The dark tint of the windows worked really well with the black hood, roof, pillars and spoiler, creating a long and low apperance. The tiny back seat in these cars means you can call it a 2+2, but it's best treated as a 2-seater with extra luggage space in back.
Every year it gets easier and easier to spot the old cars I like. While there are fewer to stumble across, as they become more and more rare, the ones that are still on the road stand out even more. That was the case with this Eagle Talon I spotted a little while back. Its decidedly 90's shape jumped out at me from a parking lot, looking extremely out of place amongst the sea of modern cars and SUVs on the roads these days.
Winter road salt and dirt dulled the paint a bit, but it is easy to see that a wash and a wax would have that bright red paint looking fantastic again. This car likely hasn't seen many winters, as anything else from that era that experienced year after year of salt has long since rotted away.
To make this discovery even more exciting was the fact that it wasn't a simple base model Talon. It was instead the Eagle Talon TSi, which included a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive drivetrain. This model was one of the originals, produced in 1990 and 1991, as evidenced by the pop-up headlights; subsequent years featured integrated composite headlights.
The dark tint of the windows worked really well with the black hood, roof, pillars and spoiler, creating a long and low apperance. The tiny back seat in these cars means you can call it a 2+2, but it's best treated as a 2-seater with extra luggage space in back.
195 horsepower is laughable today in a sporty car, but at the start of the 90's, it made the Talon TSi a relatively quick and entertaining coupe. Throw in the added grip of the AWD drivetrain, a feature few cars back then offered, and this Eagle was capable of hooking its talons securely into fast corners and powering out as the 16 valve turbo spooled up.
Canadian winter isn't over anytime soon, so I doubt this driver will be out pushing their Eagle Talon TSi to its limits for a while yet. I sure hope, however, that this fun 90's sports coupe will get the chance to spread its wings and claw its way around some challenging roads once spring finally decides to hit.
Last week I received some sad news. I learned that Jessie Louthan, a friendly and likable car fan I had come to know through various car groups, had passed away. For over a year Jessie had been bravely fighting colon cancer, but lost his battle on Friday, January 17th. While it might seem odd to call someone I have never met (and someone I admittedly know little about) a friend, my upset over his loss made me realise just how deep the connections some of us 'car guys' make.
Of all the things that I liked about Jessie, it was his love for the same oddball vehicles that inspire me to write this blog that stood out the most. In our car groups, Jessie was known as the Aerostar guy, due to his love of an old Ford Aerostar van he had owned years ago. I'll remind readers that the Aerostar was never an exciting, attractive or even noteworthy vehicle, by most standards, but Jessie saw the charm in these tough, roomy minivans from the 80's and 90's. My family had several over the years, so he and I were able to understand each other on this level.
We also connected over another long-forgotten (and forgettable!) Ford, the 1997 to 2003 Escort, specifically the wagon model. Jessie fondly recalled his red Escort and had even shared pictures on my Facebook page, waxing nostalgic in much the same way I do over these unremarkable automobiles. I looked back on my page and every entry with an Escort has a comment or two from Jessie, which didn't surprise me in the least!
When I learned a few weeks back that he was once again in the hospital and having a really rough time, I sent along a few pictures of a similar Escort wagon we had sitting at work, hoping to brighten his day a bit. It was a pleasure to chat with Jessie, and I was impressed at how positive and upbeat he was. He told me he was hoping to pick up another Aerostar at some point, and we agreed a 'shitbox' old vehicle like an Aerostar or Escort would be a great summer project.
After hearing that Jessie had passed, the sadness I felt seemed at odds with how little I really knew the man. That's when I got thinking about the connections we can make over a shared love of something like cars. Sometimes it seems like a singular passion, but once you get sharing it with others, you really can create a connection. I've had the chance to meet many different members of various automotive groups over the years, and came away each time with great memories and lasting friendships.
I wanted to know a little more about Jessie, so I got chatting with his lovely wife, Natalie, who agreed to me writing this story and was even willing to share some personal photos. Jessie and Natalie have two beautiful boys, Jackson (4) and Kingston (1.5), who, according to her, already have the 'car' bug that their father instilled in them. She even said: "I will miss his talking about cars, and it all going over my head", which made me laugh.
