Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Beautiful 1959 Renault Caravelle (Floride)

I've said this so many times... The French just never understood the US market. From the 50s through the 80s, we bought just about any European roadster that was sent to us. If it was a 2 seater, looked sporty, handled well and was relatively quick, we bought 'em.

With the original Caravelle (called the Floride outside of the US), Renault met the first 3 requirements. But the 35HP, 845cc, engine made it excruciatingly slow. (19 seconds to 60 MPH.)

The Caravelle body was styled by Ghia. It is rumored that the front end was used as inspiration by BMC when designing the MGB. There certainly is some similarity. The interior is well designed and well laid out. When compared to its main US competitor, VW's Karmann Ghia, it was downright luxurious.

Reliability was not one of the Caravelle's high points. Overheating, blown headgaskets, fragile clutches and iffy electronics were all part of Renault's (all Renaults of the day) woes. To make matters worse, many of Renault's US dealers often didn't have the parts and / or skills to repair the cars. When a Renault broke down, it was most often junked. Buyers then went on to purchase another brand. Very few of the very few Caravelles sold survive today. (Rust was a huge issue, too.)

This car is a driver that would get attention at any car show. It was restored 5 years ago and still looks great. Black over red is one of my favorite color combinations. The bumpers have been rechromed and the top is new. The original hardtop is with the car, but is missing the rear window. (The seller says he knows of one available in California.)

The Caravelle is a beautiful car. If they came with an English or Italian badge on them, they would sell for twice the money they sell for now. In the US the Renault badge is a liability. Even with its measly performance, it's still a car worth owning. (The reality is that an old Karmann Ghia is no faster. Even some of the British sports cars of the day needed 14 or more - often way more - seconds to reach 60 MPH. None were especially reliable when new.)

Buy this car for its looks, not its performance. Bring it to any local car show and it will get more attention than any of the similar era, similar class British, Italian or German cars will.

As most of you know, I am a big Renault (French cars in general) fan. I look at this car and I remember the incredible R17 Gordinis I owned. It's frustrating to think about what could have been if Renault even had the slightest clue about the American market.

Located in Los Angeles, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Immaculate 1964 Simca 1000

Simca was a French company that, along with other French companies - Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen - introduced their cars to the US back in the 1950s. In the 1960s it was purchased by Chrysler and would later be sold to Peugeot, who eventually discontinued the brand. Over the years, Simca offered front engined RWD cars, FWD cars and rear engined cars.

The French never figured out how to crack the US market, but those of us who are car geeks remember most of the brands... Citroens were oddly styled, but incredibly well engineered cars. They were probably a bit too advanced for the US at the time. Peugeots were comfortable, well thought out cars, but their decision in the 1970s to push diesel cars in the US (initially using a pretty lousy diesel engine) was a huge mistake that cost them dearly. Compared to Citroen and Peugeot, Renault managed to sell quite a few cars in the US, but they always seemed to somehow snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory... Simca though, has no real reputation for anything (good or bad) in the US and, for the most part, is forgotten.

The 1000 was Simca's first rear-engined car. It has its roots in a Fiat project. The very short version of the story goes something like this... Simca’s President, Henri Pigozzi, was born in Turin and was a friend of Fiat’s founder, Giovanni Agnelli and his family. In the late 1950s, Fiat was considering an upmarket version of the 600 and set about designing a 2 door and 4 door car. Pigozzi had been planning a small Simca and, during a visit to Fiat’s Development Department, realized that the 4 door car ("Project 122") would be ideal. Because of his close relationship with the Agnelli family (and Fiat's stake in the Simca company), Pigozzi was allowed to choose one of six Fiat designs. After the design was chosen, Simca's chief stylist, Marion Revello de Beaumont, spent the next two years working with Fiat’s Felice Mario Boano, developing the Simca 1000.

The 1000 was launched in 1961. It was immediately popular. It stayed in production until 1978. Over 2 million were sold.

The eBay listing for this car has few details. The seller says it has a new interior, engine and brakes. It is supposedly a rust free Arizona car that "goes down the road like new." Based on the pictures, it looks to be in excellent condition.

The seller is calling this a "micro car." That's a relative term, I guess. Compared to the land yachts coming from Detroit in the 1960s, it's a tiny car. But, it's far bigger than the BMW Isetta or the Messerschmitt KR200, which I consider true micro cars. In the US the 1000 was a direct competitor - in size, performance, price and economy - to the VW Beetle, Renault Dauphine / 8 / 10 cars, and the Fiat 850.

There are very few of these cars left in the US. Parts are not easy to come by here, but with over 2 million having been built, parts can still be found in Europe. If you're looking for an unusual car to drive on the weekends and bring to car shows, this 1000 is worth checking out.

Located in Deltona, FL, click here to see the eBay listing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1961 Humber Super Snipe - They Don't Get Any Nicer Than This One

I've posted some Super Snipes in the past. None were as nice as this one.

