(Last) Weekly Roundup: Cathedrals Burned And Built Edition

There’s a monster growing outside my hotel window here in New York City. It’s called the Central Park Tower and it will have the tallest rooftop in the Western Hemisphere. In the Middle East and in Asia, of course, they build higher; the Chinese, in particular, treat the construction of massive skyscrapers with the same seriousness that Americans reserve for making sure that all pronouns are gender-neutral.

From my window I can see the cantilevered side of the structure. The “air rights” for the cantilever were purchased from the directors of the Art Students League next door; the members of the League promptly sued the directors. A court told them to pound sand. In New York, the very air above you can be purchased. Some part of the building was once the city’s original Steinway dealership. In recognition of this, there will be Steinway pianos in the building. They will not go unplayed, as they do in Beverly Hills, because the new owners will have children with musical accomplishments.

Central Park Tower will cost three billion dollars by the time it is completed. You can roost near the top for a mere $95 million, or you can live down near the proles for a quarter of that. It’s worth noting that there are only two kinds of people in the world where these prices are concerned: those for whom such a residence is beyond even the distant reaches of possibility, and those for whom it will be a second home, a pied-a-terre for occasional visits to the city, a minor part of a diversified portfolio. It’s become common for Chinese families to buy these things as hedges against some potential chaos in the homeland. Russians, too.

In fact, the entire saga of the tower, as blandly described on Wikipedia, has a distinctively international flavor to it. The Chinese own a big part of it, the Israelis were involved somehow, various globe-spanning banks and corporations bailed each other out of potentially bad loans. None of it makes much sense until you consider that the building simply must exist. There are 179 extremely powerful and important individuals out there who wish it to exist, to say nothing of the Nordstrom corporation and the various other business tenants. It is an expression of will, of belief, of faith.

Which is to say… it’s a cathedral.

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1974 Continental Mark IV: Maize Yellow Yacht

The weekend has barely begun, and here I am ogling vintage ’70s land yachts on CL, via one of my favorite Facebook groups, Finding Future Classic Cars. And it will no doubt come as no surprise to most of you that one, it is a Continental, two, that it is pastel yellow, and three, that it is from the 1970s. The trifecta! So let’s check out this 1974 Continental Mark IV.

As with my Brougham lust for 1971-76 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughams, my equal fascination with the 1972-76 Continental Mark IV is due to my having a little diecast version of one when I was a kid. Also, my grandfather, Bob Klockau, had a triple dark green 1972 model. Also, Cannon is just about my favorite TV show. So every time I see one, I go back in time.

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Spotter’s Guide To The May 2019 Watch Journal

I had the pleasure of reviewing the new skeleton watches from Jacquet Jaquet Droz in this month’s Watch Journal. They’re not exactly my personal style (I’ve been dividing time between a Tudor Black Bay Bronze and a hilarious, but super-useful, gold-ion-plated Seiko Casio “All Metal” G-Shock) but if you like the idea of wearing something completely unique and easily recognizable, you’ll want to, uh, borrow twenty grand and buy one!

1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari: When Wagons Ruled

Once upon a time in the 1970s, most moms hauled their kids around, not in silver silvermist combover pseudo-lux conveyances, but in large, ornate and oftentimes wood-sided station wagons. V8, rear wheel driven, glorious station wagons.

The 1971-76 GM ‘clamshell’ station wagons were the biggest around when they debuted in Autumn 1970.

So called due to their ‘disappearing’ tailgate and rear window glass, they were available in the expected Chevy, Pontiac, Olds and Buick versions. And as usual, were available in higher-trimmed versions with Di-Noc woodgrain appliques along the sides, further accentuating their road-going Chris-Craft image.

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1980 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Diesel: A Survivor!

Do you remember the GM 5.7-liter Diesel? Even those of a certain age who haven’t directly experienced one undoubtedly have heard of them. My parents’ friends down at the marina had a Dark Jadestone 1982 Delta 88 Diesel coupe, and I can distinctly remember its lud-lud-lud-lud engine beat. The Werthmanns had good luck with that car, and kept it for 10 years. While theirs ran like a top, that wasn’t exactly the most common experience…

Oldsmobile was the pioneer in engineering GM’s Diesel V8. The engine was also available for the Cadillac Seville in 1978, and for the Eldorado, Fleetwood Brougham, Coupe deVille and Sedan deVille in 1979.

