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Strange Cars from the past...



  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    ...had a 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity as a rental when their 1982 Malibu was being repaired after a major accident. My friend who is a die-hard Chevy fan kept pointing out everything on that Celebrity that was deficient compared to previous Chevrolets he's owned/driven. I couldn't help but agree with him. I thought the car was a total turd compared to a Malibu or Caprice. I really feared for GM's future at the time and wondered how bad cars would be like by the time I finished college and was ready to buy a new one. The one thing I remember is the Celebrity's weird sloping dashboard with a strip speedometer in a narrow rectangular nacelle jutting toward the driver. Looked like peering through a gunslit to read the instruments.

    I recall reading an article in Motor Trend or Car and Driver about the Celebrity Eurosport wagon. The article was titled "A Little Euro, A Little Sport, But Not Much of Either."
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    I think the only real advantage that a Celebrity had compared to a Malibu was that the 4-door Celeb had windows that rolled down a bit less than halfway. The Malibu's didn't roll down at all!

    My grandparents had a 1982 Malibu Classic Estate wagon with the 229 V-6, and they hated it. They were coming from a 1972 Impala 4-door hardtop with a 350 V-8 though, so it was quite a shock. And while a '72 Impala isn't exactly a perfect car, it was still a tough act for an early 80's midsize to live up to. I guess it could have been worse though...if they bought a Celebrity they probably would've REALLY hated it! Granddad didn't like FWD cars though, mainly because of the mechanical complexity, increased repair costs, and often compromised reliability/durability. So I doubt if they would have bought a Celebrity, anyway!

    I remember when that Malibu started showing what a piece of junk it could be (mainly ECU problems), and gas prices started coming down, Granddad wanted to get an Electra. There was an old guy at our church with an early 80's Electra coupe that Grandmom & Granddad really liked. But once the Electra got downsized to FWD, they decided on a LeSabre or Delta 88. I think they went to the Buick dealer first though. The salesman showed them a light blue one that refused to start, and that gave Grandmom a bad vibe. The next one they checked out was dark gray. Fired right up, drove just fine, and that's what they ended up bringing home.

    That was the first car anyone in my immediate family had that was fully loaded. By 1985 standards, of course.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,195
    Ooohhh.... Going from a 72 Impala to an 82 Malibu wagon definitely qualifies as a demotion.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    I had hardcover book on the Thunderbird that featured photos of the styling prototypes. Unfortunately, I no longer have the book, or I could show you the photos the next time you come to a Carlisle event.

    As Mr. Shiftright said, it was awful - just as bad as the 1980-82 Thunderbird. It probably would have finished off the Thunderbird nameplate.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    Ooohhh.... Going from a 72 Impala to an 82 Malibu wagon definitely qualifies as a demotion.

    I remember my grandparents being so hung up on downsizing, and feeling they had been burned by that Malibu, that when Granddad wanted a new pickup, it took some convincing to get Grandmom to see that the pickups weren't downsized, too! At the time, they had a 1976 GMC crew cab pickup, and they were looking at the new '85's. Even though the '85 was the same design, there actually WAS some measurement that was smaller on the '85. I forget now what it was, but I think Grandmom took a tape measure and measured the width of the front seat cushion in the '76, and found that the '85 was narrower.

    I guess it's possible that GM just rounded off the cushion on the newer trucks, or narrowed them a bit, to make entry/exit easier or something?

    Looking back, I really wish that '72 Impala had held up. It was a sharp looking car back in the day. Would've made a cool first car for me. :shades:
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,195
    "Looking back, I really wish that '72 Impala had held up. It was a sharp looking car back in the day. Would've made a cool first car for me."

    Just your size, too... :D
  • Ah yes, the "Nimitz Class" Imapalas---LOL!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    is how did the Impala make it from 1971-76 and the transition to those 5-mph crash bumpers, without putting on any extra length? At least, I don't *think* they put on any length. IIRC, they were about 221" for the whole run of that generation. Those cars did have a lot of wasted space though, so I guess it's possible that up front they just shortened the header panel a bit, and instead of sticking the bumper further out, sort of did the opposite, bringing the front of the car in a bit?

