Monday, August 27, 2012

Junkyard Life Find of the Day: Car club's classic stash for sale in Pennsylvania field

Field of dream cars. More than 75 classic cars are for sale in Watsontown, Pennsylvania. Two Mid-Atlantic-area car clubs folded and decided to sell off their collection of cars. Their vintage iron has occupied a remote farm for decades. Most of the cars were hauled in to save them from the crusher many years ago. Property owner and manager of the sale, Stanley, says everything is for sale but they aren't giving it away.
  "I have guys come in here wanting to buy five or six cars for $50 each," Stanley said. "No way, that's going to happen. We sell the whole cars, not parts."
  Stanley can be reached at 570-538-3464. Be prepared to pay what he deems a fair price and don't show up unannounced. Many of the cars spent time in a barn, helping to preserve their condition.
  Many thanks to John Berkan who sent us these photos to spread the word and save some classic cars.

1955 Imperial

Rare finds
  Among the most-notable cars that have yet to be sold are a 1955 Imperial two-door hardtop, one-of-3,418 built. Stanley says the price is $5,000. A big, red 1972 Olds Delta 88 Royale convertible is ready for restoration and its one-of-2,883 built according to Stanley. Also, who cuold resist a 1963 Mercury Marauder fastback priced at $2,500? 
  I bet a few dream cars are waiting in that field just for you. Good luck!

– Jody Potter, 

1948 Lincoln

1953 Pontiac Starchief

1954 Kaiser Manhattan

1956 Dodge Coronet Lancer

1957 Cadillac Series 62, four-door hard top

1963 Mercury Marauder, $2,500.

1968 Plymouth Sport Fury

1972 Olds Delta 88 Royale convertible

1973 Chevy Monte Carlo

Late 1972 Buick Sport Wagon

Do you know where a classic or muscle car is parked in the weeds, send photos and an address. We’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cars in Yards: 1976 Buick Century Free Spirit Indy Pace Car needs a boost of restoration rehab

Junk yard flashback! It was déjà vu when I spotted a 1976 Buick Century Free Spirit pace car replica in the May 2012 issue of “Hemmings Muscle Machines.” I’m a huge fan of automotive art, graphics and decals when they are well executed. My buddy, Ron Kidd, located a decal derelict Buick near Birmingham, Alabama. I could not remember ever witnessing one of these on the road. Once I saw the bold Free Spirit pace car in person, I added it to my bucket list of must-own vehicles. These pace car replicas grab attention for all the right reasons. Plus, only 1,290 replicas were sold to the public. I was aching to work out a deal to make this basket case Buick mine. 

The 1976 Free Spirit pace car featured bucket seats, console shift, Rallye steering wheel and Hurst Hatch T-top roof.

“Where’s the Halloween party?” 
  A 1976 Buick Century doesn’t get the adrenalin pumping unless your staring into the hypnotic orange and black decals wrapped around a “Free Spirit” Indianapolis Pace Car replica. To some, like Ron Kidd, the dynamic Indy decals are too much.
  “Where’s the Halloween party, buddy?,” said Kidd.
  Psychedelic paint jobs were the norm during the 1970s, especially during the height of the van craze. It was fitting for a limited production pace car to make a splash in the bowling alley parking lot. Drive a a silver Buick with orange and black, billboard-sized decals along the body, bolt on some reddish-orange wheels and you will get noticed, in a good way, despite the green polyester suit. 

A yard full of old cars, which one stands out most? Buick Free Spirit pace car, or Mustang 2+2?

Selling "Free Spirit" memories 
  The owner, a thirty-something female who knew the pain of losing a loved one too soon, was reluctant to part with most of the dozen or so cars parked in the yard that once belonged to her dad. "I remember climbing in that Buick, with the long doors, when I was a child," she said. The Free Spirit could be bought, but the offer would have to be worth letting go of her memories.
  The thin coat of silver paint on the hood and fenders receded into a wave of rust. The lower body panels, all showed signs of rot. The floor pans would be the deal breaker for me. I needed a look inside to make a final decision, unfortunately the doors and trunk were stuck shut. The Buick's keys offered no help. The lock's cylinders were either stuck or the doors and trunk had welded themselves to the body. My $1,000 offer was contingent on finding solid panels, floor and trunk pans, to build the pace car.
  I looked around for advice in the faces of my junkyardlife cohorts. Shrugs and audible "Mmmmms" were the only advice I got. I walked away empty handed.

