Thursday, July 22, 2010

Daly City Street Sighting - 1966 Dodge Dart GT

1966 was a transitional year for a number of Chrysler Corporation's cars. It marked the transformation from weird to awesome. Since the late 1950s, Chrysler was getting really strange. Massive fins gave way to swoopy bodies with unusual design features like backwards vestigial fins and oddly-shaped beltlines. The Dodge Dart came out in 1960 as a midsize car, then shrank after the disastrous 1962 redesign in which Chrysler discovered that making big cars look small isn't the same as making small cars. Especially when those cars were horribly overstyled. The road back to a normal-looking product line was long and by 1966, things were getting pretty good. Some cars got some pretty sweet, all-new sheetmetal, like the new Coronet-based Charger fastback muscle car. Others, though, like the bread-and-butter Dart, lingered with mild facelifts on bodies introduced in 1963. A totally restyled Dart would arrive for 1967, but until then, buyers had to live with this. The Dart shared a platform and most mechanicals with its Plymouth sibling, the Valiant. Unlike the '66 Valiant, though, the Dart has some character in its design. If you wanted a Valiant with character back in '66, you bought a Barracuda.
This particular example is a Dart GT two-door hardtop coupe, the top sporty model. It has one of the more interesting "GT" badges I've seen. Not often that you see both letters in vastly different typefaces. This one probably pulls its weight with a 273 cubic inch V8, which would be more fitting for a sport model than the slant six. The orange peel-filled paint job is definitely not original and was probably sprayed by Maaco for super cheap. As can be seen up close, the shop didn't even remove the badges and did a poor job of masking around them. Likewise, the wheels are not original either. The body is pretty straight (though it's a good bet Bondo was involved in some quantity). The grille is pretty much toast. Such is life for a classic car whose owner can't afford a Barrett-Jackson concours restoration. It probably sounds all right and gives its owner relatively dependable transportation, and for many people that's all that matters.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

San Jose Street Sighting - 1948 DeSoto Custom Suburban

Every time I visit my friend in San Jose, I drive past this car. It's a 1948 DeSoto Custom Suburban 8-passenger sedan. Today, this sort of car would probably be called a "crossover" with its massive long-wheelbase body and three rows of seats. It has all the interior space of a modern SUV without a truck chassis. After World War II ended, DeSoto resumed regular car production. Having no all-new models, they quite literally facelifted the 1942 model and sold it as a 1946. The '42 DeSotos were an unusual animal with hidden headlights and a toothy grille that caused it to resemble something from a Stephen King novel. The new '46s dispensed with the fliplights in favor of fixed units and an even bigger grille. Few exterior changes were made between 1946 and '48, so it's not easy to tell those cars apart. The only clue to this car's year, since even the owner didn't know what year it is (and he's owned it since the 1980s at least), is the wheelcovers. According to someone who knows more about obscure cars than I do, posting on the Internet Movie Car Database, the '48 DeSotos have a full chrome wheelcover instead of the postwar '46 and '47's smaller, plastic-rimmed center hubcaps. Steel was still in short supply following the war, which I presume was the reason for less metal used in hubcaps. Some cars left factories with wood bumpers, to be replaced later by dealers once steel became available for the real thing.
The Custom Suburban was DeSoto's top model in 1948. It is a big, luxurious car with lots of space and a wood-and-steel roof rack. Note the subtle two-tone on this example, with a darker brown tone on the roof. It is powered by a 236ci flathead straight six engine powerful enough to get the heavy car moving and up to speed but won't win any speed trials.
By now you have no doubt noticed things are missing off this car. That's because it's a restoration project in progress. As I write this, it looks a whole lot worse than it did when I took these pictures. As it sat, the big brown DeSoto really didn't look all that bad. But the owner found problems with it and decided to restore it to its former glory. This is the car he drove to high school in, and has owned it ever since, so it holds sentimental value in addition to being a rare vehicle. Only 7500 of these were made during the '46-48 model years. As time goes by, I'll probably see progress being made on it, like a rechromed front bumper, reinstalled side trim and the wood put back on the roof rack. I hope it receives all the love a high-school sweetheart deserves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Dodge Custom Royal Regal Lancer D-500

