Monday, November 26, 2012

Alameda Street Sighting - 1957 Cadillac Sedan DeVille

Cadillacs of the 1950s have always been rather hit-or-miss in my opinion. They're all classics, but not all of them are something I'd want to cruise around in. The early '50s cars in particular have a certain sameness about them that makes me feel ignorant when I have to Google the various model years to tell the difference. Cadillac design really got interesting in 1957, when the fins got bigger to compete with Detroit's other more extroverted offerings. The front end styling was still familiar Cadillac, but aft of the B-pillar everything looked new. The C-pillar was thicker and now reversed, as was the reverse-slanted A-pillar (formerly vertical), giving the greenhouse a crisp, symmetrical look with wraparound windshield and rear window. Out back, the fins have more of a designed-in look that abandons the little P-38 fighter-inspired tail fins that dated back to 1948, and are capped with chrome trim that continues downward to the little blister taillights and exhaust outlets built into the bumper.

If you didn't like the styling on the Sedan DeVille or upper-class Fleetwood in 1957, you had other options. You could get the Eldorado Brougham, which was absurdly expensive and came with rear suicide doors, a heavily reworked body with four headlights, slimmer taillights integrated into tail fins that jutted outward rather than inward, slimmer rear bumpers and a different greenhouse topped with a stainless steel roof - not to mention one of the most amazing interiors of its day. It was also possible to get the Eldorado coupe and convertible, which had their own unique rear end design with sharply pointed fins protruding from the sloping, rounded rear deck. And if you didn't like that, the Eldorado Seville had no fins at all.

This 1957 Sedan DeVille is a solid example and appears to be almost complete. It's just missing a bit of exterior trim on the trunk lid and left rear passenger door. I've had a soft spot for these cars since I first saw one illustrated in a book of cutaway car drawings back in elementary school, so when I spotted this car while cruising through Alameda I knew I had to photograph it. I'd love to see it cleaned up with the missing parts replaced and painted the same color, which may be factory Cobalt Blue. I love that the owner has kept the original wheelcovers and fat whitewall tires on it. Caddies of this era just don't look right without them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Street Sightings Wish List

The holiday season is upon us and Christmas is fast approaching. Kids are making their wish lists for the toys and stuff they want Santa to bring them.

I once made a list of cars I would not be likely to feature as street sightings. Here's my wish list of vehicles I would most love to find, photograph and feature.

Alfa Romeo Alfetta
Alfa Romeo Giulia / Giulia Super / GTV / Giulietta
Alfa Romeo GTV6
Alfa Romeo Montreal
AMC Concord / Eagle
AMC Matador coupe
AMC Pacer
Any member of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg family
Bricklin SV-1
1950s-early 1960s Cadillacs
1950s-1970s Chrysler/Imperial (Forward Look to Fuselage)
Citroen DS21 / Familiale
Citroen GS / 2CV / Dyane / Ami / Mehari
Citroen HY van
Citroen Traction Avant
Checker Marathon
Chevrolet Corvair sedan / Lakewood wagon / Corvan 95 pickup
Clark Cortez motorhomes
Classic Motor Carriages kit cars (i.e. Classic 359 for novelty purposes)
Datsun 411
DeLorean DMC-12
DeSoto anything
DeTomaso Pantera
1958-1959 Dodge Coronet / Lancer
Dodge M37 / Power Wagon
Dodge Omni GLH
Dodge Charger Daytona / Plymouth Superbird
1957-1958 Dodge Sweptside pickup
1958-1960 Edsels
Ferrari F40
Ferrari F50
Fiat 128
Fiat 131 / Brava
Fiat 850
Fiat Strada
Ford Fiesta (1st gen)
Ford Model T
Ford Model A
Ford Pinto Squire / Cruising Wagon
Hearses and flower cars (particularly vintage)
Honda Z600
Hudson / Terraplane
Indy 500 Pace Car edition vehicles
[Lincoln] Continental Mark II (1956-1957) also other classic 1950s-1970s Continentals and Mark series
pre-1995 Lotus sports cars
McLaren F1
Mercedes-Benz 280SE coupe / convertible (pre-1971)
Mercedes-Benz Heckflosse / fintail
1950s-1960s full size Mercurys
1930s-1950s Packards
1958 "Packardbaker"
Peugeot 504
Peugeot 505 wagon
1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda
Vintage Pontiacs particularly 1957-1959
Pre-1980 oddball English roadsters - Sunbeam, Triumph, Morgan etc
Qvale Mangusta
Ramblers / Nashes
Renault LeCar (or any Renault)
Vintage Rolls-Royce / Bentleys
Saab 9-6 coupe/ 9-5 wagon
Saab 99 Turbo
Saab Sonett
Shelby anything (GT350 / GT500 / Cobra also Shelby-branded Mopar products or Series 1)
Soviet/Russian cars (Lada/GAZ/Volga/etc)
Big old funky station wagons
Studebaker Grand Turismo Hawk
Toyota FJ55 Land Cruiser
Volkswagen 412 wagon
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34
Volvo 122S Amazon wagon
Volvo 1800ES
Willys 4WD All-Steel Station Wagon
Willys Jeep
Woodie wagons of any kind (particularly off-brand cars and unpopular model years)

