OUR PICKS

RIGHT, WE’VE ESTABLISHED THERE’S SOME GOOD BUYING OUT THERE IN AMERICANA, SO WHAT WOULD OUR MOTLEY CREW OF STAFFERS SPEND THEIR HARD-EARNED ON?

1958 CHRYSLER 300D

One of my dream cars would be a letter series Chrysler, 1957 300C or a 1958 300D. They were referred to as the businessman’s muscle car. It’s the wild ‘forward look’ styling that draws my attention, combined with the Hemi power plant. What a car! The 300D’s 392 Hemi was even offered with an ‘Electrojector’ fuel injection system that was a known tuning nightmare and most units replaced with twin four-barrel carbies under warranty. Still rated at 283kW, a 300D reached 252km/h at the Bonneville salt flats. I will have a Tahitian Coral one please.

PRICE RANGE: $40-120,000

1962 OLDSMOBILE STARFIRE

Oldsmobiles seems to be thin on the ground here in Australia and they sure don’t seem to saturate the market in the USA either. GM created some fascinating cars though the ’60s under the Olds brand and the Starfire is the make’s best attempt at a luxury car. These cars are well-equipped with power everything, plush interiors and a huge ‘Rocket’ 394 V8. The Starfire was unique with its brushed aluminum side panels and is known as a muscle car due to its large displacement on a compact body by ’60s standards.

PRICE RANGE: $17-50,000

1963 FORD GALAXIE R-CODE

I’m a sucker for the 1963 Ford range and the mid-year 63½ Galaxie equipped with the optioned ‘R’ code 427 is the ultimate muscle car in my book. I know the sheer size of this car deters people, but the sloping roofline is a brilliant design and they are surprisingly easier to park than you think. I could easily spend hours in the garage gazing into that engine bay. The poverty dog dish hubcaps and a set of period cross-plys would remain, ensuring it will light up the tarmac at every speed. Finding one to suit your budget would be a bigger task with their collectability reflecting in the price.

PRICE RANGE: $60-140,000

FORD BABY BIRD’

While I’m a paid-up member of the fan club of the lovely 1963 Thunderbird belonging to Unique Cars’ own creative wunderkind, Ang Loupetis, it’s the first of Ford’s T-Birds, the 1955-57 models, that get my pulse racing. During my student days in the sixties I was besotted with a beautiful black one featuring a portholewindow hardtop owned by the flamboyant man-about-town, used-car dealer Emmanuel Margolin. It was often parked near RMIT Uni where I spent quite a bit of time. The T-Bird’s OHV Y-block motor was pretty exciting at the time for young blokes like me whose budgets only ran to Ford’s trusty flathead V8s. Although the ’Bird’s bubble-speedo looked like the Customline version at first its dial raised up to 150mph. Fulfilling this around $50k.

PRICE RANGE: circa $50,000

STUDEBAKER AVANTI

I’ve got a soft-spot for Studebakers. Athough the South Bend, Indiana, business was only ever a bit-player compared to Detroit’s heavy hitters, it was there from the start and often punched above its weight. It’s easy to forget that in 1951 Studebaker pioneered OHV V8s in affordable American family cars. Although I like the Larks and Hawks, the exotic Avanti coupe from 1962 would be my choice. The avant-garde styling of its fibreglass body was refreshingly different from the usual Detroit look, or anything American for that matter. The Avanti’s front disc brakes, a first for an American production car, add a bit of technical sophistication to the mix, almost a British or European touch. I’d like to snaffle a 289-cube V8 version fitted with the optional Paxton blower and hopefully about $40k would make it mine.

PRICE RANGE: circa $40,000

R-SERIES VALIANT HARDTOP

It’s hard to convey just how exciting the R-Series Valiant’s arrival here was to teenagers like me whose dads drove Holdens, Falcons, Zephyrs and Vauxhalls. The torque from the big 225-cube, 145hp Slant Six motor blew all the other six-cylinder family cars into the weeds. Totally. The standout sculptured panel styling – thank you Mopar – rendered the others fully beige. Hallelujah! Then little quirky bits were the cherrIes on top – things like the flash faux spare-wheel cover on the boot and the multi-bend manual gear-lever. Then, sadly, in a moment they were all sold and the blanded-down S-Series arrived. I include the R-Series on my American car list because the one that I lust after is the two-door US-market Plymouth Hardtop version. Two-doors are always sexier than four, right? They’re rare here so I probably should budget for $35-40k.

