Next up is a 1970 Olds 442, which is priced way below market value for some reason.  Could it be the Chevy emblem on the crankcase breather element?  The dash that has no vent holes?  Hmmm…  Positives are it looks pretty decent, is located about 1.5 hours from me, it’s a 4-speed, and it’s painted gold with a black interior. Looks nice.  Cons are it may not be original, and it looks like it sports a kinda okay restoration.  It’s a 5/10 on the scale for me.

 

1967-plymouth-gtx
Here’s another GTX that’s within a couple hour drive for me.  I really like this one.  It’s much cheaper than the one I lost out on, but it isn’t pristine.  Looks pretty good though.  It has an aftermarket A/C that I am not sure I’m down with as the original Plymouth climate control levers were replaced with different knobs from the aftermarket unit.  I’d give this car a 7/10.

 

58639268-770-0@2X
Next up is a 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T.  The Dodge Coronet and the Plymouth Belvedere were practically the same car.  They even rolled off the assembly line in St. Louis together.  This thing has got me excited like the California GTX did.  Apparently it was owned by a Vietnam vet who traded in a 60’s Corvette for this when he came back home.  I looked into the guy and it turns out he passed away.  In his obituary, a buddy of his recalls a proud time when they rode in the Coronet on a trip somewhere.  I dig that history.  The car is in Ohio, which isn’t that far and may be worth a weekend trip for me.  It does have a small visible paint chip on the front right fender, but the rest of the car is clean.  9/10 on the want it now scale!

 

65386504-770-0@2X
Guess what I found?  Another 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T convertible!  This one in Deep Blue Metallic paint.  The big highlight for this car is that it’s a 4-speed.  The downside is that it’s mid-80’s restoration is showing a little wear, and it’s in Minnesota.  But it’s still a big like from me.  I’d give it 9/10 for sure.

 

There are a few others I am following, but I won’t bore you with those for now.  I’ll save them for the next blog when I write about missing out on the cars above.  For now, I will keep kicking those internet tires and keep my hopes up for finding one that has my name on it.

Here are the links to the previous posts:

My Search For American Muscle – Part I

My Search For American Muscle – Part II

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part II

Hello again, and welcome to another addition of My Search For American Muscle!  I’m back with another interesting story of how I am shopping for a classic muscle car and why I probably will never own one!  Time to kick some more tires – virtually this time.

In the last episode I wrote about my admiration for the GM A body cars (Malibu/Chevelle, Skylark/GS, LeMans/GTO, Cutlass/442) and chose for my first look-see a 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 convertible.  This bad boy was local and looked great on the internet, but wasn’t quite what I wanted when I went to see it.  In retrospect, maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe that car would have been just fine for me. Maybe I should have bought it. I could be out in the garage polishing the fenders right now and worrying about a shovel falling on it. I guess I will never know, as the car was sold and off the seller’s website within a week. The seller said that he bought and sold them quickly. That ain’t no lie.  Oh well, it’s gone.  You can read about the 442 in Part I here:  My Search For American Muscle – Part I

 

PART II – The 1967 Plymouth GTX

Although I really do like the GM cars from the muscle car era, I don’t limit myself to just GM.  I can admire something about all of the offerings from the Big Three, as they all took a turn dominating the muscle car era.  When I was a kid the first car I remember my parents buying new was an 1972 Plymouth Sport Fury Suburban station wagon.  I was playing with my friends “down the street” as I always referred to it back then, and was on my way home on my Schwinn for dinner and saw that we had company.  But it wasn’t company; my dad had purchased a new station wagon that afternoon.  I can remember pretty vividly pedaling down the path to my house and seeing it for the first time.  Pretty exciting stuff.  

If you are not familiar with 70’s station wagons, they were huge and fun to play in as a kid.  Three rows of seats, with the back seat facing backward so you could make faces at the driver of the car behind you, which we did constantly.  

