Once upon a time, the San Francisco Chronicle was a real newspaper and it employed an enormously popular gossip columnist, the late, great Herb Caen. Caen’s column was the first thing most Chronicle readers turned to, Yrs Trly included, upon opening the paper.
Herb Caen and his “loyal Royal”. Caen pounded his column out daily on his Royal typewriter even after computers took over the newsroom.
Herb Caen, as he noted above in his column, drove a “Mazda-rati”, as Yrs Trly currently does. However, Caen’s was of the Wankel variety. In his column, Caen notes the closing of Playland-at-the-Beach, which faced the Pacific on the north western edge of San Francisco. A Safeway supermarket and a condo development sit now on much of the land Playland once occupied.
After the Transamerica Pyramid. Bank of America tower and Hyatt Regency were built, the San Francisco skyline logo at the top of Caen’s column changed to reflect the new buildings, the Transamerica Pyramid comically tilted.
Caen once noted in his column that a reader had tipped him off to the fact that a supermarket in Chico, CA stocked Velveeta Cheese in the gourmet foods section of the store. Thereafter, if Caen referred to Chico or to California State University-Chico, he usually referred to the town as “Velveetaville” and the school as “Velveeta U”. Ever since then, Yrs Trly has thought of Chico and Cal State-Chico by the monikers given them by Herb Caen.
Yrs Trly noted at the Bring-a-Trailer website that there was to be a Concours at the Butte Creek Country Club just south of
Velveetaville Chico on Saturday, 24 August. Ah! Ha! A perfect excuse to take the Mazda-rati up CA 99 to see what iron might be on the lawn of the Country Club.
Yrs Trly’s “Mazda-rati” – a Grand Touring model with a six speed MANUAL transmission, thank you. No automatics (unless it’s in a ’56 Packard) for Yrs Trly!
Arriving at the Butte Creek Country Club, Yrs Trly was astonished at the exotic iron on display! First in sight was a ’58 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster. The Benz appears to be original and unrestored.
Next in the line of sight was a ’65 Porsche 356 SC.
… and another Porsche 356 C:
… then a Citroën 2CV named “Poubelle” – “Trash Can” (the correct spelling of the French won’t fit on the California Vanity license plate.)
Next, we were treated to an Alfa and an Austin Healey 3000:
We were very pleasantly surprised to find there a ’41 Graham Supercharged Hollywood:
We posted a story about the Graham Supercharged Hollywood in a recent Gear Head Tuesday. There was one other Graham, a ’32, at the show but Yrs Trly didn’t take a photo of it. It was difficult to take photos – we were using the iPhone, it was 102º, the sun was glaring and we couldn’t see the screen in the sun to get a proper set up for the images. Near the Graham was another rare car, a ’47 Frazer Manhattan.
1947 Frazer Manhattan – the inaugural year for the marque. A 1932 Graham is in the background to the reader’s left of the Frazer.
The dealer frame on the Frazer’s license plate hails from Lafayette, Indiana.
You may recall from our history of Kaiser-Frazer that Joseph Frazer had taken over Graham and that became the nucleus of the newly-launched Kaiser-Frazer after the end of World War II. Thus it seems to Yrs Trly that it was fitting that the Graham and the Frazer were near each other on the lawn.
Nearby was a very nice ’54 Mercury hardtop:
“Back in my day, son, cars had REAL taillights!”
Yrs Trly never would have guessed that he would find a ’57 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham on display in Velveetaville. Only 400 of these very exclusive Cadillacs were built for their inaugural model year. For the price of one Eldorado Brougham, you could have bought both a ’57 Cadillac Biarritz and Seville from the regular production Cadillac line, the Biarritz being somewhat limited in production itself. The Eldorado Brougham was Cadillac’s response to the Continental Mark II. No doubt this small but prestigious market would have been the target of Packard’s mid-’50s V-12 project.
There were Ferraris and Lamborghinis there that we didn’t photograph but an Italian car that DID catch our eye was this Zagato-bodied Lancia Flaminia Super Sport:
As is the case with the Alfa pictured further above, the engine of this Lancia is a piece of jewelry. Sun glare prevented Yrs Trly from getting a better image of the engine.
