My Search For American Muscle – Part X

PART X – Time to Reconsider Buying A Chevelle

In my previous nine muscle car search posts, I have said a handful of times that I had sort of ruled out looking for my all-time favorite muscle car, the Chevrolet Chevelle, and in particular the 1970 Chevelle SS.  That car had been my favorite since I was a teen in high school.  I’m not alone in loving that car – it is one of the most popular muscle cars, if not THE most popular muscle car, from that era.  1970 was the peak year and the Chevelle was a beauty.

But as I started this journey to obtain a classic for myself I found that along with that popularity comes a super high price tag.  Also, I am kind of a “blaze my own path” type of guy, preferring to be a little different than others.  I wanted a car that is unique and not like the dozens of others that are at car cruises around the country.  Lately, though I am starting to rethink the Chevelle and maybe include it in my search again.  In reality, I like almost all of the cars that came from the muscle car era and would be really excited to own one and make some memories with it.

So why the sudden interest in Chevelles again?  Well, I got tired of looking at the same cars over and over again on Hemmings (Hemmings.com) and I had bookmarked a handful of old links to cars that I had looked at from online sellers/dealers from a few years ago, so I decided to check them out.  One of those links was to a website called Blueline Classics (bluelineclassics.com) and I saw this really awesome 1969 Chevelle SS convertible in Hugger Orange paint and it looked awesome.  The price was amazing too – not too far over my arbitrary limit of $50,000.  Most of these cars are going for a lot more than that.  The only thing that I could really see that could bring down the price was that it had a period-correct motor and not the original.  But that really isn’t a big deal for me.

Now wait a minute – I know that I said that the 1970 Chevelle model was my favorite and that is true, so why am I drooling over a 1969 model?  Well, when I was a kid my older brother had one.  My late brother Jon was about eight years older than me and he had a 1969 Chevelle SS in Hugger Orange with a black vinyl roof and black stripes.  I would beg him and his girlfriend Nancy to drive me around in it with them everywhere they would go, to the point that I would throw a fit if they wouldn’t.  Mom would get involved and somehow convince Jon to take me along.  Almost every time!  And Jon I’m sure absolutely hated it.  That’s why I liked Nancy more.  I think she tolerated me a little better.  If Jon was still alive I am sure he would remember how big of a pain in the ass I was as a little brother.  One trip I remember taking in the car was to the local amusement park called Old Chicago.  Weird place somewhat, it had an amusement park indoors and a mall area too.  I can remember a store in which some old guy would roll cigars and sell them.  And Old Chicago also is the place where I had my first Wendy’s meal, paid for by my brother of course.  This had to be around 1973 or 1974 or so.  My sister also got rides in the Chevelle too, until she tossed her cookies in the backseat.  Fun times for Jon.

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Nancy was kind enough to supply a couple of photos she had of the Chevelle.  Obviously, it’s the orange car on the right.  

 

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Nancy shared the story that these photos came from a road trip they took sometime around 1974.  I think someone locked their keys in the Maverick and they were trying to get them out.  I don’t really recognize anyone in the picture except maybe the girl on the far right possibly being Nancy’s sister Mary Jo.  

There always seemed to be muscle cars around when I was a kid, a 1968 Camaro that Jon rolled in a ditch, and I seem to remember 1973 or 1974 Olds Omega or Buick Apollo that he had.  Nancy said he had another Chevelle as well, but I don’t remember it.  I seem to remember Nancy driving a dark green 1970’s Monte Carlo.  And her little brother Tim had a 1970 Chevelle that was really cool, too.  But out of all of those, I remember that Halloween styled Chevelle the most.

Okay, so that is the beginning of my relationship with a 1969 Chevelle.  I still prefer a 1970, but when I saw that one for sale online it certainly brought back a lot of memories for me.  And then it was gone.

I saw the car online last Sunday, and even shared the website listing with my buddy Carl, who tells me he had a 1968 Chevelle (did everyone have a Chevelle?!) who also thought it was a top-notch looking car.  The next day I went for an afternoon walk and saw another Hugger Orange ’69 parked in a local’s garage.  That thing looked like a non-SS Malibu, but it definitely looked like it was a 1/4 mile dragstrip terror.  These ’69 Chevelles seemed to be haunting me!  So when I got back home, I decided that I would contact them and inquire about the car, maybe get a little more information, like maybe see a video of it driving.  But as I pulled up the webpage it wasn’t there.  I can’t even find a picture of it to share.  It’s not listed as “recently sold,” so I can only assume that it was and the website will be updated soon.  I figured that one would go quickly.  Out of luck once again.

But all is not lost.  A few weeks ago I saw a post for an online-only, no reserve, no buyer fee auction being held near the border of Illinois and Iowa.  At this auction is a couple of collections that have some really nice looking muscle cars including a 1970 Chevelle SS convertible.