72ply_sta_cover_b

plymouth-suburban-1972-5
This isn’t our car, but looks just like the one we had in the same color.  The fake wood grain is falling off this one too.
images
The door could swing open or fold down and it had little footpads on the bumper.  Imagine a 10 year old me with a Moe Howard haircut staring at you from that window.

We drove that Plymouth everywhere, I think we even drove it to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado on vacation one year as well.  It wasn’t long before Dad acquired another Plymouth.  I believe it was a ’66 or ’67 Satellite/Belvedere or possibly a Fury sedan, I don’t really remember the details well.  I do remember that it was white with a light blue interior.  Dad did some welding work on a sign that Mr. Skiniotis was having him build for a used car lot they were starting in town, and I think he bartered with them to get the Plymouth.  The details are kind of fuzzy after 45 plus years, but it was a cool car and Plymouth was definitely leaving an imprint on my youth.  

 

THE PLYMOUTH/DODGE B BODY

Okay, so now you know that I do have a liking for Plymouth and particularly what were called B bodies.  The B bodies included many cars from Plymouth and Dodge, but the really cool B bodies were those produced between 1968 through 1970, and they were lead by the likes of the Charger (think Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee), Coronet R/T, Belvedere GTX, and the super cool Road Runner.  The engine offerings for these cars were 383 and 440 cubic inch monsters, but the big dog was the Hemi.  As popular as the Hemi was then, they are insanely popular now.  A 1968 Charger with a Hemi engine could cost you at least six figures.  That’s way out of my price range.  But due to the popularity of those ’68 through ’70 cars, the non-Hemi cars are up there in price as well.  Turns out, I like some of the less popular models as well, and I tend to buck the trends and fads somewhat.  I like to be different, and the 1967 Plymouth GTX kind of stands out for me.  At a car show full of Camaros, Chevelles and Mustangs, I bet a ’67 GTX would definitely stand out.  In 1968 the designs of the cars were starting to look more to the future, with redesigns part of most of the Big Three car company offerings.  That made them immediately popular.  The ’67 model was really the last of the ’60s era car designs in my humble opinion.  The ’67 GTX has very sharp lines, looks like a box on wheels, whereas the ’68s started taking on that “Coke” bottle design with curves.  That being said, I love the look of the ’67, and they are much cheaper than the second generation of B bodies.

The first ’67 GTX that I found was being sold by a classic car dealer in Tennessee.  It was another red car (the 442 was red as well) and a four speed too.  It looked great and I watched it for a few weeks.  Then it was gone.  They sold it.  So with the 442, I felt I needed to hurry up and seal the deal, only to learn to slow my roll, and then find out another car I was keen on was no longer on the market and I missed out on it.

1967-plymouth-gtx
1967 Plymouth GTX in Tennessee. Gone in 60 Seconds, give or take a few weeks.

So I kept looking and stumbled on to a beauty, another ’67 GTX, this one a convertible.  I stopped looking at other ads.  This one was the one for sure.  Take a look:

1967-plymouth-gtx-1
’67 GTX in Turbine Bronze Metallic!
1967-plymouth-gtx-3
Looks new!
1967-plymouth-gtx-2
440 Super Commando, BABY!

This one is a Super Commando big block, a rag top, and in a not very common but super cool color!  I’m ready to hit buy.  But it’s in the LA California area, and although it’s about at the max cost that I want to spend, I’m sure shipping isn’t cheap either.  

We were in Pasadena for the Tournament of Roses parade and I wanted to go see the car, but we just couldn’t find the time to look at it with the busy schedule we had.  I contacted the dealer’s salesman and tried to get the lowdown on the car.  He said that it was all original and super clean (aren’t they all), and that it was a car originally from New Mexico, spent some time in Arizona before a complete restoration about 5 years ago, and then bought by him and brought to Cali.  I asked if there was any video of it driving and he said he could provide some of it running, but not driving (hmmm…), and would send me some pictures of the underside of the car (still waiting…).  I was really considering buying it sight unseen, but decided to wait to see the video and extra photos.  One downside to the car is no power assist on the brakes, but I can probably live with that.  Adding a vacuum booster is a possibility as well, and they’re pretty cheap.  

