Friday, May 30, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1948 Buick Super Sedanet

It's been a long time since the full-size two-door fastback was a competitive player in the marketplace. Probably not since the 1970s has anyone seriously pursued that style as a mainstream model, usually more as a niche performance model. Earlier than that, domestic manufacturers took advantage of the public's interest in sleek, streamlined forms and produced a unique body style known as the sedanet (or sedanette depending on who you ask). Buick produced Sedanets from around 1940 until 1952, available on certain years of Specials, Supers and Roadmasters.

The Super was an interesting compromise between the base Special and top-series Roadmaster. Buyers got the larger Roadmaster body with the 248 cubic inch straight-eight powertrain from the Special. The Super was well-appointed but not as fancy inside as the Roadmaster, and was not offered with the new Dynaflow automatic transmission that was then optional on the Roadmaster. It seems unusual to me that Oldsmobile and Cadillac had been offering automatics since 1940, and even lowly Pontiac had automatics in its lineup in 1948, but Buick was mostly left out. It should be noted, of course, that the Dynaflow transmission would become standard the following year on Supers.

This is a mostly original-looking 1948 Super Sedanet that spends most of its time in one spot. It used to share the driveway with a dark red 1939 Ford DeLuxe sedan that I've been wishing would park on the street at least once so I can photograph it, but I've never seen the Ford move in the last two years. This Buick is actually a nice example, appearing to be a survivor with an old black paint job that's been worn down to primer in places. The trim pieces are all present, although certain items such as the hood ornament are pitted and the red plastic Buick Eight badge on the trunk is now a faded orange. Wheels don't look original, nor do the dual tailpipes, but the car still displays relatively well. The sleek torpedo body commands attention. Those who like honest patina earned through decades of faithful service, and not through a paint shop's selective sanding, won't be disappointed. I just wish the owner would get out and enjoy his classics now and then instead of letting them sit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1972 Jeep Commando

A few years ago we looked at a 1972 Jeep Commando, hurriedly photographed on a rainy day in San Francisco. It was almost all factory stock and in very good condition, but I didn't have the time to do it justice. For this one, I had better weather and more time.

The 1972-1973 Jeep Commando was the final evolution in a long line of Jeepster products dating back to the postwar Willys-Overland years. The original 1948-50 Jeepster was a "soft-roader" luxury alternative to the civilian Jeep CJ, and was a formula closer to the Willys Jeep Station Wagon than the tough-as-nails military Jeeps that helped win World War II. Kaiser-Jeep brought the Jeepster back in 1966 as an all-new vehicle, the Commando, offered with the old Willys "Hurricane" four or Buick-built "Dauntless" V6 under the hood. After Jeep was purchased by American Motors, the Commando received a significant refresh. Gone were the familiar seven-slot Jeep grille and separate flat-topped fenders. In their place was an eggcrate grille more similar to the Chevy K5 Blazer, flush fenders and a wheelbase three inches longer than the outgoing '71 model. The old engines were replaced by three AMC engines including a 304 V8. This new C-104 Commando alienated some in the Jeep faithful by going mainstream, but it sold better.

There apparently are no visual changes between 1972 or 1973 model Commandos, though the '73s received stronger axle joints and better tires. Neither are relevant in the case of this modified example. The biggest clue as to the vehicle's age, for me, is a patch about four inches tall on the left front fender where the side marker lens is broken, and a faded area at the top of the driver door. The pale blue color beneath the red appears to be Skyway Blue, a Jeep factory color that was dropped after 1972. As such a rare vehicle, I wish it was in better shape. But it's an off-road toy and those typically aren't pristine for reasons that should be obvious. It could be restored if someone really wanted to; most of it is intact and solid. The rust in the driver side rockers is a worry, but the rest of the body could be straightened. The problem with that is, if you make it too nice, then you'd be afraid to take it off-road.

Monday, May 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 AM General M35A2C

It's Memorial Day in the United States, a day to honor those who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. So today we look at a favorite workhorse of the U.S. military (and many others around the world), an AM General M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck. Specifically, a 1972 M35A2C.

The M35 has been in use in some form since 1951, first designed and produced by REO. It has evolved through three main incarnations, the M35A1, A2 and A3, and enjoyed a host of variants including troop carrier, gun truck, crane truck and dump truck among others. The M35 has been built by a number of different contractors across the decades, including Studebaker, Kaiser and AM General. Most are A2 models powered by a 478 cubic inch inline six designed to run on multiple fuels.

