Guest Post: Life of Riley

Note: Today’s post is by my friend April Chadwick, whose personal fleet includes a Lincoln Continental Mark IV, an Excalibur Phaeton and a Lexus SC400, among others. Please give her a warm welcome. -TK

Picture it: it’s 1951 and you have Cadillac money to spend on a new car, so what do you buy? Perhaps the Standard of the World is too flashy, maybe a Packard, or how about a sedate Imperial?

If your answer is newfangled malarkey, head on over to the home of Motoring Majesty and put down four or five grand on a car that still is made with wood and leather. Did I mention that the body has a wood frame and the roof is padded leather stretched over wire mesh? As the Riley brochure assures you, as old as the industry, as modern as the hour.

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1950 Nash Statesman Super Two-Door and Custom Four-Door: Wisconsin Bathtubs

Smooth, round bullet-shaped (or bathtub shaped, if you prefer) automobiles were the wave of the future in 1949. While US automakers were still selling every facelifted prewar car they could make-at an EXTREMELY healthy profit-it couldn’t last. While no cars had been built during WWII outside of a select few for Army staff cars and such, stylists, having a lot of free time, were coming up with all sorts of wild creations on paper and in clay. New! Futuristic! Streamlined! Modern, all-brand-new cars of the near and not-so-near future. The redesigned 1949 Nashes took streamlining perhaps as far as it could be taken at the time.

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Weekly Roundup: 1994’s Gift That Will Never Stop Giving Edition

In 1985, this country encountered something new: a trade deficit with China. It was just six million dollars. In 1994, President Bill Clinton ignored criticism from his own party to renew China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, citing the eight billion dollars’ worth of export business this country did with China. He tactfully failed to mention the thirty-nine billion dollars’ worth of goods we imported, for a net deficit of thirty billion dollars. And then we were off to the races, as government policies under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations made it a no-brainer for American companies to outsource their manufacturing and technical operations overseas. That deficit doubled, then doubled again, within the first ten years after Clinton’s decision. It peaked in 2018 at a staggering $418 billion before dropping to $345 billion in 2019. We are currently on track for a 2020 trade deficit of $279 billion, the lowest figure since 2009.

Last year, I tried like hell to build a “dirt jumper” bike without Chinese parts. I spent nearly five thousand dollars sourcing a frame from Ann Arbor, rims from Grand Rapids, titanium crank components from Florida, brakes from Japan. In a few cases, notably tires and tubes, I had no choice other than Taiwanese-sourced items. Taiwan is Chinese but it’s not Chinese, I suppose. The front fork, made by Fox, was largely Taiwanese thanks to the company’s recent decision to move all production to that island. Having painstakingly researched my way out of mainland China, I then built the bike… only to see “Made In China” on a wheel bearing.

The American Giant hooded sweatshirt, pictured above in the Black Camo limited edition I was too slow to buy in 2018, is entirely sourced in the United States. Every single part. But it’s a sweatshirt. If you get any more complex than that, you will find that Chinese manufacturing, like the COVID-19 virus, is impossible to completely avoid. Bicycles are not complex machines by any modern standard, but you can’t build one without buying from China. This should have worried all of us, but with the exception of yahoos like your humble author it did not. Our media told us to accept globalization as an inevitable thing, even as they told us we could help the climate of the entire planet by buying “sustainable” clothing that just happened to be made in China.

The cracks in this Tower of Babel are starting to show. Ironically, bicycles are leading the way.

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1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car: Triple Aqua Cabin Cruiser For The Win

I’ve always had a thing for 1950s to 1970s domestic land yachts finished in aqua. Whether the bright turquoise of a 1955 Thunderbird or the light-metallic aqua of a 1966 Olds Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan or ’61 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country, I will go out of my way to check it out once spotted at various and sundry cruise nights, car shows, craigslist ads and ebay auctions. And if the car has a white or aqua interior, well fuggetaboutit. So when I saw this lovely boat of a Lincoln on eBay about eight years ago, I was immediately hooked.

According to the long-gone auction listing, this car is all original and only had 67,000 miles on the clock. Being a ’79, it does have the 400CID V8 and not the more desirable 460, but still–what a car.

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1976 Ford Gran Torino Squire: Seventies Suburbia

I’ve always had a thing for the midsize ’70s Ford wagons: Gran Torino, Montego, LTD II and Cougar. The most likely reason is one of the first Matchbox cars I ever got was a metallic lime green ’77 Mercury Cougar Villager wagon, with opening tailgate.

image: ebay.com

It, along with my Pocket Cars Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and Lincoln Mark IV, were almost always with me – in the car, outside, at the dinner table, etc. They are rough now, but all of them did survive my childhood.

This morning this ’76 Gran Torino Squire popped up on Marketplace, via the Finding Future Classic Cars fb group, and I had to check it out. You just don’t see these. Production was nothing compared to the LTD and LTD Country Squire wagons in the mid-’70s, likely due to the Torinos simply not having the interior room you’d expect for their size.

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Everything That’s Wrong With Automotive Journalism, Summed Up Nicely In One Twitter Thread

There’s a sad, soy-substitute trend of self-loathing of so-called “automotive journalists” on the internet lately. Most of them hate cars and they can’t figure out why people in Winchester, Kentucky can’t just get on board with public transportation already. They are only on the autos beat because there were no job openings for the Social Justice desk at Daily Beast.

But that doesn’t stop them from needlessly inserting tributes to pedophile rapists and violent criminals, errrrr social justice heroes into every review of the 2021 Kia Forte, or from raging against the patriarchal, capitalist machine that is the auto industry.

Case in point: Senior Editor Jared Rosenholtz from Carbuzz.com. One day this week, Jared woke up and decided that he needed to do something about income inequality. Did he run for office? No. Did he volunteer at a soup kitchen? Also no. Did he write a passive aggressive tweet and tag Bernie Sanders in it? YOU’RE GODDAMNED RIGHT HE DID!

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A New Yorker In Boise…

This morning I was perusing the FB group, Finding Future Classic Cars, and my Brougham Radar immediately locked onto this fine 1966 New Yorker offered on Boise Craigslist, complete with the ‘earmuff’ style vinyl accents on the C-pillars. I’ve always liked the 1965-66 Chryslers. Styled by Elwood Engel, late of Ford Motor Company, his designs were strikingly rectangular, but elegant. And if you think 1961 Continental in profile, that’s not a coincidence, he was involved with that car as well.

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1979 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe: Brougham Without The Gilt

So, when’s the last time you saw one of these? Here in the salty Midwest even the once-numerous ’80s Diplomats, Gran Furys and flossy Fifth Avenues are pretty much extinct, so I was happy to see this ’79 LeBaron coupe at the Trains, Planes and Automobiles show in historic Geneseo, IL, back in September of 2012. It looked very nice in black with red interior-a classic combo in your author’s opinion.

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