Far From Home: American Cars In Iceland

I recently spent 9 days in Iceland, aside from the immediately shocking 70 degree temperature difference and foreign language on the walls it didn’t feel as foreign as I expected.. at least from inside the airport. As the rental car shuttle bus (a Mercedes with hubcaps) brought us around to our drop off location I spotted a parking lot filled entirely with cars that I had never seen before. This is when it hit me and really sunk in that I was far from home and things would be different. Continue reading

Top 6 Most Patriotic Custom Cars

An automobile can be much more than a means of transportation – it can also be a canvas for creative expression. In today’s post, we take a look at six vehicles where the owners have chosen to customize their rides in a patriotic fashion, expressing their love for the United States of America.

6). – 1929 Chevrolet “Low Flyer”

This 1929 Chevrolet has been customized in the style of a World War II fighter aircraft. It features a 235 inline-6 Chevrolet motor with dual Stromberg carburetors connected to a two-speed Powerglide transmission from a 1966 Chevelle. The exhaust features hand-made headers exiting through 4 old Harley Davidson exhaust pipes with custom drilled sheathing to simulate machine gun barrels. The interior features upholstery made from a 1940s US Army tent, an ammo can glove box, a vintage brass fire extinguisher, and a hand grenade shift knob.

5). Jet Engine Powered Mitsubishi Eclipse

Here we have a third-generation 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse. This car has a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, an AM/FM radio with CD player, and oh yeah…a jet turbine engine in the rear hatch! This car was originally purchased on eBay for around $20,000 and brought to Arizona. It made the rounds at local car shows from approximately 2010-2013, and hasn’t been seen since. The turbine engine did work and produced an ear-piercing roar. It was also capable of shooting an impressive fireball, as pictured above. I seem to recall reading that the engine was sourced from a Blackhawk helicopter, but I cannot remember where I read that. The owner also had a MTT Y2K turbine powered motorcycle at one point. Anyway, the car is wrapped to look like a US Army fighter jet, which is why it comes in at #5 on our list of most patriotic custom cars.

4). “Fallen Heroes” Spartan II

The Spartan II is a low-production custom car that combines neoclassic styling with a Nissan powertrain. You can read my full post on the Spartan II here. After seeing that initial car, I saw another one – this time a red one! The entire rear of the car was airbrushed with a mural depicting various patriotic and religious scenes. Over the backdrop of the American flag we can see a plane that resembles a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster but with incorrect placement of the rear horizontal stabilizers, a tank, a submarine, a HUMVEE, and a Chinook helicopter. There are multiple eagles, including one shedding a tear.

The bottom of the mural shows a grieving woman mourning over a flag-covered coffin while being comforted by a US Marine, then a dozen flag-covered coffins in the cargo bay of a US military aircraft, a jet aircraft striking the side of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center, and finally a crucified Jesus hanging on the cross at sunset. Beneath everything are the words “In Memory of our Fallen Heroes” in gold script.

I don’t even know where to begin with this one – it blends military service with a national tragedy with patriotism with a religious element as well. It’s very over-the-top and clearly the owner has some very strong sentiment for America.

3). “Support Our Troops” Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette is perhaps the most quintessential, red-blooded American vehicle since the Model T. I spotted this very patriotic C6 Corvette convertible at a local air show. The car is white with a red interior and features a blue front air dam with white stars. On both sides, an exaggerated flag has been airbrushed starting from the fenders and extending the length of the doors.

The hood features a detailed American eagle clutching a banner in its talons that reads “Support Our Troops.” It’s not subtle, but it’s actually quite well done.

2). The 9/11 Tribute Shelby Mustang

I spotted this very patriotic Shelby Mustang at a local car meet. The red car features American flag stripes running the length of the car. On the hood is an airbrushed Statue of Liberty flanked by quotes from American Patriots such as Nathan Hale. Moving to the rear of the car, the trunk lid features an elaborate airbrushed mural of the New York City skyline with two large towers that don’t look anything like World Trade Center Towers 1 and 2, but since one has a giant antenna, I’m assuming that’s what they are supposed to be. Finally, the rear bumper says “NEVER FORGET” in large block letters.

1). 2005 Chevrolet Silverado “HEROES Truck”

When is a Chevrolet Silverado worth $200,000? When it’s the HEROES Truck. This custom show truck tops our list of Most Patriotic Custom Vehicles, and it’s the clear leader of the pack. The truck took 5 years to build and more than 50,000 man hours of labor, including 1,200 hours of airbrush artwork by Mickey Harris from Cosby, TN. The murals pay tribute to our military, firefighters, police, nurses, politicians, astronauts, and any other U.S. citizen that has shown courage and self-sacrifice. The truck is a tribute to all of our past, present, and future American heroes.

