Thursday, May 17, 2018

San Jose Street Sighting - 1930 Chevrolet 3 Window Coupe

If you go to your average car show, you'd think that every car made circa 1930 was a Ford. But that's not true. Ford built a ridiculous number of Model As during this time, but Chevrolet was just as big a player in the market. It's true that Ford built a good half million more cars in 1930 than Chevy, a reversal from two years before when Chevy outsold Ford by half a million. The two rivals seesawed back and forth like this for years, even the now vaunted '32 Ford outsold by 50 percent by Chevrolet. Where the heck did all the Chevys from this era go?

Well, here's one.

I've found a number of feature cars on this block in the past. It's a place where for-sale vehicles are often parked and once in a blue moon they leave something cool there. Other spottings here include a 1937 Ford Touring Sedan and a 1972 Chevy El Camino.

This 1930 Chevy is a standard 3-window coupe with a trunk. A Sport Coupe with a rumble seat was also available at extra cost. This one has been built into a hot rod, I'm guessing probably at some point in the 1980s and then neglected. It wears a Pro Street style of stance with huge fat rear tires and little skinny front ones. It rides on Jegs SSR wheels with side exit exhaust pipes and non-stock skimpy black bumpers. Inside there's a full complement of gauges and what looks like a drag automatic shifter. I can only guess what's under the hood, but it's probably safe to say that this one was built to do quarter mile launches once upon a time. I'd say the paint job is probably thirty or more years old.

As of this writing it's been a year and a half since I last saw this car. I'm curious what happened to it. Perhaps someone bought it to rehabilitate or restore. This seems to be a common style and stance for these cars, at least among older builds that often go with Weld Pro Stars or a similar wheel like the Jegs SSR, in place of the original artillery style solid steel wheels or optional wires. It would be nice to see this one given proper attention to address the rust and generally worn appearance. Given how uncommon these cars have become, it's good to see one existing at all.

Photographed November 2016

Friday, May 4, 2018

Danville Street Sighting - 1978 Ford Pinto Runabout

I have a completely irrational love for the Ford Pinto. At best it's a perfectly ordinary compact car that's become cool in an ironic way. At worst it's regarded by others as a rolling punchline or a rolling bomb waiting to go off. Or if you're slightly crazy, it can be a starting point for a mad little autocross car, dirt track racer or drag car.

Ford's Pinto was basic transportation for millions across North America in the 1970s, and used ones carried hundreds of thousands into the '80s and beyond. Early models gained a certain reputation for post-accident fires that tarnished the model's legacy long after the fuel tank design flaws were addressed. Later Pintos underwent a series of facelifts to keep the design fresh, with a new front end for 1977 that carried over into '78. The Pinto would receive one more facelift for '79-80 before it would be replaced by the all new '81 Escort. These later Pintos could be had with either a 2.3 liter four-cylinder or a 2.8 liter V6 (the latter of which was only available 1975-79 and often found in station wagons). At this stage buyers could select a two-door sedan with a small trunk; a Runabout hatchback as seen here; a two-door wagon (with or without "Squire" faux woodgrain side trim); or a disco-themed "Cruising Wagon" with porthole windows and colorful tape stripe body graphics.

This Pinto is firmly a product of the so-called Malaise era. Massive steel 5 mph crash bumpers adorned with black rubber strips and over-riders jut out from both ends. It's dressed up with the Jimmy Carter years' idea of American personal luxury, including wire wheel hubcaps, a partial vinyl top, contrasting vinyl rub strip inserts and matching blue vinyl upholstery. This one also features white pinstriping, bright wheel arch trim and dual body color sport mirrors. As shown in the windshield photo, it's nearly identical to the car pictured on the 1978 brochure page for the 3-door Runabout (although that car had blue pinstripes).

