Saturday, February 25, 2017

Doing things the "right way". What is a bodge? (It's kind of what this post is about)

This is the worst rust, check out the rest of the car! Could this be fixed economically?

I've always wanted one of theses. Nice! Only 700.00 listed on Craigs List as of 2/19/17 If only I wasn't buried in other projects. 

I have lately become a fan of European cars. I bought those two Jaguars. Like quite a lot of American car crazed kids I grew up admiring the glamorous imports.

I have subscriptions to two Euro car magazines, Jaguar World, (Natch) and Octane. Octane is a beautifully produced high quality magazine, covering classic European marques. with amazing photography and lush advertising. Think of it as Rodder's Journal for the truly Rich and Famous.

There are stories of complete restorations, rehabilitation's, and recommissions. Of course in the articles everything is done thoroughly and properly. Nothing is hastily cobbled together just to get the car back on the road. Because... Cost is no object.

In what kind of world can that statement be made?

Obviously these people are in a financial position that allows them to make their decisions without the compromises that we have to make every day. This statement isn't intended to vilify those that through heredity, good luck or hard work have scaled the economic ladder. Good for them.

We, on the other hand, are in a different situation. Limited resources applied to vehicles of limited value. In this same hand is our willingness and ability to get down and dirty, turn a wrench, visit junkyards, swap meets, and Craig's List to find what we need to complete out task at hand. Roaming through hardware stores, home improvement centers,and discount auto retailers like O'Reilly's and Pep Boys looking for the solutions to our problems.

Sometimes our solutions involve, Bondo, POR 15 (great stuff!), miracle epoxy fillers and adhesives, fiberglass, sheetmetal patches, screws, rivets and  seam sealer. Universal weatherstripping, turbo mufflers, flexible exhaust tubing, cheap seat covers, floormats, Kraco stereo systems. Not to mention; sand paper, rubbing compound, Meguiars cleaning wax, WD40, Liquid wrench, PB Blaster, cans and cans of spray primer and "close enough" touch up paint.

Ask for it by name,

All of this would be looked down upon by "our betters" or by others that would assume a position of judgement on our efforts.

Do I think that all work should be properly done, using the proper tools and procedures to the best of our ability? Of course. It is extremely satisfying to complete a job properly. Doing a proper brake job, turning the drum or rotor, replacing the springs and hardware, rebuilding the wheel cylinder or caliper. These are all mechanical tasks that are pretty straightforward. But what about repairing stained, torn and cracked front seats? What about fixing the headliner, or cracked or damaged dashboard? Or how about fixing the dented, faded bodywork or rusted floorboards? There are a lot of ways to proceed, which avenue you will pursue depends on a lot of factors.

My old Explorer  is a good example. While it was in pretty good shape, it was missing a hub cap, and several badges had been "ripped off." There is a minor scrape to the rt. rear door that looks like someone rubbed up against a concrete post. The interior is pretty good except the front seat bottoms are cracked and have some small rips. After 250k the front seatbelts are no longer so eager to roll themselves up when you open the door. Last week after the storm I finally decided to visit my local Pick and Pull yards to see what I could find. Before you go it's a good idea to go online and price out some of the parts you need so you can decide if P&P's price is really a bargain. I found that the "Ford" oval on the hatch lid cost around 40.00 to replace. I already knew that new replacement seatbelts are hard to find and quite expensive.

Since Explorers have been very popular in the Bay Area I figured I would find many to choose from on the lot. I was not disappointed. Family SUVs see a lot of hard service and inside trim pieces are often pretty beat. First off, I found the Ford oval and V8 fender badges on the same vehicle. I found a few cars with grey interiors and manged to find a couple of good seat belt assemblies. They were much more energetic in rolling up, and no wonder. The odometers of both vehicles indicated 115,000 miles and the other 125,000 miles. Those were over 120,000 miles less than on my Explorer!  Now some of you may think "how can you buy such an important piece of safety equipment at a junkyard?" "Shouldn't it be replaced with a new or rebuilt unit?"  Well, have you ever bought an old used car? I will bet that whatever the mileage, if the seatbelts worked and were not frayed or torn you probably didn't think too much about it. I used to install seatbelts at the GM assembly plant in Fremont Ca. There's no magic here. As long as the inertia lock and latches work and the fabric of the belt is not damaged, they should be good to go. All you need is a torx bit to remove and install them.

