Friday, February 28, 2014

Cars in Yards: Bumping into a 1973 Chevelle SS

1973 Chevy Chevelle SS sport big, fat bumpers that are unstoppable and inloved.

Bad to the bumper. Like a clenched jaw ready for a fight. The beefy, front bumper of a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS juts out from beneath the grille. That bumper was an unstoppable force and the unfortunate face of automotive design from 1973 through the early-1980s. The super-sized, shiny under bite was the result of federal bumper regulations enacted by Congress and the NHTSA for the ’73 model year. 
  Few would argue that these bumpers could not dish a fatal blow to newer, plastic-bumpered automobiles. However, no one is clamoring to restore these heavy, slow dinosaurs from the 1970s. Could it be the 3-inch offset between the cowcatcher bumper and the body? Hard-to-find filler panels that fill the gap between bumper and body? 
  Did these bumpers spell doom for a black, 1973 Super Sport that has spent decades rim deep in the north Georgia mud? The Chevelle’s body will rot into two halves before those bumper show any signs of wear.

Big bumpers and fastback roof make 1973 Chevy Chevelle SS look fast sitting still.
Olds wheel on rear, Buick wheel up front? That's the way we roll in a junkyard 1973 Chevelle SS.

Safety first, insurance companies a close second
  Automobiles became safer and cheaper to repair due to new regulations in 1973. Federal bumper regulations mandated that passenger car bumpers withstand 5 mph front and 2 mph rear impacts against a perpendicular barrier without damage to certain safety-related components such as headlamps and fuel systems. Something tells me that the sturdiest American bumpers ever bolted to the frame were produced for the 1973 model year.
  Wrecked – meaning pushed in toward the body – shock absorbing GM bumpers can be pulled out using a chain hoist and a tree. Little, or no damage is evident after they are lined-up in their original position. These bumpers may not have the energy-absorbing performance of modern cars but they are a heck of a lot cheaper to repair.  

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

1973 Chevy Chevelle SS in a junkyard next to a 1981 Renault LeCar.
Four, round tail lights and a unique decklid make the redesigned ’73 Chevelle an easy bet for savvy car spotters.

Massive bumpers signaled the 1973 model Chevelle.
Wide mouth ’73 Chevelle SS grille extends to edges of the massive front bumper. Yes, that’s a Corvair behind the SS.

Four tail lights and a unique decklid are found on 1973 Chevelles.
North Georgia is home for this neglected Super Sport.

Cars in yards: A 1973 Chevy Chevelle SS found next to a 1981 Renault LeCar.
Stationed beside the 1973 Chevelle SS sits a 1981 LeCar by Renault. First time a LeCar has been photographed in the wild in over 12 years.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cars in Yards: 1969 Camaro disappears but RS/SS Indy Pace Car keeps dream car hunt alive

1969 Chevy Camaro found neglected but not for sale. The muscle car soon disappeared.

Camaro hunting we will go. Not everyone has a burning desire to own a 1969 Camaro, like I do. From the first time that I laid eyes on one in 1977, at five years old, I decided the third-year Camaro design was flawless. I liked everything about the look of that LeMans Blue 1969 Camaro parked in the neighbor’s driveway. I promised myself, that one day, I would have my very own ’69 model.
  Unfortunately, I was hesitant to pick up the keys to my favorite Camaro when they were still a relative bargain. I passed on rust-free, daily drivers in the $3,500-to-$5,000 price range during the late-1980s and early-1990s. My wallet betrayed my wants. Four grand was a large chunk of change for a high school/college age kid.
  Sacrificing that money would have been a small price to pay to rid myself of ’69 Camaro fever. My dream car is now popular with millions of muscle car fans across the globe and prices reflect that demand.
  Now, I’m a high school kid trapped in a middle age body. My hunt continues for an affordable 1969 Camaro.

Not for sale? Really?
  The neglected, maroon 1969 Camaro (pictured above) was discovered in Cullman, Alabama in 2008. I thought this Camaro was my ticket to ride in my dream car on the cheap.
  These were my clues:
  •   Four tires, almost all flat. A good sign – for me. This car is not driven. 
  •   Parked on the far side of the driveway, away from the safety of the carport. 
  •   Owners don’t know what they have. They should protect my... I mean their investment.
  The owner, who was all too familiar with doorbell dingers, politely explained the reason why it wasn’t for sale and why I could never buy it. Undeterred, I continued to check on the status of the car periodically until it disappeared from the driveway in 2009. I can’t say I didn’t try.
  Several years passed and I was beginning to think that I would never see another 1969 Camaro “in the wild” so to speak. Until...

