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Hemmings will celebrate all things truck and SUV, both on pavement and off road, at the Tailgate Throwdown from March 31 to April 2 at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Louisiana.

More than just another truck show, the Tailgate Throwdown will utilize all the facilities of NOLA Motorsports Park for a weekend full of on-road and off-road activities for new and classic trucks and SUVs. From drag racing and autocross to dirt racing and trail rides, the Throwdown features something for every automotive enthusiast. The truck show portion will be open to all years, makes, and models of trucks, including lifted trucks, lowered trucks, and everything in between. Even El Caminos and Rancheros are welcome.

“The Hemmings brand is well known in the automotive industry, and we are ecstatic to have the opportunity to partner with them,” said Erin Groseclose, NOLA Motorsports Park’s director of marketing and events. “Together we plan to make the first Tailgate Throwdown a must-see event for off-road, truck, and motorsport enthusiasts. This event goes hand in hand with the vibe and culture of New Orleans and will undoubtedly resonate with the fans.”

Event entry, which includes a spot in the truck & SUV show, will be $50, with entries into the autocross, drag racing, or off-roading events an additional $25. Spectator admission will be $20 for the general public, $15 with a military/first responder discount, and free for kids 10 and under. Tickets go on sale January 16.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

The last several months have seen a barrage of articles, in the automotive and mainstream media alike, pointing out that electric vehicles have become way too expensive for regular folks to afford. It’s a problem not just for us regular folks but also for the many initiatives to electrify the global automotive fleet. And despite recent musings from people like Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda about widespread conversion of older vehicles to electric power as a way to future-proof the cars we enthusiasts dig, converted classics can easily run into the six-figure range these days.

On the other hand, I’m on track to build my Chenowth EV for less than what a no-frills, 10-year-old, what’s-that-smell Camry costs.

How I budgeted my EV build

Those of you following this project might have noticed a distinct lack of updates since last summer. A number of other projects have demanded much of my time since then, and money’s been tight lately, even for what I intended from the start to be a low-budget DIY project that anybody—even somebody who had a lot to learn about EVs like me—could put together. And when I say low-budget, I mean no-budget. It’s funded by couch cushion change and that five-dollar-bill I forgot in my pants pocket. I did get back to making progress on it recently—I’ll provide an update on that below—but first, let’s discuss what the project has cost me so far.

As with many of my car projects, I keep a spreadsheet of expenses, largely to keep myself honest when it comes to buying parts. It’s easy to just throw parts at a car while only looking forward to the next purchase, convincing yourself that it’s a low-budget project and that you really haven’t spent that much on it to date, but that’s also a quick path to getting in over your head on a project. So I set some ground rules with myself. One: No purchase that’s necessary to get the project on the road, down to the nuts and bolts and even registration costs, is too small or extraneous to record. Two: I don’t count tools, even ones I bought for a specific task on a specific project, but I do count supplies like shrink tubing and paint that I’ll certainly have leftovers of at the end of the project. Three: I subtract from the total any money I’ve made off the car from selling used parts to the loose change I find under the floormats.

​What I’ve spent to build my EV

In spite of my advice in the paragraph above, I bought much of what I needed for the Chenowth in 2021 well before I was ready to install it all. Brake lines, tires, shifter bushings, those sorts of things. I know I have a not-insignificant number of parts to get before I’m done—I still need to rebuild the beam, get a steering wheel, and install beefier transmission gears—but I’d say I’m 85 to 90 percent there. I’ll also include the disclaimer that I have not used my position at Hemmings to cadge any free or discounted parts or services from parts suppliers. There’s no inaccessible-to-the-common-man, secret-handshake, good-ol’-boys-club privilege at work here.

Grand total, so far: $9,980.26.

The biggest chunk of that total was the 2011 Nissan Leaf that I bought as a drivetrain and battery donor. It cost me $6,000 (plus the $85 to replace its flat tire, the $469 in registration and taxes to drive it around the block a few times, and the $150 I paid a local used car dealer to evacuate the air-conditioning system), but I also made sure it was a complete and running vehicle so I wouldn’t have to purchase any additional miscellaneous parts—the computers, the pedal assembly, the drive selector—that I would need to make that electric motor turn.

