Monday, December 27, 2010

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1973 Jensen-Healey


I'd venture that not many people know the relationship between the British Jensen-Healey and California. The story is this: When Austin-Healey stopped building their 3000 series of roadsters, Kjell Qvale, owner of British Motor Car Distributors in San Francisco, suddenly had no small British roadster to sell. He went to Donald Healey and Jensen Motors and invested money in the company, reminding them of the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. With the help of Healey's son Geoffery and Jaguar designer William Towns, the Jensen-Healey roadster was born.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Buick Skylark


Whoever wrote that song "Time Is On My Side" must never have owned an old car in the city. Time's never on your side, especially if the car needs work and you don't have the time or money to give it love.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Cortina 1600 GT


Out of all the Ford products I've spotted in this state, this is easily one of the most obscure. It's a 1967 Ford Cortina (Mk II) 1600 GT. if you live in the US, you've probably never seen one, but Ford sold over 16,000 of them in the States in 1967. That was the year the Cortina became the best-selling car in its home market, the United Kingdom. That's right, the Cortina was a British Ford. It slotted below the compact Falcon in Ford's American lineup and was pretty much the only four-cylinder Ford available in America at the time. So why didn't it succeed here?

Monday, December 20, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Lincoln Continental

Nowadays one might refer to an AMG Mercedes or BMW M sedan as "Bad-Ass Class". What is Bad-Ass Class? It's a luxury car that looks bad-ass, usually one that's crazy fast. Well, this isn't crazy fast, but it is classy, and it. Is. Bad. Ass.
It's a 1968 Lincoln Continental.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Ford Thunderbird


I'll admit it, I have a number of automotive guilty pleasures. One of them is the 1964 Ford Thunderbird, a car whose styling doesn't mesh all that well but for some irrational reason I love it. Take a close look at the design. The grille clashes with the headlights, the roofline seems too formal and square compared to the sculpted body, and it looks like a stylist got confused and nearly put a Chrysler Pentastar upside down on the trunk lid. Had this been a Town Landau model it would have had big silly S-shaped landau bars on the C-pillars, too. The ride is mooshy, handling and braking are terrible (four-wheel drums!) and even with a big 390 V8 I could take it off the line in my Focus.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Petaluma Street Sighting - 1981 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser


Some of you may be old enough to remember that from 1977 until the early 1980s, it wasn't really possible to buy a new convertible in the United States. I'm not that old, but I do research.
I guess late in the disco era, with hairy men in tight jeans going nuts for T-tops and car thieves slicing up ragtops, nobody wanted convertibles anymore. Then came the '80s and apparently someone decided it was time to offer convertibles again, but not right away. If you wanted a convertible you could always contract a coachbuilder to chop the roof off your coupe and turn it into a ragtop. That's what led to stopgap quasi-verts like this 1981 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1956 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville


There is just something about a vintage Cadillac. They have what you might call... presence. Cadillacs of the 1950s have more presence than most, with tailfins and massive bodies often festooned with chrome, the ultimate symbols of luxury and conspicuous consumption in America. If you drove a Cadillac, you had really made it. The only other cars that could touch it in its day were Continentals and Imperials. Nothing else came close. Standard of the world, baby!

Monday, November 1, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Rover TC 2000


I really love stories of people who buy cars new and keep them for a long time instead of replacing them whenever the warranty runs out or a flashy new model comes along. Many owners in our consumer culture bail on their vehicles when they suffer a mechanical problem or the condition declines due to poor maintenance habits. From here the ownership spectrum branches out; some keep the car because they love it, some keep it because they can't afford to replace it.
Happily, this 1969 Rover TC 2000 seems to be a prime example of the former.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1960 Chrysler Saratoga


If you've seen the previous feature in the series, feel free to skip the following paragraph.It's that time again, time for another weekly series. This one comes to you courtesy of Fifties Guy in San Francisco. Frequent readers will know who that is, but for those of you just joining us, Fifties Guy is my nickname for a collector of 1950s and early '60s cars in SF who parks them on the streets around his home and drives them daily. Most are big, heavy, massively-finned and usually overstyled late-'50s Chrysler products. So here you have it, folks: Forward Look Week. The "Forward Look" was stylist Virgil Exner's baby, and was the design language for most Mopar cars from 1955 to 1961. Take a look at an early-50s Dodge or Plymouth. Pretty boring, right? Maybe some chrome gingerbread and a snazzy grille but not much else to liven up an otherwise stodgy car. Then Exner came along and made things interesting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Plymouth Fury


