Saturday, August 30, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Citroën 2CV6

San Francisco is known for many things, good or bad, and one of those things is a high population of old French cars. To date, I've featured seven classic Citroëns, all of them spotted in the city of San Francisco. This '77 2CV is number 8. And there are more on the way in the future.

The humble 2CV has a certain significance to me, even though I don't consider myself a fan of French cars. My mother's cousin collects old Citroëns, including at least one early 2CV. As a child I had an old 1:64 scale Maisto 2CV in yellow with a black roof, and I've always loved the car chase in the Roger Moore Bond flick, For Your Eyes Only, in which a yellow 2CV performed admirably against two Peugeot 504s and all of Newton's laws of motion.

This '77 2CV6 is a very fine example, spotted in the Haight where I've seen at least one other Deux Chevaux before. It's a pretty standard car in an unassuming shade of blue that probably matches the exhaust that comes out the back. Or maybe not. Being a '77, it's subject to California smog testing, so I hope it runs relatively clean. My favorite detail of it is the multilingual sticker advising the owner to change the oil every 10,000 kilometers. I wish the sticker was in better condition, because you never see service reminders on cars in four or five different languages except in the owner's manual.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1964 Oldsmobile Jetstar 88

Few cars have carried as many marketing names as the Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. Some have been straightforward trim levels, such as DeLuxe 88 and Super 88, but Oldsmobile has long been associated with rockets, so much so that their logo was a stylized rocket for decades. The Rocket V8 engine sparked a lineage that would include the Rocket 88, Dynamic 88, Jetstar 88, and more puzzling Delmont and Delta 88s. Delta was the most enduring nameplate, lasting more than twenty years. Jetstar, as seen here, was the cheapest full-size Olds and the name was only used from '64 to '66.

The Jetstar 88 was built using the same body as other 88 models, but used the 330 cubic inch V8 from the mid-sized F-85 (Cutlass) line and a two-speed automatic. GM marketing went whole hog on jet-age adspeak for this package, calling it the Jetfire Rocket V8 with Jetaway (Super Turbine 300) transmission. Pillared sedans were called "Celebrity", while four-door hardtops were called "Holiday". Jetstars didn't offer the performance or braking ability of Dynamic or Super 88s, but provided more interior and trunk space than a smaller F-85 without sacrificing the relative economy.

This Jetstar has been around the block a few times, and its coat of Provincial White is on its way out. Despite the growing rust problem, the body is relatively damage-free apart from a small crunch to the left rear corner. Perhaps the ginormous truck mirrors do serve a useful purpose after all. To me the Olds design has more character than a same-year Chevy Impala, a little awkward from some angles but not overtly strange. I think it's one of the better-looking full sized cars to come out of GM in 1964.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 MG MGB GT

I've always liked the early models of the MGB. The late ones made after 1971, hobbled by ugly black rubber bumpers and an aerodynamic plastic front end cap, just don't appeal to me. The roadsters are nice, but I really like the MGB GT 2+2.

MG got really good longevity out of the 'B, producing it for eighteen years with surprisingly few substantive changes. More than half a million of the little cars were built in total. The GT version introduced in 1965 accounts for 125,282 of those. As with many imported cars of this era, the U.S.-spec version suffered from decreased output thanks to American smog laws. We also ruined a lot of interesting cars by forcing them to accommodate our headlight, ride height and bumper standards. The MGB was one of them, forced to install blocks in the front suspension to raise the front end an inch to meet new laws for headlight level starting in the 1970s. This adversely affected the handling and the overall stance. The late-'60s cars like this one at least only had to deal with early smog controls and side markers, and still had the classic good looks and chrome. This one caught my eye not only for its excellent condition, but also for its rare Grampian Grey color offered only on 1965-69 GTs. It's a quality repaint of the original color. This car may have had red leather interior but I don't recall exactly and can't tell from the photos; that upholstery appears to be a common pairing with the grey exterior color on these cars.

I hate that I got so few pictures of this car, because shooting it cost me a $66 parking ticket. Remember folks, meter readers are stealthy and vigilant and that's all the praise I feel like giving them. The owner appeared while I was taking pictures and we got carried away talking. He bought the car new in 1969 and had many memories in it, even if it only accumulated 94,000 miles. Unfortunately he had to leave, so that was the end of my shoot. The moral here is, when shooting an interesting car, pay for more parking time than you need, because interesting cars have interesting stories.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1970 Dodge Charger

Ask a person about the 1968-1970 Dodge Charger in popular culture and you'll get three answers. Older people will probably say the bad guys' black '68 R/T in Bullitt's famous chase scene. Young people might say the black '70 drag car driven by Vin Diesel in a couple of the Fast and the Furious movies (he also drove a modified '69 Charger Daytona replica in Furious 6). And most everyone knows a certain gravity-defying orange '69 R/T with the doors welded up and a horn that plays Dixie. Incidentally, virtually all of those cars were destroyed in filming their respective roles. But this green '70 Charger has survived and lives a quiet life in suburban Alameda.

