Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cars in Yards: 1967 Mercury Cougar

Green without envy. Jack stands held the 1967 Cougar’s nose high and prevented its wheels from sinking into the earth. That was my first clue that somebody still cared for the car. I saw the Mercury in John Thomas’ yard. His home, located down a seldom traveled road in north Alabama is one that passersby rarely make a habit of stopping at to inquire about old vehicles. But, I’m not one to pass up an old car in the weeds. I needed a closer look.

Distinctive tail lights on the classy 1967 Mercury Cougar.
  John Thomas knew that the time to find the Cougar a new home had long since passed. I met Thomas, a certified country gentleman, after making friends with his two large hunting dogs. The dogs slowed my approach to the front porch and made a lot of noise. Thomas hollered at the dogs as he peered through the screen door. We talked cars, family, and gardening. He gave me permission to look at the Mercury. Yes, the car was for sale.

The Cougar retains all the interior parts along with a few piles of trash.
Cougar interior complete and loaded with options. 

Walk around 
  Raising the Cougar off the ground is a common tool used in outdoor automotive preservation. Moving the steel belly of a car as far away from the moisture in the dirt is always a good idea. It’s said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Bricks on the other hand, found scattered across the car, failed as adequate support for the withering tarp used to shield the ’67 Mercury Cougar. 
  The fender, and cowl area were damaged when a tree limb sledge-hammered the bricks into the Inverness Green Mercury. The busted-up windshield adding insult to injury. Keeping water out and away from a classic car is mandatory when it lives under the stars.

Tires all flat.
A good looking color combo with the green and white.

Too good to be true
  A dynamic visual combination of white top, green paint, white interior, and 5-spoke Cragar mags. Most of the paint looked shiny and still clung to the body. I could easily imagine how good this car looked a few decades ago. The tag above the rear bumper dated 1991. A time when Thomas’ daughter drove the car to high school. 
  The years since those high school glory years had not been kind to the metal on the flanks and belly of the Mercury. Rust and varmints had set-up shop in the trunk.  

1991 is the year on the license plate.

Was it worth buying?
It’s been five years since I took these photos and balked at Thomas’ modest asking price. Too much work for a run-of-the-mill Cougar, I thought. I dug the photos up last week and gave him a call. Thomas didn’t remember me
  “I sold the car to a neighbor,” Thomas said. “He’s gonna restore it. What is it you want?” 
  I ended the out-of-the-blue phone call after a few of my follow-up questions were brushed off. I guess I just wanted to know that somebody saved the car. Whether it was to be restored or harvested for parts. 
  I dropped the ball but I can sleep a little easier now.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

2-barrell carburetor and stock everything under the hood.
A 289-V8 engine with 2-barrel carburetor under the hood of the ’67 Cougar.
1967 Cougar showing 37,699 miles, but probably rolled over once.

Source: Cougar Club of America, Marti Auto Works

Not a good idea when storing outside where tree limbs can damage the car.
Bricks were used to hold tarp on top of the Cougar.
Can you spot the hidden Cougar? Mercury built more than 150,00 in 1967.

Style in spades - hideaway headlights on the first gen Cougar.

Old cars in yards tend to gather debris inside over time.

White interior still looks complete.
Back seat is full of the same – trash and various junk.

Protecting the vinyl top, notorious for trapping moisture, was a top priority.

A cement mixer and various equipment surround the one-time family car.

How the ’67 Cougar looked when I first saw it.

Mustang genetics are evident but Cougars were sold as an upscale man’s car. This one wears aftermarket Cragar 5-spoke wheels.

Paint looked good from 50-feet away, but rust visible on hood where green peeled off. Pans, cancer under the vinyl and quarter panel and trunk issues scared me away.

Cougar emblem hiding atop the hideaway headlight cover.
Look close at any possible project car you find. You may discover a diamond in the rough.

