An event like the 2014 Carmel Artomobilia introduces all of us to some incredible classics,
like an original ’78 King Cobra (in mint condition no less) and the Ami G, a full restoration and customization of a 1965 Chevy Malibu SS chronicled on American Modern Insurance Group’s digital video show, The Build.
Another rare sighting we first spied at last year’s Artomobilia still leaves our jaws dangling on the ground. It’s a one-of-a-kind 1941 Oldsmobile 98
in near mint condition.
We’d never seen this historic car before in person, probably because you can count the number of remaining models on one hand. “They only made 6,305 of the club coupe,” says Mr. Mike Smith
, only the second person to own the Olds, “and I've only been able to find three of them in the United States.”
What an honor.
“The headliners are original, the door panels are original. I’ve replaced a lot of parts and pieces, but it’s all original, new old stock that you can still find.” Mike Smith has been giving his Olds tender loving care and maintenance for over 40 years.
The Olds 98 comes out of a time of incredible struggle for the brand. Oldsmobile is struggling through the Depression era, only producing 18,846 units in 1932. Even though the auto company is purchased by GM in 1908
, it isn’t until the creation of the Phaeton 90 Series in 1940
that the line really starts to take flight. With the Phaeton, which morphes into the 98 Series the following year, GM and Oldsmobile introduce the world to the Hydra-Matic engine (the world’s first fully automatic engine), and their production rises to a whopping 185,154. The Hydra-Matic in Mike Smith’s 98 is an original straight-eight flathead with 47,000 miles on it. He says, “It’s not a trailer queen. It’ll run 70 miles an hour all day long.”
The 98 is a special line, as Mike Smith well knows. It is only produced as this specific model
for one year, before GM takes a break from 1942-1945 to assist with materials production for WWII efforts. Although production of the 98 continues in different forms until 1996, the later models take on a different shape and style after the war. We are thoroughly impressed by Mike Smith’s dedication to his car, an awe-inspiring piece of history that he continues to preserve for his enjoyment, and the enjoyment of future generations.
Get a Closer Look at the 98
Watch our full interview with Mike Smith and find out why his treasure wins the Oldsmobile National in 2012:
We thank Mike Smith for sharing his passion with us, and we’re so grateful to be surrounded by a community of such passionate car collectors
. We’re also looking forward to the next Artomobilia
, which takes place August 28-29, 2015 in Carmel, Indiana. If you would like to participate in this year’s event, registration is open for volunteers, exhibitor spaces and for judged classes … and check out Classic Auto’s tent when you visit!
If you missed last year’s event, you can catch up on Classic’s Instagram
Posted: 1/30/2015 9:00:15 AM
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Restoration projects are central to every classic car enthusiast’s collection and finding a new project is one of the most enjoyable parts of the passion. Typically, you have three things on your mind when sizing up a new restoration project:
- Finding a car that resonates with you
- Choosing the right restoration project to match your skill level
- Purchasing for a price you can afford
To help with this, our in-house restoration expert Rick Drewry
shares some of his best wisdom when it comes to finding the right classic car restoration project for you.
Find Your Passion
The best thing about being a classic car enthusiast is, no matter what your niche is, the love and passion spreads across all the classes. “I've got 15 cars of my own,” Rick says. “Anything 50’s, 60’s, 70’s; American cars, that's my thing. Everybody's allowed to like what they want, and the passion for ‘the automobile’ in general jumps from class to class. You could have muscle car guys going to street rod shows, street rod guys going to vintage road racing shows. We all like it, we get geeked up about it.”
Just like Rick, you may have a whole list of cars you want or already have, cars you are interested in but will never own. Shop around to get a feel for what you like, what you’re drawn to. Restoring cars is about loving and enjoying the process as much as anything else. Find what speaks to you and go after it.
