Sonny Crockett’s 1986 Ferrari Testarossa From Miami Vice Is For Sale

Miami Vice Ferrari

The supercar might’ve been born in the Seventies, but the breed came of age during the Eighties. The decade’s heady mix of greed, lust, speed, and power pushed foreign exotica past excess and into the realm of absurdity. The Lamborghini Countach typified the mindset; the Ferrari Testarossa perfected it. The pastel-spotted image of one James “Sonny” Crockett blasting down Rickenbacker Causeway in a white TR solidified the car’s enduring place in pop culture history. Now, the Miami Vice hero car is going up for sale.

To be clear, this is the hero car, Serial No. 63631. It’s one of two Testarossas that Ferrari provided Universal Studios with for the television series’ third, fourth, and fifth seasons. Finished in black metallic from the factory, the car was resprayed white for its appearance on Vice. (Legend holds that, in an inspired moment, showrunner Michael Mann ordered the new paint color to better reflect Miami’s neon jungle during night driving scenes.) After 65 episodes, the car was retired in 1989 and put into storage the following year, where it remained until 2015.

Even absent small screen pedigree, this Testarossa would still be a seriously appealing proposition. It’s an early “mono-specchio” (read: single-mirror) model, with near-mint beige interior, a five-speed manual gearbox, and just 16,500 miles on the odometer. The horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder is fresh off an engine-out service—no small task, and at $8,000, not a cheap one, either. Factor in the Crockett and Tubbs bonafides, and Barrett-Jackson expects a $1.5 and $1.75 million sale at its Scottsdale Auction later this month. Check out the full listing here.

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The Untold History of the First Driverless Car Crash—Part 2

First autonomous car crash

Unbridled, unmanned, and literally out of control, Lynch’s Phantom Car plowed into the crowd of 3000 on Forney Field at speeds of up to thirty miles an hour. In the course of its rogue trajectory, the driverless Chrysler struck nearly a dozen shocked onlookers, who could not predict either its sudden appearance or its erratic movements, and who, despite their best efforts, had no way of signaling for it to stop.

Read Part 1 of this story here.

One of the first spectators to be hit was Walter Weaver, a sixteen year-old local boy who was run down by the Phantom as he stood along the path on which the cars were meant to travel. Weaver sustained the most serious injuries of those maimed in the incident—a fractured skull—damage that was no doubt compounded when, in Lynch’s desperate attempt to maintain radio contact with the runaway vehicle, the Dodge follow car he was driving also accidentally ran over the teenager.

D. Manassa Reed, who had come up from Manchester, Maryland for the demonstration, was talking with David Ebaugh, a fifty-three year-old Hanoverian, when the Phantom Car plowed into them. Ebaugh incurred fractures in his right leg and arm as he was launched from the car’s path. Reed threw up his hands up in terror, but it did not prevent him from being struck as well. He was flipped onto the car’s long hood, carried for some distance, and then tossed to the ground, causing injuries to his legs that precluded his ability to walk unassisted.

Forty-five year-old local Herbert Hershey saw the vehicle rampaging toward him from a distance of about forty feet, but was unable get out of its way due to the crush of people all around. The front of the car hit him in the hip and leg, spinning him off balance and down, so that as it passed by him, the rear of the car also struck his upper body. He incurred severe scalp lacerations, and bruising to his legs, shoulder, and head.

A half-dozen others attendees sustained lesser physical injuries. Abraham Keagy, a twenty-one year-old auto mechanic and motorsport aficionado who often went out to see the local car races, was struck in the right leg. Brothers John and Ellwood Stair received multiple contusions and lacerations. Bernard Oaster’s left foot was banged up. Perhaps most dramatically, one-and-a-half year-old Myrtle Eichelberger was catapulted out of her pram when the Phantom Car collided with it. According to witnesses, the infant’s carriage was tossed about twenty feet. Her mother suffered a back injury, and Myrtle’s tiny body was quite scraped up.

In an effort to reestablish radio contact and control, Lynch, at the helm of the Dodge control car, sped on. Desperate to prevent more collateral damage, or an explosion, he was focused only on catching up with his escaped Chrysler. Unfortunately, the driverless car’s sudden emergence and unpredictable behavior stunned onlookers, and in the wake of its passing, they froze, gathering in clumps between it and Lynch’s follow car, gaping and fanning themselves like witnesses to a séance. Lynch had to stop frequently, and the Phantom Car increased its lead until the distance was seemingly un-closable.

The Drive

Liberated from Lynch’s control, the Phantom Car followed a spasmodic path all its own, trailing along ruts in the ground, coursing though plowed fields and corn fields, leaping over a four-foot stream, and veering between trees, spectators, and parked cars. It eventually made its way out into the open dirt airstrips where the planes were meant to take off and land. Freed from the crowds’ obstructions, Lynch finally was able to get close enough to activate his transmitter. But despite his repeated attempts to deliver the radio signal that would cut power from the engine, he was unsuccessful. He either wasn’t close enough, or the car’s crazy ad-hoc route had jostled loose the receivers that translated his inputs.

The Phantom Car’s forward progress could not be stopped by any human intervention. It ceased its relentless sprint only when it crashed into a parked touring car belonging to Leo Markle, a local resident. Given the force of the impact, the Markle car was pushed into another vehicle belonging to Charles Verner. Both of these parked cars were seriously damaged, but the driverless vehicle was seemingly unharmed. Even after it came to a rest, its wheels were still spinning, its tires smoking, and coolant was spewing from its radiator like an animal shot but unwilling to give up the fight. An onlooker named Glenn Mummert eventually hopped into the Chrysler and turned it off. Lynch followed when he finally arrived on the scene, disconnecting the batteries and withdrawing his equipment in an effort to rescue it, and keep it from bursting into flames.

The entire madcap sprint lasted around seven minutes.

Oddly enough, according to newspaper reports, there was very little in the way of panic. Having come to see a “driverless car” perform, many of the attendees apparently believed that Lynch had maintained control of the vehicle throughout the performance, and that the Phantom crazy behavior was all a planned part of the thrilling spectacle.

The police thought otherwise. Lynch and Rogge were immediately arrested on the dual charges of assault and battery and aggravated assault and battery with an automobile, and locked up in the local jail. A Hanover cigar-store owner, George W Howe, posted the $2000 bond for Lynch, but Rogge remained in custody, and was moved to the County pen at York, until the hearing before the Justice of the Peace, almost two weeks later, on the evening of August 11.

At that inquiry, Rogge was acquitted and set free, since Lynch admitted that he alone was in complete command of the vehicle, and responsible for its operation. In his testimony, Lynch spoke eloquently in his own defense, proclaiming his innocence and that of his system. The radio control mechanism, he enunciated for a capacity crowd that spilled over into the public square, was incapable of accelerating (or decelerating) the vehicle. The car’s carburetor had been limited, by a local mechanic, to run at only seven miles per hour. So the fault, he claimed, must lie with some mechanical defect in the car itself. “Just what the defect might have been,” the Hanover Evening Sun opined, “Lynch said he was unable to suggest.”