Dyou have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to junkyardbull@gmail.com 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser in the Georgia woods really stinks

The weathered wagon has all it roof glass intact, not so much on the tail gate.
Cruising the woods for a Vista. Finding a 1970 Vista Cruiser in the woods is unlikely. Our dream wagon viewed in the wild. Would you brave nature for a rare Oldsmobile wagon? We would! We did! It was indeed a Vista Cruiser that I dubbed “The Green Wagon of Green Envy and Green Ivy” during our deep woods exploration in Georgia. One glance, and the unmistakable mirrored-glass roof, had us charging through the trees for a closer look.

  It has been noted that, apparently, Junkyard Life spends a lot of time in the woods. Our adventure-prone staff of car dorks really pay our dues to do what we love. I (Ron) don’t mind the potential snake sighting, but hate the heat. Anthony hates snakes, but does not mind the heat. Jody tolerates the heat, but seems to attract ticks and mosquitoes. Keith isn’t thrilled about either extreme temperature and has a talent for finding sticker bushes and briers. We would endure all of that and more for a chance to crawl around a cool Vista Wagon like this one. 

Even covered in years pine straw the shiny roof rack gleams.
Covered in mounds of pine straw the shiny roof rack gleams like a crown atop the 1970 Olds Vista Cruiser.

Vista wagon at a glance 
  There is a lot to notice on this 1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. First up, this weathered wagon is in the woods. Here we are again! After applying a large amount of insect repellent we begin to dive into the details that once made this wagon a little special. Our Vista radars picked up on the famous roof glass from a distance. We absolutely love these roof lines and everything about them (see fun facts). 
Something stinks
  The seeing part only got better from there. That is the seeing and not the smelling. Something died under, or very near, this awesome wagon (what a way to go!) and it let us know with quite a stench. Shoo-wee.

Ron Kidd surveys his dream ’70 Vista Cruiser wagon in the woods.  A quick way to tell this is a 1970 model is the tail lights. The “tell tail” sign is the tiny silver trim on the ridges. A classy touch indeed, and highly sought after by us Vista guys.

Glass is busted on the tailgate but the VIsta glass is still intact.
  Next, take note of the way cool rear air deflector. Darn it, another thing we Vista guys want. Stay tuned to Junkyard Life for a future investigation on what these rear spoilers actually did. Were they to fend off toxic exhaust fumes to allow fair weather cruising with the rear window down? Was it a wind noise thing? Was it purely aesthetic?

This had to be a 455-powered beast.
  An odd color combination to be sure. The Vista wears light green paint with dark green interior. Add the wood grain and this combination was a surefire winner when new. Also, 1970 models had a better chance of having a 12-bolt rear with the optional limited-slip differential. I have noticed that most of the 12-bolt Olds units were not posi-traction. Judging from the host of other options, this had to be a 455-powered beast.

Despite the stench, we did get close enough to confirm a couple of things that made us jealous. Power windows! Most Vista Cruisers came with a power rear window. That usually means one power window and four more with manual cranks. Not in this case! Buzz me up-buzz me down. Those rich folks….
  This wagon is packing quite a list of options. Despite the stench, we did get close enough to confirm a couple of things that made us jealous. Power windows! Most Vista Cruisers came with a power rear window. That usually means one power window and four more with manual cranks. Not in this case! Buzz me up-buzz me down. Those rich folks…must have been a hefty price.

Jealous again
  Next on my jealous Vista guy list is the cruise control. The power switch was mounted on the lower dash beside the power rear window switch. We could only take quick oxygen-deprived mini glances at this wagon, but judging from this picture, surprisingly it did not have a tilt column. Cruise control, but no tilt wheel?  Well, ours doesn’t have those either — yet.

Despite the stench, we did get close enough to confirm a couple of things that made us jealous. Power windows! Most Vista Cruisers came with a power rear window. That usually means one power window and four more with manual cranks. Not in this case! Buzz me up-buzz me down. Those rich folks….
See the power window switch? The vent windows were still manual. I am inclined to believe that power vent windows were never a thing on Cutlass or Vista wagons.

