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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

An American icon

Ford's Mustang has a long and storied racing history

In 1965, the Ford Motor Company approached legendary racer, car designer and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby about qualifying the Mustang as a sports car to compete in the Sports Car Club of America competitions.

As a result, Shelby and Ford created hundreds of GT 350 fastbacks for competition and for public sale. Shelby American even produced 16 coupes in 1966 that competed in the A/Sedan Group 2 class of racing. With the Mustang’s success, more began surfacing in competition, including the coupe model. Many individual racers saw the opportunity to take these lightweight coupes to the next level as racers and they often fared well in competition.

Today, the Mustang fastbacks and convertibles from the 1960s are coveted collectibles. The vintage coupe is also a player in the market, but can be had for much less of an investment, even though it offers much the same driving characteristics. Back in 1966, the coupe was priced only $231 less than the convertible and $191 less than the fastback — but today their values are far less than the other models.

Because of the price differential, the coupes are probably on the cusp of being a hot commodity. With their classic style, ease of maintenance and the plethora of restoration and performance modification parts available in today’s market, it makes them a great buy. Drag car, slalom racer, street machine, classic cruiser or pro touring — all are within your grasp equally with a coupe.

For Derrick Ramsey of Winnipeg, growing up in the ‘60s in Brandon, …

IMPORTED luxury

Vintage Vauxhall rare, capable cruiser

Vauxhall Iron Works in London had long been a boat producer before its first chain-drive runabout left the plant in 1903.

Not much more than a motorized carriage with tiller steering and no reverse gear, Vauxhall continued to improve.

By 1922, the Vauxhall D-type was seen as a reliable vehicle and capable of a top speed near the 160 km/h mark. Financial ills in the mid-1920s resulted in Vauxhall being purchased by General Motors — and that opened up a whole new market for the cars.

By the late 1940s, the popularity of economical and inexpensive compact vehicles began to take a foothold in the North American market and the Vauxhall was a staple in GM showrooms.

For 1957, the General Motors styling influence could be seen in the new Victor model. A squarish profile aimed at international sales, the Vauxhall featured lower glass lines, liberal use of chrome trim, and column-shifted manual transmission.

Sales continued to climb through the 1959 model and GM felt it was time for its own compact and introduced the European-inspired rear-engine, air-cooled, Chevrolet Corvair. Sales were slow at first and it was noted a good many buyers still wanted the conventional front-engine, rear-drive layout.

Vauxhall adopted a wider grille in 1960 with minor styling changes, but for 1962, it would see a total restyling. Five inches longer, with a two-inch increase in wheelbase, the Victor received a new wider grille that incorporated the headlamps.

For Tom Dudych of Winnipeg, the Vauxhall experience came in 1975, when his father, Joe, purchased a …

Hot SUMMER nights

Pony Corral Sunday night cruise a Manitoba tradition

Whether you call it hot August nights or the dog days of summer — August on the Prairies typically offers great weather for outdoor activities. Last Sunday with mild temperatures and not a cloud in the sky, the crowd came out in droves for Sunday Night Cruise Nite at the Pony Corral Restaurant and Bar, located at the Grant Park Shopping Centre on the corner of Grant Avenue and Wilton Street. Pony Corral owner Peter Ginakes is a longtime lover of all things automotive and has been welcoming the car community to his restaurants since 1986.

Event sponsors include Rondex, Piston Ring Service, BIG 97.5, CJOB, Coors, Coca-Cola and Willy’s Garage. In addition to all the great classic and special-interest vehicles on display there’s also onsite entertainment and fabulous prizes given away in both the weekly and final summer draws. With tasty burgers and hot-dogs available from the Pony’s food cart, aptly modelled after a Ford Model T, and great meals on the patio or inside the restaurant, there’s always plenty of options to take care of those hunger pangs.

For the past 10 years the Pony Corral has teamed up with the Fabulous 50’s Ford Club of Manitoba to manage the parking lot directly in front of the restaurant — where featured auto clubs showcase their member’s vehicles each week. In addition to the featured weekly guest car club member vehicles prominently displayed up front, there is also reserved parking for more than 300 classic and special-interest vehicles in Grant …

1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado the epitome of elegance

Classy coupe

For 1967, Cadillac introduced its new Fleetwood Eldorado Coupe. Sharing the same E-body platform as the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado, it was the first Cadillac to be billed as a personal luxury car. Radically styled with hidden headlamps and riding on a 120-inch wheelbase, with a 221-inch overall length and weighing in at 4,590-pounds — it was also the shortest and lowest Cadillac on the market in ’67. With a base price of $6,277, it still offered full six-passenger seating, thanks to the flat floor in front afforded from the front-wheel-drive platform borrowed from the Toronado.

