Parked in Palm Springs 2

Following on from last month’s Parked in Palm Springs part 1...

We were hoping to see the 26 foot tall Marilyn Monroe statue just off Tahquitz Way, but it was on loan somewhere in Connecticut. Still, not to be thwarted, we saw this excellent mural on Lulu’s California Bistro on Palm Canyon Drive/East Arenas Road. A fitting start to our final take on some local four-wheeled classics.

Anyone for tennis? Our group certainly was and, more by design than by chance, there was a certain little tournament being held just down the road at Indian Wells. So, after a brief breakfast mainly consisting of orange juice freshly crushed from our huge stock of oranges, we headed east onto East Palm Canyon Drive, through Cathedral City and onto Palm Desert to arrive eventually at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. What an impressive place – think Wimbledon but with a lot more sun. We visited on two or three occasions and were able to see Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenka in one of the evening matches.

On the way, we stopped in Palm Desert where we sampled the shops and restaurants along El Paseo, the Rodeo Drive of this town. 
And here, as luck would have it, parked at the roadside was a spotless, showroom-fresh Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible in primrose with green upholstery. The plates showed 1951 although I thought this model was introduced in 1953. Maybe someone knows better? With a 3850 cc in-line six, it was the first of the Bel Airs. Steve McQueen used a lesser version in his last film “The Hunter” and you can’t get cooler than that. Apart from Sue, this is the item I would take back home with me, given the chance.

It was good to see (finally) a “top down”; I guess it is too hot here to drive al fresco for long, although it didn’t stop the four chaps I saw back in Palm Springs driving an enormous 1966 Cadillac DeVille Convertible.

Our eldest, Samantha, was driving me to the local post office one morning when we passed a “smallish” blue/white two-tone saloon parked in a forecourt. A quick U-turn saw us parked outside McCormicks Palm Springs Exotic Car Auctions inspecting a 1956 one family-owned Ford Fairlane 2-door sedan. Yours for $14,500 plus 5% buyers’ fee. I don’t know how auctions work in the States, but many of the vehicles were priced in this manner. And there’s more! Too many to list in this short narrative, but here’s a taster.

Parked in Palm Springs 2
1931 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Phaeton
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You couldn’t miss the white 1975 Eldorado convertible; check out the registration plate. Samantha looked over a 1968 Chrysler Imperial Crown ($17,000 plus fee), whilst I inspected a trio of Buicks: a 1967 Skylark, a Riviera from 1963 and a GS 400 CVT of 1967. The latter was fitted with a 6571 cc V8 (401 cu in), the largest engine allowed by GM for its mid-sized cars, and was based on the then current Skylark. Another 1967 muscle car—a Chevelle Super Sport with interesting history—could be yours for $35,000 plus that premium. For those who prefer pick-ups, the best I saw was this 1956 Ford F100 ½-ton. $33,000 plus premium would put it on your driveway. A two owners from new with the Custom Cab, larger rear window, better seating and more chrome including “beauty rings” on the wheels. I couldn’t take decent photos of the one family-owned 1953 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country nor the 1979 Lincoln Mk V with only 40 miles on the clock, but I achieved a great shot of the magnificent 1933 Chrysler Phaeton. At $110,000 plus fee it would make a grand addition to your collection. The Europeans were represented by a rare Fiat 500 Giardiniera, tiny in comparison with the rest of the iron on display. But the price at $17,500 certainly did not reflect its size. Nearby sat a VW Karmann Ghia from 1962 for $10,500 and an XJ6 (X300) for $2550 – nothing special except it was entirely rust free.

Just as we were leaving, an immaculate convertible Mustang in light blue metallic drew up. A 6-cylinder model, it was bought new in 1965 by the current owner when he was a mere 23 years old. Both had worn well. Lucky guy.

Have you seen the photo of Sue modelling the Essex Thameside baseball cap (choice of colours, £7 each)? It was on the day that we decided to see the Aerial Tramway, modestly billed as “the largest aerial tramway in the world”, it was opened in 1963, but annoyingly closed when we went to see it. A freak rainstorm/flood had washed away part of the service road. The photograph shows Sue with, behind her, the intact bit of the road that we walked up. A long road! You may note the white line in the distance. That, I am reliably informed, is the San Andreas fault. Luckily, no earthquakes that day.

Our eight days came to an end all too soon and we said our goodbyes to our daughter and friends as they flew out to Los Angeles and then onto their various abodes. Sue and I took to the road roughly the way we came. You remember in Part One I mentioned there would be more on Amboy? Well, this time we stopped there for a while. It is affectionately billed as “The Ghost Town that ain’t dead yet!” Situated along the old Route 66, back in the 1950s/60s it was a busy town with several cafés, two garages, a tyre shop, three motels, grocery store, church, post office, Highway Patrol station, and a railroad depot. Today, the railway still passes through—you should see the length of the trains—the post office is still around and just one café remains: the iconic Roy’s Café, which is also a “gas station”.

We bought the usual poster and t-shirt and posted a couple of cards in the post office. I could not resist a nose around. The motel is derelict, as is much of the area, but the reception is nicely preserved with its design evocative of the era it served. Much of the rear is fenced off, which was a pity since it denied access to some interesting classics, most of which had definitely seen better days. It was a little like those “Rust in Peace” articles you see in the classic car magazines. But rust doesn’t seem to have been invented here so let’s say they were “resting”. 
The two that struck me most were, to the left a Chrysler Imperial from 1955 and, to the right, a Packard Clipper from 1957. The Imperial (it did not actually bear the Chrysler name) came out as a 4-door sedan, a limousine and a 2-door hardtop coupé known as the Newport. It was powered by a 5.4 litre hemi V8 and boasted strange little “gunsight” tail lights. The Clipper also dropped its maker’s name (in 1956). Packard was then part of the Studebaker Corporation. Sadly, the writing was on the wall for this once great marque and, with dwindling sales and a lack of investment money, the Packard name ended in 1958.
Never mind!

Good cheer was not far away as Sue and I returned to Las Vegas for a few more fun-packed days. Don’t you just love the pink Caddy?

Neil Shanley