I went to the woods...
  So once again, Junkyard Life takes to the woods and returns with a camera full of fruitful bounty. Inspiration to move forth on our own 1972 Vista wagon project was found. We love station wagons and we adore Oldsmobile’s entry into the mid-size wagon market with their almost exclusive window glass. This hefty classic could have been taken over the scales, but has evaded the crusher. Hopefully, someone like us will acquire it. Someone very much like us. Okay, actually us. We can hope.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Ron’s Vista Cruiser Fun Facts:
  • The first Olds Vista Cruiser wagon was introduced in 1964. It was a huge hit – adding a sporty feel to a family car.
  • The Vista Cruiser was among the first station wagons to have a forward facing third-row seat. Noted for safety reasons, this was a plus for parents. But more fun for children, as they liked the rear facing third seats to help with shenanigans.  
  • The Vista Cruiser was so named because of the famous roof glass. The word “vista” means view.
  • There was one other wagon GM offered with the Vista Glass – the Buick Sport Wagon. However, the run on Buick was cut short by two year models when they discontinued the Buick Sport Wagon in 1970.
  • Even though the Vista Cruiser was technically still in production after 1972, wagon enthusiast tend to get less excited because 1973 and later Vista Cruisers did not have roof glass.
  • An elusive option, most often found on 1972 wagons, is the mirrored roof glass that deflects heat.
  • Reproduction roof glass for Vista Cruisers at this time is not being reproduced and owners get very nervous in storms.
  • The Vista Cruiser has been a Hollywood favorite. The way cool wagon has made appearances in several TV shows and movies: The Fall Guy, The Richie Rich Movie, That 70’s Show, Swingtown, and Miss March to name a few.
  • Most Vista Cruisers came with the Dual-Action tailgate. This cool option allowed the rear door to swing open like a door, or to fold flat out, like a tailgate. It even had a special section of the bumper that opens to allow the user to have a step to access the optional roof rack.  
  • Sitting in the middle seat of a Vista Cruiser is a treat. The combination of the rear roof glass and the Vista window give you the feeling of having no window at all and a great view of the world on a clear night.

The ’70 Olds Vista Cruiser was among dozens of Oldsmobiles that the owner had collected on his property in Georgia.

This cool option allowed the rear door to swing open like a door, or to fold flat out, like a tailgate. It even had a special section of the bumper that opens to allow the user to have a step to access the optional roof rack.
The rear bumper has a hidden step that opens to allow the user to step up to access the optional roof rack.

Windows abound.
Windows abound from inside the rear of the 1970 Olds Vista Cruiser.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Got a cool car story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net & Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com

    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    Hunting for a 1968 Golden Nugget Special in a Mustang graveyard

    The rough, gold, pony car has been off the road for decades.

    There’s gold in them there hills. Recently, Junkyard Life was given a crash course in rare edition Mustangs. More specifically, the 1968 Golden Nugget Special Mustang. It started when we were having lunch with Junkyard Life brother, Chris Sanderson, and he mentioned that his parents owned a Mustang that could very well have been a Golden Nugget. After pretending that we actually knew what that was, we did a bit of research, and learned some very interesting things regarding this elusive collectible.

    Stored in a makeshift junkyard with 30-or-so Mustangs.
    Tail lights and possibly Sunlit Gold paint on what could be a 1968 Golden Nugget Special Mustang.

    Go west, young man
      One reason we were not aware of this pony package is because they were not sold in our area. We live in the southeast United States and Golden Nugget Specials were a west coast promotion. Much like the original gold rush, Ford only told pony prospectors in the Oregon and Washington area. 
      You thought I was going to say California, didn’t you? I still have to cry foul, seeing as California seemed to get all the limited editions and special packages. Those California dealers would’ve had no trouble finding a Golden Nugget ’Stang and offer to do some horse trading for one, due to their proximity.

    Copy says only 525 GNS were offered for sale, some sya only 481 were built and sold.
    Magazine ad notes that only 525 Golden Nuggets were offered for sale, some sources claim only 481 were built and sold.

