Saturday, December 31, 2011

Livermore Street Sighting - 1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

It's time to have a look at another car spotted near a car show, this time a modern classic: a 1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. I don't normally photograph C4 generation Corvettes in depth, but the Grand Sport special edition stands out from the rest. By 1996 the C4 body shell was getting very long in the tooth despite all the facelifting done over twelve years of production. Chevy chose to wind down the final model year of the C4 with this blue bullet, of which only 1000 copies were built. It came with the optional 330 hp LT4 V8 and a six-speed manual transmission.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1987 Nissan Sentra GXE wagon

Not every rare vehicle is exciting. Many are humble and unassuming, perhaps unpopular variants or editions of mainstream nameplates. Such is the case of this 1987 Nissan Sentra GXE wagon. Of all the cars I've photographed in depth, this is the one that I debated the most (and probably the longest, over two years). Is it notable? The guys who run OldParkedCars would have posted it, for what that's worth. Why feature this while turning up my nose at a lot of older, cooler cars? In a town full of old and unusual cars, an old Beetle or Mustang typically doesn't evoke a reaction from me anymore. For some reason, this relatively straight example of a rarely seen late 1980s Japanese station wagon just spoke to me. What do you think? Milquetoast '80s econobox or interesting automotive footnote?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of the Rest: Circle The Wagons

1958 Ford Ranch Wagon, San Francisco
1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire Daytona, San Francisco
1966 Dodge Monaco, Santa Cruz
1968 Ford Country Sedan, San Francisco
1971-73 Chevrolet Vega Kammback, San Francisco

Sunday, December 18, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1968 Ford Galaxie 500

With space at a premium, city dwellers often choose vehicles that are easy to park and will fit in small spaces. Not so the owner of this fantastic maroon 1968 Ford Galaxie 500 sedan, a car that probably has enough steel in it to build two Smart Fortwos and another four Vespa scooters. But screw those. San Francisco already has too many Smart cars and Vespas. Big boats are a dying breed and few of them are as straight and clean as this. Most are beaters that earn their keep until the day when their owners send them to an unceremonious death at Schnitzer Steel. This one looks like a car the owner is proud of and wants to drive, and has been shown the love a classic deserves.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Volkswagen Type 3 1500 Notchback

I've never understood Volkswagen tuners. It seems like most VeeDubs have one or two preferred "looks" with little variation among them. Most modern customized VWs I see are slammed to the ground, rolling on BBS lace wheels with stretched tires, negative camber and smoked light lenses. Many are debadged, sporting roof racks and fart can mufflers. For some reason a recent trend seems to be a rusted hood on an otherwise shiny car.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Studebaker Daytona

I'm totally a sucker for Studebakers, even the ones I don't like that much. Maybe it's the amusing-sounding name, maybe it's the fact they were solid domestic cars not built in Detroit, maybe it's just the fact they have a unique flavor not found in a Ford or a Chevy or a Dodge.

Monday, December 12, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1957 Chrysler Windsor

There is something wonderful about a classic car that gets driven. I can appreciate a low-mileage car as much as the next guy, but there comes a point where one wonders, why did I never drive this thing? It almost seems like a waste to have a nice car and not use it for its intended purpose.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best of the Rest: The Brits

1967 Rolls-Royce Phantom V James Young PV23 Limousine, La Jolla
1969 Austin America, San Francisco
1969 MG MGB GT, San Francisco
1969-70 Jensen Interceptor Mk II, San Francisco
1974 Triumph TR6, San Francisco

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Ford Falcon Futura Sports Coupe

This is one of those cars I wish I'd photographed more in depth. It's yet another Ford Falcon, but not an early one. The vast majority of Falcons one sees on American roads are 1960-65 cars. The 1966-70 generation seems to be much less common, and I don't think I've ever seen a 1970-1/2 Torino-based Falcon. It makes me wonder, where did all the later Falcons go? Well, I managed to catch one of them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Chevrolet El Camino

For some reason I have a completely irrational love for the 1959 Chevy full-size car lineup. Coupes, sedans, wagons, all with fancy "bat wing" tail fins and cat-eye taillights. But perhaps the most ridiculous finned car Chevy built that year was a brand new variation on the theme: the El Camino coupe utility pickup.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Castro Valley Street Sighting - 1961 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus pickup

