I Heard It Through The Grapevine: 1966 Excalibur

Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

Odd title, you’re wondering? As it turns out, this 1965 Excalibur was originally owned by the famous soul singer Marvin Gaye, who sang I Heard It Through The Grapevine among other great hits. Star provenance may or may not mean anything to you, but as this Excalibur is only showing 14,400 miles and is in remarkable condition, I thought you might like seeing it anyway. We heard it through the grapevine that it’s located in Greve, Denmark and is being offered here on eBay for a buy it now of $64,500 or best offer.

No, an Excalibur is not a kit car! Based on Corvette and Studebaker mechanical components, Brooks Stevens designed the Excalibur to be reminiscent of a Mercedes SSK from the late 1920s. They were manufactured in Wisconsin to a very high standard, and were really the first “old new” car that eventually developed into the neo-classic trend. The company still exists today, owned by a lady that part of the original company. They no longer produce cars and instead concentrate on restoring old Excaliburs and supplying parts.

The seller tells us that the car was originally silver, but gives the impression that Mr. Gaye had the car repainted in it’s current green and white striking colors. I’m not sure I’d be willing to drive it much with that huge trunk on the back, but you have to admit it makes a statement!

For some unknown reason, someone replaced the original gauges with these, but the original ones come with the car. By the way, that’s an automatic shifter, not a manual. Excalibur built 87 SSK roadsters in 1966, so this is really one of few. As a matter of fact, they only built around 3,500 cars period, despite being in production off and on from 1965 to around 1995.

The seller says that there are some small holes in the exhaust system and that this is the only flaw in the car. I’ve always wondered why they went with three pipes per side despite having V8 engines–I suppose it was to duplicate the original SSKs pipes, but I would have thought that four would be better for breathing. So what do you think? While the car isn’t really a survivor due to the color change, it is representative of what the original owner did with the car. Would you like to have this mighty sword to drive? And does it matter to you who the first owner was?

 

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Oh, one more, this is important. In the mid-70’s, I delivered auto paint and supplies in Milwaukee, and I delivered paint to the Excalibur facility in West Allis, Wis. I got to know the folks in the paint dept. and they let me walk about freely, seeing the cars being built ( by hand) through the various stages. I just remember how clean everything was.( and the Corvette motors in crates stacked to the ceiling) Great people. The woman Jamie mentions, is Alice Preston. Although I never met her, she was THE kingpin for Excalibur. She was/is the head mechanic, and was with Mr. Stevens from the beginning. Although, semi-retired now, she still has a huge interest in Excaliburs, and maintains a registry of all the cars ever produced. She also keeps an active inventory of parts to keep them on the road. Something like 2/3rds the original owners still have their cars. She was devastated to hear 2 Excaliburs were lost due to “Cash for Clunkers”, can you believe somebody would crush one of these? She would have bought them for parts.( and does) Lots of famous people had Excaliburs, Bill Cosby, Dick Van Dyke, Steve McQueen, Jackie Gleason ( Marvin Gaye wasn’t mentioned, but I believe this was his car, and I think he had a white one as well), and Phyllis Diller, probably the biggest spokesperson, had 4. I’m proud to say, I had a small part in the making of these magnificent cars. Great piece here.
    https://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hcc/2014/01/Alice-Preston/3733491.html

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    • Howard A Member

      Lost 7 cars to “CforC”, not 2.

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    • Old school

      This car would’ve been too old for cash for clunkers. The oldest car would’ve been a 1997 and then there was a mileage stipulation also.

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      • Howard A Member

        Hi Old school. From what I read, it was cars less than 25 years old from when the program began in 2009,( and combined mileage of less than 18 mpg’s) which would make 1985 the last one.( I think) Excalibur was made through 1989, so 7 were destroyed.

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    • Larry K

      Great story Howard…(wipes away tear).

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  2. Myron Vernis

    This is #73 and I own #74. Mine has similar low mileage but is all original down to the Goodyear Polyglas tires. I’m not totally in love with all the cosmetic mods on this one but they totally work with the Marvin Gaye connection. These cars are remarkably fast and fun to drive.

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  3. leiniedude

    Cool car, I never knew they were built in West Allis or that they had Corvette motors. The trunk looks a little out of scale and the STP sticker seems out of place. Myself, I wouldn’t care if Santa Claus owned it as far as pricing. Interesting find, thanks Jamie.

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  4. Kevin

    Originally the Studebaker SS show car designed to boost the company’s image along with the Avanti. When the board declined to put it into production Stevens took it private and began production. Frames were purchased from Avanti Motors who were taken private by Newman & Altman.

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  5. Ronebee

    this is one of my “must have” cars at some point. Personally, I like a later one with a big block, although the earlier cars are really true sports cars

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  6. Fred W.

