Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Danville Street Sighting - 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

I wish I could say that my first classic Ferrari feature was a genuine case of catching Uncle Pennybags on a run to the shops for bread and milk, but alas, this car was parked near a car show. I spotted it parked on the street quite literally just around the corner from the Danville Concours d'Elegance last year. The d'Elegance is a fantastic charity car show put on every September to benefit Parkinson's research and usually attracts some well-heeled car owners, either to enter their cars in the show or to just stop by and check out what's on display.

The 1969 Ferrari 365GT 2+2 is a rare beast, one of only about 800 made, and one of only two I've ever seen. This one I'd seen before, when it appeared at the 2010 California Mille pre-race car show in San Francisco in April. Again, it was parked on the street. What sets this car apart from most vintage exotic cars is that it looks like it gets driven. It's also seen its share of expensive parking rash that almost makes me wonder if Ferris Bueller's friend Cameron wailed on the front end with his foot. (Yeah, I know it was a 250GT California replica used in that movie.) Aside from the two dents in the sheetmetal, the car looked immaculate. The smooth metallic champagne paint was another thing that set it apart from most Ferraris -- it's not red! The more subdued color helps to re-affirm that this four-seat Fezza is a grand tourer first and race car second, something that will get you and three of your friends to the wine tasting on time, every time.

I believe that I recently saw this same car, with the damage repaired, for sale at Cars Dawydiak of San Francisco, for $189,000. Think about that next time you try squeezing your car into a parking space in front of a classic Ferrari.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Petaluma Street Sighting - 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS

I always told myself I'd try to avoid featuring "cliched" cars here at California Streets. You know which ones I mean: 1957 Chevy Bel Airs, 1965 Ford Mustangs, and especially 1964 Chevy Impalas. Why? Well, the "Six Fo" Impala is one of the quintessential cars associated with lowrider culture, and thus is often found rocking small wire wheels with spinner hubcaps, whitewall tires and featuring a bright color, pinstriping and/or airbrush work. Good thing I found one that .... looks exactly like that. Oh dear.

All right, to be fair, I've always liked the 1964 Impala. It's not a bad car at all, and it's loved by many, many people for a reason. They're big and relatively luxurious for their price point, good-looking and, thanks to collector and customizer interest, a lot of parts can be easily sourced for restorations. One might say that the Impala is a victim of its own success, then. I've seen so many customized '64 Impalas that they've ceased to be special to me anymore, and that's too bad. In fact, I'm starting to prefer all the other Impalas from 1958-65 better than the '64, because they all have their own merit and don't seem to be quite so stereotypical a choice for a big GM car. Not to mention the various comparable full-size offerings from Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Remember that over one million full-size Chevys were sold in 1964 alone, so there are still a lot of them running around. Other brands, not so much.

Okay, so we've covered the fact that this particular car isn't quite my cup of tea. But let's examine it closer. The owner has added a common custom touch in the form of chrome "eyelids" on the headlights, a modification I've never understood. While chrome has been added to the headlights, the stainless steel trim piece on the leading edge of the hood has gone missing. Some mild pinstriping accents the hood and some relatively tasteful gold airbrushing graces the silver roof. No extensive or irreversible modifications have been made. It strikes me as kind of a budget cruiser, as the body isn't laser-straight and the main body paint didn't look like the highest quality. I appreciate that it wears an early-issue black plate, which suggests that the car is an early-build 1964 model registered during calendar year 1963. It's a nice 20-foot car, meaning it looks fairly good from across the street. That, and it's nearly 20 feet long!
Cliched or not, it's good to see that this car's owner loves his baby enough to take good care of it, and that makes me happy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best of the Rest 2: Vantastic

1963-67 Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus, Dublin

1965 Chevrolet Sportvan, San Francisco

1969 Dodge A108 Sportsman Family Wagon, San Francisco

1968-70 Chevrolet ChevyVan, San Francisco

1987 Nissan Van, San Ramon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1984 Citroën 2CV Charleston

It seems that people with Citroën 2CVs attract shutterbugs like myself. The 2CV with its cartoonish proportions and roll-back fabric sunroof, especially a later-model Charleston special edition with its deep red and black paint, separated by a cheeky swoosh, is a magnet for attention. Millions of the little cars were sold worldwide over four decades, but America was hardly Citroën's best market. I suppose that when you're pinning your hopes on the small and underpowered but very advanced DS as a luxury car in a market dominated by chrome-laden V8 boats, it doesn't do well for the company's upscale image to field a 2-cylinder garden shed on wheels in the same dealership. It was no secret that the 2CV was intended to be a peasant's car from the beginning. Citroën didn't even actively advertise the Deux Chevaux here, and a lot of the cars that exist in the USA were imported later.

