Tuesday, July 21, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1976 Chevrolet Nova Concours

The Chevy Nova used to be one of the most commonly seen cars in the US. One of four similar models built and sold by GM, by the 1970s NOVA had become an acronym:
Nova (Chevrolet)
Omega (Oldsmobile)
Ventura (Pontiac)
Apollo (Buick, model name later changed to Skylark)
The X platform was so prevalent on the roads probably due to its status as an entry-level car. In 1962 the Chevy II was born, a car which took on the name Nova and was produced as such until 1979 in rear-wheel-drive form. This particular Nova is a 1976 Nova Concours Cabriolet, a luxury model with vinyl interior, deluxe chrome trim, and a half-vinyl "landau" roof. The only reason I can think of for the "Cabriolet" name is the vinyl roof's slight resemblance to a convertible top. The Nova lineup had not included a proper convertible model since 1967.
This Concours is finished in a nice metallic green, one which doesn't really look like a stock color. I don't mind the cream-colored wheels since they match the vinyl top and the interior. They might be painted Oldsmobile Rally wheels. The body is straight but, as happens with many cars equipped with vinyl tops, water appears to have gotten in around the edges of the vinyl and rusted the metal. From 20 feet away, though, it looks quite nice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Volkswagen 1600TL

I've always thought there was something inherently cool about the Volkswagen Type 3. For one thing, it isn't a [Type 1] Beetle. I've seen just about every different variety of Beetle one can imagine, and it's just too generic for me. I'm not wild about the [Type 2] Microbus either, unless it's something rare like a late-50s 21-window model or a pickup. But the Type 3, with its 2-door "Squareback" wagon, fastback coupe and notchback sedan body styles, is the classic VW that holds my interest most. A sporty roadster, the Type 34 Karmann Ghia, was also based on the Type 3 platform.
These cars are relatively plentiful with over 1.3 million built in the notch/fastback style alone, and another 1.2 million in the Squareback style worldwide between 1961 and 1973. Despite this fact, I don't see Type 3s very often in my area, and when I do see them they are usually Squarebacks. A fastback is much less common, though not as rarely seen as the notchback, an example of which I haven't been able to track down since February. It's funny how they come and go. When you're looking for something, they're nowhere to be found. I came across two fastbacks in one day while walking in San Francisco. One was this tan example (below) parked on a hill near Alamo Square, and the other was this maroon one in the Northern Park neighborhood above the Panhandle.
The Type 3 was powered by a flat-four cylinder engine nicknamed the "Pancake" or "Suitcase" engine due to its horizontal layout under a panel at the rear of the car. On post-1966 models this engine displaced 1.6 liters, hence the name 1600TL. This engine could be had with Bosch electronic fuel injection as an option (made standard in 1968), as well as an optional automatic transmission and air conditioning.
I initially didn't know the exact year of this Granada Red fastback. It was built sometime after 1966, the year the fastback style was introduced and the first year the Type 3 officially came to America. The front turn signals match a 1968-69 model, making it one or the other. Beyond that, the only other identifying feature visible on this car is one I didn't notice until just now. The rear license plate frame calls it out as a 1968.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Dodge D300

Fear This! it says on the tailgate. And rightly so, this is one badass-looking work truck. It's a 1970 (or possibly '71) Dodge D300 heavy-duty longbed stepside pickup. I spotted this beast parked right next to my university headquarters. Judging by the wear and the rust, it still earns its keep and will probably keep going until it can't go any more. It's the story of countless millions of pickup trucks nationwide, trucks bought to do work, trucks that do work for years and years and are fortunate enough to escape the scrapyard as long as they still have life in them.
This truck has seen some hard work in its time. Every panel is beaten and rusted. Some panels have been replaced and don't match. The frame is kinked in the middle from some very heavy loads. But still the truck and its 383 V8 soldier on.
By 1970 the Dodge D-Series pickup was looking pretty old-fashioned. The cab dated back to 1961 at least. In 1972 the line was redesigned with a more rustproof body and more modern looks. But the '70-71s were not without some style. The front end was updated for 1970 with a four-hole "crosshair" grille, a concept still used on Dodge trucks today. The D300 has a cab which sits higher up than the lower-rung D-Series models, giving it the presence of a much larger truck. Evidently these older Dodge trucks are fairly rare; just do a Google Image Search for "1970 Dodge D300" if you don't believe me.