I got a little impatient waiting on the extra photos I requested and decided to see if the internet could provide some background into the car.  I found a lot of related listings that were just cross posted ads relating back to the dealer.  But then I Googled the VIN.  

It seems this car wasn’t just a New Mexico/Arizona/California dry climate car like the salesman believed.  (For the record, I don’t doubt that he didn’t know more than he passed along to me.)  This car has spent time in Virginia and Florida, as well as being sent across the Barrett-Jackson auction block a few times, selling in Las Vegas, Nevada for $57,200 in 2009; Scottsdale, Arizona for $44,000 in 2012; and in Palm Springs, Florida for $28,050 (no reserve) in 2013!  There were two more listings that I found from Fort Lauderdale, Florida listing it for $40,000 and $44,000.  I also found a video of the car for sale from Fort Lauderdale for $58,900 from 2013.  Video of the GTX

Something weird is going on with those prices.  Also, the car seemed to have two restorations, one that gives it a look that it sports today, and another to replace the under hood insulation and to remove the two white stripes on the car. 

th-1
Same GTX sporting two white stripes in Virginia
th
Rear view
th-2
This picture book documents the restoration and is currently in the possession of the current dealer.

So it’s got a history, big deal.  Cars that are more than 50 years old are bound to have a history.  It doesn’t really deter me from this car, but it does add a little bit of intrigue to it.  

I’m thinking of hiring a classic car appraiser from the LA area to go take a look at it for me.  It might cost me $400 bucks for the service, but at least I would know more about the condition and drivability of the car.  Something to think about.  I’m no longer in any big rush.  Maybe I’ll look at the GM A bodies again.  

It’s kind of funny how I vacillate between “got to have it now” and “I had better wait.”  Lots of thoughts keep popping into my head about making a classic car purchase.  I worry that it won’t hold value, which is somewhat silly because the trend seems to constantly be going up.  I also worry about breaking it doing something silly.  There aren’t many parts available for the ’67 GTX like there are for later models.  And I also sometimes think that it is a dumb move to spend so much money on a 50 year old car when there are lots of other things to spend that money on that can give me just as much joy.  It’s just that those cars are special.  And I want one.  

 

 

 

 

My Search For American Muscle – Part I

MY HISTORY WITH CARS

I was born in 1963 at the tail end of the baby boomer generation, and I think we and maybe the first of the Generation Xers are the last of a breed of guys who think the muscle car era (1964 through 1972) was the greatest period for cars ever.  We may be the last group that can appreciate the beauty of these machines and the last that may appreciate the value they hold.  These are the cars we grew up around.  Maybe your parents had one.  Maybe your cool uncle came back from Vietnam and bought a GTO.  Maybe the neighbor down the street would roar past your house in his Mach 1.  Maybe it was a cool guy in your school whose dad let him have a Chevelle.  For me, the biggest influence was my brother Jon.  He was eight years older than me and was into going fast.  He had a 1968 Camaro that I think he rolled into the ditch near the high school, probably showing off.  He also had an orange and black 1969 Chevelle SS, that I begged him to drive me around in.  I can clearly remember getting in the back of it and driving to Old Chicago, a suburban indoor amusement park in the early 1970’s where I experienced eating Wendy’s for the first time, and watching an old guy hand roll cigars in the window of a tobacco shop.  I think my sister might have even thrown up in the back seat once, not sure on that.

IMG_7983
My sister Sue and the ’66 Ford Mustang, circa 1979-80.

IMG_7984
Believe it or not, this was a color photograph.  Pictures sucked back then.  Neither the sign nor the house in the background are there anymore.