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Umm, yeah – I will take a chance and bid on this car.   

This auction company typically auctions farm equipment and farmsteads and the occasional group of classic cars.  They claim that they have been auctioning cars since 2006 and have always sold cars without reserve.  I looked at some of their past auctions and nothing that was sold was all that great.  But this collection of cars seems very good.

Auctions make me a little nervous.  First, I won’t be able to go see the car in person unless I make the time to do so and that isn’t going to happen.  I’ll have to rely on the info they promise is coming soon.  Secondly, the whole issue with paying for it and going and picking it up when the auction ends makes me anxious.

Listen to me talk like I’m going to end up with the winning bid.  If I am aware of this car, I’m certain there are lots of others that are aware of it as well.  I’m on the tenth edition of this search, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to end with number eleven.

My Search For American Muscle – Part VI

PART VI – GETTING TAKEN FOR A RIDE

Buckle up for another rough ride.  I’m pumping the brakes again.

I was excited to find another 1967 Mopar B body convertible for sale on Hemmings the other day.  This one is a Dodge Coronet R/T and it looked awesome, light blue with a white top and white interior, and riding on period-correct redline tires.  This car was being sold by a Dodge dealership in Sioux City, Iowa and I clicked on an inquiry tab and asked about the car.  A salesperson got back to me really quick, and I was getting that feeling you get when you go to a dealership to kick some tires and get the “buy it now” pressure pitch.  I could almost picture her wearing a plaid jacket and white dress shoes.  I was trickling blood in the water, and the shark had sensed it.

 

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A recently listed light blue 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T convertible.

 

The car was described as being a favorite of the dealership owner, kept at his house and that he personally enjoys driving it.  It was listed for nearly $50,000, which is a little higher than what I have seen a few of them sell for.  I let her know that I was interested, but I had to consider taxes and shipping, and that the asking price was pushing me over budget with all of that.  She inquired as to where I lived and advised that I would pay taxes in my state.  Then she offered the car for $49,000 with shipping.  That’s still pretty high for me, but it was in line with what these cars typically sell for.  I was interested for sure.

After that sales pitch, I advised her that I was reluctant to buy a 50+-year-old car without seeing it run or at least a video of it.  The website had a short video, but there was no sound and the car wasn’t moving.  I asked if there was a video of it driving and she provided this:

 

Lots of wind noise, but it runs and drives.  Did you notice anything different about the car?  It was the first thing I noticed as soon as it came into view.  The dealership removed the period correct and totally awesome redline tires and replaced them with white walls.  Not a deal killer for me, but I dig that redline tire/Hot Wheels look.

Since there are only so many of these cars available out there, I decided to see if I could dig up any history or information on this one.  I Googled the VIN and got only two hits.  And the first one was an a-ha moment.  I had seen this car for sale before.

When I peruse the Hemmings classifieds I usually skip over the cars listed for auction, as I am just not familiar with buying a car at auction.  There are rules and hidden costs involved, and if you aren’t able to be there in person to see the car you have to rely on just a description.  Plus you still have to get the dumb thing home somehow.  But I do look at the listings of the cars that I am interested in, especially the ’67 B bodies.   This particular car had been listed on Hemmings about 4 months ago as part of a Mecum auction listing.  Here is a photo from that listing:

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The car hit the auction block in the Phoenix area in March 2019 at no reserve and sold for $35,000 plus a 10% commission, for a grand total of $38,500.

 

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No reserve on this car and the buyer stole it.

 

The other Google hit was for a website called Rick Carey’s Collector Car Auction Reports, and it provided a ton of insight into the car:

“Restored and clean underneath. Redone to appropriate standards for what it is, but done on a budget and indifferently presented with some age and a few miles since the restoration. – The Glendale bidders clearly saw this Coronet for what it is and priced it appropriately for its weekend driver condition.”

Mr. Carey thought that this car sold well for $38,500 and that the new owner will enjoy his weekend driver.

So how does this Coronet go from being recently required 3-4 months ago, to being a “favorite of the owner who loves to drive it,” to being turned around and offered for sale at a markup of $11000?!  I think the reason the owner “loves” it is because he’s trying to flip it, and he stands to make quite a profit.  This was not settling well with me.

Now this happens all the time, and I get it.  The Olds 442 I drove last year had a price of $45K and after I passed on it, I found it for sale in Ohio for $55K.  This owner runs a new car dealership, selling classic cars on the side, and is in the business of making a profit on those great deals he finds.  Truthfully the car isn’t really priced out of what the actual value is.  My last post about losing out on another one of these cars, almost identical to this one, sold for $48000.  So it’s a fair listing price.  It’s just that he stands to make a huge profit, and I’m not sure I’m the one that wants to please him in that way.