Over the years I had learned a bit about Jessie: he was a family man, a man of Faith, and a deeply kind and caring person. I could barely keep up with where he lived, it seemed the family was extremely mobile and has lived in Nevada, Texas and Oregon over the years. I also know that he was a big sports fan, as well as an avid gambler, having spent time in Las Vegas, a city he loved. Many of our car group friends, who knew him for years before I ever joined, referred to him as the 'Korean Cowboy', a name he wore proudly.
In searching through his Facebook photos for this story, I came across a few other conclusions about Jessie:
1) He really had the same taste in cars as me. I found pictures of his Escort, as well as a Peugeot 206, Pontiac Grand Prix coupe, and a Mitsubishi Delica van. Even his taste in expensive, classy cars leaned towards the more obscure, such as the BMW Z8 and Vector WX-3. There's no doubt we were on the same automotive wavelength!
2) He really liked bacon. This subject had never come up over the years, perhaps unsurprisingly, but man, that guy sure appears to have loved bacon! Many of us post pictures of different meals we have from time to time, but Jessie had multiple pictures of simple plates of bacon. And judging by the apparent crispiness, he was really good at cooking it!
3) He was 110% a family man. This wasn't really a surprise; over the years, Jessie had often mentioned his wife and children. If cars were his passion, and bacon his side dish, his family was his world. Natalie let me share a few photos, and they show a man who cared deeply for his wife and kids. Over the years I had picked up on Jessie's lighthearted sense of humour, and that also shows through in his family photos.
In the end, it's tough to accept that I will never get to know Jessie better, or meet him in person. But the little window our automotive friendship gave me into his life makes me thankful I got to know him at all. And reminds me that this passion we have for cars runs a whole lot deeper than the sheet metal.
Natalie, thanks for sharing with me and helping me feel like I got to know him just a little bit better. Know that I'll never see another Aerostar without thinking about Jessie!
While the Pontiac Fiero is more often than not the butt of automotive jokes, the plastic-bodied car was a rather advanced vehicle for its era. First produced in 1984, it was the first mass-produced car with all plastic panels. Weight savings was touted as one advantage of the plastic body (at least in theory; the lack of structural strength in the body meant a heavier underlying frame was required, negating most of the potential weight savings!), but another significant plus was the fact that plastic doesn`t rust.
Over time, the Fiero would prove to age well, with the plastic and polymer panels absorbing bumps and hits better than a steel-bodied car can. Dents large enough to crack the paint would leave spider cracking, but there was no risk of rusting of the underlying plastic, unlike what happens with conventional steel body panels. This lesson was not lost on General Motors, and plastic bumpers and fenders became common on many of their vehicles. Another attempt at a full-plastic body was made with the Chevrolet Lumina APV and Pontiac TranSport vans and even more prominently on an entire brand: Saturn.
Launched in 1990 as 'A Different Kind of Car Company', Saturn was created under the GM umbrella to compete with popular import brands like Toyota, Honda and Nissan, something that was proving difficult for GM with their existing brands Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile. The first model to hit the market was the Saturn S-Series. Available in coupe and sedan models (and later on a wagon), the S-Series was a decent success during its first generation.
The SC coupes were especially notable, with attractive lines and curves that looked extremely modern in 1990. A DOHC model with 124 hp was relatively quick for its day, and the little sports coupe managed to stand out from the crowd during its first generation. The pop-up headlights and curving belt-line actually made it look like a baby Camaro or Firebird to me.
While later Saturns are still a common sight on the road, these first-generation coupes are becoming harder to spot. A while back I saw this bright red SC 2-door and took a walk around. Most cars dating back to the 1990s would be showing significant rust and body dings in 2019, but not this plastic wonder. Late spring salt and dirt kept it from looking fresh, but it looked to me like a good cleaning and polish would have returned the Saturn to like-new condition.
