Wednesday, March 23, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Buick Century Riviera

I generally am not known for being a fan of cars made in 1958. Actually, scratch that. I love the 1958 Chevy, Pontiac, Edsel, Plymouth and... umm... Studebaker Hawk, I guess. Most everything else that came out of Detroit or even Europe was too grotesque for my liking. (Okay, the '58 Mercedes SL was nice, but it was largely a carryover from a few years before, and the BMW 507 and Austin-Healeys were all right, too.) Most of GM's 1958 offerings were based on the same platform they'd been on for a few years, and had a family resemblance in their styling. Cadillac did its own thing because it was Cadillac. 1958 Buicks never really got me excited, and Oldsmobile was just plain baroque. Regardless, this Buick was the car that introduced me to the fact that a car collector existed around these parts. The fact that I never managed to properly photograph it the first time kept me coming back for almost two years in the vain hope of finding it again. Finally, in August 2010 I managed to shoot it.
This example is a '58 Century Riviera 2-door hardtop, another member of Fifties Guy's collection of "daily driver" late-50s iron. I don't know the method behind his collecting, since every so often one or more of the cars appears for sale online. Maybe he gets bored or runs out of room every so often and unloads a few. A number of his cars that I've featured here on California Streets have since been sold off or are currently for sale. Even this one was listed on and was sold off last month. According to the ad, it features the 364 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, producing 300 horsepower. Luxury came in the form of power windows, power seats and power steering and brakes. Not too shabby for a car built in the '50s. I wonder if it all still works.
At any rate, I hope this car found a good home. Maybe it'll get lucky and find its way to a restoration shop. I'd love to see a shiny Garnet Red '58 Century with California license #DCB 273 displayed at a future car show.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Ford Econoline Pickup

When shopping for a truck, most people in the United States would likely pick a conventional full-size pickup, probably a Ford F-Series or Chevy Silverado. There's a reason why those two vehicles are the two best-selling vehicles here, year after year. Which might give you a hint as to why you don't see many cab-forward, van-based trucks in this country. This Poppy Red 1966 Ford Econoline is a particularly fine example of the forward control pickup breed.
Cab-forward pickups were about the closest thing to a compact truck you could get from an American manufacturer in the 1960s. The Ford Ranger (as we know it today, not the Ranger trim level on the F-150) was still more than a decade away. The Econoline, introduced in 1961, was based on the compact Falcon platform. Of course, "compact" is relative - the 1966 Falcon was 9 inches longer than my 2007 Focus sedan. The Econoline came with a six-cylinder engine which was surely adequate when unloaded, but one wonders how much it might struggle when weighed down with a bunch of bags of cement mix or potting soil in the back.
This example looks to be a nicely equipped truck. Stainless bed rails, a big stainless trim spear on the side and deluxe wire hubcaps with knock-off spinners hint at a Custom trim level, but it has painted side mirrors and no identifying body badging. If it were my truck, I might chrome the side mirrors and touch up the body a little. There's just enough wear in the paint to suggest it sometimes gets used as a truck. And it lives just around the corner from an awesome miniature cupcake bakery which made the trip to see it worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

I don't often see vintage British cars parked on the street, especially not the finest British make of them all, Rolls-Royce. I suppose it makes sense that a hand-built luxury car like this 1967 Silver Shadow would survive four decades. At the same time, I'm a little amused. The Shadow was perhaps Rolls' first "modern" car, and yet it's kind of a parts-bin vehicle. The transmission is from GM, the hydraulic suspension is licensed from Citroen. Still, it was very advanced for its time, and looked current enough that Rolls would build it for fifteen years from 1965-80. The Silver Shadow was the most popular Rolls-Royce model in history, making this a relatively common car by Rolls standards - if you consider a total worldwide production of 30,057 cars over fifteen years "common". And that's including all the long-wheelbase models. When was the last time you saw one in daily-driver condition, street-parked, in as cutthroat and progressive a town as San Francisco? It's big, decadent, has a large, lazy V8 engine and doesn't have to answer to any stinking bureaucrats for pollution standards. I love it.
This one's in very nice condition for its age, too. The paint is in good shape, the vinyl top looks nearly new and the brightwork is free of rust. The biggest flaw I can find on it is the rear valance panel beneath the bumper seems to have gotten bent, and the bottom of the rear quarter panels are starting to rust out. A reputable body shop should be able to have it good as new. Aside from that, she's a beauty, a simply styled, well-engineered, classic Rolls-Royce.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Mercury Monterey

Occasionally in the city I'll run across something entirely odd, or a mainstream vehicle that just doesn't have a strong following. The Mercury Monterey is not an obscure make or model, but for the life of me I can't remember the last time I'd seen one from 1962 until this clean white example turned up in the Inner Richmond in San Francisco.
Wikipedia is very sparse about this year, literally one sentence. HowStuffWorks goes into more detail, but the '62 Montereys are described as "forgettable". Since this is not the hotter S-55 model, it has either a wimpy straight six or a 292 V8 making 170 horsepower. A barge like this with under 200 hp would accelerate leisurely at best and handle pretty badly. I've seen someone autocross a stock '63 Monterey, and it was more like captaining than driving.
I like that the body's clean and features the original wheels and center caps. The early-issue 1963 license plates suggest this car was registered late in the year or traded in soon after it was first sold. Having seen pictures of these with thin whitewall tires, I think they'd class this car up significantly. For me though, the primary concern is rust. There are bubbles around the edges of the trunk lid and the bumpers definitely need to be rechromed. Gotta catch that stuff before this cool '62 becomes another forgotten casualty of time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. This, my friends, is an Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. It certainly looks quick, doesn't it? It has mag wheels, racing stripes, bucket seats! It must surely be a real barnstormer.
The 442 was first introduced in 1964 as the hottest car in the Olds stable, a muscle machine with four barrel carburetor, four speed manual and two tailpipes. What it meant by the time this car was built, in the height of disco and the depths of the fuel crisis, is anyone's guess. For one thing, in 1975, the standard engine for the 442 was a 250 cubic-inch straight six. If you shelled out the money for the top-of-the-line 455 V8, you had 190 horsepower on tap. That's all. And catalytic converters. And you could order it with an automatic. "442" probably meant four seats, four wheels and two doors.
The body was decently clean and straight when I shot this car. I actually had to re-shoot it the following week when I saw it a second time, to get better pictures of a couple of angles. Wouldn't you know it, the owner had crashed it into something and busted the grille on the driver side. Luckily you don't have to see that.
I've always been hit-or-miss about post-1973 GM "Colonnade" coupes. The Oldsmobiles have some interesting details, though the overdesigned side scallops kind of ruin it for many people. I'm not sure what's going on with the maroon stripes, but given their combination with matching stripe trim around the wheel arches, I wonder if it's factory. The white-painted Olds Rally wheels probably are.
As a muscle car, it's a pretty terrible example; more of a mid-'70s disco cruiser for men who weren't ridiculous enough for a Trans Am. Still, it's a piece of history and I'll take any 442 I can find. Having shot it ten months ago, I hope it's still on the road.