Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cars in Yards: 1973 Gran Torino Sport

“I put blocks under it to keep it off the ground,” said the man with the yellow 1973 Ford Gran Torino Sport parked deep in his yard.  Robert Champion’s lawn has been home to his brother’s Gran Torino for more than a decade.  This relic from the muscle car meltdown years deserved a closer look. It appeared to be in much better shape from the road.

Champion’s brother, Bobby, bought the nearly new Gran Torino in 1974.  He sold his tired 1967 Chevelle SS to a family member for a few hundred dollars and started driving the fastback Ford.  It is still equipped with Ford’s last production year of the 351-cubic-inch Cleveland V8 engine and 2-barrel carburetor.  Bobby drove the Ford for the better part of two decades before  mechanical issues forced him to park it.  “Bobby’s been saying for several years that he plans to fix it up someday,” said Champion, “but I don’t know if he will ever get around to it.” 

The Gran Torino Sport will remain in Robert’s yard until his brother or the elements claim it.  So far, the bright yellow fastback is losing its battle with Mother Nature.  Old yeller, as I call it, has been a landmark for residents that get turned around in Mr. Champion’s Pinson, Alabama neighborhood.  Like it or not, old cars tend to disappear when you least expect it.  This landmark vehicle will eventually be claimed for a restoration , parts or scrapped out.  See another example here of another ‘Car in Yards’ that vanished not long after I documented its existence.

Love thy neighbor
Let this be a lesson to neighbors who view old cars wilting on the lawn next door as an eyesore.  It’s brotherly love, people!  Any good brother or sister would gladly provide storage space for an older vehicle that holds nostalgic memories for their loved ones.  One day you may be lucky enough to have a ‘project’ in your yard.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Cars in Yards: Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Did you see that! I slowed the van down to look back. A Volkswagen Karmann Ghia abandoned on an island of weeds. This lawn ornament sat a dozen feet from a busy highway in Montevallo, Alabama. I wanted to turn around and get a photo. Cars in yards tend to disappear when you least expect it. My wife said we could take a picture when we drove back home. We, make that my wife, took the photo on our way home. My love for all things automotive continues.
Many times I 've wished I had my camera or had time to stop and check out a cool automobile. Cars or trucks sitting in the weeds attract my attention immediately for two reasons. Number one, they are likely older vehicles and, two, their owner may be ready to part with them for a bargain price. The second reason makes my wife cringe any time I slow down to look at an old car. On this occasion she knows I'm at my limit of automobiles and I'm no threat to go knock on the door at this house. She is very supportive of my automotive hobby, but knows I can go overboard. I admit that we currently own too many cars. Between the two of us we have three kids and seven cars. Our oldest child is 7 -- eight years removed from a drivers permit. Ridiculous, I know. But think of it as recycling.
Do you have a hunger for similar roadside attractions? Send your car photos to Junkyardlife.
How many of you have more cars than people at your house? Share your car collection with us, send photos to Junkyardlife

Friday, December 4, 2009

1936 Cord a roadside rarity

What do you do when you drive-by a rough-looking but rare car? You take a photo of it like Michael K. Joachim did. Joachim of Pelham, Alabama spotted this 1936 Cord 810 Westchester at an automotive repair shop in Roswell, Georgia recently. Joachim knew this was a rare car at first glance. "I've never seen one of these outside of a museum," he noted. Joachim found out that the car does run and drive and belongs to a customer at the repair shop.

Cords competed for the American luxury car dollar with Duesenberg and Auburn. Cord built four door sedans along with two and four door convertible phaeton models. All Cords featured front-wheel-drive and V8 engines. Their hide-away headlights are operated by small chrome hand cranks on each side of the dash. Door hinges are mounted inside the doorjambs instead of externally. These features made for a sleek, advanced vehicle in 1936. According to Hemmings Motor News about 3,000 Cords were built in 1936 and 1937 and it is estimated that about 1,800 survive. A 1936 Cord 810 Westchester Sedan sold new for $1,995, and today is worth between $25,000-$60,000 according to Hemmings.

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1936 Cord facts
  • Unit body construction with a front subframe
  • First American car with horn ring on steering wheel 
  • Hidden headlamps
  • All-steel roof on sedans (no fabric insert)
  • No running boards (deemed old fashioned)
  • Gordon Buehrig designed the Cord 810 and 812 models. He also designed  the Deusenberg Model J and the 1935 Auburn 851 boattail Speedster

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cars in Yards: 1957 Cadillac with Elvis’ touch

How often do you see a 1957 Cadillac hardtop coupe bought by Elvis Presley parked on the roadside? This long-suffering Cadillac’s current owner, Herman, bought the car from an old friend of Elvis Presley’s mother. The story goes like this. “Elvis bought the car for a friend of his mama,” Herman told me. “Elvis’ mama’s friend lived in Center Point, Alabama,” when Herman bought the car, “25 or so years ago.” When I circled the Cadillac I felt the year ’75 recessed in the car’s rusty 'Heart of Dixie'  license plate. Herman had plans to restore the car when he bought it. Those plans took a backseat for a quite few years. He still hopes to get the Cadillac out of the weather before it’s too late. The car remains a landmark of sorts for area residents but how many of them know that Elvis Presley, the king of rock ’n roll, once held onto its keys? 