On the way out, I found an immaculate set of hubcaps in the rear of another Explorer. So how much did my my little journey to the "Valley of anguished metal"  set me back? All told, three emblems, two seat belts, and a chrome hubcap cost under 75.00, replacement warranty and tax included. Not bad since a new Ford oval cost half that much. I will report on the installation of these parts, as well as the paint touch up, and seat cover installation in a future post.

So wrecking yard parts are a good alternative source of material to fix up your car. Nothing wrong with sourcing your parts from there.

Other "backyard" methods of fixing damaged body work are familiar to us. I know that I have done bondo repairs to a few cars in my time. We all seem to think that we can do a good job pounding out the dents and slathering on the filler. Sometimes body repair mesh is used to span gaps and cracks, or fiberglass or epoxy products can be used to repair rusted spots. Floorboards are often repaired with sheetmetal panels that are either affixed with sheetmetal screws or my favorite thing, pop rivets. Is there anything so terrible in doing this?

First of all, any structural issues must be addressed. If supporting members are damaged, they must be repaired. Luckily, around here, most rust issues affect non structural areas like lower fenders, doors and quarter panels. They are cosmetic repairs, if the damage is structural and too extensive for reasonable replacement or repair, it's probably time to start a new project. Then rusted areas must be stabilized. Cut back affected metal, then seal with a good rust killer or sealer. I've had good luck with POR, paint and epoxy filler. Then you can cover the repair with bondo, if necessary. Bondo is like a sponge, soaking up and holding moisture causing even more rust damage. It hides under the paint and filler until those ominous blisters and bubbles pop up.

Mill Supply has panels for Camaros and Mustangs and more.

Welding in patch panels is a much better solution and there are a bunch of pre shaped panels available from multiple suppliers. The panels are usually oversized and are trimmed to fit, which provides a lot of latitude for their attachment. One example is Mill Supply Co. It makes a wide range of patch panels. There are all kinds of affordable welding rigs available now. Just be careful and don't burn down your house or garage with an errant spark!

An alternative would be using a flush riveting rig, like the one I bought from Eastwood supply. It allows you to make a flush repair without welding or brazing. It came with a tool used to form a stepped lip that the trimmed patch panel fits into. Drill some holes around the perimeter, use the flush rivet setting tool to make an indented seat in the patch and the underlying sheetmetal. After some test fitting and "massaging" apply the rust sealer to the back of the area. Then apply the body adhesive to the joint prior to riveting. After it dries, use the rust sealer and a little filler to smooth the repaired area. Sometimes you can't even detect the repair. I used it to repair the rusted "dog leg" behind the left door on my Datsun 240z. I got behind the area, and cleaned it up first. Wow, there was a lot of dirt in there, I guess it is dust that is drawn in somehow and mixes with the condensed or leaked moisture and forms mud that sits there and causes rust. After cleaning I swabbed down every place I could reach inside with foam brushes and a sponge attached to a length of coat hanger wire. There wasn't any factory applied rustproofing in this area. My treatment was an improvement. I then rebuilt part of the left rear wheel lip with the POR putty. You couldn't even tell that it was ever fixed after painting. Of course you could also just secure it with a couple of rivets and take it down to a body or welding shop that could run a bead or braze it in. Perhaps you could develop a relation ship with a local shop that might do this between other jobs. Of course the DIY  repair is pretty good on it's own.

After a few repairs, some bondo work etc. it might be a good time to get the whole car painted. Nothing makes a car look finished like a fresh coat of paint. My favorite paint shop in Fremont still has their 399.00 special going on until the end of February. That's a good deal! Yes, it's not going to look like Chip Foose did it in his shop, but by following the proper prep work, (which I covered in some of my earlier blogposts) you can achieve a satisfactory result. I am now a big fan of the cheap paint job. I was pleased with the job done on my '70 Mustang. I was very happy with my "design" of that car. The color, stance, wheels and overall look. I used inexpensive accessories like the racing mirrors, front spoiler, steering wheel and custom built grille and tallight panel, and matte black panels to create the look I wanted. Overall, I think I did a pretty good job creating a distinctive look for a common car. Could the execution have been better? Sure, a lot more time spent on body and paint preparation would have done wonders for the quality of the finish. But I didn't have an unlimited budget, and even if I did have more money available, how much more would I reasonably have spent? A man's got to know his and his car's limitations.

