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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

Modern muscle

Updated Impala SS features fire-breathing big-block and contemporary components

The Chevrolet Impala made its debut in 1958. Initially offered only as a sport coupe hardtop or convertible, it was a sales success too good to be kept to just two models. That would change in 1959 as all full-size Chevrolet models were available in the Impala line. Beginning in 1961, a dealer installed Super Sport option package could be purchased on any Impala. The $54 package included suspension, braking and handling upgrades, as well as SS identification badges on the rear fenders, deck lid, instrument panel and wheel covers. For 1962, the Super Sport package became factory option code 240 and included many of the same features as 1961 -- with the addition of bucket seats and a locking center console for $155.95.

For Darren Terry of Winnipeg, the bug to get an old car came in 2003. "I looked at a friends SSRq73 Mach I and passed on it, but kept looking," says Terry. In 2004 he found a 1965 Impala SS hardtop advertised for sale in Park Falls, Wisc. White with a black top, it was a running and driving car with a good body. The added value came with it being factory equipped with an L35 396 cubic-inch big-block V-8 and four-speed manual transmission. Terry travelled to Wisconsin to see the car and discovered a few surprises. "The original 396 V-8 was gone and replaced with a SSRq70s vintage 454 V-8, but the car looked very good, so I struck a deal, loaded it on the trailer …

Straight cat

1969 Mercury Cougar convertible one of less than 10,000 produced

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This 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible represents the second generation of this classy and classic pony car.

Since 1964 Ford had the compact Falcon, sporty Mustang and luxurious Thunderbird in its stable, while the Mercury line consisted only of the Comet and its full-size line. To bridge that sales gap, Mercury launched the Cougar for 1967 -- this sporty offering was aimed at folks who wanted a slightly upscale ride, but weren't quite ready to shell out the big bucks for a Thunderbird.

With hide-a-way headlamps, sequential turn signals and upscale styling, the Cougar gave an almost European aura to an otherwise Falcon/Mustang based American original. Sharing the same basic uni-body chassis, the Cougar featured a three-inch longer wheelbase, different spring rates for a smoother ride and increased leg and trunk room over the Mustang. With an overall length of 190-inches it was more than six inches longer than the Mustang. Unless the two were side-by-side it was hard to tell the Cougar was a larger car. It was the Cougar's styling, however, that really brought the package together. The Cougar certainly didn't go unnoticed -- it received Motor Trend magazine's car of the year award for 1967 and accounted for almost half of Mercury sales for 1967.

With the 1967 model making such a great entry, Mercury didn't mess with success and only offered mild styling changes for 1968 with the inclusion of side marker lamps, dual hydraulic braking system with warning light, four-way emergency flashers, padded dash and sun visors, along with two-speed windshield wipers and washers as standard equipment.

In 1969, the second-generation Cougar emerged. New sheet …

Rumble Bee

Rare muscle car restored to its former glory

By 1969, the muscle car arena was becoming crowded. The choices available from all of the big-three manufacturers, included everything from compact to intermediate and even full-size models, so buyers could opt for whatever buttered their bread. At Chrysler, the popularity of the Plymouth Road Runner in 1968 was an over-the-top success story. Based on the mid-size Satellite it sold several thousand more units than expected. Over in the Dodge camp, the Coronet line-up was based on the same B-body platform and in an effort to attract young, budget-minded buyers, the Super Bee model was born. Competing with the Coronet R/T and the entire Charger line-up the Super Bee had its work cut out for it.

Tasked as being an entry level mid-size muscle car, the Dodge Super Bee had everything going for it as far as price and available options. In many cases the younger buyers went shopping for the Super Bee persona, but didn't mind loading it up and making a few extra monthly payments to attain it. Shades of things to come, you want it, you buy it, you work for it and you pay for it. What resulted was Super Bee sales were significantly lower than say the plucky Plymouth Road Runner. Today, those lower sales figures simply mean a rarer car.

For owners Darren and Kathryn Terry of Winnipeg, their 1969 Dodge Super Bee is a prime example of what buyers looked for in a moderately priced muscle car. Well underway into a 12-year restoration of their …

Sweet Swede

Classic Volvo wagon a rare runner

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Murray Malcomson is the owner of this rare 1972 Volvo 1800ES Sport Wagon, one of only 8,078 produced.

Volvo was founded in 1926 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and introduced its first production automobile, the P4, in 1927. While sales were less than hoped for and it struggled through the Depression era and the war years, its PV444 model went on sale in 1947. A uni-body, five- passenger sedan with a 1,414 cc overhead-valve four-cylinder engine, it bore a strong resemblance to the 1946-48 Ford two-door sedan in styling, but about two-thirds the size. It was a welcome addition to the car market in the Americas as an alternative to the domestic models.

