My Search For American Muscle – Part VIII

PART VIII – STILL LOOKING!

I’m back after quite a hiatus from posting about my search for a classic car to buy.  My last post was last fall and I realized that the search would probably take a little break for a while over the holidays and through winter.  Fall and winter can be an enticing time to buy a car because the owners that want to sell generally do so after the summer cruise season.  But living in the Chicagoland area I didn’t want to have to displace my regular driver from the garage to the driveway and deal with scraping snow and ice off it and the rest of the misery of leaving my car outside.

But I was and am looking every day for cars that I am interested in.  It seems like the market for these cars has dried up somewhat though.  When I first started looking a year and a half ago it seemed like there were plenty of great cars out there for sale.  I’m not seeing quite as many good options.  Part of my problem is my narrow search scope.  I keep saying that I haven’t ruled out any make or model from the muscle car era, but I certainly have my favorites.  Number one and two on my list is still the 1967 Plymouth GTX and Dodge Coronet R/T, the two high-end B-bodies from Mopar from that year.  I also still have an interest in the Olds 442 from 1967 as well.  I caught myself studying 1968 – 1970 Roadrunners, too!  I’ve shied away from Chevelle’s, GTO’s, Camaro’s, etc. because they tend to be very popular with collectors and that drives up the cost.  I love those cars, but I want something a little more unique than what you see at every car show or cruise-in.  I’m also wanting to own a convertible if possible.  Wish me luck with that.

I was very busy last summer and fall and missed out on the blue Coronet R/T that was for sale.  I kept checking on it often and then one day it was no longer available.  I regret that I didn’t pull the trigger on it.  I regret not pulling the trigger on most of the ones that are no longer available.  You can read about that car in this previous post:  My Search For American Muscle – Part VI  – It kind of explains why I was reluctant to jump on that one.

The two things that I have repeated in these posts before is one, I am a little picky (see above) and two, the hunt for the car seems to be the part that I enjoy the most.  Maybe secretly I don’t actually want a muscle car, just want to satisfy my interest in them by acting like I do!

One thing that intrigues me about the cars I am interested in is their past history.  I find the provenance, as they say, to be an important part for me.  With that, here are three cars that are currently on my watch radar and what I know about them.

 

1967 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS 442 W-30 CONVERTIBLE – Volo Cars listing link

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Very high on my wish list right now is this beautiful 1967 442 W-30 convertible from the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois.  The very first car I looked at in my quest was also a drop-top ’67 442, but after driving it, I felt like that particular car just wasn’t the one for me.  It had a few little issues that I wasn’t happy with.  (Read about it here:  My Search For American Muscle – Part I)  This one looks to be a lot nicer than that one.  This car has an awesome blue paint job that is pleasing to my eye, is super clean, is a four-speed, and – drumroll, please – it’s a W-30 optioned car!  What’s a W-30 option you ask?  It’s basically a forced air induction system that funnels cool outside air into the intake through inlets under the turn signals and through some tubes attached to a dual-snorkel air cleaner.  Also included was red plastic fender wells to reduce weight and to announce to everyone else that this car was no sleeper.  

So what’s up with this one?  The W-30 option was pretty rare in 1967, with approximately 500 of them made.  From what I can gather, the W-30 option that year was not limited to just factory installation and the dealer could install it as well.  While Volo doesn’t say that it is a true W-30 optioned car, they kind of leave it up to you to decide.  Time to check it out.

I searched the VIN of this car and found it to have traded hands a few times.  It appears that it was in Moline, IL in the early 2000s, then made it’s way to New Jersey where it was sold for $48,500.  But it was this photo that told me that it probably had the option added to it within the last two decades:

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The air cleaner and air hoses are present but the red fender wells are obviously not in this photo from a previous listing of the car.  Plus, the ad listing doesn’t mention the W-30 option anywhere in the ad.  Another ad had this quote: “THIS IS HOW A 1967 W30 EQUIPPED CONVERTIBLE WOULD’VE ROLLED OUT OF THE FACTORY HAD IT BEEN MADE.”  That clears things up somewhat.

