Thursday, March 30, 2017

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Chrysler New Yorker

It's hard to believe it took me the better part of a decade to get this car onto the blog. I first sighted this 1963 Chrysler New Yorker in San Francisco while on a road trip around California with friends in 2007. At that time it was parked in the Inner Richmond neighborhood and sitting on American Racing directional sawblade wheels. I only got a couple of snapshots of it that day, and spent my entire college years exploring the city with that Chrysler on my list of vehicles to find and shoot in depth. It was only after a day trip in which I covered the entire road grid of the Sunset District that the car turned up again. The first time I located the New Yorker it was very late in the day and my shoot came out poorly, half of the car in the shadow of the houses across the street. I came back at a later date and did much better.

This isn't the first time we've looked at a 1963 Chrysler fullsizer here. I found a 300 coupe down in Santa Cruz in 2013. In the grand scheme of car collecting, a 300 coupe is probably more desirable than a New Yorker sedan, but this New Yorker is in much better condition. Or at least it was at the time. The Santa Cruz 300 was a restoration project wearing primer at the time I photographed it. This car has some rust bubbles and streaks present but generally looks solid, and the paint is shiny. It wears an unusual combination of mid-1970s Mercury Cougar hubcaps and one Magnum 500 mag wheel on blackwall and whitewall tires.

The '63 models were just such a strange year for Chrysler. Styling maestro Virgil Exner was on his way out as management exerted their own influence on design. Fresh off of the corporate styling disasters of 1962, these new cars toned it down slightly. Admittedly the '62 Chryslers were mainly just '61s without fins (Dodge and Plymouth received the real kooky designs). But the order of the day seemed to be trapezoids and the '63 New Yorker has lots of them. Anything that isn't trapezoidal is circular. The body is simply detailed for the era, with one friend describing the design as looking like a clay sculpt that was sent into production without any refining". Underneath the new body is much the same chassis that dated back to Exner's heyday. If you look closely you'll notice the same windshield shape from the 1957 models. Chrysler moved over 118,000 cars in 1963, marginally more than the previous year.

This car is a regular New Yorker sedan, which would have come from the factory with a 413 "Golden Lion" Wedge V8 producing 340 horsepower. That's no slouch by anyone's standards and probably greatly appreciated in a car this big. It's primarily a boulevard cruiser and will never win any races unless said race doesn't involve any corners. A '63 New Yorker is a curious choice for San Francisco, a town known for limited parking options. But this was in one of the outer residential neighborhoods with much less hustle and bustle. It's a curious car in general from stem to stern, and it has some intriguing details. When shooting cars, interesting lines make for interesting times.

Photographed September-October 2013

Saturday, February 18, 2017

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1984 Ford Mustang SVO

If you like grey Foxbody Mustangs, you're in luck this week. After an '87 GT coupe, here's the second one, a 1984 Mustang SVO.

The SVO was one of Ford's attempts to combat European and Japanese sporty cars in the mid-1980s. They made liberal use of the turbocharged 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine as an alternative to old school V8 power in the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, Mercury Capri Turbo RS and Merkur XR4Ti. A Mustang GT Turbo was also available for a time. But the most special Mustang in the showroom in 1984 was the SVO.

Ford's Special Vehicle Operations department produced a Euro-flavored Foxbody with unique front end, taillights, hood, rear quarter window sail panels and flat faced alloy wheels with five-lug hubs (most Fox Mustangs had four lugs stock). Buyers could choose a biplane rear wing spoiler reminiscent of the rally-bred Ford Sierra Cosworth. This one has no wing at all, suggesting that the original piece was removed, perhaps to suit the taste of an owner who didn't like the controversial biplane.

The SVO features an offset hood scoop that actually works, feeding the intercooled turbo four fresh air. The intercooler was a special feature for the SVO (at the time) and was not installed on the Thunderbird, Mustang, Capri or Merkur. It produced 175 horsepower in its inaugural year. A V8 Mustang GT made 165 and the non-intercooled 2.3 turbo GT made 145, roughly the same as a T-Bird Turbo Coupe. Driver-focused goodies include full gauges, pedals optimized for heel-toe shifting and a speedometer that indicated up to 140 mph (but only featured numbers up to 85).