Humber was part of the Rootes Group. These cars were officially sold in the US, but not very well promoted. Rootes chose to emphasize its line of economical Hillman cars and the sporty Sunbeam brand.

When it came to luxury, the Super Snipe could hold its own with just about any car on the market. Wood and leather were plentiful. A 3.0 liter I6 was standard. Air conditioning and an automatic transmission were available.

This car has an interesting history. The seller writes, "This car was purchased new by a Manhattan woman in 1961 for use at her Vermont summer home, where it was chauffeur-driven throughout her ownership. The car remained in her possession until her death in the early 2000's. It was subsequently repainted in the original color and in 2006, was acquired by the third and current owner. It is lovingly maintained via her family's British car repair shop. It has covered only 41,674 miles since new and has been displayed at the British Invasion in Stowe, VT on several occasions."

I can't imagine that there are any other near-original, low mileage Humber Super Snipes in the US. If you're looking for a rare, unusual classic British sedan, this car is worth checking out.

Located in Branford, CT, click here to see the eBay listing. (This car is also being advertised on the Hemmings site.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vice President Joe Biden's 2005 Cadillac STS

So, it's 2005 and you're the senior senator from Delaware. You have presidential aspirations. People scrutinize your every move. You want a cool vehicle, but you need to buy something made in America. You could buy a BMW X5, an Acura TL or a Mercedes-Benz M Class. They're built in the US, but, let's face it, they're still looked at as imports by most people. What do you choose?

Joe Biden chose an AWD Cadillac STS. Not a bad car in its day, if you needed to buy American.

The STS was the successor to the FWD Cadillac Seville. At the time, it was Cadillac's flagship car. The Northstar V8 was an impressive engine, developing 320 HP. The transmission was a 6 speed automatic. The suspension was a "Magnetic Ride Control" suspension, which was billed as being the "fastest reacting suspension ever." It was available with AWD. The renaissance Cadillac is enjoying today has its roots in this car.

So what about this car?

Not a lot of information is given, including how the seller knows this was Biden's Cadillac. (For someone with the very important job he has, Biden seems like a regular Joe - pun intended. But, I can't imagine that he just put it on the lawn of Number One Observatory Circle with a "for sale" sign on it.) He states that it has "push start tweeter speakers," (Not sure what those are. I had a door speaker in an MGB that I had to punch in order to make it work. :-)), a Bose stereo, and heated and cool seats front and "black."

He says it needs shocks and suspension work (probably not cheap) and minor engine work (the Northstar, impressive as it was, turned out to be not very reliable). From the pictures, it looks pretty much like what you'd expect a 10 year old, 110,000 mile Cadillac to look like.

The KBB value of a 2005 Cadillac STS, in fair condition with 110,000 miles, is roughly $9500.00. The seller is asking $15,000.00 for this one. Celebrity ownership has its price, I guess. Still, it's cheaper than the $1,000,000.00 someone was asking for President Obama's 2005 Chrysler 300C or the $690,000.00 Pope John Paul's 1975 Ford Escort sold for.

I could see myself recommending a Cadillac STS to someone who was looking for a mid-2000s American luxury car. But, unless they were a political junkie, I would recommend they spend a few thousand dollars less and buy one in excellent condition owned by someone anonymous.

Located in North Wilmington, DE, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Estate Auction - Lots Of Stuff, Including a Super Low Mileage 1974 Jaguar E-Type

My friend Jeff sent me a Craigslist link the other night. The ad was simply titled "Estate of Victor Mueller Live Auction"

Curious, I did an internet search for Victor Mueller. It turns out that Mr. Mueller, besides being a farmer (the "Pig farmer from Pickett"), was a very successful gemstone dealer. Like most guys do, it looks like Mr. Mueller used some of his money to buy "toys."

Farming is tough, time consuming work. The gemstone business probably isn't easy, either. It looks like Mr. Mueller didn't have a lot of time to enjoy one of his toys; a 1974 Jaguar XKE. This car s said to have just 1062 miles on it.

The auction house doesn't give us a lot of details. There is supposedly a hardtop and a luggage rack with the car. Neither are on the car and they are not pictured. We are not told if it runs or even if the engine turns. The seller does mention that the brakes and clutch are frozen.

The seller does not offer any proof of the low miles. There is no mention of the condition of the interior. (Having been in storage for many years, there's a good chance rodents got into it.)

There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this car. I suppose you could call the auction house for more details, but if they are not used to selling older, semi-exotic cars, I wonder how much help that would be. This could be an awesome find, but without seeing it first, I'm not sure I would bid too much on it.

Located in Princeton, WI, click here to see the auction house listing.

Along with the Jaguar, there is a diesel powered Hummer H1, a Ford F250 truck, a cool Lund Tyree 1750 Grand Sport boat, and all sorts of farming and excavating machinery being auctioned. You can find it all here.