Those witnesses who were well enough detailed their injuries for the court, some like D. Manassa Reed hobbling up on crutches. But some—like David Ebaugh, and the brain damaged teen Walter Weaver, were still in the hospital and unable to testify. “Boy near death,” the Evening Sun trumpeted in an earlier headline. In fact, Weaver survived the incident, but when he died twenty-six years later, in the Pennsylvania state mental institution in Harrisburg, his death certificate noted that he had suffered from a lifetime of

“chronic brain syndrome with brain trauma.”

Once all of the witnesses had been allowed to speak, the Justice of the Peace announced that the trial would be suspended, to allow him time for a consultation with a third party radio expert. Lynch posted bail a second time, and was freed on his own reconnaissance for the next two weeks.

Mayor Anstine of nearby York, PA withdrew permission for a Phantom Car demonstration scheduled to take place downtown on August 02, just two days after the crash. But beyond that, J.J. seemed to have abided the classic showbiz dictate, and decided that the show must go on. On August 12, the morning after he appeared before the Justice of the Peace in Hanover, the Altoona Tribune, hyped a display by Lynch and the Phantom Car in Altoona, Pennsylvania, about 150 miles away. No mention was made of the Hanover incident or the related trial.


A week and a half later, on August 23, while he was out on bail a second time awaiting the judge’s final decision, the Uniontown Herald announced that Lynch would be performing with the Phantom Car in the city center, about two hundred miles west of Hanover. Again, no mention was made of the recent disaster, despite the fact that it had been widely reported in regional newspapers from larger cities like Haggerstown, Maryland and Washington, D.C. It was noted, however, that Mayor Hatfield and other town notables would be riding along in the control car with Lynch.

Details of the court’s consultation with the radio expert were never made public, and these records are not available in the York County courthouse’s extensive collections, many of which date back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Apparently, they were convincing, because at the final hearing before the Justice of the Peace on August 26, all charges against Lynch were dropped for “lack of sufficient evidence.” It seems likely that the court could not substantiate an intentional or reckless nature to Lynch’s behavior, necessary in this type of assault charge. The case was dismissed, and Lynch went free.

The Phantom Car ran down nearly a dozen people in Hanover, causing permanent injury in many and likely holding key responsibility in the eventual death of one. But binding legal liability could not be ascribed. Like in so many mishaps involving new technologies, the contemporary procedures and regulations had not yet caught up with the emerging reality, so there was no principle which to pin a conviction. No one was to blame. It was just an accident.

The car’s wild run lived on in the memories of some of those who were there, but only vaguely. Though he’d long since passed away, Abraham Keagy’s daughter said that he’d occasionally discussed the incident with his family. “He was scared because the car came flying at him and another person,” she said. “Luckily he really wasn’t injured badly because he fell into someone behind him and they both went down. It wasn’t traumatic enough to stop him from attending car races and other automotive events.”

Little Myrtle Eichelberger recovered completely from her injuries, to the point where it seems no one even bothered to inform her of her involvement. When contacted recently at a Pennsylvania senior center and asked about any family lore connected to the wreck, the eighty-five year-old Eichelberger—the only surviving attendee at the ill-fated event—demurred. “I don’t know anything about that,” she said. “I would have just been a little baby then.”

Likewise, the incident vanished from the historical record. Despite a subsequent decade of near constant coverage of the Phantom Car and its activities, once the trial ended, no mention was ever made of the accident again, until now.

Lynch continued his Phantom Car demonstrations throughout the 1930s. Some time after the accident, he donned an Admiral’s cap, and begun referring to himself as “Captain” J.J. Lynch, his latest costume in a lifelong drama of self-invention. After that he was often referred to as a “radio engineer,” “radio electrician,” or “radio control expert.” He was often credited as “the inventor” of his device. In a 1932 article touting an appearance in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was named as “the man who invented remote control of battleships.”

Lynch was married in 1933 and on occasion his wife (also named Nina) appeared in publicity photographs in a bomber jacket and an aviator’s leather helmet and goggles, where she is described as his driving assistant or as the pilot of the control plane. His daughter Nina, born in 1935, recalled fondly being on the road with her father. “I think I got to visit with him more than my kids whose dad came home every night, because in the summer he would pick us up, and we’d travel with him wherever he was going,” Stange said.

For a stretch of time in the mid-Thirties, Lynch was partnered up with Burnett Merrell Frazer, a professional Radio Technician, HAM radio enthusiast, and eventual cable television pioneer. Evidence suggests that in or around 1935, they embarked on a cross-country trip, allegedly sponsored by the Nash Motor Company, which provided a $5000 reward to anyone who could discover a human hand in the robot car’s operation. Newspapers reported on their presence in sites ranging from Phoenix, Arizona to Manitowac, Wisconsin, tracing the historic path of one of the nation’s first cross-country byways. In a 1935 interview in the Belvidere, Illinois Republican-Northwestern, Lynch claimed that he’d been working with Nash for four years, and visited thirty states with the marque’s vehicles.

Frazer’s stepson, Steve Pittsenbarger, said that Frazer had corroborated this adventure. “He told me that and another fellow had set up a remote control for a vehicle. They demonstrated it all the way across the country, but most of it occurred on Route 66.” Frazer informed Pittsenbarger that the driverless car had had another incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “They were at a stoplight, and it occurred there. I think the car hit the car in front of it,” Pittsenbarger said. “I asked him, Well, did the cops have to come? And he said, no, it wasn’t that much of an accident. And of course, back then, the car, if they just rear-ended somebody at a low speed, there would be no damage like there is today. He was pretty proud of that.”

In their coverage of Lynch’s car during this era, reporters frequently editorialized. They would discuss the nation’s high rate of vehicular fatalities. (“More people are killed on the road in this country in one year, than American soldiers killed in one year of war.”) Or they would discuss driver error, in contrast to the car’s adherence to the rules of the road. (“It never jumps a yellow light. It always takes the inside lane on a street when making a left turn.”) In the years after the accident in Hanover, this message of automotive safety became a more overt element in Lynch’s own take on his driverless vehicle, if not the core focus of his pitch. The name of the car itself was softened as well, from the slightly menacing Phantom Car, to the more accessible and wondrous Magic Car.

The Drive

When he visited Yonkers, New York in the summer of 1936, as in other localities during this time, his visit was touted as a “Safety Demonstration.” While giving a lecture to the public about roadway etiquette, Lynch was, according to reports in the local newspaper, “asked a hundred-and-one questions” about the future of automotive safety and technology. “Do you think we’ll ever see driverless cars on the road in the future?” one crowd member asked. “Are you developing a Magic Eye that will be fitted to the front of an automobile to bring machines to a quick stop when the beam comes in contact with a human being?” another prescient Yonkersite wondered.

A retrospective of Lynch’s life published in the local Herald-Statesman during this visit is titled “Career Taught Magic Car Driver Safety.” In it, J.J. sensationalizes the dangers of his various death-defying vocations, but ends with his admonishment about the greater hazards of contemporary roadways. “Driving a car nowadays is more technical and nerve-wracking than throwing steers,” Lynch opines. “It’s more dangerous on the highways than on the rodeo grounds.”

These safety demonstrations continued throughout the late Thirties and the start of the Forties, with Lynch conducting educational discussion forums and performances all around the country—sometimes lasting a full week or more in a location—and using the radio controlled car to teach proper driver behavior. During this phase, he often visited area high schools to teach safe driving to teenagers, under the auspices of local police forces and a generic-sounding organization he called the National Safety Crusades. The NSC may have been another fabulous Lynch invention, as the only historical mentions of it are those associated with his appearances. It seems ironic that in the years after the crash, Lynch and his Phantom Car became a symbol of safety. Was he attempting to ease a guilty conscience? Or was he just espying a new opportunity?

