Archive for June, 2012

Cacharro! Well-used Cuban `59 Chevy

Photo courtesy of Kachoff (Flickr) http://flic.kr/p/bUVREG

Well known already for its outrageous fins, this 1959 Chev Impala is famous as one of the surviving American-built cars that still ply the streets of Havana Cuba – fifty years after a US Embargo on Cuba.

Mechanics in that country are legendary for their ability to whip up a batch of home-brew brake fluid, rebuild an engine in an alley, and even retrofit a carburetor off a Soviet truck to keep these old cars – known locally as Cacharros – functional and mostly roadworthy.

Additionally, roughly 300 Harley-Davidson owners in Cuba manage to keep their pre-Embargo Big Twins alive in the same way, and recently had their first National Rally in April.

NY Times – Old Cars in Cuba: Nurtured But Not Loved

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Michael Landon and The Kodak Ektra – Sept 1980

Michael Landon LIFE Magazine Sept 1980

From the back cover of the September 1980 edition of LIFE Magazine come this awesome blend of history and pop culture.  Let’s take a look at each element:

Michael Landon – He was a big star, known in later life for his honesty and family values.  He died too young.

Kodak – 100 years old at the time of the ad, Kodak is hanging on by a thread and a sliver at the age of 132.

Ektra – A camera model launched in 1941 as a rangefinder, and finishing its days as a 110 compact

The Perm – It was kind of a big deal.

Pink Knit Shirt – Chip and Muffy would be so proud

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The Mod Squad [1968 – 1973]

“One White, One Black, One Blond”

Photo above is courtesy of We Heart Vintage, a retro gem of solid distinction: The Mod Squad. Clarence Williams III, Michael Cole, and Peggy Lipton starred as “hipper than hip” 20-somethings with street cred – which allowed them to blend with underground society in Los Angeles.

Brainchild of producers Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas, the screenplay for the series began with true stories collected from the real operations of a narcotics squad in the 1950s; but it took producers the better part of ten years to get the network on board.  Once they did, the show was a hit – big enough to run for five years and over 120 episodes.

Little known fact: Harrison Ford played an unnamed cop in the 1968 pilot.

The show’s impact was far reaching and wide spread.  Each actor – to this day – is known for their role.  Styles were introduced and made popular merely by being part of the show.  An obvious dichotomy – a younger generation being part of “The Fuzz” – tied two worlds together in an era when each were seen more as polar opposites.  The storylines – hip and somewhat raw for the time – resonated with a youthful public.

And, I’ll admit, Peggy Lipton’s beauty resonated with a third-grade me.

Peggy Lipton

As “Julie Barnes,” Peggy Lipton played a freestyled runaway from San Francisco.  Born in 1946, Lipton had already been a successful model and actress by the time she was signed to The Mod Squad.  In later life she also joined the cast of Twin Peaks, and also battled successfully against colon cancer.  Lipton was married to Quincy Jones for many years.

Michael Cole

Michael Cole’s role of “Pete Cochran” cast him as a guy kicked out of the house by his well-to-do parents, after getting in trouble with the law.  He initially didn’t want the role, thinking he would be playing a snitch.  He realized later that the character was more rounded.  Cole began acting in 1961, and has continued in movies and TV since then.

Clarence Williams III

Clearly the most iconic character of the show was Lincoln “Linc” Hayes – played by veteran stage actor Clarence Williams III.  Linc was the street-wise kid from Watts, whose massive afro, groovy shirts, and smooth tongue made him a show favorite.  The expression “Solid” is firmly associated with Linc and his inner-city style.

Williams became interested in theater while attending programs at the YMCA, and starting 1960 he had a long career on the stage before The Mod Squad – returning to theater once more after the series went off the air.  He is still active in stage and screen to this day.

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More about The Mod Squad – On Wikipedia

Dodge Charger – Drifting Through the Decades [1968]

1968 Charger

With its classic ‘coke-bottle’ shape and legendary performance, the 2nd generation Dodge Charger became a muscle car superstar early on.

Movies like Bullitt made it famous. Dukes Of Hazzard locked it down as a pop culture sensation. The Fast and The Furious introduced it to an entirely new generation.  And from a gear head perspective, the 1968-70 Charger that was once available for $600 at any shady car lot along Highway 99 in Seattle is now unattainable by most due to outlandish prices.

After 1970 the Charger got huge, then luxurious, then cheesy and small.  After disappearing for a while it reappeared as a fire-breathing Hemi-powered four door.

I found the drifting photo above in a 1967 issue of Motorcade magazine, a copy which was unearthed recently from my parents’ attic. The picture is part of an article that highlighted the new cars for 1968, and featured most every American vehicle that was being released for the following model year. I scanned and posted the drifting pic online, knowing full well that Flickr Friend Scott Crawford would be drawn to it (less than 24 hours later he tagged it as a favorite). Why would Scott love this pic so much?

Maybe his photo from the 1970s below will answer that:

1968 Dodge Charger R/T - School's Out - 1977

1976 – Photo courtesy Scott Crawford

1968 Dodge Charger R/T - I Guess She Likes Me

1976 – Photo courtesy Scott Crawford

Scott purchased a 1968 Charger around 1976 while he was in high school.  Unlike other gear heads – like me – who ended up selling their B-body Mopars in later years, Scott kept his Charger for a while.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T & Me

1980s – Photo courtesy Scott Crawford

A long while:

1968 Dodge Charger R/T & Me

2006 – Photo courtesy Scott Crawford

And it remains in his garage to this day.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T - Born To Run

November 2011 – Photo courtesy Scott Crawford

Now that’s drifting through the decades!

The Sweet – Unsung Heroes of Glam Rock

In 1975 I was hanging out with my friend Doug at his house, talking about cars and listening to records.  He pulled out a new disc from the band Sweet, best known at the time for the songs Ballroom Blitz and Fox On The Run.  The album was Desolation Boulevard, and it bowled me over.

The heavy guitar work, unstoppable percussion, whiplash guitar licks, and high vocal harmonies were like nothing I had ever heard before.  From a young age I was immersed in rock; by nine I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, BTO, and Grand Funk.  Sweet was different.  For them, rock sensibility was laid over pop lyrics, cocksure demeanor, and unbelievable precision.

Ten years later I found a copy of Desolation Boulevard at a used record store, and I have it to this day.

Sweet - Desolation Boulevard

While overshadowed by other Glam Rockers like Ziggy Stardust, Gary Glitter, and even KISS, they cut a place for themselves into the annals of 70s rock by creating skate rink-worthy hits and using their equipment to the ends of their abilities.  As it was with many bands of the time, Sweet disintegrated, reformed, exploded, reunited, and began touring again over the next 30+ years. Mick Tucker died in 2002 of Lukemia, and one original member – Andy Scott – continues to perform Sweet songs.

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All About Sweet – at Metal Music Archives

About Glam Rock – On Wikipedia

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