The Chenowth itself, which included front and rear suspension, a transaxle good for parts only, steering column, seized drum brakes, and little else, cost $1,000. I spent a little more than $700 on a disc brake conversion and other brake components and $530 on new tires. The aluminum disc and the custom coupler I used to mate the Leaf motor to the Volkswagen transaxle cost $330. So far I’ve put roughly $560 into steel and other supplies for the battery boxes.

airport bus seats for the Chenowth EV project

airport bus seats for the Chenowth EV project

airport bus seats for the Chenowth EV project

​How I saved money on the build

Yeah, it adds up fast, and I probably didn’t need to spend the extra money for the disc brake conversion kit, but I’ve also trimmed costs in plenty of other ways to make up for that added expense. To start with, the state of Vermont offers a rebate program for the purchase of used electric vehicles; in my case, that was worth $750 (registering the Leaf, as noted above, was necessary to get the rebate). Spare VW parts are plentiful if you know who to ask, and Jim Howe, a former Hemmings columnist, gave me a good number of spare parts hanging around his shop, including a rebuildable transaxle, some wide five wheels, and a spare front beam. Instead of spending four figures on some racing seats that probably wouldn’t fit in the Chenowth’s tight cockpit anyway, I recently scored a free set of seats that fit perfect from somebody local doing a hashtag vanlife conversion on an old airport bus. And rather than skin the battery boxes in expensive new sheetmetal, I’ve stockpiled some metal filing cabinets either found free by the side of the road or bought for dirt cheap out of local classifieds.

In fact, that grand total above may shrink in the near future as I sell off the original one-year-only 1968 VW axle shafts and some parts from the donor Leaf that I thought I needed but upon further review don’t.

Also, despite those promises I made to myself that I’d be open to more help from others, this has largely been a DIY project, and I’ve neither kept track of the time I’ve spent on it nor calculated what that labor would cost.

Of course, this is not a path for everybody to follow. The Chenowth won’t be a flashy restomod EV with quilted leather seats and fancy aftermarket gauges. It’s not the best real-world example of an EV conversion, given that it’ll be a three-season runabout rather than an everyday daily driver. Range will be limited due to the fact that the batteries are more than 10 years old and not in an ideal state of health. I’ve been at it for two and a half years, and it’s nowhere near running or driving.

Some of these are compromises made for the sake of penny-pinching while others are personal privation preferences, but they at least illustrate how it’s possible to go electric without spending the sort of money that carmakers and EV conversion companies are demanding.

I’ll also point out here that I started with little more than a bare chassis. Somebody converting a vehicle that needs little to no restoration could conceivably buy a newer Leaf donor car with better batteries and spend roughly the same as what I have.

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

Chenowth battery box fabrication

​Recent progress

As for the progress I’ve made in the last six months or so, it’s all been relegated to trying to finish off the battery boxes. When we last left our intrepid hero, he’d finished welding together the first of three boxes and started to fabricate its top. I don’t know if my welding has improved much since then (as the hillbillies around here say, “I welded, it helded”), but I’ve at least had plenty of practice welding together the box for the 20-module stack, integrating the box for the six-module stack into the box for the 22-module stack, and fabricating lids for the two larger boxes. To each of the larger boxes I’ve added a submersible breather vent, and I’ve started to figure out how to solid mount them to the Chenowth’s chassis. In the six-module box, I’ve also made room for the contactors as well as the battery monitoring system module.

It’s slow going at the moment, and I still have a ways to go before I finish the battery boxes. I need to research a bulkhead that allows the cables connecting the two larger battery boxes to pass through safely, I need to add a lid for the six-module box, I need to find a place for the master battery disconnect, I need to finalize mounts for the boxes, and I need to skin them. Once that’s all finished, I can then begin the arduous task of connecting the BMS leads before figuring out where the other necessary components, including the inverter, should be mounted so I can wire it all up.

Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to look at the latest results of the always-exciting Hemmings Auctions. The following is a sample of the broad range of vehicles that have recently crossed our virtual auction block. We saw 37 cars, trucks, and more launch between Sunday, January 8, and Saturday the 14th. Twenty-nine of them sold, which comes out to a sell-through rate of 78 percent; this figure included 11 post-auction Make Offer listing sales. Check out the latest consignments by subscribing to the daily Hemmings Auctions newsletter.