Lynch’s final performance with the Phantom/Magic Car was a Safety Parade in Orange, Texas. “The driverless auto is used to demonstrate that wrecks are not the fault of the automobiles, but of the drivers,” the Orange Leader, reported as part of its weeklong coverage. The parade took place on December 6, 1941, the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

All non-essential applications of motor vehicles, including Lynch’s performances, were suspended immediately, as materials needed for military production, were commandeered for the war effort. Lynch’s show disappeared. But military advancements like radar and magnetic guidance took root in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and when the war ended, these driverless vehicle technologies began to find their way into futuristic ideals for civilian applications.

General Motors’ traveling Motorama exhibit, with its dreamy fantasies of automated roads and vehicles, was little more than a delusion given the scientific realities of the time. But computing power and portability increased exponentially during the Space Age, and could realistically be harnessed to a vehicle, cars could actually be made to drive themselves in very limited circumstances. Though processing capacity has increased significantly in recent years, it still does not approach the level required to solve for the multifarious complexities on our roads. Today’s “autonomous” cars can do a bit more than Lynch’s, and they can do it on their own, but as we have recently become well aware, phantom issues remain.

Though he had no experience as a seaman, aside from his Admiral’s costume and vague family history in Annapolis, as American involvement in World War II ramped up, Lynch took up an opportunity presented by a friend and moved himself, his wife, and his six-year-old daughter to Houston to work in the shipyards. Nina would call Houston her home for the rest of her childhood, through high school and college, and though J.J. maintained a home in Texas with his wife for the rest of his life, he could not be tied down to anything resembling a staid job.

Lynch had taken up golf in the 1930s, and though he demonstrated the same natural talent for the game that he showed for so many other things in his life, he was steered out of it because he was left-handed. In its place, as his work with the Magic Car wound down, he took up archery. By the immediate post-War era, in the mid-Forties, Lynch was performing at local fairs, high schools, and sportsman shows all around North America. Many of these performances showcased similar showmanship and messages of his late Magic Car demonstrations, meant to illustrate the proper and improper way to use a bow and arrow, and any other weapon.

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“He’d go to a lot of schools and he’d give demonstrations on safety, using the bow and arrow.” Stange said. Lynch would go through an act of putting an apple on a child’s head, and pretending he was going to shoot it off, before removing it, and instructing the crowd. “I’m here to teach you safety. You don’t ever want to put anything on anybody and try to shoot it off, no matter what it is or how big it is.”

By the dawn of the Fifties, Lynch was a bona fide archery star. In 1950, Columbia Pictures made a nine-minute film about him, King Archer that played as a short subject before feature films. He appeared on “The Fred Murray Show,” an early television variety show. He even appeared on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town.” His daughter recalled visiting the set. “I can’t say that I liked Ed Sullivan very much, but he was quite a character, and my classmates were thrilled that I got to meet him.”

Lynch continued delivering demonstrations, and performing in state and local fairs, almost up until his death in 1962 at the age of 69. He never lost his love of performing, or his capacity for reinvention. But despite any mishaps, his decade with the driverless car was one of his favorite eras. Perhaps it was because it reflected the ultimate confluence of his love of speed, danger, and the next big thing. Perhaps it was because it gave him the opportunity to make a point and teach a lesson. Or, perhaps because it was, like most new inventions with which we become enamored, a frivolity, a diversion, something that’s impossibly compelling just because it exists.

“The Phantom Car was something he was really proud of,” his daughter Nina said. “I think he was an inventor at heart. I guess today they would of called him an entrepreneur. He liked to develop new things,” she said. “And the Phantom Car seemed to be a really big thing, because I’ve met people about his age, and even a little younger, and they remember the Phantom Car. Apparently he was in towns where they were, so, I guess they came out to see it. Wasn’t that during the years when people used to sit on flagpoles and do all types of crazy things?”

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7 Used Military Vehicles You Can Buy*

Military Vehicles You can Buy

Have you ever said to yourself, “Boy, I wish I owned a fleet of military-grade vehicles"? Well, lucky for you, the ol’ US-of-A is flush with retired military vehicles—and it’s selling them to the general public! You might think a 1986 AM General M923A1 will look a little odd cruising down the street next to a Toyota Camry, but our motto is “waste not, want not.”

We combed through auction listings around the country. (Note that we can only look at, but not buy, 1033 Program vehicles, which are only offered to certain law enforcement agencies because they’re often heavily armored combat-prepped for prime time.) But there are tons—literally, tons—of cool support vehicles waiting to find new homes. Our seven recommendations:

1. AM General Humvee

The Drive

My, how time flies. The AM General Humvee entered service way back in 1984, the year after Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released. Now that the Department of Defense is trying to replace this old warhorse, there are plenty just waiting to be picked up by serious off-roaders and urban alpha males. Equipped with a 6.5L diesel engine with 185 hp and 330lb-ft, 16 inches of ground clearance, and impossibly sharp approach angles, it’s fair to say that this thing can go anywhere.
Auction price: $6,000

2. BMY M923A2 5-Ton 6×6

The Drive

Forget the expensive trailer for your track car—just get a decent ramp and toss it in the back of a retired BMY M923A2 5-Ton 6×6 van truck. These puppies were powered by 8.3-Liter Cummins inline-six engines that cranked out 240 hp and 685 lb-ft of torque. With numbers like that—and the ability to hold a payload of 10,000 lbs—these military warriors are capable of bringing your track-day special or off-roader wherever your heart desires. If you’re really trying to be adventurous, just convert the long wheelbase version into an off-road mobile home. But quite possibly the most impressive part of this truck is the price tag.
Auction price: $4,000

3. 2009 Freightliner M916A3 6×6 Tractor

The Drive

Car enthusiasts have a weird obsession with tractor trailers. Whether it’s the astronomical number of gears, impressive towing capacity, or mine-trumps-yours size, the desire to drive one is always there. Well, the time has come; although this truck comes equipped with a seven-speed automatic Allison transmission, you’ll quickly overlook that detail due to the scant 2,674 miles on the odometer—and the 12.7L Detroit Diesel engine.
Auction price: $18,000

4. Stevenson M1079 LMTV 4×4 Van Truck

The Drive

Holy off-road campers, Batman! People spend north of $500,000 on luxury off-road campers from bespoke builders that use artisanal woods and humanely treated leathers. Rather than setting a pile of cash on fire, consider spending $13,000 on a diesel off-roader like this one. Hell, you can even spend $20,000 on upgrades and still spend $467,000 less than that rich dude down the block.
Auction price: $13,000

5. 1984 Chevrolet D10 Blazer 4×4

The Drive

Nothing screams ‘Murica more than an olive-drab, 1980s diesel Blazer. It’s loud, it’s boxy, it’s inefficient, and it’s inarguably glorious. The 6.2L diesel V-8 was built to last, and will happily guide you through years of shenanigans. Still, with 160 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque, you aren’t going to win any races.
Auction price: $800

6. 1985 Oshkosh AS 32P-19 4×4 Fire Truck

The Drive

When we were six (or 26), we glued our faces to the window when they passed. Now, you can own one. Yes, I’m talking about a fire truck. Thanks to the auction site Gov Planet, you can own a fire truck equipped with working water cannons. Sure, the truck may be a little large, and a lot impractical, but no one can argue with the fact that you are the proud owner of a fire truck.
Auction price: $4,000

7. 2009 Chevrolet Suburban LT 2500

The Drive

Unfortunately, the coveted Suburban 2500 was not available to the general public while in production. New models were restricted to government agencies and certain municipal services. But you can often find these gems gracing auction sites or used car lots around the country. Rather than using the 5.3L V-8 you find in the Suburban, these beefed-up SUVs use a 6.0L V-8 good for 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque. Although those are approximately the power outputs of the current Suburban, the heavy-duty alternator and enhanced suspension means a truck like this one will outlast its little brother. 
Auction price: $5,000

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The Untold History of the First Driverless Car Crash—Part 1

First autonomous car crash

J.J. Lynch was prepared for another stellar demonstration that summer afternoon at the Forney Airfield.

