Designed by none other than the legendary Brooks Stevens as a "halo car" for the Studebaker-Packard Corporation and displayed at the 1964 New York Auto Show, the Excalibur has become a legend in its own time. Based loosely on the immortal Mercedes SS (Super Sport) and SSK (Super Sport Kurz) models, the Excalibur mesmerized people 50 years ago, wows them today, and will certainly attract them another 50 years down the road.
One of only 44 SS models built for the year, the '69 Excalibur Phaeton featured here, VIN *6052*, has lived a sheltered life. A California resident from new, it has traveled a mere 16,233 miles during the past 46 years and still carries its California blue-and-yellow license plates, front and back.
Like the Mercedes SS/K, the Excalibur features a huge, upright radiator grille, with the sword instead of the three-pointed-star as a mascot. In the early days, people would sometimes mount a Mercedes star in place of the sword, making the original mascot all the more difficult to find. Also borrowed from the Mercedes is the huge, center-mounted spotlight that turns with the wheels!
A car of many facets, the Excalibur can be driven topless, either completely open or with the full length tonneau cover mounted. The latter features a zipper down the center, allowing just the driver to be exposed while the remainder of the interior is protected from the elements.
In case of inclement weather, the car can be driven fully enclosed, with the full convertible top up and the side curtains -- with mail slots -- in place. Not that it ever rains in Southern California . . .
Our favorite configuration, and the way the Monkeemobile was set up, would be with the convertible top up but without the side curtains for an airy feel, yet protected from the sun.
Two-tone paint in jaw-dropping diamond blue with anthracite fenders presents soul-stirringly handsome; all brightwork remains in fetchingly attractive condition as well.
Nesting in a spotlessly clean engine compartment and easily accessible via removable alloy panels is the Excalibur's original 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L69 High Performance engine of 327 cu.in. displacement. With 300 horsepower on tap, the factory claims it's powerful enough to catapult the 2,100 lbs. car from 0-60mph in a mere 5.4 seconds and to continue all the way to a top speed of 134mph.
And that was forty-six years ago!
The engine is as healthy as you'd expect it from a super low mileage unit, with no issues or ill behavior of any kind to report. Note the unique, boxed exhaust manifolds dumping the spent gases into the functional side pipes, whoses flexible sections were sourced directly in Germany from Mercedes-Benz's original manufacturer. As a result, the uniquely reverberating Excalibur soundtrack has a lot in common with a supercharged Mercedes' Wagnerian leitmotiv -- it's pure, unadulterated sonic ecstasy for every gearhead's ears!
The no-nonsense cockpit is dominated by a blissfully nice 4-spoke volant. Excalibur features power steering and power brakes, with discs up front.
Instruments and switchgear were sourced from Studebaker's parts bins.
Shift duties are performed by a B-W automatic transmission, operated by the unique and -- back then -- state-of-the-art Pontiac GTO His & Hers gated shifter, allowing for safe, manual gear changes as desired.
Backside-cradlingly comfy front bucket seats are in "as new" condition. Yes, there are original lap belts installed.
If you thought a Rolls Royce Phantom provides the ultimate leg room for rear passengers, you haven't been the lucky backseat occupant in an Exalibur Phaeton yet.
Quite similar in looks to a Morgan Plus Eight, the Phaeton features a rear-mounted chrome wire wheel spare and a functional, chromed luggage rack. While later Excaliburs had to make do with the ungainly, DOT-mandated, late-model VW Beetle taillights, the Series One came with these eye-pleasing, vintage-looking Spitfire lamps.
Note the top's crystal clear rear window.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Above photos show the undercarriage in more detail.
Wednesday, September 2, turned out to be a lovely late summer day here in our old Mission town San Buenaventura. We took the Excalibur out for a drive through the Ventura Hills and had a blast!
You'd think that a big roadster like the Excalibur would be hard to handle, but the truth is far from it. The brutish-looking car starts instantly at the turn of the key, idles smoothly, and performs like a C2 Corvette, minus the latter's rattling and flexing. The car has recently been fitted with a brand new set of true knock-off (not bolt-on) chrome wire wheels and radial tires.
Note retina-pleasing details like the quadruple air horns, tan leather strap securing the hood, and metal stone guards protecting the headlamps.
All gauges work (apart from the clock), oil pressure is excellent, coolant temperature always stays where it's supposed to be, there's no smoking or leaking. Stab the loud pedal, and staggering acceleration will reset your equilibrium. When it comes time to throw out the anchor, the big, power-assisted brakes make short work of it.
Returning home, we wax philosophically about our Excalibur experience. Literally the first "retro look" car that made it into successful production -- the Stevens brothers' Excalibur manufacture in Milwaukee, Wisconsin turned out exactly 359 Series One cars between 1965 and 1969 -- it strikes us as an incredible bargain in today's collector car world. Excalibur went on to produce ever more elaborate and heavy cars for another three decades, but these first, lightweight and pure specimen are a true delight to own, drive, and show.
A car designed to look like a classic, pre-war 1928 Mercedes that, 50 years later, has become a classic in its own right. With South Bend and Detroit reliability, finely hand-made by American craftsmen, an Excalibur makes quite a statement. You will be hard-pressed to find a nicer low-mileage original on the market, so here's a golden opportunity to secure such a "Classic's Classic" today.
We sold this '69 Excalibur in October of 2015.