The URL on the rear window seems to be dead, but The Pinto Barn shop in Costa Mesa has an old Twitter account and an Instagram that referred to this little car as "Ol' Blue". It seems to have resided down in Southern California and experienced a number of adventures and shows while in the care of The Pinto Barn. Lots of pictures of this car and some videos are available on the Twitter and Instagram feed. According to their Twitter, Ol' Blue received a new or rebuilt engine and transmission in 2012 and was put up for sale a couple of times in 2013. I don't know if it ever sold or how it ended up in the Bay Area. At that time the Pinto Barn had about eight Pintos in their stable in various conditions. I'm not sure what happened to them since their social sites all stopped updating in 2014. Still, it's cool to see someone who was so passionate about keeping these often maligned cars on the road.

Photographed July 2016

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Danville Street Sighting - 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

"It's not for sale."

Those were the first words the owner said to me when I crossed the street for a closer look at this beautiful blue Chevy.

The owner was having lunch at the restaurant next to where the car was parked, but he took a moment to tell me a little bit about his baby. He said that it began as a 235 Stovebolt six-cylinder car which he upgraded in 1999 to a 327 small block V8. I imagine it also received new paint around that time which shows very nicely. According to the owner, other than the engine swap, his car has been kept stock. He told me that it's rust-free and has never seen rain in the time he's had it.

Chevrolet was a six-cylinder automaker for so many years that the trusty Stovebolt built a solid reputation for reliability. Suddenly for 1955 consumers had the option of a brand new 265 V8 engine and a lot of them were skeptical. Most '55 Chevys still left the factory with a six. Quite a few of those have been pulled out over the years!

I told him that the pillared sedans are some of my favorites. Anyone who's seen my other Tri-Five Chevy posts here will know that. And yet those four-doors tend to be among the least valuable models because collectors and hot rodders all want hardtop Bel Air Sport Coupes and convertibles, or Nomad two-door wagons. As the owner said regarding the sedans, "they crushed most of those". That's frankly a shocking thought given that GM produced roughly 700,000 Chevrolet 4-door post sedans in 1955 alone, spread out across the base 150, midrange 210 and top Bel Air trim lines. The Bel Air sedan by itself accounted for nearly half of those. Where did they all go?

The day I found this car was perfect weather for taking a classic car out. I regret that I didn't find it about twenty minutes earlier so the tree across the street wouldn't have been casting shadows on the left side. That's the chance you take when your focus is photographing cars in the wild, as they are, where they are. It doesn't make this specimen any less amazing.

Photographed July 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Danville Street Sighting - 1957 Austin-Healey 100-6 Roadster

December is almost over and we're still doing red British roadsters. Might as well finish the set with the one I most enjoyed photographing. This is a 1957 Austin-Healey 100-6.
As sports cars go, it's not too difficult to find an Austin-Healey in my area. The trouble is, they're all being driven around on nice days. Not many actually stop long enough for me to do a photo shoot. This one has made a couple of appearances over the past year in downtown Danville.

The 100-6 was an important stepping stone in the evolution of the "Big Healey" roadsters. The Austin-Healey 100 was built on the Austin A90 chassis with a much better looking roadster body. It was called the Big Healey because it was a larger stablemate to the diminutive "Bugeye/Frogeye" Sprite. The 100 name came from the car's ability to hit 100 mph speeds. The 100 was campaigned in racing and was continuously improved. Big changes came in 1956 when the wheelbase was stretched, allowing for a small back seat. The body gained a new grille and windshield, and most importantly a new six-cylinder engine borrowed from the Austin Westminster. Enter the 100-6.

The Healey 100-6 was sold from 1956 to 1959, when it was replaced by the 3000 model. Most of the Austin-Healeys I see are 3000s, which makes sense given that they represent nearly three times more cars (42,926 produced versus the 100-6 at 14,418). Most Healeys were exported to the U.S. and many are still here.

(One minor note to make. See that brown and white Dodge van in the background of the high front view shot? I see it all the time, and you'll be seeing it here at a later date.)

This car is a fine example of a nice driver. It looks gorgeous yet shows signs that the gentleman who owns it has taken it out on touring rallies, car club events and possibly a bit of motorsport for good measure! The race number almost certainly refers to the model year. I question the Harley Davidson sideview mirrors, but that may reflect the owner's other motoring passion. It is otherwise a very beautiful and proper looking little British sports car and a true classic in my opinion.
This is definitely on my short list of favorite street photo shoots in recent memory.

Photographed March 2016