1979 Excalibur Series III Phaeton

454

Matt Garrett - Dallas Texas

 

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1979 Excalibur Series III Phaeton 454. Chassis 797148. #148 out of 340!
Click here for High Resolution Engine Photos with the Cowl Removed!
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1979 Excalibur Series III Phaeton 454. Chassis 797148. #148 out of 340!  The Excalibur is possibly one of the most misunderstood cars ever.  When I was young in the 70’s and these cars were new, I thought them to be some sort of kit car.  Although I could never afford one then, it was never a car I gave too much thought too or had any desire in owning one.  We all wanted that Muscle Car or Corvette.  Well come to know, we should have wanted one of these instead.  Even knowledgeable car people today make this same mistake and overlook the Excalibur as a truly incredible car.  It took me a many years in the car hobby with lots of experience under my belt to actually open my mind up enough mess with these and really gain an appreciation for what Brooks Stevens and the Excalibur Car Company put into their work.   There were basically 5 series of the Excalibur built from the 60’s to the 90s.  A full history can be viewed on some of my links here.  There is so much misinformation by sheer ignorance on these cars on the net, in ads, etc it’s hard to get a good grasp on what the car is.  Some of the links above will give the proper history of the cars.  The Series III to me is the best as it combines a little more refinement than the earlier versions and 1979 was the last year for a real motor in the car.  Thus I have a 1979.  The Series III looks good, drives good, is a very powerful and capable car beyond what anyone that has never experienced an Excalibur would imagine.

 The Excalibur is no kit car.  It is a turn key VERY expensive car built by the 5th largest US car manufacturer in the day.  In today's world and dollars, a car like this would exceed 200K to produce and sell profitably.  We will probably never see another hand built car like this.  Although the total of all Series of Excaliburs built from 1965 to 1989 is only 3166, The Excalibur SS Car Company was still the 5th largest US car manufacturer. The Excalibur is quite a marvel combining power, handling and a chassis that the best modern car builder would have a tough time making better.  Its no factory car built into this.  It’s a hand build coachbuilder frame that is the best ever done in its day and possibly still to this day on a car like this.  Forget the neo classic /exotic looks, underneath it all, this is a real car unlike cars like Zimmer, Gazelle, Clenet and the other cheap built neo classic type cars just built out of junk for quick looks.   This Series III uses the Corvette 454 engine TH400 transmission full independent Corvette suspension and big block differential, 4 wheel 4 piston Corvette Disk Brakes, etc all incorporated into the Excalibur frame…. See a pattern here.  I collect Corvettes and this is essentially a Corvette!  The difference is the Excalibur has a frame and chassis 10 times better than the Corvette could ever wish for.  It’s a solid machine!  The side exhausts are REAL, not fake.  The car has an air compressor/air horn system that would rival a Nathan Air Chime sitting on top of a locomotive.  It’s impressive and will deafen someone 500 ft away!   The car has an AC system that even a new corvette probably cannot compete with.  The car has 3 heater cores, 2 under each seat to let you stay warm while the top is down.  Even heated seats today do not compare. There are so many good points to talk about with the Excalibur it would take all day to do so.   Any car built by the Excalibur motor car company is truly a car that should not ever be overlooked by collectors.  Not only are they quite rare, they are not some cheap presumed “kit car” either.   The Series III offers the best of both worlds.  The Series IV that came out in 1980 had some good improvements over the series III, but the let downs were the fact the cars used a tiny 305, the rest of the drive train hardware was wimped out and the side exhausts were now fake.  All cars were done this way in the 80s due to emissions.  Excalibur was not immune although they got away from 74-79 without having to comply with the rest of the US.  The Series III was really the last non catalyst real muscle car built in the US all the way to 1979.  Ironically the Series IV today have a little higher value than a Series III even though they have horrid drive trains.   Probably because the cars are still so misunderstood is the only real logic behind that.  The series IV are nice though, they just require a entire drive train swap to be a world class car.  A worthy project should one attempt.  The Series III does not need this and is ready to go as it was. 