The owner/builder is always part of the process, and it seems,in the the picture. No wonder this shot was an out take.
Would I like to be able to do "everything" the right way? Sure I would. My inner craftsmen would love to be satisfied for a change. That would be quite a change. It would result in my spending much more money on my projects, which would mean I would probably lose even more money when I sell them!

"Si se puede!" Yes we can, and will!

Still, we carry on doing the best that we can. If you are able to keep your everyday driver fleet moving down the road, I salute you. I know that it's not always easy. If you are working on a favored project, and making progress, good for you. If you are doing the best you can, then I respect that.

Well, I've finally launched myself into the transmission swap of my XJS. The whole messy ordeal is underway. I will document my progress in following posts. As you can see, this will entail me getting down to into full dirty grease monkey status. I know that I'm getting a bit old for all this, but I'm ready to "gird my loins" (figuratively at least) for perhaps my final battle.

Still, I wish I had a place for that MGB GT!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The latest stage of human evolution, homo sapiens non erectus.

photo source: blog,

I was having a pretty relaxing morning wasting time, perusing CraigsList. I've discovered the "project car" listings. Hundreds of sad, incomplete, forgotten or abandoned cars that were probably bought with high hopes. Either the buyer was going to fix up their "dream" car, or maybe find a cheap classic, fix it and flip it for a quick buck. Hah! Easier said than done! Lots of these cars are offered up for sale stripped and partially disassembled, Minor rust damage is a lot more minor when it's described by the seller. "Ran when parked", no explanation needed there. This is not to say that there aren't some very good deals to be found listed there.

There can be a lot of satisfaction in just "owning" the car that you've dreamed about. Going out to the garage with a beverage in your hand, squatting down and checking out the car from various visual angles. You can even sit inside, grip the wheel and daydream, as long as the interior is not too disgusting. Maybe you know deep down inside that the chances that this car will ever roll under it's own power are pretty slim. but having it there gives you a point to focus your fantasies around. Besides now you are a (insert favorite dream car here) owner and have an excuse to talk your buddies ears off with your plans. Put that decal in the rear window of your truck! You can read up about the car and become an armchair expert on the marque. You can go to shows and rub elbows with the guys that are displaying their cars, and let them know that you are part of the fraternity.

I've spent a lot of time looking at the listings to see if I can stumble across a car, maybe one that I really haven't thought of for awhile, or never really considered, that can fire up my imagination and desire. What would I like to buy and fix up? I guess that I could look at finished cars listed for sale, instead of the sorrowful hulks listed as project cars, but the high prices commanded by these cars just kind of puts a damper on my fantasies. My rational mind will put the kibosh on those dreams before they even start getting rev'ed up.

Actually Peter Egan was discussing his friend's California winery

You might ask, "Don't you have a bunch of old cars at your house that you should be messing with right now?" That is correct, and I have been making some progress. To steal a line from one of Peter Egan's columns "Es dolce far niente" which he translated from the Italian as "It is sweet to do nothing,"  It's easier to exercise my fingers on the keyboard, than to get my hands dirty in the garage. Sometimes you do need a a little break. Besides it's raining, and cold, and my back kind of hurts. If I ask myself to prioritize, then I know that I've got to finish up the '96 Mustang first, The control arms are in. The package containing the tie rod ends and steering rack boots arrived a couple of weeks ago. I was going to swap the XJS and the '96 Mustang's spots in the garage yesterday. But I dragged my feet and now it's raining. Actually, something important did come up.

 "Somebody" decided that they needed the rear license plate on my truck more than I did. So now I had to spend time on the phone, reporting the theft to the police. I didn't want them showing up at my house, thinking that I had robbed a liquor store, or something even worse! The thief wasn't just looking for the year sticker, which was going to expire next month. They wanted the whole license plate, for their own nefarious reasons. So now I'm safe, my old plate is in the system as stolen. Now I just had to drive down to AAA and get a new set of plates. Luckily, it  only set me back twenty bucks and some time. That's life, and it could have been worse, they could have decided to steal the whole truck!

I think that there will be a break in the weather and I can make the swap a little later this afternoon. Time to get a little dirty. It is sweet to do nothing, but you shouldn't make a habit of it.