Oooh, night shoot! I actually like how a lot of these photos came out. The story is, I decided one afternoon to head over to Fifties Guy's place and snap more of his cars. Problem was, I was walking from downtown. It was late afternoon, and once I ran smack into the Presidio I realized I had to climb the steep hills of Cow Hollow to get to there. This with a hefty backpack, since I had class earlier in the day. So I finally reached the Inner Richmond as it was getting dark. Too late to shoot cars, right? Voila! Mini tripod.
This is a 1958 Dodge Custom Royal Regal Lancer, a rare special edition Custom Royal pillarless hardtop made only in 1958. By special edtion, basically I mean it was an exclusive paintjob, interior treatment and badging. Regal Lancers were available only in copper with either black or white trim, and a total of 1163 were built. Google Image Search "1958 Dodge Regal Lancer" and see what comes up. I couldn't find a single one with Eggshell White trim like this one has. This one also has the D-500 option, meaning it packs the 361 cubic inch V8. Only 5% of all US-built '58 Dodges had that option, making it particularly scarce among the already-rare Regal Lancers. The impressive overall condition of this example really pushes it over the top. All the correct badging, hubcaps, chrome, vintage '50s license plates, everything is there. The body's remarkably straight and rust-free as best I can tell from these night photos. It even has original plate frames from J.E. French Co., a now defunct Plymouth and Dodge dealer formerly located at 1542 4th St. north of San Francisco in San Rafael. All it appears to need is a good polishing job for the chrome bumpers.
The 1958 Dodges were never really my cup of tea, mainly because of my soft spot for '58 Plymouths and because, in my opinion, that massive and complex grille does the otherwise handsome body no favors. It has some great angles, though. Because of its rarity and great condition, I consider this to be one of the finest cars in Fifties Guy's collection, and I'm very glad to have had the chance to photograph it. As of this writing, I haven't seen it since. Wouldn't mind seeing it again sometime.

Monday, July 19, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Ford Galaxie Country Sedan

For every super-clean classic car I see on the streets, it seems like there's one in deplorable condition. Such cars often look like they've been lived in, or broken into, or abandoned. And then there's one like this, which despite looking straight out of the ghetto....
...actually lives one block from the world-famous Painted Lady Victorian houses in Alamo Square. You know, those multicolored houses on the hill that everyone recognizes when they see pictures of San Francisco. Those babies can go for over $3 million. And then there's this little old blight on the neighborhood, a well-used but not well-loved 1963 Ford Galaxie Country Sedan.
Let's start with the obvious: this "Country Sedan" is a wagon. No need to remind me. It's actually badged Country Sedan and it won't be the last car featured here to bear that name (hint, hint). A Country Sedan is a Country Squire without the fake wood paneling. A squire refers to an assistant knight or village leader, not a station wagon. Yet it was Ford's name for any vehicle with the fake wood, even on the Ranchero, for decades. Silly Ford.
Yes, it's beat to hell and back, with baked paint and body damage that far exceeds the value of the car. All four hubcaps are long gone, as is most of the side trim, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a straight body panel short of the roof (and that's pretty badly rusted, too). The sad fact is, these aren't fantastically valuable. Unless it has immense sentimental value, I doubt it will ever be fixed. The progressive bumper stickers say a lot about the owner, and I don't think this person's biggest priority in life is how their car looks. Quite frankly, I'm surprised they drive something like this. I fear it may disappear to the scrap heap once they save up enough for a down payment on something "greener".
What else makes me sad about it is, I've known about this car for two years now. It looks worse every time I see it. Trim falls off, more dents and rust appear. Watching old cars deteriorate can be painful, and every few months when I pass by this car's usual spot and it isn't there, I wonder if it still exists. Here's hoping it doesn't soon fall victim to the jaws of the Crusher.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 BMW 2002 tii Touring