    It's funny too, to think that my '79 New Yorkers are "downsized", but are still about that same length...221". But then those pre-downsized Nimitz Class NYers WERE bigger than the pre-downsized Impalas, so maybe everything stayed pretty much proportional. I have a used car guide that lists a '78 New Yorker at something like 225.7", but I've heard other sources say it was more like 230".
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    Thanks! I really, really want to see what could possibly be worse than the 1980-82 generation T-Bird. My Dad bought a new 1981 Thunderbird Town Landau and it was a real dog in just about every respect - styling, power, quality, etc. I remember one time my Dad getting made at me because I let it slip that I thought his new ride was a joke. He was so proud that he was finally able to afford a Thunderbird, but I was a smart-aleck teenager at the time.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    Omigod! Could you imagine what a disaster it would've been if the trucks were also downsized and the biggest one you could get was the size of an S-10?
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I think the Impala/Caprice must have grown longer with the addition of the 5 mph bumpers in '73 (front) and '74 (rear).

    Speaking of the '74s, I remember catching my first glimpse of the Caprice 2-door on a car carrier at a rest stop on the PA Turnpike around August of '73. That was an ungainly beast compared to the more graceful hardtops of '71-'73!
  • 0patience0patience Posts: 1,542
    Trucks were headed that way, just look at the pickups in 89 & 90 I think it was. They were really downsizing them. Thankfully, they started to realize that people didn't want tiny pickups.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Since my first car was a '54 Ford, V8 and my High School
    friend got to drive his parents '51 Plymouth my leading edge
    Baby Boom view is just a little older. Now a College friend
    did have a '57 T-Bird, that was almost the coolest thing going
    in '64/65 as things like the Falcon got released.
    Since that time I've come across any number of things on the
    road and off but one of the oddest is the '56 Facel-Vega
    that is sitting in one guy's garage. His dad's daily driver
    from that era and been sitting for 30+ years. The Facel as
    I've found out was the product of a Frenchman trying to get
    France back into the car game after WWII. Partly Italian
    design and fabbed in France the cars came with a mixed drive
    train that included a Chrysler engine and automatic or a
    French designed manual transmission. The later cars had mid
    to big Hemi blocks that are more sought after than this one
    with what I think is a 318 Wedge motor and the euro manual.
    The manual is preferred over the US auto transmission but is
    extremely hard to get parts for.
    I guess what is strange partly depends on when you came across it.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    I dunno; a 1953 Chevy pickup has about as much power and cargo space as an '83 S-10. Light trucks didn't become what we think of now as "full-size" until the beginning of the 1960s.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    dunno; a 1953 Chevy pickup has about as much power and cargo space as an '83 S-10. Light trucks didn't become what we think of now as "full-size" until the beginning of the 1960s.

    Would a '53 Chevy pickup have been able to hold a 4x8 sheet of plywood between its rear fender wells? That's something that to this day, only a full-sized pickup truck can do. The compacts and so-called midsizers are still unable. Although I did hear that if they would base the Dakota on the Durango platform, instead of its own, more dedicated platform, that it would be able to. But then, if they start giving the midsizers that capability, I guess it starts making the bigger trucks obsolete...unless you really need that extra power, towing capacity, or load capacity (not volume necessarily, but mass).

    As far as interior room goes, I think trucks pretty much hit their peak with the '73 GM trucks. At least, comparing regular-cab models. I remember sitting in an '08 Chevy pickup at the DC auto show, a regular cab model. Other than the more rakish windshield, which gives you a nice, big dashboard top, I really didn't find any more useable interior room compared to my '85 Silverado. Legroom felt about the same. Ditto shoulder room. Storage behind the seat seemed about the same Now the steering wheel was a bit further from my chest, and the truck had real headrests to keep you from smacking the back window in a rear-ender...something I'm intimately familiar with in my '85 Silverado...OUCH!! :sick: Oh, and they've found more nooks and crannies to store small items.

