Tuesday, June 30, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1961 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

One of the largest old cars I've seen in San Francisco (coincidentally on the same street as the '64 Porsche 356C in my previous feature) was this unrestored and mildly customized 1961 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (98) four-door sedan. Sporting some tasteful orange pinstriping, this must have been a classy machine in its day. That day was a long time ago, though, and today it's faded and beat-up but keeps going. Every time I've seen it, it's been parked in a different spot.
The 98's story began in 1941 with the introduction of Oldsmobile's premium full-size model, the Series 90. The two models in the 90 series were the 96 (straight-six powered) and 98 (straight-eight powered). As V8 engines became more popular in the postwar years, the 98 continued production with a V8.
This '61 Ninety-Eight appears to be the Luxury Sedan body style, which has a roofline similar to a Cadillac six-window sedan of the same era. But there, the similarities to the Cadillac end. The Olds has an entirely differently sculpted and styled body devoid of exaggerated fins. Instead, the 98 has a pointed rear end with small round taillights and a body design that resembles a rocket. Nearly everything on the car is inspired by rockets, fighter jets, turbines, air intakes, what have you. This was the sixties, after all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1964 Porsche 356C

There are still a number of these little classic Porsches zipping around San Francisco, and this is a prime example of the breed. It's a 1964 Porsche 356C, the final incarnation of the 356 model first introduced in 1948. The 356C was produced from 1964 through '65, then it was discontinued in favor of the bigger, more powerful and more expensive 911.
The 356C could make up to 95 horsepower, though this one appears to be a standard model due to its lack of "SC" badging. That means it probably makes a little more power than a Volkswagen Beetle and probably gets similar fuel economy, making it a stylish and relatively efficient little city car, albeit a rare and risky one to use as a commuter. This one wears its original black plates and probably its original trim and wheels. It shows some wear, but overall it's in very good condition for a 45-year-old sports car in a city known for its reckless drivers and atrocious parking situation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country

San Francisco is home to many station wagons, but few old, relatively obscure ones like this 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country. I've seen this car three times in the city, first up on a lift in a shop on Brannan St, then driving with no lights on at night on Mission St in downtown. Then I saw the car parked on a hill around the Pacific Heights area and finally had the chance to shoot a rare old wagon deserving of a feature.
Ramblers of any kind get me excited. They're old and interesting and so few and far between compared to a Ford or Chevy of the same vintage. Rambler was a product of American Motors Corporation, better known as AMC, and consisted of a series of models including the midsize Classic and the topline Ambassador. This car is a Classic 770 Cross Country, the 770 denoting an upper-midrange trim level (990 was highest as far as I know), and Cross Country denoting a station wagon body style. I saw no badging to indicate whether this car was equipped with an inline-six or V8 engine.
AMC phased out the Rambler name a few years after this car rolled off the assembly line, and 1966 was the end of the road for the Classic model name, as "Rebel" replaced it for 1967. AMC later became known for its increasingly unusual designs, but this Rambler is still relatively "normal" looking, even more so than the final Studebakers which were being produced at the same time. Some viewers may say, "But that's a '65 Rambler!" Indeed, that's what I thought at first, too. The '65 and '66 use the same basic body, but have different grilles and side trim. This car has a '65 grille and '66 side trim. What's really weird though, is the fender badging. The right front fender has 1966 badging, while the left front fender has 1965 badging. So is it a '66 with a grille swap or is it a '65? Going by the side trim, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it's a '66.

Monday, June 22, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Ford Falcon Futura

I thought it would be appropriate to follow the 1969 Dodge Dart Custom sedan with a bread-and-butter compact car from another of the Big Three: Ford. This nicely kept example is a 1965 Falcon Futura, the swankier trim level. It's also powered by the optional 289 cubic inch V8 it shared with the Mustang introduced the previous year.
Now, I don't know how rare the '65 Futura sedan is, but it's not particularly easy to find good pictures of them. I thought this was a '64 until I Googled the '65 and found out why the side trim didn't match. The '64 Falcon had a thin chrome "spear" that followed the side indentations above and below where the single trim strip is on this car. 1964 Futuras also had a series of chrome chevrons on the rear quarter panel facing the taillights. Trim for 1965 was limited to the one side strip seen on this car.
The paint on this Falcon appears to be in good shape and, if it's a stock color, is Dynasty Green with a white side spear and turquoise vinyl seats. Good chrome, straight body. Now it just needs someone to turn the "F" right side up on the hood.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Dodge Dart Custom

Ah yes... this is what passed for a compact car in 1969. Before the modern concept of a "compact" economy car came into play, the compact was still a pretty large car. But when the "large" car is a Dodge Coronet, it makes this 1969 Dodge Dart Custom sedan look a bit small. In those days, a compact car was about getting more car in a smaller package for less money. Or less car, if you couldn't afford all the bonuses of a big car. It wasn't until the '70s fuel crises that the focus really began to shift toward higher fuel economy and lower emissions. That's probably why most domestic-built compacts of 1960s were powered by six-cylinder engines while foreign competitors used smaller, less powerful four-cylinder engines. This particular Dart, like many other compacts of the '60s, is equipped with the optional V8.
This example is relatively rust free, though it appears to be a daily driver and has dents and scrapes consistent with a well-used San Francisco car. All trim is intact, the chrome is mostly in good shape and looks like it could shine up nicely with a good polishing. All the owner needs to do is pound out those dents, slap some new paint on it and they'll have a fine family sedan with much more presence than a modern Camry.

Friday, June 19, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser

Quite the uber-gallery, I know. But it's a Studebaker! You just don't ignore an exaggeratedly styled mint-green sedan from a long-defunct automaker, especially not one as clean and interesting as this one. It's a 1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser apparently owned by a Studebaker enthusiast in San Francisco. I found this car by chance, interestingly enough, while searching for a Lark Wagonaire Daytona station wagon (pictured below) of the same year, a car which I suspect is/was owned by the same person.
Both cars are loaded '63 models rolling on American Racing 5-spoke wheels. Both were parked on the same block. But I never saw both cars together, and while I have seen the green Cruiser at least three times, the Wagonaire has only appeared for me once and I could never do a full shoot on it.
This Lark Cruiser really is nice. Studebaker gave the Lark a faux Mercedes grille that lasted until 1963 (1964 models had an entirely different front-end treatment with a trapezoidal grille that, in my opinion, wasn't as attractive). This car may have some extra trim on it, since I've never seen another Lark that had both a chrome hood ornament and chrome spears on top of the front fenders. This car is also equipped with the 289 cubic-inch "R-1" V8 from the Avanti sports car, producing 240 horsepower. To put things in perspective, a standard 289-powered '64 1/2 Mustang produced 210-220 hp. A relatively small sedan like the Lark Cruiser coupled with that kind of power could scoot to 60 mph in 10 seconds. That's a tick quicker than a 1967 Camaro with the 327 V8. Not too shabby.