Never a fan of the black plastic 'bra' nose cover that was prevalent throughout the 80's and early 90's, this was the only issue I had with this sporty coupe. One other feature that jumped out at me were the active front seatbelts. Before airbags became commonplace, manufacturers like Saturn dabbled in motorized front seat shoulder belts, which ran along a track to give access to the driver or passenger as they entered the vehicle without the need to buckle or unbuckle the shoulder portion of the belt.
The problem with these belts was that the occupant had to remember to buckle the bottom (lap) portion of the seatbelt, making it a less than safe set-up that would quickly end up in the automotive history books. With luck the belts in this Saturn are still functioning, as it would be a bit of a hassle to get them replaced nowadays if they did stop working!
General Motors would build the Saturn S-Series vehicles up until 2002 (after an update to a second generation in 1996 and a third generation in 1999), replacing them with the Ion in 2003. Saturn itself wouldn't last much longer, with the entire brand being tossed on the scrap heap in 2010. The econimic crisis in 2008 that affected the entire auto industry played a part in Saturn's demise, but towards the end of its run, Saturn had gotten away from building the fun, affordable, slightly quirky vehicles it had started making in the beginning.
Forget the newer models: when I think of Saturn, I'll always think of this nifty red SC coupe. These rather basic cars will never be considered true collectibles, so at some point I can hope to pick one up on the cheap and park it next to my other red plastic automotive wonder!
While I like to consider myself an attentive driver, my eyes are always roaming to catch a glimpse of off-beat cars that are worthy of a quick peek and impromptu photo shoot. Quite often I don't even know what I've seen, but I always trust my hunch that whatever caught the corner of my eye was worth turning around for. Such was the case today while out running a few errands.
Unfortunately, my quick scans often get me super excited that I am going to go back to discover a rare gem, and the disappointment of discovering a vehicle in a sad and sorry state has created some serious trust issues. Or in this case, t'rust issues.
Today's let-down is a rather rare vehicle on Canadian roads, a 1977-1981 Toyota Celica. As vehicles subjected to winter road salt approach 40 years old, they are typically far from showroom condition. In the case of this sports coupe, it was about as far from showroom condition as one can get this side of a scrap yard. While the car appeared complete, rust had attacked the rockers, doors, fenders, and trunk lid, as well as the roof and C-pillars. One can only imagine how rotted the floors, strut towers and engine cradle are...
Still, I'll take any old automotive sighting as a positive, and it was a pleasure to see the long, sloping silhouette of the nearly forgotten second-generation Celica. While there are still the occasional third-generation models on the road or at car meets and rallies, this big brother really seems to have disappeared from the automotive landscape. A quick online search revealed that this car has a strong fan base around the world, and there are some pristine examples to be seen, but one isn't likely to just see one out and about anymore.
It is impossible to know why this car is sitting where it is. Was it a daily driver that finally had to be taken off the road? Was it a project car that a disappointed owner had to give up on? Was it purchased as a parts car, ready to serve as a donor for a restoration project on a healthier body?
Whatever the reason, it is hard to believe it will ever be restored back to its former glory. With luck it will catch the attention of some other old-car fans who might make use of the host of great parts still on it, including the glass, trim, lights, grille and more. Discrete 'GT' and '5 Speed' badges on the trunklid suggest that this was more than a simple base model, so maybe the trust I lost discovering such a rusty exterior would be regained with a peek under the hood...
Scouring a scrap car yard out in Moncton, New Brunswick a few weeks back, I made an excellent discovery. Hidden back behind a fence and out of reach of customers, a rough old Jeep caught my eye. Even from far away I could see that the pickup was in rather sad shape, and this was confirmed as I got closer. That didn't stop this Gladiator from being the find of the day and the coolest vehicle on the lot.
After a 32 year hiatus, the Jeep Gladiator will be back for the 2020 model year. If there has long been interest in this nameplate, it's because the original was a true legend. This rusty old Gladiator I stumbled across was one of the original models, produced between 1962 and 1971. The first Gladiator was available in 2- and 4-wheel drive versions, in either long or short length (this one I saw was the latter), and was based on the popular Jeep Wagoneer station wagon.
