led by Pete Hagenbuch, long-time Chrysler Corporation engine tuner
Here’s one I think is beautiful, a little useless but beautiful. [1948 Town & Country convertible.] I’d have to ask my wife, “Would you let me park it in the living room?” because you can’t leave it outside. Well, it’ll rot or like, bugs will eat it, or… Incidentally, the dark wood is a decal, but you can look at the ash, and you know that’s real. You can see the joints and pegs.
You know what this is, it’s the small Straight 8 with Fluid Drive. Fluid Drive is the nearest thing to not getting anywhere with your car.
We had a group of transmissions, a really bad bunch… the transition from stick shift to automatic at Chrysler was not well done. First, they had Fluid Drive, which was really sluggish, at least for those in a hurry, and you still had to shift gears. It was best suited for little old ladies.
Now, this beautiful blue-and-white thing, [1951 New Yorker convertible] with the $200-a-crack wheels, with chair-high seats and room for a Stetson — as a teenager, I used to dismiss it as being just for old folks. I look at it now, and it’s beautiful. It’s a lovely car. And I want you to look at this interior, the Highlander. Wouldn’t you like to buy something like that today? Oh, I’d love to have that interior in my car, right now. Oh, I’m so sick of gray and tan!
[responding to the audience:]
I had two 440 Charger R/Ts, followed by a Duster 340, that was a big mistake, I ordered a Sure-Grip rear axle, and the car wouldn’t go around a slow corner with much throttle opening without wheel hop. But boy, it would go. And it did surprise a lot of people, for a while. Once they’d been out a while, then it wasn’t a surprise any more. Mine was painted in Plum Crazy, which we sometimes called Statutory Grape.
I followed up with a 1972 Road Runner 340, and that was a lovely, lovely car. I thought it was a beautiful car. I loved the front end with the bumper/ grill, and I loved the way that car drove. It had a really well matched anti-roll bar in the back. It drove like a sports car, light and quick, and it would go through a set of esses and you just touched the wheel and pop the throttle a bit, and then you get to the other one and you just pop it the other way.
It was just fabulous. I loved this car. I used to look forward to my drive home… they were building the M-59 Expressway, and I went north on Rochester Road. There was a temporary overpass, and it was all angles, no curves. I used to go every night, I’d pray there wouldn’t be anybody in front of me when I got there.
Our first stop was the second generation Viper racing coupe concept car. I think it’s pretty. I had a model of this… this is a concept Viper, and Mattel got a model of it out, years ago, and I bought one and the more I looked at it, the more I thought, nah, they didn’t build anything like that. And then a few months ago, it just showed up downstairs. I said, “That’s my car!” It was… it was precise. I think anybody over five feet tall would have trouble.
Then there’s this lovely thing, which I think it’s the world’s first retractable hard top. The Thunderbolt. That over there is some kind of a custom Prowler.
There is one of a whole series of concept cars in the early ’50s; designed here, and built by Ghia in Italy. This one doesn’t have a back seat, though there’s room for one. When you build a car with a long hood and a short cabin, you have a lot of trouble making it look bad. It’s kind of almost automatic.
I used to watch the Hudson Hornets I was a young dog; I used to watch them race, and they’d go around a corner and the right front tire was just so distorted you could see it in action. Half the tire was pushed off beyond where a tire should be, raising hell, squealing and screaching… it beat everything.
They had something called aerodynamics, which was probably a real secret weapon, back then, at least for stock cars. They were tough, and had that 308 cubic inch flathead six in 1953.
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