Pace Car replicas were sold with the artist's original design graphics on the 1976 Buick Century. The actual Pace Cars used at Indy featured a version of the "Free Spirit" decals that extended across the front fenders.

Decal designer smack down 
  Bill Mitchell, GM’s VP and head of the design staff in the 1970’s, was responsible for the extended graphics that appeared on the two turbocharged, Indy 500 pace cars used at the track. According to Gary Smith, Exterior Designer at GM on the 1976 Buick pace car, Mitchell wanted the decals changed despite his argument that they didn’t look as good.
  “One thing to note is that the real pace cars and the replicas differed graphically,” said Smith. “The idea was to have the shapes coming from the hawk like an abstract stop motion photos of flight. Bill Mitchell made me extend the graphics to the front of the car in front of the hawk for reasons unknown. His change didn’t make it into production. My guess is that it was cheaper to make. I think the shorter graphics look a great deal better.”

  Oddly enough, Bill Mitchell was responsible for nixing the large hood bird from appearing on the redesigned 1970 Pontiac Trans Am. Chief Designer John Schinella finally convinced Mitchell to offer the "Screaming Chicken" decal in 1973.

Buick spared no stickers or ad dollars to capture the attention of younger buyers with the redesigned '76 Century "Free Spirit" pace car replica.

Buick unleashes turbo at Indy 500
  A 306hp Buick turbocharged V-6 led the field to the green flag for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway in May of 1976. It was the first time a V-6 had that honor and it performed better than the beefy 455-cu. inch V-8 that Buick sent to perform pace car duties at the Indy race in 1975. The lighter weight '76 featured aluminum fenders, decklid and hood, a front air dam, 15 x 7-inch Minilite racing wheels, no mufflers and a single turbocharger that maintained 20-22 PSI of boost. 
  Turbo Buicks would later lay claim to legendary street/strip status when the blacked-out Grand National hit the boulevards in 1984. The turbo pace car was a precursor to greatness.

A 165hp Buick 350-cu. inch V-8 hides beneath the Free Spirit's striped hood.

No turbo on pace car replicas
  The one-off Buick turbo V-6 did not make it into the production version of the Century pace car replicas. Most sported a Buick 350 V-8 with a 4bbl Quadrajet.  Pace car replica buyers with a loaded option sheet grabbed a payment book with a tab of more than $7,000. A hefty sum that almost equaled a base model '76 Corvette's $7,600 window sticker. Membership in the pace car owner's club wasn't cheap. Base Buick Century's sold for $4,069.

Parts car or restoration?
  If someone saves this Buick pace car should it be parted-out or restored? The rehab on this Free Spirit will be costly and certainly test the mettle of a Buick loyalist. The desire to rescue a rare piece of Buick history will require deep pockets and an emotional attachment that outweighs any rewards this "Free Spirit"-ed investment may provide. 
  Have an opinion on this car? Leave a comment below.   

– Jody Potter,

Do you know where a classic or muscle car is parked in the weeds, send photos and an address. We’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Reddish-orange 15 x 7 Buick Rallye wheels highlighted the rolling rubber.

Country singer and part-time NASCAR driver, Marty Robbins wheeled the pace car at Indy in 1976.

Free Spirit pace car replicas featured an aluminum roof accent, T-tops, rear spoiler and blacked-out tail panel.

Try finding 1976 Free Spirit pace car replacement parts. This is the first one I've seen in person.

Buick unloaded 1,290 Indy pace car replicas to the public.