This biggest problem with the Series II-III Excalibur to me is the use of its tail lights.  VW bug.  I would say that this was inventor Brooks Stevens’ single biggest mistake in building the car.  It has been said that they were forced to use these lights by DOT but if he would have strapped two Eveready flash lights to the back of the car using duct tape to mount them, the car would probably have more of a following and respect today.  Any light on earth would have been better for such a well built expensive car.  VW Bug… Come on…. In 1979 every 6th car on the road had this tail light and no one wanted it on their 30K+ Excalibur!   Because of this tail light, for years I was certain the Excalibur to be some sort of VW kit type car.  If I thought that, what is the rest of the world thinking about the Excalibur?  If only Brooks Stevens had thought that one through a little better, possibly the company would still be building today!  Even though my car still has original VW tail lights, I have made covers for them to alter that cheap car look.  Not the best but a 1000% improvement.  Excalibur should have done this too. One of the other problems with the Excalibur were the colors.  Most were plagued with the dreaded colors never to put on a collector car.  Golds, browns, creams and greens.   Although that may be common of the 70s, it’s the kiss of death to a good collector car today.  You want that nostalgic 70s car, but you do not want that nostalgic 70s color.  Hypocrites I say…. Me included.  Also the paint on the Excalibur was good for the day, but looking at the best low mile original may put some distaste in your mouth.   You just forgot what any original car of that era looked like new as you are now so accustomed to your robotic painted cars.  Being that this is my second Excalibur, it took 9 years to find this car from my first.  My first was a cream/brown.  I wanted to paint it a good color but this is no ordinary car to do that with THE RIGHT WAY, so I sold it to find a better color already done.    This red car was not red either.  I do not think there was ever an original red series III.  My perfect low mile example here was the horrid cream, but cream is a good color to change from.  

With that said and the fact it took 9 years for me to find one that I thought worthy of taking to a higher level, I have seen many Excaliburs in my trials.  I even passed up a 120 mile one known as the lowest mile example on earth before I bought this one.  It was not near what this red car was and I paid more for the red car than I could the 120 mile one.  Needless to say that 120 mile car was a cream car and needed a total color change too. In my trials I have come to determine that even the best Excaliburs are in some mild state of disarray with the biggest problem being under the hood.  No Excalibur I have ever seen is really what I consider to be really nice show condition car due to the poor under hood condition.   Problem is the hood are louvered and the crowd that went after these cars new could not be convinced that the cars were not really a good all weather car.  I remember seeing these things driven in the rain all the time in the 70s.  The engines would get wet and because of that they look extremely pre aged.  A 5K mile Excalibur could look as bad as a 200K mile regular car under the hood. Then the owner would get the bright idea of taking a “can-o-rebuild” to the engine and over spraying everything to the point the motor needs a total take down to make right again.  NOT EASY in these cars. 

Yes this car I have here is a 9K mile perfect Series III.  Possibly the best complete package example of a Series III on earth to date.  To take that a step further, one of the proudest points of this car is the paint job.  Not only was the car taken apart 100%, painted to Concourse levels 10 times beyond what these cars were new, the work was done by none other than the Excalibur car company themselves in the 90’s!  This was well over 12K of work put into a car that needed nothing at the time and was done just to remedy the 70s cream color and bring the car to a level beyond any as new while doing so.  This is all documented by Excalibur.   The common overspray on parts that were original to these cars was not done this time around.  This car was painted in pieces thus putting it at a level very few Series IIIs have ever seen or may ever see again.

 The other thing that I mentioned that I have never seen on an Excalibur is a true finished product engine bay.  The example here is beyond any Excalibur under the hood, or suspension too.  It’s at a concourse level #1.  The engine compartment has been painstakingly detailed while adding a few non intrusive bolt ons that allow this big 70s oval port 454 to produce about 400HP.  It has an aluminum intake, thus knocking 90 lbs off the weight while gaining big HP from that change, period factory corvette chrome big block valve covers and a few other little plus items.   All this was done keeping everything original with original integrity down to the Q-jet, cruise control, air pump, etc. The other thing this car has is real side exit exhaust, a sound that is incredible to a toy car like this.  Originally the exhaust went all the way back to meet US EPA standards and noise regulations, but still used the functional side pipes as the primaries.   Right after the Series I, Excalibur was forced to put a rear exit muffler on the car.  This was just a gas tank heater if you know these cars.  I had one of the best guys in the country unhook the rear section but still leave the original rear muffler in its tucked away position, then convert the car to a side exit, the way they were in the beginning.   This 454 has a sound that gets as much respect as the condition and looks of the car itself.  Great sound as the the primary pipes have mufflers in them from Excalibur and were the same pipes used on the original side exit cars.  I would say this is the single best thing to do with any of these series II and III cars and save your car from heat damage from that rear muffler while doing so.  Who wants a car that looks like this that cannot be heard a little!  Its not loud but you know its there.

