Sunday, January 31, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1986 Citroën 2CV

One of the things I like about researching for this blog is deciphering license plates. The seemingly random letter and number patterns, various colors and shapes tell a story about the car they're installed on. Sometimes an online resource like California's smog test database yields the model year of an unusual older vehicle. But when it's an import from another country, especially a European model that was built for a long time with few obvious visual changes, having an original plate gives more clues about it. Case in point here with this Citroën 2CV I stumbled upon in Danville.

Crazily enough, I think this is the first Citroën on California Streets that was not photographed in San Francisco. Nearly all of the French cars I find hail from the city of hills and fog, with a few popping up in "quirky" areas such as Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Downtown Danville is more "small town America", yet located just a couple of miles from the world-famous Blackhawk Museum and acres of very expensive homes. This downtown area also hosts two hot-rod shows and a Concours d'Elegance every year, and I have never seen this little 2CV at any of them.

It really pains me that my favorite Citroen history website is gone. I used to use Cats-Citroen.net to help narrow down the model years of 2CVs and DSs, even the one Traction Avant I found. Sadly the creator of the website passed away in 2007 and it seems his family has finally let the web hosting lapse. Other history pages exist but his was the most complete breakdown of month-to-month model updates I've seen.



Getting back to my comment on license plates, the front plate is obviously French and could be original if it's genuine. It has a suffix of 91, originally the department code for Alger, an administrative region of northern Algeria. That would have made for a very interesting past life for this car, except for one thing. In 1968, the 91 code was reassigned to Essonne, a southern suburb of Paris. I'm expecting this car was built sometime after 1981, since it wears a special "Charleston" color scheme of maroon and black but does not have Charleston edition badges. My best guess is 1986 or later, based on the black grille surround and windshield border. The front license plate says D.A.E VW Audi Corbeil along its bottom edge, which I take to be a dealership in Corbeil-Essonnes. D.A.E. could refer to Déclaration d'Autorisation d'Enlèvement, which sounds like declaration of authorization for removal or export. Perhaps that dealership offers import/export services and that may be how such a car ended up stateside.
What says the most to me about this car, though, is the rear license plate. Love mah 2CV. If that doesn't reflect pride of ownership, I don't know what does.

If anyone is an expert on these cars and can more accurately identify this one, please feel free to comment below and I'll fix it. Thanks!

Photographed January 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Porsche 356 SC

Remember back in the day when you wanted to buy a used car and the first place you went was your local classified paper? That told you what was available in your area, assuming the seller paid the fee for a two or three-line print ad that may or may not include a small photo. That worked for a lot of people who wanted a normal car or truck without having to visit a dealer or hang around the local auto auction. But what about the collector car market? Not so long ago you had to buy Hemmings Motor News or Old Car Trader or the DuPont Registry if you were shopping for secondhand classics or exotics. The really high-end stuff often went to auction through companies like Christie's, Bonham's or Barrett-Jackson, where hundreds of cars would be trucked in to a central location for bidding. With the advent of Craigslist and other online listing services like eBay, now you can search all over the world for the right vehicle and even bid on and buy cars online without having to hire a broker.

I guess where I'm going with all this is the fact that this car had a Michigan license plate and a plate frame from CarPlanet.com, which I found out later to be a classic car dealer in San Francisco specializing in Porsches. I'm guessing that the car had been purchased out of state and trucked over from Michigan to California where CarPlanet probably put it in their warehouse inventory to re-sell.

The Porsche 356 SC was one of the last iterations of Porsche's inaugural 356 model. It was an option package on the 356 coupe and roadster that gave the car a 95-horsepower version of the 1.6 liter flat-four engine, and four-wheel disc brakes. By the time this particular car rolled off the production line, the more powerful, more modern 911 was already in production. The 911 would finally replace the venerable 356 after the 1965 model year.

This 356 SC looks like a driver that has possibly been actively raced by an enthusiast owner. Front and rear bumpers have been replaced by small vertical chrome highway bars and mesh stone guards protect the headlamps. The car rides on Fuchs wheels from a vintage 911. One interesting detail about this car is the body was built by Karmann. Most 356 bodies were built by Reutter (now known as Recaro) and Karmann is better known for their work with Volkswagen on cars like the Beetle convertibles and the Karmann Ghia. Karmann made bodies for Porsche between 1961 and '65. The body on this car bears evidence of hard use and obviously is not the concours-restored cream puff you see crossing the auction block for $200,000. The prices people pay for good 356s these days are shocking! The coupes tend to be a lot cheaper than the convertibles, but they still command a pretty penny, often in six-digit territory for a good one. A customized 356 SC like this one in this condition is still a very rare and valuable classic and I think it was a good find.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

We've looked at a few late first-generation Mustangs here. I typically only shoot classic Mustangs when they evoke a reaction from me. And one way to get my attention is to put a clean fastback in front of me. I'm not usually excited about red cars but I love a good Mustang fastback and this one is a winner.

The last '67 fastback here was a special feature for Steve McQueen's birthday last year, fittingly finished in dark green. This one showed up behind Cowden Automotive in downtown San Francisco following last spring's Arcane Auto Society meetup. I wouldn't call it an arcane auto by any stretch; certainly not like the Amphicar and custom Berkeley roadster I shot near the same repair shop at previous Arcane Auto meets. This Mustang is a straightforward example with classic red paint, black interior, Deluxe wheelcovers and original (or almost original) California black license plates. A 289 small block V8 powers the car, but I have no clue what transmission. I'm curious how recent the paintwork is and what color it was originally. The red is loud but it works. I dig it!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Santa Clara Street Sighting - 1963 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside

It's the first day of a new year, when we look forward to the potential for great new things. In the spirit of going forward, today's feature is a forward control Chevy Corvair 95 Rampside pickup.

Forward control refers to the vehicle's layout in which the driver sits atop the front wheels as in a van, and the steering column is mounted ahead of the wheels. This was a relatively popular configuration for van-based light trucks like the Volkswagen Type 2, Dodge A100, Ford Econoline, and other off road trucks like the Jeep FC, Land Rover FC and Steyr Pinzgauer. Forward control pickups are still popular in places like Japan where small pickups based on one-box kei vans like the Suzuki Carry and Honda Acty thrive. Such vehicles are for when maximum cargo space is key and a full-size truck isn't an option.

For some time now I've wanted to photograph a Corvair pickup, and hope to eventually complete the set with an example of every Corvair body style. The Rampside pickup is an interesting and innovative vehicle even among Corvairs. Produced between 1961 and '64, the Rampside was built with an air-cooled flat six engine in the rear under the load floor. One of its main competitors was the VW, which featured three panels on the sides of the truck bed that hinged down individually. The Corvair offered a conventional pickup bed with high sides and a rear tailgate, the Loadside; and the Rampside version seen here with a large ramp on the right side that hinges down for easier loading and unloading. Unlike a regular pickup truck, though, the Corvair's engine housing made a truly flat bed floor impossible. Instead the bed floor was made extra deep in the center, just 14 inches off the ground.

This truck is a rare rig, one of the later Rampsides. Based on the badging and design of the rear engine access hatch, I'm guessing it's a 1963 model. That would make it one of 2,046 trucks built that year. It's a well equipped pickup in a handsome color scheme of what looks like Brigade Blue and Cameo White. I don't know if the twin spotlights are factory but the rest of it looks very original and well taken care of. I like the skinny whitewalls on the body color steelies with chrome center caps. I like that this Rampside offers unique utility with a touch of class. The new year's off to a good start.

Photographed July 2015