Fewer than 10,000 SVO Mustangs were sold between 1984 and '86. The car was improved every year with more power, and received a facelift halfway through 1985 that gave the car composite flush fit headlamps in place of the deep-set sealed beams seen here. A lot of proven racing knowledge and technology went into these cars. Unfortunately the technology of forced induction and small displacement was overshadowed by the venerable 5.0 V8 once gas prices were cheap again. By the time the SVO ended its run, the GT was ready with a fresh new front end and 225 horsepower. The SVO faded into relative obscurity. Ford recently brought back a 2.3 turbo for the Mustang though, and not strictly as an economy choice. An EcoBoost Mustang makes 310 hp. I love the sound of a proper 5.0 but it's tough to argue with a turbo four-pot making those numbers.

Photographed August 2016

Thursday, February 16, 2017

San Jose Street Sighting - 1987 Ford Mustang GT

One of my best friends has a birthday today, so we're going to honor him with a feature of one of his favorite cars. He loves 1979-93 Foxbody Mustangs. Now these cars are still a dime a dozen in California, but there are some problems. Most of them have been ridden hard and/or modified within an inch of their life, and many look like the example seen here. That's not really why I photographed this car. I shot it because Medium Gray Metallic over Titanium with an electric blue accent stripe is my buddy's favorite color combination for these cars, and from what I've seen it's a rather rare paint scheme.

My friend asked me to shoot the car because it had been sitting for a while and was getting to be in sad shape. The donut spare on the rear wheel was new since the last time I'd seen the car and the tags were expired. I told my friend he should leave a note under the wiper in case the owner would be willing to sell it. Unfortunately this occasion was the last time I saw the car and its fate remains unknown. The photos document the car the best I could at the time.


As Mustang GTs go, this one was pretty nice when it was younger. It's an automatic car with a pop up sunroof. Obviously the enthusiast's (and my friend's) choice would be the five-speed manual, but I at least would be happy with the auto. It looked to me as though most of the car's problems stemmed from sitting outdoors for years on end. I ran the license number through the state smog records and it had never failed emissions (though it was last tested in 2011). Assuming the mechanicals were still good, and the rust only on the surface, it would be an easy restoration project. Virtually everything needed to bring a Foxbody back to life is readily available, even to make it better than new. It would be awesome to see this car looking like this again.

Photographed October 2016

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Alameda Street Sighting - 1951 Dodge Coronet

In my final post of 2016 I said I hoped to be more active in the new year. Here we are halfway through February and nothing to show for myself. So in recognition of Valentine's Day and to show my loyal readers some love, here's a pink 1951 Dodge Coronet coupe I ran across in Alameda last year.

Pink was not exactly on the Dodge paint chip menu when this car was made. There were a few beige tones but nothing so rosy and stomach-calming as the hue currently worn on this low cruiser. That would come in 1954 with the introduction of Spanish Coral. A Dodge was one of the most average cars a person could buy in its day, a pretty straightforward family or business vehicle with a straight six and Fluid Drive three-speed transmission. Coronet was the top model but would not receive a V8 option until 1953.

This car is what I would consider a very mild custom. It sports fender skirts, a windshield shade and painted bumper guards cut to admit tall flared tailpipes. Ride height looks like it could be a smidge lower than stock, and the stainless wheelcovers are probably also custom. Fat Firestone whitewalls complete the vintage cruiser look. Inside the seats are covered with a pink woven blanket that compliments the body. One whimsical touch is found on the hood, where the owner has removed or rearranged letters from "DODGE" to spell "GOD". Some may find it silly but who am I to argue with the Almighty?

I don't see too many Mopars from before the Virgil Exner era. It seems like everyone wants a V8 and tail fins if they're going to drive something from the '50s. But while a 1951 Dodge doesn't stand out in a row of cars from 1951, it certainly stands out on the street today. Good on the owner for keeping one going.

Photographed January 2016