Monday, November 27, 2017

Emeryville Street Sighting - 1969 Lotus Elan S4 S/E Drophead Coupe

Any of my readers remember the Lotus Elite I featured in 2016? That wasn't the only car parked on that block that day. I left the Laney College flea market in Oakland on a Sunday morning and cruised over to Emeryville. I found two classic Lotus sports cars and a small warehouse with the roll-up door open. The owner was going to take one of the cars for a drive and needed to move the other in order to get it outside. Here is the Lotus Elan SE roadster.

The first-generation Lotus Elan was produced from 1962 to 1973. Five iterations were built; the 1500, 1600, S2, S3 and S4. All were visually similar with changes mostly under the skin and under the hood. I believe this car to be the later S4 model judging by the shape of its taillights. It is the S/E model indicating Special Equipment. That meant more power and additional comfort options at a small weight penalty. The Elan featured a double overhead cam four cylinder displacing 1.6 liters. All Elans received disc brakes all around, four-wheel independent suspension and rack and pinion steering. The result was a very light, tossable car with balanced handling and a tight turning circle. Bodywork was fiberglass over a light steel central backbone chassis.

This particular car appears to have the smooth hood from a Sprint model Elan; regular cars have a hood bulge on the right side to clear the carburetors. This car may have been upgraded to Sprint spec. I'm not sure what the difference in dimensions is for the Sprint's Weber carbs versus the standard Strombergs, but apparently the Webers clear the lower hood line.

The interior of this car is one of my favorite details. It's nicely trimmed in black leatherette with a walnut veneer dashboard and wooden shift knob. It may be a European-spec car since it is 1968 or later and has no federal side marker lights. The padded roll bar is an aftermarket addition that leads me to believe the owner probably races or otherwise tracks the car.

I know of at least two Elans in my area but this is the only one I've found parked on the street. It's a lovely Lotus.

Photographed July 2015

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Danville Street Sighting - 1973 Triumph TR6 Roadster

It's autumn and the weather is getting cooler. A lot of my readers from back east are seeing early snows and even sunny California is getting rainy weather. So for all of you in colder climes, how about we look at some convertibles? Not just any convertibles, but classic red British roadsters.
First up is this Carmine Red Triumph TR6.

This is the second TR6 we've seen here on California Streets. The first was a factory Magenta (purple) '74 I ran across in San Francisco a few years ago. This one features the more classic red hue I have always associated with TR6s. There are a few of these around my area and this is one of the best. It's in beautiful condition and features the small early bumpers free of giant rubber over-riders that plagued the later cars.

All TR6s were powered by a 2.5 liter straight six engine, with two Stromberg carburetors on U.S.-bound cars. American models produced less power on average than their fuel-injected European cousins. Overdrive was optional on the four-speed manual transmission. It appears that the walnut veneer dashboard was standard. All TR6s were available with black leather seats but this one looks like it has its upholstery done in New Tan, offered from 1970 to '74.

I find it very interesting that the TR6 has many of the same body and chassis parts as earlier TR models, but effectively restyled by German coachbuilder Karmann for a much needed modern look. These have always been my favorite Triumphs. They're a link to the past with wood trim and metal snaps (for plastic side curtains or a tonneau cover?) even though the car features proper roll-up glass windows. Yet they have a contemporary appearance that brings the car gracefully into the 1970s. Black steel wheels with bright lips look sporty in my opinion, particularly paired with the red paint and black top. It's a very nice little car.

Photographed August 2015

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1988 CMC Tiffany Classic

This week we're looking at cars from the 1980s that are uniquely a product of their time. Well, maybe not. Neo-classics have been a thing for decades. Ever since the Excalibur of the 1960s, people have been building cars that evoke the golden age of 1930s luxury and sports roadsters. Over the years we've seen the Clenet, Spartan II, Sceptre, Zimmer Golden Spirit among dozens of others, even such modern oddballs as the Mitsuoka Le Seyde and the SixTen Spirit. More exacting or approximate replicas of 1930s cars were also made, like the Auburn Speedster, Cord, Duesenberg II, Bugatti 35X, Mercedes 500K and Jaguar SS 100. Usually neoclassics use fiberglass parts on a donor body with contemporary chassis and drivetrain. They range from professionally coachbuilt cars to do-it-yourself fiberglass kits. A company called Classic Motor Carriages offered numerous products during the 1980s, ranging from Shelby Cobras, '34 Fords, Porsche 356 Speedsters, MG TDs and Gazelle "1929 Mercedes" roadsters. Perhaps the most extravagant of all of these was the Tiffany Classic.

