Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cuba's Classic Cars

It's no secret that Cuba has been off limits for decades. Nobody knows what really goes on over there except what is occasionally leaked by the media. Growing up I had heard stories about all the classic cars roaming the streets in Cuba. I can vividly remember when I was a young boy, overhearing my father talking to a friend about Cuba's old cars. After High School, I worked in one of Southern California's largest auto parts store and we actually had a few customers who use to purchase older car parts to ship them back to their relatives in Cuba. As I got older, I managed to find a couple of articles about Cuba's classic cars, but those were few and far between. Not much seemed to come out of Cuba, except maybe a few cigars.

My curiosity about Cuba was rekindled when it was reported that President Obama had taken steps to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba. As you may have guessed my interest lies in the classic cars, not the cigars. In a perfect world I would be able to go to Cuba and photograph all these cool old cars, but that dream will have to be put on my bucket list, right under "photograph Jay Leno's car collection". Instead, I was actively looking for some recent pictures or video of current-day Cuba, specifically their classic cars. As luck would have it, this gem of a video showed up in my inbox and is the work of Brian Van Der Brug of the Los Angeles Times. In his own words, "The island is a treasure-trove of vintage American automobiles. These are not just for show; they're everyday workhorses that are part of the legacy of the country's isolation."

Special thanks to Bich Ngoc, also of the LA Times, who not only has read my blog but also was kind enough to provide the following link - Cuba's Classic Cars

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Chrysler Turbine Car

Here is a cool video I ran across about the 1963 Chrysler Turbine car. This one is owned by Jay Leno and has some amazing footage.

Friday, January 23, 2015

FranktoidTM No 14 - Another Real Barn Find!

Just when you thought all the barn finds were gone, BAM!, another one shows up. What makes this one so great is that I was fortunate enough to actually be present during both the "discovery" and the purchase of it. A good friend of mine called to tell me about a potential barn find that he was going to look at and was kind enough to ask me to tag along. Faster then you can say "road trip" I said yes! The car was located in such a far away, remote area that he figured it was either going to be a real find or a total piece of crap. The word "barn" here is a bit ambiguous, as the building was actually made of steel but that's close enough in my book. The car in question is a 1962 Pontiac Bonneville 2 door hardtop. Although this was not a 421 Super Duty car is was ordered with a 389 V-8 rated at 235 horsepower and 402 pound-feet of torque! Pontiac Bonneville's were equipped with the division's highest horsepower rated V-8s, as they were Pontiac's costliest and most luxurious model throughout the 1960s.

Here was our first look at the Bonneville. All original paint and interior and it was still wearing bias ply tires!
The interior was in decent shape for being all original. Check out the original red and clear steering wheel.
The engine was all original and all the accessories were intact. Notice the old school battery!
This is the moment that you realize you want this car.
Here is the Bonneville out in the open and ready to be loaded on the trailer.
This is where you realize it's going to be a tight squeeze. They didn't call it the Pontiac Wide Track for nothing!
I knew it was going to be close, I just didn't realize how close!
Safely loaded with just enough wiggle room, we were ready to hit the road for the long drive home.
On the road with the Pontiac in tow.
We finally arrive at the shop where most of the mechanical restoration will take place.

Now that the Bonneville is securely stored in the shop the fun can really begin! Stay tuned as my friend tears into this Pontiac with wild abandon and discovers some good things along with some stuff that ain't so great. Whoever said this hobby was easy? Not me, that's for sure.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Beast of Turin

Usually when I mention a Fiat here at Frank's Classic Car Blog they are at the butt end of a joke. After I saw this video I have a whole new appreciation for Fiats and I think most of you will agree after watching it.

The Beast of Turin trailer from stefan marjoram on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rat Muscle

Unless you have been living under a rock for about the last five years you have no doubt heard about Rat Rods. This trend has taken foothold big time and currently shows no signs of waning in popularity. There is even a magazine dedicated to it called, you guessed it, Rat Rod Magazine.
Admittedly, Rat Rods are cool to look at and each one has it's own level of uniqueness and creativity. An off-shoot of the Rat Rod trend is Rat Muscle Cars, or "Rat Muscle". Rat Muscle is a whole different animal, or should I say rodent? Before we get too far into this I should probably clarify the term "Muscle Car". When I was a lot younger, muscle car meant 2 door coupe, big block V-8, preferably a 4-speed transmission, and a aggressive stance to go with it. The current definition, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, defines muscle cars as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving. "A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers." The phrase "A large V8" is where it starts to get ambiguous. Now-a-days, 5.7 litres is considered a large V-8! For the non-metric type, that's 350 cubic inches. Given these parameters, there are a lot more "muscle cars" out there then first thought.  

Before the whole Rat Muscle concept was even thought of, muscle cars basically came in two flavors, restored and unrestored. The latter version usually languished in the garage or restoration shop until it was done. The restored cars were kept in a garage where they were regularly wiped clean with a cotton diaper and only driven to car shows on clear, sunny days. There was also a very small contingency that actually used their muscle car as a daily driver, yours truly included. In my opinion these were the original rat muscle. Cars driven as-is, repaired as required, and maintained meticulously with little or no thought given to exterior appearance. My original '72 Olds Cutlass had patina before patina was cool. The sweet sound of the original style Flow Master mufflers would reverberate off of the buildings as I drove through the local University to work. Car alarms would go off in unison whenever I drove through a parking garage. In a sea of Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics, my Olds stood out like a sore thumb. I could have made a small book out of all the notes and cards left on my windshield asking if I wanted to sell my car. All in all, I must say there is almost something therapeutic about driving an old muscle car, especially if you drive it daily.

Rat Muscle is basically a blend of muscle cars, daily drivers, patina paint, V-8 powered, 2-door vehicles that are driven on a regular basis. Like their Rat Rod counterpart, each one is unique and showcase the owners creativity. This trend is right up a blue collar workers alley. No more spending mega bucks on a concours restoration or dropping 5 large on a paint job. I can put my hard earned money where it counts - in the drivetrain. As luck would have it I am actually able to take advantage of this hot trend with my current project Scotchlok.

  Scotchlok will soon receive a big block (Oldsmobile of course) and a 4-speed. The interior will also be rehabbed to meet the minimal standards for human inhabitants. While I am at it the suspension and brakes will be upgraded as well. As far as the exterior goes, the paint will be left in all of it's chipped and faded glory, much to the dismay of "purists". Given the current state of the economy (and my paycheck), I think Rat Rod Muscle cars are here to stay for awhile.