Rococo wishes and drifting dreams are the Golden Spirit’s modern reality

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The phrase “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” made one TV show a household name, but during that time its automotive equivalent was struggling, dying on the its gilded vine. Which is unfortunate, as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leech profiled the folks most likely to buy vehicles from the Zimmer Motor Cars Corporation, be it the avant-garde Quicksilver or the Rococo-infused Golden Spirit. While Zimmer wasn’t the only “neoclassic” coach builder of the era, it survived the natural attrition happening in the industry.

This wasn’t a Yuppie-mobile, and old money had far too many ostentatious options at this price point. Survival of the fittest assumed that Zimmer wouldn’t survive the go-go 1980s, and yet you’re indeed seeing a late-model Ford Mustang going sideways in Neoclassic drag.

Houston slab car red Cadillac front
Chris Spicks

It’s funny how anything becomes desirable if you wait long enough for the nostalgia to settle in. Neoclassics (from a more mundane template) freely roam the streets of Houston and have become a cult classic for several generations of residents. Growth and evolution happens, and Zimmer’s 1988 bankruptcy was just a bad memory by 1996, as the brand was repurchased and revitalized by Art Zimmer. (No relation to Paul, the founder.)

The Art Zimmer Neo-Classic Motor Car Company of Hamilton, New York, was born, and over time the Zimmer Golden Spirit became the high-volume (as it were) Toyota Camry of the Rococo neoclassic vehicle realm. This happened not by cranking out the hits at regular intervals, but by merely weathering the storm its counterparts never recovered from.

Zimmer Golden Spirit Facebook Group

At one time, the company even had the engineering fortitude to turn this Fox Mustang-based Golden Spirit two-door into a legit four-door limo, without moving to Ford’s more sedate Panther Platform (or by robbing doors from the foxy but boxy Ford Fairmont). You could say the Mustang + Golden Spirit bond runs deep, and the budget was there for just about anything … until it wasn’t.

Nothing says Y2K like a Golden Spirit (Yes, this is a 2000 model.)

But Zimmer came back, thanks in part to Art’s interest in reincarnating the Golden Spirit. The automaker chose the platform that made it famous, as Ford still had an SN-95 Mustang-based coupe/convertible. There was also a proper limousine, now based on the second- and third-generation Lincoln Town Car. (Sadly, the Quicksilver never earned a similar rebirth.) Art Zimmer claimed that 8–10 Zimmer Golden Spirits were made annually, clearly enough to sustain the business. So when it was time to move from SN-95 to S-197 Mustang, the Golden Spirit was ready and willing to receive its next upgrade.

Golden Spirit, based on the 2005–09 Ford Mustang.

The S197 Mustang sported a host of chassis, suspension, and interior upgrades over the outgoing platform, which dated back to the Fox chassis used by the first Golden Spirit. Because Zimmer always used Mustang derivatives with the V-8 engine and automatic transmission, the S197’s added power and more forward gears likely impressed the loyal clientele. I reckon none of the other S197 benefits mattered,  as Art Zimmer once said, “This is a car to drive and enjoy; it’s not a kid’s hot-rod toy.” Which leads us to the 2011 model featured in the photo up top, currently for sale on Bring A Trailer.

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The ever-so-slightly, more-robust curves in the 2010+ Mustang’s quarter panels help the Golden Spirit’s traditional styling cues flow onto the rest of the Mustang cabin, while the exposed fenders, massive bumpers, and short deck with Continental kit continue the Zimmer bloodline into the modern age. The proportions are classically wonderful, even if the execution isn’t appealing for everyone’s tastes.

None of this stuff is necessary to make a modern luxury car, but that’s not the point. The only real tragedy here is that the original Dayton wire wheels didn’t live to see a place on this Golden Spirit where it truly matters. Aftermarket 18-inch wheels are clearly better for lowering unsprung weight and rotational mass in any Mustang GT-derived vehicle, but that is a modification that goes back to Art Zimmer’s “it’s not a kid’s hot-rod toy” comment. Clearly a matching set of six Vogue tires (don’t forget those side-mounted spares) and Texan Wire wheels are mandatory for a vehicle of the Golden Spirit’s pedigree.

And those Vogues need to be of the latest neoclassic trend, possessing a ketchup and mayo sidewall, as this 2011 Golden Spirit retained the red leather interior of the Mustang GT whence it came. The seat covers are embroidered with the Zimmer logo, as are the door cards.  The Mustang logo in the airbag received a similar treatment, but the rest of the interior remains as-is from the parts bin.

Which means the Golden Spirit’s interior is a stunning disappointment relative to previous implementations. Sure, modern cars have airbags in the dashboard, but modern technology makes wood veneers both easy to apply and technically impressive. Add a modified, wood-trimmed steering wheel, wrap everything in a boldly-hued leather, and add woolen carpets, and the 2011 Golden Spirit would become a reasonably convincing alternative to an Aston Martin on the inside, while retaining Zimmer’s neoclassic goodness outside.

So, relative to Golden Spirits of the Fox-body past, this one is a bit of a disappointment inside. But it’s nothing that money can’t fix—as of writing, this 2011 Zimmer Golden Spirit is at $16,250 with less than a day to go. Odds are it was originally sold with a six-figure price tag, so the depreciation savings alone merits a proper neoclassic interior. Unless there’s a bidding war I don’t anticipate?

Well you never know, and it’s only a matter of time before a Mitsuoka Le-Seyde is imported to the U.S. via well-heeled enthusiasts who made a name for themselves in the Nissan S13 community. Because that’s exactly what I’d do if I hit the lottery.

A man can dream, can’t he? He can dream a little neoclassic dream, drifting to and fro with passion and precision, as a team of two beautiful Rococo rear-drivers laying waste to Vogue tires. Please tell me there’s still a few minutes left on the Golden Spirit auction!

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    “A man can dream, can’t he?”
    Yep, he can. And sometimes, his dream will turn into a nightmare, which is what these abominations look like to me. And I say “to me”, because I’ve always been a proponent of letting others do their own thing and I’ll support them for loving what they love, even if I don’t love (or even like) it. But man, I’m really struggling to summon up much support for this one…
    But hey, if it butters your bread – more power to ya! I guess.

    The tacky car contest is officially over – we have a winner

    I don’t have a general beef with the neoclassic concept – I have seen some nice ones, and some that weren’t really nice, but weren’t a rolling obscenity to automotive design, but that one, no.

    When I first saw the first photo (before reading the article), I thought this was something that some redneck through together as a gag. When I realized that someone seriously produced these things, offered them for sale to the public, and people actually bought them – there’s one for every seat

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