The “Other” List







Every car guy has two fantasy lists of cars/trucks/racers/bikes we want to own if we had unlimited space and an even more unlimited budget. The first is the conventional roster, containing the usual suspects: perhaps a Ferrari 250 GTO, the world’s rarest Corvette, this or that Duesenberg, some Cobras, a pristine supercharged ’57 T-Bird, a Gullwing ‘Benz, the Hemi ‘Cuda convertible, McLaren F1, blah blah.
The one I want to know about is The Other List. The one you keep to yourself. You know, the one with all the weird stuff on it, that you may or may not want your car club buds to know about, because if they did, they’d pepper you with a lot of “Why in hell would you want that?” Here’s a few from my Other List:

• My dad’s ’34 Ford three-window coupe
• Or his black ’46 Ford Tudor
• Citroen 2CV – Don’t ask. I have no idea
• VW Beetle – An old air-cooled one. Because I never have
• ’55-57 Chevy Nomad – My idea of Sport and Utility
• ’67 Mini-Cooper S – So small. So quick. So cool
• ’68 Mustang GT 390 4-speed– Just like the one McQueen drove in Bullitt
• ’49 Dodge WM300 Power Wagon – A 4,000 pound anvil with 4-wheel drive
• Any car Mario Andretti has ever raced
• Cadillac V-16 – don’t care what year or model
• Isotta Fraschini – I just love saying the name. Same goes for Hispano Suiza
• CSX2000 – The first Shelby Cobra prototype
• ’32 Ford highboy rat rod (I know, I hate the term, but you know what I mean) with a flathead, no mufflers, old airplane seats, and an illegally low ride height
• ’72 Lincoln Continental Mark IV — to go along with a ’56 Continental Mk II
• ‘27 Bugatti 35 – One of the coolest race cars ever
• A Checker Taxi
• ’72 DeTomaso Pantera Group IV
• Anything Jay Leno is tired of
• Mercedes G55 AMG – Nothing like a brick with horsepower
• Retired GM engineer Jay Eitel’s Jaguar V-12-powered ’67 Corvair (no typo). The one with the engine in the front.
• ’63 Studebaker Avanti – preferably the one my neighbor let rot in his driveway for 30 years and wouldn’t sell to me. You know, the factory supercharged one Andy Granatelli owned
• A Gurney Eagle. Any Gurney Eagle (but the ’67 V-12 F1 car would be first choice.)
• James Bond DB5…
• …Or a Batmobile
• ’70 DeTomaso Mangusta – I know their engineering is marginal. But so gorgeous
• So-Cal Speed Shop Chapouris-built traditionally styled ’32 Ford hi-boy (for when parts fall off the ratty one)
• ‘53 Siata 208S – take one look at it and you’ll understand why
• ‘57 Stanguellini Formula Junior – the prettiest front-engined formula cars produced by man.
• Ford GT40 chassis #1075 – the Gulf-liveried GT that won Le Mans in 1968 and ’69
• ‘63 Ghia 6.4L – Italian style and Chrysler V-8 power. If it was good enough for Frank, Dean, Sammy, and Lucy, it’s good enough for me
• A Ford woody — Prefer a 46-48 Merc, but won’t be choosy
• Late 60s/early ‘70s Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser – If not, a first-gen Bronco will be just ducky
• A Tucker
• A Ford Model A
• ’70 Porsche 911S – The one McQueen drove in Le Mans
• ’56 Ford F-100 (with an SVT Lightning powertrain and chassis) – Kim K’s fabulous butt has nothing on these fenders
• Fiat Jolly Beachwagon – for my imaginary beach house. Or a Meyers Manx dune buggy, for the same imaginary beach house.
• The one and only Phantom Corsair
• Any car I’ve owned but been stupid enough to sell, especially my ’71 Olds 442. Given the chance, I won’t make that mistake again.

What’s on your Other List?

My Automotive “Barn Find” Story

Not my actual car, but close. I'll find a photo of mine sometime and put it up here.








Everyone dreams of finding an unmolested, unrestored, unloved, and unwanted classic car in some abandoned barn. Here’s my version of that story from a time long ago and what seems like a galaxy far far away….

Most young people acquire their first car via normal channels, such as a private party or Honest John’s Fine Used Cars. Or perhaps a hand-me-down from a parent or other relative. Mine was dragged out of a chicken barn.
My late father was a real-estate broker in Southern California, as was I for some years. Dad had been called in to sell a mini-ranch in a rural area of Ontario for a widow who was moving to the proverbial condo in Palm Springs. While surveying the property’s outbuildings, he noticed a large mass, somewhat resembling the shape of an automobile. It lay beneath a mountain of hay, wire fencing, lumber, at least one mattress, and multiple layers of chicken droppings. It turns out the big pile was indeed a car, parked there by the property owner’s late husband and last driven some 20 years before.
Dad’s thoughts of measuring the house for the listing contract were brushed aside. He called me, and said to come quick and help him uncover this newfound treasure: a 1954 Mercury Monterey hardtop. Sand beige, emerald-green top, two-tone interior, lots of chrome. I was 16 at the time (awarded my driver’s license at 8:30 a.m. on the day of my 16th birthday) and wanted a car–any car–more than bees want flowers. In fact, I didn’t just want a car; I needed one. You know, to do important things, like drive myself to the local Burger Biggie to hang with my friends.
It turned out these folks were the car’s original owners; drove her off the showroom floor new in ‘54. She had the latest 261-cubic-inch overhead-valve Y-block V-8, replacing the venerable flathead V-8 that had powered millions of Ford products since 1932. A little chrome badge on the trunk proclaimed this machine was equipped with no mere transmission: It had a Merc-O-Matic. The Monterey was in original, unrestored condition, but hadn’t run in decades. And it was real dirty.

