Friday, July 26, 2013

San Jose Street Sighting - 1972 Buick Riviera

One of my favorite car designs of the 1970s is the boattail Buick Riviera. This personal luxury coupe with its unique tapered fastback roofline was made between 1971 and 1973. It was a fresh departure from the odd-duck '70 that looked like a fatter version of the now dated 1966 model. The '71 Riviera's pointed prow and forward slanted front, and rear roof reminiscent of the C2 Corvette set it apart from more conventionally styled big coupes. The sharp styling was diluted somewhat on the 1973 cars, which wore a bulky front bumper with wraparound turn signals incorporated into the headlamp bezels, and the jutting point on the rear end was dumbed down to almost nothing.

All 1971-73 Rivieras came with a 455 cubic inch V8 engine, but unlike most cars in the early '70s the Riviera actually made more standard power in 1973 than it did before. A Gran Sport performance and handling package was available and, in the boattail's last year, so was a Stage 1 performance package that added a limited-slip differential among other things. Standard 1972 Rivieras like this one were rated at roughly 250 horsepower, and a whopping 375 pound-feet of torque.

This car is clearly a driver, one that's been around the block a few times and bears numerous scars. The rub strips installed along the car's dipping character line have protected from some damage, but they weren't enough to stop all of it. This one has the optional rub strips ($24) on the front and rear bumpers, and the metal front bumper guards ($30) as well. The paint doesn't look original, as the Riv was only available in two shades of blue and this doesn't look light enough to be Crystal Blue or dark enough to be Royal Blue. It could be Cascade Blue, a special-order color normally intended for Skylarks and fullsize models. I do like the color, though, and the Buick Rally wheels are perfect for it. I wonder if white letter tires instead of whitewalls would look better. The white vinyl interior with its optional bucket seats must be a chore to keep clean, but it looks good paired with the white vinyl roof. Fortunately this car gets driven and doesn't just sit collecting leaves on its long hood. It's way too cool for that.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oakland Street Sighting - 1939 GMC AC 1-1/2 Ton Stakebed

Patina is an interesting thing. Some vehicles don't look right unless they have some degree of wear and tear, while others don't look right unless they appear brand new. What is it about an old faded, scratched, rusty work truck that makes it cool? Perhaps it's the way that it tells its own history in every bit of oxidation, discoloration and indentation.

This is a 1939 GMC AC, which I believe to be a 1-1/2 ton flatbed/stakebed. Medium and heavy duty commercial trucks are not normally my forte, but pre-1960s and especially pre-WWII commercial vehicles are pretty cool. Most that survive have covered a great many miles and been through a lot. A fortunate few receive restorations and become show trucks or museum pieces. Most went to the scrapyard when they had outlived their usefulness decades ago.


This truck lives in Oakland where it appears to serve its owner as daily driver and junk hauler. Notably, it's a dually, or at least it is on one side. I didn't realize until after the fact that one of the wheels is missing on the left side. Some of the bed stakes are also missing. What is present, though, is the important stuff. The hard-to-find trim pieces are there. What appear to be the original sealed-beam headlamps (a feature introduced in 1939) are there. The 1939 California World's Fair license plates are there. Original plates are always a big plus in my book. Most people today wouldn't be brave enough to drive a flat black 74-year-old dually truck with a 3.7 liter six and a four-speed manual that may or may not have synchromesh in day-to-day traffic. That's part of what makes it cool.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1971 Volvo 1800E

I still see a fair number of old Volvos. In fact, Volvos made before 1990 are extremely common, mainly the 240 series cars - to the point that I don't pay attention to them. To a lesser extent, the 140 series and 164 are also still out there. The older Amazon and PV544 can still be found, as can the sporty P1800.
I've previously featured a P1800, and even did a Best of the Rest post as proof that these stylish coupes have survived in decent numbers. This car in fact made that post, and upon seeing it in better light I decided to photograph it again.

