They All Can’t Be Winners: 1981 Moselle Roadster

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Nostalgia can be a powerful drug.  All of us who are either writing, editing, or reading Barn Finds have to confess that nostalgia is a powerful motivator for our love of older forms of transportation.  However, is nostalgia a good idea for a car company?  Do throwback design cues make a car look better when added to the design, or does it just create a dog’s breakfast of design disasters?  This 1981 Moselle roadster for sale on Craigslist in Vancouver, British Columbia is a retro-styled roadster built on modern underpinnings.  While designed to compete with the Excalibur, does this oddly styled roadster appeal to anyone’s sense of balance and taste?  At $31,500 (maybe Canadian dollars) in price, is there a buyer out there for this 13,800 km automobile?  Thanks to Tony P. for this unusual find!

So, what is a Moselle?  That is a tough question.  The internet doesn’t remember Moselle Specialty Cars Incorporated in Woodland Hills, California very much other than a few legal filings.  From what can be gathered from ads and what is written in old for-sale ads for these cars, they are an actual production automobile and not a kit car.  The company was formed to produce neo-classic automobiles using as many off-the-shelf parts as possible.  Like the Excalibur, the car’s styling inspiration was the prewar Mercedes SS convertible.  While the Excalibur was no styling tour de force, the Moselle was a hodgepodge of classic styling cues that didn’t seem to mesh well.  Evidence also points to this vehicle not being a sales success.  We don’t hear much about the Moselle for this reason, although the $37,500 base price when new was surely a contributing factor.

As the Clenet and the Excalibur’s long production runs proved that there is a market out there for such vehicles, it is hard to imagine there are enough customers out there to make this a segment of the market worth fighting over.  Perhaps these companies weren’t going after the average American.  In doing research for the article I wrote earlier this month about an Excalibur, a source mentioned the popularity of such vehicles with celebrities.  Comedienne Phyllis Diller, for example, was a huge Excalibur fan.  One of the ads I found about this Moselle mentioned that Rich Little, also a comedian, owned one of these cars.  It seems that getting any attention is good for business.  If not, then you would hear about celebrity-owned brown Volvo sedans more often.  Remember that this is the era of the supermarket tabloid.  It was common to see an “on the street” shot of a celebrity and their ride.

Looking carefully at this Moselle you can see several parts that were inspired by or blatantly lifted from other automobiles.  The exhaust pipes emanating from the hood are copies of those on a Mercedes SSK but also used on the Cord 812, Supercharged Auburns, and Duesenberg SJs and SSJs.  The exposed horns are identical to 1935 Ford horns and may have been purchased as reproductions from vintage Ford parts houses.  I am not sure where the grilles in the fenders came from, but they look like air vents from a home supply store.  Up front, the grille is a copy of the one on the aforementioned Mercedes.  Some accounts have these cars with a Mercedes hood ornament on them from the factory.  This one wears a close facsimile of a Packard swan.  Mercedes has a reputation for protecting its intellectual property.  Perhaps the German company’s lawyers descended upon Woodland Hills…

The unanswered question is what chassis the car is based upon.  The passenger cabin’s shape and door handles are reminiscent of a Mazda pickup of that era.  However, this is a convertible and there is a 302 cubic-inch Ford V-8 under the hood.  Some Moselles left the factory with 2.3 liter four-cylinder Ford powerplants, so logic would dictate that this was built on a body-on-frame chassis that Ford produced during that era.  All I can think of is the Ranger and F-150 pickups.  Given that the driver was eleven feet from the front bumper when behind the steering wheel, there certainly had to be extensions welded on.  If you have a guess as to what chassis was used here, please write it in the comments.

While these cars aren’t going to be displayed at any art museums any time soon, this is a perfect candidate for winning a prize at Radwood.  Like anything else where humans compete, even the relaxed atmosphere of getting together eighties and nineties cars for a good-natured show is currently devolving into a money war.  One of these unusual and rare roadsters would definitely draw attention.  With a V-8 under the hood, it may also be a fun driver.  You just have to decide if you want to be seen in it.

What do you think the donor chassis and maybe cabin for this car was?  Have you ever seen one in the flesh?  Would you drive it?  Please share your gentle thoughts in the comments.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Pat LMember

    I’m curious if this really is a convertible. Why didn’t the seller provide any photos with the top down? It certainly couldn’t look any uglier than with the top up!

    Like 6
    • Big_FunMember

      Excalibur = American Celebrity.
      Moselle = Canadian Celebrity?