This one is an interesting example. The M35A2 is popular on the surplus market among military collectors, but most are troop carriers. This one is the cargo variant with hinged bed sides, not unlike a Volkswagen Type 2 Bus pickup. I spoke with the owner who told me it's a multifuel truck, but I don't know if it's a turbocharged "whistler" or naturally aspirated. The owner runs it on biodiesel fuel. Note the sticker on the corner of the windshield. It warns onlookers that they're on camera, the result of the sad reality that a large truck is a blank canvas for graffiti. Quite literally, the canvas cover over the cargo area was a target for taggers and has been replaced multiple times. Note the stenciled "1 CAV DIV ARTY" on the bumper. If memory serves, the owner's father served in the First Cavalry Division Artillery. The shield on the door, with horse head and diagonal stripe, is the symbol of the First Cavalry. There is some rust going on, mostly in the windshield frame and in the bottom of the cab. Much of the bodywork can likely be repaired or replaced for restoration at minimal expense, as these trucks were built for decades with few visual changes and surplus vehicles are cheap. I think it's cool that the owner collects old army trucks and takes them to shows and parades in order to preserve and share American military history.

Thank you to all who have served in our armed forces, past and present.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Corvan

One of the first 100 street sightings featured here was a 1963-65 Chevy Corvair Greenbrier, posted in 2010 but actually spotted in spring 2009. From that point on, the only Forward Control Corvairs I saw were at car shows, museums or otherwise on private property. Then I stumbled upon this early Corvair 95 Corvan in Oakland. It would be nice to complete the set someday with a Loadside or Rampside pickup, but until then I'll be happy with what I've seen.

The Corvair 95 was built from 1961 to 1965 as a competitor to the Volkswagen Type 2 Bus and in cargo van or pickup form, was popular with telephone companies. The Greenbrier passenger van is considered the real prize among Corvair 95s, though the pickups, built in limited numbers, are also desirable. Cargo vans like this one were marketed heavily for their space efficiency, as the flat-six engine in the rear and driver seat way up front allowed up to 191 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

This is an early-model Corvan, either a 1961 or '62 model judging by the steel engine access door just above the rear bumper, centered rear license plate and "Corvair 95" badges on the doors with a thick stroke underlining them. Post-1963 vans had a rectangular additional "By Chevrolet" badge offset beneath the "Corvair 95" lettering. The body is worn and dented up in places, common for an older commercial vehicle. I'm guessing that the front passenger door might have been flung open a bit too far at some point in its life. The paint job could almost pass for stock, as white with a red center stripe was a factory color scheme. But the salt-and-pepper grey lower body, at least, is an owner addition. Privacy curtains installed on the inside of the van make one wonder what goes on in there. Not that it's my business, but think of the party you can have in a 191 cubic foot space.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Los Gatos Street Sighting - 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7

"I love it when a plan comes together." Those words were made famous by George Peppard in The A-Team, and it's true. In my case, though, making plans usually ensures something will go wrong, but serendipity frequently comes through and something positive happens that's totally different. I planned a day to drive to Aptos via Santa Cruz. A Flickr member who owns a 1976 Citro├źn CX OK'd me to stop by and check out his car, if I could find it. Well, I couldn't. In fact, nothing in Aptos made itself available. Santa Cruz yielded a couple of vehicles that day including the Mazda Miata art car in my previous post. Then on the return trip I happened upon this gorgeous 1968 Mercury Cougar in the town of Los Gatos. And where better to find a Cougar than in a town whose name means "The Cats" in Spanish?


This is our third early Cougar and a fine example of a restomod, a vehicle that's been restored yet mildly customized for better performance and comfort. I love 1967-68 Cougars, though I rarely shoot them for this blog unless they call to me. This one spoke loud and clear with a beautiful deep green paint job accented by an unusual root beer brown two-tone on the lower body and on the Vintage Wheel Works V45 wheels shod in aggressive Fuzion ZRi rubber. It looks like it sits a couple inches lower than stock and the hood scoop from an XR7-G performance model suggests there may be something potent under the hood. Inside, the owner has installed modern bucket seats with adjustable headrests.

I love that this car looks to be a driver, not a trailer queen. It has some rock chips here and there. It's built to be driven and enjoyed, and it is awesome.