If you've seen the previous feature in the series, feel free to skip the following paragraph.
It's that time again, time for another weekly series. This one comes to you courtesy of Fifties Guy in San Francisco. Frequent readers will know who that is, but for those of you just joining us, Fifties Guy is my nickname for a collector of 1950s and early '60s cars in SF who parks them on the streets around his home and drives them daily. Most are big, heavy, massively-finned and usually overstyled late-'50s Chrysler products. So here you have it, folks: Forward Look Week. The "Forward Look" was stylist Virgil Exner's baby, and was the design language for most Mopar cars from 1955 to 1961. Take a look at an early-50s Dodge or Plymouth. Pretty boring, right? Maybe some chrome gingerbread and a snazzy grille but not much else to liven up an otherwise stodgy car. Then Exner came along and made things interesting.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer


It's that time again, time for another weekly series. This one comes to you courtesy of Fifties Guy in San Francisco. Frequent readers will know who that is, but for those of you just joining us, Fifties Guy is my nickname for a collector of 1950s and early '60s cars in SF who parks them on the streets around his home and drives them daily. Most are big, heavy, massively-finned and usually overstyled late-'50s Chrysler products. So here you have it, folks: Forward Look Week. The "Forward Look" was stylist Virgil Exner's baby, and was the design language for most Mopar cars from 1955 to 1961. Take a look at an early-50s Dodge or Plymouth. Pretty boring, right? Maybe some chrome gingerbread and a snazzy grille but not much else to liven up an otherwise stodgy car. Then Exner came along and made things interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biased?

Sometimes I wonder if I unfairly overlook certain vehicles for consideration here.
Basically, my standards are that the vehicle is at least 30 years old unless it has something that makes it otherwise special (for example an extremely rare post-1980 car, or a particularly infamous design). I have a mental list of cars that aren't likely to show up here. Let me know if you think it's unfair.

- Any Acura. Period.
- Alfa Romeo Spider Veloces.
- Post-1980 Audis.
- Most BMWs, including 2002s (the 2002 Touring I featured was a rare exception). I also pass up E28 5 Series and anything produced in the '80s or later - unless I happen to stumble upon an M1 someday.
- Post-1980 GM unless there's something special about it to catch my attention. GMC Syclone/Typhoon, Corvette ZR1/Grand Sport, vehicles like that.
- 1978 and newer GM G-body cars unless they are particularly rare. A 1986 Pontiac 2+2 is acceptable. A 1986 El Camino isn't likely to end up here.
- Post-1977 GM B-body cars.
- Most 1970s and later Cadillacs.
- Fiat 124 Spiders.
- Garden-variety Ford Mustangs. Rare special editions are the exception, particularly 1960s Shelbys.
- Post-1981 Ford Escorts.
- Post-1979 Ford/Lincoln/Mercury Panther platform cars.
- Most Hondas. That early-'70s Civic better be really clean.
- Jaguar XJs, XJSs and post E-Type XKs.
- Mazda RX-7s.
- Most 1970s and later Mercedes-Benz, particularly W123 and later cars. They are everywhere, they don't die, and I don't bother to photograph them.
- Modern Nissans.
- Most Toyotas. Boring, boring, boring. Less common early 1980s RWD models may make the cut if they're in good shape.
- Modern Rolls-Royce/Bentley cars.
- Subarus. I'd consider a BRAT but an SVX probably won't show up here. Loyales and stuff are out for now.
- Most SUVs. You won't find an Explorer here. Pioneering Japanese 4x4s may be accepted. International Scouts are acceptable, 1970s and older Land Rovers and 1960s Ford Broncos are as well, depending on condition and age.
- Volkswagen Beetles, Jettas and Golfs/Rabbits. I typically pass on Microbuses unless they are pickups.

So what will you find here?

