Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1964 Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe

Ask anybody in the United States who never owned one of these cars, and chances are they won't know what it is. Tell them it's a Ford and they'll be confused. Then show it to a kid and they'll tell you it's the Weasleys' flying car from the Harry Potter movies. And indeed it is. It's a Ford Anglia 105E.

The Ford Anglia hails from Ford's campaign to sell some of their smaller European offerings in North America as a budget and efficiency option. This effort began in 1948 and consisted mainly of the Anglia, Prefect and Thames commercial van. These were mostly pre-war-styled, dowdy, relatively primitive cars and didn't sell particularly well in a market used to flathead V8s and three-abreast seating. A new generation of modernized Anglias in the mid-1950s and another redesign in 1959 finally brought the model a little more into the mainstream. The '59 Anglia showed a clearly American influence with more chrome, small tail fins and a reverse-raked rear window inspired by the Breezeway window on the 1958 Lincolns. Engines were still small-displacement four-bangers, but the new cars were light and tough and subsequently enjoyed success in Canadian and European rally racing. The little Anglia finally had a sporting pedigree. Mind you, that meant 39 horsepower and 0-60 in 29.5 seconds. The Anglia 105E is notable as the first production Ford sedan to benefit from a four-speed manual transmission.

I'm not totally certain what year this Anglia is. Bill Stengel of The Street Peep photographed it long before I did, and estimated it as a 1964 model. All years of the 105E were available in Standard or Deluxe trims, the former a bare-bones car while the latter, seen here, featured more decoration and standard equipment such as pop-out rear quarter windows for ventilation. The 105E barely changed at all visually, though late 1965 models received a revised grille. This car apparently belongs to the Cortina collector, a bit of an odd sock among his four other Cortinas. I'm bummed that the late-afternoon-dappled-shade lighting was so poor and the car was parked so close to the red Cortina sedan that I couldn't get a front shot. I kind of like these little cars and I'm happy to have found one, even if my pictures are terrible. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to re-shoot it someday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saratoga Street Sighting - 1920 Ford Model T Touring Car

Today is the day after Thanksgiving, better known as Black Friday. It's the day when people forget everything they celebrated the day before and start tackling each other for discounted items on the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. Since some of us are still feeling thankful and the rest of us are out buying on Black Friday, what better car to feature than a Ford Model T? It's the car everyone ran out to buy because it was cheap, and it's black. Oh yeah, and you should darn well be thankful it existed. This is the car that revolutionized mass production techniques and interchangeable parts in the auto industry, and first made cars truly affordable to the average person.

I did some research on the Model T and I still don't know a lot about it. It's possible to tell the different model years apart, but at a glance they look an awful lot alike. The T received a few very important developments during its remarkable 19-year life, including such options as an electric starter which became available in 1919. This car may be a first-year starter car, and is no newer than 1922 because of its completely upright windshield, and no newer than 1920 because it has the L-shaped support bracket for the folding top, bolted to the quarter panel. The ribbing visible on this car where three pieces of metal join to form the rear quarters and back panel was also eliminated for the 1921 model year, giving newer cars a smoother, more finished appearance back there.

This T Touring has some cool accessory oil lamps on the windshield supports and a klaxon horn bolted to the driver's side "door". Note that on these cars the driver door is a fake. The oil lamps apparently were standard on non-starter cars but did not originally come on cars with starters. The Model T is a curious mixture of primitive and relatively modern technology, with single transverse leaf springs in front and rear for suspension and wooden wheel spokes. The transmission is unlike anything most people today have ever dealt with - a clutchless two-speed manual with gears controlled by floor pedals. I listened to the owner of the 1919 Touring Car featured previously, when he demonstrated his car at the Park Street car show this past October in Alameda. He commented that once in gear with the hand throttle set, the car effectively has cruise control. This car, found on the street in Saratoga, looks to have had a sympathetic restoration that maintains some patina (also suggesting the car is regularly used and enjoyed), while making the 95-year-old car presentable for display. The owner appears to be a member of the Model T Ford Club of America and participates in driving events, which is wonderful. These cars are made to be driven and they certainly make people smile.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 AMC Eagle 4WD Wagon

As Thanksgiving approaches, we pause to reflect on things we're thankful for in life. Which begs the question, what cars are we thankful for? One of many I'm thankful for is the AMC Eagle.

The Eagle is one of the first crossover-type vehicles, a domestic alternative to a Subaru. Not many four-wheel-drive passenger cars were available on the market, so the Eagle was something pretty special in its time. It was available as a station wagon, sedan, coupe, Gremlin-based "Kammback", SX/4 hatchback and even a limited-production Sundancer convertible by Griffith Company coachbuilders. Two-wheel-drive versions of the wagon, coupe and sedan were also available as the Concord, and the Spirit hatchback was a twin of the Eagle SX/4. AMC had to be clever with product given their shoestring budget, so most of these cars were restyled and rebodied versions of the 1970s AMC Hornet, and featured inline-six engines developed from 1964. Economy models were available that used AMC or GM 2.5-liter fours, and even a diesel conversion was offered in its first year. The diesel sold all of seven units. A total of 197,449 Eagles were built from 1980 to 1988.

