Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1973 BMW 3.0S

Nowadays the BMW 7-Series is one of the standard choices in the luxury sedan class. But 40 years ago BMW was only a bit player in the United States, known primarily for motorcycles and the 2002 coupe and occasional sales of a four-door sedan based on the 2002's "New Class" platform. Buyers looking for a luxury coupe could get the E9 CS, either as the 2800CS or later the 3.0CS. The E9 was developed from the New Class, and in the late 1960s it gained a stablemate in the form of the New Six (E3) six-cylinder large luxury sedan.

The E3 was the car that really put BMW on the map as a maker of sporty luxury sedans. The E3 started out with a 2.5 or 2.8 liter straight six that was enlarged to 3.0 liters for the 1972 model year. The car came to the US in 1969 and was a strange alternative to the huge domestic V8 Cadillacs and Lincolns upholstered with living room furniture for seats. The BMW had four-wheel disc brakes and fully independent suspension, and most came with a floor-shifted manual transmission. It was a car no Fleetwood buyer would dare cross-shop. In 1972 the 3.0 six was made available and the 2.5 dropped. The lower-spec 2.8 model was called the Bavaria in the US, and the fancier, larger-engined car was the 3.0S.
This car is a 1972-73 3.0S sedan. I couldn't narrow it down to an exact year because the car is smog-exempt (its plates aren't in public state emissions testing records). All I knew was that it's pre-'74, the year that federal mandates forced BMW to install oversized rubber crash bumpers. (Edit: Thanks to the owner, we now know that it's a 1973 model exactly.) It sounds like this is a desirable early '70s Bimmer, with the big engine, small bumpers and BBS wheels and in relatively good condition. Color appears to be Fjord Blue Metallic but I could be mistaken. It could use a good cleaning to remove all the cobwebs and dirt and at least a proper wax if not a full repaint. The door dent on the driver side could also stand to be massaged out. I'd love to see it get cleaned up before the salty Santa Cruz air eats it alive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1960 Chevrolet Corvette

Sometimes the greatest street sightings are the ones that fall into your lap. This beautiful 1960 Corvette showed up on my block one day and I didn't even know about it until I went outside to get ready to go somewhere. There it was, just down the street. Admittedly, I've featured a 1960 Corvette once before on California Streets, but it was Tuxedo Black with silver side coves and red interior. Both cars are lovely, but I think this one is even more special because its owner took advantage of a nice sunny day and drove his classic car to visit a friend. The black car, while gorgeous, was found outside of a shop which yielded three very nice street sightings in the space of one block. I see it as low-hanging fruit, albeit ripe and delicious fruit.
I don't see many all-white Corvettes from the C1 era, aside from the earliest years when Ermine White was the only color offered. Most that I see tend to be red or black, and it gets a bit old. It's easy to forget the power of the color white on the right car. And I admit, I'm really digging the turquoise interior on this one. It's a combination I've rarely seen on any car, and I think it actually works. I had a lot of fun shooting this 'Vette.
I doubt I would ever own an early Corvette like this one, but if I did have this one I'd replace the shift boot. It looks pretty worn out compared with the rest of the clean interior complete with Wonderbar AM radio. Aside from that, I'd make no other changes. The body is in great shape with only a little road dirt on it in a few places. The hubcaps, bumpers and all the trim are intact and nicely chromed, and the license plate, while not the original 1960 issue, is pretty close at around late 1963. Perhaps it was bought in another state originally and brought to California later, or was sold secondhand and registered with new plates when it was a few years old. Either way, this pretty roadster has been blessed with living in California for a long time. I like it a lot.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Collector's Corner - Auto Art Saturn SC 3-Door Coupe

Some people collect only AutoArt models, because they have discerning tastes and expect only the best. AutoArt has a tradition of creating highly detailed display replicas with an equally high price. They're up there with Kyosho and Minichamps and Exoto in the realm of cars you don't let your children play with. The average AA sells for around $120 new.

This is an AutoArt. It is a Saturn. And I paid less than 8 bucks for it on eBay.