- AMC products (includes Rambler, Nash and Hudson)
- Cars with tailfins.
- Most anything from the 1950s and older provided it isn't too cliched.
- Less common 1960s cars. Common models should be visually interesting and/or in good shape.
- Old Datsuns. I'm very choosy when it comes to Z coupes, though.
- Ford Falcons, 'cuz I like 'em.
- Ford Rancheros, because everybody knows the El Camino.
- Fuselage bodied Chryslers.
- Obscure European cars. Vintage Opels, European Fords, Citroens, Peugeots, etc. French cars are a definite yes even though I hate most of them. A clean Merkur might make the grade.
- 1970s Japanese cars, i.e. Toyota Corona, Honda 600, etc.
- Vintage limousines and luxury cars.
- Cars that are rare or historically notable.
- Cars that are atrociously bad and yet still alive. I'm still looking for a Yugo.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Fiat 600D


It's funny how certain vehicles are unique enough that you can search for them on Flickr. Go ahead, type 'san francisco fiat' in the Flickr search box. This car is a veritable rock star compared to most vehicles in The City. It shows up at least 13 times on Flickr from a variety of photographers. In several of them, it's misidentified as the more well-known Fiat 500. It's actually a Fiat 600, and as best I can tell, it's a 1965 600D.

Monday, October 18, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Ford Galaxie XL


I'm going to say straight up that this is one I've wanted to get rid of for the better part of a year now. I shot the pictures in spring 2009 before I even started this blog, in the hopes of submitting them to Jalopnik.com for Murilee Martin's now-discontinued "Down On the Street" weekend feature. Due to the crappy camera and bad timing (half in shade and half in evening sunlight, right down the middle of the quarter panel), I needed a better profile shot. Since the location of this 1970 Ford Galaxie XL Sportsroof is kind of out of my way usually, I didn't bother to seek it out for a while.
Then, I found out that this semester I had a drawing class down on Townsend, and this car lives only a couple of blocks off of my route to class. So, for five straight Fridays I walked past it, waiting for the right light. Honestly, I was uneasy because the street has security cameras right above the car's usual parking space and I didn't want to make the wrong impression on the neighborhood. No harm, no foul.


I'm kind of ambivalent about this car. I like its profile. I like its front to a degree. The back end is kind of a mess though, and the fastback roofline is fake. You get nice sail panels, but the rear window is a standard notchback angle and ends up resulting in a giant blind spot without the aerodynamic improvement of a fastback roof.
1970 was getting toward the end of the Galaxie's production run. The model was already 11 years old and '70 would be the last year for hideaway headlights. It was also pretty much the last model with sporting pretensions, as Galaxie became a more formal fullsize car. The XL designation refers to the luxury edition, and was dropped after this year (I suspect because Galaxie would soon become a strippo version of the luxurious LTD fullsize body for 1971). This one still features Magnum 500 mag wheels and dual exhausts. The color is a decidedly un-sporting brown which appears oddly different in good light.
As far as condition goes, this is no shining example. It looks all right from 20 feet or perhaps from down the block. It makes me sad how a vehicle can change for the worse over a year and a half period. Take a look at the profile shot. The busted mirror is still busted, but now there's a big dent in the fender and the hood has bent corners and sprung hinges from where it's apparently popped open and peeled back while driving. That had to have been scary.
Despite all its warts, I can't remember the last time I saw any 1970 Galaxie other than this one, let alone a Sportsroof XL model. It's also one of the last relatively cool Galaxies I've seen. And perhaps most importantly, this beast of a car is still surviving in Yank-tank-averse San Francisco. That's a very good thing indeed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Mercury Grand Marquis


Continuing my "Spirit of ... '77" theme this week, I present to you this lovely 1977 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan. I found it somewhat by accident, the way I find many of the cars I feature, while walking in San Francisco. I frequently set off to find a particular vehicle I've previously researched and end up finding something completely different. In this case I ventured up Telegraph Hill and stumbled upon this exquisite Mercury.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

San Jose Street Sighting - 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau

When choosing the 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass for my last feature, I noticed that my archives contain quite a few 1977-model cars. So, I have a new theme for this week: Spirit of ... '77.
Now, the late 1970s are referred to as the Malaise period for a reason. Big, bulky, slow cars with emissions-choked engines and the death of the muscle car. Sales of big personal luxury coupes were up, though, and this was one of the big players in that market segment. It's a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo Landau.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass S


One thing I have to respect is an old family car that's been kept in cherry condition, or shown the love of a proper restoration. And few have gotten a better response from me than this, a very clean
1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass S sedan.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

