Wednesday, December 30, 2009

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1965 Chevrolet Impala

With General Motors in a state of constant turmoil and the parade of brands getting the axe, one nameplate sticks in everyone's mind when they think of GM: Chevrolet. It's easy to forget amid all the chaos of a really screwed-up economy that there were once brighter times.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sebastopol Street Sighting - 1974 AMC Hornet

Oh snap son, an AMC! Well, that may not seem too special to some (particularly those of you reading this in Wisconsin), but American Motors products are getting pretty scarce in my neck of the woods. In fact, this wasn't spotted in my neck of the woods at all. I nabbed this 1974 AMC Hornet sedan in Sebastopol, California.
It may not look like much, and for all intents and purposes, it isn't much. It's a generic beige color, spiced up only by a chocolate brown vinyl roof which, like the body, has seen much better days. I'd chance a guess that the engine is one of the two straight six options. I'm curious which side's hubcaps are original.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1960 Chevrolet Corvette

Old Corvettes are pretty few and far between when it comes to finding street-parked examples. So I cheated. This gorgeous 1960 Corvette roadster was parked outside of a repair shop in San Francisco, and God she's beautiful. I should check that shop out more often, since they also had a 1966 Dodge Charger 426 Hemi parked across the street (as seen in the pictures) and a black 1936 Ford pickup truck. I have seen the Ford at car shows and I believe one of the employees owns it. The Charger and Corvette are most likely customers' cars. All will eventually be featured here. Interestingly, the shop is across the street from a motel which frequently has some manner of old car in the parking lot as well. I've seen a '49 Buick Roadmaster, '57 Thunderbird, '59 Chevy Apache and a '67 GTO in their lot, to name but a few.

Friday, November 20, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1956 Mercury Montclair

Many old cars have an interesting story to them. The story behind this 1956 Mercury Montclair Hardtop Sport Coupe is a sad one. It sits, day in and day out, on a street under the Central Freeway flyover in front of a Best Buy store in San Francisco's SoMa (South of Market) district. The plates are recent and registration is current but I have always seen it in the same spot over the last two years. I suspect this old Merc isn't used so much for transportation as it is for shelter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1961 Chevrolet Corvair Monza 900

Name me a car available today with a rear-mounted engine, rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission and sporty performance.

You said Porsche, didn't you? Understandable. Now, let's add "available with four doors" to the criteria. Narrows things down a bit, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1956 Continental Mark II

The hands of fate have not been kind to all of the old iron on California's streets. Contrary to popular belief, cars do rust here when not taken care of. Case in point: this rare 1956 Continental Mark II. Only about 3000 of these European-inspired boulevard cruisers were built between 1956 and 1957, and they were exclusive to the rich and famous -- because only the rich and famous could afford the $10,000 asking price.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1975 Pontiac Catalina

I first found this 1975 Pontiac Catalina in summer of 2007 when I was on a road trip with my friend Colin, who coincidentally operates his own blog much like this one. We had made a grand circle tour from my hometown in the East Bay to Las Vegas to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco before dropping me off back at home. En route to Golden Gate Park, we passed a baby blue full-size Pontiac parked on a street. I snapped two quick pictures of it from the car and never saw it again.
Fast forward to May 2009. I was wandering around the city with my camera as I often do when I have free time, and lo and behold, I happened upon a gigantic baby blue full-size Pontiac parked in a different part of town. I took a dozen or so pictures and went home. Turns out it was the same car. The last two years have been mostly kind to this behemoth. The paint and pinstriping are the same. The original hubcaps and license plate are still intact. The parking permit and bumper sticker are the same ones the car wore in 2007. The front turn signal reflector lenses haven't been fixed. It has some minor rust in the rockers but it appears not to spread since I last saw it. The only immediately noticeable difference is a driver mirror which has been replaced by a Cadillac unit that probably originated on a Fleetwood Brougham.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Castro Valley Street Sighting - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher

If any company doing business in the US at the dawn of the 1980s had small cars down to a science, it had to be Volkswagen. VW helped put the world on wheels with its Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Microbus), Type 3 (Fastback, Notchback and Squareback). But even the People's Car had to have a top model, and in 1974 the Passat (German for "Trade Wind") was born. It was available in a variety of body styles including a two or four-door sedan, a three or five-door hatchback, and a station wagon. In North America the first generation of Passats were marketed as the Dasher between 1974 and 1981. Following the model's refresh for 1982, the name was changed to Quantum, and then, in 1986, to Passat. It remains Volkswagen's large-midsize sedan in the American market.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - BMW 2800CS

These days one expects to see BMWs everywhere. I once sat down to dinner at a window table in a restaurant in my town and counted over 40 BMWs driving by during the meal. And I think I was only counting E46-generation 3 Series models. But once upon a time, BMW was just "one of those foreign cars" and most Americans aspired to own a Cadillac if they wanted luxury.

