Friday, August 30, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1954 Ford Crestline Victoria

One of the things I like about my job as a delivery driver is that I get to see new places I wouldn't otherwise go. One of the side effects of passing through new locations is finding the occasional interesting vehicle. Sometimes I get lucky and it's still there after work, so I grab my camera out of my car and photograph it.

Such was the case with this cool '54 Ford Crestline Victoria. This mildly customized coupe is cleanly done and finished in a nice light blue with a contrasting black roof and matching wheels trimmed with poverty caps and beauty rings. Inside, if memory serves, was what appeared to be a 4-speed floor shifter and some auxiliary gauges under the dash to supplement the standard instrumentation. Under the hood, the factory installed a 130-horsepower overhead valve "Y-block" V8 displacing 239 cubic inches. This was the first year for the Y-block, which replaced the venerable old flathead V8 first used in 1932. I can't vouch for what powers this one now. Note that this car originally came with the optional 3-speed overdrive transmission as indicated by the trunk badge. It would have been a "three on the tree" (mounted on the steering column).

I'd passed through this neighborhood once or twice before, but had never seen anything special. I think that the owners were cleaning out the garage in preparation to sell their home, and the Ford got evicted temporarily onto the street. There are many cars of this caliber in my area, but they're seemingly all hidden away in garages out of sight. It's done about as nicely as I could hope for a '54 Ford, with excellent trim and chrome all around. The only nitpick I could really find on it was the Overdrive badge which was a little crooked from a broken mounting peg. I quite like this car. I'm glad it came out of the garage long enough for others to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1973 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing

Back in May I featured a 1974 Volkswagen Thing from Alameda, the place Murilee Martin of The Truth About Cars (formerly of Jalopnik) dubbed The Island That Rust Forgot. Now we're looking at another Thing, which I think is a 1973 model. The curious thing (no pun intended) about this particular vehicle is that it's red. The Type 181 was sold in the US for the 1973 and '74 model years and officially offered in four colors: white, orange, yellow and avocado green. One source I found said that red was a rare color on these. Red was available in certain markets elsewhere in the world, but apparently never offered by the factory on US-bound Things. Rare indeed! There are places on the body where the red paint has chipped or failed along seams or edges, leading me to believe that the car was originally Blizzard White.

The body is in good shape with no rust, and the only damage I can see is a crease in the passenger side rocker panel. This one has the optional removable fiberglass hardtop and solid sliding door windows. Interestingly, it is one of few Things I've seen that lack the big Beetle-style chrome hubcaps. Perhaps they were removed or lost at some point. To sum up, it's a solid and distinctive Volkswagen and probably fairly livable with its weatherproofing accommodations.

Monday, August 5, 2013

El Segundo Street Sighting - 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite

I've long been a purist about cars. Heavy modifications in my opinion usually ruin a classic car's looks, even if they improve its performance. This can range from simple wheel and paint choices to ridiculous engine swaps and severe cutting of the frame and/or body. The rarer the car, the more it bothers me. In the case of this Austin-Healey Sprite, I'm amused. The Sprite began as the Bugeye/Frogeye, a funny little roadster with round headlights that stuck up out of the hood and a happy-looking grille. The second-generation 1961 Sprite used much of the same body and underpinnings, but styling was more modern and conventional. A nearly identical MG Midget model was also offered, and soon handily outsold the Healey that spawned it.

The Sprite was never a quick car in a straight line. Acceleration was leisurely at best, courtesy of a 43 horsepower, 0.9 liter engine sourced from the Austin parts bin. (Mark II Sprites and beyond received a 56-horsepower 1.1 liter unit.) Its forte was handling, which it did well enough to be competitive in racing, thanks to miniscule size and featherweight mass. Top speed was around 85 mph. For this reason I don't think that the car's aerodynamics were much of a problem. Nevertheless, one owner seems to have decided the Sprite needed an update. I honestly can't tell what year it is, because the body has been altered so heavily with fender flares, customized taillights and an entirely new front end with modern headlamps. The interior is also redone, with new seats and a steering wheel that looks custom. The only clues to the car's age are the Mark I or Mark II dashboard and the original gauges (the Smiths tachometer seems consistent with a 1961 model or newer). The badge on the steering wheel center may be off of a newer car. The rear bodywork suggests a Mark I Bugeye Sprite, which had a rounder rear end and no trunk lid. Calling this car a 1961 covers the interim period between the Mark I and the Mark II, as I've seen both versions referred to as '61s. Further confusing the issue is the availability of fiberglass replica Sprite bodies in the 1980s from Banham, but those tend to look a bit off and I don't think this started as one of those.
It's interesting, I'll give it that. I've certainly never seen another one like it.

If any readers have more information on this car, please let me know.

Friday, August 2, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Holiday sedan

Not many old cars become local celebrities. This can change, of course, if they become known for being associated with a colorful local figure or have a fascinating past, or are just distinctive enough that they attract all manner of art students and photographers who think they look cool.

This 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Holiday four-door hardtop was a treat for me to find. It's one of the cleanest 1970s Oldsmobiles I've seen in a long time and a very solid example. Just how solid, exactly, remained to be seen. Two weeks after I photographed it, this Olds gained a bit of local notoriety when it accidentally obliterated the sign in front of a Louisiana-style restaurant. The only damage to this mighty, minty battlecruiser was a small dent and part of the front bumper's rub strip tore off. Hopefully repairs will be (or have already been) made and the Delta will return to the glory seen in these photos. It really is a nice car, and the young man who owns it is lucky to have such a cool piece of '70s budget luxury. So many of these cars end up with candy paint and big rims, so it makes me happy seeing a factory stock one appreciated by the next generation. I'd like to see the vinyl top get some attention before it starts trapping water in the torn spots.