The car is an award winner, winning at a few Oldsmobile based shows, and it appears in a poster of 442’s, so it is a super cool and well-admired car, but the W-30 option probably wasn’t added on the car in 1967.  That’s just my guess.

Another tell-tale sign that it’s probably not a true W-30 is that it was sold earlier for around $49,000.  A true 1967 442 W-30, if it could be validated as real, would easily list at over $100,000 I would assume.

PROS:

  • Definitely a head-turner
  • 4-speed
  • I love 442’s
  • It’s local, about 1.5 hours away

CONS:

  • Current asking price is $65,000, which is on the high end for me
  • W-30 option was added on later to this car
  • I didn’t like the first one of these I drove and I am a little worried that this one would leave me feeling the same way.

 

1967 PLYMOUTH BELVEDERE GTX – Volo Cars listing link

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Next up is this awesome 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX.  There’s really nothing wrong with this car that I can find.  It’s been restored to factory specifications and just looks awesome.  It’s been certified Concourse Gold at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, which means it appears to be 95-100% original to its factory condition.   Here’s a picture of the car at the MCACN’s:

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One fun fact that I found about this car is that it was originally sold new for $3365 to a guy in Idaho.

There are two things about the car that are keeping me from buying it immediately.  First, it’s listed for nearly $67,000.  That’s a lot of cash.  The other thing is the car is so nice I would be afraid to drive it!  It’s a super nice car.

Another thing that is a head-scratcher for me is that the guy from Volo Cars knows his stuff, and really knows the value of these cars.  I’ve seen lots of lesser quality, non-Hemi 1967 GTX’s being sold for a lot more.  What’s up with that?  Maybe I should jump on this one!

PROS:

  • A super nice GTX, one of the best I have come across
  • Another Volo Cars vehicle, which would be easy to go see
  • Car has lots of paperwork including build sheet and original Certi-card

CONS:

  • It’s a trailer queen!  I’d be afraid to drive it anywhere
  • Expensive
  • Not a convertible, but I could live with that
  • I’d prefer the Magnum 500 wheels over the steel wheels with hub caps

 

1967 PLYMOUTH BELVEDERE GTX – Pacific Classics listing link

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This GTX is in my wheelhouse!  It’s being offered at a decent price, it’s painted Turbine Bronze metallic (one of my favorite colors), and is a 4-speed.  The problem is that it’s in the Pacific Northwest, which is way too far for me to travel.  I do know someone in that area though – maybe I could talk my wife’s cousin into going to see it!

Here’s what I found out about this particular GTX.  A previous listing for this car revealed that it was sold in another part of Washington state just prior to this listing.  The pictures show it undergoing a frame-off restoration, which I believe was done before the seller bought the car.  The ad states that the car was a 2012 Mopar Nationals Silver awarded car.  So I looked that up and found a name for the owner:  Randy B. from Hebron, Kentucky.  Turns out Randy was typical of the car guys from the 1960’s.  He was a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran serving in the Marines.  Medal of Honor recipient.  Impressive.  I learned that from his obituary.  He passed away in 2016.  One of the condolences mentioned, “At least 1/2 of our conversations were about cars & his pristine ’67 GTX.”  I am kind of saddened to hear all that.  I found a listing of the car for sale for $45,000 with Randy as the contact, so he sold it prior to dying.

If my buddy John takes the time to comment on this post he would say “JUST BUY THE DAMN THING ALREADY” or something like that.  Of the four cars in this post, I would definitely be proud to own Randy’s car.

PROS:

  • A very nice GTX in Turbine Bronze Metallic paint
  • 4-speed car
  • Price is good – $54,000

CONS:

  • It’s out in the Seattle area and I’m not sure I want to go see it
  • The only flaw I can see is a small little indentation in the hood near the “M” in Plymouth
  • Not a convertible, although I do kind of dig the black vinyl roof

 

One last thing:  The current state of affairs in the world concerning the pandemic associated with Covid-19/Corona virus may dampen my search for a while.  Even the listing for the last car above said they are temporarily closed.  Although my wife and I are still working and have the money set aside to purchase a hobby car, I’m not sure how things with the economy are going to turn out.  It seems a little risky to make such a purchase right now.  Time will tell.

 

 

 

 

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.

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’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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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 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.

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

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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.

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