PRICE RANGE: $35-40,000

C2 CORVETTE

As they are still obtainable reasonable price if you go entry model. Around US$35,000 should get you a nice car (327 base) up to US$100,000 for a 427 BB.

PRICE RANGE: $49-140,000

1965-66 CHEV NOVA

They are still a sleeper and undervalued. You can buy the base 327 for around US$15,000 for a nice example up to US$40,000 for the hamburger with the lot. PRICE RANGE: $21-55,000

MERCURY COUGAR 1968-69

These cars actually better equivalent Mustang didn’t recognition they deserved. You can still get a base (302) for around US$12,000 up to US$45,000 for a big block (390) car.

PRICE RANGE: $17-65,000

BUICK RIVIERA 1966-67

For a couple of shimmering years during the mid-1960s, General Motors’ Buick Division built the most beautiful car ever to run down the exit ramp of a Detroit car factory. Big statement, but just look at this thing. Not a curve too curvaceous or a gram of inappropriately deployed chrome. It is said the stylists had to draw that roofline with an ink-dipped scalpel as their thinnest pencil was still too clumsy. On the down-side, Rivieras are monuments to US automotive inefficiency with a back seat so cramped it’s almost uninhabitable by adults. Doesn’t matter. The way it looks and the attention is generates overwhelm any misgivings and the money being paid is still okay, too.

VALUE RANGE: $15,000-45,000

CHEVROLETCORVAIR CORSA TURBO 1965-67

Out of left field? Sure is. Totally off the planet? No way. The original 1960 Corvair was a clever idea brought undone by GM’s penny pinching that blighted the Corvair name forever despite engineering improvements to subsequent models. The 1965-66 Corsa coupe delivered a shape so balanced you can hardly believe its origins. A turbocharger feeding the rear-mounted flat-six to liberate 134kW ensured it went okay as well. Best of all, by 1965 the engineers had beaten the bean counters and given it proper rear suspension so the Corsa didn’t do the Dance of Death should you get a bit tank-slappy exiting a bend. Still pretty cheap too.

PRICE RANGE $10,000-35,000

FORDTHUNDERBIRD1962 1962-63 SPORTS ROADSTER

Can something 5.2-metres long with pedestrian prongs for mudguards, a boot big enough for band practice and jet exhausts for tail-lights really pretend to be a cute two-seat sports car? This one did. Once the rear seat was entombed beneath a moulded fibreglass tonneau the transformation to ‘roadster’ was complete. It couldn’t hide the outrageous shape though and that’s why this T Bird makes my list. Stand one on its tail and the ‘Bullet Bird’ looks set to fly you to the Moon and parts beyond. Finding a genuine Roadster today isn’t easy or cheap but they are mega collectable. The optional rare M code 6V engine will demand a significant price hike over the standard Z code 4V car.

PRICE RANGE $35,000-120,000

C3 CHEV CORVETTE

I’ve always liked the particular model – cred is that the Apollo around in them. I am fascinated by the entire man-in-space journey from Kennedy’s speech to Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface. Gimme one with the 427 big block and four-speed manual gearbox. I plonked myself into the driver’s seat of a pristine example at GM Downunder and smiled and smiled.

PRICE RANGE: $50-140,000

1969 MUSTANG BOSS 302

Allan Moffat’s Coca-Cola Trans Am Mustang is based (very loosely) on this model and as the Canadian’s red ’Stang is my favourite race car and he is one of my heroes, my choice stands to reason. The ’69 model is the high watermark in styling terms, so it’s no coincidence the current model adopted many of its styling cues. They’re getting up in price but a ‘renovators delight’ can be had for $60,000. Concours examples are going for triple that.

PRICE RANGE: $60-150,000

1963 FORD GALAXIE R-CODE

Big enough to warrant their own postcode these big rigs were the king of Nascar land and starred in the British Touring car series. One was the hare in the first Sandown touring car enduro in 1964, until it crashed. It needs a 427 to give it plenty of speed and the sight and sound of one of those in anger on a track sliding through corners is mega. Reckon they’d also make a cool cruiser. Prepare to fork over at least $60,000 clams. But you get one hell of a car.

PRICE RANGE: $60-140,000

CHEVROLET C3 CORVETTE

I’ve been a vocal preacher that collectible US cars offer some cracking good value compared to our beloved local heroes. In my eyes, early Corvette Stingrays are some of the picks of the bunch. C2s are getting expensive but gosh they’re beautiful.