 Back about four posts ago I described the process of being buried alive by your project cars. Wouldn't you know it, the sand and gravel has started sliding down the cliff. I started up the XJS to move it out of the garage and the motor started up fine and settled into a smooth idle. I put it into gear and nothing. Darn! I knew the tranny felt looser than ever when I parked it a last month, but now it's given up the ghost it seems. My driveway slopes down to the garage and I didn't relish the idea of trying to push two tons of fine British steel up the slope and maneuver it into parking position by myself. My '96 Mustang has been sitting at the curb meanwhile, and even though I would like to sell it, I guess it can sit there awhile longer. My Wife said that the car gods have spoken; it has been decreed that the transmission in the XJS will have to be done first! She does seem to have a bit of a crush on that XJS, and I know that she would like to see what it feels like to ride in it. I fired up the XJ6 and the squealing belt noise didn't even present itself. I will have to try tightening up the belts a bit and check/mark the vibration damper to verify if it is failing. It took a jump, but the Mustang started up just fine. It is filthy, covered with those annoying little leaves that drop from all those trees on my street, but there are other more troubling concerns.

There has been some very stormy weather and trees in the neighborhood have been losing limbs and a few have fallen over. It was terribly windy this morning. I have been concerned that a limb might fall on one of my cars. Most of them are too old and not worth enough to carry full coverage insurance on. Besides even if they were fully insured they are worth so little that almost any damage would result in them being "totalled" by the insurance company anyway. I was hoping to finish the Mustang and maybe take it to a consignment lot to sell. Hopefully it will not end up with a branch through the top! Or worse, something could happen to my XJ6, hopefully not, I love that car!

I looked out through bedroom window into the backyard and thought that it was odd that some huge bushes had grown up unnoticed until now. Where did they come from? I went outside and could see that one of my trees had fallen over but luckily wasn't tall enough to hit the house. Good thing. Tomorrow I'm off to Harbor Freight (with a coupon!) to pick up some equipment to use for the transmission job. I've also got a good excuse to look for a chain saw! Life goes on.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Harley Davidson number three: 1981 FLHS, kind of a disappointment.

I had wanted a Big Twin for a very long time. Even though I had bought a new Sportster Cafe Racer at one time, and could have afforded a Big Twin at the time. I still thought that a Sportster was a better fit for my type of riding.

The thing was that Sportsters just didn't get the respect that Big Twins did. "Half a Harley" was a common derisive comment.

There are some some real differences between the two disregarding the higher price of the FLH. Physically the FLH is larger, with a longer wheel base. The rider seating position is lower with the legs extended forward.  Their is more space for a passenger, and there is the option of footboards instead of pegs for the rider. Since the FLH was designed as a touring bike it is better suited to long range riding. It already comes with a larger fuel tank, bigger and wider seat, better fenders, and an option of using the factory windshield, bags, tour pack and other equipment. All of this equipment was designed specifically for the bike and fits well, looks good and is nice and sturdy.

A completely outfitted Big Twin is refereed to as a "full dresser" as in all accessories included. During the 60's and the 70's, the hey day of the homebuilt chopper, these bikes were derided as "garbage wagons", ridden by "AMA" types (American Motorcycle Association members, otherwise known as straights). These were relegated the rear of the column on a chopper run. Riding an old dresser meant that you just bought the bike and hadn't gotten around to stripping it down yet. There were always a few guys that actually liked riding on a dresser, even then.

This bike was over twenty years old by the early 1950s as this design preceded the knucklehead. I believe that this is a twin cam with grafted knuckle top end. These twin cams were considered to be superior performers. These old tuners were very ingenious.

Back after the War, guys were stripping down their bikes, mostly to make them lighter and faster. These were known as "Bob Jobs." The bike pictured above is actually a two wheeled hot rod. These old pre war bikes were cheap and they could be tuned to out run a brand new bike. Styling wasn't the main idea behind the modifications, performance was.

Initially, the front end might be exchanged for an XA model springer, this was a two inch longer front fork which had been used on a War era shaft driven opposed twin HD that had been designed for desert combat use. This would raise the boards up a bit, allowing the rider to lean the bike over a little more to take the corners faster. The 21'' front wheel was lighter and it also added a bit of lift also. This was all done before the era of the extended front end began in the 60's. 

When the British twins arrived in the Fifties, Harley realized that they needed a competitive bike and the Sportster was born. Still, new bikes are expensive and there were still plenty of older bikes around to modify. As the chopper craze developed styles were mixed and the classic fat bob chopper combined performance with styling.

A very nice Panhead Fatbob. Style is a major component.

Of course Harley Davidson was not blind to what was happening and realized that there was a market for ready made bobbers. This was the result.

