Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Looking for a Supra

My son and I went out looking for a Toyota Supra type-P just like Inspector Gadget's. We've seen a couple Supra's in our neighborhood while out walking so this time we took a camera. The first car above is not from our walk but a wonderful example of a Toyota Supra Mark-II type-P just like Gadget's that Ryan chased down First Avenue in his tow truck that I snapped a couple quick pictures of. But we wanted to see one close up... and we failed.

We found a Mark III Supra and a Nissan 300ZX.

Last is a picture of my son in front of a second generation Z28 that was parked next to the Supra.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Inspector Gadget's Car

Watching Inspector Gadget with my son today, I noticed that the Inspector drives a Toyota van that turns into a Toyota Supra. Pictured is the L-type but he drove the P-type with the optional shaded hatch.
More Pictures.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mazda 626 Touring

1986-ish Mazda 626 Touring edition.
As I was driving around the east side today, I passed a convertible Geo Metro twice and decided on my third pass I would stop and photo it even though it doesn't technically qualify as a subclassic. But it was gone. So I trolled around the mall parking lot until I found this Mazda. According to Ryan Waelde, the two door Touring is a very rare edition of the 626. And it has an oscillating fan on the dash. And Kyle Kellogg once flipped one.

I'm still looking for a Subaru Brat.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Toyota Corolla

This Corolla (complement to my Camry) has been sitting for at least two days in the north side Schnucks parking lot. Hopefully I will find something more exciting soon like a Subaru Brat. I heard the there was a Le Car heading for the crusher at Glisson's.

Monday, October 6, 2008

1986 Honda Civic

After cruising around the country quite a bit in my Econoline van, I started looking for something a little more subclassic to drive. I found this little Honda stashed away, broken down behind my mother's garage. My little sister had driven it and it had only seemed to cause her problems. I had always asserted that I knew nothing about Honda's and could do absolutely nothing for her. So I fixed the vacuum leak or whatever the "problem" was (I don't remember now, but I remember that it was no big deal at all), and drove it for a couple of years.

Once a front suspension part broke free when I was pulling off of a curvy mountain highway to check a map and I was stuck in Asheville North Carolina for a couple days waiting for the part. Another time I blew a valve on the road, altered my course several hundred miles and stopped by my sister's and picked up the Nissan you see in the background of the photo to finish my trip. After I replaced the head, the car leaked oil something awful but that was resolved by a Chevy Z71 truck running a red light at about 80 mph.

I remember seeing the grill of my mother's truck (she also drove a Chevy truck) in the passenger seat next to me and thinking it to be a very curious site. Then I had a few more visions that can best be understood as "life flashing before your eyes" and then I had an amazing sense of relief come over me. But that relief was short lived as next I found myself, though bloody and traumatized, relatively unharmed in a crumpled piece of metal on a stretch of road that I wasn't on just seconds earlier with a crowd of alarmed bystanders standing by acting alarmed. In calm reasonable tones, I quieted the crowd down and informed them that although I would very much like to try to get up out of the car, that I did seem to be bleeding quite a bit and I thought it best in a situation like this to stay still and wait for emergency personal who, I was sure would be arriving shortly to extract me and strap me to a nice solid board for transport.

And so that was the end of that car and of my career delivering pizzas.

The First Neighborhood Search

My son and I went out for the first time today to look for subclassics out in the neighborhood. I know that there's a Toyota Supra and a Volkswagen Fox back in my neighborhood but I decided to save those for later. Today we went searching in the Deaconess area. And it was disappointing. Good subclassics are hard to come by. And I didn't have the courage to get out and take a good series of an individual car so I just got passing snapshots.

What we mainly saw that qualified were small pickups and a few Dodge Aries. But they didn't thrill me. The first reasonable find was this Chevy Nova. This last generation of Nova (actually a Toyota Corolla or Sprinter) ran from 1985-1988 so it qualifies, but blah.

We also saw a Pontiac Fiero, which was a treat, but still not really the "it" I was looking for.

Ready to give up, I headed back towards home but decided to turn down Oakley St thinking that there has got to be something there. There's a used appliance store on the corner of Oakley and Louisiana and used appliance stores and subclassic cars kind of go hand in hand, don't they?

And there it was...

UPDATE: I can't stop looking at this truck. It is beautiful.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And I digress...

Now enters a period of my life when I did not drive a subclassic but a 1979 Ford Econoline 250. And not only did I drive it, I worked out of it, ate in it and slept in it. I built a wall about two feet behind the seats to hold my wares back and provide a small cocoon like area for sleeping. I traveled from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to Wisconsin to South Texas peddling my low quality goods at all varieties of flea markets and swap meets. This went on for a couple of years.