If you’re having trouble deciding on a car or you’re just not sure what speaks to you yet, try deciding how you plan to use it. If you’re looking for an everyday driver, you may want a newer model with the comforts to which you’re accustomed or at least a model you can modify. If you’re looking for a show-specific car that you don’t plan to drive often, this may help you narrow down your search. You may decide you want to build and restore a car you can eventually enter in the Concours d’Elegance
, one of the most elegant car events in the country, celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. You may decide that Hot Rodding is for you, and choose to customize your own rod for entry in the Street Machine Nationals
Whether a first-timer or a seasoned expert, don’t be afraid to dive in to the world of restoration … and don’t get in over your head. Rick emphasizes that there is a restoration project to suit all types of car lovers, depending on your level of experience and expertise. “There’s a huge difference between an amateur restoration and a concourse restoration,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with skillset and it also has a lot to do with money. A lot of people will invest more into a restoration than the car is worth.” It may look great up front, buying an extremely rare car at a great price for a potentially big return. Let research give you a confirmation first. Research auto shops that specialize in rare cars, accessibility and affordability of parts, as well as assessing your own skills.
A good place to start is with an early model hot rod or street rod such as an early Model A or T Ford or an older 40’s or 50’s model with a simpler engine. The mechanics of 60’s and 70’s cars start to get more complicated and require a bit more expertise.
Just Because You Can Afford It, Doesn’t Mean It’s Worth It
If you’re just starting out, choosing a popular car can be a great way to go because they are less expensive, parts are readily available and they can be great practice. The downside to restoring a car that everyone’s likely to have - known as “belly button cars” such ‘69 Camaros, ‘66 Fastback Mustangs, the “Tri-fives” (‘55, ‘56 and ‘57 Chevys) or pre-’49 custom built cars - is that the resale value is often not worth the investment.
Rick says some of the most expensive and rare cars restored by Classic Auto clients, such as “vintage Ferrari’s, the Ferrari Dino, pro-touring, older Corvettes like the ’55, ’56, ’57, ’58, ’59 through ’62 Corvettes are bringing six figures and then some, easily.” The resale value on these cars is extremely high, yes, but if you don’t have access to great custom shops in your area, if you don’t have the up-front cash to invest in the car and if you don’t have the energy to give the car a quality restoration, the return won’t be nearly what you’d hoped for.
How do you choose the perfect custom shop? Networking and social connections are the first place to start, because the advice of those who have already completed restorations is the most valuable piece of information you can get on a custom shop. Check out their reputation locally, ask to see some of their work, talk to the mechanics who will be working on your car. Ask for a detailed estimate that covers all the work, so you’ll know the cost up front and you can dispute anything that gets added on unnecessarily.
The best places to look for a car to purchase and restore are:
- Car auctions
- Connections made through car collector circles
- Local car clubs
- Car shows
- A drive through your neighborhood to see what’s for sale
Another effective way to find a car that is both unique and affordable is to locate it through online buying sites and internet forums. It’s important to do your homework here, too - and to use the same common sense you’d use online as you would with other retail opportunities to protect yourself, your family and your property: 1) vet the source, especially when dealing with high value items such as a car; 2) meet in a public place and take your mobile phone with you; 3) tell family members where you’re going and have a trusted person accompany you; and 4) trust your instincts.
No matter what you have in your collection -fully restored cars, partially restored cars or just a pile of pieces you hope to turn into your dream car- Rick advises car collectors to protect their hard-earned investment. He says the problem with so many enthusiasts is that they neglect to do the research on their collector car insurance
coverage. Many of them even think their classic cars are covered in their homeowner’s insurance when they really qualify for custom coverage. Making this mistake can result in a grave loss, when it comes to costly repairs or if an accident occurs.
We hope 2015 brings you great success with your next restoration project, whether you’re starting with a partially restored exotic beauty
or a stripped down vintage hot rod
. Just remember to plan ahead, go after the car you really want and have fun!
Posted: 1/29/2015 9:00:00 AM
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American Hotrodding comes with a history as rich as the sound of V8’s cranking on salt flats. What started as a scrap-metal hobby for enthusiasts who couldn’t afford new cars in the midst of the economic crisis soon made its way into a nationwide tradition, as Americans cranked out the first unique, mostly junk-yard-assembled cars during the the 1930’s.