The Eldorado used its own highly stylized sheet metal along with a slightly longer wheelbase and modified frame. The Toronado front torsion bar suspension was shared as was its 425 Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed automatic transmission. It still relied on the tried and true Cadillac 429-cubic-inch V-8. Equipped with 10.5:1 compression, four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, it produced 340 horsepower and 480 foot pounds of torque.

Mounted longitudinally, a massive enclosed chain carried the power 180 degrees from the torque convertor to the transmission nestled under the right bank of the engine. The final 3.21:1 ratio drive was fed through a differential mounted in front of the transmission, which utilized a left driveshaft routed through a cylindrical passage through the oil pan.

While it may sound technically confusing and a bit strange, it was very reliable. This is the same platform that would go on to power many models of large motorhomes well into the 1980s.

For Bill Eamer …

Heavy hitter

Dodge Dart Swinger tribute covers all the bases

The new compact Dodge Dart hit showrooms in 1963 as a replacement for the previous Lancer model introduced in 1961. Slightly larger than the Lancer, it offered styling similar to the rest of the Dodge lineup and included 170, 270 and GT trim levels. Completely restyled from the chassis up in 1967, the Dart was given a more refined look, and even though they looked larger, they were actually a half-inch shorter. Sales were brisk, as the car appealed to a broad market. Young and older buyers alike saw the car’s size and available options as great value for the dollar.

For 1968, Dodge was looking for more of a performance image with the Dart and introduced the 340-cubic-inch, V-8 powered GTS as a special high-performance version of the GT. At nearly $300 more, it actually crept into the mid-size Coronet market, and sales were less than hoped for. The answer came in 1969 as the Dart Swinger. The Swinger 340 became Dodge’s new “Scat Pack” economy sports performance model. With the emphasis on performance over luxury, weighing in at 3,179 pounds and motivated by the 275-horsepower 340 V-8 it gave muscle-car fans more bang for their buck. Not as flashy as the GTS, it was equally as fast or faster, and because it was considered a compact car, insurance companies charged lower premiums than other muscle cars.

For Mark Stanczak of St. Andrews, his Dart experience began in 1974 when his father, Ted, purchased the family’s 1974 Dart SE. “I was …

Classy coupe

Rare Lincoln a strikingly beautiful design

In the 1950s, Lincoln bore strong styling ties to the Mercury, until 1956. With the formation of the Continental division and the introduction of the Continental Mk II, the Lincoln lineup took on many styling elements from the Ford concept and show cars. For 1958, the new idea was a bold move in style and presence, and cost-cutting. With management’s objective to outdo the competition with a longer, lower and faster car, chief stylist John Najjar had his work cut out for him. While high tail fins were still in vogue, Najjar’s design incorporated a modest fin that produced a design that has been coined “rectilinear” yet still keeping the car’s lines in a splendid profile. Expanding the Continental division to share the same uni-body platform as other Lincoln vehicles resulted in a $4,000 price reduction. Produced from 1958 to 1960, Lincolns would become some of the largest and longest wheelbase vehicles ever produced by the Ford Motor Company.

With the emphasis on excess, the Lincoln rode on a 131-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 227.2-inches and a width of 80.3 inches. Mammoth in proportions, the Lincoln used its sheer size as a fashion statement. Large quad-canted headlamps, sculptured side panels and small tail fins with a dollop of chrome trim, they left buyers awestruck. While the 1958 economic recession didn’t help sales, it was the first time in the decade where sales dropped below 10,000 units per series. Still, it was a beautiful car and made everything else on …

Golden MOPAR

Fifty years later muscular Dodge Charger still thrills

A golden anniversary isn’t something to be taken lightly. The 50-year mark is really a cause for celebration, and this year, the party belongs to the 1966 Dodge Charger.

The early 1960s saw a marketing shift toward more mid-priced and sporty cars such as the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda.

Over at the Dodge division, talk was of producing a new Dodge aimed at the youth market segment, similar to the Barracuda.

For Burt Bouwkamp, chief engineer for Dodge, the last thing he wanted was a Barracuda clone that would actually compete with it for sales.

Turning the project over to designer Carl “Cam” Cameron, he tooled up a show car for the 1965 show-car circuit.