On paper however, the C3 might sit in the sweet spot. There’s a bunch of clean and original small-block 350s around for as little as $28,000, and even some 427 big-blocks sitting at about $55,000. That makes the $80,000+ for a cut-up Falcon 351 GT replica sound nuts, right?

And yes, this is a repeat choice from my Muscle Car picks of issue #422, but it still stands!

PRICE RANGE: $28-55,000

CHEVROLETCAMAROSS

If you’re after a more traditional coupe, but would still like your healthy dose of cubic inches, look to the Corvette’s stablemate, a late-60s Camaro. Neat 350 small-block coupes sit around $50,000, and factory big-blocks appear occasionally for not too much more. From the 1970 redesign, they gained a little more weight and lost a little pep. So a 67-70 is what I’d go for, and if money is no object – a big 427 up front!

PRICE RANGE: circa $50,000

1969 FORD MUSTANG

Cliched? Maybe. But Ford’s pony car is a globally recognised icon – with a panache that a million dollar HO instantly loses outside Australia. The 1969 Mustang, for many, is the highpoint for classic Mustang aesthetics, and entry to ownership is afforded at various price-points.

In our own classifieds, there’s an unrestored all original Mach 1 coupe for $38,000, an extensively resto-modded 351 Windsor convertible and a fully restored turn-key Mach 1 coupe with a 390 big-block for $70,000!

Of course I’d go with the last one there, and at that price you get a genuine collectible with global appeal for the price of a high end inauthentic Group A replica.

PRICE RANGE: $38-70,000+

1966-68 FALCON TWO

Many hard-core Falcon fans admit – or simply don’t realise Australia’s first two generations were clones of North American But what we didn’t receive here Down Under was the pretty two-door sedan that shares the style and chassis/suspension basics of ‘our’ XR-XT Falcons. I like the look of these and I’d happily cruise one, left or right-hand drive… In fact I’d really like to give one the pro-tourer treatment by installing RRS front suspension (with rack and pinion steering) a late-90s AU independent rear suspension unit and a supercharged Miami V8.

PRICE RANGE: $10-35,000

1960S FORD GALAXIE

One of my car-crazy mates, Cameron, has one of these: an early 1960s Ford Galaxie. Big, long, low and wide, it’s a cool cruiser although Cam does struggle to find parking spots for it when he daily-drives it instead of one of his ‘normal’ cars. His is powered by a big, beefy FE V8 but I’d probably be looking for a later-model injected engine if I was lucky enough to have one in my shed.

PRICE RANGE: $30-50,000

1967 CAMARO

Only last week, I was given a real good look at an immaculate one-owner, full books, all-options ’67 Chev Camaro owned by a married collector couple I know. Seeing this gorgeous car re-awakened my interest in these… most of the ones I’ve seen in the past decade seem to have been stripped-out burnout cars! With a 327-cube small-block Chev V8, air-con and power steering, I reckon with a set of decent dampers and tyres, one of these would be an ideal Sunday cruiser or regular driver.

PRICE RANGE: $50-90,000

1967 FORD GALAXIE 428

Anyone familiar with pillarless two-door Fords of the sixties, with those stacked headlights, will know they generally rate as one of the world’s most handsome car profiles. By any normal measure, this should be regarded as a premium piece of kit, particularly since it’s running the giant 428 V8, presumably with the ultra-strong C6 trans. We spotted it at tradeuniquecars.com.au and reckon (if it checks out) it’s solid value.

THIS CAR: $49,000

1988 CORVETTE C4

I’ve been joking recently that C4 Corvettes are almost free, and here’s your proof. This car is up for sale on tradeuniquecars.com.au and offers huge bang for your buck. Okay, so it’s not a chrome bumper car. But it is a radical progression from the vaguely prehistoric C3, with far sharper handling. The old faithful 350 V8 is still in residence, with a four-speed auto. And the best part? It’s club-reg eligible, which makes it cheap to own.

THIS CAR: $17,750

1966 FORD MUSTANG

This is one of the true motoring icons of the 20th century, credited with starting off a whole new motoring category in the USA’s seeming bottomless pit of a market. This example was owned by a family member until very recently, and I’m using it as an example of a real-world sale. Running the 289 V8 with auto, power steering and air-con, it was in superb shape and was one of the most solid examples you’d find anywhere. We reckon it was value.

SOLD: $34,500