Today, I’m going to talk about another Neoclassic auto that I spotted at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2016 auction. This is a 1989 Corsair Roadster, and like most of these cars, it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.
Having written about nearly every other type of neoclassic car, I was excited to see my first Zimmer at the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. Like other neoclassic cars, the Zimmer combines the reliability of a modern, fuel-injected powertrain with classic styling. The prominent waterfall grille, exposed headlamps, full-length running boards, and bustleback style rear end are all design characteristics of pre-war American cars.
While there have been many companies that produced cars in this style, Zimmer was one of the most successful. Founded in Florida, the company built over 1,500 cars during their peak years of 1978-1988.
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.
The 1970s through 1990s were a heydey of kit car manufacturing in the United States. It seemed like everybody and their brother was offering turn-key vehicles based on Chevrolet platforms. Looking back, I have to wonder if there was really enough demand in the market to support all of these companies?
The answer of course, is no. Save for a few, nearly all of the kit car manufacturers have gone out of business. Some companies such as Zimmer have survived (in one form or another) for decades, while others were just a blip on the radar. Such was the case with Archer Coachworks out of Valparaiso, Indiana.
First published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is considered by the American Literary Association to be among the 100 best American novels published during the last century; it is also F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work. While the story line is a standard tale of unrequited love, it is Fitzgerald’s vivid, flowing descriptive imagery and rich character development that makes his work so timeless.
The novel’s setting of New York City during the “Roaring Twenties” calls to mind images of Art Deco skyscrapers and extreme opulence in fashion and design. This was also a high point for automotive design as Duesenberg, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce offered ever more luxurious models.
This lavish elegance is what Gatsby Coachworks, Ltd. sought to recreate in the 1970s.
Based on the picture, you may be thinking “Oh boy, here comes another lame kit car!” But if you lump the Spartan II in with the Excalibur, Gazelle, Tiffany, Zimmer, or any other neo-classic automobile, you would have made a serious mistake.
You see, reproductions of old-timey cars are often built around cheap mass-market vehicles such as a Ford Pinto or a Volkswagen. While this arrangement makes a neoclassic car practical to own, it also places them at the low end of the performance spectrum.
The Spartan II is different. While its rounded headlamps and swooping front fenders may harken back to the early days of motoring, it’s a completely different story under the hood. That’s because the Spartan II is actually based on the Nissan 300ZX, a compact sports car from Japan! With its front-engine, rear drive layout and 2+2 seating configuration, the Spartan II is a bit sportier than you might expect.
Following the carefree fifties and the rebellious sixties, the 1970s were a decade of uninhibited excess. This was the decade that brought us leisure suits, disco music, and brutalist architecture. For the most part, the 1970s are remembered as a dark age of design, and cars were no exception.
During this decade, cars got bigger and heavier, less fuel efficient, and in many cases uglier due to a combination of Federally-mandated 5mph impact bumpers and the prevailing styles of the times. There is perhaps no other automobile on earth that embodies the lavish excess, the indulgence, and the absurdity of the seventies quite like this 1972 Stutz Blackhawk. Continue reading
For those of you that remember Mike’s post about North Phoenix’s resident puppy-skinner, and are still concerned, let me put your fears to rest. She lives so close to me that I can see her backyard from the second story of my house. For the record, my kids were bummed that she didn’t give out candy on Halloween.