Barrett-Jackson 2022: 1970 Samco Cord 812 Convertible Replica

Neoclassic cars are a specialty product for a niche audience. I have written extensively about neoclassic cars for this website, and the companies that build them follow a similar pattern:

1) Company begins building fiberglass bodied cars on top of an existing 1970s or 80s Ford or GM chassis
2) Company builds a few hundred to a few thousand cars
3) Company runs into financial trouble and closes up shop
4) The cars trade hands in the secondhand market, with little to no verifiable information about the company or vehicle’s history

This story has been told time after time with Zimmer, Philips, Clenet, Classic Tiffany, Corsair, Gatsby, and the short-lived reboot of Stutz.

The story of SAMCO follows a similar path, though the cars themselves were unique in a way that stood out from the pack.

SAMCO is an acronym for Sports Automobile Manufacturing Company. It was a side project of William “Bill” Lear, creator of the Learjet – the world’s first mass-produced business jet.

While Lear was well-established in Wichita, Kansas the automobile operation was located in Oklahoma. From 1968 through 1970, the company produced approximately 400 SAMCO Cord replica cars.

According to the website www.stutzbearcat.com, the cars were offered in two models: the Warrior with a 108-inch wheelbase and the Royale with a 113-inch wheelbase.

Engine choices were a Ford 302 V8 engine or a Chrysler 440 Magnum V8 engine. The website www.barnfinds.com says that unlike most neoclassic cars which are built on another chassis, the SAMCO Cords are unique in that they are built on a custom frame.

Initially located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, production was later moved to Mannford, OK which is about 23 miles west of Tulsa.

This 1970 vehicle is a replica of the 1937 Cord 812 Sportsman, though the proportions are quite different from the original. This SAMCO Cord is much too small to pass for a 1930s vehicle. The real Cord automobile is famous for its “coffin nose” styling with headlamps cleverly hidden in the front fenders. This gives the car a streamlined look that was very modern for the time. This car has no trick headlights, but a couple of round lamps fixed to each fender and two smaller lights in the middle. It’s a far cry from the sleek look of the original.

It has a manually-operated convertible top over two bucket seats up front. The vehicle is equipped with power steering, disc brakes, chrome wheels, and a rear luggage rack. Interestingly, the car does feature rear-hinged doors and white-wall tires, like the original upon which it is based.

The dashboard has a cassette player radio, air conditioning, and all the faux woodgrain trim and brown vinyl upholstery you can handle. The layout is unconventional with the speedometer and tachometer in the center of the very flat dashboard. This car sold for $24,200 (including buyer’s premium) at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2022 Collector Car Auction as lot #109.

1978 Rolls Royce “Wannabe” Neoclassic Car

Neoclassic cars are a strange breed. These cars combine classic design elements (waterfall grille, round headlights, swooping fenders) with a modern powertrain and chassis. The idea with most neoclassic cars is to create a tribute or modern interpretation of a historic vehicle, such as the Mercedes-Benz SSK.

This car takes a different approach. Built on the chassis of a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro, it has a 305 V8 engine, automatic transmission, and rear end. But instead of a custom fiberglass body from a coachbuilder, this car has the modified body of a 1973 Volkswagen beetle convertible. The doors, windshield, seats and floor pan are all VW. The front end has received some custom treatments, which resembles a certain brand of British luxury car without infringing on any trademarks.

A paper on the car’s window described itself as a “Rolls Royce wanna-be.” Indeed, the car’s body lines are designed to resemble the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud drophead coupe. The wide fender flares and wire wheels are common design elements of neoclassics, seeking to recreate that vintage motoring experience.

According to the paper, the car was titled as a Special Construction vehicle in Minnesota in 1991. “Has A/C, AM/FM Cassette, cruise control, everything works! Runs and drives like new. Professional workmanship.”

There’s no hiding that 1970s GM interior, and no mistaking this ride for a luxury car from any angle. Though I will agree that the workmanship looks good, the proportions are a bit awkward – especially with that bulge behind the convertible top.

This car also suffers the awkward work-arounds common to other Neoclassic cars, such as the strange placement of the fuel filler door, the lack of a glove box and a working trunk. These compromises make the car a weekend cruiser and not a daily driver in my book. The location of the instrument cluster in the center of the dash is also strange – perhaps a clearance issue?

Another interesting feature is the split front and rear bumpers – was this done as a nod to the 1960’s era Corvette? Your guess is as good as mine.

For some reason, it really interests me when people who are not automobile designers by trade endeavour to build their own custom cars. Though not my favorite neoclassic car, I can respect the effort that was put into building the Wanna-Be Rolls Royce.

1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Studebaker Replica

The thing about special cars is that there are more people in the world who would like to own one than there are cars available. For this reason, a lot of people convert their production cars into a “replica”, “tribute” or “clone” car.

For example, it’s common to see car owners take a base model 1960s Camaro or Chevelle and add the SS trim package, even though the car was not originally built as a Super Sport model. Buying a genuine Super Sport Chevy costs a lot more than a base model, so many aspiring car owners will create their own version. With a few bits of trim, some badges, and the right wheels, an 80s Buick Regal can easily become a T-Type clone, or a 90s Chevy Caprice can become an Impala SS. And generally, I don’t have a problem with that.

What is unusual is for a person to take a vehicle and make it into a tribute to a completely different type of car entirely. That’s what we are featuring today. Continue reading

Ballin’ on a Budget: Bentley Continental GTC Replica

chrysler-bentley-profileThe name Bentley carries with it a certain prestige for luxury and craftsmanship. A Bentley owner is a person of power, wealth, and influence. But what if you cannot afford $212,500 for a car? Well, you can always do the next best thing: drive a replica.

I was quite intrigued with this car, which I spotted at Cars and Coffee. It looked like a 2006-present Bentley Continental GTC, but it was for sale for just $29,500. Even with a salvage title, a real Bentley would sell for more than that. What was the deal?

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Rare 1940 Chrysler Newport Roadster Replica

The cool thing about going to Cars and Coffee is that you never know who or what is going to roll in at any moment. Recently, I spotted a car that I did not recognize at all. I thought at first that it might have been an old Jaguar, but as it turns out, it’s even more special than that!

The car in the photo is a one-off replica of a 1940 Chrysler Newport dual cowl phaeton, a very early concept car of which only six were ever built. The original features two rows of seating whereas this car was built as a roadster. Continue reading