What Were They Thinking: 1978 Corvette ‘America’ Concept

March 21, 2012

There are moments within the extended life-run of an iconic, homebred sportscar where ambitious minds and questionable visions intersect to create something that begs to ask a question that was never even asked in the first place… In this case – ‘Why wouldn’t a Corvette owner/enthusiast desire a 4-door version to haul his family and friends around in…?’

I know. There are so many responses to counter that question, but it didn’t stop Chevrolet from embarking on a… erm…. ‘design study’ in 1978 to flesh out the possibilities of a 4-door family ‘Vette.

The Corvette ‘America’ (snappy name) was designed and built by California Custom Coach in Pasadena, California in very small numbers – one prototype and five ‘production’ models – achieved by basically taking two Corvettes, cutting them in half and then stitching/welding them up, hence the increaed 30-inch wheelbase and subsequent visual awkwardness…

At the time, a base-model Corvette would stretch you back about $13,000-$14,000. So when the $35,000 price-tag was announced for the 4-door America, orders didn’t exactly flock-in as they had anticipated…

In the end, only the 6 were made and the silver ‘vette pictured here is the only known remaining survivor – the others having succumbed to uncaring owners and/or crashes of various sorts… I couldn’t even imagine what an oversteering moment in one of these would feel like. Probably frightening.

I think one left is enough.

Though, in its defense, I can’t help picturing this above red version as the sort of vehicle that the characters from The Banana Splits would have driven, if they could have…  And that makes it instantly cool in my books.

-Blake J.
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The Astronaut’s Choice: 1969 Chevrolet ‘Astrovette’ Stingray Corvettes

March 9, 2012

By the time the Apollo 12 crew landed and enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the moon in November 1969 (the sixth manned space flight under the Apollo program but only the second Apollo crew to land on the moon), Astronauts had garnered (and enjoyed) an almost Rock ‘n Roll-like fervor about them, undoubtedly helped along by their psychedelic space-travelling ways. So, what better way to augment this public appreciation (and have fun) in the vehicular sense than with matching, bespoke 1969 ‘AstroVette’ Stingray Corvettes.

Through a special GM lease program, Astronauts were given the privilege of driving any GM car, for a year, for only $1. The Apollo 12 crew of Alan Bean, Richard Gordon and Charles Conrad decided to take GM up on this rather kind offer by obtaining matching ‘vettes distinguished by their Gold and Black paint-scheme and distinctive red, white and blue logos on the front wings reading ‘LMP’ for Lunar Module Pilot.

To this day, sadly, only Alan Bean’s ‘Astrovette’ is accounted for and has undergone a full, extensive restoration… In a recent BBC Documentary from Top Gear’s James May titled ‘James May On The Moon’, Alan was reunited with his old Corvette Astrovette after some 40 years…

More pics…

-Blake J.
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Photo Album: 1969 Lola Chevrolet T70GT mk3B

February 21, 2012

Today’s photo album focuses on the Lola Chevrolet T70GT mk3B of 1969 that competed directly with the Group-4 Ford GT40s and Porsche 917s of the day, amongst others. Power came from a mid-mounted, naturally-aspirated, cast-iron/aluminium-alloy head 5L Chevrolet V8 drinking fuel through 4 Weber carburettors and producing 450 bhp with the aid of a Hewland LG600 5 speed manual.

The chassis featured an aluminium riveted and bonded monocoque and the body itself was fibreglass. Double wishbones, an anti-roll bar and coil springs over Koni adjustable shocks handled the suspension duties while Girling ventilated discs on all 4 corners took care of stopping its lightweight 800 kg mass.

The Lola raced in various endurance events such as Le Mans but was most notably effective on sprint events such as the highly-missed Can-Am series held in America. This pictured example is the ex-Sid Taylor car that dominated the endurance racing scenes in 1969-70…

Excellent onboard video from the 2011 Spa-francorchamps Classic…

And another vid of it clearing its mighty lungs – what a beast…!

-Blake J.
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2012 Super Bowl Car Commercials: A Collection of…

February 6, 2012

So the Big American Game happened yesterday and to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to watch this mega-hyped sports-event where ultra-testosteroned, overly-padded/helmeted men rough one another up over the snarling possession of an inflated pig-skin… Said game occuring somewhere amidst the deluge of non-stop adverts reminding us of ‘who brought this to you’, a silly lip-synching girl flashing a middle-finger (oh good heavens) and a washed-up, embarrasingly-painful-to-watch pop-Diva strutting-up her idea of ‘the greatest show I’ve ever done for the greatest show on earth’ … Dear Lord.