 

My first car was a 1966 Ford Mustang, a car whose radio would only work if the lights were on, and the brakes would work sometimes, only if I really stood on the pedal.  When Mom found out about the brakes, Jon was enlisted to find a replacement.  It was a beater 1974 Chevy Vega, a car that got me through high school but was far from a performance vehicle, although it did have a four speed manual transmission that made driving it at least a little more fun.

IMG_7224
A stock photo of a 1974 Chevy Vega.  I had the same exact car, just imagine it with more rust.

 

In college I found a 1971 Olds Cutlass 442 for sale for $1000 in Macomb, Illinois.  I called my mom and asked if I could use my savings to buy it.  She agreed, and the deal was made.  Then I learned some hard lessons about buying a 23 year old car for $1000.  The original motor wasn’t there, and in it’s place was a Buick 350.  I didn’t know any better to even check.  The body had a little front end damage that was not really visible from a distance.  And it wasn’t long before I could see where the body had been repaired with body filler.  There was lots of it.  But inside it was pretty nice, and it drove well enough for me to drive it around and get the occasional thumbs up from someone who could appreciate a car from that era.  I even courted Kari in that car, cruising around going nowhere in particular, even though I had a nice new 1987 Pontiac Sunbird Turbo GT by then.

Then Kari and I got engaged and married and I sold the not very original 442 for $500 so that I could help fund our honeymoon.  Five hundred bucks.  Today you can sell the rear bumper of a 442 for much more than $500.  I was thinking that I was kind of dumping this car on the guy that bought it because the transmission was fried, no longer really wanting to go in reverse.  But when he came back with the money to pick it up, he was driving a cherry 1970 442 that looked brand new.  His intention was to restore the car for his daughter.  I was glad it was going to someone who knew what he was doing, and I hope that the car is still out there today.

 

MY SEARCH FOR A MUSCLE CAR

Since selling that 442 back in 1992, I have often wished that I could have another muscle car to drive around in.  I can remember back in the mid to late 1990’s I even started a muscle car savings account at the bank and would throw some money into it hoping to save enough for another car.  The problem that arose however, was the market for them exploded.  Baby boomers were now in a position to buy them and they were scooping them up.  Prices skyrocketed.  Some of the Hemi powered Mopars were fetching well over $100K, with the rare Superbird reaching close to a million bucks at some auctions.  I knew that I wasn’t really positioned to purchase a muscle car with three young kids, a mortgage and college to pay for.  I think I emptied that savings account to help pay for one of our houses we moved to, or the minivan that we bought for our growing family.  So I waited.  Waited until I turned 55 years old.

On my birthday this year, my wife gave me a birthday card that was car themed and on the bottom she had written “Let’s go pick up that classic hot rod!”  I was floored, but excited!  She had seen that I had been looking online at old cars for sale.  I was looking just because I like to look at them, but she also could tell that I was interested in getting one again.  Thankfully, prices for classic muscle cars has come down quite a bit.  The 2008 economy tanking affected the values somewhat, and they came down to more reasonable levels.  But they are starting to creep up again.

So I began looking in earnest for a car.  What did I want?  What could we afford?  Lots of things to consider.  It was almost a burden, because the cars I really like are the most popular of the muscle car era.  I particularly like the 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS.  That’s really the dream car for me.  But I see those all the time and Chevelles are really expensive.  So I broadened my list to include not just the Chevelle, but all of the GM A bodies – Buick GS, Olds Cutlass, Pontiac GTO.  I really like the 1970 through 1972 era for the A body, but there is another year that really stands out for me – 1967.  That year seems to me to represent the last of the old 60’s cars before the newer 1968 style ushered in a new look that would take those car styles into the 1970’s.

