Tag Archives: classic cars

1935 Bugatti Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe

What a treat today has been!  Drove to the High Museum of Art Atlanta to see the Dream Cars collection exhibition, which will continue until September 7, 2014.  If you get a chance to make the drive, I highly recommend it.  A total of seventeen concept cars are on display each magnificent except for two turds.  Both German – one, a BMW and the second a Porsche.  Oh well, can’t have it all I suppose.

So I’ll start by listing what I thought was the most impressive in the collection:  a 1935 Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe.  The finish of this car is a shade of very light green metallic that exhibits properties akin to a chameleon:  one moment it looked light green, and the next it became almost silver.  And yes, this is the Bugatti with the exposed backbone assembled with hundreds of rivets.  Feast your eyes…


The front of the car displays an immense amount of exceptionally perfect chrome.  The grill has what appears to be thermostatically controlled vertical blade arrangement allowing the correct amount of cool air to keep the engine from overheating.  The headlights were particularly impressive:  everything was crystal-clear except for the bulbs: they were yellow.  The side vents on the hood were also flawless and the latches holding the sides were magnificent.

IMG_2312Moving right along, notice the doors.  What a door!  Check out how high the door sills are and the teardrop design of the side glass window.  The occupant’s shoulder would be even with the lower edge of the window – how awesome is that?  Finally as if it were not obvious enough, those are suicide doors held in place by two delicately made door hinges.  To make something look this simple and elegant takes an obscene amount of knowledge, craftsmanship and time.

IMG_2319Here is a closeup of the rear wheel cover.  The cover has five fasteners that when turned in the correct direction allow the cover to be removed.  Pay close attention to the lower right corner where the wheel cover meets the rear curve of the fender.  The amount of detail is immense.  The cover has a compound curve – it boggles the mind how this the master craftsman in charge hand-formed this from a sheet of metal using his hands, an English Wheel, perhaps a planishing hammer…  And it goes without saying, but look at all those rivets holding the fender to the rest of the body.

IMG_2320The tail of this Bugatti is once again an amazing work of art.  Here we see the exposed backbone with all those alternating rivets.  The spare wheel must be under that large round cover.  Notice how perfect the sweeping seam on the fender meets the backbone in the middle.  Finally, below the roll-pan are four very tastefully placed indicators.  They are just neatly tucked away as to not distract the eye from the flowing curve of the back of this work of art.  Amazing don’t you think?

IMG_2323Here you see the four lights I mentioned before, but wait…  Look at that simple but elegant chromed release handle for the boot cover.  It appears to be designed to be lifted and then pulled back where it would rest on a detent.  Then the entire back cover would open.

IMG_2325This picture shows the exposed backbone actually goes under the car for a certain distance.  I was unable to get a closer look but I think there are even more surprises under all the shiny bodywork. If you look close enough towards the left, you see that small tapered point on the wheel cover that shows just how high the level of detail exists on this coachwork.

IMG_2326Here are the back windows.  Unfortunately the light was not good enough to show the interior, but from this vantage point I could actually see all the instrumentation as well as the dash and steering wheel.

IMG_2322I realize this is not exactly the best of photos, but look at how the door extends into the roof area of the car.  I suppose this would have aided the occupant when entering/exiting the inside of the car.  Nothing seems left to chance here.  Exceptional, don’t you think?


IMG_2302I took the two pictures above, to highlight something particular about this car.  The entire body is a flow of curves.  The long swooping fenders, the compound curve of the rear wheel cover, the roof, the curves on the rear deck…  Except for one thing…  Look at the extreme sharp edge on the engine cover as it meets the firewall.  Then think when this was all formed:  the mid 1930’s.  This is not a car – this is art.

Finally, I’ll just close with a few more pictures of this exceptional rolling masterpiece.

IMG_2294IMG_2298IMG_2295Stay tuned…  I took many pictures of the rest of the cars in the collection.  I’ll try to write about them in the next few posts


The Chevrolet Cameo Pickup

Back in the mid 1950’s, the Chevrolet Cameo pickup was the first of the high-end luxury trucks with real pizzazz.  Thanks to the knowledge General Motors obtained from the plastic-fantastic Corvette, the Cameo’s outer bed panels were made of lightweight fiberglass.  At the time the Cameo came equipped with a high-end interior, the best of V8 power, automatic transmission and two-tone paint.  In the 1950’s this made the Cameo a very avant-garde vehicle, and thus not many were built.  Even more obscure is the GMC version – the Suburban Carrier.

Today, the Cameo is very rare.  Today, I had the privilege to work on one (again!) – oh lucky me!!  :mrgreen:

In a none-too-distant-future this Cameo will be a stablemate to my friend Barry’s Bel Air (click here to see it).  What makes this Bel Air so damn special is that it has been in Barry’s family since new.  Just imagine still owning the car you grew up since you were a kid!!

This Chevrolet Cameo has been at my cousin Jim’s shop numerous times on its way to being brought back to life.  Jim has modified the frame, installed the new LS 5.3 liter engine (oh hell yeah!!) and done a huge amount of other fabrication work.  I have written about it before; you can read more about it by clicking here and here.

Today we did some bodywork on the fiberglass outer bed panels.


Body filler applied to the “low spots”.

To get the bed panels nice and straight, my cousin Jim previously sprayed them with sanding primer (the gray stuff) and today we worked some body-filler in order to ensure a very straight finish.  Body filler is applied to the “low spots” on the panels.  The great majority of this will eventually be sanded down.  This takes patience and a steady hand.  Yes it is tedious, it is messy (you get a ton of powder all over the place) and it takes time.  And time.  And more time.  And yes, you guessed it, more time.

