They say those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Alain Clenet learned a lot in history calls, as proven by today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Series III Asha, but will its price prove condemnable?
What we all learned from the past - the very recent past - is that yesterday's Willys Pickup gave yours a little tug, and 88% of you felt its price made it lust-worthy all the day long. When it comes to retro, that truck was the real deal. Sometimes however, you want the look, but not the headaches of nostalgia, and that's the niche cars like the Zimmer, Excalibur, and Clenet attempt to fill. Filling today's niche is a 1982 Clenet Series III Asha hardtop, which could be perfect for a trip down memory lane.
Alain Clenet founded his coach building company in a Santa Barbara, California garage in 1974. From those humble beginnings grew an enviable specialty car empire spanning dozens of months and nearly 500 cars before bankruptcy claimed the company and any hope of future offerings. Before the buzzy florescent lights hummed their last at the Clenet factory, the company did manage to roll out four different series of classically bodied cars, all on contemporary Ford chassis.
The third series, dubbed the Asha after the founder's daughter, hid is plebeian origins like Eliza Doolittle her accent, but there's still no mistaking the VW Superbeetle ventwings and windscreen. This car - number nine of the approximately 52 cars built - rolls on a chassis that was originally intended to underpin a Lincoln Mark VI or other of Ford's more barge-like rides. Like all Clenets, it features all the luxury accouterments of the time - fine leather upholstery, Italian burled walnut dash, and more brightwork than an orthodontist's waiting room.
Up front, the flowing fenders and classic floating headlamps vie for attention with a massive grille that evokes images of Rolls Royce and cleaning the bugs out of its delicate vertical bars after a road trip. The low-slung and heavily padded roof is non-removable on this car, an option at the time of a targa over the seats having not been in the cards, apparently. Out back the trunk rolls gracefully down to the double bar bumper, which also meets the French curving rear fenders, which like the fronts are made from thick, rust-proof fiberglass.
The paint on that glass, as well as the overall fit and finish, looks exceptionally clean and correct for a car with the nearly 30 years, and over 90,000 miles this car is claimed to have. The inside looks equally clean and is filled with all the trappings of old money aristocracy any blue blood could want. One kind of weird feature of the interior is the dash-mounted knob for the transmission gear selection, which seems somewhat like a vestigial organ amidst all the VDO gauges.
Odd or not, that fat man's nubby dinkus of a shift lever is attached at the other end to a Ford AOD 4-speed transmission -there were no manual-equipped Clenets. The gearbox is in turn bolted to a 302 V8 that at the time produced about 134 bhp, and with a curb weight of around 3,600 pounds, that meant for stately rather than spritely motoring. Of course in refined society it's always more important how you arrive than when.
With an original sticker price of $62,000 and the ability to name your own color and interior materials, the Clenet in ‘82 would surely have announced that you had arrived - and unsurprisingly celebrities such as Farrah Fawcett and Rod Stewart were notable Clenet owners.
Time wounds all heels however, and despite this car's rarity and obvious association with the haves rather than the have-nots, its sticker shows undeniable depreciation over the years. The $27,885 this seller is requesting wouldn't generate so much as a raised eyebrow down at the Polo and Discrimination Club, but then again how would they know? This may be an excellent opportunity for someone of meager means to step up into the leagues of the upper crust.
What do you think, is that $27,885 for this Clenet make it the perfect stepping stone to the preferred lifestyle? Or, does that price imply that it is still only for the rich and famous - and can stay that way?
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