Madonna - scary and unfathomable

Not forgetting the idiotic/annoying orgy of streaming banners and flashy camera angles for this ‘show of all shows’ either - Needless to say, for this scribe it’s all, well… a bit much.

Yet, as is the tradition that always outweighs and ultimately gathers more of our collective attention than the actual Game itself, the extended-length TV-spot adverts were what nearly everyone ever talks about in this TV-obsessed western world of ours. Most viewers simply tune-in to the Super Bowl broadcast just so they can catch the expensive Game-Day adverts…. Really..! Car-adverts included, of course.

Clint doing his best to inject a gritty, serious and weepingly patriotic tone to describe America's upcoming '2nd Half'

Here then, is a selection… some of them are even the extended versions!

Volkswagen - The Dog Strikes Back

KIA Optima – A Dream Car. For Real Life (really…? A wrinkly Motley Crue, in your dream…?)

 Acura NSX – Transactions

Honda CR-V – Matthew’s Day Off (not quite sure if a rather bland/boring CR-V would be the vehicle of choice here…)

Chevrolet Sonic – doing human ‘extreme’ things

Chrysler and Clint Eastwood – It’s Halftime America (bit of an anthemic heart-tugger here)

 Fiat 500 Abarth – Seduction

Lexus GS – The Beast (Lexus’ first-ever SuperBowl advert… not bad, not great)

Toyota Camry – It’s Reinvented 

 Chevy Silverado Trucks – End Of The World (quite possibly, the stupidest car-commercial I’ve ever seen – complete with an out-of-place ending stolen straight from the movie ‘Magnolia’)

Audi S7 – Vampires (riiiight…)

\

-Blake J. 
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Detroit Motor Show: Chevy Unveils Two Concepts Aimed At The Youth

January 9, 2012

Chevrolet has unveiled an opposing pair of production-ready looking concepts at the Detroit Motor Show that are dead-squarely aimed at the bugeoning youth market.

RWD 'Code 130 R' on the left, FWD 'Tru 140 S' on the right

Called the ‘Tru 140 S’ and ‘Code 130 R’, they represent GM’s foray into capitalising on the 80 million or-so new American car buyers that are approaching their 30s… and, it could be argued, to take on the recently unveiled (and heavily applauded) Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ.

FWD Tru 140 S

Both cars come with differing drivetrain layouts – the Tru 140 S (with the attractive Lamborghini-esque glass-house) is front-wheel drive while the Code 130 R (with the ‘shrunken-Camaro-via-BMW-1-series-coupe-aping looks) is rear-wheel drive (hallelujah and all that…)

RWD Code 130 R

Power is served up by the same 1.4L turbocharged 4-cyl engine churning out 150 bhp and 148lb ft of torque. Propelling them along will be a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. Prices would average in the $25,000 range.

Whether or not both of them will make production is a curious point though as GM says that the two cars were unveiled together to ‘inspire ideas and create discussion’, placing ‘Next-Gen buyers in charge of the future’…

Yet, while most of us would hope for ‘the youth’ to dive head-first towards the rear-wheel drive Code 130 R variant, it’s worth noting that the front-wheel drive Tru 140 S is already based on the (rather bland) Chevrolet Cruze hatchback…

Judging from GM’s economic situation (and their propensity to build cars down to a price), I wouldn’t be holding my breath for the rear-drvien concept anytime soon…

-Blake J.
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POTD/Spotlight: The Mini vs. The Giants

November 22, 2011

It was a classic scenario of David meeting Goliath in the world of motorsport. An era of hugely exciting racing; the likes of which we’ll never see again. Thunderingly powerful, massive American V8′s in the form of Ford Galaxies and Chevrolet Camaros instigating door-handle (or rather, door-handle-to-roofline) battle against the tiny, lightweight and agile 4-cyl. Minis and various mid-sized saloons. This was Saloon Car Racing of the 60′s and early-70′s. This was ‘everyman’ racing at its finest…

The Giant Killer

Yours truly captured this (above) photo of the Mini Cooper sandwiched between the two American Muscle cars earlier this year during a ‘Spring Thaw’ Rally that gave witness to an eclectic heard of classic pre-1980′s cars of all shapes and sizes attacking some of the finest roads of this region for 3 days straight. Myself, I was acting co-driver for my friend’s 1973 BMW 2002. It was an incredibly fun experience and I thoroughly look forward to next year’s event.