This van served me very well. It could get about 13 mpg on the highway with no cargo traveling at 55 mph. That dropped to about 8 or 9 loaded and cruising at higher speeds. Not such a big deal at a time when gas was at times less than $1 a gallon.

Having that load on top set it a little off balance. The van could rock quite a bit on a stop and I would sometimes get nervous on sharp turns. I did once drive from Chicago to Evansville with 6 empty 55 gallon drums ties upright on top. I wish I had a picture of that.

I recently sold this van on ebay to someone who just needed the engine and junked the rest. I had it for about 10 years. Lately I had been using it for home improvement projects. Here is is parked behind my house.

1986 Dodge Omni Miss Liberty

If there is one car I wish I had better pictures of, it is this one. It was white with red and blue pin striping and a decal of the Statue of Liberty on the side. All from the factory that way. From what I understood, it was part of a fleet of Dodge Omnis that were driven in the parade commemorating the completion of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. I paid $600 for it from a friend who owed more than that on it. This was about 1996 or so. The only work I really ever did on this was plugging up all the emissions hoses that I didn't understand. And this thing did fly. It has a strong 2.2 engine for as light as the car was and it was geared very broadly. Theoretically I figured that it could do 225 before redlining in 5th gear. Of course it could never do that, but it was geared that way.

I drove it out west and it started having carburetor problems in California. I don't know if I picked up some bad gas or what. But it never ran consistently well after that.

I still had the Rabbit while I was driving this car and sold them both about the same time. Now I had a 1979 Ford Econoline 250 cargo van and was heading out to live on the road, selling at flea markets.

1981 VW Rabbit

My '81 Volkswagen Rabbit was not only the biggest hunk of junk that I ever owned but also my most beloved Subclassic. I found it on a dealer's back lot in a little town north of Chicago. Not all cylinders fired but the compression checked out even though low. The shifter linkage was disconnected and the car was "not drivable" and had been sitting for several years. I bought it for $250, went home walked back carrying a battery, put it in, popped the linkage together and drove home... just barely.

I put a new clutch in it, dropping the transmission out on to my chest (which I intended to do), a few new injectors, new shifter linkage and quite a bit more just to get it drivable. After driving it a little, I had to replace one of the track arms. It rusted through and broke completely in two. The car was rusty. You couldn't lift it without bending the frame a little. Gas lines would periodically rust and leak, etc, etc. A few months later a Volkswagen knowledgeable friend of mine adjusted the fuel mixture and timing settings just right and maybe it was just because I was used to driving a Renault Encore, but it seemed like that Rabbit could really move.

I never did much else to it except cover the rust holes with duct tape and drive, drive, drive. The transmission was on its way out and it took a little practice to get the gears to shift without grinding the gears, but I mastered it and the transmission never got any worse the 50,000 miles or so I put on it. Eventually I sold it for $100 to a kid who broke down in town and just needed a car to get back home.

I once drove this car through a couple feet of standing water and drew water into the engine. I pulled it home and could not get the engine to turn over to try to start it. My dad suggested pulling the spark plugs to relieve the pressure. We pulled the plugs and turned the engine over and water shot all over the garage. We kept doing that until it quit. Changed the oil, replace the plugs, it started up and I drove it around until it quit blowing white smoke. Change the oil, replace the plugs... Wow! That thing ran better than ever. Like a new car. I guess it cleaned it out pretty good.

Honda Accord, Renault Encore

When my wife got her driver's license in the summer of 1991, she was blessed with this early 80s Honda Accord hatchback, a true subclassic. I on the other hand drove my mother's old 1982 Pontiac Bonneville.

But notice in the back there, not the Bronco, but the little hatchback in danger of sliding down into the cistern. My first subclassic car: a Renault Encore. I traded the Pontiac for it in the summer of 1994. Interestingly, I got the Pontiac back 5 years later and drove it again for about a year. I had forgotten how smooth of a ride a car like that is. The Bonneville, not the Renault.

Here's another picture of it peeking around the corner of my Brother's Dodge Ram which he was trying to buff into a BMW.

The Renault got 40 miles to the gallon. Period. City, highway, mountains, even with the AC spitting ice chips out. It was my first traveling car. I drove it for about a year and gave it to my little sister when I bought a 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit for $250 from a dealer's back lot in Grayslake, Illinois. She drove it until the wheels fell off, well, until they broke free from the steering rack. My dad and I replaced the entire front end with one from a junkyard and then she drove it some more. Before when it was mine, I broke a torsion bar ramping railroad tracks with a full load of cargo and 2 passengers. I replaced the entire rear end which consisted of 4 bolts and ... Well, that was it. Four bolts.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I've been working out what qualifies a car to be a "subclassic" and I think that I have come up with a very simple definition: a subcompact or compact vehicle sold in the North American market manufactured between 1976 and 1986.
Some examples:

Chevy Chevette

Subaru Brat

Toyota Camry