Friday, September 11, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 Chevrolet Kingswood

Many Americans have fond (or perhaps not so fond) memories of family road trips in a big station wagon. The Family Truckster has since given way to the SUV, but some folks still hold on to their big old wagons. This 1972 Chevy Kingswood Estate Wagon is a prime example of a fixture of yesteryear still lurking on the streets in the 21st century. And in eco-centric San Francisco, no less!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Mercury Monterey

Remember the '58 Oldsmobile post where I mentioned that 1958 was a weird year for the auto industry, whose designs are often criticized for being really strange? This is pretty much the poster child for "ugly" in 1958. Most will disagree with me and point fingers at the new-for-'58 Edsel, but that's too easy. Besides, I like the Edsel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Datsun 1200

San Francisco is home to many quirky old imports, most of which seem to be Toyotas. But the city has its share of Datsuns too, as evidenced by this 1971 Datsun 1200 Coupe I spotted parked on Steiner Street near the famous Painted Lady Victorian houses.

Monday, September 7, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Plymouth Fury III wagon

This one was a quick take from 2007. I was killing time walking around in the South of Market area and I stumbled upon a green Volkswagen 412 wagon. The owner was present and saw me photographing his VW. Naturally curious as to why someone was taking pictures, he struck up conversation with me for a while. Inside his garage was this red 1965 Plymouth Fury III station wagon.
Since I showed such an interest in his cars, he agreed to pull the Fury out for me. This was long before I began shooting thoroughly for any kind of feature, but I knew better than to just snap one photo of it and go on my way. And now, two years later, here we are. I figured, why not? It's a classic, and a relatively rare car.

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Oldsmobile 88

1958 was an odd year for the automobile industry. Throughout the fifties, fins were in, chrome was the norm and bigger was better. But in 1958 something was different: quad headlights. Some cars wore them well (DeSoto), and some did not (Studebaker). Some have criticized the 1958 General Motors lineup of having poor styling compared to the generally good-looking (and only dual-headlight) 1957s. For sure, I wouldn't say that this '58 Oldsmobile 88 is fantastically gorgeous. Far from it. I've never been a big fan of most Olds designs from the '50s (and my favorite '58s are the Chevys and Pontiacs), but personal preferences aside, these cars have their fans.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Plymouth Barracuda

Before it was a neon-colored, billboard-striped street terror known simply as the 'Cuda, the Plymouth Barracuda was more like this: a sporty fastback version of the Plymouth Valiant. It was introduced in 1964 as a competitor to Ford's Mustang, but it never would be a serious threat in the ponycar wars, at least not in the sales department.

Friday, September 4, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1987 Sterling 825 SL

What looks like a Japanese car, runs like a Japanese car, but feels like a British car and rusts and breaks like a British car? Well, if you live in the US, chances are the car is a Sterling. Europe knows this car as the Rover 800, a car which, under the skin, is basically an Acura Legend. The engineering was done by Honda, with the platform and powertrain built to last. Everything else was done by Austin Rover, a fact which pretty much doomed the Sterling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1976 Chevrolet Nova Concours

The Chevy Nova used to be one of the most commonly seen cars in the US. One of four similar models built and sold by GM, by the 1970s NOVA had become an acronym:

Nova (Chevrolet)
Omega (Oldsmobile)
Ventura (Pontiac)
Apollo (Buick)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Volkswagen 1600TL

I've always thought there was something inherently cool about the Volkswagen Type 3. For one thing, it isn't a [Type 1] Beetle. I've seen just about every different variety of Beetle one can imagine, and it's just too generic for me. I'm not wild about the [Type 2] Microbus either, unless it's something rare like a late-50s 21-window model or a pickup. But the Type 3, with its 2-door "Squareback" wagon, fastback coupe and notchback sedan body styles, is the classic VW that holds my interest most. A sporty roadster, the Type 34 Karmann Ghia, was also based on the Type 3 platform.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Dodge D300

