The 2012 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals was held in Rosemont, Illinois, on November 16 and 17. Being a longtime muscle car fan, I was very impressed with the incredible array of rare and historic gems that were at this show. I was blown away looking at the pristine examples of factory muscle, the rarest-of-the-rare dealer-built supercars, and historic road and drag racers. I’m especially fond of the newfound popularity of “day two” cars, which have emerged over the last few years. These cars are preserved or restored to specifications in which they would have been seen during stoplight brawls on Main Street or in all-out drag strip attire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
When the Cragar S/S (Super Sport) wheel hit the market around 1964, the automotive world was in a transitional period. The factory-built muscle cars made style and horsepower readily available to the general public, and the elaborate customs and home-built hot rods of the 1950s were slowly becoming a thing of the past. This new breed of showroom-bought supercars created significant demand for bolt-on accessories, and the aftermarket responded.
In the early 1960s, there wasn’t much of an aftermarket wheel industry yet. Besides some lightweight and costly competition-bred alloy selections, it was slim pickings when it came to unique rolling stock that wasn’t original equipment. Previously, customizers had to rely on swapping hubcaps from other models or, if the budget allowed, chroming factory steel wheels or sourcing optional wire wheels from some of the fancy luxury models of the day. That all changed by the mid-1960s. The custom wheel industry was growing, and the Cragar S/S was a major player.
The Nissan Versa has a reputation for being an inexpensive, economical, and roomy little car, but I never would have imagined that it had a following among the dashing and debonair world of high fashion. But lo and behold, while dropping off a friend the other night, I spotted this rare, special-edition Nissan “Versace” near downtown Chicago.
Due to the late hour and rainy conditions, the photo is dark and hazy, but a true paparazzo has to get the shot wherever and whenever possible. In this case, said paparazzo was my buddy, whom I forced to take the photo during a downpour as he jumped out of my van.
The highlights on the body are water droplets and not diamonds, although an exclusive jewel-encrusted version will likely be available for the fall collection.
I have always been a fan of quirky and unique things, so when Chrysler announced that it would be making the Fiat 500 available to the U.S. market in 2012, I was intrigued. Although I was not quite intrigued enough to want to buy one of the little cars myself, I took comfort in knowing that such a niche car would be around to break up the monotonous traffic landscape; i.e., the rounded-off box shapes of SUVs and the rather nondescript forms of modern sedans and compacts.
For whatever reason, as I examined photos of the small round car, I couldn’t help but imagine what the 500s would look like if they were painted to resemble pool balls. The debut of the sporty Abarth edition inspired me to take my absurd notion one step further and spend a few minutes with the newfangled Photoshop machine to see what this styling exercise might look like.
I remember two distinct things about driving the last Ford Transit Connect that came through CG Auto headquarters. It was tall and slow. I understand that a light-duty commercial vehicle isn’t required to have stellar performance, but the lack of pep from the 136-horsepower, 2.0-liter Duratec engine made me wonder how well it would do in real-world conditions when loaded down and on the job.
As I began to think about a Transit Connect with more power, my imagination got the best of me, and my thoughts evolved into what it would be like if Ford offered a full-on, high-performance version of the wacky little box van. The formula would be simple: Adapt the drivetrain and some of the styling cues from the 2013 Ford Focus ST. The 247-horsepower Ecoboost 2.0 would definitely add some oomph, and a 6-speed manual would be a pretty fun way to transfer that power to the road. In the handling and esthetics department, the theoretical Transit Connect ST would benefit from a healthy dose of lowering over the 18-inch alloy Y-spoke wheels, which would also be pinched from the high-perf Focus. Optional Recaro seats and a sporty instrument panel could spice up the utilitarian interior.
Over the last few years, I’ve found it interesting to see the emergence of non-glossy paint jobs on some new cars. Mostly appearing on exotic cars these days, matte- or satin-finish paint is something that is very dear to me. I’ve been enamored with the look since I first began to see it in the 1990s on vintage custom cars being built primarily on the West Coast.
Although I’m no expert on paint or the reasoning for why this trend emerged, I speculate that it could be as simple as a customizer admiring the unique presence a car has while it is in the base coat before the clear is applied. As opposed to older single-stage paints in which the color has a gloss to it right out of the gun, modern multi-stage paints consist of a base coat that supplies the color and a protective clear coat that provides the gloss. Many of these color-base coats, especially those that contain pearlescent pigments, have a glow about them that can be very impressive before the clear is applied. The satiny effect (without the clear coat) is dramatic, but an unprotected base coat can be vulnerable to scratches, stains, and fingerprints. Adding a flattening agent to the clear allows for protection for the color as well as maintaining the eerie glow.