For three decades this Harley Earl-designed Caddy has been standing watch at the end of a long dirt driveway not far from Herman’s business. People stop and ask if the car is for sale often. It’s not hard to wonder why. The car was once a majestic piece of General Motor's chrome-laden legacy. Elvis’ Cadillac connection may inspire someone to make Herman an offer he can’t refuse. Right now the legend and legacy of a 1957 Cadillac coupe lives on a well-traveled road in the most populated county in the state of Alabama.

If you know more about this car or want to share your cool car stories and photos send them here. Click on images for larger photos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1965 Corvette - Readers Ride

We can all dream, right?  Junkyardlife readers are well aware that they could hit the lottery and be forced to park their beater car and start driving an investment car — a vehicle they could and would drive anywhere just because they can.  This Readers Rides 1965 Corvette probably held its value better than your 401K too.

Karen Dorsett owns her dream car. Dorsett first laid eyes on Chevrolet’s second generation 2-seat sports car when she was a teen.  Captivated by Corvettes, her youthful exuberance would take over.  When she spotted one driving down the street she would point and shout, ‘Sting Ray!’  The appeal of mid-sixties Vettes remained in 2001 when Dorsett went to see this blue coupe.  Dorsett was in love the minute the former owner rolled the Vette out of its storage space. It had to be hers.  A deal was made and now Dorsett owns this attention-grabbing ’65 Corvette.  Who says dreams don’t come true. 

The original 300-horsepower, 327-cubic-inch engine and 4-speed transmission give Dorsett’s fiberglass beauty plenty of motivation.  Throaty side exhaust pipes sing small block music when Dorsett takes her Corvette out for a spin.  Chevrolet built 23,562 Corvettes for the 1965 model year — 8,186 coupes, 15,376 convertibles.  Of those, 6,022 were painted Nassau Blue like Dorsett’s.  It’s easy to see why it was the most popular Corvette color that year with more than 25% of total production painted Nassau Blue. 

Pride and joy
Dorsett acts as curator, maintaining the spotless Corvette.  Her car is parked smack dab in the center of a large garage, creating the perfect showplace for Dorsett’s dream car.  When we parted with the Corvette and shut the garage door, Dorsett was smiling.  Her smile was tinged with the giddy excitement of a teen who just spotted her first Sting Ray in 1965.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

More 4-door fun: 1956 Chevrolet

1956 Chevrolets get the least amount of love from would-be Tri-Five owners. Tri-Fives being 1955, 1956 and 1957 Chevys. I’ve always had an affinity for the middle child of Chevrolet’s Tri-Five trinity. My dream car was a ’56 Bel Air 2-door post that my dad owned during my high school years. It was black with a Muncie 4-speed and a 396-cubic inch Chevy big block. A Dana 60 rear end with 3.73 gears transfered the power to the blacktop. The trunk was butchered and filled with shabby home-made wheel well tubs. I didn’t care about craftsmanship. There was plenty of room for giant rear tires that I never got to vaporize at the drag strip. I can still feel the velour diamond tuck and roll seats and Grant steering wheel in my once 16-year old hands. Anytime I see a ’56 Chevy, I remind my dad that he should have kept that car for me. Life happens and things always change. The ’56 was sold for around $2,600 in the late 1980’s. My dad also ended up selling the red ’55 Chevy 210 he owned at the time. He was one 1957 Chevy away from owning a complete set of Tri-Five Chevrolets. It’s been twenty-one years since those memories were burned into my consciousness. Seeing this old 1956 Chevy 4-door was just what I needed for a walk down memory lane. I hope you enjoy it as well.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are 1957 Chevy 4-doors cool yet?

Four-door is an ugly word in many car circles. For decades, teenagers have been taunted for driving their 'mama's car' should they be burdened with two extra doors. It was as if a ‘more’ door branded you as only qualified for life in the slow lane. The 1957 Chevrolet has been ballyhooed as the most recognizable car in the world by folks in many automotive circles. Do four doors, a functional convenience feature, still make 1957 Chevrolets second-class citizens?

A co-worker of mine traded his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door for a new pick-up truck in 1994. The dealership gave him $1,500 towards his new truck in return for one of Chevrolet's iconic classics, albeit the four-door variety. A short time before he parted with the four door '57, he sold his 2-door 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. The red 2-door was drivable, but in need of restoration, it brought $10,000. Those two bonus doors made a big difference in value 15 years ago. What about now?
Will the cool factor find favor in four-door classics? Will the 2-door varieties become too scarce and expensive? Let me know at junkyardlife. Check out these recent photos of a 1957 Chevy four-door languishing in the weeds. Would you save it? Use it for parts on your two-door project? Let me know. You can leave comments or send me an email here.
Click on photos for much larger images.

This 4-door black and white 1957 Chevy would make a good patrol car.

This ’57 Chevy sports Bel Air trim

This 1957 Chevy was hauled from Texas to Alabama.

Look a 1957 Chevy. Oh no, its a more-door!

Are inline sixes, 2 cylinders less cool?

Red wheel center with Two Ten on it.

’57 Chevy kissing bumpers with a Dodge.