Others... what would you, my readers, like to see here?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Danville Street Sighting - 1963 Buick Wildcat convertible

I'm not an expert on 1960s Buicks. Aside from the Riviera, it seems most of the Buick line was an upgraded version of the more common Chevrolets and Pontiacs. The 1963 Buick Wildcat may have a passing resemblance in profile to the 1963 Chevy Impala. That's because it is based on the full-size B platform Chevy, albeit with many changes. Wildcats were an interesting creature, more of a large sporty car than a general boulevard cruiser. The car featured a 401 Buick Nailhead V8 which was marketed as the Wildcat 445, so named for its 445 ft lbs of torque and 325 horsepower. Reflecting its sporting nature, the Wildcat was offered with a three-speed column manual or four-speed floor shift manual transmission. More relaxed drivers could get a three-speed automatic. The Wildcat was introduced in 1962 as an offshoot of the Invicta, available only as a two-door hardtop. In 1963 it became its own model and gained a convertible version as seen here, as well as a four-door hardtop body style. This was also the final year for Buick's trademark VentiPorts in the fenders. The convertible was the rarest body style of 1963 with only 6,021 built out of 35,725 total cars.

This Wildcat convertible isn't the most perfect example of the breed, but much of that comes from living outdoors in California. The paint is sunbaked on top and has lost its luster, and scratches abound on the sides. The body is actually in very good condition aside from the paint concerns, and while the vintage black plates aren't likely to be original, they lend the car a period look. I hope that the owner still has the stock wheels in storage somewhere, though, because those modern multi-spoke aftermarket dealies aren't helping. I saw this car for the first time in July and it appeared again outside the Danville Hot Summer Nights show in August with a For Sale sign on it. It's too bad the owner seems to have gotten tired of it but I'm hopeful the next owner will take good care of this rare Buick.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alameda Street Sighting - 1962 Studebaker Lark

Studebaker is one of the few brands that usually makes me stop and take notice when I see one on the street or at car shows. Avantis, Hawks and the classic 1950-51 bulletnose cars are the iconic models everyone remembers, but the 1960s Larks are cool as well. Consider that they were developed on a shoestring budget from late-1950s body and chassis components and you're left with an oddball compact sedan that looked very different from most of the cars on the road.

The 1962 model was the final year before the Lark would receive a much-needed refresh that modernized its body with a more squared-off shape around the windows, revised bright trim and (in my opinion) a more attractive grille mesh design. The Lark was still trying to mimic Mercedes-Benz with its upright grille shell, but no matter what it tried to be, it was still an unmistakeably American economy sedan rather than a German luxury car. It's perhaps the first example of a cheap American sedan comparing itself to a Mercedes (a practice made famous years later when Ford tried to claim the Granada was equivalent to a Benz for much less money). One added bonus of some Larks was a V8 engine, which provided a little more grunt than the standard six. Buyers could choose either the 259 cubic inch economy V8 or the 289 out of the Hawk coupe. Later models would benefit from the higher-rated Avanti 289 with its available supercharger.

