Sunday, February 28, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1992 GMC Typhoon

This may at first glance look like a garden-variety GMC Jimmy, but it's so much more than that. Where the regular Jimmy was an off-road oriented SUV with an unfortunate reputation for its rollover risk, the GMC Typhoon was a romping, stomping, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive beast of a performance truck. It's a curious vehicle, developed at a time when performance cars were anything over 200 horsepower and no one had built a fast truck in decades. Then General Motors unleashed a pair of shockingly quick compact trucks based on their S-Series platform. They were a regular-cab pickup called the Syclone, and a two-door SUV called the Typhoon. They sported a turboed 4.3 liter V6 producing 280 horsepower, 65 more than a V8-powered Mustang GT of the era. (According to Wikipedia, some stock Typhoons have actually produced over 300hp). All this power was put to the pavement through a 700R4 4-speed automatic transmission and AWD system with 35% front/65% rear bias. The trucks also featured upgraded suspensions, brakes, and a self-leveling rear suspension. It was unlike anything else available at the time, a truck capable of doing 0-60 in 5.3 seconds while taking the kids to school. The Typhoon was built from 1992 to 1993. Only 4,697 were ever built.
This example is a 1992 Typhoon according to state smog records. Assuming the paint is stock, it is Frost White, but on a '92 Typhoon the lower body cladding should be gray. White cladding was not available until 1993. This truck also features some custom ghost flames. I don't mind the Typhoon in all white, though I think if it were mine I'd lose the flames, and of course fix that bashed-up corner. I've never been a fan of the stock wheel design on the "SyTy", but I might keep them for the sake of originality. Some owners unhappy with the stock drivetrain have been known to perform V8 swaps and/or drop in manual transmissions for better performance. I think I'd sooner hack up a standard Jimmy than do that to a real Typhoon.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Volvo 122S Station Wagon

Another interesting case of a foreign manufacturer copying a successful design is Volvo with its Amazon line of cars. Their split grille, single headlights and slight tail fins were inspired by 1950s Chryslers, albeit scaled down quite a bit. The design is also said to have been inspired by a Kaiser that somehow made it to Sweden (but I haven't seen very many Kaisers that looked anything like a Volvo Amazon).
The Amazon was introduced in 1956 and built through 1970. It was intended to replace the PV series (a car that bore a passing resemblance to a 1942 Ford), but ended up being sold alongside it until 1965. Both cars shared the same wheelbase and powertrain. Power came from the B16 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine, and later the B18 and B20 fours. Transmission choices were a 3- or 4-speed manual, or a 3-speed automatic. The automatic was only available after 1964 (and only in 1967-68 on wagons).
Amazons came to the United States as the 122. A performance model with dual carburetors, called the 122S, was introduced in 1958. It was available as a two- or four-door sedan, and starting in 1962, as a station wagon. The 122S produced 85 horsepower.
This car is a 1965 or 1966 Volvo 122S Station Wagon. Since so few design changes were made during the 1962-69 production run, it's difficult to spot year-to-year differences. This car also has a modern license plate, so I can't estimate its age based on plate number. It has no side markers, dating it before 1968. It has the older grille, making it pre-1967. It also has the small "122S" fender badging that was used starting in 1965. The final clue, which for me is a guess, if the driver side door mirror. I've seen pictures of 1965 122 wagons with this elongated mirror, and all 1966 wagons I've seen seem to have a round mirror. And yes, I did shoot it around Christmas time.
It's a fine example, one of the cleanest I've seen in the area. Only about 73,000 wagons were made, accounting for roughly 11% of total Amazon sales. So it's a pretty rare find in this condition. These old Volvos are fairly common in San Francisco, usually well worn and beaten and typically the sedan body style. Cars with straight, rust-free bodies like this are rare, making me wonder if and when this one was restored. I like the paint scheme. Curiously, it's missing a small chrome hood spear that most other 122s have. It needs the chrome replated on both bumpers and a little bit of black touch-up on the grille badge before it can be called perfect.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Datsun 510

A number of Japanese manufacturers got their start or became successful by copying proven formulas from other companies. In the case of the Datsun 510, Nissan Motor Company copied a BMW. Specifically, the "New Class" series of sedans and coupes introduced in the 1960s. They were trim little cars, powered by four-cylinder engines and rear-wheel-drive. The Datsun 510 was introduced in 1968, but didn't become popular in the United States until 1969. It featured clean and handsome lines penned by Teruo Uchino. To this day I still think the 510 is one of the better looking Japanese cars. US models were powered by Nissan's L16 1.6 liter four-cylinder producing 96 horsepower, coupled with a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic. The 510 was available in coupe, 2- or 4-door sedan, or 5-door wagon body styles.
These cars have a cultlike following due to their success in rallying and racing. 510s are commonly used for autocrossing as well. They're very popular for powertrain swaps since many higher-spec Nissan engines and transmissions practically bolt right in. Because of this, many 510s were worn out or destroyed, making clean stock examples pretty hard to find.
This 510 sedan is a fairly early one, 1971 at the latest, going by the original license plate. It features the anti-glare windshield and redesigned side markers made standard in 1970. It wears a yellow paint scheme with black and white side striping and black "Datsun" quarter panel stickers. This, combined with the gold 4-spoke wheels, probably made it a snappy-looking little car back in its prime. Unfortunately, a life out on the coast hasn't been kind to it. The body is straight but rock chips have exposed the metal to 40 years of salt air and caused significant rust. It's a really cute little car and I'm sure it would be fun to drive assuming everything is mechanically sound. I'm scared for the body, though. Hopefully the deterioration will be stopped before it's too late.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1961 Cadillac Series 62

