Monday, March 31, 2014

Collector's Corner - Sun Star 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible

As a diecast collector with limited space in which to display and store my models, I have to make a list of priorities. It's mostly a wish list and I jump on the ones I want most when I find a good deal. One such model was this 1959 Pontiac Bonneville convertible from the Sun Star 1:18 scale Platinum collection. I love Sun Star's higher-end diecast offerings and when the Bonneville was first announced, a two-door hardtop in Canyon Copper Metallic with a white roof, I was smitten. But the first-edition copper hardtop is extremely hard to find and now usually trades for over $100 without a box. When a convertible variant was offered in several colors, the Vanguard Blue Bonneville was my favorite and I put it on my must-have list.

The Bonnie is a very large model and finely detailed as befitting its "Platinum" series name. There are many elaborate trim components and badges that are actual separate pieces instead of being molded into the metal body and painted silver. The hood hinges are a realistic scissor design unlike the cheap gooseneck hinges of a budget diecast. Likewise, the door hinges are realistic and only the trunk uses the gooseneck hinge style - like a real car.

The interior is beautifully done, with carefully detailed door panels complete with ashtrays and what appear to be power window switches. The front seats tilt forward and the floor has actual fuzzy "carpeting". The inside of the trunk has plaid fabric covering the floor and wrapped around the spare tire. Under the hood sits a 389 cubic inch V8 with all the hoses and wiring present, the block painted Pontiac Light Blue.

The downside of all of this detail is that the car is fragile. The script emblems are laser-cut and so thin I was afraid to peel off the protective plastic covering them. There is some form of suspension in the front but not the rear, and the car does not always like to sit level in the front. I discovered after my initial photo shoot that the right-side inner headlight lens had fallen out and was in the bottom of the box. The radio antenna also popped out of its mounting hole when I was putting the car away in its Styrofoam box. A couple of paint defects were also present, though some or all of these may have been side-effects of being a previously-owned model presented as new. As it is, I love the car. I'll keep an eye out for other Sun Star releases in the future and you'll be seeing more Sun Stars from my personal collection here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1948 Pontiac DeLuxe Torpedo Convertible

This was easily one of my favorite cars to photograph so far this year. Which is funny, given that the 1948 Pontiacs have never been on my short list of favorite cars. There are just so many cool Art Deco details on this beast, I couldn't help myself.

Pontiac was getting ready to reveal its all-new 1949 lineup when their postwar Torpedo range was refreshed for one more year. The DeLuxe Torpedo was available with a straight six or eight-cylinder engine, neither of which were particularly notable. What was notable, however, was the addition of the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission as an option. Pontiac was the third GM brand to receive the fully automatic gearbox (Buick's Dynaflow automatic was a different design), and buyers must have loved it because 71% of all 1948 Pontiacs came equipped with one.

It was news to me to learn that Silver Streak 8 is not the car's model name, but rather the sales name of the L-head straight-eight engine. Silver Streak was also a design theme lasting from the 1930s into the mid-1950s, consisting of bright chrome "streaks" extending from the center of the grille up over the hood and, on occasion, down the trunk lid as well. Perhaps Silver Streak should have been the actual model name, as "DeLuxe" sounds generic and in 1948 was used by Ford, Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Oldsmobile, Packard, Chevrolet and Kaiser. Torpedo was a less common name, used by Buick and more famously by Tucker that year.

This Torpedo is a beautiful example, a fine driver that could hold its own at local shows. The body is lovely, the trim is all there, and the chrome is good. The only blemishes I found were a couple of rock chips and a small dent in one of the hubcaps. I'm sure it's a fairly recent restoration but it looks gorgeous, down to the tan and brown interior with its beige Bakelite knobs and steering wheel, wonderful Art Deco AM radio and clock. It was a lucky find on a sunny Saturday and I'm very happy to have had the chance to shoot it. This blog needs more '40s cars!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Oldsmobile Starfire Holiday Coupe

Corporate internal competition is a funny thing. When GM wanted a piece of the burgeoning personal luxury sport coupe market in the early 1960s, they brought out the Oldsmobile Starfire to compete with the likes of the Ford Thunderbird and other sporty, two-door luxury cars. But there was a problem. See, GM's once-orderly brand hierarchy had dissolved in the interest of being all things to all people. Now they had half a dozen divisions all competing, in many cases, for the same market segment. When this Olds Starfire rolled off the assembly line in 1963, it was competing with the new '63 Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Wildcat and sexy new Riviera. Even the higher-spec Chevy Impalas (particularly the SS) and similar Olds Dynamic 88s probably stole sales from the Starfire.

The '63 Starfire was a full-size coupe or convertible with a 394 cubic inch Rocket V8 making 345 horsepower, floor-shift Hydra-Matic and leather bucket seats. You got pretty much power everything inside and out. The body was mostly shared with the regular Dynamic 88 range, but Starfire got a unique squared-off roof, concave rear window and special aluminum side accents. This was the last year customers could get a Starfire with no seat belts.

This Starfire appears mostly original and factory stock, its only modification an improvised repair on the right front fender with a newer Olds rocket emblem screwed in place of the original stylized star. The rest of the body is slightly wavy and the rear bumper bent, but blessedly free of serious rust or damage. The driver side mirror looks oddly dainty on such a big, slab-sided car. The sharp vestigial fins blended into square taillight coves with lenses curved inward at the bottom are an unusual design touch. Likewise, the almost-Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar breaks with common practice of the period on American cars. The only other vehicles of this period I can think of offhand with that kind of 'kink' are the 1963-66 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant coupes, or various Ford four-door hardtops. The Starfire is a unique alternative to a cookie-cutter Impala and a big comfy cruiser with the ability to be quick.