1969 Chevy Camaro Z10 RS/SS Pace Car found in woods in Ohio by Jim Kollat
This diamond in the rough 1969 Camaro RS/SS was found on the brink of destruction in Ohio.

The 1969 Camaro found in the woods
  Jim Kollat found a 1969 Chevy Camaro RS/SS Z10 Indy Pace Car in the woods in Ohio last year. The limited production Camaro was missing the drive train and front end but it is an actual Z10 Indy Pace Car coupe. One-of-400 built and this one features ivory houndstooth interior.
  The previous owner had stripped parts he needed from the ’69 Camaro and left the rest covered with a tarp in a field. Decades passed and the car was finally being loaded up for scrap when Kollat happened by.
  “These guys were pulling cars out of the woods with a 4-wheel-drive and a chain. I watched a Mustang get torn in half. I paid them cash to stay away from this one.” said Kollat.
  Kollat, now a hero of mine, purchased the Camaro just before it headed to the crusher. My 1969 Camaro hunt continues.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

1969 Chevy Camaro Z10 RS/SS Pace Car found in woods in Ohio by Jim Kollat
A 1969 Camaro RS/SS Indy Pace Car rides home on a wrecker after Jim Kollat hauled it out of a field.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Barn find: Brewster Green 1973 Pontiac Trans Am

Junkyard galoots go green! If you thought the days where you could find a collectible muscle car grazing in field were over, you are wrong (we were too). The Junkyard Life crew could not believe our eyes after seeing the Brewster Green, 1973 Pontiac Trans Am that our partner in grime, Anthony Powell, found in a field. So it shall be… Anthony will restore a dream car. What a Galoot!

  I’m not making this up. Anthony really did find this in a field. That lucky dog. Really, who finds a 1973 Brewster Green Trans Am in a field? Further irony exist in that it was sitting with a handful of early 1970’s Ford Mustangs. I wish I had a picture of that. Wait a minute...

Here, you can actually see a bit of a Mustang, but only after you get tired of the Brewster Green Trans Am in the foreground. So, you never actually see the Mustang.

In the office of King Powell’s Pontiac, you may notice a console not belonging in this car (4-speed console in an automatic transmission T/A). This ’73 has the optional deluxe interior we refer to as “horse collar” seats. These chairs keep the occupants planted in place and tend to grip you better than standard seats. Manual windows saved a few pounds and burns calories at the same time.

Close-up view of the 1973 T/A’s perfect and complete dash. A quick inventory reveals a host of high performance goodies like the eight grand tach and the 160 MPH speedo (standard in the Trans Am) and comfort options like tilt wheel and air conditioning.

Deluxe interior 1973 Trans Ams often came with these awesome map pockets on the door panels. His Majesty has room for the royal Tic Tacs.
(Author’s Note: the term “Royal Tic Tacs” has never been used in a Junkyard Life story ever before

Original hood bird and Brewster Green paint, shaker scoop from parts unknown.

What’s under the hood bird?
  Anthony discovered that the ’73 T/A has an un-original 455 engine and the factory 3:08 posi rear gear – this thing should really haul. What happened to the original 455 engine it was born with? We don’t know, but we did learn that the second owner left the Brewster Green T/A at a dealership to fix something and it returned home with another engine under the hood. The former owner surmises, “They took it for a ‘test drive’ and it didn’t fair so well.” 
  The car’s original history is unknown, but the second owner that I “sleuthed-up,” bought the car in 1976. He opted to trade-in his 1975 model Trans Am with a 400 engine, in exchange for this older model that had a 455 power plant. However, after speaking to the second owner by phone, he seemed to not be a car guy and was not excited about his old car being found and rescued. His loss.

Ron’s Accusation of Attempted Murder!
  That’s right. Murder. I accuse thee, Pontiac for the attempted murder of the Trans Am. Anthony does not agree with this point of view, and I know it is not the general consensus. Why would they want to kill the Trans Am? The best selling icon of sex appeal, glamour and rebellion all wrapped into one bird clad hood? Keep in mind this was years before the black and gold Special Edition model became a national addiction (and still has us in rehab).

Anthony washes his recently rescued, prized 1973 Pontiac despite near-freezing temperatures.

