Monday, March 29, 2010

Daly City Street Sighting - 1951 Mercury Sport Sedan

Most of the cars featured here have been largely stock. Maybe a few have custom wheels or paint, but actual custom body work has been rare. This changes all that. It's a 1951 Mercury Sport Sedan which has been chopped and dropped into a "lead sled" lowrider. It basically looks nothing like a standard Mercury, with its roofline significantly altered, side trim changed and stock wheel covers replaced with units from a late-'50s Cadillac. The aesthetics of this suede sled aside, there's a lot of hand-formed sheetmetal here. My question is, if you're going to go to the trouble of building a lead sled, why not do a better job of it? It may well be a work in progress, but you don't just paint over rust holes. Why not fill the gap between the top and bottom halves of the window frame trim? When the top was chopped, they lined up the halves pretty well, but they don't look connected.

Friday, March 26, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1978 Toyota Truck

A lot of people associate old Toyota pickup trucks with gardeners, trolling around with a couple of lawn mowers and yard tools in the bed. Usually such trucks are pretty beat up and rusty, since they see a lot of abuse and, well, old Toyotas run forever but their beds tend to rust out. Toyota trucks used to be so basic that, for a long time, they didn't even have a name. Originally sold as the Hilux in the United States, the truck was renamed - you guessed it - Truck in 1975. The name was changed to Pickup in 1979 and didn't regain an actual name until 1995, when Toyota renamed its compact pickup Tacoma.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

Ahh yes, when it comes to old American cars, you can't get much more cliched than a 1955 Chevy Bel Air in red and white with American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels. Why is it so generic? Because it doesn't look bad. There are probably dozens, maybe hundreds, of 1955 Bel Airs done up exactly like this one.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Saab 96 V4

Old imported cars are relatively common in the Bay Area, but most are German, Italian or Japanese. BMW 2002s and Alfa Romeo Veloce Spiders are everywhere. Vintage Swedes are also somewhat common, but most of the really old Swedish cars are Volvo Amazons and P1800s. San Francisco's yuppie population embraced Volvo and its fellow Swedish competitor Saab for their quirkiness and safety, and 1980s examples from both brands exist in large quantity.

But where 1960s Volvos survive and thrive in San Francisco, 1960s Saabs do not. Why is that? Were the early Saabs too unusual? Too slow? Too antiquated? The Saab 96 was a design which dated back to 1960, but the Volvo Amazon dated back to the mid-1950s. And the Volkswagen Beetle, the best-selling imported car in the US at the time, was first developed in 1938. Over half a million 96s were ultimately built over 20 years. Over 667,000 Amazons and some 21 million Beetles were built. So the Saab was rarer to start with, and was likely only a niche model in the US, making parts and service harder to come by.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1974 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT Veloce

San Franciscans love funky little Italian cars, and Alfa Romeo is probably the best-represented Italian brand in The City. I see a lot of Spider Veloce roadsters and 164 sedans, with the occasional Milano or Giulia sedan popping up. But my favorite to find is the 105/115 Series coupe, commonly known as the Giulia GTV. These handsome little cars were first introduced in 1963 and produced until 1977, sold under a number of various names. This particular car is a 1974 2000 GT Veloce Iniezione, the final top-level incarnation of the model range. It featured a larger engine than the 1750 GTV it replaced, and US models received fuel injection. The 2000 GTV was produced between 1971 and '76, with 37,459 built.

Friday, March 12, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Lincoln Continental

Old Fords and Chevys are everywhere in this state, and recently this blog featured its first Cadillac, but until now there have been no examples of Ford's luxury division and Cadillac competitor, Lincoln. Okay, to be fair, I did feature a 1956 Continental Mark II here a few months ago. The Mark II wasn't officially a Lincoln, though. This, however, is a legit Lincoln. And boy, what a Lincoln it is. It's a 1963 Continental sedan.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Honda N600

Quite possibly the tiniest car featured thus far on this blog, the Honda N600 was the first Honda car officially imported into the US. First introduced in America as a 1970 model, it was a larger-engined version of the N360 hatchback sold in Europe and Asia from 1967 to 1970. It was the precursor to the popular Civic compact, and boy was this car compact. It rode on a 78-inch wheelbase and was only 118 inches long overall. The N600 was powered by a high-revving 599 cc two-cylinder making a maximum of 45 horsepower, good for an 81 mph top speed. Weight was just over 1100 lbs. As an economy car of the era, the little Honda was fantastic. You could get 30 mpg in one of these. That seems pretty good, but technology has come a long way since then. The 2011 Ford Mustang V6 claims 31 mpg, in a much larger car that makes over 300 hp. Put into perspective though, this car was made when most vehicles on the roads in this country were averaging less than 10 mpg. The N600 was discontinued after 1972.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Buick Century wagon

Here's one I used to see all the time for years before I started this humble blog. This 1977 Buick Century wagon would show up parked somewhere in downtown San Francisco nearly every day I went to classes in The City. And every time, it was always packed full of junk. I never found out where it lived, but for all I know, it could have lived right there judging by the stuff in it. Since it appeared week after week, I never really thought to photograph it except a couple of times when I saw it at night. I haven't seen that car in a while. It may have gone elsewhere, it may even be dead. I can remain hopeful that it lives on, somewhere.

Friday, March 5, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Ford Ranchero

Is it a car? Is it a truck? Yes. Debate has raged for decades as to whether the Ford Ranchero and its competitor, the Chevy El Camino, should be classified as either. Both are car-based, but sport a pickup bed. To me, it's a truck. To the Australians, who created the concept of a "coupe utility", or "ute", it's a way of life.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Plymouth Plaza Silver Special

In the mid-1950s, the cheapest model available from Plymouth was the Plaza. The Plaza existed as a model from 1954 until 1958, slotting beneath the Savoy, Belvedere and Fury. In its final year, the Plaza was offered with a bevy of options, including a two- or four-door Club Sedan body style, Custom station wagon or the truly entry-level (and very rare) Business Coupe which shared the 2-door Club Sedan body but had no back seat. Also for 1958 was a special edition model, the Silver Special. This car came with a silver-painted roof, anodized aluminum "Sportone" side trim and a chrome spear that ran from the front fender to the leading edge of the front door. Badging consisted of an arrow-shaped emblem on the quarter panels symbolizing the "Forward Look" design theme. This replaced the ordinary "Plaza" emblem. Features included whitewall tires, full hubcaps, turn signals, electric wipers, and windshield washers, showing just how basic a standard Plaza really was.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1948 Ford F-1

1948 was a hugely important year for Ford. It was the first year of all-new trucks after World War II. The new F-series trucks were much more modern looking than the pre-war designs they replaced. Because trucks were so important, and Chevrolet had introduced its Advance Design series of trucks in 1947, Ford rushed its new trucks to market a year before its all-new line of cars. Where Chevy's trucks came with inline-six-cylinder engines, Ford offered a flathead V8 boasting up to 100 horsepower. It could be argued that Chevy had the styling edge, though. Ford trucks from this era were a bit on the homely side.