But I didn’t limit myself just to GM.  My dad had a 1965 or 1966 Plymouth Sport Fury III sedan that I remembered from being a kid.  It was a cool car, painted white with a nice light blue interior.  On summer days when it would rain, I would go out and sit in the car and listen to the raindrops pound away on the roof of it.  It just had a cool interior.  One muscle car from mother Mopar that reminds of that Fury is the 1967 Plymouth GTX.  The lines on that car are super sharp, and it just looks aggressive sitting still.  The Dodge R/T is very closely related, so that car is on my list as well.

So I guess I’m not saying no to any of the cars from that ’64 through ’72 era, it’s just that those are the ones I like.  I was looking mostly online on the Hemmings Motor News website, one that had a ton of cars.  I found several that I saved as favorites.  The trouble is many of them are located several states away.  That meant that I would have to plan on taking a trip to see them and budget for shipping costs to get them delivered home.  Lots of things to consider now.  I told my friend Carl that it was becoming a pain in the butt for me!

 

THE FIRST TEST DRIVE

I was searching on eBay and found a 1967 Olds Cutlass Supreme 442 convertible in an ad.  This car was local too, being sold in Huntley, Illinois about 55 miles away.  The listing had a ton of pictures and I was blown away.  A convertible 442 that looked awesome and I could get it locally.  It listed for $45,750.

DSC01595
A red 1967 Olds C/S 442 convertible for sale in Huntley, Illinois.  Are you drooling too?

DSC01698
One of the best looking 1967 GM A bodies in my personal opinion.

This car had me drooling.  The pictures made it look like a show winner.  This car was sexy.  I now knew that this one might be the one.

The engine was billed as original to the car.  I studied and decoded the body tag on the firewall.  It indicated that it was a 1967 442 built in the third week of April.  The one discrepancy was the paint code, it showed a “P” which meant a Pewter color and this one was “arrest me red.”  The other thing that bothered me was the underbody was painted the red body color and most all of the ’67’s that I have seen are painted black on the underside.  It was super clean though, and all of the floor panels looked original and in great shape.

I contacted the owner, a guy who ran a dealership called National Muscle Cars, and arranged to go see it.  I just didn’t feel comfortable making an eBay offer on a car without seeing it in person.  I promised him that I wasn’t just some tire kicker and that I was serious about acquiring a collector car.

Kari and I drove up and met with the guy.  He was super cool and told us that he acquired muscle cars as a hobby and did a lot of buying and selling.  This was the only car he had for sale at the time.

My first impression of the car was wow, it looked awesome and sounded cool too.  We did a cursory walk around and I liked what I saw and we took it for a spin.  It was the test drive that started to change my mind about the car.  The very first thing I noticed was that the compartment lid in the shifter console would not stay closed.  For a car that was billed as having an extensive restoration, to not put the effort into making sure the lid would stay closed seemed odd to me.  Plus it had some weird bolts in the bottom of it securing it to the floor that did not look factory correct to me.

The transmission shifted hard into gear and it seemed that it just wasn’t shifting very smooth.  I decided to put my foot into the gas and there was no get up and go to it.  It rode pretty smooth, but the drive did not thrill me like I had hoped.

Upon getting back to the shop, he let Kari and I look the car over.  It was then I could see some of the little flaws that from 5 feet away you wouldn’t have noticed.  It was a piece of chrome trim that was loose around the the convertible top that made me think that this car’s rotisserie restoration was just basically a repaint and not much more.  For nearly $46,000 bucks, I wanted a little more of a solid car.  I didn’t want to have to correct every little thing.  I told the guy that I would have to think about it, but I had already decided to take a pass.  It just seemed to me that if I was finding these little issues, there would be more that I would discover later on.

I thanked the guy and Kari and I drove to the local Culver’s and had a quick bite to eat, and I explained to her why I didn’t think this was the right car.  We agreed that there are many more out there, and there was no rush to buy the car right away.  I learned to make sure to put in the time to check them out before committing.  These are cars that are 50 years old, and were basically driven hard by baby boomers and people like me for  five decades.

I guess that I will need to kick a few more tires.  The search will continue!