While modern pickups can be decked out with all the fancy features and technology you find in luxury cars, these old-timey pickups were pretty bare-bones. The Gladiator's focus was on functionality, and the high ground clearance, stout engine and tough body would have made this Jeep pickup a serious work vehicle back in its day.
Unfortunately, that day is long past. While the most obvious problem is the bent frame (you can see how the truck is starting to bend in two!), the multiple failed body repair attempts are proof that this poor old Jeep hobbled along long after it had passed its expiration date. It appears that the front fenders are 95% rivet, 5% sheet metal at this point. Panels riveted onto panels that were riveted onto patches that were riveted onto the original bodywork speak of the desire the original owner had to keep this Gladiator in the ring for one last fight.
At some point this truck will make it into the U-Pull yard so customers can strip off whatever parts are still useful. There's a good chance there's still an engine and transmission to yank, as well as many suspension and drive-train bits and pieces. It doesn't look like many of the body panels will be useful, but someone restoring a first-generation Jeep Gladiator will be glad to find assorted trim bits, mirrors, windows, lights and more. With luck the hood and doors are in decent shape and can be reused on another vehicle. A brave soul might even hack apart the cab and reuse portions of it to patch together their own classic pickup.
At this point there isn't much more than rivets, wire and paint holding this legend together, but it was still an exciting discovery. This Jeep Gladiator will make it way into the yard later this spring, and I am sure more than a few customers will find it as riveting as I did!
This weekend, I partook in Russian collusion of the highest order. While my intentions were honest, I got myself involved in a tangled web of international intrigue and business dealings that I feel I must come clean about...
It all started back in August, when a customer at the automotive scrapyard I manage sold us a tired old Lada Samara. Many yards would have simply crushed the car and had it shredded for scrap value, but I suspected this 'gem' would be of interest to someone. I was tempted to rescue the red 1993 hatchback myself since it is now a rare commodity but had enough projects on the go already.
Lada was officially sold in Canada from 1979 until 1998, and the Samara model (available as a sedan, 3- and 5-door hatchbacks) had moderate success, thanks to the rugged engines and simple yet durable construction. They are getting very difficult to find, even in good shape, which is why I posted this one online before putting it in the yard for parts. I had a few inquiries but nothing concrete, so I decided to put it out in the yard up on stands and see what parts would sell.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I had kept my eye on the Lada but it seemed not a single part had been removed. It appeared that it was destined for the crusher having sat unloved and untouched for nearly 4 months. Then one evening I received a message from a fellow named Alex. He lived in Indiana and was super interested in the car after seeing my post from August. When I mentioned how far away the car was and how muck work it would need, he said the REAL challenge would actually be convincing his wife he needed ANOTHER old car project!
We exchanged messages back and forth as he asked for more information and pictures. I was able to pull off the timing belt cover and managed to free up the engine which at first appeared seized. Despite big holes in the floor, no back window, a cracked dash and an overall rough condition, he was determined to buy it. After a few more exchanges he booked last Friday off and hit the road. The 1300 kms he had to travel didn't daunt him, as he had traveled even further to Montreal for a Lada Niva 4x4 a few years back. I liked him before I met him!
Alex sent a message when he arrived into town late Friday night and I went to grab a bite to eat with him and his friend Eli, who had joined him for the trip. Turns out Alex was born in Russia, which helped me understand his passion for these vehicles. Eli was Ukrainian, but didn't seem to share (or understand) our excitement over this type of car. Alex and I spent most of the meal exchanging pictures of our various oddball cars while Eli shook his head at us. In addition to his Niva, Alex also has a gorgeous old Russian GAZ, a huge, stately old car from the 50's that he is also restoring.
After a short sleep the guys showed up when we opened at 8 am Saturday morning. I had the Samara sitting out in the parking lot, ready to load. Unfortunately the tires wouldn't hold air, and the steep ramps of the trailer made inching it on a slow affair. I offered to use the loader, but we all agreed that there was a risk of further damaging the rusted floor, so they did their best with the hand winch. Once the front wheels were on the trailer, we realised that the rusty floor was hung up on the lip! The bitter cold weather didn't make the process any easier, but the guys knew they had a 14+ hour return trip ahead of them so they kept at it.