The PV444 model evolved into the PV544 with a larger engine with more horsepower and led the way to the development of the 122 series four-door sedan. In 1961 the P 1800 coupe made its debut. A sports car entry, based on a 1959 prototype, the styling was a blend from the design houses of Ghia and Frua. Assembled initially by Jensen in England these two-seater coupes could easily top 170 km/h.

A feather in Volvo's cap, came when the P1800 was chosen as the car to star with Roger Moore as Simon Templar in the hit 1962 TV series The Saint. With production shifting to Sweden in 1964 the model enjoyed a long run until late 1972, along with an additional model, the stylish 1800ES sports estate wagon.

Introduced in late 1971, the 1800ES carried all of the styling of the coupe combined with a slanted B-pillar and extended rear windows that flowed into a rear hatch, with glass …

Beach Boys' buggy

This 409 clone is definitely 'real fine'

She's real fine my 409, my 4...0...9.

The line comes from the Beach Boys song 409, released in '62 and letting everyone know about Chevy's newest high-performance powerplant.

Introduced in October 1957 as a 348-cubic-inch engine intended for Chevy trucks, it had the low-end torque needed for pulling heavy loads. But by the late '50s General Motors realized the additional cubic inches and torque from the 348 was also needed to pull the weight of the ever-growing full-size Chevrolet.

The 348 responded well to increases in compression and carburetion to the point that it kept Chevrolet competitive in the market. But in late 1961 an increase in bore and stroke to yield 409 cubic inches really got the ball rolling. Again, increases in compression and a move to dual four-barrel carburetors yielded 425 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m., making the Chevy a viable street machine and successful weekend racer.

By 1964 there was a new player in town called the mid-sized LeMans GTO, which had less weight and almost as much performance potential. The full-sized cars were losing some of their performance image. But, hook a full-size Impala Super Sport up with the 425 horsepower 409 V8 and fading quietly into the woodwork wasn't an option.

There were 8,684 Chevrolets built in 1964 with the 409 V8, so finding one today can be a bit of a challenge. But since less than 10 per cent of them found their way into the Impala Super Sport convertible, finding a needle in a haystack starts to look like …

Olds feels young again

Legendary 442 restored to luxurious, powerful glory

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Brian Klassen says he fell into the 442's paint colour by accident, but Larry D'Argis says it's a pretty good imitation of a factory colour -- Cameo Ivory.

Oldsmobile offered the 442 as a performance option on the F-85 Cutlass line beginning in 1964. An intermediate model, with added performance, thanks to the winning formula of coupling a large V-8 engine with a light car, and equipped with stiffer suspension and other road-handling abilities, it sold 2,999 units in its first year of production. Its popularity continued to grow with 25,003 built in ’65, and a slight drop to 21,997 in ’66. For 1967, the 442 sold 24,829 models and continued to offer performance, style, handling and luxury options.

Featuring a 400-cubic-inch V-8, equipped with 10.5:1 compression ratio and Rochester four-barrel carburetor, it produced 350 horsepower at 5,000 r.p.m. and 440 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 r.p.m. Available as a two-door coupe, holiday hardtop coupe or convertible, the 442 was quite the boulevard cruiser no matter what model the buyer chose. Along with an impressive list of standard equipment, the 442 could be as loaded up as the buyer wanted, thanks to an even longer list of options and accessories.

For Brian Klassen of Morris, the mid-’60s Olds was never really on his list of must haves. “I didn’t like the big wheel wells on the Cutlass, I felt the tire just got lost in it,” says Klassen. Years later a friend was selling all of his Olds and 442 parts he had removed from many cars, and Klassen bought them and tucked them away for safe-keeping. He then started to keep his eye out over the years for a …

Baby Brit

Ford's Prefect offered no-frills, basic transportation

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The spartan interior features optional blue leather upholstery. Highlights include a crank out front windscreen for ventilation and vacuum operated windshield wipers.

It's a well-known fact the war years brought automobile production to a standstill. Following the Second World War, importing vehicles to North America helped Europe get back on its feet financially. By the early 1950s many looked toward import offerings. One automaker was poised to meet that postwar demand. With roots beginning in 1932, Ford of Britain's Model Eight and Model Ten cars were produced at the company's Dagenham plant in London.

By the 1950s the cars had evolved into the Anglia two- door and Prefect four-door, both of which were imported into Canada in modest numbers. Looking very much like prewar 1930s American sedans -- they were successful in capturing an enthusiastic following.

Priced about a third less than domestic brands, imports such as the Anglia and Prefect were a good buy. Although no-frills and basic transportation, these vehicles afforded buyers the same mobility and access enjoyed by owners of more expensive domestic models.