    For some reason these look a lot better than the many kit car examples that followed. Howard, what paint brand did they use? Seems like a limited production mfr. like this one would have an “only the best will do” attitude.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi Fred, back then, ( ’74-’75) they used “Acme” paint ( I know, they’ve heard all the coyote jokes) Truth be known, it seemed all auto paints were pretty close, DuPont was the biggie for years, but it was more salesmanship, and the salesman for our company, was a man named Bill Faust. He always drove a Lincoln, and could sell air conditioners to the Eskimo’s. He was kind of a shyster, and we never asked how he got a big account like Excalibur. Tell you what, Bill insisted they were always 1st on the run. It was our biggest account.

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  7. grant

    Didn’t they used to advertise these in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics?

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  8. Woodie Man

    These leave me cold despite their hand built nature. Maybe its the mishmash of Thirties styling cues with proportions that seem wrong to my eye. Windshield too high, headlights too big etc… On the other hand if Myron Vernis owns one I must be wrong! 🙂

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  9. Gazzer

    One belonging to Tony Curtis was on Ebay UK last week for a lot more money, if memory serves.

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  10. Bingo

    I pissed in the drivers side of one of these as a kid in the doctors lot of Unity hospital In fridley, Minnesota. I was jealous of that doctor, the urine was yellow.

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    • Old Ed

      Ha! I had a friend who’s Druggist dad drove his restored Model A convertible coupe to work and some kid would come by on a daily basis and pee on Mr. Newton’s radiator grill. Fed up, Mr. Newton hooked up a wet-cell and eventually gave that kid a zap to remember!
      Personally, while reading this BF article, I was remembering this bit of history.
      On September 14, 1927, dancer Isadora Duncan is strangled in Nice, France, when the enormous silk scarf she is wearing gets tangled in the rear hubcaps of her open car. (“Affectations,” said Gertrude Stein when she heard the news of Duncan’s death, “can be dangerous.”)

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      • Woodie Man

        Which led Alice B. Toklas to eat another brownie.

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  11. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    This is finished to a much higher degree on the details than some. I have seen a couple with VW tail lights and front signal lights.

    Brooks was the Man.

    The Excalibur has always been run by people who were passionate about the dream shared by Brook.

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  12. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Those headlights were Federally mandated to have sealed beams, the size of the bowls, dictated by other things.

    Back Around the mid 40’s, Jaguar had to reload their headlights with the new sealed beam. Picture a 7″ sealed beam unit ensconced in a P80/100 series light. They look ridiculous and the conversion was cheesy in quality as it appeared to be dealer inflicted.

    Even more ironic is the cost they sell for on EBay as they are missing most of the parts they need to be converted back, as no one buys them to keep stock, yet are priced as completely restorable, meaning pricey units.

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  13. Avanti II

    I met Ms. Preston while visiting her restoration/parts facility here in Milwaukee. Wonderful person, lots of great stories! (Scored a rare NOS model kit from her – unbuilt – of an Excalibur!) I always have had a soft spot for Excaliburs after running into Brooks Stevens many times at the Chez Paul restaurant in Thiensville, WI. He almost always drove an Excalibur to dinner. (Of course, if I had my own car company, I’d drive one of my cars as well.) Only questionable choice on the early series cars was the use of VW Beetle lights; I never liked those. Lights used to cost a fortune to tool up, and Excalibur was in good company with other boutique manufacturers repurposing lights from other cars, but I would have preferred a more inspired choice.

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    • Myron Vernis

      I totally agree with the comment about VW tail lights. The good news is that they were not used on the Series 1 cars. I’ve attached a photo of my car. The tail lights were integral units with the license plate lights. There were no lights on the fenders.

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      • Ronebee

        what a great car! Enjoy it

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      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Love the car, Mr. Vernis! Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    I agree with you Avanti II, surprised as there were a variety of aftermarket suppliers for Brit cars that could have been pressed into service.

    I do wonder though, as this would be easy and make sense, if the aftermarket parts suppliers, not being the original mfg, meant the part they made wasn’technically legal as THAT MFG, didn’t make it originally.

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  15. wcastor

    The reason for only 3 pipes out the side was that the original Excalibur had a Studebaker Avanti engine, and they had siamesed center ports for the exhaust, so only three were needed.

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  16. Avanti

    The three pipes were a concession to style and the Benzs they were patterned after, but added to both sides, unlike the Benz. Yes, Stude engines have center siamesed ports BUT if you look at the Excalibur fabbed exhaust headers you’ll see that the head ports and the exhaust ports that come out the sides do not even remotely line-up.

    Btw, most people have no idea what was or wasn’t original on Series 1 cars (late ’64-’69) since so many have been modified over the last 50+ years, including my own doorless car that spent its life in Europe (the only one of many ending up there that I’ve found to have been repatriated).

    Also, the only Series 1 that the factory made with non-stardard sealed-beams was the Stude prototype which was later changed to production pieces, as was the split windshield, etc. on the prototype as originally built.

    I have spent considerable time researching the doorless cars (97 of them) since sitting in a fellow college-student’s father’s in 1967. By the way this is mine…

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