1970 FX Kick start only. Sportster drum brake up front

The original Superglide FX led to a long series of "precustomized" bikes which was a gold mine for Harley Davidson. The key feature was the smaller 3.5 gallon "fat tank" with the speedo mounted in between the tank halves. This was used for a few years then HD decided to go with a modified Sprint tank with the speedo moved up to the bars. Later HD decided to cover all bases with two versions of the FX.

By this time these bikes had electric starters and dual disc brakes up front.

Harley Davidson had a way of making a few small changes to a model then declaring it was "all new." 

The introduction of the HD Lowrider, copyrighted name, showed HD the direction that their riding market was going. Instead of customizing and personalizing a bike yourself, you could buy a trick bike direct from the dealer, with a full factory warranty. This was HD's first bike to feature an extended front end, three inches. Just like an XA springer! This trend eventually led to shops that offered full custom choppers. A trend immortalized by the sit com, "American Chopper."

Now old HD knew that hey had to draw the line somewhere and it was well before they offered bikes like these. Though I would take Billy's Panhead in a second, now that, was a classic chopper.

photo from the movie, if you have to ask which movie, you are an incredible lightweight!

Harley did decide to roll out a pretty convincing Fatbob of their own, the Wide Glide. The name coming from the wide FLH style forks that cradled the classic narrow 21 inch. wheel. The bike also featured the five gallon "fat" FLH tank. It was a well designed machine, except for one little problem. Old Timey 'Bobs hung some folding footpegs from the footboard mounts just ahead of the brake and shifter pedals. Look at the peg set up on the two Easyrider bikes above. The rider had to raise his foot off the peg and move it quite a distance to activate the controls. I guess this wouldn't fly with the DOT for a production bike so Harley came up with a forward footpeg control set up used with the Wide Glide, and later adapted to the Electra Glide Sport. They were about six inches higher and a couple of inches closer  than the classic set up. It always felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I also thought that it made the rider's posture look kind of goofy. I would have been happy to switch to the FLH footboard set up. However this was before there was a lot of repop parts available. I priced it out using OEM stuff  and it was over 600 bucks, too much for me at the time.

The early bikes were 80 inch Shovelheads
The 80 inch (1,340cc.) motor was a torquer, and it did have great roll on acceleration in fourth gear. Unfortunately it was also a shaker. The factory had set the balance to work with the 55 mph. speed limit. From 50 to 60 mph. it was smoother than my 1,000cc. Sportster. At sustained speeds from 65-75 mph. it had incredible vibration that blurred the speedo and mirrors and worse, caused my butt to itch like crazy! Riding it for a long period at 70 mph, was worse than uncomfortable, it was painful. My Sporty was much smoother at an indicated 70 mph. I only took a couple of longer trips on the FLHS, which was a poor comparison to the years of touring on my old Sporty.

So I finally got the Big Twin I wanted for so long. It really wasn't that well suited to my riding style. Cornering clearance was lacking and it was easy to ground the primary case on hard bumpy turns. The first time I did that it was quite a surprise and I almost lost it. I resented having to restrain my enthusiasm while riding my FLHS. A couple of years later I ended up selling the bike to scrape together enough money to make a down payment on a house. But I kept my Sportster.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Five affordable hobby cars I've always wanted to own.

photo source:production cars .com.
The first generation Acura Legend coupe impressed me when it was  introduced. It was the first high level offering from a Japanese company.  The first Gen in many ways just seems like a bigger Accord, but the styling was sharper and more aggressive, with those fender blister flares, (very Audi Quatro like) and that beautiful airy greenhouse. These were powered by Honda's first V6 engine and while they were not viewed as true high performance machines, they were viewed as smooth, capable road machines. A manual transmission was available and was chosen by many buyers. Therefore it is still possible to find one listed for sale in the classifieds. The automatic transmission was not the car's strongest feature.

photo source:
The car's design appeals to me because of it's simplicity, clean detailing, and good taste. The interior is very Honda like, but that is not really a bad thing. Leather upholstery was available, but it's durability was very poor and most survivors look like someone kept their pet badger inside. The cloth interior isn't as plush, but it can hold up well.

While the build quality was good there were some long term reliability issues. Blown headgaskets are a common malady, and now that these cars are worth so little, many have been scrapped rather than repaired. I delved deep into this subject on various Acura forums and the consensus was that a malfunction of the crankcase breather system combined with a blocked EGR system and a ECM that could not compensate for these variables resulted in elevated combustion pressures due to detonation. Boom! The gasket could blow within seconds. The automatic transmission has a reputation of being rather fragile, but many cars have already had their's rebuilt, or ended up in the boneyard.