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Samba recreation front end

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Sambatrecreation interior

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Sambatrecreation back seats

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Sambatrecreation engine

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Sambatrecreation undercarriage

1975 Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 Samba recreation rear quarter

1975 Volkswagen Microbus

Reserve: $80,000

Selling Price: $89,250

Recent Market Range: N/A

This late, Volkswagen do Brasil-built Type 2 Microbus looked much older than its 1975 assembly suggested, having been visually back-dated as it was converted to 21-window/cloth sunroof Samba specification. The restomodded, air-cooled VW appeared to be in excellent condition with unblemished two-tone paint, pop-out Safari windshield panels, and a fresh seven-seat interior trimmed in original-style Deluxe tan materials. Its detailed undercarriage looked spotless, and new electrics plus a restored original 1,584-cc flat-four and four-speed manual drivetrain promised full functionality with no leaks or other issues. Ample quality photography helped push this Bus to an impressive sale result.

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible front quarter top up

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible interior

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible engine

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible undercarriage

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible documentation

1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible rear quarter top down

1972 Buick GS 455

Reserve: $85,000

Selling Price: $94,500

Recent Market Range: $75,000-$105,500

While its power output may have been down for 1972, Buick’s GS 455 enjoyed pleasantly uncluttered styling and ample comfort that year. This numbers-matching Stage 1 convertible enjoyed a documented restoration that netted it numerous concours awards, and its condition at the time of the listing appeared showroom fresh. The stylish Flame Orange paint and Parchment vinyl-upholstered interior had no noted flaws, and equipment included working A/C and an 8-track/AM radio sound system. The eponymous V-8 and column-shifted TH400 transmission were rebuild and worked properly. Five videos and a huge selection of photos were instrumental in the rare Buick achieving a fine hammer price.

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster side profile

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster interior

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster rumble dickey seat area trunk

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster engine

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster undercarriage

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster rear quarter

1949 Triumph 2000 Roadster

Reserve: $30,000

Selling Price: $33,600

Recent Market Range: $25,000-$39,500

The postwar, pre-“TR” Triumph Roadster is a very rare sight today, especially in the U.S. This museum-displayed example featured an older restoration with no mechanical maladies divulged. The quality of the paint finish was noted as having “not exceptional quality,” but the ash-framed body was said to be corrosion-free like the separate chassis. The suspension, steering, and brakes were said to benefit from attention, but the four-cylinder and three-speed transmission worked with minor fluid weeps. It’s believed the interior’s intact leather upholstery was original, and the “+2” occasional dickey seats added period charm. The honest presentation of this Triumph helped it sell well.

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible front quarter top down

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible interior

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible engine

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible undercarriage

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible documentation

1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible profile top up

1957 Cadillac Series 62

Reserve: $67,000

Selling Price: $39,900

Recent Market Range: $64,150-$82,450

The selling price of this Make Offer listing Cadillac Series 62 was surprising, considering its average market range figures. The convertible was said to have recently received both mechanical and cosmetic restoration in key areas, although its body paint was noted to contain some chips and blemishes. Its soft top looked new and the black vinyl upholstery was inviting, as was the whole interior. The seller divulged the 62’s heater was inoperable and that its power steering system had a leak. Supplied images from the car’s restoration showed corrosion on the undercarriage, which may have made bidders uneasy; the seller answered many questions, and the car eventually went to a new home.

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod front quarter

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod interior

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod wood bed

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod engine

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod undercarriage

1934 Ford Pickup Street Rod rear quarter

1934 Ford Pickup

Reserve: $34,000

Selling Price: $42,000

Recent Market Range: $30,100-$48,500

Blue Oval fans found a lot to appreciate in this 1934 Pickup street rod since it hid many Ford components under its classic skin. With tidy chrome and minimally damaged paint covering a body promised to be an all steel, the truck looked very nice. Its black-vinyl-upholstered interior contained a banjo-style wheel on a tilt column, modern stereo, and VDO gauges (note, the speedometer required GPS calibration). A 1951 flathead V-8 topped with twin Stromberg carbs and a modern alternator was mated to a C-4 automatic for sprightly performance, and an independent front suspension and front discs provided safety and comfort. An impressive 28 bids confirmed the Ford’s desirability.

