It’s been a long time since I’ve done a marque-specific show (e.g. all Ford, all Chrysler); let alone a model-specific one like all Camaro or all T-bird. And although I’ve touched on Japanese cars a few times throughout the years, I’ve never done an all Japanese show. So when I was contacted by the Z-Con folks to cover the 23rd annual Datsun/Nissan Z-car convention at Nissan’s North American headquarters in Franklin, TN my first reaction was, “There’s an annual gathering of Z-cars that’s been going on for 23 years?!?”
My second thought/concern tho was whether there’d be enough diversity in the cars to make an interesting episode especially since they all share such similar lines. I decided to give it a go anyway and was pleasantly surprised that there was plenty to pick from.
The Datsun 240Z came to the US in 1970, and it was the beginning of putting Japanese performance on the map. They were slick, sleek, affordable, and lots of fun to drive. For most folks, this was the first Japanese sports car they’d ever seen. If you lived on the west coast, you may have been familiar with their predecessors the Datsun 1600 and 2000 roadsters, but not many of these made it very far east. The 240Z however was marketed coast-to-coast.
The Nissan headquarters made a great backdrop for the show and since Franklin is just outside Nashville, the club had also engaged one of the many great local bands to provide the music for the day rather than going the typical DJ route. The band was The Dirty Curties, an all-female group which struck me as appropriate since the Z-cars and the roadsters before them went by the model name, Fairlady, in Japan. The band was great and Datsun was wise to rename the cars for the US market.
I recently had a chance to shoot a couple really cool muscle Mercs and didn’t even have to leave my home base of Evansville, IN to do it. I had met their owner about five years ago at a small local cruise-in. I don’t actually get to go to those very often since I’m usually on the road, and when I am home I’m too busy trying to catch up on things before I leave again. But this particular one was a fund raiser, I happened to be in town, and a friend of mine had really put the arm on me to attend.
I recall driving my ’56 Lincoln and was just hanging out and chatting with people when this black ’64 Merc Park Lane Marauder pulled in. I think I stopped whatever conversation I was in mid-sentence and made a beeline to that car. I don’t actually recall ever seeing one before, and I just thought it looked incredibly sharp.
It was completely stock; jet black hardtop with a white interior and a factory 4-speed. Being a Park Lane, it was Mercs highest trim level so it was pretty decked out. 1964 was also Merc’s 25th year of existence so it had a few additional 25th Anniversary touches too.
There were very few 4-speed Marauders produced and most of them came with 427’s, but this one had an ultra-rare 390 Super Marauder engine with special large-valve heads and unique cast exhaust manifolds. There were probably fewer than five cars like this one made.
The owner, Tom Lantz, had found the car in Montana and although it needed paint and interior, it was a solid car. He took care of the cosmetics but hadn’t touched the engine which was still running strong at about 78k miles.
I fell in love with the car and enjoyed talking to Tom. I could tell he was a pretty serious performance Ford guy, and his attendance at this cruise-in had definitely made my day.
I pretty much lost track of Tom and that car till I got an email from him earlier this year alerting me to the fact that he had just completed another monster Merc that he thought I might get a kick out of. He was right.
Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln”. New Mexico; the “Land of Enchantment”. And Colorado is “Colorful”. But Idaho is one of the few states that herald a type of produce on their license plates which proudly read, “Famous Potatoes”!
Last weekend the state was also the setting for the Northwest Motorfest; Idaho’s largest car show. It’s held on the grounds of the Idaho Expo in Boise, and you don’t have to be there long before you learn that it’s pronounced, Boic-e, not Boyz-e; thank you very much!
In addition to the typical car show stuff, this event also had numerous side attractions; things like holeshot and burnout contests.
I’m not sure, but I think the meteorological term for the cloud that is rising from behind this Chev is cumulorubberus.
It also had things more specific to the Northwest, like V8 chainsaw demonstrations. Now, that’s just crazy!
Throw in the Wall of Death and rock crawling demos, and this was a veritable three-ring circus.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Idaho since I lived at the other end of the state up in Moscow for nearly 5 years and went to grad school at the University of Idaho. Go Vandals! And I’m always looking for an excuse to get back out there.
Last week we went up to the land of float planes and moose for the Midnight Sun Cruise-In which was held in Fairbanks, Alaska. And let me tell ya, that’s a long haul from E’ville, Indiana.
It was three airplanes and about 16 hours total travel time before we finally got to the Bear Lodge; our base of operations for the next few days.
I had built an extra day into the schedule for a change to recover from the inevitable jet lag. The car show itself wasn’t till Saturday, and although there was an organized cruise to a salmon bake Friday evening, we basically had Friday to kill. Since this event was being hosted by the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, I figured walk-thru would be a good way to spend the morning.
Fairbanks really isn’t a very big town, about 40,000 people, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the museum, but I could not have been more wrong. This place absolutely blew me away. The museum was the vision of owner Tim Cerny and his wife Barb. The collection has several one-of-one and only-one-left cars as well as several Alaska-specific vehicles (which were extremely weird).