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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1979 Plymouth Horizon

This one's a beast. Not because it's fast or powerful, but because of the sheer craptitude of the "Omnirizon" and the fact it's still running against all odds and sensibilities.
The Plymouth Horizon and its twin, the Dodge Omni, were introduced in 1978 as two of Chrysler's entries into the bustling compact car market. Like most compacts of the time, they weren't the best-built cars. But they were pioneers in their market segment, as some of the first successful domestic front-wheel-drive small cars in the US and an important step in returning Chrysler to profitability in the '80s.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S

This Mercedes 220S (W180 II) Ponton is one of 55,279 [sedans] built between 1956 and 1959. The "Ponton" name comes from its pontoon-shaped fenders. Looking like a far cry from today's uberluxury cars, you're looking at one of the earliest incarnations of the Mercedes S-Class. This one shows up every so often outside the Chipotle restaurant down the street from my university. It's a beauty, too. The black paint just looks right on an old Benz like this one. The exterior isn't perfect, but the interior is. Shame I couldn't get a picture of the inside of this car.


What's cool about a car like this is it gets driven regularly. And because it gets driven, it isn't concours, but it still looks really nice from about 20 feet away. And it's a Mercedes, too, so its 50-year-old straight-six is probably bulletproof mechanically.
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the front license plate changed between photo shoots, which were several months apart. The custom-painted California front plate was replaced with what appears to be an actual 2004 Aruba license plate. One happy island indeed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1976 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling model in history, with over 35 million sold since 1966. The name was already ten years old by the time this car rolled off the assembly line. More than thirty years later, this example is still kicking around San Francisco. I can't even imagine how many miles are probably on it. It probably wears its original paint, what's left of it, and the body panels look original.


This Corolla has had a rough life. I've seen some old Toyotas in the city that looked really clean for their age. This isn't one of them. It has body damage and rust from decades in SF traffic and living in salt air. What makes it notable though, is the fact that it's a mid-70s Toyota that's still running. San Francisco isn't kind to old cars, so most drivers would have junked a '76 Corolla and bought a new car by now. I suppose for some people, it's worth more to have a cheap and relatively efficient old car that can be bumped and scraped without much fear of decreasing its value than it is to have the green cred of a shiny new Prius.

Castro Valley Street Sighting - 1978 AMC Pacer

Why hello there. It's a Pacer. A pink Pacer. It's a 1978 AMC Pacer wagon. And even if it weren't pink it would still get noticed like a ... giant wide pregnant roller skate fishbowl thing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1988 Lotus Esprit

Coming in stark contrast to the older, squarer vehicles we've examined thus far is this 1988 Lotus Esprit I spotted in the Financial District of San Francisco. This baby was parked only a couple of blocks from the Transamerica Pyramid, fitting given the car's wedge shape. Interestingly, Transamerica's former headquarters were in another triangular-wedge-shaped building (now occupied by the Church of Scientology) just down the block from where this car was parked.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Chrysler 300

Ah yes... nothing quite like an Earl Scheib paint job to spruce up a 40 year old land yacht. Well, if you don't plan on winning the Concours d'Elegance, anyway. This 1966 Chrysler 300 looks pretty darn good from across the street, and wears its pool-table green pretty well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1978 International Scout II

I always hear people in other parts of the country talking about how rust-prone the International Scout was. To some extent I believe them. This 1978 Scout II is apparently an anomaly, as are the other Scouts I've spotted in the Bay Area.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1974 Toyota Corona

I've seen several older Japanese cars in SF. This 1974 Toyota Corona Deluxe is one of the oldest Toyotas I've spotted there, and it's the third-oldest Corona I've seen in the city. This must have been pretty loaded in its day, seeing as this one had the automatic transmission option so rarely seen on imported cars of that era. I guess if you want to go mainstream in the US, it helps to have an automatic available. It makes sense though, in a city with such steep hills. This Corona has had a pretty careful owner and shows surprisingly little rust for its age and location only a mile from the Bay.

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1973 Ford Torino

The Ford Torino used to be relatively common on the roads. Even today, the fancier Gran Torino is more commonly seen than the more basic regular Torino. This 1973 model is probably the only one I've seen that wasn't a Gran Torino. You really don't see big old cars like this in San Francisco very often, so finding a standard Torino sedan is pretty rare. It's no surprise either, since the Gran Torino was arguably better looking in its front-end styling. This car wouldn't look out of place on an old TV show like "CHiPs".