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible front quarter

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible interior

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible engine

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible trunk

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible undercarriage

1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Tribute Convertible rear quarter top up

1970 Dodge Challenger

Reserve: $99,000

Selling Price: $78,750

Recent Market Range: $82,100-$115,500

This Challenger convertible rolled out of the factory in 1970 with a V-8 under its hood, but some 17 years ago, it received a mega heart upgrade in the form of Hemi heads and a displacement change to That engine and the TorqueFlite automatic behind it were said to run and drive well. Power front disc brakes, power steering, and an upgraded suspension were all on board to corral the engine. Minor paint blemishes were divulged, but reportedly there was no rust in the body; a rip in the driver’s seat vinyl and disconnected tachometer were the largest issues for the black vinyl interior. The Dodge nearly reached its low market range when it sold as a Make Offer listing.

There may have been a place for another full-size car in the Australian market during the Seventies. There may have been an appetite for an advanced competitor to the Ford Falcons, Holden Kingswoods, and Chrysler Valiants, especially if it proved more economical and better built. There may have been a place for the Leyland P76 when it was introduced 50 years ago, had things not gone awfully wrong for the car that has since become the butt of many an Australian automotive enthusiast’s joke.

Before the 1968 merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings that formed British Leyland, BMC’s Australian arm did a brisk business selling the Mini and a range of other economical cars. Despite the success of the lineup, limited parts sharing among BMCA’s cars hurt profitability, so David Beech and his colleagues at BMC’s Australian arm formed a plan to design and build two cars by and for the Australian market: a mid-size car to be released in 1973 and a full-size family car a year later.

Beech, however, was taken aback by the merger and the swift decision to greenlight the Marina, a car that fit neatly into his team’s plans for the mid-size car. Those plans, however, allowed the team to focus all of their resources on the full-size car. Those resources weren’t vast, however: His initial request for a AU$30 million budget got whittled down to AU$21 million, which was to cover both development of the car and refurbishment of an existing assembly line in the company’s Zetland factory previously used for building small cars. Internally designated YDO26 (for a sedan version) and YDO27 (for a coupe version), the full-size car was given the nod by British Leyland in England in late 1968.

Leyland P76

Leyland brochure image

While many stories about the P76 simply note that the car’s styling came from Giovanni Michelotti, Michelotti’s involvement was actually limited, according to Dave Carey’s history of the P76 for Street Machine magazine. Beech did visit Michelotti in Turin hoping to get the famed designer on board with the project, but his decision to do so without consulting Romand Rodbergh, the chief stylist for BMCA, didn’t sit well with Rodbergh. Granted, Rodbergh and his team had only tweaked existing designs and never taken on a full from-scratch design project before, but the decision bothered him so much he spent his holidays working on styling proposals that he sent straight to Donald Stokes, the head of British Leyland in England.

Rodbergh’s design famously incorporated a capacious trunk—large enough for a full 44-gallon drum—which, combined with an angular and horizontal grille, gave it something of a wedge design, which was just then becoming vogue among car designers. (Yes, Max was able to fit two big ol’ drums in the boot of his Interceptor, but those were different circumstances.) His design also beat out not only the styling proposals submitted by Michelotti, but also those submitted by Karmann and British Leyland’s studios in Longbridge, though as Carey noted, the marketing department still wanted Michelotti’s name attached to the design, so Beech had the latter “finesse” Rodbergh’s design.

How much of the engineering of the P76 took place in Australia, on the other hand, isn’t as clear. Carey notes that Leyland engineers, without the luxury of a private proving grounds, bought a small fleet of Holdens to which they progressively added more P76 components over the next two and a half years. However, Keith Adams of AROnline notes that the limited budget meant relying on existing British Leyland work. “There was no way that this was going to be a clean-sheet design at this funding level and much existing Rover-Triumph hardware would need to be incorporated in order to make the P76 programme pay for itself,” Adams wrote. In fact, Adams has suggested that the P76 could have been derived from the stillborn Rover P8, an attempt to build a V-8 luxury sedan that came too close to the Jaguar XJ6.