Seeing an off-brand classic car on the street always brightens up my day, especially when it's something special like this. It's a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk, top of the Hawk line and pretty much the closest thing to a sports car to come out of South Bend, Indiana that year. This Golden Hawk packs a supercharged 289 cubic inch V8 producing 275 horsepower, no slouch by '50s standards, and darned quick in such a lightweight body.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oakland Street Sighting - 1968 Plymouth Fury III Sport Suburban

This week I decided to do another themed series of features. Like the Big Three Vans series I did a few months ago, this will also deal with some of Detroit's finest - and not-so-fine - family haulers. That's right, this week we'll be looking at Big Three Station Wagons.

Last in the series is Chrysler, represented by this 1968 Plymouth Fury III Sport Suburban. I've never been lucky at finding feature-worthy cars in the Montclair district of Oakland, but this big old Fury fit the bill. I've seen it a number of times parked in the same spot, but it certainly moves under its own power and drives.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 Chevrolet Vega 2300 GT Kammback

This week I decided to do another themed series of features. Like the Big Three Vans series I did a few months ago, this will also deal with some of Detroit's finest - and not-so-fine - family haulers. That's right, this week we'll be looking at Big Three Station Wagons.

Second in the series is General Motors, represented by a much more compact interpretation of the wagon. This is a 1972 Chevrolet Vega 2300 GT Kammback. The Vega was supposed to be a revolutionary small car for Chevy, intended to take on the slow and/or crappy domestic compacts and their equally slow but slightly less crappy imported competitors. The Vega should have been a resounding success with its aluminum-block 4-cylinder engine, but instead it failed as miserably as the unprotected aluminum cylinder walls, blown head gaskets and rusting fenders that plagued it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Ford Country Sedan

This week I decided to do another themed series of features. Like the Big Three Vans series I did a few months ago, this will also deal with some of Detroit's finest - and not-so-fine - family haulers. That's right, this week we'll be looking at Big Three Station Wagons.

For starters, let's look at Ford's offering. This 1966 Country Sedan was one of their larger cars during the era, based on the full-size Galaxie. I've featured a Country Sedan before, but it was a 1963 model and in much worse condition. Interestingly, while reading up on this car I learned that the Country Sedan and its faux-wood-paneled twin, the Country Squire, were sold as their own respective models until 1969, when they were ultimately lumped together in the Galaxie line.

Friday, September 17, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1950 Chevrolet 3100 pickup


I've always been a big fan of the 1947-53 Chevrolet Advance Design series pickups, and this is one of my favorite examples. It's a 1950 Chevy 3100 pickup in a lovely canary yellow with stained wooden bed extenders emblazoned with the logo of a San Francisco home renovation company. From about 20 feet away, this truck looks darn near brand new. Up close, there are a few blemishes here and there, most noticeably the well-worn steering wheel which is likely original. The body is straight; the chrome is in good shape though it could use some polishing to get rid of a small amount of surface rust in a few places. The paint job looks recent, the wood bed is clean and undamaged, and the Firestone wide whitewall tires with painted steelies and chrome hubcaps and trim rings really set it off.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Mercury Comet Custom


I don't know what it is about Falcons that keeps me coming back to them. They aren't particularly exciting, aren't revolutionary in their design or engineering, and are still plentiful on the roads. Perhaps what I like about the Falcon is its honesty, with a general lack of gingerbread and a rugged simplicity built to meet the needs of those who wanted economical family transportation in a compact package. The earliest Falcons were only about half a foot longer than a modern Focus sedan, slightly wider and actually weighed less. My first experience with a Falcon was a ride in a blue 1964 Futura convertible once owned by a friend of my dad.
So you get it now. I like Falcons.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1959 Beardmore Paramount Mark VII London Taxi


Readers of this blog will notice that I feature American cars much more often than anything else, because most old cars in California are domestic. Imports have always been popular here, more so than in most states, but they didn't take over until around the '80s or so. Most of those imports were German or Japanese, and a sizeable number came from the UK. Most cars from the UK are British though, with only a relative few coming from other parts of the Kingdom. Since I haven't yet seen a Northern Ireland-built DeLorean parked on the street, we'll have to settle for something even more unusual and rare, but British-built, a 1959 Beardmore Paramount Mark VII London Taxi.