A passion for hot rodding
carries on today, in a much different form than the original junkers that started the craze.
The Beginning of Legend
Imagine yourself as a single young man during those hard times, when struggling to survive the day-to-day economic crisis has forced you out of work. Sure, you pick up odd jobs here and there, but it’s barely enough to help you put food on your table, much less pay to keep a roof over your head or provide for a family.
It’s not long before you hear word of some excitement just outside of town and you hitch a ride with some friends up to the dry lakes to see what all the commotion is about. What you witness on those salt flats just North of Los Angeles is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before: stripped down cars, what looks like old junkers that are rebuilt with mismatched pieces and scraps from the junk yards, all of them running with bigger, louder engines than what they come out of the factories with. The engines rev, the races begin and you are forever lost in the need for speed, the awe-inspiring world of what comes to be called hot rodding.
You and some friends conspire to join the action, putting your heads and nearly-empty wallets together to build your own hot rod. You follow suit with many of the other early racers and latch onto the first old Model A
you can find at the junkyard, and begin to assemble a hodge podge creation on top of the old Ford chassis. Pretty soon, you’re out there running the mile stretch against other daredevils like yourself. You’re not in it just to win, you’re in it for the excitement, the distraction from everyday life, feeling free and easy in a time when not many are able to do more than scrape by.
DO YOU KNOW? No one is quite sure where the term “hot rod” comes from. Some believe it is a shortened version of “Hot Roadster,” and other historians say the term more likely refers to the camshaft or pushrods inside the engines of these mod cars.
Those early years of hot rodding are some of the most exciting of your life, especially once you have to face the reality of the draft in ‘42. The sport nearly ceases during the war, leaving behind only those who are physically unable to serve. You and your buddies are shipped all over the world, with a hope of reuniting when the conflict ends.
When you do return home, perhaps to California, you’re older, wiser and ready to do something substantial with your life, something other than close calls on the salt flats. Over the next few years, you continue to tinker with hot rods, using the mechanical skills you gain in the war as a platform to run your own auto shop out of your garage. You earn a decent living in the booming postwar economy
, start a family and have some distant dreams of what your life was like before the war.
As the 40’s come to a close, hot rodding is handed a nasty reputation as the sport of juvenile delinquents and suffers a rising toll of deaths and injuries due to its extreme nature. Much to your excitement, talk of organizing begins, and by 1951 the National Hot Rod Association
(NHRA) is formed.
The shining hope of hot rodders everywhere, the NHRA promises to bring stability and national acclaim to the sport, giving enthusiasts a way to join together and celebrate the custom cars that are loved so well. They brand huge campaigns to promote the new-found safety of the sport, ensuring fans and critics alike that stadiums and tracks and a few guidelines will give what the salt flats are unable to provide: supervision and safety.
As one of the earliest participants in hot rodding, you are asked to come and help kick off the beginning of an American tradition, one that now spans the entire country, plays host to over 40,000 licensed hot rod motorists, facilitates 130 different member tracks and has thrived for over 60 years.
One of Your Favorites
This graphic is one of our most popular and illustrates the history of Hot Rods and different models through the generations:
Today, hot rodding is no longer about pinching pennies and scrounging up old car parts to put together a speed machine. The speed is still the need for modern day enthusiasts, and hot rodders are now custom design engineers, creating intricate metal work, piecing together parts to create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind roadsters that are not only built for speed, they are some of the most beautiful creations you’ll ever see. Take a look at the current projects
from American Hot Rods to see what we’re talking about.
The beauty of hot rods is that they can become whatever you want them to be. With no one standard, creators are free to use whatever is at their disposal, searching the world over for custom or rare parts to design a high-end roadster of your choice.
