Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang GT Convertible

Regular readers of this blog may know that one of my traditions is not shooting and featuring every classic Ford Mustang I see. This is California, land of the rust-free classic, the muscle car, and the surviving old Mustang. The early ones are a dime a dozen, figuratively speaking, yet late first-generation cars don't show up as often. Post-1966 convertibles are quite uncommon out my way. So in keeping with my other tradition of photographing whatever car evokes a reaction from me, we examine this '67 Mustang GT.

Admittedly, it seems like most classic Mustangs are red with black interiors. It's a cliched color combination, but people do it because it works. In 1967 the primary red color was Candyapple Red as (presumably) seen on this example, which also sports a Raven Black side stripe just above the rockers. GT models got the Special Handling Package of uprated springs, shocks and front stabilizer bar; front fog lamps, front power disc brakes, styled steel wheels, quad-tip dual exhaust and special badging and stripes. It could have a 289 or 390 V8 under the hood.

This one has an aftermarket tachometer to the right of the steering column. Note that a factory tach was available but not ordered; it would have been mounted to the right of the speedometer. This car also does not have air conditioning, and the factory radio has been replaced by a contemporary unit with a cassette tape player. There's a baseball cap covering what should be a four-speed manual floor shifter. If you wanted an automatic GT, you could buy a Mustang GTA which had all the same equipment, but a SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic in place of the 4-speed.

This car is really in beautiful condition and caught my attention far better than most '67s. It's a lovely little warm-weather toy that doesn't cost a lot of cash or headaches to maintain, leaving more time and money for family-friendly driving fun.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1971 Datsun 510

The toughest calls on what qualifies as a street sighting are usually those belonging to car show spectators. Even more difficult is when those cars are across the street, around the corner or down the block from the car show itself. Here is one such vehicle that really spoke to me, a 1971 Datsun 510 sedan which, at the time I photographed it, was an unrestored two-owner car with 63,000 miles.

I love a survivor, especially one that's been preserved but enjoyed for its entire life. This Datsun 510 was purchased new by a gentleman who, if memory serves, kept it until his death. The current owner showed me around the car after I took these pictures. The 1.6 liter engine and blue vinyl interior looked like new. Outside, the original blue paint looks perfect from across the street. Up close, there's visible wear but mostly limited to the trunk lid. Note the right rear corner where the paint is worn down to bare metal. According to the owner, the original owner had a very small garage that forced him to go around behind the car and squeeze between it and the garage door frame to get into his house. As a result, he rubbed his coat or pants against the corner of the car every time he came home. For forty years.

If the wheelcovers look a little off but oddly familiar, you aren't crazy. They're Ford Pinto hubcaps. In my opinion they actually look better on the car than the factory hubcaps. An awful lot of these spunky little cars get turned into track toys and tuners, or simply rust out. So a fundamentally stock and very original example is hard to find, and a low-mileage one rarer still.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1977 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II

The Silver Shadow is still on my short list of favorite Rolls-Royce models. Really, it is a short list. Rolls hasn't made many cars that personally interest me in their illustrious 100-plus year history. Theirs is a reputation for quality, luxury, smoothness and silence. They build cars to a standard, not a price, and as a result the price is quite high - at least when new from the factory. Old Rollers are quite a bit cheaper.

The Silver Shadow is the most common of all Rolls-Royces, with a fifteen-year production run and perennial popularity. How did they do it? Licensed components, for one. GM built a pretty good automatic transmission, and Citroën built a pretty good hydraulic system with self-leveling suspension. The craftsmen from Crewe did the rest, with a lazy 6.75 liter V8, independent rear suspension, disc brakes and a handcrafted wood and leather interior. The 1977 Series II cars received rack and pinion steering and a better-handling suspension than prior models. A total of 8,425 Silver Shadow IIs were built between 1977 and 1980.