      Like 8
      • Gavin Elster

        RIP: Great SCTV funnyman Joe Flaherty. We love you Count Floyd!

        Like 8
  2. Gary Hoffman

    Judging from the body lines in door, Looks to be a first gen fox body. Specifically Fairmont or Zephyr four door. 2.3L four or 5.0 V8 available in that era

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      I thought so at first, but for a Fox-body sedan basis, this has the wrong door lock placement, lower character-line contouring, and beltline (which would sweep up slightly at the leading edge).

      Like 0
  3. Jasper

    Somebody’s Ford Courier called and it wants its cab back!

    I see these things…pause…what were they thinking.

    Like 7
    • SubGothius

      …as well as its chassis back, I’d reckon. Along with (most of) the cabin and the dashboard, this may have retained a largely unmodified chassis from that era Mazda B-series/Ford Courier pickup, and simply moved the cabin back, so no need to add any frame extensions for that looong hood.

      Super weird contouring for the sides of that hood, too. Why the sharp pinch inward from the cowl? Seems a smoother taper from the cowl to the grille would have been more elegant, but maybe they wanted more room to show off (or cool off!) the exposed exhaust tubing without cooking the fiberglass.

      The rear is a clash of styling, too. Bulbous fenders paired with a more slab-sided and creased rumble-seat fairing.

      Like 2
    • Peter_W

      Sure looks like it. This gen courier was actually a Mazda B2000 with a Pinto 2.0 or 2.3 mill. I had a 2.3 version. Not bad, but rust killed it.

      Like 0
  4. Tom Noller

    However homely, it was somebody’s dream. Kind of a “look at me” car. I’d prefer to drive an original 30s or 40s anything and yeah, I could imagine Phyllis Diller driving one. :-)

    Like 3
  5. jeffschevelle

    Wow, that’s ugly.

    Cowl, windshield, dash, steering wheel, and doors are all definitely 1981 Ford Courier pickup. See Courier brochure:

    Like 3
  6. jeffschevelle

    Definitely 1981 Ford Courier. I posted a link earlier to an 81 Courier brochure with good pic of the dash and steering wheel (exact match), but for some reason the editors deleted it. ???

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      Your prior comment (which now does appear) was prolly put on temporary hold due to the link you included, just so the mods could have a looksee to make sure you aren’t a spammer.

      Also, I’ve seen new comments sometimes just don’t appear immediately after the page refreshes, but they’ll show up within a minute or so.

      Like 0
  7. Gavin Elster

    Forget the $31,5000. Maybe 10 grand on a good day. It would need to be painted a darker color, burgundy, dark blue? And have more period-aporopriate wheels and tires. Maybe 30’s Ford v8 wires? Phyllis Diller did have several Excaliburs, and helped to popularize them. Google the early circa 1964 Excalibur, penned by I believe Brooks Stevens, a very accurate reproduction of a SSK Mercedes. They got bigger, and uglier as the company aged.

    Like 0
    • Kim in Lanark

      They got bigger, and uglier as the company aged.
      =Don’t we all.

      Like 5
  8. Nelson C

    Rich Little, the Man of a Thousand Voices. More than just a comedian he was among the best voice impersonators. Bought a P/T Cruiser in its intro model year.

    Like 0
    • George Parker

      Looks like cruella DeVille’s car from 101 dalmatians

      Like 2
    • Herbert

      Tom Hanks to. Smart celebs try to blend in on the road. Only a fool would drive something like this, esp these days with so many crazies roaming the streets.

      Like 2
  9. BBLK 390

    Unfortunately this is a hard ordinance for Neo classic.

    Like 0
  10. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

    In the city of “look at me” I’m surprised I haven’t seen one here in Vegas.
    The whole car looks plastic. Fiberglass.
    How would one get into the rumble seat with the top up?
    The parking lights are definitely truck roof lights where all the other “neo classics” used Volkswagon beetle lights.

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      Looks like there’s a round rubber pad to the right of the spare tire and another on top of the right rear fender, reckon you’re meant to step on those to clamber up into the rumble seat.

      Like 0
      • Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac DivaMember

        Thank you, Sub, I didn’t see those. I suppose if I go on the BF website I’d see more photos.

        Like 0
  11. angliagt angliagtMember

    Buy it & fail to impress anyone with your lack of good taste.
    I guess you could pull that Liberace fur coat out of the closet &
    go for a drive.

    Like 0
  12. pwtiger

    I like the hood ornament…

    Like 0
  13. Frog

    This is definitely a Heinz 57 abomination that was bored with too much money and time on their hands.

    Like 0

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