The CMC Tiffany Classic Coupe was built based on a Mercury Cougar body and powertrain. Unlike most CMC products, the Tiffany was coachbuilt at their factory using a new vehicle rather than sold in pieces via mail order. The cars started at $32,990 (about $68,000 today). You received a car with a fully loaded Mercury Cougar body and interior, fuel injected 5.0 liter V8 and automatic transmission. The retro styled parts were fiberglass, with real leather straps on the trunk lid. The Elite trim level came with actual gold plating on the grille and the option of a power moonroof. CMC stopped building the Tiffany Classic after 1988 and retooled it as the Destiny, based on the Ford Mustang convertible.

Classic Motor Carriages had a troubled history. George Levin took over the company in 1978 when he bought out Tiffany Motor Cars and gained the tooling for the Gazelle kit car. In 1983 Levin purchased kit car builder Fiberfab and expanded the CMC business portfolio with more products. CMC offered the option of ordering DIY kits or factory built turnkey cars and made a lot of money at it during the '80s. Unfortunately that started to go sideways in the 1990s and the company was closed down and liquidated following a very expensive fraud lawsuit. CMC reincorporated as Street Beasts but that too was liquidated after several years due to lawsuits. Near as I can tell, George Levin apparently got out of the car business and ended up taking part in a billion-dollar investment fund Ponzi scheme. Levin was convicted in civil court in 2015 for securities fraud.

Classic Motor Carriages is long gone but the cars remain as the legacy of a man who found a way to exploit a popular market niche. It's a shame the company wasn't able or willing to take better care of customers in its later years.

Photographed May 2016

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Danville Street Sighting - 1987 Mitsubishi Starion Turbo

This week we're looking at cars from the 1980s that are uniquely a product of their time. What says '80s more than anything? TURBO.

This is a 1987 Mitsubishi Starion TURBO. It has TURBO SEAT BELTS.

Sports cars from the '80s are just fun. They're usually angular, wedge shaped, often with flip-up headlights and spoilers aplenty. And if it's turbocharged, you better bet that it has a huge callout TURBO badge or sticker somewhere on the body. This Starion ticks all those boxes. And I love it.
One of the first things that drew me to this car is the color. Most Starions and their captive import identical twins (the Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Conquest) seem to be red. This one is beige. But it's not a repaint and it's apparently not beige. Because according to the color options for 1987, I think this is Palermo Gray. There is another shade called Shetland Beige, which mysteriously is more gray than Palermo Gray is beige. And Palermo Gray is a rare color. Starions were sold in two variants, a narrow and wide body. Intercooled turbo cars received the widebody with flared fenders. The narrowbody version logically was the lower spec, lower performance model. We've previously looked at one of those here, so now is the chance for its big brother to shine.

There are some details I've always liked one these cars. The alloy wheel design is simple and pleasing to me. The interior is an appropriately aggressive mix of black plastic, black leather, silver metallic accents and orange instrumentation. There is an unapologetically large manual shifter with a square ribbed rubber shift boot. Note the nice bolstered leather bucket seats with adjustable support at the front. And did I mention the TURBO seat belts? I love those for how cheesy they are. It appears to have automatic belts for the shoulder harness, a product of that short-lived period when manufacturers encouraged seatbelt use by making the car put it on you whether you wanted it or not. And like all good '80s halo models, the dash is awash in buttons and switches for all the electronic gizmos.

I've seen this Starion a number of times around my area. It turned up for sale and was generating a lot of attention on the street at the time I photographed it. Since then (as of this writing) I've seen it driving at least twice. It's a rare and very cool car and I hope it found the right buyer.

Photographed March 2017