    Golden history
      The year was 1967 and Ford had a runaway hit on their hands with the versatile Mustang. They couldn’t stop selling them if they tried. During the previous year, they sold their one-millionth Mustang. 1968 would be another blockbuster sales year, despite the late introduction of the competitive Chevrolet Camaro, and, the even later, Pontiac Firebird. Perhaps Ford maintained a series of special edition Mustangs out west to show their appreciation to the automotive-obsessed buyers on the west coast, who accounted for 20% of all Mustangs sold. The California Special and Golden Nugget Special would lure buyers looking to stand out in a sea of ’Stangs. 
      Golden Nugget Mustangs were marketed in Seattle’s sales area, which included Washington state, Oregon, and Alaska. Vintage magazine advertisements do not specifically mention a dealership. To us, that indicates that they were not ordered by any one imaginative dealer. 

    All Golden Nugget Special Mustangs were coupe bodies.
    A black vinyl top was part of the 1968 Golden Nugget Specials features. The vinyl covering is long gone but there’s evidence a vinyl top once lived here.

    No gold bullets, so far 
      The 1968 Gold Nugget Mustang had a few distinguishing characteristics and still leaves a few mysteries. Sources agree on the vinyl top, but not so much a color. Golden Nuggets could be special ordered in any available Mustang color. The GNS was not so much a performance option, as it was an appearance package. I noticed many different engine and transmission combos. However, I didn’t read up on a Golden Nugget with a 390 engine. That would be interesting.

    Golden Nugget Special Mustangs featured a center-mounted dash plaque, with owners name as part of the GNS option.

    There may not be gold in them there hills
      Picture this — when Chris Sanderson mentioned that his family owned this car, possibly an original Golden Nugget, we high-fived and invited ourselves over for a look. We totally missed the part where Chris told us the car was unverifiable. He tried to tell us. 
      But wait, this Mustang does have a few options associated with a Golden Nugget. Such as, it does indeed have a vinyl top, and a rear window defroster. However, a gold Mustang does not a Golden Nugget make. It has several clues to make a Golden Nugget prospector suspicious. The one thing that could end the suspicion is missing. The most important clue — the VIN number. 
      Why, oh why, would Ford put such important information on the driver’s door? The most frequently used part of the entire car. Also, a very easily substituted item. One that could be replaced with an entirely different and incorrect VIN and trim codes. Very frustrating for Junkyard Life detectives, indeed. Chris did try to tell us, but we had gold fever and couldn’t be told anything.  

    No question about it
      We may not have actually discovered a Golden Nugget in this stash. The hood was questionable. It did not appear to be original equipment, thus lacking the black stripes of a GNS. Also, the driver’s side door had been replaced with another unoriginal door. This one was green. Let’s look at it like this Junkyard Life got to spend the day with the Sandersons and their awesome collection of Mustang stash. So, even if it is not a Golden Nugget, our day was totally worth it!

    Ron Kidd
    — Junkyard Life

    Could this be a true 289-2 barrel, auto Golden Nugget?
    289 emblem on this 1968 Ford Mustang does not help us decide whether this is a real GNS. Golden Nugget Specials came with various engine and transmission options.

    This first gen Mustang is among more than 30 owned by Sanderson’s family.
    Jody Potter, Chris Sanderson, and Ron Kidd crawled around at least three dozens Mustangs in this ponycar graveyard.

    But, no clues exist to tell us the truth.
    No clues are left to decipher whether this is a true Golden Nugget. Wrong hood. Wrong door – no door data plate. No dash plaque. We can’t say for certain that it isn’t a Golden Nugget.We’ll keep the dream alive because this old Mustang ain’t moving.

    Ron’s 1968 Mustang Fun Facts:
    • The original “Bullitt” Mustang was not actually Ford approved. That was why the beautiful green fastback, in the movie Bullitt, had all of the emblems removed. 
    • Several sources cannot agree on what actually powered the famous Bullitt car. We know it was a four speed, but was it the 390 or the 302? Junkyard Life surmises it could have been both, seeing as they had to use a few cars.
    • 1968 Mustangs used a special steering wheel that some people loved. Some buyers hated. We love it. If we had a 1968, it would for sure have this wheel. That is a fact.

    Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Got a cool car story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net & Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com