led by Pete Hagenbuch
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, the pegs…
You know what this is, it’s the small Straight 8 with Fluid Drive. And 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. And without a torque converter 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!
At least chrome came back. Do you know what I hated about the lack of chrome? I hated a white cars with white door handles. I don’t know why, I just do. I don’t miss the whitewalls, I used to love them. I didn’t like the narrow whitewalls, anyway; it’s either a whitewall like that [wide] or a blackwall with a fancy wheel.
[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.
Oh, and then I followed up with a Road Runner 340, and that was a lovely, lovely car. That was a ’72. 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. And it drove like a sports car. It really did. It was 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. Anyway, that takes pretty much care of this floor, and you want to walk up… or do you want go up in the monster elevator… I’d rather walk.
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.
And 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. And this is just one of the examples. This one doesn’t have a back seat, though there’s room for one. It just has a luggage shelf. 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.
Don’t you love it, the side view? Oh, there was a bunch of them. There’s one I saw at the Meadowbrook Concours at the mansion of one of the Dodge heirs, Matilda Dodge Wilson. Her husband was a lumber baron, and they built a large and luxurious palace, and the grounds are the scene of the Meadowbrook Concours, every August.
The last one I went to, there was a duplicate of this one, with a dark metallic green, that looked so deep you could dive in. It was just as pretty as this one here. The first of these… there’s a picture of it right there, the K310. It has quite a heavy egg crate grill… egg crate… cheese box or whatever you want to call it. It’s a pretty car, nice lines, and that was, I think our first concept car after the Thunderbolt, and it’s mate the Newport which was a dual cowl Phaeton. 1941 was the year they both came out, and the Newport was the Indy 500 Pace car in the ’41 race. It's in the collection, but it’s on the road, right now. It’s not necessarily pretty, but it’s interesting. It’s quite bulbous, like the Thunderbolt.
This car [Hudson Hornet], I used to watch when 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.
Gene: It looked so massive and heavy coming in.
Well, they had something called aerodynamics, which was probably a real secret weapon, back then. At least for stock cars. No, but they were tough, and 308 cubic inch flathead six…This was 1953. I don’t know how big the Buick engines were. Probably pretty big. Buick didn’t participate with that sort of thing. You'd have to rebuild the suspension and get rid of Dynaflow and who knows what else.
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