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Diego’s AutoHunter Picks

McQueen versus the world

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This week’s AutoHunter Picks has a sporting flavor. Two cars are sports cars without question. The third is the kind of car that would be someone’s daily driver but on weekends (s)he’d drive a sports car in SCCA competitions. And the last one is the antithesis of sporty, but it was once owned by America’s favorite automotive enthusiast: Steve McQueen.

Is the pull of McQueen enough to go with the drop-top Chevy? Or is one of the sporting cars more your flavor?

1958 MG MGA
Two nights ago, in pitch darkness, I was at a stoplight and saw a Triumph TR3 pass by while at a stoplight in the desert of North Scottsdale. Weather was perfect for the top being down, and the traffic was nil. Could this be heaven? I still haven’t driven an old British sports car, but I imagine the driver was enjoying life in the slow lane.

That’s my thought while staring at this 1958 MGA. What grabbed me is the 1950s-era fairing that I must say is something I’ve never seen before on an MG. Purists possibly may cringe, but it makes the MG so much more attractive, and it complements the rear fenders quite nicely. Plus, if an MG sold new overseas with a speedo in kilometers is a talking point at shows, you’ve found your car.

1973 DeTomaso Pantera
My white/blue/orange Matchbox Pantera never moved me. Much preferable was the Alfa Romeo Carabo, but that was not a production car. Today, I prefer the style of the Mangusta, though its 302 is lacking in power compared to the Pantera’s 351 Cleveland. The 351 was not quite ready for the big leagues in a Mustang but, in the Pantera with the ZF five-speed transaxle, it was quite a robust performer.

This 1973 Pantera features the U.S.-spec front bumper which, unlike most cars, was nicely integrated into the design. Sold new at Peyton Lincoln-Mercury in Torrance, California, this 60,127-mile Italo-American hybrid is equipped with the 351 Cobra Jet (the low-compression performance 351), rear spoiler, white Pantera mags, and tons of brio.

1960 Ford Thunderbird
The “Squarebirds” pretty much carved out a market segment of its own though, honestly, the two-seater Thunderbird was more sporty than sporting anyway. The anointed personal-luxury car offered style, power (with the 430 “MEL” V8), and a fancy interior that would be its trademark. From 1958-60, the Thunderbird arguably could be called the most interesting FoMoCo product.

Of the three years, the 1960 Thunderbird is my favorite. What stands out to me with this example is the color combo: black with parchment vinyl top. From my research, a vinyl top wasn’t available from the factory, but it looks at home here, especially with the black and white interior. Notable options include power windows and upgraded AM/FM/cassette so you can channel Danny and the Juniors.

1951 Chevrolet Convertible
The 1951 Chevrolet is from another era where Special and De Luxe trim levels dotted every Styleline and Fleetline body style. Of course, the convertible and new Bel Air hardtop convertible were De Luxes, offering the best that Chevrolet offered including the availability of an automatic transmission — something quite unusual in the low-priced field.

But this 1951 Chevrolet Styleline De Luxe convertible offers something special no other can match: lineage with Steve McQueen as owner. It was featured in his 1980 movie The Hunter and, more recently, in the Pawn Stars TV show. This Moonlight Cream example doesn’t feature the automatic tranny, but otherwise it’s a basically stock Chevy owned by everyone’s favorite enthusiast.

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Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.

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