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.

Monday, November 7, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Nissan Patrol L60

Most compact personal 4x4 vehicles in the United States are probably Jeep CJs and Wranglers. For all intents and purposes the original Willys MB military Jeep was the first modern off-roader. (Some could argue that the German VW-based Kübelwagen came first, but it did not have 4-wheel-drive and a civilian variant didn't come until 1969 as the Type 181 "Thing".) The Jeep spawned a host of imitators in the years following World War II, including the Land Rover Series 1, Toyota Land Cruiser, International Scout, Ford Bronco and Nissan Patrol. Today we'll take a look at the Nissan Patrol L60.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Plymouth Savoy

It's relatively uncommon to see custom cars on the streets of San Francisco, but this was an exception. In summer 2007 my friend and I took a day trip into the city which took us through the Mission District. We pulled over to check out this 1959 Plymouth Savoy, apparently made into a rat rod with rattlecan flat black paint, red steel wheels and outlined red flames.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Chrysler Newport

It was a gloomy, wet day when I drove three friends around San Francisco looking for filming locations from the atrocious Tommy Wiseau film "The Room". For whatever reason they love the movie, and came up from Los Angeles to see the places where certain scenes were filmed. One such building, a flower shop which appeared briefly in the film (the establishment is now a pizza parlor), was located in the Mission District. Some time before, I'd heard about a small collection of old Chrysler products in the area. I hoped that I'd be able to find them that same day. As it were, my friends and I drove right past the small alley where the cars reside.
Some time later, when the weather had improved, I took a walk in the Mission to try to find them again. This time I got lucky. Being that the alley is paved and has a name on a sign installed by the city, I assume that makes it a public street and therefore fair game. The first vehicle I saw from this collection, and possibly my favorite, was this Daffodil Yellow 1966 Chrysler Newport sedan.

Friday, November 4, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Plymouth Valiant V-200

I generally have several biases when it comes to selecting which cars are notable enough for inclusion on California Streets. One of these is a general resistance toward Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants. Why? The short answer is, they're kind of boring. This is where some readers will point out that I feature a lot of Ford Falcons (and Falcon-based cars like the Mercury Comet) simply because I like them. Mind you, the Dart/Valiant and Falcon/Comet were direct competitors in the cheap, practical compact-midsize segment in their day. The Dart and Valiant also soldiered on long after the Falcon had bloated into a base-model Torino and subsequently been replaced, by the Maverick and to a lesser extent, the Pinto (the latter of which may also have served as a replacement for the relatively unpopular imported English Fords such the Cortina). Basic platforms, tried-and-true powertrains and a simple utilitarianism were the Valiant's saving grace. It was a plain car, but it worked. The slant six would crank up in the morning and the automatic tranny would keep shifting. A V8 engine was available for those who felt they needed more power (honestly, the V8 badge was the coolest detail of this generation in my opinion).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1995 Lotus Esprit S4s

Rounding out '90s Supercar Week is this 1995 Lotus Esprit S4s, an edition I didn't know existed until I saw it parked just around the corner from the 1973 AMC Gremlin I featured during '70s Economy Car Week. I've always been fond of the 1990s Esprits; from most angles they just look "right" to me. I know they're parts bin cars cobbled from other manufacturers' components, and the basic design dates back to the '70s when the Gremlin was still being built and Roger Moore was still James Bond. The Esprit is just a cool sports car.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1995 Ferrari 456 GT

Long before I started California Streets, I occasionally found myself photographing cars from several angles and later came to the realization that I could use those pictures for car features. This 1995 Ferrari 456 GT is a curious creature. Ferrari in recent years has rarely been known for their front-engined offerings, except perhaps the 599 Fiorano. So many supercars are mid-engined, it seems the way to go if you want speed without sacrificing neutral handling. So what do you call this? Not only is it front-engined, but it has a back seat! Yes, a four-seater, "family" Ferrari - a formula not tried since the mid-engined V8 Mondial and front-engined V12 400i series of the eighties. Neither of those cars are considered among Ferrari's best offerings. The 456 is a proper V12 grand tourer with looks to match. Its design appears a bit dated now, as pop-up headlights are a bit passe (the 2003 456M GT was the last Ferrari to use pop-ups, and I still like them) and the 17-inch wheels look positively tiny by modern standards. But the 456 was one of my favorite cars in the Nintendo 64 game Cruisin' World and is still a good-looking car. I also am very fond of the metallic burgundy color, which I believe is called Rosso Rubino. The nicks in the paint are unfortunate, but I'm glad to see it's been driven and hopefully enjoyed as a V12 Ferrari should.