Very rarely in the United States will you find a Volkswagen Type 2 pickup. Thanks to the so-called "chicken tax" of 1963, which put heavy tariffs on light trucks imported to the US (because France and West Germany put a 25% tax on US chicken imports to their countries), vehicles such as the VW Bus/Transporter pickup and cargo van variants were rarely worth the trouble of importing since the cost was so high. The only alternative was to pass the cost on to the consumer, and people didn't want to pay 25% more for the same vehicle, so they simply bought an American-made truck or van instead. VW Kombi Buses were classified as passenger cars and marketed as station wagons, so they weren't subject to the chicken tax. The chicken tax is still in effect for any foreign-made light truck imported as a fully assembled vehicle.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Ford Falcon

Ah yes, time for another Ford Falcon. This time it's a 1965 Falcon sedan, the second one from that year I've featured. I like most Falcons, but the '64-'65 Falcon generation has special significance to me. A friend of my dad owned a 1964 Falcon Futura convertible when I was younger, and he trusted the car to my dad to do some repairs. For several weeks, the metallic blue ragtop with 260 ci V8 sat in our garage. When the work was done, it was of course time for a test drive, and I was allowed to come along. That ride cemented my love of the Falcon ever since.

Friday, December 2, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 BMW 3.0 CSi

I've long been a big fan of the BMW E9 series coupes, so it's only natural that I fell in love with this beautiful ice blue 3.0 CSi. The kicker is, no matter how much research I do on these cars, I can never seem to pinpoint the exact model year of most of them. The reason for this is, in Europe they'd design a car once and make minor changes as necessary to get it right. So most E9s look alike except for small details. Of course, US-market cars can be told apart by Federal side markers and other "safety" modifications from the original pure Teutonic design (such as the ghastly giant rubber bumpers of the 1974-75 models), but this is a Euro-market car. The fuel-injected 3.0 CSi was apparently never officially sold in the States, but was sold from 1971 to 1975 in Europe. This one is also decked out with Alpina goodies, like the popular spoked wheels (which I absolutely love on this car) and an Alpina shift knob. I'm not sure how crazy I am about the steering wheel, which I assume is original. I've seen pictures on the web of these cars with a wood-rimmed Nardi-style steering wheel, and I'm not sure if that was an improvement or not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1947 Cadillac Series 60 Special Fleetwood

In rural areas without sidewalks, sometimes it's difficult to tell what's public property and what's part of someone's yard. I try very hard not to trespass on private property or touch anyone's vehicle without permission when I go to photograph cars. In this case, while returning with two friends from the 'world famous' Mystery Spot tourist attraction in Santa Cruz, I had to pull over and snap this cool creamy yellow 1947 Cadillac Fleetwood. The owner's driveway opens out onto a road that began in town and runs out into the woods, and the paved area where the car was parked resembled an easement of sorts, guarded by a painted plywood stand-up of Batman. I know I'm nitpicking here, but I understand that watching a young man pull up, get out of a car with a camera and start photographing your classic car has to look slightly suspicious. For that reason, I do my best not to do anything that could be construed as illegal. I honestly hope I didn't trespass on the owner's property to obtain these photos. Because the car was located outside of a fenced yard, I treated the fence as the boundary between the property and the road.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Danville Street Sighting - 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

I wish I could say that my first classic Ferrari feature was a genuine case of catching Uncle Pennybags on a run to the shops for bread and milk, but alas, this car was parked near a car show. I spotted it parked on the street quite literally just around the corner from the Danville Concours d'Elegance last year. The d'Elegance is a fantastic charity car show put on every September to benefit Parkinson's research and usually attracts some well-heeled car owners, either to enter their cars in the show or to just stop by and check out what's on display.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Petaluma Street Sighting - 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS

I always told myself I'd try to avoid featuring "cliched" cars here at California Streets. You know which ones I mean: 1957 Chevy Bel Airs, 1965 Ford Mustangs, and especially 1964 Chevy Impalas. Why? Well, the "Six Fo" Impala is one of the quintessential cars associated with lowrider culture, and thus is often found rocking small wire wheels with spinner hubcaps, whitewall tires and featuring a bright color, pinstriping and/or airbrush work. Good thing I found one that .... looks exactly like that. Oh dear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best of the Rest 2: Vantastic