Fear This! it says on the tailgate. And rightly so, this is one badass-looking work truck. It's a 1970 (or possibly '71) Dodge D300 heavy-duty longbed stepside pickup. I spotted this beast parked right next to my university headquarters. Judging by the wear and the rust, it still earns its keep and will probably keep going until it can't go any more. It's the story of countless millions of pickup trucks nationwide, trucks bought to do work, trucks that do work for years and years and are fortunate enough to escape the scrapyard as long as they still have life in them.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Ford Galaxie XL

Owners of old cars sometimes hide them from the prying eyes of the public. My strategy for finding interesting old iron is pretty simple: walk around looking for chrome bumpers. Usually I end up finding a generic pickup truck and continue on my way, but sometimes I snag something like this 1968 Ford Galaxie XL fastback. This big beast was parked in an dead-end alley in a space way too small to get out of without constant jockeying or perhaps an "accidental" nudge. Judging by the sheer mass of it, I doubt it would be very difficult to push a Corolla or Civic out of the way. Well, it might scratch the chrome on the bumpers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

San Diego Street Sighting - Dodge Power Wagon

During the course of any trip, you're bound to see something interesting, whatever it is. On my last trip down to San Diego, this was the most interesting vehicle I saw parked on the street, hands down. It's a Dodge Power Wagon, and I have no clue what year it is. All I know is it's crazy. Dually rear axle, big tough bumpers and a black flame treatment bordered in light green announce to the world that it's big and loud and you better get out of its way! The subtle silver-green suits this truck well, and the black original-style pressed-steel wheels it a badass military look. Which is fitting given that the Power Wagon has a military history.

Friday, July 3, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser

San Francisco is full of Prius-driving yuppies, but every so often you find a true car enthusiast. While going to look at a used Mazda Protege5 in the city, I asked to take a route I've commonly walked in the past. This route has led me to find many of the cars featured on this blog, and a trip over Lone Mountain near Golden Gate Park revealed an extraordinary collection of old cars. Seems a collector lives in this area who specializes in unrestored daily-driver 1950s cars, and his street-parked 1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser is a prime example.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1979 Plymouth Sapporo

If this car looks and sounds Japanese it's because it is. It's a 1979 Plymouth Sapporo, one of Chrysler's "captive imports" that resulted from a deal with Mitsubishi. Many smaller Chryslers, Dodges and Plymouths of the late 1970s and 1980s were badge-engineered Mitsubishi products. The Sapporo and its Dodge twin, the perhaps ironically named Challenger, were based on the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda and marketed as a "personal luxury" car. The model lasted from 1976 to 1983.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1975 MG Midget

I've seen surprisingly few British Leyland products in San Francisco, despite many residents' fondness for quirky foreign cars. This 1975 MG Midget is only the second or third Midget I've had the opportunity to find parked, and the first one I've been able to shoot for a feature.

The MG Midget began as a spinoff of the Austin Healey Sprite MkII (not the well-known MkI "Bugeye" model) in 1961. It eventually outlasted the Sprite, continuing production with various changes and improvements but maintaining the same basic body, until 1979.
This one is a later-model Midget from the Leyland era, "federalized" for sale in the US with horrible black plastic bumpers and squared-off wheel arches in the rear for body strength. Power came from a 1493 cc four-cylinder sourced from the Triumph Spitfire and routed through a four-speed manual transmission based on the unit from the rather un-sporting Morris Marina.
And in case you wondered why it's called the Midget, here's why.

The Midget is a tiny, tiny car. That's a Toyota Tacoma pickup behind it, which by pickup truck standards is a compact. Interestingly, this light blue Midget is an earlier model, built sometime between 1968 and 1971 judging by the side markers, Leyland badge on the front fender, and the squared-off rear wheel well (it would be rounded on 1972-74 models). This one also sports the useless but much better looking dainty chrome bumpers that would probably offer adequate protection if the colliding vehicle was a Hot Wheels car.
This cheese-orange Midget featured above is just not beautiful. Never mind the body damage, the real problem is the big ugly bumpers, pressed-steel wheels, and the sheer Leyland-ness of it all. It lacks the elegant simplicity of the quintessential classic British sports car, something the original MGB did so well before it, too, was ruined by the curse of black plastic federal bumpers. Older Midgets look better, though they are simply too tiny for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, I love a number of old British roadsters including the aforementioned MGB, the Triumph Spitfire and TR6, Austin-Healey 3000, Sunbeam Tiger, the [pre-V12] Jaguar E-Type, Jensen Interceptor, various Aston Martins and of course the AC [Shelby] Cobra (which I would consider to be as much American as British after what Carroll Shelby did with it). The Midget is a cute little car in its purest form, but I think it would require a ride in one to convince me that it's an actual, capable sports car and not a toy with license plates.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1961 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

One of the largest old cars I've seen in San Francisco (coincidentally on the same street as the '64 Porsche 356C in my previous feature) was this unrestored and mildly customized 1961 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (98) four-door sedan. Sporting some tasteful orange pinstriping, this must have been a classy machine in its day. That day was a long time ago, though, and today it's faded and beat-up but keeps going. Every time I've seen it, it's been parked in a different spot.