His business manager, William F. Rogge, had been in Hanover, Pennsylvania—a town of about 11,000 people, just five miles north of the Maryland border—for the past week or so, ever since their last performance in Wilmington, Delaware on July 21, 1932. Rogge played the role of advance man, arriving in town ahead of the talent to make arrangements, to hype the free show, and to line up local sponsors for necessary donations and publicity: The Good Brothers’ dealership for the Dodge follow vehicle, the H.M. Sterner showroom for the Chrysler lead car, Devener Auto Electric for the batteries, the Park Service Station for the tires, P.I. Wentz for the complimentary ice cream.

On the morning of the show, Lynch and Rogge had spent three hours installing and testing their $12,000 worth of proprietary radio control devices. Featuring an array of mechanical relay switches that could be manipulated from a distance, the equipment allowed any vehicle in which it was attached to start, drive, turn, honk its horn, flash its lights, and shut off without any humans on board. Their portable apparatus, which they carried from town to town, could turn any ordinary new car into a famed, driverless, J.J. Lynch Phantom Car.

This prep work had long since become standardized. In fact, according to Lynch’s later court testimony, he had performed this act around 150 times since the previous year, at sites all over the United States. He’d operated his Phantom Car on city streets and in open fields, in town squares and rural fairgrounds, and even on Capitol Plaza in Washington, D.C. He’d used a wide variety of makes and models of vehicle, and every conceivable body type, from a convertible to a truck. He’d even rigged the transponders up to a few tractors. And he’d controlled them all, without a single incident, from nearby: on foot, from a follow vehicle, and even from the air.

In the days before the event, the Hanover Evening Sun touted the impending arrival of the “driverless car” in two front-page articles. As word spread through town, residents became intrigued or skeptical, so Lynch and Rogge followed another timeworn routine, setting up the automobiles and the radio control switchgear they’d be using for inspection at a local retail establishment. In Hanover, the Dodge and Chrysler were on display the day before the performance at the Sterner showroom in the center of downtown. The public was invited to peruse the cars, one of which had been donated by Sterner’s shop, and perhaps check out one of the other new Chryslers for sale in the dealership, while they were there.

J.J. often offered a reward of up to $5000 to anyone who could discover a human component to the Phantom Car, drawing throngs of enterprising visitors to these businesses. No one had ever collected. Though the show was conceived as little more than a spectacle, a bit of entertainment, the technology behind it was sound. On the stand at his trial, Lynch presented the court with a sheaf of clippings, reportage of his exploits from national newspapers and scientific periodicals, evidence of his expertise.

The Drive

A parachute jump was scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon, and the headline act—control of the Phantom Car from an airplane flying 1000 feet overhead—was to take place at 4:00. By 2:00 when the warm up act, a car-to-car demonstration, was to occur, around 3000 people were already gathered around the airfield. The Phantom Car and the follow car were housed at the airplane hangars at the rear of the grounds, where thick crowds of spectators stood with their backs turned, watching planes taking off and landing and awaiting expectantly the skydiver who was to follow. State Aeronautics Commission member Lawrence B. Sheppard later testified that a proper waiver had been issued to use the airport for a demonstration in which a car could be controlled from a plane, but forms hadn’t been filed for using a car controlled from another car.

The presence of additional highway patrol officers had been requested for crowd control, but the cops were busy corralling a protest of Bonus Marchers in a nearby town—WWI veterans, like Lynch, who were out of work during the depression and looking for an advance on their assured government benefits. To fill-in for the police, Rogge had confirmed the assistance of some local Boy Scout troops, but they’d failed to materialize at the airport that afternoon.

Sensing the potential for trouble as the crowds around the Dodge and Chrysler crushed in, Sheppard headed toward the hangars to advise Lynch and his team to move their vehicles into the open field before beginning their demonstration. But before he could reach them, Lynch boarded and started the follow car, honked its horn repeatedly, and called to the throngs of viewers to make way.

Varied claims and excuses were made with regard to the mayhem that ensued: the makeshift pathway was too narrow, the attendees had not been properly apprised of the program, there were not enough officials present to direct the throngs. But everyone could agree on one thing, even Lynch and Rogge in their courtroom testimony. As soon as J.J. Lynch pressed the remote start button on his apparatus, the one that was intended to bring the Phantom Car to life and place it under the control of his transponder, the driverless car lurched away, beginning what the Gettysburg paper later called “its mad journey.”

Soon hitting speeds more than four times its intended rate, the Phantom Car almost immediately surpassed the limited distance from which Lynch could control it. Out of range of its electromagnetic tether, and with no one aboard to grab the wheel, stomp the brake, or switch off the ignition, the driverless car roared away from its operator and into the gathered crowd, where it could not be steered, controlled, or stopped.


J.J. Lynch was not always a radio engineer. In fact, he was never a radio engineer. He had dropped out of school after the fifth grade. His daughter Nina Stange described him as something of an autodidact. “Like a lot of men in that era,” she said, “he self-educated himself. He read and read and read.” But he had no formal training in any technical field. What he did have was a profound talent for connecting with people who did, collaborating with them, and garnering their confidence and expertise.

Yet his greatest aptitude was as a promoter. And he was, by far, his own best client.

John J. Lynch was born in Chicago in 1892. His father was a Naval officer, but ran off when young J.J. was just eight. His mother scraped together a living as a milliner, making custom hats for society ladies in New York. Without a father to support the family, once J.J. left school, he worked odd jobs in Chicago before skipping town, seduced in part by the Teddy Roosevelt administration’s romanticization of the vanishing frontier. He ended up out west, where he worked as a ranch hand, riding broncos and roping cattle. “All this stuff that young cowboys do,” Stange said. “And that’s how then he got into the rodeo business.”

By the mid Teens, Lynch was winning rodeo championships throughout the mountain Northwest, garnering regional and national medals, and prize money, in front of crowds of thousands in remote but thriving towns like Walla Walla, Washington, Miles City, Montana, Alberta, Canada, and Boise, Idaho. His specialty was bulldogging, a showy and often dangerous event in which a rider on horseback lassoes a steer, and then leaps down from his moving horse to wrestle the bull to the ground.