Leyland P76

Leyland brochure image

Whatever the case, the P76 emerged with a 4.4-liter version of the 3.5-liter Rover V-8 (itself a derivative of the all-aluminum Buick 215 used in the early 1960s) good for 200 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, a Borg-Warner automatic transmission, standard front disc brakes, MacPherson strut suspension, and the 111-inch wheelbase considered standard for full-size Australian cars. British Leyland reportedly offered to purchase straight-six engines from the other Australian car manufacturers, but with a short engine bay designed around the V-8, the company found that only its E-series overhead-camshaft six-cylinder from the Austin/Morris 2200, with some minor revisions and a displacement increase to 2.6 liters, would fit.

The P76 sedan bowed in 1973 to quick acclaim. Leyland Australia noted that it had Australian size and European sensibilities. Australian magazine Wheels declared it the car of the year. It received high marks for its handling and for the V-8 engine. One even won the Targa Florio stage in the 1974 World Cup Rally. For a moment, it looked like the Leyland P76 would establish British Leyland as a serious contender in the full-size Australian car market. The company laid plans for a 3.3-liter V-6 derivative of the V-8 engine and for a full line-up of variants, including a ute, a station wagon, and a coupe. The coupe, a hatchback called the Force 7V, actually made it to limited production before plans for it were scuttled. Leyland fully intended the P76 to carry the Australian division through the Seventies and for it to eventually make its way to England.

Leyland P76

Leyland brochure image, courtesy John Lloyd / Flickr

So what went wrong with the Leyland P76? To begin with, it debuted at a time of rising inflation that tanked car sales across the board in Australia. As Carey noted, Holden sales were down 11 percent and Ford sales were down 7 percent. It wouldn’t have been a good year for any carmaker to introduce a new model. Add in the 1973 oil crisis, which hit not long after the car’s introduction, and suddenly full-size V-8 cars became a harder sell.

It also turned out that Beech and his staff had rushed the P76 into production. Carey rattled off a list of common defects, including windshield and door sill seals, dashboards that distorted in the sun, shifter handles that fell off in the driver’s hand, an inadequately sized air-conditioning compressor, and poorly fitting trim and body panels. Leyland Australia put in requests to England for design changes to handle the defects, but British Leyland penny-pinchers reportedly determined it would cost less to handle warranty claims than to make the design changes, so “with scant room on the factory floor and no money to fix the production line, Leyland Australia set up the Rectification Centre, a two-million-dollar facility with 60 highly trained staff tasked with making the cars fit for sale,” Carey wrote. “Once established, almost every completed car went through the centre for repair work.”

Leyland P76

Leyland brochure image

One of those jokes: Why should Leyland have called it the P38 instead? Because it was half the car it should have been.

Maybe the timing was off, and maybe Leyland Australia could have ironed out the P76’s production woes. But what really sealed the P76’s fate was the parent company’s woes. Corporate mismanagement and poor sales put the company far into debt, leading executives to shutter factories in Spain, Italy, South Africa, and Australia. The Zetland factory produced its last car in November 1974, not two years after the P76’s introduction. Just 18,007 P76s were built.

That’s not to say that there’s no enthusiasm for the P76 in Australia. The remaining Force 7V coupes are well documented and highly sought after, Gerry Crown’s P76 won the Classic category in the 2013 and 2016 Peking to Paris rallies, and an active P76 owners club in Australia keeps tabs on the parts and knowledge necessary to maintain the cars.

Lifting economy cars and putting gnarly tires under them seems to be all the rage these days, likely inspired by the overlanding movement, the increased interest in camping due to the pandemic, and the resurgent four-wheel-drive truck and SUV aftermarket, but Volkswagen enthusiasts have been jacking up Beetles—you know, the world’s foremost economy car—for about as long as the Beetle has been around. Longer, if you want to bring the Typ 87 into the conversation. While we don’t know the particulars of this particular safari’d 1971 Volkswagen Beetle listed for sale on the Hemmings Auctions, it appears to have been built about 15 years ago more for tooling around town than for organized off-road racing or other off-road pursuits.

In addition to the lifted suspension—likely accomplished by simply adjusting the torsion bars, given the lack of flashy aftermarket parts underneath—the Beetle’s been fitted with a Scat 1776-cc engine, wide-five wheels on adapters, and an aftermarket steering wheel and shifter. However, the rest of the car looks relatively untouched from its commuter days, down to the tears in the seat fabric and the assorted paint chips from its occasional use since it was lifted. The seller reported that it runs and drives well with no commentary on how the lift, tires, and bigger engine affect performance, though for some reason the headlamps and taillamps don’t work.

