Wednesday, June 30, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 2003 Daihatsu Move Custom

And now for something completely, utterly different. This, my friends, is a Daihatsu Move. Yes, brought over from the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. Notice it's right-hand-drive. You won't find too many of these here in America.
The Daihatsu Move is a kei car, one of the many small, usually upright hatchback cars that are popular in the Japanese domestic market (JDM). In densely populated Japanese cities where space is extremely limited and cars are an expensive luxury, a kei car is usually the way to go.
This car is a Move Custom, a special edition model that looks much sportier than the standard Move. It is a third-generation Custom, dating it between 2002 and 2004. I'll split the difference and call it a 2003. In my opinion, the Custom is by far the best looking of all the Moves, and this is the best looking generation
So what is this doing in San Francisco? Someone owns it, obviously. How did it get here? Someone imported it. But apparently its story is not so simple as coming over from Japan on a ship. On the rear hatch is a badge with "Uemura Motor" on it. Uemura Motor is an auto wholesaler in Callao, Peru. So a JDM Daihatsu came to North America via Peru and has landed on Telegraph Hill. And it seems to have sucked everything cute into it on the way out of Planet Tokyo.
Of course, it seems like few JDM cars stay stock once they arrive. This one already had pink lugnuts, rain deflectors and some tuner stickers by the time I saw it -- and it didn't even have plates yet. Turns out the windshield sticker is from N1 Concepts, a California-based company that distributes JDM tuner parts. This car may belong to an employee or customer. Last time I saw this car (December 2009), it had California plates, a body kit, a wing and a bunch more tuning company stickers. Oh yes, and a Hello Kitty emblem on the hatch. Having been more than six months since I took the most recent photos, I don't know what it looks like today. Probably even more customized. I don't like what's being done to it, but it's not my car.

This car was featured on's Down On the Street Bonus Edition in February 2009.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria

I've been saving this one for a long time. Almost a year ago, my friend and I went to Santa Cruz and were wandering around downtown looking for something to do. Lo and behold, this beautiful 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria came rolling down the street. No sooner had it parked than my friend and I started taking pictures.
The 1956 Fords are some of my favorite '50s cars. Despite their decidedly non-sporty look, in my opinion they're very classy. Perhaps a bit too upright; they do look rather tall -- but that was the style of the time. The restrained tail fins, tidy proportions and just-right application of chrome and stainless steel trim contribute to a nice overall look. This being a Fairlane Victoria, it was one of the best Fords available that year. It sports a 312 cubic inch "Thunderbird Special" Y-block V8 engine producing 225 horsepower, a feature the owner was kind enough to allow me to photograph. I love the robin's egg blue and white two-tone with matching interior. The air conditioner is aftermarket, though the '56 Ford was originally available with a "Select-Aire" AC unit integrated into the dash (a very rare option). Speaking of rare options, it doesn't look like this one has the "Lifeguard" safety package of seatbelts, padded dash and breakaway rearview mirror.
This is one of the few cars I've seen where I actually like every detail of it as originally designed. The interior is gorgeous and the exterior is darn near flawless. Trim isn't excessive, lines don't go all funky and everything looks right in its place. I never liked the nearly identical '55 Fords because of their bulging round secondary lights in the grille. The '56s use a less noticeable, more streamlined design. My nitpicks are few. If it were mine I'd lose the rear window sticker in a second. I'd also touch up the red paint on the "Thunderbird" fender badges. That's about it.
It's a beautiful example of one of my favorite cars of the fifties.

Monday, June 28, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Volvo P1800S

I figured it's time to clear out some of my really old blog-bound pictures, and this car was one of the very first vehicles I photographed. I took these with my old camera well over a year ago, before I even started California Streets. In fact, I started this blog because my submissions to's "Down On the Street: Bonus Edition" were never getting posted. So here we are, and here is the second Volvo to be featured on California Streets.
The Volvo P1800's claim to fame was, as many will tell you, its role as Roger Moore's car in the TV series, "The Saint". It was white with the license plate "ST 1", and according to, was Moore's personal vehicle at the time. Its appearance on the show was no small factor in the subsequent boost in P1800 sales.
Not much changed on the P1800 coupe during its 12 year production run, so model years are difficult to determine. Luckily, there are a few details which give clues. First, this is a P1800S, meaning it was built in Sweden rather than the UK (early models were built by Jensen in Scotland and England). That dates it between 1963 and 1970, while the lack of side marker lights dates it before 1968. The California black license plates are probably original, and were issued around 1965. So my best guess is that this Volvo is a 1965, and leave it at that until someone corrects me.
Now, I've seen a lot of P1800s, and a lot of them were nicer than this. This poor car is beat to hell and back, rusty, sun-baked, crashed, what have you. It's very sad, because it would be a desirable car in good condition. It has the "cow horn" bumpers which are apparently rare (I haven't seen many that had these), wears the original dog dish chrome hubcaps and is painted a very dark green which appears black in certain light. Like so many San Francisco vintage cars, it begs for a restoration, but probably won't receive one unless it changes hands. As much damage as this one has, it really needs a Saint to come and save it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 Toyota Corolla Liftback

My, my. A Corolla. You must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel to be featuring a Corolla, Jay...

