The story behind this time capsule 1977 Dodge Colt has the makings for a great one liner joke. Did you hear the one about the Mitsubishi Lancer, the late seventies, a Dodge, and the used car salesman wearing a 10-gallon hat while riding a dog named spot – that was really an elephant? We didn’t either. The punchline is 100% original custom paint job on this otherwise all stock captive import survivor. The custom stripes are not vinyl, but rather genuine seventies paint. Legend goes that the van-style stripes were laid down with seventies hues at Cal Worthington in South Gate, California. Proud owner Lou Bircheff is going to leave the Colt as is, having picked up the car just a short time before the Colt’s reintroduction into the Mitsubishi Lancer Dodge Colt space-time continuum at the 2010 Japanese Classic Car Show. Read the rest of this entry »
Archive for the ‘Vortex of Awesome’ Category
Special to Clunkbucket by Peter Peter Hughes
Interstate 81 northbound, between Binghamton and Syracuse. Leaving New York City that morning I’d subconsciously registered a hint of additional depth to the Saab’s normally throaty exhaust note, but it isn’t until a fuel stop somewhere in Pennsylvania that I think to actually look underneath the car, and discover the exhaust just aft of the catalytic converter rusted nearly clean through, hanging by a thread. Worrying, but not exactly surprising: months earlier, returning from a trip to Chicago, the exhaust just ahead of the cat had failed — as luck would have it, a mere five-minute tow from what had to have been the best Saab shop in Indiana. Would I be fortunate enough, I wonder, to make it the couple hundred miles home this time? Read the rest of this entry »
From the California mythology department of our broken dreams division comes this Toyota FJ-60 Land Cruiser in Vermont. This rusted through example of one tough 4X4 truck serves as a reminder of what to look for before purchasing that old rust bucket restoration project. While the rust is somewhat obvious here, peeling up a carpet or two and looking for hidden rust is a good idea before any old automobile purchase. This FJ-60 appeared to be part of the 500-dollar car and truck vortex, apparently created by the Concrete Ape in Vermont. The FJ was directly in the shadow of the mighty ape. A frozen Volkswagen Beetle was also seen not far from the aggregate and reinforced steel primate. Asking price? 500-dollars. Travelers be advised. Thanks to the impressive powers of genuine Vermont road salt and salt-filled slush, this Toyota had an added feature not found on non-rusted desert climate examples. Look closely and marvel at the handy driver side rear fenderwell road flare dispenser, an unique option available free of charge on this Toyota Land Cruiser.
From the captive import department of our long-term corporate relationships division comes this Dodge Colt four-door sedan. Under a mild job of Dodge re-branding, this compact sedan is a purebred Mitsubishi Colt, and an early example of a corporate manufacturing partnership that lasted for over thirty years. As has, evidently, this Dodge Colt. Rally-equipped Mitsubishi versions of the Colt were famously driven to victory by Joginder “The Flying Sikh” Singh and his brother Jaswant in 1974 and 1976 East African Safari Rally, proving the mighty Colt did indeed possess maximum durability.
A rear-drive Dodge Colt is rarely seen on the road today at all, let alone one that looks as if it drove off the showroom floor at the Chrysler Dodge Plymouth Import Center only a few weeks earlier. Rust does not sleep, which made the oddest thing about this well-preserved Dodge Colt sedan not the Chihuahua-sized sombrero on the dashboard, but the Michigan plates it was wearing. Not a single spot of the usual road-salt induced rust common to old buckets from the rust belt and north eastern states was visible on this Colt. Roll on rust-free captive import Colt. Roll on.
A 413 cubic inch big block Mopar wedge and modern aerodynamics are two good things to have when it comes time to hit the road behind the wheel of a house. This Travco 270 has not just one, but both these attributes. The Travco was originally marketed as a self-powered, self-contained, complete home-on-wheels. The sixties-era Travcos were indeed a groundbreaking vehicles, incorporating now commonplace recreational vehicle features such as central air conditioning, on board electrical generation, and Space Age fiberglass construction. All of this and more was molded into a modern design and set atop readily available Dodge truck chassis, with one version of the Travco easily holding the best name ever title for a mopowered motorhome. The Dodge Mahal.
