If you’re looking for a spring event that’s one part real-life automotive encyclopedia, and one part swap meet, you’d be hard pressed to find one more fun than the Rhinebeck Spring Dust Off. Organized by the Hudson River Valley Antique Auto Association, Rhinebeck is actually two cars shows in one, with hot rods and custom cars on Saturday, and unmodified classic and antique cars on Sunday. Situated on the east bank of the Hudson River in Duchess County, New York, the Rhinebeck event is perfectly located to attract cars from not only New England, but upstate New York and the northern Mid-Atlantic region. The 42nd Annual Rhinebeck Spring Swap Meet and Car Show will take place May 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the Duchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York, just a couple hours north of New York City.
If there is one thing that Rhinebeck always manages to deliver, it’s rare American cars from the 1960s and 1970s, automobiles that were offered for just one or two years and then promptly disappeared from our automotive landscape. That means rare station wagons that you’re unlikely to see even at marque gatherings (or anywhere else for that matter, except for period advertising), and one-year-only production models from brands that don’t even exist anymore. As if that wasn’t enough, Rhinebeck Spring can also surprise with rare foreign cars like a Renault, Citroen, or Tatra. Let’s take a look at some highlights from last year.
Built from 1971 till 1973, the design of the first-generation AMC Matador was actually considered to be quite anonymous at the time. The Matador premiered at a time when AMC was just getting ready to try new things, though the first-generation model was at its core a heavy restyle of the existing Ambassador, a fact which became self-evident when the Matador was viewed in profile. Despite AMC’s best efforts, the Matador sedan and wagon did not make a huge impact on the automotive scene of the time, and in 1974 the model was facelifted yet again. It was great to see this sharp example of the wagon, a model which one does not always find even at marque gatherings.
Another rare American wagon at Rhinebeck was this Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country. This model came from an era when the name Cross Country was associated not with a certain Goteborg-built wagon, but rather a Kenosha-built wagon. Produced for just two model years, 1965 and 1966, the third generation of the Rambler Classic featured straight-six and V8 engines, with the 5.4 liter V8 producing 270bhp.
A sedan that one does not see at every classic Mopar event, the fourth-generation Plymouth Savoy was only available for 1960 and 1961, before the model’s design was “reassessed.” Sales of the full-size Savoy had been declining for years before the fourth generation of the car went into production, and the nameplate lived on only for another four years until Chrysler decided to go in another direction. It was really special to see this car in person, as very few of them have survived.
Rhinebeck invariably manages to draw out some truly rare station wagons, so it was perhaps no surprise to come across this wonderful Edsel Villager. Some of you may remember a 1960 Edsel Villager Station Wagon that took part in 2010 Hemmings New England Concours d’Elegance when the event was held at Stratton Mountain, Vermont. While that Villager featured a hastily restyled front fascia, the one seen here has the front fascia that the first Edsels came with during the first two years of production. Always a treat to see these in person. This example bore a dealer badge of Central Motors or Pueblo, Colorado, beneath the rear hatch handle, a dealership that I believe no longer exists.
A rare car by any measure, this 1964 Imperial Crown Coupe was only available for only one model years with this styling. Speaking of which, if this car reminds you of the “Kennedy” Lincoln Continentals, that’s probably because Chrysler hired away Lincoln’s designer Elwood Engel, who promptly did away with what we now consider the hallmark Virgil Exner design cues. The 1964 Imperial Crows were available in sedan, coupe, and convertible forms. The following year the front fascia was once again redesigned, but it was more of a facelift than anything else. I can’t stress enough just how hard it is to find one of these now.
Now here’s a sedan that you just don’t see anymore, and in a color that you just don’t see anymore. You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a Lincoln Continental, the styling of this Chrysler New Yorker was quite similar to that of the Continental of the time. The eighth generation of the New Yorker was made from 1974 till 1978, and is hard to find today owing to the slow sales during the oil embargo years. It was a treat to see this example, which was still wearing original paint.
If you thought that most Desoto Firesweeps can only be found in Arizona in January, Rhinebeck featured this unrestored example of the Firesweep Sportsman. Made from 1957 till 1959, the Firesweep came in sedan, station wagon, and coupe form. Most examples of this model (which makes it sound like I’ve seen a lot of them, which is far from the case) are coupes, which is perhaps understandable given the car’s dramatic tailfins. So it was a real treat to see this four-door sedan, with what appeared to be original paint that had turned matte. But this example looked complete, and will hopefully be restored.
Another example of Chrysler’s now-rare Imperial brand, this time in sedan form. This 1958-only model was representative of the Forward Look styling introduced by Virgil Exner’s team. By this time Detroit had mastered the engineering approaches that allowed cars to be facelifted every year, and if there was one brand that fully took advantage of that ability, it was arguably Chrysler’s Imperial line. For almost every single year during the decade of the 1950s, the Imperial line featured different front fascia designs. Just a little over 16,000 Imperials were sold that year.
An example of a first-generation Chrysler Valiant, which was made from 1960 till 1962, this sedan appeared to be in great shape throughout. Another example of Virgil Exner’s Forward Look design language, in addition to the cars above, the Valiant was originally supposed be a standalone brand, though from 1961 onward the car sold under the Plymouth brand. The Valiant was originally conceived to be an import fighter, alongside GM’s Corvair. The unique Forward Look styling lasted only until 1962, when facelifted Valiant arguably started to resemble the Corvair. It was great to see this well-kept example.
Click here for a full photoset of Rhinebeck Spring Dust off 2012 on Flickr.