In 1970 the Coke-bottle Charger was still a proper big muscle car, though its days as such were numbered. Dodge was readying an all-new car for 1971 with styling more in keeping with the "Fuselage" design language on other Chrysler products, and a focus more on personal luxury than outright performance. In the meantime, the Charger received new electric-operated headlamp covers, a new full-width grille and a thin chrome bumper that wrapped all the way around said grille. Round parking lights/turn signals were changed to orange this year and the taillight panel was refreshed slightly. Luxury performance was beginning to catch on with the new SE trim level introduced the previous year. Engines were mostly the same as '69: a 318 V8, 383, 440 Magnum big block or 426 Hemi. Cheapskates could still opt for a 225 slant-six. A triple two-barrel carburetor set-up, the "Six-Pak", was newly available on the 440 this year.

This Charger looks like a standard model in Dark Green Poly that used to have a full set of hubcaps and a color-matched vinyl top. R/T models received special badging, non-functional reverse scoops on the doors and a chrome outline around both taillamps, but none of those are present here, nor can an SE badge be found on the C-pillar, so it's likely a base model built with the optional vinyl top. Dark Green is apparently a rare color on 1970 V8 base Chargers, with only 904 built. Green vinyl tops found their way onto 1,306 V8 base cars. If this is a six-cylinder car, the number drops to 17 Dark Green cars and 8 green vinyl tops. Those production totals do not include Charger 500s or R/Ts, otherwise the total is 4,746 green cars and 5,982 green tops. (Source: 1970 Charger Registry)

This car has suffered from some pretty unfortunate rust problems and the California license plate dates to the early 1980s. The clue to this may lie in the Bay City Dodge bumper sticker on the rear: the only Bay City Dodge dealership I know of was located in Michigan. Year-round life in the upper Midwest is tough on cars. Even now, living near the San Francisco Bay can still take its toll on cars. There's a lot of sheetmetal that needs to be replaced, though the rockers have already been fixed. Note the piece of paper on the windshield. I believe that was a note from an interested party hoping to buy the car. A Charger of this vintage is getting pretty hard to find, and most of them don't live outdoors anymore.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1959 Singer Gazelle Series III

This week we've been looking at Rootes Group cars, and already seen representation for the Sunbeam and Hillman brands. Now let's check out a rarely-seen Singer Gazelle.

Singer was to Hillman, what Wolseley was to Austin: an upmarket, luxury-oriented badge job with more formal styling, fancier trim and a nicer interior. It might not be fair to call the Singer Gazelle the Cadillac Cimarron of British cars, though I can't help but draw a parallel. Singer took a Hillman Minx and tacked on an ovular vertical grille and more ornate side trim, and added a leather interior available with either a front bench seat or a pair of buckets. Power came from a Hillman 1.5 liter four coupled to a four-speed manual transmission (an automatic was added as an option in 1959).

I can't tell what color this car originally was, though it appears to have been dark green at some point whether or not it was supposed to be. Also perplexing is the addition of a Jaguar leaping cat hood ornament where once there was a V-shaped badge styled like the head of a gazelle. The fender mirrors also appear to be non-standard, as they're mounted farther forward than usual and there is a naked mirror mounting point on the driver-side door. This is a Series III car, introduced in 1958. I found this very car for sale on Craigslist a few days before writing this post, listed as a 1959 model. It must be an early '59, then, because the Series IIIA was introduced that year with small tail fins and dual carburetors. This one doesn't look like a IIIA to me. Condition is... well, let's say it has quite some patina. Most of it is there and looking quite restorable if a person had the time, money and desire. What's missing is the hard-to-find stuff, the badges and trim pieces and a hubcap, things that aren't made anymore. You'd probably have to join a Rootes car community and network with people in the UK to get it back to its former glory. It's doable, though it would take a greater person than I to do it. I wish them luck.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Hillman Husky Series I

This week we're having a look at some cars produced by the Rootes Group in England. Rootes is known in large part for the Sunbeam Alpine sports car, but the company also built a lot of down-to-earth family cars and utility vehicles. This is a late-1950s Hillman Husky van, produced in 1958 or '59.

Hillman was one of Rootes' mainstream car brands, much like Chevrolet or Dodge but on a far smaller scale. Hillman specialized in smaller cars, leaving the bigger, fancier cars to Humber and the commercial vehicles mostly to Commer and Karrier. Singer produced more luxurious versions of regular Hillman vehicles. One odd duck in the Hillman range was the Husky, a small two-door van that was virtually identical to the Commer Cob. Both vans were based on the Hillman Minx, and apparently the Cob came with blank panel sides and the Husky with glass windows.

This is a Series I Husky, a fortuitous spotting I found completely by chance while searching for parking to photograph a Bradley GT kit car. Turns out the Bradley had someone sitting in it, so I let it go, but this Hillman posed quite nicely. And the bonus was that after I finished, within minutes I stumbled upon a 1976 AMC Pacer, which you'll be seeing at some point here. San Francisco is just full of weird and wonderful old cars. The slotted mag wheels on this diminutive van are an odd addition that make it appear just a little tougher. I'm not sure what the plan was, though, with the mismatched paint patches all over. Otherwise the body looks pretty much original and solid.