Despite many horror stories over the years, the much-maligned 5.7 Diesel, when properly maintained, could be reliable. However, many of the buyers of GM cars fitted with this engine were quite unfamiliar with the additional care and feeding diesel engines required vis a vis the gasoline V8s many of them traded off for one of these. As a result, many of them experienced headaches from their cars. The whole GM Diesel V8 episode turned many Americans off to Diesel engines for years. Though by 1982 they had been reengineered and as a whole were much less needy. But by them it was too late; people were staying away.

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Spotter’s Guide To The May 2019 Road&Track

Oh, this is bittersweet. As I’ve noted previously, Road&Track changed leadership (and office location) in January, just after I accepted a gig working for Hagerty but before I started the job. The R&T change wasn’t entirely for the good — David Zenlea, Matthew dePaula, and Nate Petroelje were all genuine assets to the magazine in my opinion, and they’ve all found places where their talents will be valued — but the past few years had been rough from a leadership and vision standpoint. Now that Travis Okulski is in charge I think the outlook for the magazine is brighter than it’s been in a few years.

When Travis called me with the news I asked — no, scratch that, I begged for a couple of slots in what would be his first issue of R&T as well as my last one. He was kind enough to oblige.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Hitting The Wall And Everything After Edition

The little white Bimmer was right ahead of me in the Saturday-morning tech line for this past weekend’s NASA race at NCM Motorsports Park. Freshly wrapped in a fascinating PopArt-ish line-and-pattern vinyl, it had laminated copies of the original Monroney sticker taped to the rear quarter window. Thirty years ago, it had been sold as a new 325i by Dayton, Ohio’s sole BMW dealer, possibly at the same time that I was working down the road at David Hobbs BMW in downtown Columbus. I chatted with the owner and his co-driver, who was either his brother or someone who just happened to look exactly like him. I’d call them “good kids”, but that’s my age and detachment speaking. In truth, they seemed to be good men, bringing this very nicely-finished car to the track after months of hard work and detail-oriented effort.

A few hours later, after Danger Girl expressed some concern about how her slicks had behaved during qualifying, I borrowed her car and hopped in the “HPDE 4” session. DG was right — the tires were an absolute nightmare, completely grained and displaying some really unpleasant grumble-slide-grip characteristics. The young fellows in their BMW were gridded right behind me. I waved them past early in the session and then spent a lap or two trying to re-surface the slicks by heating and cooling them. I rolled back up behind the 325i just in time to see their newly-built car, on which they’d spent five months’ worth of effort, hit the wall.

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1974 Chevrolet Nova: Green Machine

Nova. A memorable Chevrolet from the past. Today, it’s mostly due to the high octane two-door variants: Super Sports, Yenko Deuce, and the like. But the majority of these compact Chevys were garden variety two- and four-door sedans. The 1962 Chevy II was GM’s second, and far more successful attempt, at cashing in on the compact scene of the early ’60s. Sure, we all love the Corvair, but were Ned and Betty Smith of Olathe, Kansas, going to buy one? Surely not. So the II and its tonier Nova version entered stage left, and sold like beer at a baseball game. By 1974, the Nova still was going strong, but was getting a tad long in the tooth, wearing most of its 1968 sheetmetal. But it was still fighting the good fight against the Dart/Valiant and Maverick.

The first-gen 1962-65 Chevy II/Nova and the redesigned 1966-67 version were both very squared off, but the new 1968 model had the same flowing lines and Coke-bottle flanks of the also-new Chevelle line. It was quite an attractive car, both in two- and four-door versions.

For several years in the early Seventies, the Nova was touted similarly to the VW Type I “Beetle,” in that no major changes were made to styling. Refinement, not change for the sake of change, was the watchword. That continued with the facelifted 1973 models, for the most part.

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1962-63 Oldsmobile Jetfire: With Turbo Rocket Fluid!

Note: Another one from Tony LaHood! The featured car was spotted by yours truly at the Oldsmobile Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back in 2015. Enjoy. -TK

Our youngish readers might find it hard to believe that in the early 1960s the idea of a turbocharged production car was only slightly less fantastic than that of a pocket-size wireless flip phone. But in 1962, General Motors (Yes, there was a time when GM was a real innovator) rolled out not one but two such production passenger vehicles: the Corvair Monza Spyder, and the Oldsmobile Jetfire, America’s first turbocharged volume-production cars.

The Jetfire was essentially a 1962 F-85 Cutlass hardtop coupe (Holiday Coupe, in Olds-speak) with specific interior and exterior trim and, of course, a big surprise under the hood.

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