The second Gen is more athletic, with a burly Nissan Skyline kind of vibe. Performance and luxury were both increased. These cars are really quite plush inside. There were several performance levels available, both five and six speed manual transmissions were offered. I really believe that this is the car to get. Especially the type 2 six speed cars. I think the styling has held up, and the car has a powerful image to go along with the great name. These cars seem to have improved reliability over the first gen, but let's face it, these are getting to be old cars.

photo source:auto
I feel that stance and proportions are just right. I like the body colored metal panel around the tail lamps and the lack of chrome. LEGEND spelled out as individual letters is an awesome touch. again the leather upholstery is probably  on it's last legs. These cars are just the right size, able to transport up to four occupants and their luggage. 

photo source:pinterest

If I loved these cars so much, how come I haven't bought one? That's a good question, one I will revisit at the end of the post.

Toyota Supra second generation. The first generation of this car was more of a Japanese Monte Carlo. This car really hit it's stride, and in my opinion subsequent designs have never equaled this design. The design is a busy, kind of a squared off 70's look with a lot of Japanese market appeal fussiness, still for me the proportions are just right, and it's big enough to be a real four seat car, add in the hatchback and you've got a great useful classic.

Performance wise these never delivered on the promise of the DOHC design. Power output was pretty comparable to the contemporary Datsun 280 ZX. Like the 280 ZX the interior design reflects that 80's fussy Japanese futuristic (Godzilla?) vibe. The suspension was designed more for comfort than handling, as the trailing arm suspension was lifted from the Cressida sedan. The car is probably better suited as a GT, since the rear seat can handle a couple of passengers and a fair amount of luggage.

photo source:
I think these look better in a monochromatic respray as it blends bumpers, fender flares and hatch back into a more cohesive visual whole. These cars were never big sellers and they are not that common on the internet sales sites.

photo source: pinterest
Edsel Ford was a man of refinement and good taste. When he had his coachworks put together a customized version of a Lincoln Zephyr coupe, he created a car that caused a sensation among his Palm Beach Florida vacation community. This car started the movement to the luxury personal coupe. The long hood, short deck "Continental" design template influenced car design for the next forty years.

photo source:
As usual subsequent redesigns lost the elegant simplicity of the original design, with more added chrome and chunkier detailing. The design ended but was revisited with the sensational Mark II of the early 1950's. That particular car was a serious loss leader. There was never a way for Ford to recoup even their building expenses in  the sales price of that car. These early cars were never mass produced, and they could only add to the prestige of the Corporation, not the bottom line.

It was take a marketing genius like Lee Iaccoca to turn the high end personal car into a profit center for the Ford Company. The Mark III aka "The Chairman of the Board's Mustang", and like it, it was a sales success and set the tone for the rest of the lineage that followed.

The chrome grille, hidden headlights, and especially that simulated Continental spare tire, were strong classical cues. This car started the whole Brougham Era.  The Mark III was a modern classic in my eyes and I was sure that they would definitely be a hotly collectible and valued car, but it hasn't yet at this point.

Again the redesign got bigger and heavier. Since the Mark IV shared it's body with new enlarged Thunderbird, tooling costs were shared between them. This allowed for a higher profits that came from the increased production and sales. Now there was not a pretense of sportiness left with the T Bird. The Mark IV was a huge sales success.

The Mark V was a chiseled masterwork, especially in Bill Blass designer regalia. By this time the massive, opulent design was wearing out it's welcome. It was impossible to translate this baroque design language into a satisfyingly styled smaller automobile.

The downsized Mark VI was a disappointment. The effect was akin to dressing a sixth grader in a tuxedo, definitely not something to aspire to!

The Mark VII was a fresh new take on the personal coupe. It stopped lifting it's styling cues from the carriage trade and moved into the direction of the Autobahn. While it's styling does echo that of the new aero Thunderbird that debuted a couple of years earlier, the styling work was actually done before the release of the Thunderbird. The fuel injected Windsor gave pretty good performance, especially in the LSC, Luxury Sport Coupe. This model shared the high performance motor of the Mustang GT, although the increased weight of the Lincoln meant that the smaller Ford would be quicker. This would be taken care of by the time the Mark VIII debuted with the DOHC 32 valve version of the new 4.6 liter V8.