Do you know where a classic or muscle car is parked in the weeds, send photos and an address. We’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cars in Yards: 1958 Chrysler 300D, the 392 Hemi "letter car" put out to pasture

“Watch your step! There’s a 1958 Chrysler 300D parked in the cow pasture,” said Dennis. I ducked under the barbed wire fence and wove my way into a thicket of tall pine trees in north Alabama. I followed the owner toward an 18-foot-long, island of finned-decay. 
  Resting on a bed of pine needles sat the rusting hulk of a 1958 Chrysler 300D. One-of-618 hardtop coupes built for the 1958 model year. A 392-cubic inch Hemi lives in the engine bay and original 300D hubcaps are scattered inside the trunk. Unbelievable. 

1958 Chrysler 300D coupes in #1 condition have sold for more than $85,000 this year.

Designed for speed, looks
This ’58 300 is a massive chunk of oxidized steel that would make automotive designer, Virgil Exner weep. The huge fins that Exner designed on the "Forward Look" platform are just as impressive today as they were when they first rolled off the assembly line on 1957 Chrysler 300Cs. 
  A 1958 300D cost over $5,000 when new and came equipped with two, four-barrel carburetors or Bendix electronic fuel-injection on the Hemi-headed engine. Those power plants made 380hp and 390hp respectively. Chrysler built the fastest, most expensive and most powerful American production cars in 1958. These were cars for the rich and famous.

1958 marked last year for the Chrysler FirePower Hemi 392 in the 300 series.

Cover your car or rust will
Less than 200 Chrysler 300D coupes are known to exist according to That's a shame because nature has taken a toll during this 300D's 54-year life. The floor pans, trunk and body panels are nightmare. Swiss cheese has fewer holes and the decay doesn’t get better behind the glass. The interior matches the ugly on the outside.

1958 Chrysler 300Ds carried 4,305 lbs. on a 126-inch wheelbase.

Cow pies and Chryslers
Dennis, the owner of the 300D, is a hard-working paint and body man. Several years ago Dennis made a trade for the weather-worn ’58 Chrysler. Dennis has plans to use the 392-cu. inch Hemi engine in his 1931 Plymouth rat rod. The rusted remains of the 1958 300D are “put out to pasture,” as they say, while the rat rod project sits on the back burner. 
  Time is not on the 300D's side.

  Do you think this 300D should be saved or parted out for the rat rod? Leave a comment, maybe Dennis will listen to your advice?

– Jody Potter,

Do you know where a classic or muscle car is parked in the weeds, send photos and an address. We’re on the way!?  Send emails to

1958 Chrysler 300D hubcaps remain in trunk.

The 300D's hood, a crucial part, is missing along with the rear seat.  

TorqueFlight three-speed auto transmissions were standard on 1958 300Ds.

  1958 Chrysler 300Ds were loaded with options like 6-way power seats.

300 medallions were a staple of Chrysler's "letter cars"

1958 Chrysler 300 tail light lenses were smaller than on the ’57 model.

1958 Chrysler 300D vin# LC4 1337

Wide-mouth, egg crate grille and 4 headlights signaled a new era at Chrysler.

Do you know where a classic or muscle car is parked in the weeds, send photos and an address. We’re on the way!?  Send emails to

Chrysler 300 letter car production numbers, (1955-1965)

1955 Chrysler 300A (C-300)
 Coupe - 1,725 total

1956 Chrysler 300B
 Coupe - 1,102 total

1957 Chrysler 300C
 Coupe - 1,918
 Convertibles - 484
TOTAL - 2,402

1958 Chrysler 300D
 Coupe - 618
 Convertibles - 191
 TOTAL - 809

1959 Chrysler 300E
 Coupe - 522
 Convertibles - 125
 TOTAL - 647

1960 Chrysler 300F
 Coupe - 969
 Convertibles - 248
 TOTAL - 1,217

1961 Chrysler 300G
 Coupe - 1,280
 Convertibles - 337
 TOTAL - 1,617

1962 Chrysler 300H
 Coupe - 435
 Convertibles - 135
 TOTAL - 570

1963 Chrysler 300J
 Coupe - 400 total

1964 Chrysler 300K
 Coupe - 3,022
 Convertibles - 625
 TOTAL - 3,647

1965 Chrysler 300L
 Coupe - 2,405
 Convertibles - 440
 TOTAL - 2,845