I’ve had quite a bit of stress and aggravation in the last few weeks, so working on Barry’s truck today was very therapeutic.  This is the kind of stuff that “builds character”.  It gives you time to think and well…  I just enjoy doing this!

Sanding was done using an orbital air-powered sander, several sanding blocks of different shapes and sizes and different grades of sand-paper.  Of course this is July 4th weekend and it was nice and warm (no – it was HOT!).  Fortunately we had a few box-fans running and this made it tolerable.

Some folks say this is boring and a pain in the ass.  Nope.  This brought back fond memories of the endless hours I spent the summer I did this very same work on bowtie6 (click here).  What made the Cameo different was that the sanding had to be more careful because I did not want to dig into the fiberglass gel-coat.  After several hours we had this:


The end result, after a few hour’s worth of sanding.

What is left now is just a film of filler covering the “low” spots on the body panel.  If you look closely you can see some of the sanding blocks (on the top of the bed and on the floor).  We had air-powered versions too but this has to be done the old-fashioned way:  by hand.

Here is the cab on Barry’s cameo (yes, the photo is not perfect, I used my iPhone!):


The Cameo’s cabin.


The opposite side, after sanding was completed.

So what’s next?

Well…  We have some more sanding to do.  There were a few spots that needed some more filling and further sanding to get really, really smooth.  Then another coat or two of sanding primer followed by more sanding with even finer sandpaper.  The idea is to get the surface straight and smooth.

Man!  This was fun today.  If you have never done this kind of work before, you are missing out on one of the pure joys of auto-restoration.  I highly recommend it!

How is it done?

Filler is mixed from a paste in a can.  Usually you would get about a golf-ball sized amount and add a pea sized amount of catalyst.  This is then mixed very quickly on a special pad lined with paper until thoroughly blended.  Then the fun begins.  You must spread this with a special pad thin enough and quick enough while it is still malleable.  After just a few minutes there is a point-of-no-return when the stuff gets too hard and grainy.  On a hot day like today, the set time is even shorter.

Then, the filler is allowed to fully harden.  Once it is hard to the touch, one can start sanding.  The end result is a very fine powder that goes everywhere.  Yes, it has a special odour and when I say it goes everywhere I really mean it.  However, there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you take an air-hose and then gently rub your hand on the body panel.  If you have done it right, it will be as smooth as a newborn’s arse.

I’ll have more updates soon…

1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet

This weekend I visited my friend Cator’s fabrication shop where he keeps his 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet.  We were done working on one of his other hot rods trying to wire up a Hemi with fuel injection when I asked to uncover the Merc and take a few pictures

According to Cator, these are very rare cars to begin with – only about 1200 of these two door, two-seater, convertibles were sold.  Cator went through great lengths to make this awesome ride a reality and boy does it pack some serious heat!  Given it’s rarity, I am sure many folks reading this post will have something to say since this car is far from stock. Then again just like me, Cator built this car for his personal use and enjoyment.


The black paint is flawless and shows the amount of work that went in the  bodywork to make it look this smooth…

Yes, this 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet is powered by a seriously hot Chevy 350 with triple carburetors.  Cator built this car before we had a chance to convert him to fuel injection!  That is why his current hot rod will be powered by that late-model fuel injected Hemi.  But I digress…


The spring loaded star was a little off center because I bumped it when I took the car cover off…

The grill and bumpers are all original to the car.  There is some serious bling going on here!


My iPhone did not do this amount of chrome justice – the smooth black firewall and all that chrome is stunning…

The engine is mated to a GM transmission and this runs to a 9″ Ford rear end with a solid axle.

This Merc is fully decked out with an air ride suspension.  Check out how low to the ground it can be lowered!  It is also equipped with a nice AC system that blows very cold air!  The interior is outfitted with plenty of leather.  And, the canvas top is fully lined – the top’s frame is completely hidden from view and according to Cator, makes the ride very quiet.

I need to get Cator to bring this bad boy to Cars & Coffee.  I’ll have another set of pictures soon…

Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

Fifty some years ago, the Ford Motor Company decided to build the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner.  This beauty had a fully retractable hard top (eat your heart out BMW!) that folded itself in a very complicated way into the trunk.

Well, turns out tonight I was watching the six o’clock local news and they ran a story on the retractable top Fairlane.  The story talked about how the International Ford Retractable Club had its 2013 National Convention here in Greenville, South Carolina.  As expected, the inept reporter from Channel 4’s staff conveniently talked about everything but where the cars were on display.  A little Googling solved the problem:  the cars were on display at the local Hilton.

Since today was the last day of the meet, I decided to jump in the S2K and head out to the Hilton’s parking lot.  Sure enough, a few of these timeless beauties were still on display.  Oh man!  What a treat.  I took a few photos which I have added to the following gallery.  If you are on my mailing list you might want to visit the site:  the photo gallery does not transfer to the email.  Take a look and make sure to click on the photos – they will open to their full size!

Some priceless gems, don’t you think?  The turquoise 1959 is very impressive, with the entire top mechanism in full display.  The trailer queens were equally amazing.  Several others were safely stowed in fully covered trailers.  Some parting notes:

  • I thought the “Air Conditioned by Ford Select Aire” emblem was pretty awesome.  Most intriguing, the emblem only appeared on the passenger’s side.
  • How about the “Continental” kit affixed to the rear of the car with the spare tire mount.  I bet it took some getting used to the fact that an extra 2 or 3 feet worth of chrome is behind the trunk.
  • The paint colors on these cars is just so awesome!  Just imagine what these beauties looked like back in the day with their bright paintwork and gleaming chrome.
  • Fender skirts…  Chrome…  Body colour dashes…  Fender Fins…  All centerfolds in their own right – classic automotive porn at its finest!