The 98's story began in 1941 with the introduction of Oldsmobile's premium full-size model, the Series 90. The two models in the 90 series were the 96 (straight-six powered) and 98 (straight-eight powered). As V8 engines became more popular in the postwar years, the 98 continued production with a V8.
This '61 Ninety-Eight appears to be the Luxury Sedan body style, which has a roofline similar to a Cadillac six-window sedan of the same era. But there, the similarities to the Cadillac end. The Olds has an entirely differently sculpted and styled body devoid of exaggerated fins. Instead, the 98 has a pointed rear end with small round taillights and a body design that resembles a rocket. Nearly everything on the car is inspired by rockets, fighter jets, turbines, air intakes, what have you. This was the sixties, after all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1964 Porsche 356C

There are still a number of these little classic Porsches zipping around San Francisco, and this is a prime example of the breed. It's a 1964 Porsche 356C, the final incarnation of the 356 model first introduced in 1948. The 356C was produced from 1964 through '65, then it was discontinued in favor of the bigger, more powerful and more expensive 911.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country

San Francisco is home to many station wagons, but few old, relatively obscure ones like this 1965 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country. I've seen this car three times in the city, first up on a lift in a shop on Brannan St, then driving with no lights on at night on Mission St in downtown. Then I saw the car parked on a hill around the Pacific Heights area and finally had the chance to shoot a rare old wagon deserving of a feature.

Monday, June 22, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Ford Falcon Futura

I thought it would be appropriate to follow the 1969 Dodge Dart Custom sedan with a bread-and-butter compact car from another of the Big Three: Ford. This nicely kept example is a 1965 Falcon Futura, the swankier trim level. It's also powered by the optional 289 cubic inch V8 it shared with the Mustang introduced the previous year.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Dodge Dart Custom

Ah yes... this is what passed for a compact car in 1969. Before the modern concept of a "compact" economy car came into play, the compact was still a pretty large car. But when the "large" car is a Dodge Coronet, it makes this 1969 Dodge Dart Custom sedan look a bit small. Perhaps that's why the Dart and its Plymouth Valiant twin were marketed as "senior compacts". In those days, a compact car was about getting more car in a smaller package for less money. Or less car, if you couldn't afford all the bonuses of a big car. It wasn't until the '70s fuel crises that the focus really began to shift toward higher fuel economy and lower emissions. That's probably why most domestic-built compacts of 1960s were powered by six-cylinder engines while foreign competitors used smaller, less powerful four-cylinder engines. This particular Dart, like many other compacts of the '60s, is equipped with the optional V8.

Friday, June 19, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser

Quite the uber-gallery, I know. But it's a Studebaker! You just don't ignore an exaggeratedly styled mint-green sedan from a long-defunct automaker, especially not one as clean and interesting as this one. It's a 1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser owned by a Studebaker enthusiast in San Francisco.

I found this car by chance, interestingly enough, while searching for a Lark Wagonaire Daytona station wagon (pictured below) of the same year, a car which I suspect is/was owned by the same person.

Both cars are loaded '63 models rolling on American Racing 5-spoke wheels. Both were parked on the same block. But I never saw both cars together, and while I have seen the green Cruiser at least three times, the Wagonaire has only appeared for me once and I could never do a full shoot on it.

This Lark Cruiser really is nice. Studebaker gave the Lark a faux Mercedes grille that lasted until 1963 (1964 models had an entirely different front-end treatment with a trapezoidal grille that, in my opinion, wasn't as attractive). This car may have some extra trim on it, since I've never seen another Lark that had both a chrome hood ornament and chrome spears on top of the front fenders. This car is also equipped with the 289 cubic-inch "R-1" V8 from the Avanti sports car, producing 240 horsepower. To put things in perspective, a standard 289-powered '64 1/2 Mustang produced 210-220 hp. A relatively small sedan like the Lark Cruiser coupled with that kind of power could scoot to 60 mph in 10 seconds. That's a tick quicker than a 1967 Camaro with the 327 V8. Not too shabby.