During those 3 memorable days it wasn’t uncommon to be passed by a properly-driven half-million-$ 1950′s Aston Martin DB2 followed by a scampering 1970′s Porsche 914 during one stage followed by a mountain-esque blast with a gorgeous 60′s Lancia Fulvia in behind while chasing a 70′s Firebird Trans Am the next… It was sort of like a 3-day Field Trip for grown-up Petrolheads. Truly truly unforgettable.

For those that have the time, I highly recommend viewing this slightly, er… ‘flattened’ video (the transfer from video-to-digi always seems to be problematic) of the 1971 Saloon Car Championship from the long-gone Crystal Palace circuit in the UK. Excellent footage (and sound!) of Minis, Escorts, Cortinas, Vauxhalls and big V8 Camaros going head-to-head. You’ll want to watch Part 2 all the way to the end for the classic race finish.

Part 1

Part 2

And for those possibly looking for something more ‘common-man’ motorsport entertainment, here we have a ‘Production Car’ race from 1975 whereby anyone – and I do mean, anyone – could sign themselves up to race with their own wheels and do battle around the track with other like-minded (ie: a bit nutty?) individulals with their daily-driven vehicles…. without any insurance. Somewhat comedy, classic David vs. Goliath material…

-Blake J.
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Photo Album: The Golden Age of American Motoring

November 9, 2011

My parents often talk of, reminisce and relate amusing tales of their younger years (specifically, their teenage driving years in the 1950′s) when almost everything was cloaked in a veil of ‘fun times ahead’ sprinkled with an overall dash of ‘everything’s-gonna-be-juuust-fine’… You know – gleaming post-war stuff, when times were far simpler, less crowded and complicated (I’d be down for that) and opportunities were embellished with an open-wide feeling of hope and (at times, manufactured) happiness.

Fridges for every home. A garage for every man. Nylons for every woman. A baseball mitt for every little Jimmy. A dolly for every little Susie…

Ok, so maybe that’s grabbing into the catalogue of 1950′s societal stereotypes with slightly naive eyes and ears, but I’ve always found it fascinating to look back at the outlandish automotive styling efforts (and ads) of this ‘carefree’ era when only a high-school science exam would induce any sort of maniacal co2 concerns and rear wings on cars were, well… actual wings.

Here’s a glance back to that unforgettable Golden Age of American motoring…

1955 Ford Thunderbird - dogs and jolly milkmen-approved

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convert

1960 Plymouth Fury

1959 Chevrolet Impala 2Dr hardtop - inspiration for the Shelby Tuatara supercar..?!

1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria

1958 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan - could you imagine encountering moments of oversteer...?

1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V Four Door Landau

1957 Buick Roadmaster 2 Door Hardtop

1957 Lincoln Premiere four-door Landau - nice.

1959 Buick 2 Door Convertible - plus room for 6 in the trunk

1959 Edsel Citation - Ford lost $350 million ($1.55 billion in 2011 money) on this monger

1958 De Soto

1959 Mercury Colony Park Country Cruiser - bring back real wood panelling..!!

1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special - the Daddy

1958 Dodge Custom Sierra - for Mommy...?

1949 Oldsmobile 88

1959 Ford Thunderbird Convertible - "Oh look, someone has fallen down over there..."

1949 Kaiser Virginian

1960 Imperial Crown Convertible - "Oh, y'know... was just going for a drive around the pool"

1953 Studebaker Commander

1949 Pontiac Four Door

1960 Chevrolet Impala Four Door Hardtop - innocently classy-looking woman...about to do donuts

1959 Mercury Four Door Hardtop - "Sweetheart, really..? Up the stairs even...?"

1955 Oldsmobile Super 88 Two-Door Sedan

1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

1954 Mercury Sun Valley

1960 Chrysler Valiant - Drive-thru 'Motor Banking'... someone looks paranoid

1960 De Soto Fireflite

1960 Chevrolet Corvair - "What, fire issues..? Pfft... looking away..."

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz - The behemoth...

1960 Mercury Colony Park Country Cruiser - I'd be just as jubilent with that awesome wood panelling...

1956 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville - she has that look of being smugly impressed

1957 Dodge Royal Lancer

1960 Dodge Dart Pioneer - Now there's a rear-end inspired by Jet-engines of the day... holy cow!

1957 Lincoln Premiere

1960 Dodge Polara Matador - gettin' a bit greedy with the wings methinks...

1950 Studebaker Starlight - loving the rear window layout...

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible - ah, the elegant classic

-Blake J.
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