We've looked at an Eagle here before, a modified trail rig, but I really wanted to shoot a stock one. I got my break while driving through San Francisco, oddly enough while tailing a vintage Rolls-Royce. I lost sight of the Rolls but happened to glance to my left while crossing an intersection and spotted a tan Eagle going the other way, one block down. I looped around and there it was, pulling in to park. I've found a lot of great street sightings this way.

The 1981 Eagle was the first to adopt the typical Eagle look with a plastic chrome eggcrate grille (the inaugural model used horizontal bars similar to the Concord), and featured full-time 4WD and a choice of 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 4.2-liter straight-six power. This one wears the original Cameo Tan over Dark Brown paint and styled wheelcovers. These are tough cars and this one seems to have run into a lot of things with relatively little damage except all the bumper end caps are gone and the front fenders are beat up. This could be a fairly easy restoration project. I'd be tempted to make it a Sport package clone with blacked-out grille, foglights and AMC 5-spoke aluminum wheels in place of the hubcaps which I've never liked. I love the Eagle wagon despite its slightly awkward styling and dated technology. It's just a cool old beast that's practical, spacious, sounds pretty good and can take a trail if necessary.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1966 Dodge Polara Wagon

Much of the United States is buried under snow as I type this, and I'm again hearing the words "polar vortex" tossed around. So I figured it's as good a time as any for this snow-white Dodge Polara, a wagon big enough to evacuate yourself and your whole family from the siege of bitter winter storms.

The '66 Polara was one of Dodge's full-sized wagons and shared its body with the fancier Monaco. Polara was the mass-market offering, good for middle class families who needed a big wagon with two or three rows of seats. Your $3,000 bought over two tons of steel and a standard 383 V8 to push it around. The key word for Dodge advertising in 1966 was "Rebellion" and the Polara was one of the angstiest-looking cars they offered that year. This wagon wears a coat of white paint with what appears to be maroon or dark brown interior, a color scheme I associate more with a fleet-special 1991 Chevy Lumina than a '66 Polara.
Body and paint are good to fair, clearly a repaint but not all torn up or rusted out. I dig the narrow whitewalls and body-colored steelies with poverty caps. The side mirrors and third brake light on the rear hatch are aftermarket and look a little funny. As a cargo van driver by trade, though, I can attest that mirrors make all the difference when operating a huge vehicle with limited line of sight visibility in traffic or parking, and it never hurts for other drivers to be able to see you when you're stopping.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1983 Mitsubishi Starion

A couple days ago we took a look at a 1920s American luxury car. Now for something completely different, a 1980s Japanese compact turbocharged sport coupe. This is a 1983 Mitsubishi Starion.

I photographed this car because most Americans know the Starion as a sporty-looking car with flared fenders and a spoiler. Many also know that, being a Mitsubishi, the Starion was subject to Chrysler's influence and spawned multiple Mopar-branded captive import clones in the form of the Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth Conquest. What many don't know is that the Starion was offered in narrow and wide body versions, a difference that was more than skin deep. Widebody cars featured a 2.6 liter intercooled turbo four, while narrow cars in most markets had a non-intercooled 2.0 turbo. This was because the Japanese government taxed cars based on engine displacement and vehicle width; the 2.0 narrow-body car fit into a lower tax bracket. It appears that for the American market, all Starions had the 2.6 turbo engine, and the widebody version included the Sports Handling Package and an intercooler.

All US-bound Starions from the beginning of production until almost 1986 were narrow cars like this one. I've always liked the later widebody cars and the narrow ones have a much tamer appearance, like an economy car with only a hood scoop and TURBO badge to convince people it's special. The Starion's RWD chassis was derived from the boxy, formal-looking Mitsubishi/Plymouth Sapporo coupe.
This car hails from the first year the Starion was sold in the US. At first glance, approaching from behind, it looked relatively solid and original. The red paint is shiny in most places but fading in others. The front fascia is beat up and the hood appears to have red duct tape on the leading edge to hide rust. The grille insert is missing and the rear bumper is cracked from some long-ago impact. The side graphics match the factory style, but masking lines on the rubber weatherstripping around the windows tell me that this car has been repainted.

If I had to choose between a Starion and the Sapporo on which it's based, I'd have to make some qualifications. I'd probably go for a late-model widebody Conquest TSi, perhaps in red or black. Most model years of the Sapporo (and its mislabeled Dodge Challenger twin - yes, you read that correctly) are extremely generic; they range from a chrome-trimmed, hubcapped second coming of the Dodge Dart, to a monochromatic plastic box of 1980s Japanese soullessness. The right paint, stripe and wheel package does absolute wonders for the Sapporo. The widebody "Starquest", however, just looks right from the factory. Even the narrow-body Starion is sportier and more visually interesting to look at than your average Sapporo or the FWD Cordia hatchback. It's kind of a cool little '80s footnote.