When the rear wheels were finally (yet barely!) on the ramps, I was able to lift up with the forks on the loader and line the car up with the trailer floor so it could be winched fully onto the trailer. With a few adjustments and some secure strapping down, the trusty, rusty Lada was ready for its long journey! The crisp, snowy morning and noticeable accents of the two gentleman along with the 'Sputnik' (as the Samara was known in its home market) up on the trailer made me feel like I had been transported halfway around the world to Russia. This is when I started to realise just how deep I was into this affair...
We still hadn't finished the paperwork and completed the transaction, so we went inside where I finalized the sale. I started to wonder if I was being implicated in a major case of collusion with the Russians. Was this a sordid affair of international scrap car trafficking? Would I see this very Samara on TV, used as a getaway car in a high-speed chase around Washington? Was it destined to be shipped back to Russia as a spy vehicle outfitted with weapons and surveillance equipment fitting of a James Bond car? Would my family and friends hear of me being hauled away amid vodka-soaked stories of treason and conspiracy?
I think in the end this is simply a story of an old car fan like myself, one that appreciates less-common models that are simple to repair and get odd stares and smiles from people on the road. I wished Alex and Eli a safe trip and told them to bring the car back up next summer once it's on the road! Just before they left I pulled out the original Samara Owner's Handbook that I had found in the car. It was a bit weathered but it was a nice little addition that makes the car that much more complete.
Turns out the little Sputnik didn't raise too many eyebrows at the Canada-US border because less than an hour later I had a message from Alex that they were back in the US. I received another message around 9:30 pm that they were less than 4 hours from home and woke to a message Sunday morning that they had arrived safe and sound.
The last message I got from Alex this morning was him mentioning that his wife had yet to wake up and see the beast in the driveway. I think my fears of being accused of Russian collusion were greatly exaggerated, but I suggest Alex tread lightly, as his own troubles might just be starting!!!
We all know that retired person who is busier than they ever were. While some people like to kick back and relax once they've finished their working life, many retirees find ways to keep busy and fill their free time with tons of interesting activities. I like to think that I will spend most of my retired hours tinkering on old cars, though that's not for a few more years!
Old vehicles are the same way. While some get to a certain age and are parked, with few chances to hit the road, others continue in service long after the shine has worn off. One such vehicle I saw recently was this blue International Scout 800, this being the model built from 1965 to 1968. Rough and tumble, it likely spent its formative years being put to the test, as this first generation of 'sport utility vehicle' was a far cry from the comfy soft-roaders we know as SUVs today.
A rusty plow blade bolted to the front hints at the retirement activities of this classic. When I took the picture a few weeks ago in Montreal, the snow had yet to hit, but since then a fair bit has come down. I'm willing to bet that the trusty old Scout was called into duty to clear streets and driveways, creaking and groaning as the rusty old plow does its job. Even when new this type of vehicle was rough, noisy and unrefined, so I can only imagine what an adventure driving it today would be in its twilight years!
Lets hope we all have the energy and drive to stay as active as this Scout when we hit our retirement years. With luck we won't be quite as rusty though! I don't want my knees creaking as much as these door hinges do...
When it comes to old cars, there's rare, and then there's rare. There are a number of classic cars where the remaining models number in the single digits. In a few cases there may only be one single example of a vehicle left. Such is the case with a vehicle I had the pleasure of discovering this summer, the 1923 Lexington Skylark roadster.
According to a poster on the vehicle, this is the last remaining example of the Skylark roadster. Thankfully, the owner has restored their car to flawless condition. There didn't appear to be a bolt out of place nor a scratch on the glossy blue paint. The profile if the vehicle featured a prominent, horizontal hood and a lower, curved rear end that gave it a great look, even with the top up. I can only imagine how great it looks with the top folded back!
Of all the great features and details on the Lexington, the oil, water and gas cans strapped to the side was my favourite! I have seen Jeeps with gas cans on the back, but I had never seen a car with the three fluid cans built into the fender. One of the big hassles when restoring an old car can be finding all of the original accessories, so this owner is very lucky to have what appear to be the original cans that store neatly along the running board. Also, I'm curious if this was an original model sold in Quebec that featured the labels in French, or if this was a small modification the owner made for use in 'la belle province'.