Mrs. Chicken Farmer agreed to give us the car if we cleared up the back registration and license fees, and paid the towing fee to get it off of her property. Sum total so far: $31. I had wheels. Sorta.
I’ll never forget the anguished look on my mother’s face when Tony’s Union 76 Towing Service tooled up our middle-class, suburban street and plopped the Chickenpoopmobile in the driveway. Now, Mom was used to this Car Thing. Dad had been a hot rodder since before WWII, so she’d been exposed. But this was something altogether new–and embarrassing. Neighbor kids laughed. Neighbor parents called. Mom cried. And I washed.
And scrubbed. And hosed and rinsed. And underneath those layers of casehardened dung was one gem of an automobile. Pure 1950s. Dad and I drained the gas tank, changed the spark plugs, points, condenser, rotor, oil, filters, and brake fluid. We cleaned and tightened and fiddled. The six-volt, lead-topped battery took two days to recharge. Would the car even run?

As is too often the case with the Super Bowl, the event itself wasn’t worth all the hype and worry: The Mercury fired on the first twist of the key. It was now sparkling (well, at least feces-free). The whole family hopped in, and we drove the car out to dinner that night. This time, Dad and I laughed. So did Mom.
We continued to improve the Merc while preserving its original condition and patina. But there was a problem. Not with the car–with me. Being a horsepower-hungry teen whose high-school parking lot was filled with Mustangs and Camaros, the Monterey just wasn’t cool enough. Dad could see, too, that while the Ye Olde Merc would be good sensible transport (and goodness knows, affordable – I think our total investment thus far was about $100), I just wasn’t going to be happy with it for long.

I needed something more befitting the President of the Alta Loma High School Marching Band. So I bought something a bit more appropriate–and a bit cooler: a 1971 Olds 442 with a 455-cubic-inch big-block, factory ram air fiberglass hood, and a Hurst shifter. Smack in the middle of the first Gas Crunch. Not so sensible. But way cool.  You know, something with burbbling dual exhausts, that would burn rubber all the way up Euclid Avenue.

We sold the Merc to a neighbor, who repainted it and installed a set of glasspack mufflers. She paid us $200, a tidy profit over our original investment, even including the towing fee. Last we knew, she still had it.

Wish I did, too.

Driven: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550








The most recent Barrett-Jackson auction I worked for SPEED television took place in Scottsdale, Arizona. I live near LA, so needed something fast and comfy for the long, straight, semi-boring 400 mile run along the 10 Freeway East. When it comes to high-speed stability and long-legged comfort, it’s difficult to beat a Benz. And I had yet to drive the new, second-generation CLS, so I tapped gently on the Mercedes-Benz North America press fleet door and one day last month, this Cuprite Brown over Almond/Mocha colored CLS550 appeared. The previous, first gen CLS “four door coupe” was a love it or hate it piece to many; they understood and enjoyed the racy roofline and chopped off tail, or they didn’t. The car was recently freshened with revised styling, updated tech, and some wonderful new engines for the 2012 model year — bring on Interstate 10!


The exterior design wears a face similar to the ultra hot SLS 6.3 AMG gullwing (and now roadster) which also harkens back to the smile of the original 300SL of the 1950s, and I totally dig it. The semi-fastback roofline remains, and while it does pinch off just a bit of headroom compared to an S-Class or an E-Class sedan, I say who cares. As GM design chief William Mitchell once said “forget passenger room; if it looks good enough, they’ll crawl in back.” Maybe true, maybe not, but this is a stunning car, particularly in dark colors.

Underhood is a new 4.6-liter, all-aluminum V-8 wearing two smallish turbochargers that help it spool out 402 horsepower and animpressive 443 pounds-feet of torque. This surprisingly efficient monster motor is super quiet, impressively smooth, and oxen strong. The only transmission offerred or needed is a 7-speed mutli-mode automatic that’ll do all the shifting work, or let you play it with the steering wheel mounted shifter paddles.







The cabin has it all; fabulous yummy leather upholsterey, genuine wood trim, and lots of technology and safety gear.  The nav system works fabulously well and is easy peasy to program.  The audio system worked perfectly on satellite radio or with my iPod Touch.







If I had to drive from LA to Boston just for the chowder, this is the kind of car I’d want for the job.  It’s crazy fast (0-60 in about 5 seconds) super comfy, handles well, and tracks like its on rails at any speed. 

Cheap?  No.

My tester stickered at $71,300, and is really well equipped at that.  But a whole host of options (several of which I’d pass on if I were ordering this car for myself) brought the grand total to $83,095, which sounds like a lot, but maybe isn’t so over the top these days.  You won’t have any trouble seeing that money in this car; it’s all there — the performance, safety gear, superb luxury, lots of tech toys, and quality, looks, big label brand, etc.

The new Biturbo engine is superb, and the 7-speed trans is its perfect dance partner.  The previous CLS wasn’t as fuel efficient as this one, didn’t look as good IMHO, and didn’t steer and ride like this car does.  If you can find something about this car to complain about, please let me know.  Otherwise, an attractive and masterful job, I’d say.  Everyone else who drove it felt the same way.

Thanks to Kirk Gerbracht for washing the car, getting it serviced, and taking these photos while we were in Arizona