Thursday, January 30, 2014

Livermore Street Sighting - 1953 Hudson Hornet

On the topic of 1950s Hudsons that have been customized, we look at this 1953 sedan. On my 1950 Commodore and 1952 Wasp features I touched on the various details that identify the various models that shared the same body. It's hard to tell sometimes on a customized car because things get removed or changed, and the 1951-1953 Hudsons did not evolve very much. The 1953 model is identifiable by its hood ornament shaped like an air intake, and a new grille with no triangle. The 1953 also had optional reverse lights above the taillamps. The Commodore was still being offered in 1953 with the long-wheelbase Hornet body, but it was merely a leftover '52 with a new grille. This car has had most of its trim removed and the mounting holes filled with chrome spiky things, but the mounts for the Hornet-specific pieces are visible. The 1953 Commodore did not have the faux-air intake, and the Wasp was a short-wheelbase model. The wheelbase difference on these cars is most evident in the distance between the front wheel and the door.

I have to admit, I'm not sure what look the builder is going for with this car. The green and silver paint I can live with, and the pinstriping, too. But the custom work is oddly non-committal. The grille, reverse lights, fender top trim, side trim, original hood ornament, even the chrome piece between the taillights are all gone. I guess with a custom car you either leave the body stock or you don't. Leaving holes all over or stuffing them with big shiny things that stick out looks tacky. Normally I'm a purist about this kind of thing. I'd rather see all the body trim in place, but it could also look decent with the holes filled and smooth. As it sits, the front end with its headlight "eyelids" and gaping grille hole looks like the car just woke up with a hangover after a night out drinking.

Maybe the owner still has plans for it. I can totally understand what the lack of money or time does in putting a damper on automotive pursuits. I've had a project sitting for several years due to lack of funds and motivation. With some tweaks this Hudson could be interesting.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dublin Street Sighting - 1952 Hudson Wasp

This week, in honor of Paul Newman's birthday, I'm featuring all Hudson cars. Newman, among many other things, was famous for his work in Disney/Pixar's Cars movie as the voice of Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet coupe.

Hudson is best known for the Hornet, a car that managed to win four consecutive NASCAR championships with a 308 cubic inch six-cylinder in a field of V8s. The famous Hudson Twin-H Power option debuted in late 1951 and bolstered the Hornet's reputation both on the street and on the track. It was one of the fastest, best-handling cars of the early 1950s.

The Hudson Wasp was a lower-spec Hudson that was new for 1952. It evolved from the cheaper Pacemaker and used a smaller flathead six on a shorter wheelbase. Twin-H performance parts were available that made the smaller, lighter Wasp as quick as the Hornet. Without badges, it can be difficult to tell a Wasp from a Pacemarker at a glance, but I believe this one is a Wasp. The Pacemaker has small triangular grille bars behind the main grille while the Wasp has a heavier chromed triangle in the style of the Hornet. The triangle is missing on this car but the mounting holes are still there. The body trim between the Pacemaker and Wasp varies; some versions of either carry no side chrome except a tiny badge on the front fender.

This one is an older customized cruiser that needs a little work to be presentable again. The light blue paintwork is old and rusting through; the trim is beat-up and also rusting. I've seen cars where the owners applied pinstriping over rust, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. The pinstripes and graphics were probably painted on decades ago. This might have been a sweet ride back in the 1970s or '80s. It has the potential to be a cool cruiser again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1950 Hudson Commodore 6

Some of my readers may be asking, where are all the Hudsons? Four years and not one Hudson car featured. Well, we'll have to do something about that. Today is Paul Newman's birthday (a man famous for a few things apart from playing the voice of Doc Hudson in Disney/Pixar's Cars). In honor of him, I'm featuring all Hudsons, all week.

The first one we look at is this 1950 Commodore 6 sedan, found in San Francisco's Sunset District. This is a relatively pure and early execution of Hudson's famous 1948 Step-Down design language. Step-Down was an all-new philosophy for Hudson, with a perimeter frame and a much lower seating position. It also eliminated pontoon fenders for a modern appearance. As a result of this striking redesign, Hudson didn't have a lot of money left over for engines or yearly styling updates. The 1950 models received the first version of Hudson's upside-down V grille accent, a feature now widely associated with the brand, but few other changes. They were available with side-valve six-cylinder engines, or carryover straight-eights from the postwar cars.

