Retro Show – Do The Bustle!

Time for another trip in the Wayback machine to look at the 1981-83 Imperial, courtesy of my friend Jim Smith. He thoughtfully took pictures of brand new luxury cars back when Brougham was still in, the tops were padded and opera lamps were expected!

The 1981 Imperial was Lee Iacocca’s last try at the Continental Mark III formula: Long, low, sleek, with every available convenience, a long hood, a short deck, and Broughamed out to the gills.

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1964 Chevrolet Impala – She’s Real Fine!

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1986 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham – Maximum Broughamage

Options. It’s always nice to have options, especially when you’re talking Detroit luxury like Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler. Take Cadillac in the mid-1980s, for example. Between 1980 and 1986, Cadillac Motor Division went through some major changes. It arguably had to be done, but by 1986 most people used to Cadillacs being large, plush and heavily chromed were in for a surprise. Sure, they were still plush, but a crash diet program in anticipation of major gas price increases (that never happened) made for a very different showroom experience. Except for one holdout.

1986 Cadillac Fleetwood d’Elegance

The De Villes and Fleetwoods introduced as very early ’85 models were completely different from their ’84 iterations. Smaller, yes, but also more space efficient-and front wheel drive! Despite the huge change in design, they sold well.

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1986 Cadillac Sedan de Ville: Downsizing, Round Two

The 1980s were not precisely Cadillac’s decade. While in the 1960s Cadillac, the creme de la creme of General Motors, could do no wrong, in the 1980s it seemed they made misstep after misstep. True, changes had to be made. Fuel economy had to be improved, dimensions reduced, and technology added. But there is no doubt that the first half of the decade was exceedingly painful at Cadillac Motor Division.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville at the 2015 CLC Grand National, Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Cadillac could do no wrong in the ’50s and ’60s. They consistently outsold both Lincoln and Imperial and were essentially in a class of their own. But as the 1960s progressed into the early 1970s, they perhaps became a victim of their own success. The cars slowly became less special as Cadillac chased ever higher profits. Starting around 1969, Cadillac started skimping on interior materials.

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1995 Lincoln Mark VIII – Last Stand For The Personal Luxury Lincoln

Today we celebrate the last Lincoln coupe, the Mark VIII. Despite recent successes with the 2017 Continental and 2018 Navigator, the odds are that the 1993-1998 Mark VIII is going to be the last. Coupes just don’t sell. Crossovers are now eating even the midsized, mid-price sedan’s lunch. But it was a compelling car. It was the final chapter of a series of luxury coupes and cabriolets dating back to 1939.

1993-94 Mark VIII

The VIII was a technically sophisticated luxury car when new and its statistics are rather impressive even today. Upon its introduction in Autumn 1992, I was an impressionable twelve year old. Sure, I liked Porsche 911s and Corvettes, but even then I had a serious soft spot for domestic luxury cars, thanks to my grandparents’ patronage of premium FoMoCo products since the mid-Sixties.

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1973 Volvo 1800ES – That Most Beautiful Volvo

“Beautiful Volvo? What are you going on about this time Klockau?” you may be thinking. Nope, I haven’t gone off the deep end. Volvo more or less built their reputation on safety and durability, not beauty. But there are some models out there that look excellent.

1984 Volvo 240 GL

I like Volvos, and have a serious soft spot for 240s and 740s thanks to spending my formative years in the back seat of several. And while those sedans and wagons look nice enough (they’re boxy but they’re good, as Dudley Moore once said), I admit it’s a stretch to call them beautiful. I mean, beautiful is a 1936 Cord 810 Westchester. Beautiful is an Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. But a Volvo? Well, yes!

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Introducing A New Series: Retro Show!

My good friend, Jim Smith, recently celebrated his 50th annual visit to the Chicago Auto Show. I’ve known Jim for several years thanks to Facebook, and have bought myriad dealer promo models and vintage brochures from him as well. As a fellow gearhead and Broughamophile, he has taken many pictures at the show for decades-well before it was cheap and easy as it is today with smartphones. Just this past weekend he posted a number of terrific pictures to my favorite Facebook group, The American Brougham Society. I was bowled over by them, and Jim has graciously agreed to let me share them here on RG. Continue Reading →

1966 Lincoln Continental Convertible – Pure Class

Folks, let me tell you a story–a nightcap, if you will. Perhaps you may enjoy a gin and tonic while you read. Go ahead, I’ll wait. OK, ready? Once upon a time, there was a classy luxury car called the Lincoln. About ninety years ago, she came into the world. Well made, aspirational, comfortable and imposing. The Lincoln was worthy of any man of taste’s attention, and if you treated her right, she would be a friend for life.

Things actually got off to a bumpy start. Her benefactor, Mr. Leland, did not skimp on her finery, but in so doing, ran into the rocks financially. So the Lincoln was sold off to a rich industrialist. He wasn’t actually all that interested in the Lincoln, but his son, Edsel, took a shine to her, and the resulting Lincolns of the ’30s were remarkably beautiful, luxurious and worthy of your attention. While the Depression era was not particularly kind to them, Lincoln hung in there and the 1936-up Zephyrs and Lincoln-Continentals of 1940-48 were, again, remarkable cars.

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1966 Studebaker Cruiser – The Last Gasp, With A Dash Of Broughamage

I have been a Studebaker fan for some time. I blame my parents. Back in 1996, during a particularly difficult year health-wise, my mom and dad took me to an SDC meet at the Moline Holiday Inn. I was smitten. There were so many cool models! 1950-51 “bullet nose” Champions and Commanders, Golden Hawks, Larks, all kinds of great stuff. But perhaps my favorite model at the show was the Gran Turismo Hawk.

1964 Gran Turismo Hawk at the 2017 Des Moines Concours d’Elegance

Cleverly restyled by Milwaukee-based industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, this was essentially a 1953 “Loewy coupe” with some cosmetic surgery and a Thunderbird-inspired roofline. Introduced for the 1962 model year, it was a surprisingly modern update for such an old design. Keep in mind, most American cars in the ’50s and ’60s got 2-3 year redesigns, even if it was sitting atop the same old chassis. Studebaker, with the lack of the Big Three’s deep pockets, had to improvise.

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1960 Valiant V-200 – Pre-Plymouth

Valiant. Speak the name to anyone who grew up in the Sixties and it will almost certainly prompt a ton of memories, both good and bad: “Oh, my Aunt Becky and Uncle Sid had one, it was the toughest car they ever had!” Or, “I drove one in high school, got it for $100 off a shady used car lot and it was the dullest, slowest car I ever owned!” In approximately 95% of these circumstances, these memories will be prefaced by the words Plymouth Valiant–and indeed, Valiants were Plymouths from 1961 through 1976–but not in its inaugural year in 1960. Yes, 1960, a Buck Rogers year for sure! It was also The Year Of The Compacts: Corvair, Falcon, and of course, Valiant.

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