Lexington would produce cars from 1909 until folding in 1926, meaning this 1923 model was one of the last to come from the manufacturer. I don't know if Lexington's history is well known or if there are many other remaining models, but if the info on this car is correct, this is one rare car indeed! I will never get sick of stumbling across old cars that I have never heard of, so I am pleased that I can add this rare sighting to my list.
Automotive trends have always existed and always will. When one manufacturer has success with a certain design theme or style, others are sure to copy. Every generation of vehicles has its own set of common trends that make them stand out as vehicles from the same era. A few examples include rear fender fins, partially enclosed rear wheel wells, front fender vents, pop-up headlights, grille-less noses and more.
In some cases, design trends are a marked improvement on what was done before and become the norm, such as with flush mounted headlights and aerodynamic styling. Other trends come and go and are quickly forgotten to automotive history, such as rear 'suicide' doors and frameless side window glass.
One interesting design theme that never seemed to catch on at all but really stands out is the reverse-angle rear window. Pioneered by Ford on several 1950's Lincoln and Mercury models, the backward-slanted rear window was a novel idea that incorporated a power window section that could be lowered for increased ventilation. The UK Ford Consul Classic (a vehicle I had the pleasure to experience firsthand in England a few years back!) was another example of a reverse-angle window vehicle and one of the prettiest version in my eyes, though the Citroen Ami6 coupe is a contender as well with its miniatureized take on the 'Z' pattern rear window design.
The only other vehicle I know of that dared to deviate was the Ford Anglia. While the name may not seem all that familiar outside of the UK, many people HAVE seen one before, in the Harry Potter films. The Weasley family owns an enchanted flying Anglia that enjoys significant screen time in The Chamber of Secrets, the second installment in the series.
I was lucky enough to see one recently at a summer car show, and I can't even remember if I've ever seen one in person before or not! It's the kind of car you notice from far away and begs closer inspection, simply because of the unique rear window design. Advertising back in the day suggested that the rear window in the Anglia always stayed clear of water when it rained, a claim that apparently wasn't always the case. Still, it's exciting when designers try using uncommon design themes to create an appealing and original car that stands out from the pack.
This Anglia was a 1961 'Deluxe' model in white that has clearly been well taken of during its lifetime. I don't know if it spends all of its time in a garage or if it is a summer runabout, but I'm sure that any time it's out it turns heads. It's not everyday you see such an odd rear window design, so I love that the designers of the Anglia came at the design of their car from a different angle than usual...
As the hot summer drags on, I'm always looking for ways to stay cool. I've mentioned before that a nice cold Corona with a slice of lime is one of my summer beverage go-to's. A few weeks back I attended a car expo in Chambly, Quebec, and came across a different sort of lime Corona.
This one was a 1972 Toyota version, and specifically, the Corona Deluxe model. A rarity in North America, the different Toyota Corona models were a relatively common sight across Southeast Asia when I was living in that part of the world. This beautiful lime-green example, which appeared nearly perfect, was one of the 4th generation models, produced from 1970 until 1973.
As much as I love this '72, my preference still lies with the older 3rd generation. The dusty blue one I saw sitting on a street in Luang Prabang, Laos, was nowhere near as pristine, but had a shape and detailing I just love.
It was a newer 6th generation Corona in a rusty orange colour that caught my eye on a trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, back in 2015. Seeing how much care the owner obviously gave the car, I have no doubt it's still on the road and looking fantastic all these years later.
I also saw a much more rough-and-tumble example from the 5th generation (that I had a tough time identifying at first!) in Indonesia years ago that looked like it was still offering dependable to its owner long after the expiration date had passed...
Still, I have huge respect for enthusiasts who restore and maintain their classic cars, and the owner of the lime green Corona in Quebec should be proud. I'm sure it catches lots of attention, especially since it's such an uncommon vehicle in Canada. As usual, a Toyota Corona sighting makes me thirsty, so I'll have to pick up a case of beer tonight and toast this beautifully-kept classic car. Cheers!
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!