Most Rolls owners keep their cars clean and well-maintained. That's just a given. You don't want to be the only person in town with a Rolls-Royce and have it be a rusted-out hoopty you picked up for a song at the auto auction, that smokes and has parts falling off. (I saw a Corniche at the local auto auction preview once; someone stole the grille off of it.) This car is a fine example of a first-year Series II, finished in a nice pearl white with an beige Everflex roof. White with beige roof was the most popular color combination on the Silver Shadow. It's a very straight and pretty car embodying all the best qualities of the Shadow except the early models' small chrome bumpers. These cars are quite affordable even in good condition, and even the later models have classic looks and a luxury pedigree. Would I own one? Probably not. I'd be scared to pay for the maintenance services. But they sure do look good.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Cortina Mk II

I like to network sometimes with other car spotters. Bill Stengel of The Street Peep clued me in to a collector of British Fords he once found in the Bay Area, but couldn't remember whether they were in Berkeley or Oakland. Well, they turned out to be in Oakland and I found them quite by coincidence. Someone has no fewer than four Cortinas and an Anglia 105E similar to the infamous flying car from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This one is the four-door sedan, though you can also see a wagon (or estate) parked on the lawn in a few of the pictures. Oh, the joys of not having a homeowner's association!

The Ford Cortina Mk II is a tidy enough little package, a car for buyers who wanted something smaller, more fuel-efficient and less generic than a Falcon, which by 1967 had evolved into a car that somehow managed to look sporty and boring at the same time. The Cortina could pull off the same trick, more or less. The Cortina GT and 1600E were decent little cars, and could maybe be rightfully called sleepers. At the very least the Lotus Cortinas could. The basic Cortina was not a terribly exciting package, with its plainly detailed body, small wheels with hubcaps and double-digit-horsepower 1.6 liter engine. This red one appears about as box-stock as they came. The only nod to sporting pretense is the blacked-out grille, which is factory.

The condition of this little Ford is to be expected of a British economy car that lives outdoors. The red paint - always vulnerable to California sunshine - is done. It's baked down to the primer and almost looks like it's been run through a few thousand gas station automatic car washes. Despite the extreme paint wear, the body still looks pretty good except for one place: the right front fender. It seems like all Fords of this vintage trap water in the bottom of the fender or the front bottom corner of the door and rust out. On this one it was the fender. It could probably be patched or welded up by a skilled body man. The '67 is the cleanest-looking of all Mk II US Cortinas with its lack of extra side markers or restyled indicators, and in my opinion the best-looking. Only a little over 16,000 Cortinas found U.S. owners in 1967, and most have disappeared, so this is a rare car in any condition. Good luck tracking down another in your neck of the woods; I know where I can find at least a few more.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1960 Chevrolet Impala

Turquoise is such a 1950s-1960s color. Long before everyone went mad for metallic teal in the '90s, you had nice hues like this. In some lights it looks blue, in others green, but it's kind of a happy, optimistic color in keeping with an optimistic time. The chrome was thick, cars were big and floaty and if you weren't careful you might cut yourself on the tail fins. This '60 Chevy Impala sedan is Tasco Turquoise with matching interior, and just enough Ermine White to prevent being overwhelmed by all that turquoise.

If you're wondering what a name like Tasco Turquoise means, apparently it's an Anglicism of Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero, Mexico. Taxco is known for its silver and turquoise jewelry. There's plenty of turquoise and silver going together on this Impala, which is unusually clean for an old car on the street in Berkeley. I've always thought 1960 was a surprisingly tame year for Chevrolet, after the wild '59s with their sharp sloping horizontal tail fins and teardrop taillights. Side trim was slightly more restrained, and front end styling was almost phoned-in apart from some stick-on gingerbread on the leading edge of the fenders that in my opinion doesn't contribute anything to the design. The rear fins have a bent look to them that reminds me of a Vought F4U Corsair fighter plane's wings, except upside down. It's a car that needs the right color to properly set it off, and I think this one found it.