With a couple weekends’ worth of work, a fresh set of tires, and minimal outlay, it could be made into a nice beach cruiser. After a few more weekends, along with a roof basket, lightbar, and the other requisite Safari-All-The-Cars aftermarket parts, it could be a capable trail buggy ready for a backwoods camping weekend. Or, for those who don’t care about the latest trends, it doesn’t look like it would take much to return the Bug to stock.

lifted 1971 VW Beetle on the Hemmings Auctions

lifted 1971 VW Beetle on the Hemmings Auctions

lifted 1971 VW Beetle on the Hemmings Auctions

lifted 1971 VW Beetle on the Hemmings Auctions

lifted 1971 VW Beetle on the Hemmings Auctions

Winter tends to come on somewhat suddenly up here in Vermont— one day it’s a gorgeous “Indian summer” with autumn colors and light jackets and a few days later you’re scraping the windshield under a gray morning sky. Needless to say, the cool cars get tucked away quickly at that point, if you’re the sort who tries to make use every bit of the “good” weather. I had my ’67 Camaro out just a week or so ago as this is written and didn’t even need to slide the heater control over to “warm.” It snowed last night, so that ride was probably the last bit of vintage motoring I’ll get in before spring.

But it’s exactly that notion that gets my mind turning every year around this time —do I really have to give up on old cars altogether for the next few months? Couldn’t I just revisit the time-honored practice of having a “winter beater” and find something interesting yet cheap to bomb about in the meantime?

It’s a premise that sparks naysayers to point out that there aren’t any usable cars from the period prior to, let’s say, the ’80s that can be had cheaply— they’ll insist that if you’re on a budget, you can have vintage or you can have something that runs, but not both.

I’m not so easily dissuaded when it comes to such things, and besides, I’ll take any excuse to do some virtual shopping for an interesting car. What I found was somewhat encouraging, if also maybe a bit dangerous, as I really don’t need to acquire a single additional motor vehicle right now. Still, I couldn’t help considering the possibilities.

To that end, I conjured the notion of a winter beater challenge, wherein the participating contestants would each have to find something to use for their winter commute that was built before 1980 and cost no more than $4,000. Now, at first, four grand may seem a bit steep for anything considered a beater, but take a look around at the used car market today—very slim pickins below that price point. To further justify this scheme, I like to tell myself that an older, somehow interesting car will be more likely to offer a return on investment come springtime.

Terry McGean

I hadn’t actually challenged anyone else, so this was mostly an academic exercise… at least for the moment. To keep myself from considering project cars that would need work to be useful as transportation, I added another stipulation: the subject must be already roadworthy.

Right out of the gate, I found a ’77 Olds Cutlass —the last of the colonnade models. This one was a gold-colored four-door with 14-inch wheels, and tan interior… a once fairly common specimen, but not today. It turned out to be a lower-mileage example claiming to still have original paint. The photos weren’t great, and the wording suggested the car was being sold by someone who might have inherited it and who just wanted it gone, which helped keep the asking price comfortably below my $4,000 cap. I bookmarked it and pressed further to see what else was out there.

Soon I came upon a ’67 Buick Wildcat, this one also a four-door, though oddly, not a hardtop. It still had its original engine, and though it was a bit beat up, the seller claimed he’d been driving it for the past couple summers with no issues. Delving still further I discovered a ’65 Coronet, a two-door hardtop with the polyspherical version of the 318 V-8, a TorqueFlite, and missing the lower portions of its quarter panels and fenders. This one was also on the road but needed some sorting. Still, it could have made a tough driver with later project car potential—a real contender.

The search continued nightly for a couple weeks, and plenty of other options cropped up, including one very alluring ’62 Cadillac I’m still seeing in my daydreams. I don’t intend to move forward with the beater stratagem right now—the whole “too-many-cars” thing is still an issue —but I was heartened to find so many vintage vehicles still running and reasonably attainable. Even in the Northeast, there’s still plenty of fodder for classic motoring fun out there. Let us know if you’ll be motoring some sort of seasoned-but-interesting beater this winter.

