Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Model kits from the 1950s and '60s. Who builds these things, anyway?

Whenever I go to the hobby store, or to the craft place with my wife, or anywhere they sell 1/25th-scale plastic model kits, I always wonder if anyone ever actually builds them anymore. Real life people that I talk to about them say things like, "I used to build them as a kid. I think my mom threw them out a long time ago." Most of the kids I see now seem to be more into electronic games and test messaging than something that takes the patience of model building. Who is supporting this hobby?

And yet, there is a bigger selection of models than ever before, and some of these kits are more detailed than the older versions ever dreamed of being. There are aftermarket parts and custom spray paint colors, tools and materials that can make a model kit look like a real car.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Downtown DeSoto open house reveals an unforgettable collection of automotive passion in downtown Clinton

When you think of great car collections, the Kansas City area may not be the first place that comes to mind. Yet, week after week, we are able to find some excellent shows and museums within a short drive.

Take the place I went this weekend. "Downtown DeSoto" is located about 75-miles south of KC in Clinton, Mo., and when it comes to truly fascinating collections, this one is hard to beat.

The collection is the work of Jim Raysik, who is also the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and GMC dealer in Clinton. And although there are some great cars, what really hits you is the meticulousness and completeness of the presentation.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The world's most hellacious hue. More than 200 black cars in recognition of Black Friday

Black Friday. Just the name strikes fear into those that hear it. The traffic. The crowds. The lines. The misery. Is a 40-percent off really worth this?

Black is also an important matter for car freaks. The richest of all paint colors, it can be so shiny; so deep; so reflective; so beautiful.

It can also be a huge pain in the, uh, yeah. Swirl marks, scratches, and fingerprints are enough to drive anyone crazy. And it looks dirty before you even get it home from the car wash. Henry Ford can sit on a short stick—I say, any color BUT black!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Battle Force 5 - from the Requests and Dedication line!

The Director
 “Dad—I have an idea you can do for an article.”

I have to admit, I love it that BHo, my first grade son, even cares enough to come up with story ideas. He gets drug to car shows and races and things all summer. He waits around a lot while I wash the car. I couldn’t ask for a better kid when I’m doing what I want to do, so I can’t very well take his requests lightly.

“Yeah, what is it?”

Battle Force 5

“Oh. OK. Well, um, what do you want me to write about?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In honor of Thanksgiving, let's look at the Mayflower. And the Pilgrims. Oh, and Plymouths from all over Kansas City!

Unfortunately, there weren’t any cars in Squanto's day, but a major component of Thanksgiving had an influence on what was once one of the top selling cars in America.

When you think of the Pilgrims, you probably have an image of a bunch of guys in big, dopey buckle hats eating cranberry sauce around a lavishly set picnic table and taking corn planting lessons from smiling Indians.

People enjoying a picnic isn’t all that big of a deal in and of itself, but, you know, they had to sail there in a stinky, wooden ship. It took 66 days. 45 of the 102 passengers died. Pretty much everybody got scurvy, which is way worse than H1N1. They earned that turkey dinner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No car shows? No problem. That's why we have places like Wagner's Classic Cars in Bonner Springs

It’s easy to think that now that the car show season is over in Kansas City, there won’t be anyplace to see any neat cars until next spring.

Well hold on, cowboy. There are all kinds of great places to look at cars around here when the weather gets cold. You just have to know where to find them.

One great place to check out is Wagner’s Classic Cars in Bonner Springs, Kan. I make it a regular stop when I’m out window shopping. Wagner’s usually has a large variety of high-end muscle cars, classics, and hot rods for your viewing pleasure. And of course, if you’re doing your Christmas shopping, all these cars are for sale.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Car & truck toys of the '50s and '60s may have been from a simpler time, but they're not that simple

Back in the 1950s and '60s, there might not have been Wii's and Nintendos to occupy kids time, and cars and trucks didn't have lights or computerized voices, but that didn't mean there weren't some pretty killer interactive toys back then.

Many of the toy cars of the late '50s focused on repair. Certainly, real cars and trucks weren't as reliable as they are today. It wasn't uncommon for the patched tube in a bald retread to give up the ghost, forcing a roadside delay. Overheating was another common problem, so kids were used to seeing mom or dad dumping a little water in the radiator.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? How about Chevy Camaro and the Deadly Stallion?

In case you hadn’t heard, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, is making a big splash in theatres right now. And I’ll be honest; I don’t know much about Harry Potter. When I see the previews to those movies, I never see any neat cars or anything that really gets me too excited. But the more I find out about these movies, the more I’ve determined that the whole thing is just a rip-off of the history of the Camaro.

Let’s look at the facts. The Camaro was a sporty car that emerged in no small part to the demise of the Chevy Corvair. Dark forces conspired to kill the Corvair, but they were unable to squelch the magic of the Camaro. In the movies, Harry Potter’s parents were killed by evil forces, while Harry went on to bigger and better things.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Karlin Lane and Country Classics antique malls in Bolivar, Mo., are worth pulling off to check out if you like cars

1948 Playboy
While many Kansas Citians think Bolivar, Mo., is a place that you have to pass through to get somewhere else, I’ve always considered the little southern Missouri town as a destination point. And if you like cars, there’s good reason for that.

For one, it is the home of Bolivar Speedway (formerly known as I-44 Speedway). It’s a great 3/8-mile paved track that hosts weekly Late Model and Modified events throughout the summer. It was one of the home tracks of Larry Phillips, one of the most accomplished NASCAR short track drivers in history, and drivers like Jamie McMurray also cut their teeth on the high-banked oval.