Actually, at the time of this writing I have nearly 60 other vehicles in reserve and at least a dozen more if I were to feature cars with fewer than five pictures of them. Now, to those of us living in sunny California, where Toyota's conquest of the US market began, an older Toyota may not seem like much to get excited over. But some of my readers live in the rust belt where anything over five years old begins to corrode. A 1981 Corolla like this one would be eaten alive by a few Minnesota winters. So, perhaps to sate them and perhaps to taunt them, today we feature a 1981 Toyota Corolla 1.8 Liftback.
The Liftback was introduced into the Corolla lineup in 1976, and in my opinion it was a great-looking car. My parents nearly bought one new, but chose instead to spend the money on a down payment toward their first house together. These old Corollas were rear-wheel-drive, light and available with a five-speed manual, so despite their low power numbers they were relatively sporty. In 1979 the Corolla became larger and much more boxy, but maintained its RWD layout. This 1981 model is equipped with the 3T-C 1.8 liter carbureted inline four producing a thundering 75 horsepower. Despite being the larger engine, it is less powerful than the smaller-displacement 1.6 liter SOHC option. This car lacks SR5 badges so I assume it's a base model.
The whole reason I snapped this car was because, well, it's nearly 30 years old. And it's bright yellow. And while crossing the street coming back from art history class, it looked pretty clean. Upon closer inspection there's rust where body dings weren't touched up, and it took a hit to the quarter panel behind the driver door that wasn't properly straightened. A piece of trim is missing from the passenger side quarter as well. Other than that, though, the body is in pretty solid shape. I actually like a number of older Toyotas in bright yellow, and the black steel wheels with bright lip kind of look... dare I say good?
In all honesty I don't care too much about these cars. I think the 1976-79 Liftbacks are far more attractive. However the fact this is one of the last mainstream RWD Corollas makes it somewhat important, and it's in relatively good condition. So why not show it off?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Ford Falcon

It's funny, I imposed a rule on myself against posting a bunch of Mustangs, but not one against posting Falcons. I suppose in a way I have, since I've passed up many Falcons in the months following the creation of this humble blog. This particular Falcon was one of my earliest blog shoots, taken several months ago. It intrigues me, as it's a perfect example of a custom car long past its prime.
It's a 1962 model, a car which used the conservatively styled and basic bodyshell introduced for 1960, but with a freshened and reshaped grille with vertical bars. I actually really like the 1962 front end, but am not so keen on the rather stale '60-style rear. The Falcon range would not get a full restyle until 1964.
This car originally came with rear wheel arches that came up no higher than the bottom of the side scallop, and hid the top of the wheels inside the quarter panel. Probably made tire changes fun. Probably at some point in the late '60s judging by the late-issue (circa 1968) black plate, the car changed hands and a new, younger owner wanted some wider tires. That meant slicing out those wheel arches and flaring the lip to fit the more aggressive rubber. The owner also added slotted mag wheels and jacked up, shackled rear suspension which give it an early-70s custom look. Other modifications include a custom 3-spoke steering wheel, flexible black side mirrors that look like they came from an '80s compact pickup, and some chrome spear trim of indeterminate origin on the quarter panels. The brightwork might look all right if it were aligned straight, but it, like the rest of the car, is dull, sagging and broken. I really wouldn't mind the vintage custom style if it were in good shape. As it sits, it looks like an old beater that was driven hard, put away wet, and allowed to rust. Some folks think that mismatched panels, dents and rust make a car look "badass", and some cars can pull it off. Others just look abused or neglected, and this one is probably both. The first time I saw it, it was sitting under a tree with a flat tire, and meter maid chalk all over the tires to mark the fact it hadn't moved recently. Thankfully a tow was evidently averted and the next time I saw it, the Falcon was parked on a different street with four properly inflated tires.
I hold out hope that one day it will receive the loving care it deserves. And for once, I actually want to see it restored in this style instead of returned to stock.