The racy Charger II, based on the Coronet model, had hidden headlamps, modified rear quarter panels with full wheel openings, larger triangular “C”-pillars, a large, flat rear window and a six-bulb rear taillight that spanned the full width of the rear of the car.

Billed exclusively as a concept and idea car, it was shown as something that may go into production if there was enough market interest in the design.

Viewers may not have known, but the design, name and marketing for the car had already been approved, and it would debut in Dodge showrooms in 1966.

Available only as a two-door fastback coupe, the Charger came standard with four bucket seats, full-length centre console and fold-down seats in the rear, offering a small cavern for luggage or storage. Along with the new body style, new name and optional equipment, there …

Hot rod Lincoln

Big, bold Continental Mark III owns the road

Henry Ford purchased Lincoln from Henry Leland in 1922. An upscale luxury model, it was brought into the Ford family to help bridge the gap between the utilitarian Ford Model T and other luxury marques offered by competitors. Ford’s son Edsel was the chief stylist on the Lincoln line and in 1939 he designed the Continental. Available as a two-door coupe or convertible the Continental styling was unlike the regular Lincoln line and appealed to the country club set. Well received and highly regarded, it sold well both before and following a four-year hiatus in production, due to the Second World War. In 1956 The Continental Division was established and it produced the two-door coupe Mark II models. Beautiful hand-built automobiles, the $10,000 price tag saw most purchased by movie stars, bankers and world rulers. Production ceased after only two years.

Many felt the four-seat Thunderbird that debuted in 1958 was chosen to be Ford’s personal luxury conveyance and it fit the bill until the late 1960s. Lincoln re-emerged in 1969 with the Continental Mark III. Again, drawing on the historical image of the Continental coupes, it offered huge comfort and class and paid homage to the long-hood, short-deck tradition of the previous Mark series. For 1970, the only changes were concealed windshield wipers, upgraded signal and tail lamps as well as a new interior upholstery theme, with genuine walnut veneers in place of the simulated oak and rosewood previously used.

One look at the Mark III coming, going or sitting in …

Rare filly

1967 Mustang convertible a desirable collector car

For 1967, the Ford Mustang saw many significant upgrades. While the styling theme remained true to the original, everything grew larger and some of the old Falcon underpinnings began to disappear. The additional room in the passenger compartment was certainly welcome as was the larger engine bay to accommodate the 390 cubic-inch big-block V-8.

Mustang sales remained strong with 356,271 units produced in ’67, including 44,808 convertibles. These drop-top models were the least produced model in ’67, and remain very strong as collectable models today. The problem is that today they are just about unobtainium. Mustang convertibles are difficult to find and very costly to restore. Those that are in good condition command a premium price over the common two-door coupe model.

For Louis Grimard of Winnipeg, his history with the ’67 Mustang convertible he owns, goes back to April of 1975.

“I saw the car sitting at a service station with a for sale sign on it,” says Grimard. An original black car with a red interior and the C-code, 200 horsepower, 289 cubic-inch V-8, and only having 40,000 original miles on the odometer, it was an interesting find. It turns out many were interested in acquiring the car, but few could come up with the necessary funds without a bank loan. At the time, securing the cash without collateral for an eight-year-old car meant Grimard with the necessary cash won the seller over.

For a ’67 model it was quite well equipped with nearly $1,000 in optional equipment including power steering, styled …

Hot hauler

1934 Ford street rod pickup

The Ford Motor Company had been busy in the late 1920s introducing the new Model A. That continued into the ’30s with new offerings and models to meet buyer demands.

Despite the stock market crash of 1929 and weathering the deepest and longest economic downturn in the history of the western industrialized world, later to be known as the Great Depression, Ford was very successful in sales of both cars and light trucks. Like the cars Ford produced, the light truck exhibited that same popular Ford style people wanted.

Today, the early Fords still enjoy a huge following and often show up in original, restored and street rod form at many local car shows. Stature, style and parts availability are what drive the industry and the Ford is represented in many areas, making these vehicles timeless.

For Doug Rempel of Winnipeg, the early ’30s Ford has been an indelible memory. “Back in Grade 2, I had a model of an early ’30s Ford Roadster and always wanted to own one.”

In August of 2013, Rempel found a for sale ad for a 1934 Ford pickup street rod in Pittsburgh. After many telephone calls and emails with photos, Rempel and his wife, Renee, decided it was time to take a flight down to see the truck, before making a final decision. “I liked the truck right away and after a test drive, we struck a deal,” says Rempel.

Back in Winnipeg, Rempel sent a certified cheque to cover the cost of the vehicle — and that’s …

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