Like many riders, Lynch was often injured. But he had a knack for triumphing over his hardships. “First aid was administered in the medical tent,” reported Bozeman, Montana’s Anaconda Standard, in August of 1919 after a steer summersaulted over J.J. at a local competition, tangling him and his horse in the ropes. “But Lynch presently appeared on the field to receive his prize with a bandaged head, and a smile.” The fact that he was tall, athletically built, blond haired and blue eyed, certainly didn’t hurt his popularity. The crowds loved him.

Lynch put his rodeo skills to the service of his country during World War I, when he served at the remount center in Fort Keogh, Montana. The base was America’s key wartime equine distribution and training site, and he worked there breaking and drilling horses for the cavalry and for transport and supply line applications.

After his military service, Lynch took his show on the road, moving to southern California to work as a “strong man” (stuntman) in the early Hollywood silent films, performing in western movies for Goldwyn, Lasky and other producers. “They were all cowboy stunts and things like that, off of horses,” Stange said. “He did stunts off of motorcycles too.” Lynch earned his SAG card as a member of the Riding Actors Association, and befriended forgotten period stars like Milton Sills, Jack Holt, Monte Blue, and William Boyd, as well as well known players like Will Rogers and Academy Award-winning stuntman and actor Yakima Canutt, who remained a lifelong friend.

But it was in his return to the rodeo circuit in the late Teens that Lynch first melded his love of showmanship, his skills as a daredevil, and his growing affection for motorized vehicles. In the summer of 1919, he helped to pioneer the practice of bulldogging from a motorcycle or from the hood of a moving car. “Combining the skill of the frontiersman with the love of something new,” as the Wyoming State Tribune described it. During the early Twenties, he would add the running board or front bumper of a moving car to his repertoire of locales from which he’d leap, earning him the first of many nicknames or aliases, “Wild Jim” Lynch, as well as a slew of serious injuries: a shattered shoulder, a broken clavicle.

The crowds grew larger and larger. At the Elks’ national convention in Chicago in 1920, Lynch performed his motorized bulldogging stunts in downtown’s Grant Park for some of the 500,000 members who’d gathered in the Windy City. The car added speed to Lynch’s spectacle, along with another important element of modern technology: its inherent ability to elide. “Folks were so busy trying to determine which was the wildest—the auto, the steer, or Jim—that before they knew it, the whole thing was over,” reported the Omaha Sunday World Herald of one of Lynch’s motorized rodeo performances in the spring of 1924.

Realizing that the rodeo portion of his show added unnecessary complexity, as well as ghettoized him in an archaic western sideshow culture, Lynch soon ditched the horses, and began simply performing acrobatic stunts from the front bumpers of moving cars—somersaults, flips, and leaps. This was all well and good until he was run over by the front wheel of one of his stunt vehicles in Riverton, Wyoming in 1928, crushing his left leg. Lynch was in the hospital for three months, and purportedly couldn’t walk for a year, leading him to look for a new gig. “Something else sensational,” he later said.

Sensation sold. This was an era when live entertainment, in all its forms, from opera to orchestras, was being squeezed out by radio and the movies. Spectacle—stunt flyers, crash-em-up derbies—were one of the means to draw a big crowd. Every town had a fairground of sorts, and spectators were eager to see the latest extravaganza. But they were also interested in the underlying innovation. This was an optimistic time in American industrialization when the future began to seem possible, when a train could take you nearly anywhere, when even a working person could own their own car, when the big dreams drawn up by visionaries like DaVinci could be solved, or at least attempted.

The Drive

In 1931, Lynch happened upon endurance driving. He claimed to have completed seventeen drives of one hundred hours or more, piloting a car for five days without sleep. “They’d handcuff me to a wheel and tell me to lose myself for a few nights,” he said. This practice earned him another nickname, “Fearless Jim.”

It was around the time that he was completing these distance drives that he met Robert E. Autrey. The circumstances of their meeting are not exactly clear. In later years, Lynch would tell a story of their making acquaintance on a train, and his coming to Autrey’s rescue by loaning him twenty-eight dollars to get his equipment out of hock at a remote Texas railroad office. But it seems likely that Lynch obfuscated the nature of their initial connection to bolster his claims on the equipment he popularized.

However it was that they met, two things are certain: Robert Autrey was the inventor and developer of the radio control devices that operated the Phantom Car; and, in at the early press demonstrations of these fantastic contraptions, Autrey is clearly in charge of the act and Lynch is referred to as his “assistant.”

Robert E. Autrey was a legitimate radio engineer with decades of experience tinkering with the emergent technology. Autrey had been working most recently for a commercial broadcast radio station, but he was previously employed as a radio instructor for the World War I-era United States Shipping Board Service, a radio trainer for the Merchant Marine, and a radio inspector for the military’s advanced communication wing, the United States Signal Corps. He held three governmental patents from 1924 and 1928 for operating an automobile by radio control and flying an airplane by radio. And he had an apparatus he wanted to demonstrate, but clearly needed some assistance in putting on a show, alerting the press, and drawing a crowd. However these two men met, their collaboration seemed well suited.

After more than two-dozen private practice runs, Autrey and Lynch’s first public demonstration took place on May 29, 1931 in Houston, Texas municipal airport before a crowd of 5000. As reported in regional newspapers like The San Antonio Light, as well as hobbyist publications like Radio World and Short Wave Craft, the first act involved the Phantom Car being operated from a stationary command truck in the middle of the field. A late model Ford outfitted with twin telegraph poles strung with lines front-to-rear, the driverless car was made to start and stop, traverse the runways, flash its lights, and honk its horn.

But the main event was the remote control of one plane from another. Equipped with a 315-pound system of radio receivers, switches, and batteries, the radio controlled plane “City of Houston” circled the field, turned, climbed, and descended, and tipped its wings at the gathered crowd. In order to meet governmental regulations, a licensed pilot was onboard, but he only handled the takeoff and the landing. Autrey only lost control once during the fifteen-minute flight, when the two planes became separated by a gap that surpassed the short wave’s half-mile range.

Autrey’s history with the military and his experience developing and promoting martial applications of new technologies had a significant influence on his vision of how this new system could be utilized. At this first demonstration, he explained to a reporter from Short Wave Craft that “the principle of radio control holds unlimited possibilities in time of war,” citing the ability to control dozens of planes, tanks, or armored cars filled with explosives, and sent over enemy lines.

In fact, the military had been working on very similar concepts for at least a decade. Following the invention of the first gyroscopic-based aviation “autopilot” in the Teens, and experiments with radio controlled planes, ships, torpedoes, and other weaponry in World War One, the military unveiled the first radio controlled vehicle in 1921—an eight-foot long three-wheeler shaped like a coffin.

As reported in the Ardmore, Oklahoma Daily Ardemoreite, on August 21, 1921, the vehicle was introduced to the public on the streets of Dayton Ohio, near McCook Field, a base that served as the research station for experiments in aviation for the Army Air Service—the precursor to the Air Force. Like Autrey and Lynch’s car and plane, it was manipulated from a follow vehicle, which needed to stay within around 100 feet of it. It rolled along, speeding up and slowing down. It honked its horn. Like Autrey and Lynch’s car, its main capability, as far as the public was concerned, seemed rooted in its capacity to startle, to be uncanny. But it also demonstrated that driverless vehicles were notable and newsworthy, and capable of drawing a crowd.