One of the most enduring aspects of hot-rodding is that it’s where many car enthusiasts begin their journey, as it can be an inexpensive introduction to classic car restoration. Because building a hot rod can be whatever you want it to be, we say to each his own, and happy building! Thanks for riding along with us through this brief history of one of our favorite sports.
Check out this video from the American Hot Rod Foundation on what is arguably the most popular body-style for American hot rodding, and what continues to be a coveted early model among avid fans:
Posted: 1/22/2015 9:00:00 AM
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“Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves.” -Euripides
Let’s face it: the world of cars is pretty cool.
Especially if you love classic cars, chances are you’re more than happy to share that enthusiasm with everyone, including your family. What better way is there to share than taking them on a road trip? A special drive that can introduce your loved ones to the intriguing world of classic cars while taking a family-friendly vacation with a little something for everyone?
Jump in the passenger seat and travel along with us as we ride through some of the biggest and best car museums and attractions the American Midwest has to offer.
Hartung’s Automotive Museum
The first stop on our journey is one of the best kept secrets in the historical automotive world, Hartung’s Automotive Museum
. Located in Glenview, IL just a few minutes north of Chicago, Hartung’s is a private sanctuary for over 100 classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Some are restored and some are kept in original condition, but all make for the perfect first stop on a Midwest auto adventure.
Volo Auto Museum
After we’re finished in Glenview, let’s head north to Volo, IL and visit our friends and partners at the Volo Auto Museum
. Not only is Volo a fantastic home for dozens of celebrity cars, movie memorabilia, and military artifacts, it is totally entertaining, with movies, a “kids zone,” and several new attractions opening this year.
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum
When we’ve fully experienced Volo, buckle up for a trip over to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum
(ACDM) in Auburn, IN. As the ultimate home for vintage automobiles, the ACDM has over 120 classics in their collection, and is one of the few museums in the country to be classified by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM)
as an accredited location. Not only is this stop well worth planning an entire vacation around, kids can get in for free.
National Auto & Truck Museum
While we’re here in Auburn, IN, let’s stick around for another day and check out the incredible National Auto & Truck Museum (NATMUS)
. Not only is NATMUS the site where the L29 Cord is originally manufactured (it’s the first front-wheel drive vehicle in American automotive history), but this museum exists as a tribute to Auburn Automobile Company and offers one of the most fantastic collections of post-war cars anywhere in the U.S.
Yspilanti Automotive Heritage Museum
Our tour blazes a trail all the way to Yspilanti, MI to see the Yspilanti Automotive Heritage Museum (YAHM)
. It’s a sweet stop you won’t want to miss. The YAHM is a collection of 30 historic cars; many celebrate the Hudson line and its ongoing fascination for loyal collectors.
Automotive Hall of Fame
A few miles east from Yspilanti, we’ll make our next stop at what is perhaps the largest and most noteworthy location on our tour, the Automotive Hall of Fame (AHF)
in Dearborn, MI. This spot is so much more than a museum! Here you’ll find theaters, exhibits, artwork, special shows, and events for the entire family. The Automotive Hall of Fame celebrates innovation through the years that has changed the way we build, drive, and travel in our favorite cars, collector and everyday drivers alike.
The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village
Just a short jaunt from AHF and the final stop on our museum tour, is The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village
, an automotive experience dedicated to the genius and innovation of Henry Ford and the history of the Ford line. The Henry Ford’s exhibits can leave you awestruck, with a collection of the earliest cars ever to drive on U.S. soil, and includes amusement rides for the kids. While you’re in the village, take your family on a tour of Thomas Edison’s “Idea Factory,” visit old “Main Street,” and find out what life was really like in the 1800’s.
This kind of adventure on the road not only explores a beautiful area of the country, it can give you new inspiration for your own car collection while enjoying an incredible tour of American ingenuity and automotive history with your family.
Posted: 1/15/2015 9:00:00 AM
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Every car enthusiast has that one elusive car they dream of driving, to sit behind the wheel and feel its power grip the road as their hands guide the steering wheel. How satisfying could it be, though, to just circle your dream car around an empty parking lot or maneuver it through city traffic?