 The correct stripe white walls are another proper finish out.  They are not vintage tires although I have the 6 original Goodyear Polysteels.… 2 are still on the spares.  The car now has Z rated tires that are oversized.   Z rated white walls????  I had them built from Goodyear RSA police 235/70 15 tires by the Diamond Back tire company.   They handle better than anything you could put on the big original and optional 15x8” wires and still look correct.  I highly recommend tires like these for any of your vintage cars if money is not of big concern.   It really makes them worth driving and beats having the wrong looking tire on your collector car. 

This is really a good car not to even have to write 1 word about as the photos should speak for themselves.  Being that the Excalibur is so rare,  I have tried to cover what one of these cars consists of just as an information link more than anything.   As for you collectors, an Excalibur is always a nice addition to have with your other cars whether you have 2 or 25.  You might find that it will work itself into a higher position towards your favorite than you ever thought possible.   The Excalibur is by no means a great daily driver as so many of the non car-fluent elite bought into in its day.  However the Excalibur is just about the perfect toy car combining looks, power, handling, reliability and future investment potential.   If you are in the market for an Excalibur, I would go as far as saying that this Series III is the template of which all of the other Series III should follow to be as best car possible.   Look high, look low, I am confident this is the king of the Series III Excaliburs with the credentials to back it up.

 

Incredible Front Grille and Period Badges.  Notice the big "W" Vintage Headlamps too!  Not cheap stuff here.

Excalibur after Dallas Christmas Parade.  Car was televised nationally, 12/2009.

 

You will not see many people take a photo of the back of a Series III because of the poor use of tail lamps.  Here is the solution.

Hand built custom made steel tail lamp covers.  This is a good mask of the VW tail lamp while no alteration to the car.  The "SS" is the early Excalibur SS Logo.

 

Side Shot with the Massive Goodyear Z rated tires custom built by Diamondback.

 

Excalibur Optional Wheels are Custom made Dayton 15x8.  6 of them.

Series III and Series IV.  As a comparison, the Series III is superior in terms of substance, power, driving, etc, the Series IV is a bit more flashy.

454 with functional side exhaust.

 

2008 Dallas Autorama Best In Class (1st Place) Winner

Period Correct Corvette "454" emblem discreetly placed on the cowl.

Alloy Cowl.  Under side is highly Polished on this car.

The 454 with the Cowl Removed.

9 VDO Gauge System.  Quality Stuff!

Connolly Leather.  They say its good, but it always ages fast... Just not on this car.

9 VDO Gauge system!  Quality stuff.

Trans Am Ratchet Shifter.  SS Emblem in center for Excalibur SS.

Below, Rear suspension control.  Raise the car with this off the air system.  Works perfect!

Nice non intrusive Alpine with Alpine MP3 Disk Changer too.  Not an aftermarket fan, but in this car, this is nice.

Massive Excalibur Frame and High Detail Undercarriage.  Even new they were not this way.

Massive Excalibur Frame and High Detail Undercarriage.  No normal production car on earth has a frame like this. Good Stuff!

Displayed on Red Carpet after 1st Place Dallas Autorama Win 2008

Displayed on Red Carpet after 1st Place Dallas Autorama Win 2008

Displayed on Red Carpet after 1st Place Dallas Autorama Win 2008

Rock Guards installed Below and side exhaust!

Above, custom made Tail Lamp cover with early Excalibur SS logo in.

 

Custom made front Excalibur Plate.  Well it is a Series IV, but good enough.  454 GM Emblem.

 

 

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