Autrey and Lynch and the United States Military were not the only ones working on such vehicles during the Twenties. In the summer of 1925, Francis Houdina, another Army engineer, equipped a Chandler sedan with a radio control contraption and operated it on the streets of New York City. As reported by papers as far away as San Bernadino, California, the car, which he christened “American Wonder,” rolled down Broadway, followed by another Chandler containing the operator and his gear, turning corners, slowing down, speeding up, and, of course, honking its horn. In a bizarre coda, Houdina ended up in a battle with famed magician Harry Houdini. Angered at the perception that his name was being utilized to promote this vehicle, in the last year of his life, Houdini sent Houdina threatening letters and then ransacked Francis’ offices and roughed him up. Houdini was eventually acquitted when Houdina failed to show up in court as plaintiff in his assault case against the escape artist.

In the fall of 1927, former Naval Radio Operator R.L. Mack demonstrated a radio-controlled car on the streets of Los Angeles. His device, which could be affixed to the steering column of any automobile, appeared in the March 1928 issue of Popular Mechanics. Starting in the spring of 1929, notices begin to appear of a “Phantom Car” fitted with Mack’s device and operated with his cooperation, performing in towns around the country. Like Lynch’s act, but predating it by a few years, these cars were controlled from a follow car or an airplane. Unlike Lynch, these vehicles were driven by a pretty Hollywood stunt pilot named Gloria Hall. Nicknamed “Radio Girl,” Miss Hall appeared with Mack during the late Twenties and early Thirties (and as late as 1939) throughout the United States—in Missouri, New York, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas among others. Despite their similar movie stunt-person backgrounds, and the similarity of their acts, there is no evidence that Hall and Lynch knew each other.

Visionary theorists like Norman Bell Geddes and Buckminster Fuller imagined novel applications of automated vehicles and advanced roadways in the Streamline Moderne era, but none succeeded in creating much more than treatises and models for carnivals like the World’s Fair in Chicago (1933) and New York (1939.) It was Lynch, with his knack for reinvention, actualization, and relentless boosterism, and his innate understanding of how to please a crowd, who came to dominate the field of driverless car shows throughout the Thirties.

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His partner Autrey was a military engineer, and thus thought in terms of practical and combative innovations: a fleet of unmanned aerial bombers or battleships. But Lynch, the promoter, knew that while a autonomous plane, flying far overhead and guided by a second manned plane, might bring great value to the Air Service, it did not make an observable spectacle. It was too far away, and lacked a proximal visual punch. It just looked like two planes flying. Once he and Autrey parted ways in the early Thirties, Lynch brought the show down to earth, and kept it there for the rest of the decade and beyond. In Lynch’s performances, the Phantom vehicle would always be seen up close, driving on its own, without a driver or anyone else on board. It served no practical purpose. But it was magic, and magic was what drew crowds.

During the Thirties, Lynch appeared with the Phantom Car in nearly every state in the union, on a seemingly endless tour with literally hundreds of stops. In 1931, he plowed a field with a radio-controlled “farmall” at the Illinois State Fair. In 1934 he and the Magic Car performed in Australia before the Duke of Gloucester, brother of King Edward of England, at the centenary of the founding of the city of Melbourne.

Regardless of location, the setup for each appearance was remarkably similar. Lynch, or his advance man, would come to town early to recruit local sponsors to cover all their material costs and pay their fees, providing the locale and equipment, down to the beverages they would drink. (“J.J. Lynch, operator of the car, will drink Coca-Cola provided by Koller Brothers, to steady his nerves during the trying venture,” reported the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Morning Herald, in the summer of 1932.) These sponsors would advertise the event widely in the local newspapers, often assembling their promotions into a full page advertorial, hawking their participation and that of their wares and inviting the public into their retail establishments in the days leading up to the event to check out the car and the equipment and meet the driver—and maybe, hopefully, buy something.

Often, a local newspaper itself would act as Lynch’s core sponsor, and would run non-stop coverage in the lead-up to the event, amping up readers and helping to draw a crowd with interviews, route maps, equipment descriptions, and promotion of the participation of local politicians and other notables. When Lynch and the “Magic Car” came to Yonkers, New York in the summer of 1936, the Herald-Statesman, under whose auspices the visit had been arranged, published no fewer than seven front-page articles.

A peripheral message of safety often crept into newspaper writers’ early editorializing on Lynch’s invention, questioning whether a driverless car would be less accident prone than one with a human at the wheel. Announcements regarding the Phantom Car often appeared alongside coverage of horrific and lethal car crashes (“Funeral at Somerset for Accident Victim” Zaneville Signal, “Archer Held in Accident Case” Charlotte Observer) which by 1930 were already numbering in the tens of thousands annually.

J.J. had done his time in the decidedly analog worlds of bulldogging, stunt-manning, and in the military, and had suffered the very physical consequences. Now the public face of a radical product at the forefront of an emergent technology, he struggled to adopt the evangelical tone of the convert: the belief in scientific progress, and its ultimate triumph over human error. As with so many other contemporary devices that enhanced automation and undermined individuality, Lynch and his invention were occasionally linked with questions about the future of American freedom. In 1931, Radio World lumped its coverage of the Phantom Car in with a piece on emergency preparedness experiments in neo-Fascist Italy in which drivers were given requisite commands by radio and forced to obey. The article warned of the dangers faced in “the control of human beings by a central authority.”

Despite these more ominous overtones, Lynch did his best to keep the show light and fun. Seated at a table behind a radio transponder, or standing with a foot on the running board of a 1932 Pontiac sprouting a giant ball-shaped metallic antenna from its rear, he reveled in his performances being praised for their “ghostly quality” for being “one of the most unusual sights to ever be seen locally,” to being heralded as “one of the most interesting scientific exhibits of the age.”

Lynch wasn’t in this to make a point, to change the world. He was in it solely for the spectacle. Then the accident in Hanover occurred.

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Is This 944 S Really Worth $40,000?

Is This 944 S Really Worth $40,000?The Drive

Built for two years only in 1987 and 1988, the 944 S was all about a high-revving sports car experience with a 2.5 liter twin-cam four cylinder that produces 190 horsepower at 6000 rpm. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot today but in the late 1980s, it was quite a capable car weighing less than 3000 pounds balanced nearly perfectly 50/50. When tested as a new car, the 944 S could sprint from 0-60 in 7.9 seconds, and keep going on to a top speed of 142 miles per hour. All of this was available from your local Porsche dealer for only an 8% price increase over a same-year single-cam 944, and just over half what a new 911 Carrera 3.2 cost. It isn’t the most mind-blowing Porsche ever built, but it’s certainly no slouch.

The car here is available for auction at the Bonhams Scottsdale sale later this month. This 944 S is possibly the nicest 944 S remaining in the world, as it has only traveled some 15,000 miles since new, and the order sheet for this one had nearly every option box ticked. This one was delivered new to an owner in New Jersey, and it has remained there for its entire life. With a gorgeous period-appropriate coat of Zermatt Silver Metallic paint, this 944 presents quite well and would make a great complement to any Porsche collection. Only just over 7000 944 S were built across the two production years, making this one of the more rare examples. Bonhams has previewed this listing with a pre-auction estimate falling between thirty and forty thousand dollars. It is questionable as to whether this particular car is worth such a sum, but if ever there were a 944 to be worthy of that level of bidding, it would certainly be one in this condition. Collectors are always looking for the very best condition iteration of any certain thing, and the fact that this car is so well preserved will certainly play to its favor when the bidding begins. However, there is no reserve on this lot, so it is possible that the seller will be a bit non-plussed by the outcome. 

