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.