Thursday, March 31, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1958 Edsel Corsair

It's my birthday today, and I decided that I would choose my favorite street sighting from the archives. I love Edsels and after several years of shooting and blogging street-parked cars, here we finally see one. The fact that my birthday falls just before April Fools Day, ties in well with the fact that the Edsel was a costly marketing failure for Ford Motor Company.

Edsel was supposed to be a mid-priced brand in the Ford hierarchy. The original plan was to make Lincoln more competitive with Cadillac and Chrysler's Imperial brand. In doing so, it would take Lincoln upmarket with more luxurious and higher priced vehicles, and spin off Continental as the top brand. That theoretically left space between Mercury and Lincoln. It was possible at the time to buy a Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial. Five brands. It was also possible to buy a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick or Cadillac. Again, five brands. So by that logic it made sense to offer a Ford, Mercury, Edsel, Lincoln and Continental.

Ford did so much market research that they couldn't possibly lose with the "entirely new kind of car". What they actually built was mostly a conventional Ford with different chrome trim and front and rear fascia, including an oddball horsecollar grille. Two different bodies were offered, a large Mercury-based premium model and a shorter standard model based on a Ford. There were a couple of unique innovations such as a rotating drum speedometer and optional "Teletouch" automatic transmission. Teletouch was a push-button gear selector not unlike Chrysler's PowerFlite, except the buttons were located in the steering wheel hub instead of on the dashboard. This led to some customers accidentally changing gear when trying to honk the horn, a task accomplished with the chrome horn ring on the steering wheel.

Edsel only lasted three model years and faded away pretty quietly as Ford tried to salvage what it could and move on. A compact Edsel prototype evolved into the 1960 Mercury Comet, while the full-sized cars lost their horsecollar grille in the final year. Then Edsel was gone, but was certainly never forgotten.

I adore these cars. This one appeared near the Livermore Nostalgia Day car show in September 2014, but I believe it to be local to the area. I tried for years to track down a couple of '59 Edsels that live in San Francisco, but to no avail. This '58 Corsair four-door hardtop, painted in the perfect hue of turquoise over white, is certainly a fine substitute. There's a bit of rust and some wear in the interior, but it looks like a very solid survivor. If I can only feature one Edsel on this blog, I'd be happy with this one.

That doesn't mean I'll stop looking for more, though...

Photographed September 2014

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1969 Chevrolet Caprice

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, a holiday that many Americans use as an excuse to get drunk and pretend they're Irish. That means wearing the color green under threat of being pinched. So here's a green car for your viewing enjoyment, and try not to imbibe too much alcohol.

I first found out about this 1969 Chevy Caprice coupe in fall of 2013 while substituting a coworker's delivery route. I was taken by how classy it looked in metallic Fathom Green with a Parchment vinyl top, thin whitewall tires and factory hubcaps. Most of these cars that I see are customized with wild paint and big wheels, or modified in other ways through heavy use, neglect and accidents. A clean original is getting to be pretty uncommon.

This Caprice is about average in terms of equipment, sporting formal rear fender skirts and the optional 350 V8 (a 327 came standard). I'm guessing that it's the lower-output version of the 350 because of the single tailpipe. Incidentally, I did not get a rear 3/4 angle shot of this car on my first attempt on that rainy day. It was not until much later that I went back and took the missing photo, by which point the car had been given a new dual exhaust system with tasteful chrome tips. That was more than a year ago and I only noticed this fact while writing this post!


The '69 Caprice is a big boat, but it's a dignified boat and one that has grown on me quite a bit over the years.

Photographed October 2013

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Santa Clara Street Sighting - 1972 Datsun 510

UrbanDictionary defines dropping a dime as snitching on someone, ratting them out. It's a reference to the old practice of putting a coin into a pay phone to make a 10-cent call. I contend this could be an alternate definition of the term. A Datsun 510 is also often known as a Dime in the owners' community, and this one definitely looks like it's been dropped.

I've always been partial to the Datsun 510. What started as a fun little Japanese economy car in 1969 has become a fun little race car today. The 510 is relatively hard to find in good condition thanks to rust issues and so many of them being turned into racers over the years. This 1972 sedan has come a long way from its humble origins as a factory automatic grocery-getter.

I generally don't care for "stickerbombed" cars but in this case I didn't know what model year it was until I Googled some of the stickers and discovered pictures of this car on someone's Instagram, then found some of the owner's posts on a Datsun forum. According to the owner the car has had a Nissan KA-series 2.4 liter engine swap, and I'm guessing a 5-speed manual transmission judging by what I saw through the window. I also seem to recall there were photos of the owner's family on the dash and that's the kind of privacy I did not wish to violate with my camera. You'll have to use your imagination to guess what the interior looked like, but it looks like it has more modern seats installed.

The orange paint may or may not be stock, though the giant Japanese rising sun on the passenger door is obviously custom. Twin chrome fender mirrors are custom as well, recalling the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) tradition of installing rearview mirrors in that location. The wheels are 13-inch versions of what I've seen called "Panofsorts", a catch-all term for the very similar style of rim that looks like the Panasport, RS Watanabe or Konig Rewind. Up top, a Thule roof rack completes the package. I like that the owner has kept the old license plate frame from Downtown Datsun in San Jose, and the original "Nissan Automatic" badge. They're small touches that bridge the past and present as reminders of the car's history as it zooms into the future with a youthful enthusiast owner.

Photographed June 2015