The Bonhams Scottsdale auction begins on Thursday, January 19th at 11am local time at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. 

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The Origin Of Porsche’s Legendary RS Line

The Origin Of Porsche's Legendary RS Line

In this video short, Crank+Piston spend some time with one of Porsche’s most iconic cars, the 2.7 liter Carrera RS from 1973. We’ve personally never seen one of these cars painted in green with yellow accents, but we’ll be damned if it doesn’t look amazing. Slide behind the wheel, fire up the glorious flat-six with a flick of your left hand on the ignition, and slot the 915 gearbox into first, we’re on our way. This video features the car being driven around the phenomenal Dubai Autodrome, and the car sets a beautiful contrast with the wide open expanses of the desert and deadly-serious buildings rising up from the floor in the background. It’s an amazing car and an amazing backdrop for a short, fun film.

The best part of this car, aside from being painted to look like a really sporty John Deere tractor, is the rorty and intoxicating exhaust note. While the driver never gets the car into the screamer levels of revolutions, even at the lower level RPMs, the car sounds like its ready and raring to go. The car was well known in its day as a track performer, often seen skittering through corners with the inside front wheel aloft and the driver working the tiller like a madman. Sadly there is also a distinct lack of sideways driving in this video, but being that it’s an irreplaceable collectible, we suppose we understand. As the narrator walks us through the history of the car, I can’t help but think how amazing this car must have been in 1973 when it was first released. Will anything built today be looked upon as fondly 44 years from now?  

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The Man Who Talks to Land Cruisers

The Man Who Talks to Land Cruisers

Onur Azeri is known among many Land Cruiser aficionados as the go-to guy for old Land Cruiser parts. There are dealerships and there are aftermarket parts companies, but no one, I’m told, knows parts the way Azeri does.

“He’s the dude,” Jon Held, a member of the Gotham City Land Cruiser club, said while supervising the offroad test of our project ‘88 Land Cruiser. The others in the group nodded.

His reputation as someone with a deep understanding of Land Cruiser parts and how they relate to one another is why we worked with Azeri in our own build. It was difficult to find a lot of the little hard parts we needed through ordinary channels. For example, if you’re in search of a 6mm tapered shim and no one else knows what you’re talking about, Azeri will know. If you need the crossmember from a truck of a different vintage, not only will he know how to source one, he just might pull one off of a truck sitting in his driveway and mail it to you (he did that for us).

The Drive

Part of Azeri’s deep knowledge comes from the fact that he himself is a Land Cruiser nut. He owns and wrenches on his own trucks. But there’s more to it than that. Azeri is a Land Cruiser philosopher of sorts. He turned up at Brooklyn Motor Works—the shop in which we built our Land Cruiser—over the summer, when we were still mid-project. He had driven up I-95 from Atlanta in a right-hand drive ’85 BJ70, a tiny Japanese market Jeeplet powered by a torquey, slow-going 4-cylinder diesel motor. Summer weather had done its work and Azeri looked hot.

“I don’t mind,” he chirped. “I just keep cold drinks in a cooler behind my seat and I can drive this thing 55 mph all day.”

Interstate driving, he said, wasn’t the point. This truck was meant for the slow crawl over logs and boulders.

You may not know “parts guys” personally, but most of the ones I’ve met were of the modern, “get your parts and get out” variety, their sole mission being to get rid of the customer as quickly as possible so that they could move on to and get rid of the next one. Azeri said he looked to the parts guys of yesteryear for his inspiration, striving to be someone who could look at a part and know not only what it did, but also its context within the greater mechanical organism.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d be remiss in not telling you that Azeri was a PhD candidate at Kent State University before he became a Toyota guru. He was studying, as he puts it, “social scientific research methodologies in application with ancient Greek philosophy and rhetoric, sociology of knowledge and technology, and forms of representation.” Whatever that is. Sounds like a good place to start when diving into trying to understand something as complicated as a motor vehicle with more than 5,000 interrelated parts.

While he was writing his dissertation, his academic adviser died suddenly of brain cancer, leaving Azeri in an odd lurch. That was in 2004, and he found himself unsure of his direction.

“To lessen the psychological burden, I was teaching university classes as an adjunct while writing my dissertation in a small, dusty office on the sixth floor of the university library,” he said. “At a certain point, the academic worldview became hollow and devoid of meaning.”

Meanwhile, he was also spending time in machine, fabrication and auto repair shops in and around Cleveland, Ohio, dabbling in wrench turning. He’d already been working on his own Land Cruiser for a few years and said the hours, days and weeks spent busting his knuckles on old trucks began to take on new meaning. Conversations he’d had with his future mentor, Dan “Cruiserdan” Busey had him thinking about striking out along a different path.

Then one night – Valentine’s Day – a plow truck cut him off when he was driving along I-77. Azeri swerved to avoid hitting it and his Land Cruiser rolled onto its side near the edge of the highway. Cold and alone, he waited for a tow truck to rescue him and his busted truck. In the aftermath of the wreck, he decided—along with wanting to rebuild his Land Cruiser—that it was time to make a major change in his life.

The Drive

“I called up Cruiserdan and asked him if he was still serious about a conversation we had years earlier about my becoming a parts professional,” Azeri recalled. “He was indeed.”

So Azeri shed himself of most of his belongings, donated his academic books to the Oberlin College library and moved to Albuquerque, where he worked under the tutelage of Cruiserdan at American Toyota.

“I began the methodical process of learning how to be a real parts guy; a parts guy who knows not only how to understand the Toyota parts logical system but also how to correlate that with the ‘real world’ of Toyota Land Cruisers,” he said. “All the while, I learned the necessary vocabulary, skill-set and background knowledge to develop both a theoretical expertise and a lived expertise—building stuff, breaking stuff, fabricating stuff, and exploring the great American West in my various Land Cruisers.”

As Azeri’s understanding of his new discipline grew, other opportunities presented themselves. He was promoted to assistant parts manager at the dealership, then he moved to Salt Lake City to run a Land Cruiser shop. Eventually, family drew him to Atlanta, Ga., where he’s based. Out of all of it—the numerical intricacies of Toyota’s parts system, the reality of maintaining a machine that could withstand off-road punishment and the stunning natural scenery in which he was enveloped—Azeri developed a philosophy.

“Anyone can look up at Toyota part number and buy the damn thing, but very few people know a ten or twelve digit Toyota part number and know the entire worldview of that number in its various manifestations—what the first five digits mean, what the suffix digits mean, which Toyota Group keiretsu company manufactures the part, where the part is made, how many different variations of the part there are in its lineage, and so on,” he explained. “After all, Land Cruisers are basically all-purpose appliances in the best sense of the word—they either work or they don’t in their intended functions. Thus, using the Toyota part numbering system becomes more akin to the later, mature Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations, where the goal is not to create a structure or rules or policy, but to apply and build, to understand the object or the situation in front of you in a more engaged and lived manner.”

