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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Vista

All right, let's end this year on a high note. This was one of my favorite subjects of 2016 and one that I waited nearly three years to shoot.

Of all the cars made in 1959, the Wide Track Pontiacs are on my short list. If I had to own two American cars of that vintage I'd probably choose a Pontiac Catalina coupe and an Edsel Ranger sedan. Unusual choices, perhaps, but I like them. Interestingly, the gentleman who owns this car used to also own the 1958 Edsel I featured earlier this year. That car has moved on to a new home, but this magnificent Sunset Glow Pontiac remains. I regret that I had to shoot this car with an iPhone, but my DSLR was at home and the phone was all I had on hand at the time.

The '59 Pontiacs were special among everything in the GM stable. They were supposed to be the sporty brand, so a new look and a new gimmick were created. The gimmick in question was called Wide Track, and pushed the wheels farther out toward the corners of the car -- five inches wider than before. Most cars of the era had their wheels tucked under the fenders with a large gap between them and the wheel arches. The Pontiac became a much better handling car as a result of Wide Track, and Motor Trend magazine awarded the brand its "Car of the Year" golden calipers.

There are three things that I find most striking about the '59 Pontiac. One, the split grille up front. I love it. So did Pontiac buyers. It's a menacing car without being completely psychotic like, say, the '59 Buick. Second, the rear end. This car has four tail fins. Four. Even on the station wagons. Finally, the interior. The upholstery is a striking combination of three colors of "Jeweltone" leather and Morrokide vinyl in bold stripe patterns keyed to compliment the body paint. On this car it's ivory and maroon with a center stripe in mahogany vinyl.

The Bonneville was Pontiac's top model and thus was the fanciest and most powerful. A 389 cubic inch V8 motivates the big car to the tune of up to 300 horsepower and 420 lb ft of torque. Mechanix Illustrated rated such a car at 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds. That's marginally quicker than my Ford Focus while weighing 1500 lbs more. Granted, that test Pontiac was making more than double the power of my little Ford. Thrift-minded buyers could buy an economy version of the 389 that ran on regular gas. Unlike previous Pontiacs, it appears no six-cylinder was offered.

This car looks like it's pretty much stock apart from a couple of small details. There are little chrome skulls on the door locks and chrome dual exhaust tips exiting diagonally behind the rear wheels. Thin whitewall tires get the job done without being too showy. A striped Navajo rug protects the front seat. It's an interesting contrast to the factory upholstery. The body is in great shape for the most part with a number of minor dents but no crash damage that I can see. License plate frames from McKissick Pontiac in San Leandro could be original. It's a completely awesome old tank I'm proud to feature here.
I hope the owner doesn't mind me coming back. His collection consists of several of my favorite cars of the '50s and '60s and I'd love to shoot some more of them.

Photographed October 2016