Bolivar is also the location for the Country Classics and Karlin Lane antique malls, which are pretty car-centric in their own rights. The two stores are located right next to each other, just off Highway 13.

Monday, November 15, 2010

'60 in scale. Dealer promo model cars from 1960. Can't buy the real car? Try a promotional model.

1960. Charlton Heston won an Academy Award for Ben Hur. The Flintstones first appeared on TV. And Elvis Presley returns from Germany after a two-year stint in the Army.

In the automotive world, designs were starting to get a little cleaner, a little more understated than the last couple of years. They're still big, chrome-encrusted, and glamorous, but you can see the impetus of the subdued '60s starting to take hold. Think about a '60 Cadillac. It's still very big. It still has big fins and a heavy chrome grill. But compared to a '59 Cadillac, it's a pretty sterile design.

If you like the transitional style of 1960, but can't afford a huge warehouse full of cars, there's a way to collect the year's greatest hits in the palm of your hand.

Branson Auto Museum provides relief from the crowds of Silver Dollar City

'41 Graham-Hollywood Supercharged
My folks are having their 40th wedding anniversary next weekend, so we booked some log cabins on the Silver Dollar City property to celebrate. My mom always talks about how much she likes log cabins, so that was the impetus for this plan.

Silver Dollar City was OK, but extraordinarily busy over Veteran’s Day weekend. But for me, the highlight of the trip wasn’t a rollercoaster or the blacksmith—it was our short detour into Branson’s Highway 76 “Strip”, and a visit to the Branson Auto Museum.

We actually visited the museum back in April, but the selection of cars on display had changed considerably in seven months.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A look at the vehicles from the Kansas City Military Vehicle Preservation Society in honor of Veteran's Day

Since today is Veteran’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to look back on some great military vehicles that were on display at the Liberty Memorial over Memorial Day weekend. We haven’t covered this here before, and there are a few pictures here that haven’t previously been published.

The Military Vehicle Preservation Society brought out several fascinating, battle-tested machines, and the owners were available and willing to answer any questions that people may have had.

The collection of Jeeps, transporters, weapons, and motorcycles were just part of the attraction. The Preservation Society also went out of their way to set-up realistic battle scenes. Yeah, they were mannequins dressed up like soldiers, but it was a jarring reminder that these weren't just your everyday, ordinary vehicles.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ford kills off the Model T bloodline for 2011

1955 Ford Crown Victoria
Tonight, CNBC is airing a special called Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon. They’re going to talk about Ford’s business, how they’ve been able to move ahead without taking bankruptcy, and some of the changes they’re making for the future.

At the same time, I have been thinking about the end of an American icon. Of course, Ford builds all kinds of cars and trucks. Mustangs have a great history, F-150s are big sellers, and the Fiesta is getting a lot of buzz. But only one vehicle in the Ford lineup is a direct descendant of the Model T (and technically, even earlier than that)—the Ford Crown Victoria. And after the 2011 model year, that branch of the family tree will finally end once the Crown Vic is discontinued.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Pierce Arrows. Presidential limousines and parade cars throughout history

You know that the president rides around in a fancy black limousine. But did you know that there’s more to those cars than just looking “presidential”? Since Veteran’s Day is Thursday, I thought we’d take a look at some of the cars America’s commanders in chief have ridden in throughout the years.

The Cadillac limo that President Obama rides through town in is more like a tank than a car. It is believed to weigh-in at more than 10,000-lbs. Most of that is due to thick, bullet-proof glass and armor plating throughout. Even the tires are resistant to attack and contain innerliners just in case the outer tires are damaged.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not one person beaten by nunchucks at the 22nd-Annual Toys for Tots Run

Bikers and hot-rodders have always had a bit of a rough reputation. Poster children for dangerous miscreants, their presence in your neighborhood is likely to result in someone getting beat to death with a chain, or maybe an out of control jalopy mowing down a toddler's birthday party.

And yet, when they're not burning a swath of terror fueled by the blood of the innocent, events like the 22nd-Annual Toys for Tots Run prove that they might not be that bad after all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

So long, Pontiac. You will be missed. Great commercials from a great brand.

When we woke up this morning, the automotive world was forever changed. Pontiac, General Motors’ “Excitement” division, officially went out of business at midnight. All dealer contracts expired, and the brand that brought us the Firebird, the Super Duty, and the GTO, is no more.

For students of automotive history, this is truly a sad day. Who can forget all the great cars that Pontiac produced over the years? Was there ever a better looking car than the ’61 Ventura? Was there ever a better turned-out personal luxury car than the ’64 Grand Prix? Would the Bandit have been the Bandit without his Trans Am?

Pontiac lasted for 84 years. That’s longer than most of us have been alive. And even though you didn’t hear much about it toward the end, it still had a loyal following. Surprisingly, the final new models in the Pontiac stable were among the best in their history. The G8 was a truly world-class muscle car. The Solstice was a critically acclaimed sports roadster. Even the bread-and-butter G6 was a very nice midsized offering, and the hardtop convertible version of that car was like nothing else in the GM stable.

Instead of getting stuck on how unfortunate it is that things were allowed to get to the point where this could happen, let’s take a look at Pontiac’s illustrious past, and check out some of the television advertisements from the company’s glory days.