In the States, of course, the 2CV is a bit of an icon as a car for eccentric types. College professors and the like. Some owners in the city seem to have a sense of humor about their cars, and get custom license plates to express how silly and French their pride and joy is. This one's plate reads "POU BEL", which roughly translates to "Trash Can". The car itself is hardly a garbage receptacle though, quite to the contrary. It seems to be well looked-after, aside from a scuff on the right front fender. I found the beefed-up bumpers to be an interesting addition, probably a good idea with such a fragile-looking car in a tough city.
Charleston was one of many special editions Citroën offered over the years which added some flair to a loud, slow, Spartan little car. From what I can see, it was a paint package. Once again, Cats-Citroën comes to the rescue as a fantastic resource. Based on the site's extensive list of yearly, even monthly changes, my best guess is that it's an early 1984 model with the optional "Aventure" tubular bumpers. (Anyone who can offer a better approximation of the car's age would be appreciated.) I was initially surprised that it was so new. I'd previously seen it driving around town (and, as always seems to happen whenever I've headed toward the intersection of Lombard Street and Columbus Avenue in search of a certain green 1963 Mercury Meteor rumored to frequent the area, I found something entirely different - namely, this). It's not the first 2CV I've run across in San Francisco, nor will it be the last one you see here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Ford Granada

There once was a time when Ford could get away with comparing their cars to a Mercedes-Benz based on the kind of looks and interior noise level you could get for a budget price. In fact, that's exactly how Ford advertised the Granada in the United States. You got a car that, if you squinted just right or were sufficiently intoxicated, you might be able to compare to a contemporary Mercedes. It had an upright rectangular grille with a hood ornament, and you could get it with various luxury features found on a Mercedes. It was advertised as having a ride and level of quietness on par with a Mercedes as well. Of course, those tests were conducted using the six-cylinder model instead of the available (and probably louder) V8. And if the Ford wasn't enough to convince buyers that it was a Benz-fighter, the Granada was also offered in fancier Mercury Monarch and Lincoln Versailles variants.

This is a 1977 Granada sedan. I wouldn't call it the most cherry example of the breed, but it's what I had in my archives. This car was almost always parked in the same general area down by the CalTrain station in S.F.'s South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood where I had a charcoal drawing class once a week. So, I photographed it on multiple occasions and now here it is. It was always in need of a wash and while the door was pretty banged up, the rest of the body was fairly straight and it never got worse while I saw it. I never took a close look at the interior, which looks to be maroon cloth which I imagine is in similar condition to the body. I'm not sure what the deal is with the odd orange rim around the rear window or the sickly green color the windows turn in certain light. An older tint job gone bad, maybe?
Over two million Granadas were built in a seven-year span, so there are probably a fair number like this one out there still. These cars don't seem to have a strong collector following yet, and prices are still generally low. I bet it wouldn't be too terribly difficult or expensive to get a new back passenger door from a wrecking yard.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Buick Riviera

The late 1960s were an interesting time for the personal luxury car in America. It was a time when cars in general were getting huge, engine displacements continued to grow, and these changes altered the entire personality of some of the personal luxury segment. The Buick Riviera, introduced for 1963 with a trim, cleanly designed body by Bill Mitchell, and a 401 or 425 ci Nailhead V8, was a banker's hot rod. It was called one of the most beautiful American cars ever built, by both Sergio Pininfarina and Raymond Loewy.
In 1966, things changed. The Riviera got a redesigned body and shared its chassis with Oldsmobile's Toronado and Cadillac's Eldorado - except for one crucial difference: the Riviera was still rear-wheel-drive as God intended (it would ultimately become FWD in 1979 though). The new Riv got bigger engines to motivate a bigger, heavier car with more seats, huge chrome bumpers and an available vinyl top.

In my opinion at least, this generation of Riviera was no prize to behold. It just can't get me excited the way a first-generation Riv or a 1971-73 "boattail" model can. They can be made to look all right, though, with the right color of paint and Buick Rally wheels. The little chrome wires with whitewall tires aren't really doing it for me, for a couple of reasons. In case you're the owner of this car and are reading this, please don't take it personally, but I don't think the lowrider look was meant for this car. The wheels and tires are just too small. Whitewalls might work with stock-sized rubber. I'd recommend a deep metallic burgundy, dark green or perhaps black for the body after some dent repair. I'm curious if the hideaway headlights still open and close. They're an interesting feature of this generation and the 1969 was the last model to have them.
There's still hope for this '69 Riv. Keep the rust away and that'll be good enough.