Thursday, March 26, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Fiat 500L

This is the third classic Fiat 500 we've looked at here, and the third to have been photographed on the streets of San Francisco. This one is fairly interesting, since it participates in the annual California Melee road rally and other events.

The Melee is a nearly thousand-mile touring event held on California back roads as a budget alternative to the upper-crust California Mille, which costs some $5000 per vehicle and is limited to pre-1957 cars. The Melee attracts some of the rougher and/or weirder old European cars as an opportunity to not take itself seriously and allow people to just have fun. This '71 Fiat does take itself a bit seriously, though, because it has an alter-ego for "racing". The owner has a full bolt-on rally setup including alloy wheels with sport tires, large accessory foglamps and minimalist bumpers.

When not screaming down back roads, the 500 looks like a docile little Italian supermini optimized for urban parking and west coast sunshine. I like the subtle white paint and fundamentally stock appearance, with just a few stickers to hint at its potential. I imagine that with wider touring tires this little car is a ton of fun to toss around.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

I've held off on featuring this car for a long time, because it's a dark green Ford Mustang fastback. Why? Because it's March 24, and that's Steve McQueen's birthday. He would have been 85 this year.

Steve McQueen was an actor famous for his role in Bullitt, a police film whose most notable feature is a spectacular car chase through the streets of San Francisco, involving Frank Bullitt's 1968 Mustang GT fastback and the unnamed assassins' black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. If you haven't seen it, quit reading and go look it up. At least YouTube the chase. Then come back. I'll wait.

This is not the Bullitt Mustang. It's not a '68, it's not a GT and it doesn't have the 390 engine. And the color (assuming original 1967 paint) is Dark Moss Green, not Highland Green. But it's not trying to be a Bullitt clone like so many Mustang fastbacks out there, and that to me is part of its appeal.

It looks like a generally well-kept original car with a small-block 289 V8, automatic transmission and black vinyl bucket seats. Visually it's all stock down to the factory deluxe wheel covers and original black plates. The thin whitewalls are a good call that match the factory option. Inside, things have been made a little more liveable with a modern stereo system. I'm a purist generally about speakers, but if you aren't cutting metal and the result isn't hideous, I can live with that. Note the crash pad on the steering wheel hub, a new safety feature for 1967. This car also appears to be equipped with a rim-blow horn, utilizing three buttons in the steering wheel spokes that are all connected at the hub by metal arms hidden behind each wheel spoke.

I've always been a big fan of Mustangs and yet they rarely appear on California Streets because they are so prevalent in my state. How many red '65 notchbacks do you need to see before you get bored of them? This one was interesting enough to make the cut.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten Sedan

California Streets has been on a sort of hiatus for the past month, owing to real-life responsibilities and a lack of motivation to write. So I employed my rule of "When in doubt, Tri-Five Chevy". Here's a 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten (or 210) pillared sedan.

Returning readers are no doubt familiar with my thoughts regarding 1955-57 Chevrolets. They're nice-looking cars that generally bore me but I still like them. And occasionally a spectacular one comes by that knocks my socks off. Others are solid drivers like this one, probably a humble low-buck cruiser build. A fun car you can still run errands in and not cringe if someone else parks close to you. I don't know anything about what powers it, but I would venture that it's not fast and isn't made to be fast. One doesn't usually expect a family sedan with full hubcaps and wide whitewall tires to be a performance vehicle, and there's nothing wrong with that. I like a classic cruiser as much as any special-interest vehicle.

I'm a little iffy about speculating builder intent on project cars now since I was contacted recently by an owner who objected to my description of his car. (Not the first time that's happened...) I can understand being angry when some no-name person online starts making uninformed comments about your pride and joy that you built in your own garage. The fact is that without talking to an owner directly, I have to do research online or make the most educated guess I can about what I'm looking at. Basically, I call it as I see it. This is a car with plenty of potential that could go in any direction. I'd probably start with a new strap to hold up the exhaust system and then figure it out from there.