The Drive

Interesting things happen when a philosophy student becomes a parts professional. Not many tend to think of parts and machines that way, but Azeri’s unique outlook made him a sort of medicine man among Land Cruiser aficionados.

“Owning a Land Cruiser is like being a member of a tribal organization with rituals, frameworks for action and understanding, and a shared, collective memory of the past,” he said.

Deepening his understanding of what he already learned meant traveling to Japan in 2010, to the Toyota factories where Land Cruisers are built. There, Azeri watched the care that went into the manufacturing process as each truck came together on the assembly line.

“After the new Cruiser roars to life, it’s sent off to a brightly-lit area where white-gloved women start feeling, caressing, inimitably probing the work of everyone before them,” he said. “When we asked the Yoshiwara Plant manager at a post-tour briefing about why only women did the final body quality check on the Land Cruisers, he said that only women seemed to have the touch—kanjiru—necessary to truly understand whether the truck was ready for the end-user. That made a lasting impression on me.”

What this all really boils down to, though, is utility. Land Cruiser folks love their trucks, and there’s a reason for it.

“How does one traverse the most difficult terrain all over the world in the most reliable and functional manner? Well, you drive a Toyota Land Cruiser,” Azeri said, adding that everyone from child-toting suburbanites to Colombian narcos to Médecins Sans Frontières doctors use the trucks to get where they’re going. “The Land Cruiser’s ubiquity in all terrains, circumstances, and cultures is the defining reason to always answer the question ‘Why Land Cruisers?’ with ‘Why not?’ And because they are damn cool, to be honest with you.”

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This 1985 Pontiac Trans-Am Kammback Wagon Is the Real Deal

This 1985 Pontiac Trans-Am Kammback Wagon Is the Real Deal

What you are looking at a wormhole into a wonderful, bizarre alternate timeline.

Here, G.M. followed through on its 1970 Camaro Kammback concept, successor to the beloved Nomad wagon. The facelifted second-gen Pontiac Firebird “Type K” aero study, coachbuilt by Pininfarina for G.M. design boss Bill Mitchell, and featured on The Rockford Files in 1979, went into production. The shooting brake was a smash hit, naturally, because who doesn’t want a 4-barrel Firebird with a Gullwing-style hatch? But now there’s a problem. How will G.M. follow up on its best-selling wagon?

Enter: The 1985 Pontiac Trans-Am Kammback Concept. Our hero is based on the third-gen hatchback, but trades that boring liftgate for a sleek, glassy, sportwagon rear. It’s got the G-code 305ci H.O. V8, as well as a five-speed manual transmission, and comes loaded. Features include air-conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM stereo cassette, and T/A mag wheels, plus power steering, brakes, windows, and door locks. Also t-tops. Always t-tops.

The Drive

The sad reality, of course, is that the 1970 Kammback died in design, the result of a tooling conflict because the Camaro and Trans-Am didn’t share the same doors. The “Type K” was approved for production, but died when Pininfarina sent Mitchell the bill. To turn a profit, G.M. would’ve had to sell each Firebird wagon for $25,000 (some $83,000 in today’s money) at a time when the top-trim Trans-Am stickered under $6,000. There was a company in California that built a few replicas. That’s about it. The 1985 Pontiac Trans-Am Kammback Concept didn’t make it either.

The Drive

But! Pontiac did build four test mules. You’re looking at EX4796, as featured on the cover of Motor Trend’s August 1985 issue. It’s optioned-out, with all the kit listed above, and holds the distinction of having served as a pace car for PPG/CART and IMSA. Stillborn concepts usually go to the crusher, but EX4796 escaped to the Pontiac Engineering Car Collection, where it stayed until the mid-1990s. It was then acquired and restored by collector John McMullen.

If you like a world where G.M. builds Trans-Am breadvans, submit a bid on EX4796 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction website here.

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Vintage Video: Porsche 911 Lowrider Shows Off Its Hydraulics

Vintage Video: Porsche 911 Lowrider Shows Off Its HydraulicsThe Drive

Back in the 1980s, a vintage 911 was just an old car. It wasn’t particularly valuable, and it wasn’t particularly desirable. In those days, it was far more popular to weld some Carrera fender flares and impact bumpers to a longhood 911 than it was to restore one. This group of entrepreneuring young individuals fitted this old German biddy with full “Old School Hydros & Spokes” style. This video has been going around lately as a 15 second clip, and while that gives you the general idea, we thought it would we worth it to unearth the full two minute short. The crew pictured here was proud of their creation, and filmed it with what we can only assume is an equally old school over-the-shoulder VHS camera. 

This video is fun, because you watch the guy at the controls hitting switches, picking it up and dropping it again. This Porsche sits quite low on its gold spokes (possibly 12" wheels, it’s difficult to tell), and can jump up to an easy foot and a half off the pavement. The car appears to move up and down by the axle, so I’m not sure this Porsche could move in three-wheel motion position, but it remains old school cool. These days, we lament the gaudy modifications, the whale tail, the late rear bumper on an early car, and the chrome trim everywhere, but back then it was probably the star of every lowrider show it attended. It was new and different, as far as I know, a one-of-a-kind. 

For those curious, this appears to have started life as a long wheelbase long hood car, from 1969 to 1971. It doesn’t have 1972’s external oil-fill door on the passenger rear quarter, or 1973’s black marker lens surrounds, so we think we can safely narrow it down to those three years. The video is quite grainy, obviously, and they could have committed further extensive modifications to the body to throw us off, but we’re fairly confident. 

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Is Now the Time to Buy a Bentley Continental GT?

Is Now the Time to Buy a Bentley Continental GT?

Too good to be true: It’s an axiom that has steered many folks away from disastrous decisions or investments for as long as people hav acquired things.

Every once in awhile, though, the thing that seems great is actually true. Take, for instance, the Bentley Continental GT, a worldwide symbol of opulence and lack of concern with balancing a checkbook. What if The Drive told you it can be had for roughly half the price as a decently equipped new BMW 7-Series?

Of course, there’s a caveat. I’m not talking brand new Conti GTs—only first generation examples from between 2003 and 2007 (although the end of the first generation was in 2011). Combining values from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), eBay Motors, and Cargurus, prices for the early Continentals with decent mileage are roughly between $40,000 and 55,000. Sure, you could have a nicely optioned new Ford F-150 or Nissan Armada, but we’re talking about owning a Bentley for around the same price. A Bentley, dude.

For this low price, not only do you achieve the Bentley Driving Status, but you also acquire an atomic bomb of a powerplant under the hood—a hand-built 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 that pushes out 552 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of twist—a sumptuous leather interior that you know required the death of dozens of prize cows, and enough wood to build a weekend house in Aspen. Combined with a smooth six-speed automatic, the Continental GT is one of the finest GT cruisers out there.

A 10-year old Volkswagen Group-built W12 may not sound like the most reliable powertrain around, but apparently even high mileage examples cope well. Keep in mind this Volkswagen Group W12 was found in the Audi A8L, Volkswagen Phaeton, and is still used today in most new Bentleys—so parts aren’t hard to come by, although they and labor will likely be a bit pricey. That’s the price you pay for owning a Bentley, though. No one said the cost of ownership would be low.

Even though the holidays are on their way out, a new old Bentley Continental whose price is right would make for an excellent daily for those who want to ball on a budget. Check out these listings below.

The Drive

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