This Commodore is a six-cylinder model representing one of the bigger and nicer Hudsons available that year. The larger 128-horsepower eight-cylinder was an updated version of an old engine dating to 1932, but the six was new for 1948 and produced only five fewer horsepower. A true automatic transmission was not yet available but buyers had the option of mechanical overdrive, a high cruising gear and/or an automated clutch that put the car in high or low modes for easier driving above 22 mph or whatever speed the driver selected. The Commodore 6 accounted for 24,605 sales across its coupe, sedan and convertible range. The Commodore 8 sold another 16,731 copies.

This one is pretty solid with a great body. The paint is an attractive dark metallic blue that sets off the classic Step-Down design. These cars really look like nothing else on the road from this era. The trim isn't all there, unfortunately. Most of the right side accent and both rocker panel trims are missing. Everything else could stand to be replated in chrome. This car has extra accessory bumper over-riders and a sun shade on the windshield. The two-outlet exhaust could be aftermarket, I'm not sure. There are a lot of cool details on this car and I found it to be a very interesting subject to shoot.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Albany Street Sighting - 1967 Peugeot 404

This post marks my 404th Street Sighting feature on California Streets, so to commemorate that otherwise ordinary number, today we're looking at a Peugeot 404.

The Peugeot 404 is really a fascinating car. It was produced from 1960 until 1975 and was one of Europe's great large family cars. When production ended in France, it kept going in Argentina until 1980, and in Kenya until 1991. It was primarily sold as a sedan or station wagon, though a coupe and convertible were available. In the latter markets of South America and Africa, a pickup variant was very popular. In total, nearly three million were produced over 31 years. In the United States, the 404's appeal was, shall we say, a bit limited. It was a car marketed for its reliability and build quality, not for styling, luxury or performance. A French car from this era strikes me as being the exclusive ride of university professors. Most American car buyers wanted something as fast, luxurious and cool as their budget allowed. A Peugeot generally was not it.


That said, I have a soft spot for these cars. They're kind of frumpy, sure, but they're old-looking in the way that British luxury cars of the era were old-looking. Some would call it "traditional". And Pininfarina penned that shape with its sharp tail "fins", so they didn't bring in just anybody to style it. These are one of a precious few French vehicles of any era that I'm willing to say that I like. Norev makes a pretty good 1:18 scale diecast of the 404, too.

My best guess for the age of this car is 1967 based on the evidence I have. It lacks side markers, but has post-1966 amber and white front turn signals. The cars got a new dashboard with three round gauge dials for 1967, and 1968 models got a different steering wheel that doesn't have the protruding round center hub seen on this example. If there is one frustrating thing about these 404s, it's rust. This one has it going on worst in the hood, but there's a little bit in the right front fender as well. Not every car lives a charmed life just because it lives in dry sunny California. Albany is located very close to the San Francisco Bay. Apart from the rust damage, this car's also taken a hit to the driver door and lost parts of its rub strip/trim spear on both sides. Peugeots are hard to come by in the US, a fact made clear by Le Club 404's registry of known 404s. According to its list, there are 188 known 404 serial numbers in the United States. Of those, 87 are North American-spec 404 sedans. Any list of survivors from a worldwide production run of 2.8 million is going to be incomplete, but it illustrates that this is a rare car in this country by anyone's count.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1960 Peugeot 403

I've previously featured a Peugeot 403 here, but really, what better way to commemorate street sighting number 403 than with another Peugeot 403? This one is owned by the same person who has the grey 403 we looked at in 2012. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it's a one-owner car.

I spoke with the owner's husband and, if memory serves, he told me his wife's father purchased the car new for her in 1960. At some point the couple moved to Colorado and the 403 went with them. The 403 wasn't the best car for Colorado winters. The heater could never quite warm up the cabin, but the car was reliable to start. It came back to California sometime in the '70s as indicated by the blue license plates, and now resides with multiple other 403s and a gaggle of Lincoln-Mercury products in Santa Cruz. Like its 1959 sibling, the black car suffers hood rust. Given the wet coastal climate of Santa Cruz and the road salt of Colorado, I'm surprised the rest of it is so solid. A classic Peugeot is a good car for the area, as Santa Cruz prides itself on being artsy, weird and unique. What's more "sustainable" than a little car with a miserly 1.5 liter four that was built five decades ago? There aren't a whole lot of steep hills to climb, either, unless you need to take Highway 17 back into the city in which case you'll get run over by frenzied SUVs. But as a local runabout it should be fine, and with that roof rack it's quite practical.