1963-67 Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus, Dublin
1965 Chevrolet Sportvan, San Francisco
1969 Dodge A108 Sportsman Family Wagon, San Francisco
1968-70 Chevrolet ChevyVan, San Francisco
1987 Nissan Van, San Ramon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1984 Citroën 2CV Charleston

It seems that people with Citroën 2CVs attract shutterbugs like myself. The 2CV with its cartoonish proportions and roll-back fabric sunroof, especially a later-model Charleston special edition with its deep red and black paint, separated by a cheeky swoosh, is a magnet for attention. Millions of the little cars were sold worldwide over four decades, but America was hardly Citroën's best market. I suppose that when you're pinning your hopes on the small and underpowered but very advanced DS as a luxury car in a market dominated by chrome-laden V8 boats, it doesn't do well for the company's upscale image to field a 2-cylinder garden shed on wheels in the same dealership. It was no secret that the 2CV was intended to be a peasant's car from the beginning. Citroën didn't even actively advertise the Deux Chevaux here, and a lot of the cars that exist in the USA were imported later.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Ford Granada

There once was a time when Ford could get away with comparing their cars to a Mercedes-Benz based on the kind of looks and interior noise level you could get for a budget price. In fact, that's exactly how Ford advertised the Granada in the United States. You got a car that, if you squinted just right or were sufficiently intoxicated, you might be able to compare to a contemporary Mercedes. It had an upright rectangular grille with a hood ornament, and you could get it with various luxury features found on a Mercedes. It was advertised as having a ride and level of quietness on par with a Mercedes as well. Of course, those tests were conducted using the six-cylinder model instead of the available (and probably louder) V8. And if the Ford wasn't enough to convince buyers that it was a Benz-fighter, the Granada was also offered in fancier Mercury Monarch and Lincoln Versailles variants.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1969 Buick Riviera

The late 1960s were an interesting time for the personal luxury car in America. It was a time when cars in general were getting huge, engine displacements continued to grow, and these changes altered the entire personality of some of the personal luxury segment. The Buick Riviera, introduced for 1963 with a trim, cleanly designed body by Bill Mitchell, and a 401 or 425 ci Nailhead V8, was a banker's hot rod. It was called one of the most beautiful American cars ever built, by both Sergio Pininfarina and Raymond Loewy.
In 1966, things changed. The Riviera got a redesigned body and shared its chassis with Oldsmobile's Toronado and Cadillac's Eldorado - except for one crucial difference: the Riviera was still rear-wheel-drive as God intended (it would ultimately become FWD in 1979 though). The new Riv got bigger engines to motivate a bigger, heavier car with more seats, huge chrome bumpers and an available vinyl top.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Best of the Rest 1: San Francisco Corvairs

1961 Chevrolet Corvair sedan
1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza coupe
1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza coupe
1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible
1966-67 Chevrolet Corvair 500 coupe

Best of the Rest

For each car I feature with a full photo shoot here on California Streets, there are many others that, for one reason or another, don't get photographed in depth. Maybe it was because of traffic, lack of light, no tripod, not enough time, or the owner was present or inside the vehicle or working on it. Many of these coulda-woulda-shoulda vehicles were seen before I started California Streets, when I didn't often stop to shoot cars from all angles. All were photographed on public streets in California between 2006 and the present. I call them the Best of the Rest.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1974 Jensen-Healey Mk II convertible

Rounding out this week's group of red convertibles is an English import, a 1974 Jensen-Healey Mark II. Readers of this blog may remember the black 1973 Healey I featured last year. The '72-73 Healey had larger front turn signals than the later cars, but still had giant black bumpers that disfigured what could have been a trim little sports car. In 1974 the bumpers became even larger to satisfy US crash regulations and lost their chrome trim. A two-door "shooting brake" wagon version, called the Jensen GT, was built in limited numbers from 1975 to '76 until the company folded. It was an undignified end for Donald Healey's line of roadsters.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible

Second in this week's trio of red convertibles is a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza drop-top. Most of the Corvairs I've spotted in the city have been first-generation models, so a second-generation example is a nice change. As far as I know, it belongs to the same collector who owns the green 1963 Corvair Monza coupe. It's one of only a few Corvair convertibles I've seen outside of car shows or museums.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible

I don't know what it is about convertibles and the color red, but they sure go together. This week we'll take a look at some.

First up is a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible, a full-size drop-top cruiser that dwarfs most anything parked nearby. That fact is proven even better by the fellow who parked a Smart Fortwo next to it.