While the cars of the 1950s continued on a longer, lower, wider, heavier and more horsepower route, the imports relied on supplying a tried and true formula of substance over style. Granted, styling would change -- the common goal of basic transportation was never lost. Room for the family, fuel economy and the ease of operation and maintenance were always the focus -- along with the easy on the wallet purchase price.

Here in Canada, these vehicles were enjoyed by their initial owners and subsequently passed on to family members or sold to other owners. Many of these cars …

Rare rag

1970 Dodge Challenger convertible one of only 3,173 produced

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Mike and Barb Huen's 1970 Challenger R/T convertible.

Plymouth introduced the A-body Valiant-based Barracuda in 1964 and it went head-to-head in sales with the Ford Mustang. Because of the lack of room in the engine compartment, the car was limited to small-block V-8 engines, while the competition went with big-block V-8s. Other than a few 383 cubic-inch powered cars or specially prepared 440 models available in 1969, interest from performance buyers began to wane. In 1967 Chrysler had slated a new E-body Barracuda for release in 1970. The E-body series shares the same front sub-frame member with the B-body Coronet and Satellite models, allowing ample room for the installation of every engine Chrysler produced.

This also gave Dodge the opportunity to share development costs and produce a similar model on the same platform, giving them a viable pony car to compete with the popular Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. Enter the new Dodge Challenger. Available in both hardtop and convertible, with an engine and performance-options list longer than your arm, this new kid on the block could raise eyebrows and pulses just sitting on the showroom floor. Its low-profile stance, and full-width, deeply recessed grill set back behind the dual headlamps, gave an immediate visual that screamed muscle car. Working back, the raised rear fender line and full-width rear lights split by a large reverse lamp with the DODGE name in chrome block letters, made it easily distinguishable from other models.

Developed simultaneously, the Barracuda and Challenger bear a strong family resemblance, yet are two very different automobiles. The Barracuda …

Northern gold

Beaumont wagon a rare and unique Canadian cruiser

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Brian Klassen's stunning 1968 Beaumont SD 396 station wagon is finished in brilliant metallic gold paint.

For the Canadian market, General Motors of Canada introduced a new car in 1962. The Pontiac Acadian was based on the new compact Chevy II platform and, other than the Canadian-inspired name and some unique badging, it was a carbon copy of the Chevy II. This gave Canadian Pontiac dealers a low-price compact model to compete with the Ford Falcon. One of the few options on the Acadian was the Beaumont trim package. Additional chrome and a nicer interior was the basis of the option, but as the years progressed, the Beaumont name would actually take over as the car moved to the mid-size Chevelle platform in 1965. Available in sedan, hardtop, convertible and wagon, the Beaumont covered every model of intermediate sales and was just what Pontiac needed to battle the sales competition.

Utilizing the body, frame and powertrain of the Chevrolet Chevelle, GM added the Lemans/GTO instrument panel along with upgraded interior appointments to set the cars apart. Further differences were readily noticeable with a unique grill, taillight panel and identifying trim. With list prices only slightly higher than the Chevelle, Canadian Pontiac dealers had a viable model to offer their customers. With the signing of the Canada/U.S. Autopact agreement in late 1968, the GTO and other U.S. models were allowed to enter the Canadian market without additional duties and 1969 would be the final year for the Beaumont.

Brian Klassen of Morris knows Beaumonts all too well. Having purchased 35 Beaumonts and Chevelles over the past 30-plus years, he's …

Life in the Fairlane

Flashy Ford restored to its former glory

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Finished in Carmine Red, this 1967 Ford Fairlane 500 XL is owned and driven by Kevin Torrance

The new Fairlane series arrived in showrooms in 1955 as the top trim level for the Ford lineup. In 1957, Fairlane continued, but was split into two series with the addition of the Fairlane 500 as the top level. With the introduction of the Galaxie in late 1959, both Fairlane models fell into line as Ford's mid-price offerings and remained there through 1961. For 1962, the base Fairlane and Fairlane 500 became part of Ford's new intermediate line. With several models and two trim levels to choose from, these large and stylish cars filled a marketing niche. Both models saw several styling changes throughout the first half of the 1960s and remained relatively popular sellers. The newly designed 1966 models, however, really signalled a winner for Ford, with strong sales and a loyal following that still lives on today in the collector-car hobby.

For Kevin Torrance of Winnipeg, he'd tinkered with his 1959 Ford Galaxie since he was 16 years old. He had taken on several minor bodywork and paint projects and felt he was ready to move forward with a more challenging project. "I like all cars, but the Fairlane had a racing heritage from the days of NASCAR running on tracks like Daytona," says Torrance. "The Fairlane was also a uni-body, fastback and fairly lightweight for its size."

After spotting a 1967 Fairlane 500 XL for sale in Winnipeg on Kijiji in November 2011, Torrance went to look it over and found a complete V-8-powered car in running order, basically …