I'm a sucker for a good deal sometimes and the Saturn SC 3-door coupe was too whimsical to pass up. Lately I like to collect quality replicas of mundane cars and this fit the bill perfectly. To be honest, I hate this generation of Saturn coupes. But I really like this model. I first found out about the Auto Art Saturn when my local hobby store was closing down. They had a yellow SC, and I almost bought it, but I didn't like the color. Later when I discovered eBay, I found that the Saturns were some of the lowest-priced Auto Arts in existence, so I jumped at the chance to own one.
It's an older AutoArt release, from before they took the brand upmarket. It shows, since the rear hatch doesn't open and the interior is drab black and beige plastic. Oh wait, it's a Saturn. Still, no seatbelts? I have nearly 20-year-old Bburago models with seatbelts. This car also falls victim to the cost-saving measure of crappy dog-leg door hinges. Engine detailing is simple, but effective enough. it appears to be mostly one piece with enough paint detailing to fake it as a complete engine. Given that most new cars have all the important stuff hidden underneath a plastic cover anyway, I give it a pass. One area where the Saturn really shines is in the lights (no pun intended). Nowhere on this car can you see the mounting pegs for the light lenses, because they're hidden. To me, the execution of the lights is one of the greatest signs of quality you're going to find on a model. The embossed tire lettering is another great touch, as are the brake calipers visible through the front wheels.
I believe the Saturn SC was produced as part of a Saturn dealer promo model series around 2002 which also gave life to an AutoArt Saturn Vue. The coupe was released in black, red or bright yellow, and the Vue in champagne or orange metallic. Both can be found for very reasonable prices online, and they make a great addition to any collection. Especially if you're weird like me and think boring cars are stupid but good models of boring cars are awesome.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1965 Ford Falcon

I hate seeing tow tags on cars. It means that the car was left in one spot too long and either someone complained or the police decided it was abandoned. When you see a vehicle with a tow tag, you never know if that's the end of the road for it. There used to be a Chevy El Camino that sat in the same parking space near my local Taco Bell for what must have been years. It was in good shape, but it was always there. When people started throwing garbage in the back, the police tagged the car. Usually when you get tagged, it means you have 72 hours to move it or the city comes and tows the car away. Then there's meter maids, street cleaning, permit parking, you name it, that allow for even less time before the car goes to impound. The El Camino sat for over a week with a tow tag before it disappeared for good.

It seems like older cars, particularly ones with deteriorated paint, bear the brunt of the policeman's tag. A newer luxury car left for a week might not face the same scrutiny, but this is merely speculation on my part. Still, it stands to reason that an old car with bad paint is more likely to be abandoned on the street than a nice new car. This 1965 Ford Falcon two-door sedan was left on the street for a while, but I didn't see it until after the city placed a tow tag on it. I took a walk one day and stopped to photograph it. The next day it was gone. I feared that it might have been hauled off to a tow yard like the one in Oakland I used to pass on the way to college. Cars went there to die, and the Pick 'n Pull yard was just across the street.
Luckily the story is happier for this Falcon. It was gone for about a week, but then it showed up in a driveway on the same street. It lives!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1975 Land Rover 101 FC Military Ambulance

Flickr has been an excellent resource for finding new cars to photograph in San Francisco. Frequently it's because some automotive-minded city resident carries a camera around everywhere and takes a picture or two of almost every interesting vehicle they encounter. I like to challenge myself to figure out where the picture was taken based on the background. Then I go there with my camera. It's a crap shoot, really. The nature of street-parked vehicles is that they move around. It's very common for me to go out in search of a specific list of vehicles to locate and photograph, and I go home at the end of the day with an entirely different crop of cars because none of the ones I planned to shoot were there.
I had a hunch one day while I was in the city with a friend. We were sightseeing and after visiting COIT Tower we explored Telegraph Hill looking for the famous red and green parrots that live there and like to eat berries off of some bushes that grow at the top of Montgomery Street. I also knew from Flickr that a vintage Land Rover military ambulance lived in the area. Lo and behold, I found it.

Land Rover built Rover V8-powered forward control trucks for the British military in a variety of configurations between 1972 and 1978. Many were used as gun tractors, radio vans or ambulances, and others were used for towing and support for Rapier missiles, radar and electronic warfare. The square shape allowed maximum space efficiency for transportation aboard cargo planes. The trucks lacked running boards but were instead designed with a treaded steel extension that juts out of the front wheel, known as a "wheel step" for assisting ingress and egress.
I don't know the year of this truck, but I assume that because there are no smog tests on record it's pre-1976. Calling it a '75 splits the difference between beginning and end of the production run. I'm also not sure if the camouflage paint job is original, or how much of the medical signage and gear attached to the body is original. Some of it looks a bit superfluous and cheesy to me, and detracts from the general badassness of the truck. From what I've read, the red light on top should actually be blue on a military ambulance. I wonder if it was changed to avoid confusion with an actual police or other emergency vehicle.
This is arguably one of the more unique vehicles currently living in San Francisco. Foreign ex-military trucks in the hands of civilians are an ironic choice in a peace-loving city like that, but they're there. I know of a couple of Pinzgauers and a curious Volvo C304 6x6 which sadly seems to have been abandoned.

I wonder what else lurks in the streets of San Francisco.