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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

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 …

Ready to rumble

Manitoba poised for another great summer of cruising

Last weekend, the weather finally broke and car enthusiasts had the opportunity to get out and enjoy the beginning of the 2016 cruising season. From Friday to Sunday the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA) hosted its 17th annual Rondex Rodarama car show, featuring more than 100 great classic and special interest automobiles at the East End Arena in Transcona. It also amped it up with a car corral of for sale vehicles.

According to show organizer Tom Hancock, “the membership wanted to add the Saturday car corral to the weekend event to give the people attending an added attraction.”

About 20 vehicles of various makes and models were lined up outside of the newly expanded arena. All polished up and waiting for a new owner, the selection was loaded with ready-to-drive classic and collector cars.

Inside, the show vehicles took centre stage with a wide array of hot rods, vintage, classic and collectable vehicles on display. There was also a nice assortment of works in progress that showed where the hobby is headed. This year’s Rodarama featured mostly new builds, with fewer than 10 entries seen from previous shows. Returning this year was a stunning display of five vehicles from Bob Marvin, who owns The Shed in Warroad, Minn. Marvin drew from his unique and iconic 98 vehicle collection preserved in his 24,000-square-foot garage.

In addition to delighting local car lovers, Rodarama also gives the MSRA the chance to give back to the community by donating some of the proceeds of the show to …

Good as gold

50-year-old Ford Fairlane convertible brought back to former glory

Ford’s new intermediate arrived in dealer showrooms in 1962 carrying the familiar Fairlane name. The Fairlane, first introduced in 1955 as a top-of-the-line series for the full-size Ford, gave way to the Galaxie moniker in mid 1959 and became a mid-level series on the ’60 and ’61 Ford. With the growth in full-size cars through the ’50s, the Fairlane as an intermediate, was compared to the dimensions of the ’49 through ’51 Fords that had appeared a decade earlier.

While proportions were roughly the same, the new Fairlane was noticeably lower in height over the shoebox Ford. The Fairlane evolved through the early 1960s like the rest of the Ford line, not only growing in size, but it also became a player in the performance market.

Completely restyled for 1966, the Fairlane was longer, lower and wider. It also featured new front and rear suspension and a larger engine bay to house the optional big-block V-8 engines. The GT model was available on the Fairlane 500 hardtop and convertible and was fitted with bucket seats, floor console and special GT badging. If buyers opted for an automatic transmission over the four-speed manual gearbox, the nomenclature identified it as the GTA.

In 1966, 4,327 convertibles and 33,015 hardtops left the factory equipped with the mighty 390 cubic-inch, 335 horsepower GT V-8. With a manageable 116-inch wheelbase and weighing in at just over 3,500-pounds, the Fairlane was now capable of low to mid 15-second quarter-mile times at more than 90 miles per hour.

For Dennis Atamanchuk …

Squeaky clean

Compact Mercury Comet restored and revamped

The late 1950s saw sales of foreign compact cars in Canada reach more than 20 per cent of new car sales. Clearly, buyers wanted smaller, more economical cars than the large, chrome-laden models many North American makers had to offer. This consumer shift resulted in a variety of American compacts hitting the market as 1960 models. Offerings included the Plymouth Valiant, Chevrolet Corvair, Studebaker Lark, and Ford Falcon.

Thanks to thrifty pricing and simple, straight forward styling, these compact models had a bright future.

In the Mercury division of Ford, the plan was to introduce the compact Mercury Comet in the United States in March 1960, but it wouldn’t reach the Canadian market until 1961. This would have left Mercury dealers in Canada without a compact car to sell, so Ford of Canada gave Mercury dealers the new Frontenac. Basically a clone of the Falcon — with some easily distinguishable trim — the Frontenac sold well before it was replaced by the Mercury Comet in 1961.

For 1961, the Comet came to Canada in four models, the two-door and four-door sedan as well as two- and four-door station wagons. Available with a base 85-horsepower, Thrift-Power 144-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine, it offered basic transportation for six, with good fuel economy — all for about $2,100.

Today, there are still a few of these jewels around, and compared to other classic vehicles, they can be purchased and enjoyed for a reasonable cost. For Cheryl Sinclair of Lockport, it was all about finding a neat summer driver. In …

Special delivery

Piston Ring resurrects rare Chevrolet for its fleet of collector vehicles

Since the invention of the automobile, light-duty service vehicles such as flat-deck trucks, pickups, sedan deliveries and even hybrid car/truck models such as the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino have been important tools for small businesses.

One vehicle that proved to be especially useful is the sedan delivery. Basically a station wagon without windows and rear seating, these handy rigs afforded a large open interior space with room for larger items and allowed the driver easy access through a liftgate. Under cover of the steel roof, contents were also kept out of the elements, and with softer spring rates than a truck, these vehicles offered a smoother ride for both cargo and driver.

Jim and John Tennant of Piston Ring Service grew up in the auto parts and service business. Their father James Tennant Sr. founded the company in 1953. Suffice it to say, the Tennant brothers have seen many delivery vehicles come and go over the years. Today, as leaders of their family business, Jim and John look back on a time where these simple delivery vehicles helped build the company.

James A. Tennant Sr. was a machinist by trade and started out with a small 240 squarefoot machine shop at 127 Garry St. Now, 63 years later, Piston Ring Service meets the needs of the professional automotive installer with a 200,000 sq. ft. warehouse carrying an inventory exceeding five million parts. With more than 45 corporate and franchise automotive outlets, Piston Ring ensures those parts meet intended destinations with fast …