    I was a passenger in a 2004 F350 pickup yesterday and I swear, as big as that thing is, it doesn't seem like there's much more room than my Silverado. I think it does have 3 or 4 more inches of shoulder room, but when you're dealing with that much room, it's almost unneccesary. Now in cars, 4 inches can mean the difference between a compact and a full-size. But going from 64-65 inches to 67-68, I don't think most people will notice. Other dimensions though, particularly legroom, were no better. In fact, this thing seemed to have LESS footwell area because of the way the dashboard and components underneath hung down. The tranny hump seemed bigger too, but that's probably because of it being a heavy-duty truck.

    Regarding the 1988 and later GM trucks, their beds actually were a bit narrower than the '73-87 style, but still big enough for the proverbial 4x8 sheet of plywood. Here's how I found that out. My pickup, back when it was Granddad's, had a camper shell on the back. At some point in the early 90's, after Granddad had passed away, my uncle pulled it off for whatever reason, and it was just sitting in the yard. In the late 90's, in an effort to try cleaning up Grandmom's yard, my Mom and uncle agreed to give it to some family friends. They had a 1988 or later pickup. I remember when we helpd them lift that shell onto the bed of the newer truck, it actually overhanged on either side by at least an inch. I don't know what that guy ultimately did with that shell, but I remember it was quite a balancing act, so I doubt if he kept it long.

    Overall, I think the '88 GM trucks were about the same size as the '73-87 in most key dimensions. But something about their style made them look small. I remember when they first started hitting the streets, I'd mistake them for an early 80's Chevy LUV! The cheaper models with the single headlights did have a similar look.

    I noticed the same thing about the '97 Ford F-150. While it was hardly a small truck, something about its styling looked small. If I saw it out in a parking lot all by itself, with nothing else to reference it against, it looked like a compact truck to me.

    Oh, and if GM and everyone else downsized their trucks to S-10 size, I imagine that today I'd be nursing Granddad's '76 GMC crew cab along, instead of his '85 Silverado. However, my grandparents DID have a couple of small trucks. In the late 70's they bought a '72 LUV from a friend of my Mom's. At that time they had a '72 Impala and their '76 GMC. Grandmom was still working and drove the Impala, and Granddad was retired, and would use the LUV for running errands and such, instead of lugging that 21 foot long pickup around. They ended up giving the LUV to my uncle when he needed a car, and from there it got trashed, and ultimately totaled I think. He could be rough on cars! And judging by his '03 Corolla, still is. :sick: In late 1980, when gas prices were sky high and the stuff was scarce, my grandparents bought an '81 Dodge D-50. They had it less than 2 years. In early 1982 it pulled a sudden acceleration stunt at the gas station, and spooked them both enough that they didn't want it anymore. A neighbor wanted to buy it, and they sold it to him, and as of the early 90's he still had it.

    I think my grandparents viewed little pickups as something to run errands in, short trips, etc. But Granddad was a farmer most of his life, so I think full-sized pickup trucks were in his blood.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Would a '53 Chevy pickup have been able to hold a 4x8 sheet of plywood between its rear fender wells?

    Yes, but the longbed wasn't long enough until 1957.
  • '74 Caprice...

    That was our Driver's ED car.. :surprise:

    Moderator - Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067 episode of "The Brady Bunch" where the kids were learning to drive in a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice convertible.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Jeez. My driver's ed car was a '78 Volare... in 1993. :surprise: :cry: The county finally retired that thing a year or two later and replaced it with a late '80s Dodge Spirit or Shadow (whatever the boring K-car was back then). I think the current car is a Cavalier.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Back when I was in high school, the local dealers were still supplying new cars to the schools (I would imagine the automakers were reimbursing the dealers; certainly my school couldn't afford the cost).

    So I got to drive a spanking new '69 Dodge Coronet sedan. In brown IIRC. Big whoop!
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