The styling of this Lancia isn’t as appealing to Yrs Trly as another Zagato-bodied Lancia (front excepted) currently up for auction at Bring-a-Trailer, but it caught our eye because it wasn’t expected in this venue and, anyway, when was the last time you saw a Lancia of any description?
Yrs Trly was happy to find a Packard there, a ’34 Super Eight. Many Packard aficionados consider the ’34s to be the pinnacle of the Classic Era Packards:
Above – The Goddess of Speed. Note that the headlamps are shaped to echo the shape of that famous Packard grille.
Appropriately enough, the Packard has a 1934 California license plate.
It was a grand pleasure to see all of these cars, but to the eyes of Yrs Trly, the crème de la crème, and most unexpected car of all at this concours, was a 1962 Ghia-Chrysler, a rebirth of the Dual-Ghias built between 1956 – 1958.
Eugene Casaroll formed Dual Motors in Detroit to build an exclusive car at a “reasonable” price. The Virgil Exner design was based on a Chrysler show car, the Firearrow, powered by a Dodge Red Ram Hemi V-8 with power transmitted by a two-speed PowerFlite automatic transmission.
Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden and Desi Arnez bought Dual-Ghias as did (of all people!) Vice-President Richard Nixon.
The Ghia-Chrysler is fitted with ’56 California plates, though the car is a ’62. The ’56 plates are likely a hat tip to the first year of the original Dual-Ghia.
Fitted luggage with leather matching the interior of the Ghia-Chrysler.
The rear of the ’62 Ghia-Chrysler has themes seen on other Mopars: the taillights are akin to the ’61 Dodge, but are more attractive because they aren’t included in the horrid fins that were used on the ’61 Dodge. The rear window and “C” pillar shape is seen again on the ’64 Barracuda and the lights on either side of the license plate are very similar to those of the ’62 Plymouths.
The Ghia-Chrysler started out to be the second generation of the original Dual-Ghia that had been snapped up by Sinatra and fellow Rat Packers. While the “Glitterati” loved the original Dual-Ghia, by 1962 they were ready for something new. The original owner of Dual Motors, Gene Casseroll, was pressed into producing the replacement. Casseroll started the project but then backed out leaving Ghia alone with the plans. Ghia, sensing the need, produced 27 cars over two years. They called it the Ghia L 6.4, the 6.4 referring to the size (in liters) of the Chrysler 383 engine that powered this beautiful car. It is thought that 17 of the 27 remain.
This particular car was Ghia’s New York Auto Show car for 1962. After the show, the car was sold to a devout Ghia enthusiast, a Mr. Berman in Pennsylvania. Thus this car went into the hands of a serious collector immediately after the 1962 New York Auto Show.
Because of its history the car remains in excellent original condition, having been driven only 29,000 miles from new. It is finished in its original dark metallic blue paint with a white leather interior that includes four pieces of matching fitted luggage behind the front bucket seats. It is equipped with factory air conditioning. Of the remaining 17 of the Ghia-Chryslers, it is likely that none of the others are as original as this one.
This Ghia-Chrysler is now in the Ramshead Collection in Sacramento, owned by a man who grew up in his father’s Dodge dealership in New York.
If we had seen no other car, the trip to
Velveetaville Chico would have been worth it just to see the ’62 Ghia-Chrysler, a car Herb Caen would have appreciated. Yrs Trly thinks that Herb Caen would be OK with us no longer referring to Chico as (ahem) Velveetaville.
You can see the Ghia-Chrysler at:
The Ramshead Collection
1500 N. Market Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95834
Gary E., one of the organizers of the Chico Concours writes:
“We long-termers in Chico rather take delight in “Velveetaville”. Herb Caen actually was invited to Chico and was hosted by a bevy of CSUC Sorority Girls and others who saw to it that he had a VERY good time. He spoke glowingly of our little town after that.”
For the Bring-a-Trailer readers at >>THIS THREAD<< :