This '62 sedan is definitely a driver. It's rough around the edges and could use paint and body work to get it back into shape. It was a fun find for me since it was parked just around the corner from where I had previously photographed the beautiful '55 Chevy two-door sedan. Alameda is funny like that. This car isn't quite all-original, as it has certain little custom touches like a dice-shaped turn signal stalk knob and a grasshopper for a hood ornament. It's too bad that the twist grip on the rear gas filler cap isn't a mirror image of itself - it would look almost exactly like the Studebaker logo with its stylized S shape inside a circle. I don't think the wheels/hubcaps are original either, since they look more like they came off of a 1970s Ford -- ironically, probably a Granada. It doesn't surprise me much to see a Studebaker without its original wheels, since most Studebakers I see (and have featured here) belong to the San Francisco collector I commonly refer to as "Stude Guy". His fleet of Studebakers all ride on custom American Racing wheels.
I would like to see this car cleaned up, but in any case I'm glad to see a piece of history being used. South Bend, represent!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Collector's Corner - Maisto 1955 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle

Is there any car on this earth more recognizable than the Volkswagen Beetle? They built more than 20 million of the things and sold them all over the world for several decades. For sure, the Bug has made an indelible impression on people - and kids everywhere recognize it. Heck, they play games that involve punching each other when they see one. So it makes sense for model manufacturers to produce a VW Beetle. Maisto, Revell, Solido and a number of other companies make one.

Maisto took an interesting approach to this. Instead of a 1963 "Herbie" Beetle, or the popular '67 or a 1970s-era Super Beetle, they made a 1955 split-oval window model. It's one of the oldest versions I've seen on the market. The Beetle was one of my early childhood "big cars", and as such it bore the brunt of my "breaking and taking things apart" phase. I accidentally broke the steering mechanism so now the front wheels can steer separate ways. Both wheels on the right side fall off if you roll the car more than a short distance. I found out how to remove the spare tire from under the hood, and also learned that the hubcaps are removable whether they're supposed to be or not.
Despite the obvious age and wear, the car still displays decently. The paint has held up well considering that I played with it regularly for many years. None of the major body panels have suffered real damage, and while the doors sag enough to see daylight around the window frames when closed, they still operate properly. Blow all the dust out and the interior still looks like new.

This is a basic but well-made model. One of the interesting touches I notice about it is that Maisto elected to make the plastic chassis body color instead of the customary black, which I believe is actually accurate for VWs since they were fully painted underneath. They also included the suggestion of pop-out trafficators in the B-pillar, which predated the modern turn signal light. The engine is quite elementary and lacks significant detail, though, and the back seat cushion does double duty as the car's firewall. I used to worry about breaking off that tiny, fragile exhaust pipe.
I've never been a huge fan of Beetles, but this one earned a spot on my display shelf because it survived everything I threw at it when I was a dumb little kid who didn't know any better. If you're a Volkswagen fan, you probably have one of these already but I'll recommend this if you want a Bug that's unique and not too expensive.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Danville Street Sighting - 1943 Dodge WC-52

In the United States, November 11 is Veterans Day. It's a day when we honor those in uniform who have fought for our freedom. In honor of our armed forces, I'm featuring a World War II military truck, a Dodge WC-52.

I'm not sure if it counts as a street sighting since the old Dodge was due to be part of the 4th of July parade in Danville. It seems that the rig broke down and had to be sidelined just outside the parade zone (and perhaps more importantly, on a piece of road that was open). I photographed it after the parade ended, parked in a red zone. On any other day it would have been ticketed for sure, but on Independence Day you just don't do something like that.

The Dodge WC series was a range of trucks built for the US military in WWII. They came in a plethora of body styles and applications ranging from simple pickups to command cars and ambulances. The WC52 is a 3/4-ton open pickup fitted with a Braden MU2 front winch, powered by a 92 horsepower, 3.7 liter straight-six engine hooked up to a manual transmission. The cargo area has fold-up bed sides that can be used either to expand the payload capacity or, cleverly, to serve as benches for additional passengers. There's nothing luxurious about it, pretty much everything is metal but the tires and seats. It looks like it means business.

This truck has been restored and looks almost brand new. Since the date of delivery on the data plate, and the serial number, are not given, I really can't tell what year this vehicle was built. Research shows that the WC-52 was built from late 1941 apparently through the end of the war in 1945. I guessed at 1943 as the production year of this vehicle since it was roughly in the middle of the conflict.

God bless our armed forces past and present, both at home and abroad.