This blog has featured many brands of old cars, but there have been no Cadillacs! How can this be? Chalk it up to their rarity, value and the general lack of street parking space that make it difficult to own, drive and store a vintage Caddy in urban areas. That, and San Francisco's famous undercarriage-scraping hills.
Cadillac used to be called "the Standard of the World" when it came to building luxury cars. After about 1970 that reputation started to slip, as they started transitioning to front-wheel-drive platforms and poorly-engineered smog-controlled engines like the ill-fated "V8-6-4" (an early experiment in "displacement on demand" cylinder deactivation, which, while commonplace today, was virtually untried and unproven back then). As overall quality collapsed in the 1980s, General Motors's luxury division was being overtaken by the Germans and by Japanese upstarts like Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Outdated models like the body-on-frame Fleetwood Brougham soldiered on into the early 1990s, and from 1997 through 1999 Cadillac was almost exclusively FWD. The sole exception was the RWD Catera sedan imported from Germany. Today the brand is enjoying a resurgence with a renewed focus on performance luxury.
Before 1970, though, Cadillac was on top. The company was free to build massive, chrome-laden, finned beasts with powerful V8 engines and a wealth of amenities. Tail fins had first appeared in 1948, and steadily grown in size as the fifties wore on. They peaked on the 1959 Cadillacs, but by the early 1960s, tail fins were falling out of favor. The downsized fins on this 1961 model are an indication of that.
This car is a 1961 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe. It features a sharply sculpted body that looks quite modern compared to the 1960 model. It also looks smaller than the previous model, partly because it is. Oddly enough, the wheelbase only shrank by a half-inch, while overall length shrank by as much as ten inches. A 390 cubic inch V8 motivates this one, producing 325 horsepower.
It's owned by a massage therapist in San Francisco who reportedly rescued it from a junkyard. I'm glad he did, because it adds some much-needed flair to a city full of ugly little hybrids. As far as condition goes, it came from a junkyard, so one would figure it needs some work. And it does. There's rust here and there, but nothing that can't be fixed with some time and love (and investment). I'm particularly concerned about the right quarter panel and the right front corner of the hood. Other than those spots, the body looks pretty straight.
It's a nice car and one I'm happy to feature here as the first representative of Cadillac.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

50 California Street Sightings

That's right, this blog has reached fifty vehicle features. It's taken a long time, and there are many more to come. Thanks to those of you who read my humble little board and give me a reason to keep updating it.

Without further ado, a recap. Links to each feature are provided below. Just click on the vehicle you want to view.


1946 Dodge Power Wagon
1956 Continental Mark II
1956 Mercury Montclair
1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton (W180)
1958 DeSoto Fireflite
1958 Mercury Monterey
1958 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88
1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser
1960 Chevrolet Corvette
1961 Chevrolet Corvair Monza 900
1961 Hillman Minx
1961 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight
1962 Plymouth Valiant
1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser
1964 Porsche 356C
1965 Chevrolet Impala
1965 Ford Falcon Futura
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
1965 Plymouth Fury III
1966 Chrysler 300
1966 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country
1967 Mercury Cougar XR7
1968 BMW 2800CS
1968 Chevrolet C20 Panel Truck
1968 Dodge A-100 Tradesman
1968 Ford Galaxie 500XL
1968 Mercedes-Benz 250SL
1968 Volkswagen 1600TL (Type 3)
1969 Dodge Dart Custom
Mini Cooper
1970 Dodge D300
1970 Opel Kadett L
1971 Datsun 1200
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
1972 Chevrolet Kingswood
1973 Ford Torino
1974 AMC Hornet
1974 Toyota Corona Deluxe
1975 MG Midget
1975 Pontiac Catalina
1976 Chevrolet Nova Concours Cabriolet
1976 Toyota Corolla
1978 AMC Pacer Wagon
1978 International Scout II
1979 Plymouth Horizon
1979 Plymouth Sapporo
1980 Volkswagen Dasher
1987 Sterling 825S
1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo
1989 Peugeot 405S