Friday, June 29, 2012

Only the Models Got Bigger

            When Vince Quatromani was growing up he was like a lot of kids. “I used to love building models,” he said, adding that he still has everyone he ever built.
            As he’s grown older he hasn’t lost that love of putting together the pieces in a kit to create a replica of a favorite car. But today, the model has just gotten a little bigger.
            In 1992 he started his grandest model project, a 1966 AC Cobra reproduction. He got the entire kit from Classic Roadster, one of the oldest companies to be making the Cobra kits.
            The Cobra, of course, was manufactured by the British firm of AC Motors but was the brain child of American automotive icon Carroll Shelby. A successful driver, Shelby retired in 1959 due to health reasons and turned his attention first to a high performance driving school and then to the Shelby-American Company. It was through the latter that he teamed with AC to have them design a car that could be fitted with a small block V8 engine.
            Development of the Cobra was quick. Shelby had asked AC to create the modified version of the car in 1961 and by early 1962 he had fitted it with the V8 and a new transmission and was testing it. The car was officially manufactured through 1967.
            Shelby, of course, then went on to do work with Ford, helping to design the Daytona Coupe as well as numerous Mustangs that bear his name. He would later move over to Dodge where he had a hand in developing the Viper.
            As for the Cobra, several companies cropped up that began creating kits for enthusiasts to build their own versions of the car.
            Like many of those enthusiasts, Vince bought a kit and, in 1993, after having it for a year, was ready to paint it the medium metallic burgundy with silver that it sports today. But it wasn’t until 1994 that he actually got the car on the road.
            “What took so long was that I was trying to find the right motor,” he said. He eventually used a five liter 302 horse power small block V8 that came from what he called his “donor car,” a 1989 Mustang. The transmission also came from that machine. He also used a Mustang II suspension in the front and the rear end from a 1994 Mustang.
            “There’s nothing hard with the kit, all the pieces fit together perfectly,” Vince said. “Really, I didn’t run into any problems.”
            As was the case with all those models Vince built when he was growing up, putting the Cobra together was a very entertaining. “The fun of it is building the car yourself,” he said.
            One thing this kit can do that the models of his youth couldn’t, is run. He takes it out on weekends whenever he can and absolutely loves to drive it.
            Vince told the story of having the topless car out for a drive one day when the skies started clouding up. “I was up to 130, outrunning the rain storm,” he said, adding that he could have taken the car faster but held back. “I got into the garage just before it started raining.”
            Not bad for something a long time model builder put together out of a kit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Modern Marvels

          Supercars as we know them can probably be traced to the Lamborghini Miura (see future post). The Ault Park Concours d'Elegance always has a display of what could be called "future classics" which is generally made up of modern marvels known as supercars. With the usual suspects from Ferrari and Porsche always on display, this year's group was no different. But it also included some marques known more for luxury such as Bentley and Audi and BMW as well as a couple of cars you don't often see, such as Ariel and McLaren.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Neo Muscle Cars

          There has been a trend in the early years of this century to bring back the look and feel and, yes, power, of the old American Muscle Car. Detroit has churned out updated versions of some of the hottest machines from the late 60s and early 70s with great success.
          A number of these "neo" muscle cars were part of a special display in the "Century of American Power" section at the recent 35th Annual Ault Park Concours d'Elegance. While you can see these on the street and in the parking lots around town, it is always nice to be able to walk up to them sitting in a beautiful park and get a good close look.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

European Collectors

          One of my favorite sections at any Concours event is that of the European Collector Cars. These have always been some of my favorite automobiles of all time and the selection at the 35th Annual Ault Park show was no different.
           There was power in the form of some early Porsches, including a beautiful 1953 356. Also, a marvelous Austin Healey 100M LeMans was on display as well as a 1958 Alfa Romeo Guilietta Spider that looked as though it would be an absolute blast to drive.
          On the luxury side there were a number of Mercedes in attendance ranging from the 1950s into the early 1970s. In addition, a stunning 1965 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III stood out from the crowd.

          But it wasn't just the big and the fast that were being shown off. A classic VW Beetle (a car close to my heart) was on display as was the tiny Lloyd Mini Bus.So there was something for everyone's taste in European collectors this year at the Concours.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Dragster At Heart

            Some animals are born to run, to race, to feel the wind rush by as they move faster than all the others. This is Ed Finke’s 1963 Dodge Polara 426 Max Wedge.
            Ed bought this piece of American muscle about a year and a half ago when a friend of his who runs a classic car dealership in Pittsburgh gave him a call. “He told me to come look at it,” Ed said, adding that his friend knew he would like it.  He did.
            “It had a complete body off restoration five years ago,” said Ed so there wasn’t a whole lot to do when he bought it. But there was work that had to be done. “Since it was a drag racer I did some substantial mechanical work to get it ready for the street,” he explained. “I replaced the racing clutch, had the transmission rebuilt, put in the correct headers,” he said, listing off some of the those mechanical changes he made.
            A drag racer? Indeed. According the Ed the car has a substantial history of running on drag strips and being successful.
            When the Polara was introduced in 1960 it was Dodge’s top-of-the-line full sized car. Big and powerful and carrying the touches of luxury that was expected of a “land yacht” of the day, the Polara saw its status as Dodge’s top big car drop after only two years.
            In 1962 the Dodge Custom 880 was introduced and the Polara was essentially downsized to an intermediate model, competing against the Chevy Impala and Ford Galaxy. This was actually a result of the brand’s streamlining of all of its models across the board.  In 1963 the wheelbase on the Polara grew a little but the intermediate status remained.
            What Dodge found themselves with was a mid-sized machine with a large power plant: the perfect combination for speed.
            “This is a dragster at heart,” said Ed with a wry grin. “It runs like a scalded dog. It should. It has a 411 rear end. It can go to 120 in 10 to 12 seconds.”
            While he admits that he hasn’t pushed the 426 cubic inch “race only” dual quad cam Air Max Wedge V 8 that fast, he does admit to getting it up to 80 in a hurry.
            “I drive it more often than I should,” he said. “It’s more fun than leaving it in a barn.” In fact that is why he doesn’t show the car all that often. “It’s more fun to drive than to stand around looking at it,” he said.
            But since it is a dragster at heart, with the desire to chew up the road and swallow it through the windshield and spit it out the rear view mirror, it is a short burst kind of car.
            “It likes to run fast for short bits and then go back into the barn,” Ed said. Ah, but those short bursts make it all worthwhile.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Asian Power

          There was also some displays of automotive power from the East as well as from Europe during the 35th Annual Ault Park Concours d'Exelance. While there weren't that many, what was there was quite impressive. In addition to this beautiful and amazing Acura NSX-T, there were also examples from Honda, Mazda and, of course, Datsun.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

European Power

          While the featured exhibit at the 35th Annual Ault Park Concours d'Elegance was "A Century of American Power," there were plenty of other great power churning machines from around the world. As always, some of my favorite are from Europe.
          Pictured here are some of the more unique automobiles that you don't generally see at a car show. Here are a couple of BMWs, a couple of nice Italian Ferraris, offerings from Porsche, Jaguar, Sunbeam and a British made original (not a kit car) Shelby Cobra. Enjoy.