Unlike the older example I featured three years ago, photographed with my old Kodak P850 in 2009 or earlier, this 1971 1800E is from the final phase of coupe production. The E stands for Einspritz, referring to the Bosch fuel injection system on the upgraded 2.0 liter four. The 1800E is not the last 1800; that title belongs to the 1973 1800ES wagon. The final 1800E coupe would roll off the line in 1972.

This 1800E is a daily driver, and like many cars that live by the ocean it shows signs of oxidation. The body is relatively straight, but that cheerful robin's egg blue paint hides several pockets of rust that have bubbled the finish like cancerous tumors. It's really a shame, because without the rust this would be one of the nicest 1800s I've seen in recent memory. The other great shame about this car has nothing to do with the condition. It's the factory side markers that stick out absurdly far from the body. They look like an afterthought tacked on by someone who bought the wrong kind of lenses at Pep Boys that were intended for a different car. The owner was trying to sell his Volvo at the time I photographed it, but I saw it again on the move earlier this summer while in town for the Woodies on the Wharf show, so it may have been kept. It would definitely benefit from a good strip and repaint in the same color, if only to properly address that rust before it eats the poor thing alive.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1971 Ford Bronco Sport

The Ford Bronco is one of history's great off-roaders. It came from humble beginnings as a small, six-cylinder truck with just enough amenities to make it more civilized and conventional than your average Jeep CJ. The beauty of it was its customizability and simplicity. It used F-100 and Falcon technology, basic construction and offered an extensive options list. Whatever didn't come from the factory could be added or modified. A V8 engine was offered, initially a 289 but later enlarged to a 302. Ford got an impressive 11 years out of the first generation Bronco, with hardly any substantial body changes.

In the world of 4x4s, you probably won't get too far in a stock rig. 'Bro trucks' aside, a body lift and bigger, fatter off-road tires and purpose-built suspension are frequently needed for serious trail action. The stock Bronco often came with hubcaps, whitewall tires and they all came with low-cut rear fenders that forced owners to chop out sheetmetal if they wanted wider tires and more suspension travel. Nowadays I see far more trucks with cut fenders and a lift than stock originals. I decided to photograph this one as an example of a popular trend, even if I don't particularly like everything done to it. It's been heavily modified with a stout roll cage, bead-locked wheels and a lot of heavy-duty suspension upgrades. Oddly enough, much of the interior appears stock with white low-back bucket seats. It seems like an unusual choice in a tough off-roader with no doors, but at least it has shoulder belts. It looks like there was once a mounting bracket for a spare tire on the tailgate, and there's a tiny bit of damage to the 'eyebrow' piece around the grille on the passenger side where the metal has been bent up. This is perhaps the first time I've seen or at least noticed a Bronco Sport of this generation, which was a factor in deciding to photograph it in depth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus Pickup

There are a few Volkswagen Type 2 Bus pickups already on this site. All of them, however, have been the early T1 model, or "Splittie". In 1968 the T2 was introduced, called the "Bay" Bus for its large curved windshield. The pickup versions of these Buses sold relatively well through the 1960s, but were curbed sharply by the U.S. Chicken Tax, a 25% tariff on imported light trucks. That tax all but eliminated VW pickups from the American market in the 1970s. The passenger vans were not affected and sold in large numbers well into the end of the decade, paving the way for the T3 Vanagon, T4 Eurovan (and later the T5 Transporter not sold in the States). The VW Rabbit also offered a pickup version, but for the American market it was built in Pennsylvania and avoided the tax.

This truck looks to be approximately a 1970 model. It's an early Bay with the front turn signals mounted low on the corners. Later T2s had the indicators mounted up high on either side of the vents just below the windshield. The body and paint on this single cab truck are really nice, making it look like a fresh restoration with perfect chrome and stained wooden bed stakes in lieu of hinged metal panels. All that doesn't look fresh and new is the muffler. The owner was trying to sell the truck and had it parked down by Fishermen's Wharf during Fleet Week last year. These aren't my favorite vehicles but this one definitely caught my attention.