While this might look like a slightly bigger Thunderbird I find the overall effect is much more substantial and impressive. I will also admit that I still like the vestigial spare tire hump.

Mercedes Benz turbo diesel sedan. I have always been impressed by the Mercedes mystique. These products of the Seventies were at the pinnacle of their success and appeal. These cars hearken back to the day when the affluent buyer would buy a car for life. Buy one of these cars, or the gas powered 450 SEL, and that was it. Like the fine old Packard, or Pierce Arrow it was something that was maintained and treasured, and cherished for the rest of the owner's life. It became an heirloom, a part of the family. It made a statement about the success of the family, that didn't need to be restated every year, how gauche! Remember the Issotta Franchini in Sunset Boulevard?

Just the thing to drive out to your country home. photo source :pinterest

The 450 SEL was a fine car, a ground breaking design that eclipsed the future offerings from the American prestige makes, but the fuel economy was very poor, around twelve miles a gallon, and at the contemporary price of fuel, seemed awfully wasteful. The solution was to add the recently developed five cylinder diesel motor that had just had a turbo charger added, that was the wonder word of the Eighties. It actually delivered on the promise, performance was adequate, and fuel economy was greatly increased. I remember reading a magazine road test that reported that fuel economy could exceed 25 mpgs on the freeway (while driving at the mandated 55 mph speed limit, of course)

This was the more common setting for these cars. photo source:peach
That was impressive economy for the times, but by the time these had depreciated into my reach of affordability other cars offering much better performance with equal economy were available. My '94 Cadillac Seville STS would deliver that mileage as well as a top speed of 145 mph! Still I find myself attracted to these sedans. Actually any of the S class models of this period would be worth preserving.

The Porsche 944 was car that could deliver the fuel economy of a VW Rabbit with the handling and acceleration you would expect from a Porsche. This was delivered at a higher level with the later four valve and turbo charged engines. Four seats and a hatchback is a formula for a useful and practical hobby car. The 924 was a weak start, but there was steady improvement and development that resulted in the 944. The new motor and bodywork made for a car that needed no apologies. In fact, the 924S, which came equipped with the 944 motor makes for a pretty good sleeper.

Now, That, is one smooth car! photo source;pinterest

The flush front fascia is best shown in this shot. It makes the car look much more modern.
 photo source; elite auto report com.

While the Turbo has a smoother look, the standard model is pretty appealing. These cars have depreciated to the bottom of the curve and I would guess that they will start to go up soon. My biggest complaint is the ergonomics. The very low position of the steering wheel causes it to rub against my legs. There were changes made to the steering wheel as the model developed but it was still closer than I liked. It gave me the impression that I was too big for the car. Parts are probably more expensive than run of the mill Mustang and Camaro  parts, but as I have learned with my Jaguars, there are more affordable alternatives available.

Back in the day when the 924 was introduced and old 911s were a dime a dozen, I thought that this was going to be the way to Porsche's future. At this time I thought that the 911 was old hat, just a souped up VW bug that had surely reached the end of it's evolutionary time line. Now old 911s have increased in value, way out of my reach.

So, why didn't I buy these cars when I had the opportunity in the past? They were depreciating down to, or even below, my economic level. As in many things timing is everything.  At certain times I was able to buy  a brand new or late model car and I was tied up with added responsibilities and didn't have the time to fuss with an older car.

The Acura Legend was so appealing, but the problems with the motor and transmission put me off. Also at that time I was in the position to buy a much more expensive car and use it as the family car. So I made the move to a three year old Seville STS. I kept that car for ten years.

The Toyota Supra was an early Eighties model and at the time I was a Datsun Z fan. The Supra really didn't have a performance advantage over the Z and since I had a 2+2 model I already had a backseat for the kids. The Z also had a stronger enthusiast following. A few years later I decided to go with the '92 300ZX which was a much better performer than the early Supra. (Not a slight to the Supra, which by now, was of course much older).

photo source: bring a trailer .com.

It was much the same with the Mercedes. By the time I intersected with them I was looking for something different. My Seville was a terrific performer and while it might not have been better than a contemporary S class, it was heads and shoulders above the late 70s Mercedes Benz models.

The Porsche 944? Well no matter how impressive it was didn't really seem any better than that old 280Z of mine. And my legs haven't gotten any skinnier!