Friday, September 3, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1973 Toyota Corona Deluxe


Last year I featured a 1974 Toyota Corona as my first Japanese "Street Sighting". Some time after that, I photographed another old Corona with a similar body but a different front end. It took a fair amount of Googling to determine what year this second car was, but the oddly Dodgelike crossbar grille turned out to be a 1973 Corona Deluxe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Dodge Charger


It seems fitting to me to start the second hundred features of this blog with a notable first. So, today we look at the greatest iteration of a first-year model, the 1966 Dodge Charger equipped with the 426 cubic inch "Hemi" V8 engine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Hundred California Street Sightings

I always wondered when this day would come. There was a small hiccup of fanfare and support among friends and strangers when I surpassed 50 features. Now that California Streets has reached the magical 100, maybe we'll get upgraded to a burp!
But seriously, folks. Thanks to those precious few of you who keep coming back to my humble blog. And for those of you who may be just joining us, by all means please do come back.

And now, without further ado, here they are:

The California Streets BIG 100 UBER LIST!

1936 Ford Pickup
1946 Dodge Power Wagon
1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith
1948 DeSoto Custom Suburban
1948 Ford F-1 Pickup
1951 Mercury Sport Sedan
1953 Dodge Coronet
1954 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
1956 Chrysler Windsor 250 Wagon
1956 Continental Mark II
1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria
1956 Imperial Southampton1956 Mercury Montclair
1956 Studebaker President Classic
1957 Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton (W180)
1958 DeSoto Fireflite
1958 Dodge Custom Royal Regal Lancer D-500
1958 Mercury Monterey
1958 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88
1958 Plymouth Plaza Silver Special
1959 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman
1959 Mercury Monterey Cruiser
1960 Chevrolet Corvette
1961 Cadillac Series 62
1961 Chevrolet Corvair Monza 900
1961 Hillman Minx
1961 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight
1962 Ford Falcon
1962 Plymouth Valiant
1963 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportsvan
1963 Ford Falcon Club Wagon
1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Town Sedan
1963 Ford Galaxie Country Sedan
1963 Lincoln Continental
1963 Studebaker Lark Cruiser
1964 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
1964 Porsche 356C
1964 Rambler American 440
1965 Chevrolet Impala
1965 Ford Falcon Futura
1965 Plymouth Barracuda
1965 Plymouth Fury III
1965 Volvo 122S Station Wagon
1965 Volvo P1800S
1966 Chrysler 300
1966 Dodge Dart GT
1966 Ford Thunderbird
1966 Jaguar E-Type 2+2
1966 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country
1967 Mercury Cougar XR7
1968 BMW 2800CS
1968 Chevrolet C20 Panel Truck
1968 Dodge A-100 Tradesman
1968 Ford Galaxie 500XL
1968 Ford Ranchero
1968 Mercedes-Benz 250SL
1968 Volkswagen 1600TL (Type 3)
1969 Dodge Dart Custom
Mini Cooper
1969 Saab 96 V4
1970 Chevrolet CST-10
1970 Citro├źn DS21
1970 Dodge A108 Custom Sportsman
1970 Dodge D300
1970 Opel Kadett L
1971 Datsun 510
1971 Datsun 1200
1971 Dodge Challenger R/T
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
1971 Honda N600
1972 BMW 2002 Touring
1972 Chevrolet Kingswood
1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
1973 Ford Torino
1973 Land Rover Series III
1973 Volkswagen Squareback
1974 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT Veloce
1974 AMC Hornet
1974 Toyota Corona Deluxe
1975 MG Midget
1975 Pontiac Catalina
1976 Chevrolet Nova Concours Cabriolet
1976 Toyota Corolla
1977 Buick Century wagon
1978 AMC Pacer Wagon
1978 Buick Century Custom
1978 Chevrolet Chevette
1978 International Scout II
1978 Toyota Truck
1979 Plymouth Horizon
1979 Plymouth Sapporo
1980 Volkswagen Dasher
1981 Toyota Corolla Liftback
1987 Chevrolet Turbo Sprint
1987 Sterling 825S
1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo
1989 Peugeot 405S
1992 GMC Typhoon
2003 Daihatsu Move Custom