Beyond the eye-popping artwork, the truck has also been upgraded with a 540cid GM V8 engine with a BDS supercharger, modified Turbo 400 transmission, and DynaTech axles. It rides on Weld Wheels and Super Swamper tires and features a tilt body which reveals the polished stainless chassis and adjustable four-link suspension. The truck sold for $209,000 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale collector car auction in January 2013.

Well, that wraps up our list of the Top 6 Most Patriotic Custom Cars. Thanks for reading, and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Gold Rush Rally: GRX 2018 in Scottsdale

Pagani Huayra at the Gold Rush Rally in Scottsdale

The origins of the automotive rally date back more than 100 years to 1895 in France, when early motorsports enthusiasts came up with a point-to-point race using public roads, as there were very few race tracks at the time. Today, the tradition of a city to city road rally is as popular as ever.

One of the most elite in the United States is the Gold Rush Rally, now in its 10th year. For 2018 the route covers ten cities in ten days, stretching more than 3,500 miles from Boston to Las Vegas.

The event is open to those who can afford the steep price tag of $22,000 for the full route, or $11,000 for half of the journey. The cost includes VIP parties, lodging in first-class accommodations, and the experience of being part of a rolling party of automotive mayhem. As you might imagine, the entry fee attracts a certain type of individual with a preference for exotic, high-end supercars and luxury cars. These cars are often modified with body kits, aftermarket wheels, and exotic wraps. Think of it like your local car meet, only far more expensive.

Over 20 teams registered for the 2018 event, which has also attracted a number of high-level corporate sponsors including Barrett-Jackson, Michelin Tires, Lexus, and Vorsteiner just to name a few. The rally features support vehicles, police escorts, and private track experiences along the way.

While I am not part of the Gold Rush Rally nor am I a sponsor or a vendor, I do have an appreciation for exotic cars and for the lifestyle, so I decided to head out to Scottsdale to check out the cars and the teams on Day 9 of the ten-day event.

Vorsteiner Ferrari

Sunday, June 1, 2018
The cars rolled into the parking lot at Luxury Auto Collection after spending the night at the 5-star Fairmont Princess Resort. LAC was the host of this event, with breakfast for the teams and a chance to see the GRR teams for the public. I arrived half an hour early and was greeted by a crowd of 30-40 car spotters already in place, lined up along both sides of the road. Telephoto lenses, stabilizers, and DSLR cameras were the order of the day. Continue reading

Intermeccanica Indra 2+2 Coupe

Now HERE’s something you don’t see every day! In fact, I would be quite surprised if you had heard of an Intermeccanica Indra before. I certainly had not, until I was standing in front of this one at the monthly Cars and Coffee car show in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was vaguely familiar with Intermeccanica because of the Italia, the car which took me years to figure out what it was.

Founded in Torino, Italy in 1959, the company began producing small numbers of sports cars such as the Apollo GT. I think the design of the Indra is very representative of what was happening in Italy in the 1970s. You can see a little bit of everything in this car, yet it doesn’t look like a carbon copy of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or DeTomaso. The Intermeccanica has some distinct design elements, like the shape of the quarter windows, the flares over the wheel arches, and the vents on the front fenders.
The Indra is an exceptionally rare car, with only 127 examples completed between early 1971 and mid-1974. According to the website intermeccanica.org, the breakdown was approximately 60 convertibles, 40 coupes and 27 two plus twos. That makes this yellow 2+2 the rarest of the rare! This one is well-equipped with an automatic transmission, power windows, air conditioning, a stereo, and a full complement of gauges.With a Chevrolet 350 under the hood, maintenance is both affordable and easy on the powertrain. I spent a few minutes chatting with the owner of this wonderful and unique car. He told me the car has had a complete restoration on the paint and body, with everything sorted out. Standing next to it, I can attest that for a 1970s Italian car, this one was in stunning condition.

The one custom touch the owner made was to have the Intermeccanica logo embroidered on the seats – he said it didn’t come that way from the factory, but he really liked it.

I really enjoyed learning about this interesting piece of automotive history, and I hope that you enjoyed reading about it!

 

Not Sold Here: Seat Ibiza

There are certain cars that become world famous simply because so many of them have been produced. In America, one of the most famous cars ever built is the Ford Model T. In Germany, the Volkswagen Beetle is the car everyone knows. Japan has produced more than 40 million Toyota Corollas worldwide. And over in Spain, the most commonly produced automobile is the SEAT Ibiza.

Most folks in the U.S. have never heard of this car, but SEAT has produced more than 5.4 million of them since 1984. It’s a supermini car, or what we could call a subcompact in the American market. It is sold in Mexico, which is where this one came from. With a base price around $11,000 USD, the Ibiza is similar to the Nissan Versa, another subcompact made for the global market.