We salute you, D300. Here's to the next load and the open road.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Ford Galaxie XL

Owners of old cars sometimes hide them from the prying eyes of the public. My strategy for finding interesting old iron is pretty simple: walk around looking for chrome bumpers. Usually I end up finding a generic pickup truck and continue on my way, but sometimes I snag something like this 1968 Ford Galaxie XL fastback. This big beast was parked in an dead-end alley in a space way too small to get out of without constant jockeying or perhaps an "accidental" nudge. Judging by the sheer mass of it, I doubt it would be very difficult to push a Corolla or Civic out of the way. Well, it might scratch the chrome on the bumpers.
The 1968 full-size Ford lineup was big but sporty-looking with hideaway headlights on some models and a rakish fastback coupe body style available. The lineup consisted of the base model Custom, midrange Galaxie, and upper-crust LTD. This car is an XL, the top trim of the Galaxie, and is not badged as a Galaxie. "XL" may or may not mean "Extra Luxury", but the car is certainly Extra Large. It is equipped with the popular 390 cubic inch V8 good for roughly 300 horsepower.
I never saw this Galaxie again to find out whether the left quarter panel was eventually painted, but I hope it was. This is too nice a car to leave looking patchy. It could use some fresh paint and the trim could stand to be rechromed, but as it is, it looks like a solid driver. And the local gas stations probably love it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

San Diego Street Sighting - Dodge Power Wagon

During the course of any trip, you're bound to see something interesting, whatever it is. On my last trip down to San Diego, this was the most interesting vehicle I saw parked on the street, hands down. It's a Dodge Power Wagon, and I have no clue what year it is. All I know is it's crazy. Dually rear axle, big tough bumpers and a black flame treatment bordered in light green announce to the world that it's big and loud and you better get out of its way! The subtle silver-green suits this truck well, and the black original-style pressed-steel wheels it a badass military look. Which is fitting given that the Power Wagon has a military history.
The Dodge Power Wagon was born in 1945 around the end of WWII and was first available to civilians in 1946. Since so many look like the original models, it's darn near impossible to identify the model year. This is especially true for this customized example. I'd venture a guess that the engine might not be stock, and it could probably be great fun off-road but rarely ventures off pavement. I could be wrong though.

I kinda hope I am.

Friday, July 3, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser

San Francisco is full of Prius-driving yuppies, but every so often you find a true car enthusiast. While going to look at a used Mazda Protege5 in the city, I asked to take a route I've commonly walked in the past. This route has led me to find many of the cars featured on this blog, and a trip over Lone Mountain near Golden Gate Park revealed an extraordinary collection of old cars. Seems a collector lives in this area who specializes in unrestored daily-driver 1950s cars, and his street-parked 1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser is a prime example.
The 1959 Mercury Monterey was powered by a 312 cubic inch "Y-block" V8 and wore a huge sculpted body with quite a bit of ornamentation. Sales were slipping in the late '50s due to the sheer amount of model bloat these cars suffered as they grew. There's a reason why this model is designated "Cruiser". That's probably all it can do. Mercury sales picked up in 1960, but not because of the full-size models. The new compact Comet was a much-needed new car to revitalize the range.
This Monterey is, as previously mentioned, unrestored. It's rough around the edges with some surface rust, but it's all complete and all original and looks really good considering it probably hasn't seen a paint shop since 1959. It wears all its original trim and desirable 1960s black plates. Kudos to the brave collector who gives these old cars a home and keeps them driving, and allows the public to enjoy their lines every day as a reminder of how things once were.