As far as cars in French films go, there’s the bizarre (the flying Citroen DS19 from “Fantomas”), the pointedly comic (anything appearing in Jacques Tati’s “Trafic”), and the absurd (the transparent Cadillac and the backwards Peugeots and Renaults of “Mood Indigo”). But there’s none more iconic than the battered green 1967 Ford Mustang from Jean-Paul Belmondo’s 1983 action flick “Le Marginal” that danced and slid and bashed fenders through the streets of Paris and which will head to auction next month.

If the Mustang in “Le Marginal” comes off as reminiscent of the Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt,” that’s no coincidence. McQueen had died just three years prior, so Belmondo and director Jacques Deray wanted to pay tribute to the late actor with the chase scene they had planned for their crime thriller “Le Marginal.” Though far from a shot-for-shot remake of the earlier movie’s chase scene, the Remy Julienne-coordinated chase—complete with stunt driving by Belmondo—still featured a number of similarities from the pair of baddies in the other car to the brutal end that they meet. The other car’s even a Mopar, albeit a circa-1977 Plymouth Volare four-door sedan rather than a Dodge Charger.

And of course, a tribute wouldn’t be complete without the Mustang. Artcurial calls it a 1966, but according to the car’s VIN (7T01A120268), it’s a 1967 model year car that came out of the Metuchen, New Jersey, assembly plant. Apparently sold new in France, the Dark Moss Green car was first registered for the road there in December 1966. Five years later, Parisian Jean-Michel Brault bought it, registered it with the license number 9 TL 75, then sometime afterward commissioned Michel Mokrycki, a French V-8 specialist perhaps best known for preparing a Rolls-Royce for the 1981 Paris-Dakar, to rebuild the Mustang’s A-code four-barrel 289 with some measure more than its stock 225 horsepower.

At some point either during Brault’s ownership of the Mustang or when Julienne began preparations for filming, the Mustang underwent numerous modifications. Barrel flares covered wider wheels and tires, massive foglamps filled the grille, a pair of quarter-panel scoops were reversed and fitted to the fenders, all chrome was painted over, and a piece of clear plexiglass was cut into the roof (the latter reportedly to help shed light on Belmondo while he was at the wheel of the Mustang). The Mustang also underwent a severe debadging, with even the fuel filler removed from the tailpanel so as not to show the galloping horse emblem. It even appears to have yellow headlamps.

Car Chase Collection : Le Marginal

The movie, described as a typical Belmondo vehicle, nevertheless did well at the box office, and whether it was the star’s McQueen-like intensity, the fact that he did his own stunts, or the Mustang itself, the chase became just as legendary among French film aficionados and gearheads as the “Bullitt” chase did here in the States. As Artcurial’s Matthieu Lamoure wrote, “Le Marginal” is no cinematic masterpiece, but the Mustang and the car chase forever influenced him. The Mustang is “a part of our collective memory, our cultural heritage,” as the Artcurial description noted.

Julienne had Jo Cote—an occasional stunt driver and Julienne’s mechanic—prepare two nearly identical Mustangs for the film. One, reportedly fitted with a 400hp engine, was slated for the grisly end to the car chase and was subsequently destroyed, but the hero car—still wearing the same registration number from Brault’s ownership—survived filming and afterward was parked on Cote’s property. As with the Bullitt Mustang, the Le Marginal Mustang’s whereabouts were unknown for many years while it sat in Cote’s possession. According to Artcurial, Cote had committed the Mustang to a scrapyard when a Mustang enthusiast recovered it, then sold it to a Belmondo fan who recognized it as the “Le Marginal” Mustang.

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

The 1967 Mustang from "Le Marginal"

That Belmondo fan then set about restoring the Mustang to its film appearance, and though it wears different wheels and tires and smaller foglamps, it still has the same low, wide-tired no-nonsense street brawler appearance as when it appeared in the film.

The “Le Marginal” Mustang will cross the block as part of Artcurial’s Retromobile sale with a pre-auction estimate that ranges from €200,000 to €400,000 (about $215,000 to $430,000). The Bullitt Mustang, by way of comparison, sold for $3.74 million, including buyer’s fees, when it went up for auction in January 2020. Artcurial’s Retromobile sale will take place February 3 and 4 in Paris. For more information, visit