This is the first one of these I've ever seen in the flesh. It's a 1972 BMW 2002 tii I spotted across the street from City Hall in San Francisco. I was walking by and saw a familiar headlight and turn signal peeking out from a row of parked cars and said to myself, "Meh, just another 2002- waaaaaitaminute."
That roofline seemed a little long for a 2002 and sure enough, it was a Touring. Touring was BMW's name for the wagon version of their cars, though the 2002 Touring is really more of a hatchback than a true wagon. I'm used to seeing 2002s in The City all the time, which is why none have previously been featured here. I've basically stopped caring about them. But this one was special. And by special I mean rare. I know basically nothing about the 2002 Touring beyond the fact I never see them, ever, and the irritation I get from looking at the rear angle. Where the regular 2002 of this vintage has rounded rear corners that suit the little circular lenses, the Touring has a squared-off Kamm tail which makes the taillight panel resemble some kind of Fiat or even a second-generation Corvair missing a pair of lights. All the BMW details are there, right down to the so-called Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar. But I dunno, it just kind of bugs me when I look at it.
I was really surprised it had California blue plates and no tacked-on US side markers. As far as I know, Tourings were never officially sold here. Must have been brought over a long time ago, perhaps as a grey-market import. The blue plates are late-issue, suggesting it arrived in the US maybe one year before California adopted its 1ABC123 license number format. It seems to be in pretty good shape, with a clean and dent-free body and nice chrome. I'm digging those wheels on it, too.
This counts as one of the top two most interesting 2002s I've spotted in San Francisco, the other being a maroon one which had the back half of the roof cut off and the trunk area turned into a mini pickup bed. Classic BMWs are plentiful, they just happen to mostly be garden-variety 2002s. Sometimes I hit paydirt with an E9 coupe like the 2800CS I featured last year. Maybe I'll get lucky and the fellow with the Bavaria sedan in the Inner Richmond will park it on the street next time I'm there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1970 Chevrolet CST/10

It's been a long time since a proper pickup truck was shown here. Pickups help keep this great country moving, and I always like seeing an old truck still out there working. My uncle drives a 1969 Chevy C/20 longbed that he bought from my grandfather years ago. My dad owns a 1971 GMC stepside that he bought from my next-door neighbor's father. It was the previous owner's daily driver since 1972. My dad once owned a 1936 Ford pickup, which I later saw at a car show, three decades after he sold it. The then-current owner was still using it as a work truck, and it wore the same Corvette Elkhart Green paint my dad sprayed on it in the '70s. There's something special about the patina earned through thirty, forty, fifty years of hauling and hundreds of thousands of miles covered. The stories such vehicles might tell.
At first glance, this truck isn't particularly exciting to behold. It's a top-line 1970 Chevrolet CST/10 stepside in a fairly plain shade of copper resembling a weathered penny. Surface rust dots the surprisingly straight body. Which begs the question: how has a pickup lasted 40 years and only picked up a few dents and creases? It still has the stock wheels with chrome hubcaps, a deluxe feature. It also has nice chrome bumpers, another option. The bed shows extensive wear from duty, as does the interior with its unusual bucket seats. The large side mirrors are custom as can be seen from the unused stock mounting locations below the wing windows. Perhaps the owner used it for towing large trailers or put a camper on the back and needed the extra visibility. Unless I'm mistaken, that's what the "CST" stands for: Camper Special. The third brake light looks like a custom item probably added back when having one meant cheaper insurance.
Chevy C/10s are all over the place, though CST/10s are not nearly so common. This particular truck sat in this one spot for a long time, rarely moving over a two to three year span. I believe it is owned by the same person as the yellow 1968 C/20 Panel Truck I featured a couple months back. It was parked on the same block. In fact, both trucks spent a lot of time parked there. However, the next time I happened to pass by, this truck was gone and the yellow Panel remained. It returned after nearly a year's absence, sat there for a short time, then disappeared again. The trucks were recently (and briefly) joined by a circa-1964 GMC Fleetside, which may find itself on California Streets at some point in the future. We shall see.