The SEAT Ibiza isn’t a terribly interesting car. It’s not limited production, doesn’t have any unique or exclusive features, and it’s not a top performance machine. The only interesting thing about this car was that I saw it driving around in Phoenix, Arizona which is noteworthy because this car is not offered for sale in the United States.

Don’t quote me on this as I am not a lawyer, but I believe that foreign citizens are allowed to bring their cars into the US for personal use for a period of one year. The car must not be sold during that time, and is required to have liability insurance through a US provider. It’s interesting that we don’t see more cars from Mexico and Canada driving around our roads. You never know what you might spot just by keeping your eyes open!

The 2018 Lexus LS 500 Is An Ugly Terrible Mess And Nothing Can Help It

After staring at it for longer than anyone ever should I’ve come to the conclusion that its god awful gaped whale face is actually doing it a favor. After tweaking it a bit you can clearly see that giant grill is the perfect distraction from realizing that it’s a pinched face Maxima/new Jaguar/Panamera looking hybrid.  Let’s pray someone at Lexus gets a clue and completely remodels this car from the A-pillars forward.  At least there is a nice hood to cover the super premium V6 hiding under there. Continue reading

1975 Lamborghini Urraco – One Odd Bull

Readers who remember the 70s will recall the gas crisis of 1973 and the long-lasting effects it had on the global market for high performance cars. In response to the uncertain economic times and skyrocketing fuel costs, supercar manufacturers began to produce “budget supercars” like the V6-powered Ferrari Dino and Maserati Merak. Lamborghini was still producing the Miura, but they also rolled out a budget supercar of their own: the Urraco.

The Urraco is an extraordinarily rare car, with total production of just 791 vehicles between 1973 to 1979. Of those, just 21 were manufactured for export to the United States market. This car is one of them. I had a chance to get up close and personal with this 1975 Urraco P111 at the 2018 Russo and Steele Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The basis of Lamborghini’s cars has long been the V12 powerplant, but not with the Urraco. Because it was intended to be a more affordable supercar, it conceals a V8 engine under the rear hatch making 217 horsepower – significantly more than the Dino 206 and 246 GT and the early Merak (non-SS models).

This car was advertised as being in excellent mechanical condition, with an engine rebuild and major service completed in 2016 at a cost of $36,000. Other perks include the original owner’s manual and spare assembly, service history with records and receipts, and a 40-hour detailing job.
While a modern Lamborghini interior looks like the cockpit of a fighter jet, the cars of the 1970s were much more spartan. This Urraco sports a full suite of gauges, a stereo, and even factory air conditioning! I’m not sure if this was standard on US market cars or an option, but it would certainly be essential for an Arizona car.

I have to say that this 1975 Urraco was one of the more interesting cars at the Russo and Steele Scottsdale 2018 auction, and I am very glad I went. It’s definitely the odd bull of the herd as it doesn’t have the famous Lamborghini V12 or the amazing looks of the Miura, but it’s a part of the company’s history nonetheless. Collector car auctions offer a chance to see those rare and unique vehicles that you just don’t see every day, and Russo and Steele did not disappoint in that regard. I am very glad I went and would recommend that you do the same, if you are in the market for a unique collector vehicle.

Cadillac LSA-Swapped 1968 Buick Riviera

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of resto-mods, as I cover plenty of them every year at the SEMA Show. The combination of timeless styling and modern turn-key reliability is a formula that many people find appealing. But as is so often the case, people tend to overdo it.

I understand that if you’re going to upgrade the engine and build a car, you’re also going to do better brakes, suspension, and fix up the rest of the car. As a matter of personal opinion, I am conflicted when I see an old car with 20-inch billet wheels, fender flares, and massive disc brakes. Are you trying to build a muscle car or a modern race car? It looks a bit odd to me to see carbon fiber air dams and projector headlights on a 1960s car.

With this 1968 Buick Riviera, they really got it right.

I spotted this car at the monthly Cars and Coffee gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona. The original engine has been swapped with a supercharged 6.2L LSA V8 from the Cadillac CTS-V. With 556 horsepower, it certainly packs more power than the original engine.

And again, there is that turn-key reliability. Modern engines can run on ethanol-blended fuels with no problem (ethanol blended fuels are sold in Maricopa County). Modern engines don’t need to have the valves adjusted every 30,000 miles. You don’t need to let it warm up on a cold morning. You don’t need to worry about vapor lock on hot summer days. You just get in, turn the key, and cruise.

This car appears to be set up as something of a sleeper/cruiser. It doesn’t have a wild paint job, crazy wheels, or anything to indicate that it’s packing a serious wallop under the hood. From the outside, it just looks like a clean, restored classic car. Even the exhaust tips with stock-looking turndowns are present.

I’ve got to hand it to the owner on this Rivera for doing it right by not over-doing it. Well done.