Thursday, February 27, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1969 AMC Javelin SST

My friends know that in addition to being a big Ford fan, I love American Motors products. And one of my favorite AMCs ever is the 1969 Javelin. The Javelin was AMC's entry in the pony car market in the 1960s and '70s, with flavors ranging from six-banger economy coupe to tire-smoking muscle car. If that formula sounds familiar, it should. AMC was late to the party but the Javelin - particularly the short-wheelbase AMX - could party as hard as most of its competitors. An SST version was also available as seen here, with a combination of luxurious and sporty touches like a 3-spoke sport steering wheel and woodgrain interior trim pieces. Safety was a big concern at AMC so interiors came thick on padding and short on shiny metal trim. AMC has long been known as an independent manufacturer operating on a shoestring budget, so only one semi-fastback hardtop coupe bodystyle was available unlike the Mustang and GM F-body cars and even the Plymouth Barracuda. The AMX was a cut-down Javelin with two seats and a completely reshaped rear quarter panel and fastback roofline.

This Javelin is the SST trim with the 290 cubic inch small block V8. The 290 was the base V8 and good for a solid 100 mph top speed. This one appears to be Beal Street Blue with the optional C-stripe and Magnum 500 wheels which have since lost their stainless trim rings. The body is still straight and intact, although missing the grille. It's still a solid car and likely a very good restoration candidate if the owner feels so inclined.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1968 Austin-Healey Sprite Mk IV

In this era of political correctness it seems like the word "midget" is considered derogatory to little people. So what does that make the MG Midget? A Midget by any other name... is an Austin-Healey Sprite.

The early Austin-Healey Sprite most people know is the "Bug-Eye" or "Frog-Eye" Sprite, the ridiculously happy-looking little roadster that was starting to appear dated by the early 1960s. A more modern design was created for 1961, shared with the MG Midget pretty much down to the last bolt. Only the badges were different, and the Midget had a chrome side trim. The car went through a series of improvements throughout the decade that gave it a curved windshield, roll-up windows, vent windows, more power and a fixed fabric convertible top.

This cheerful Pale Primrose Yellow example is a series IV car which, if the registration is original, is probably a 1968 model. It's a good year to be, as most post-1968 models were disfigured somewhat by federal side marker reflectors and a detuned version of the 1275 cc four-cylinder to meet new emissions regulations. I believed this car was a 1967 model until I saw that the reverse lamps appear to have been equipped on '68-and-up cars. The only '67 with reverse lamps that I could find on Google was a Barrett-Jackson auction listing, and those aren't always accurate.

I quite like the setting for this shoot. It wasn't planned, either. I was going to see a movie with friends at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater that evening, and beforehand we decided to stop at the Kwik Way Drive-In, a local landmark dating back to 1956 (formerly the Grand Lake Drive In). This little Healey just happened to be parked out front. Sometimes you get lucky.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Collector's Corner - Maisto 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet A

I shall never understand some of the color choices some model manufacturers make. Mercedes-Benz has always been that luxury brand that made formal, traditional cars in formal, traditional colors like black, silver and white. Maybe dark blue. So Maisto went and sprayed this one a very un-German metallic green.

The Mercedes-Benz 300S has gotten a lot of play in the diecast market over the years. It has been released primarily by Maisto, but I believe the tooling has been sold or leased to Welly in recent years. Maisto made the car in green, black, maroon, blue and cream, then Welly released it in red, black and ivory. The green car you see here was one of my earliest large-scale diecasts, produced circa 1993. The real W188 300S Cabriolet was always a rare car, one of the most exclusive luxury cruisers of the mid-1950s, with a 3-liter straight six detuned from the Gullwing sports car. I believe that the Maisto release is patterned after the actual 300S Cabriolet A that sits in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. That car is a '54, but the effect is the same.

Looking at the model, one can see where Maisto cut corners. The trim strip running down the length of the beltline is there, but should be chrome or at least painted silver. The body is well formed and has held up nicely for the most part. It suffered during my taking-stuff-apart phase, as the hood comes off and the front grille also doesn't have much to hold it in place. The trunk lid never stayed up when opened, but the spare tires come out whether they're supposed to or not. There are little beige stickers that cover the seams on the front edge of the convertible top, but those have nearly peeled off. The windshield has glue spots on it from when its young owner (me) broke the frame and attempted to fix it. The landau bar on the right side of the convertible top also disappeared at some point.

The model has a few high points. The interior is decently detailed with full instrumentation and a clock, chrome handles and vents. Curiously the radio is just a chrome thing with six preset buttons but no detailing to pick out the AM band. It appears that I broke off the rearview mirror as a kid and never realized it. Underhood, you get just about everything you could ask for in a cheap diecast. The engine's not all one color, there's a battery, and all the wiring is in place. Underneath, you have rolling wheels that steer, and fully sprung suspension. It seems like a proper suspension is becoming less common in a lot of diecasts. "Classic" Maistos like this one are still a good value and display well in a budget collection.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super

In my previous post about an Austin Princess limousine I discussed how difficult it is to date a European vehicle that didn't change much visually. One of many such cars is the Alfa Romeo Tipo 105 Giulia sedan. This one is a Giulia Super, and if the license plate is original, it is likely a 1967 (or early '68) model. I saw it well over a year ago, parked near the Danville D'Elegance car show in front of the now-demolished Danville Hotel strip mall. Perhaps it's cheating, but it was a very fine example of a classic Alfa.

The '67 Giulia Super was a competent little sports sedan, with four-wheel disc brakes, an eager 1.6 liter engine hooked to a five-speed manual. Inside, drivers could enjoy leather (possibly "Texalfa" leatherette) seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, facing a wood veneer dashboard. The Giulia Super was the most popular Giulia sedan variant with buyers, ensuring that the model endured in some form until 1978.

This Super looks like it's probably benefitted from a restoration at some point. The color looks like it may be Verde Pino Scuro (Dark Pine Green). The interior is interesting, almost a pumpkin orange or saddle color that goes well with the wooden dash panel. The wheels seem large on such a small car; in 1967 the Giulia Super came with 15" wheels. They were changed for 14" units the following year. I can see why an enthusiast would opt for a classic Alfa like this. They're not particularly fast or powerful, but they have a certain look to them that just says, Go on, get in. Let's have fun together.