Bird of a different color
  An expanded color palette and broader wings were on the option list for 1973. Pontiac Trans Ams came in only 2 flavors prior to 1973 – Cameo White or Lucerne Blue. A bold white or blue stripe bisected these Birds and continued the white/blue T/A tradition set forth by the 1969 Trans Am.
  But, Pontiac’s feathers were about to be ruffled. 
  In 1970, designers tried to convince the powers-that-be that the newly re-styled Firebird needed a huge bird on the hood. Not just a yard bird, but a predatory Phoenix bird. They were met with a resounding, big fat “no”. They tried again in 1971 and 1972. Still “no”. 
  For the 1973 model year, upper management agreed to try the big bird design on the hood, but with a different color line-up. A quick spin of the color wheel was necessary before the big bird decal could spread its wings. Amazingly, only three colors were made available for the Trans Am. Lucerne Blue was dropped from the option list. 
  You could have had a deck of color cards to choose from for the Firebird and stealthy Formula, but only three in the Trans Am? What were they?

1973 Pontiac Trans Am paint options:
  • Buccaneer Red: America finally got to see a splash of color on the remaining muscle on the dealership floors. Red will sell.
  • Cameo White: We can picture this. Innocent color for a tire shredding machine. Major irony points. Classy color, it will sell.
  • Brewster Green: What? Really? After all the marketing research Pontiac had access to, why green? Grandma, come get your new Trans Am. (Author’s note: “Grandma, come get your new Trans Am” is yet another expression never before used on Junkyard Life)
Paint fail
  That is why I say Pontiac or GM tried to kill the Trans Am in 1973. They had access to all the marketing research about who was buying what. The demographic of the Trans Am buyer would NOT have wanted it green. Green was on the way out by 1973 and was synonymous with domestic settings and PTA meetings and not a Trans Am. The people who would buy a green car were probably not looking for a Trans Am, and the people buying a Trans Am would not want a green car.
  Murder, I say. They set-up the Trans Am to fail.

Ron Kidd digs out his green hat for the Brewster Green 1973 T/A’s homecoming party.

Last hurrah for muscle cars
  Remember Jim Wangers? The advertising hero of mine that kept Pontiac in trouble with the powers-that-be. He said that Pontiac was getting stodgy and losing their John DeLorean inspired excitement. Pontiac had an image all right. That’s what they wanted to change. Just a few years before they got into hot water for advertising that seemed to advocate street racing. Old fashioned “whip hinnie on the street” recipes for mean cars.
  So now, with insurance and fuel cost on the rise, that should have been the last hurrah for muscle cars packing a 455 engine. A Trans Am package on an otherwise docile car (except the Formula) was not going to help that image at all. Kill it. Then bury it in paint code 48 – Brewster Green. 

Ron Kidd and Pontiac loyalist gather around the 1973 T/A to bask in the glory of the rare Brewster Green Bird.

Sell like… 
  And they would have gotten away with it too… but we thwarted their evil plan and bought them anyway. We bought enough of them in 1973 to justify continued model years. Even after Chevrolet dropped the Z28 package on the competitive Camaro in 1975 and 1976 (and at times outselling the Firebird), Pontiac still gave us a Trans Am. Pontiac never regretted that decision after the release of the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie in 1977. Pontiac Trans Ams were flying off the dealership lots.

Rare and one-year only
  Well, Brewster Green was released only for the 1973 model year, never to return on the Trans Am line until a variation emerged in the early 1990’s. That fits us perfectly, because we love green, we love Trans Ams and we really love things that didn’t sell well in the first place. A 1973 Brewster Green Trans Am is at the top of our list of dream cars we never thought we would own. Very valuable and collectible by today’s standards. A total of 4,472 Pontiac Trans Ams were produced for the 1973 model year. Only 146 were painted Brewster Green.

This 1973 Trans Am now has a safe, dry resting spot until Anthony gets the rare Bird back on the road.

Come back for more
  Follow along as we bring this green machine into a new life. Anthony has it disassembled and has bins of re-finished parts. Check in from time to time and watch us hatch this green bird.
Happy Hunting!

Ron Kidd
—Junkyard Life

Solid floor pans and minimal rust make this 1973 Trans Am a keeper of Super Duty proportions.

Many Second Gen Trans Am have undergone the shaker hood scoop-to-hood attachment plan. Friends don't let friends bolt shaker hood scoops to the hood of a Trans Am.

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