Tuesday, February 28, 2012

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1973 Plymouth Valiant Scamp

For a while now, one of my guilty pleasures in the automotive world has been certain iterations of the two-door Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant. That's right, I'm a sucker for the hardtop coupe (Demon/Dart Sport and Duster) and the two-door sedan (Dart Swinger and Valiant Scamp). The basic body design of both cars is simple and clean without being completely boring. And oddly enough, I've always been a big fan of the Swinger and Scamp's silly rear bumper design which incorporates the car's taillights. Most cars from this era that tried this design motif failed to pull it off adequately, but I think it works on this car. And in the pre-SUV era of the 1970s, I suppose it made sense to have lights mounted that low because most people drove cars that were all roughly the same height or lower.
This 1973 Scamp is one of countless 'Valdarts' that survive in today's world, a car that was built for young people and families to buy cheap and which proved reliable for decades thanks to bulletproof powertrains. The chrome bumpers show scars, as does the trunk lid that appears to have been attacked with a pry bar at some point, but the rest of the body appears to be in good shape. It wears what is likely the original, cheerfully cheesy shade of metallic green with an olive vinyl top, green vinyl interior and full hubcaps that are in remarkably good condition. The Yakima cargo rack on top concerns me a bit, mainly because I don't know how much damage it's doing to a roof that's prone to rust. These older cars aren't known for having excellent rust protection from moisture seeping under the vinyl top.
I'm guessing the person who owns this car still has it because it's smog-exempt, relatively frugal for its size and doesn't break down. A Valiant isn't flashy but it still allows an owner some dignity in knowing they have an affordable classic instead of a crappy econobox.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Danville Street Sighting - 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4

Months ago I asked my readers for their thoughts about cars parked near car shows. Thus far, about 20% have responded that they don't think such a vehicle is eligible for a feature or that some limitation should be in place. So I limited myself to one of those per month so it doesn't dilute the rest of my sightings. It may be cheating, perhaps, but it does at least ensure something more interesting than a beat-up Falcon or a cookie-cutter Camaro. In this case, I snagged a Ferrari 365 GTC/4.

This car left me very conflicted because it was quite literally just outside the bounds of the Danville D'Elegance car show. In fact, I think the owner might have had the car on display there before moving it outside the gates where it was parked on a public street. The Monaco license plates are a clue to its show-car status. However, I saw this exact same car months later outside a repair shop in my town, so apparently it's local. Certainly I would have preferred to photograph this car on a regular day when its owner was in a cafe grabbing lunch, but I take what I can get.
The 365 GTC/4 was a 2+2 sports tourer based on the beautiful 365 GTB Daytona, one of my all-time favorite Ferraris. The GTC/4... is not one of my favorites. In all honesty, it may perhaps be just as good a car as the venerable Daytona, but in my opinion the GTC is just not as good looking. Maybe it's the black plastic front bumper; I can't really put my finger on what bothers me about the design. I can't help but be reminded of a 1975 Chevy Monza in the profile. Still, it is one of only 500 ever built, and is said to have the "most beautiful exhaust note of any road-going V12 Ferrari".
This one has everything it needs to be an excellent 1970s Ferrari: traditional Rosso Corsa paint, Borrani wire wheels, styling by Pininfarina, a neat leather-trimmed interior with a wood-rimmed steering wheel and a howling V12 under the hood. The only cosmetic flaw I could find on the car was missing Pininfarina badge lettering on the driver side fender. It may not be my favorite design, but compared to some of today's four-seat Ferraris, the 365 GTC/4 is high art.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Best of the Rest: Little Luggers

1969-72 Datsun 521 camper, San Francisco

1975-78 Toyota Truck, San Francisco

1978 Chevrolet LUV pickup, San Francisco

1978 Ford Courier pickup, Castro Valley

1982-84 Mazda B2000 Sundowner pickup, San Francisco

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1978 Toyota Cressida

Most of the classics I find on the streets in this state are, well, from this state. Sometimes someone is kind enough to drive across the country just so I can photograph their ride. That is why someone would leave the great state of Vermont, right? Right?
This is an early Toyota Cressida, produced in 1978. The model was introduced for the '77 model year in other countries but I can't find any American examples older than '78. These are interesting to me with their formal styling and dignified appearance. The design goes a bit wrong at the rear, though, in my opinion. A wagon variant, with silly American-style artificial wood paneling, was also available.
This car could almost pass for a California vehicle. The body is in great shape aside from paint bake and tiny spots of surface rust on the front end from highway rock chips. Not many older Cressidas have survived, so a remarkably straight example with no serious rust is a rare find these days. It makes me wonder how much paint is left and whether it would polish back to a shine with the right amount of elbow grease.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Buick Riviera

I'm a big fan of first-generation Buick Rivieras. The 1963-65 Rivs were a styling triumph for Buick, and this pretty blue luxury coupe is a strong example of the breed. These early (pre-'65) Rivieras lack the hidden headlights that were part of the original design, but in my opinion the fixed-light cars are the best looking. The 1965 models have a cleaner design with stacked lights hidden behind the stainless corner trim, a hood ornament and no simulated side scoops.
This car is a first-year model and is in pretty good condition. It looks a little strange though, because the rear "Riviera" script badge below the trunk lid does not belong there. On '64 cars there would be no BUICK emblems and the Riviera badge should be on the right corner of the trunk lid. If there's one detail I never liked about the Rivieras, it would have to be the taillights. They look like an afterthought, and it only got worse in '65 when they were relocated down into the rear bumper, leaving an empty void between the trunk and bumper populated only by a Buick shield badge and the Riviera script on the right side.
I encountered this example in a quiet neighborhood with no traffic, on a lovely day in May 2011. To the owner I say this: give your baby a wash and wax. It may be a daily driver but it's too beautiful to let it start rusting.

Friday, February 10, 2012

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1954 Studebaker Commander

One of my favorite 1950s car designs is the 1953-54 Studebaker coupe penned by the Raymond Loewy studio. The '53 Studebakers appeared almost completely new, replacing a body that dated back to 1947. That body reached its design pinnacle in 1950 with a bulletnose motif which lasted for two years. An unfortunately awkward restyle for 1952 introduced a split grille which was translated far more successfully onto the 1953 body. These new cars had low-slung bodies with light ornamentation that made them look remarkably sleek and modern for their time.
This car is a 1954 Commander, the fanciest model offered that year. It packs a 232 cubic inch V8 engine making 127 horsepower. It's what one might call a 20-footer or even a 10-footer, because it looks fantastic when viewed from across the street. Up close the car appears a little rough in places, namely the trunk lid and one spot under the left headlight where the paint is coming off. Apart from those details, the body and trim seem to be in good order and the interior looks mint.
It's another fine member of Stude Guy's fleet and I can't wait to see more specimens of South Bend's best in San Francisco.