The question when talking about the Bug-In is an easy one. Who doesn’t like wheelstanding turbocharged Volkswagen Beetles that run 11-second quarter miles at over 100 miles per hour? Anyone? While there is obviously a large amount of Volkswagen and America that that became synonymous with an unfortunate granola munching Hippie shtick in the ’60s, an intrepid few eschewed the slow for the quick, and modified their ass-engined economy cars for maximum velocity and performance down the 1320 feet of the drag strip. The last thing any of the German designers of the people’s car had in mind were people hanging up the front hoops in first and second gear, then laying down rubber from the slicks over about a half mile in the quarter. Throw in a car show and a swap meet, and you pretty much have a perfect day for Volkswagens at the California Speedway. This was the Bug-In: 35th Edition.
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Ford of Europe, from about 1975 on, was considered a training ground for Ford Motor Company’s highest-potential executives, engineers and designers. Succeed over there, in that cauldron of competition against Fiat, VW, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen and GM, and you MUST be smart! Or willing to work 20 hours a day, and seven days a week. That was the thinking.
Over the long haul, Ford of Britain and later Ford of Europe had sent cars to America, starting in the 1950s with the Consul and Anglia, and later the Cortina, Capri, and Fiesta, but with each succeeding car program, it got more expensive to Americanize or federalize each car, narrowing profit margins and chewing up valuable engineering time. But, if a high-volume car could be Americanized and federalized successfully, the program might be enough to punch somebody’s ticket on the train to the top.
In honor of Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500 comes this legendary turbocharged Offenhauser powered Indy 500 special from 1971. The racer is not just any Indy car, but one affixed with the original Gurney Flap on its rear wing. We know this because while at the Mickey Thompson: First American to 400 MPH opening, Dan Gurney himself told us that was the case. He also told us that this car had 10 mph on the McLaren cars with its boosted 161 cubic-inch version of an engine that is synonymous with American motor racing as the Brickyard itself – the twin-cam Offenhauser. The Olsonite Eagle was hatched at Gurney’s Costa Mesa, California All American Racers shop in 1971 as a development platform for the 1972 and beyond AAR Gurney Eagles. During testing in Phoenix driver Bobby Unser challenged the pit side powers to come up with a solution to solve the apparent slower than the pack nature of the car. Gurney affixed a thin strip of hardware store aluminum to the trailing edge of the rear wing, and the secret weapon known as the Gurney Flap was born.
In 45 minutes or so, the first Gurney Flap was fabricated and attached to the car’s rear wing, and Unser went out again. Within a couple of laps it was clear he was circulating no faster than before and everyone in the pit assumed the flap was a failure. But when Unser came in he called Gurney over and quietly asked him whether anyone was around to spy on what they were doing. Once Gurney had confirmed they were alone, Unser told him the rear was now so well planted that the car was pushing (understeering) badly, hence the poor lap times. All they needed to do was restore the aerodynamic balance by adding more front-end downforce and the car would be transformed. Keith Howard, Motorsport Magazine via AAR
So successful was this simple innovation that other teams started attaching Gurney-like flaps in the wrong places in failed attempts to duplicate the All American Racing success. This Eagle was designed by Len Terry with influence from Gurney AAR design hotshot Roman Slobodynski – who would go on to design the race-winning 1972 and later Gurney Eagles. The Olsonite Eagle was piloted by Bobby Unser, who qualified on the front row in third for the 1971 running of the Indy 500. Bobby Unser was out in front of the pack twice, but spun and stacked getting around the burning hulk of Mike Mosley’s car during lap 164. Even with the crash, Unser took a 12th place finish with this boosted Offy-powered AAR Eagle. Bobby’s brother Al Unser took the checkered flag. The thin strip of aluminum that is the Gurney Flap is common in racing today, and stands as a symbol of a time in American motor sport when experimentation and testing was done in real time and on track, with innovation and greatness as the end result.