I decided to reply with what I now know about the car and offered a low ball offer, an offer in which he still stands to make a profit, but just about half of what he was looking for.  His salesperson rep wasn’t having it.  She came back with what she offered before -$49K and delivery to my driveway.  I’m mulling it over.

I’m looking to take a ride in a classic car, not be taken for a ride.

My Search For American Muscle – Part V

PART V – STRIKE ONE!  STRIKE TWO!

Welcome back to my dumb journey of trying to find a muscle car to own.  I say it’s a dumb journey because, well, in all honesty, I’m a dummy and I am in charge of this quest.  Once again I find myself sitting in a chair driving a keyboard, instead of feeling the wind blow through what little hair I have left on my head behind the wheel of a classic car.

I’m up to Part V.  Let that sink in.  I started this search back in October 2018.  I came close to owning what I thought was the one, test drove it, and then said I better keep looking.  That car is gone now, as well as the second one I had my eye on.  After that, I focused on a couple of other cars and had been watching them pretty closely.  Both were Mopar B bodies from 1967.  Both had been for sale for a couple of months.  Now both are gone.

(I had written about both of these cars before, you can read more at the links at the bottom of this post.)

 

STRIKE ONE!

The first car was a 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T for sale at Cruisin Classics in Ohio.  It had pretty good provenance, as they say.  The owner had been a Vietnam vet and acquired it when he got back home.  His name was on the paperwork that was in a posted picture and I researched him and found out he had passed away.  The car had been sold a couple of times prior to being bought and offered for sale at Cruisin Classics.  Tons of paperwork for the car as well.  I studied the pictures thoroughly and the only thing I could see wrong with it was a small paint chip on the front right fender.  Not a big deal, but I wondered why they didn’t try to fix it or at least cover it up with photoshop.  The trouble for me with this car was that it was in Ohio and I am in Illinois,  and I’m pretty busy to take time out to go see it.

I do most of my searching for cars on the Hemmings website.  I was checking my list of favorited cars and noticed it was no longer listed on there.  I double checked the listings for Dodge Coronet R/T’s and it was nowhere to be found.  I pulled up the Cruisin Classics website and sure enough, it was listed as SOLD.  To add insult to injury, I follow them on Facebook and they posted the car had been shipped to Phoenix, Arizona and enjoying new ownership along with this picture:

 

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Photo credit:  Cruisin Classics / Facebook

 

It looks like it is sitting next to a 1967 GTX convertible, too.  Now we are just pouring salt into my wounds.

 

STRIKE TWO!

The second car that I lost out on was local, and I had no reason to have not gone and looked at it.  Well, that’s not true.  The main reason that I hadn’t gone to look at it was that it was priced at almost $60,000.00.  This car was being sold by Auto Gallery Chicago and was located in Addison, Illinois.  I have followed this one a while as well and the dealer eventually lowered the asking price to $54,900.00.  Now I was a lot more interested.

 

 

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Photo credit:  eBay / Auto Gallery Chicago

 

 

They offered the car up for sale on eBay several times and I bid on it and won the auction two of the three times, with it going unsold after not reaching the reserve price each time.  It was put up for sale again on eBay just yesterday and I put in my max bid again.  I also promised to invest my Saturday and go look at the car.  I checked my email today and saw a notification from eBay:

Dear eBay Community Member,
The bid that you entered for the item has been cancelled. You can view the reason provided for the cancellation by selecting the (bid history) link from the individual item page.

What gives?  They canceled my bid?  Why?  A check of eBay revealed that the auction was no longer active.  Ah, now I am starting to see the light.  I checked the dealer website and sure enough, the car is no longer listed there.  Someone came in and bought it.

 

TIME TO DIG IN 

So it’s time to keep looking.  I’m still interested in the 1968 Buick GS and a 1966 Pontiac GTO convertibles that are being sold by Primo Classics Intl., located in Florida.  Both cars present themselves nicely but seem below market price for some reason.  I will have to look a little closer at them.

I used to tell the kids I coached on my baseball team that you will never hit a pitch if you don’t swing, and I certainly can learn from that.  I haven’t been swinging.  I’ve taken too many pitches.  Time to keep swinging, even if I just foul a few off.  Sooner or later I am going to connect.

 

Previous musings on my car search:

My Search For American Muscle – Part I

My Search For American Muscle – Part II

My Search For American Muscle – Part III

My Search For American Muscle – Part IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.  

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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.
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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.

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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:

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’67 GTX in Turbine Bronze Metallic!
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Looks new!
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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. 

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Same GTX sporting two white stripes in Virginia
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Rear view
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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.

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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!