One day, you may get lucky enough to sit behind the wheel of a 1959 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder
, perhaps … and to completely appreciate this car for all it’s worth, you must put its 220 bph/3585 cc DOHC inline six-cylinder manual to the test - get it out on the open road and really feel what this baby can do!
So here’s a list of open roads we dream of driving, and the cars we think are best suited to handle their curves.
Get Some Fresh Air
Are you ready to shake those winter blues? We think a perfect way to kick the snow off your boots is a trip down to the Palm Beach International Raceway
and enjoy a few laps around one of its many tracks.
What car would you drive at Palm Beach? We’d choose to jump behind the wheel of a classic 70’s Plymouth Hemi Cuda, specifically a 1970 or ‘71. Only 21 of these models
are made in the convertible style, and we’d love to throw the top back and take one for a spin on the 2.034 mile, 11-turn road course, or maybe open up the 426 cubic inch Hemi engine on the quarter-mile dragstrip.
Driver’s Bucket List
It’s on every driver’s bucket list to take their favorite car for a serious spin on one of Germany’s Autobahn stretches
.The real-life speedway has suggested limits of 80 mph, and there isn’t a technical limit on this extensive network of roadways, so drivers can regularly be seen racing down this iconic open road in the triple digits.
Our perfect car to release out onto the Autobahn would be an original 1996 Lotus Elise
. Built for racing, this under-2000lb pro is designed to handle high speeds with its 1.8-liter, four-cylinder Toyota-sourced engine. This elusive road monster pulls 189 horsepower on open stretches and can hit 0-60 in under five seconds.
Exotic Twists & Turns
It’s time to take a drive down south … all the way down in the Southern hemisphere … on the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Brazil
. This weaving double lap, 4,309 meter road has us dying to run its curves in a car just as special as this Formula 1 certified stretch. So what car should we choose for this tricky, twisty track?
You guessed it! We’d take the classic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder
featured in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off to bank the corners of the Autódromo, and open up its 3.0-liter SOHC V-12 on the circuit’s big S-curve. We can just imagine feeling the wind in our hair and the 280 horsepower under the hood of this two-seater drop-top.
Rock & Roll All Night
Our next track of choice is the famous home of the 24-hour Le Mans, the Circuit de la Sarthe
. This circuit has been in existence since the early 1920’s, providing a home for the longest endurance race in the world -a race that regularly breaks starters and only sees a resilient few cross the finish line. The hills of France give this historic open-road track some gorgeous scenery. Twenty-four hours might be a stretch on your eyelids, but this 10 mile stretch of road is certainly worthy of your time!
So which classic is the perfect match for this all-nighter? We look to the ultimate supercar: the 1986 Lamborghini Countach 5000s
. The Countach has the right kind of power to honor the legendary Le Mans, pulling over 368 horsepower and clocking in at 7500 rpms. American-made models of this supercar can hit 0-60 in just over five seconds.
Want to feel what it’s like to take a spin on the Circuit de la Sarthe? Check out this video:
Bring It Home
We think the perfect way to round out a world racing tour is by bringing it home with a lap around Watkins Glen
. Located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York, this 3.4 mile Grand Prix circuit has its history rooted in Formula 1 and is now the State's only home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
We’d tackle this real American racing icon with a home-grown 1966 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350
, a classic powerhouse in its own right. This Shelby is equipped with a 289 ci V8 that pulls over 306 horsepower. The side air scoops on this beauty are more than just fashionable, they offer the function of keeping the brakes cool for a better track-handling experience. Oh yes, the Shelby would be the perfect fit for reaching high speeds and sharp corners at the Glen.
It’s not our Shelby, but you can check out a few laps around Watkins Glen in this Corvette C5 Z06
, another excellent choice to handle these curves:
There you have it. Five open roads. Five classic dream rides. When do you leave?
Posted: 1/8/2015 9:00:00 AM
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