1980 Excalibur Phaeton Neoclassic Car

From about 1960 through 1990, there was a golden age of startup companies building “neoclassic” styled kit cars in America. These “contemporary classics” offered vintage styling with modern power and handling. The first and most famous of these companies was Excalibur, which was started in 1964 by a former Studebaker designer and his two sons.

Brooks Stevens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was asked by his boss at Studebaker to build a vehicle for the New York Auto Show that would turn heads. Stevens took a supercharged Avanti and reworked it to look like a 1920s Mercedes SSK. The top brass at Studebaker made a last-minute decision not to show the car, but Brooks Stevens contacted Jerry Allen, the organizer of the auto show who “found a corner” for Stevens to display the car.

As it turns out, the Excalibur was a huge hit with Stevens turning down cash offers on the spot for the car and coming home with a dozen pre-orders. With that, he set up shop with his sons David and William and Excalibur was born.

Besides getting the car into the New York Auto Show, Jerry Allen made one other very important contribution to the car: he suggested they switch to a Chevrolet powerplant, which they did.

There are five different generations of Excaliburs: Series I (1964-1969), Series II (1970-1975), Series III (1975-1980), Series IV (1980-1986), and Series V (1987-1994). This particular car is a 1980 Excalibur Phaeton, which was the first year of the Series IV. It rides on a ladder frame with a central cross-member and has a 125″ wheelbase.

The Series IV revision was a pretty major one for Excalibur. They switched up the design of the body to resemble the Mercedes 540k instead of the Mercedes SSK which they emulated in Series I-III. Series IV also had the Chevrolet 305 V8 engine and a TH400 automatic transmission with lockup converter.

The 1980 Excalibur Phaeton was surprisingly well-equipped compared to its previous model years. The Series IV cars had power windows with real glass, power locks, cruise control, electric seats, and a optional electrically-operated convertible roof on Roadster and Phaeton models. This car is one of 90 vehicles built in 1980.

Unfortunately, rising inflation in the 1980s hit the company hard and they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1986. They were resurrected by multiple different owners before finally closing down for good in the early 2000s.

While a lot of other companies tried to copy the “neoclassic” styling of the Excalibur, none of them were as commercially successful. During their 25+ year run, Excalibur built approximately 3,200 vehicles, which is a lot considering their humble beginnings!

This car is in particularly nice condition with only 2 owners and 29,000 original miles. I spotted it out at the Fountain Hills Concours in February 2014.

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