Tuesday, December 31, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Packard Hawk

Today marks the final day of another year. For the last post of a dying year, let's examine the last gasp of a dying brand. This is a 1958 Packard Hawk.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Magirus-Deutz Mercur 125A Fire Pumper

Over the last few years I've noticed a mysterious influx of German fire trucks in San Francisco. One was a Mercedes-Benz 508D which last I checked was owned by Make Magazine. Someone found an old Opel fire truck in the Sunset District and now we look at this 1962 Magirus-Deutz Mercur 125A fire pumper which hails from the same general area.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from California Streets!

Wishing all my readers a very happy and safe holiday and a wonderful new year.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 2005 Chevrolet SSR Indy 500 Parade Truck

In 2002 General Motors decided to discontinue the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. The F-body coupes and convertibles were popular budget sporty cars, especially among young buyers looking for rear-drive V8 power. But the body and chassis dated to 1993, the interior was hopelessly antiquated and the competition was upping their game. So what did GM build to replace them? Well, in the case of Pontiac, nothing. Pontiac had things like the Grand Prix GTP, but no sporty coupes that could truly replace the Firebird and Trans-Am in the middle years of the 2000s. Nobody thought a Sunfire or Grand Am GT was a substitute for a Trans-Am. For Chevy, though, GM was readying an all-new performance two-door. Hoping to take advantage of the retro styling craze popularized by the 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser and 2002 Ford Thunderbird, Chevy rolled out the SSR (Super Sport Roadster).
A pickup truck.
...With a retractable hardtop.
...Patterned very loosely after the 1947-1953 Advance Design Series pickups.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Collector's Corner - Maisto 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

As Christmas approaches and parents flock to Costco for the $12.99 Maisto Special Edition 1:18 scale diecast models for their children, it seems appropriate to reflect on one of the Maisto models I received for Christmas as a kid. This is a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dublin Street Sighting - 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra

I'd like to think I have fairly high standards for feature cars here. I don't just shoot anything old. If that were the case I'd have a blog full of beat-up Chevy pickup trucks and Plymouth Valiants. It usually has to be something historically notable or at least something that tickles my fancy. For that reason I'm hesitant to go wild over a Foxbody Mustang. I have nothing against them; they're just common and kind of generic, frequently beaten to an inch of their life or tricked out by teenagers with cowl induction hoods, bling rims and custom lights. The rare special editions are hard to find and a regular LX 5.0 or GT doesn't excite me a whole lot. So that pretty much leaves the 1993 Cobra.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1989 Cadillac Brougham Hess & Eisenhardt 6-Door Limousine

The Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham is still a relatively common sight on American roads. A longtime favorite of senior citizens, the once-expensive Brougham has been trickling down into ordinary households for decades now. The 1977-1992 Fleetwood has also been a favorite for limousine conversions. Most Fleetwood limos I've seen have been a four-door stretch, but on rare occasions a six-door surfaces. I believe most six-door limos were built for and used by funeral homes, transporting the family of the deceased. Others did duty as glorified airport taxis.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oakland Street Sighting - 1973 Lincoln Continental

Lincoln is known for its traditional American approach to luxury. Lincolns typically are big, softly sprung cars with thick, overstuffed couch seats and convenience options that appeal to old people. The package may include a padded vinyl top, hood ornament, whitewall tires and full hubcaps. And in the 1970s, it seems Lincoln's running gimmick was hideaway headlamps. Virtually every Lincoln had the vacuum-operated headlight doors, as did many fullsize Ford LTDs and Mercury Marquis. It added a little uniqueness to an otherwise slab-sided car whose only curves were the wheel arches and the little kick up in the beltline at the C-pillar.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler Cale Yarborough Edition

I've never been a huge fan of NASCAR. Actually, when I was a kid I liked it somewhat; Dale Earnhardt Sr. was my favorite driver. Then in 2001 he was killed at Daytona and my interest in the sport died with him. But long before stock car racing was generic bodies with restrictor plates and heavily regulated 358 cubic inch V8s running the same official fuel, NASCAR was a very different landscape. One of my favorite race cars is the ridiculous high-winged 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, a car that could hit 200 mph on a high-speed oval. It was a very tough car to beat. Combating the Daytona was a pair of fastback twins from Ford, the Torino Talledega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hayward Street Sighting - 1955 Dodge Royal

It almost seems like some kind of miracle that Chrysler has survived this long. The auto bailout of 2009 is still fresh in everyone's minds and now Chrysler is primarily owned by Fiat. But that wasn't the first time they nearly went bankrupt. Chrysler Corporation needed a government loan back in 1979 after a decade of mostly terrible, forgettable products. And before that, in 1954 Chrysler needed a $250 million private loan to keep itself afloat. That's roughly $2.1 billion in today's dollars. That loan allowed them to employ the talents of designer Virgil Exner and finally banish the upside-down-bathtub look that had fallen out of favor as the 1950s wore on.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Emeryville Street Sighting - 1942 Buick Special Series 40A Touring Sedan

One of the smallest production years in American automotive history was 1942, the final year of civilian car production before American factories switched over fully to building military equipment for the war effort. A few companies managed to secure government contracts to build ambulances, staff cars and transport trucks based on existing models. Others retooled and provided engines for military vehicles and still others built tanks, jeeps, aircraft and countless other mass-produced resources for the U.S. military fighting World War II. Buick produced just 92,573 cars in the short 1942 model year, of which 1,611 were Series 40A Special 4-door Touring Sedans. The Special 6-passenger Touring Sedan was offered in two versions, the 40A and the 40B. The 40A was a short-wheelbase, less flashy version. The 40B was eight inches longer and included more chrome trim on the rear fenders to match the pair of "speedline" strips on the front fenders. The 40B Touring Sedan sold 17,187 copies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Castro Valley Street Sighting - 1934 Chevrolet 3-Window Coupe

Hot rods are a mixed bag for me. They're built to the taste of the owner, which is fine, but they can go two very different routes to get there. One is to start with an original vehicle, ranging from a rusty junkyard shell to a nice clean car. The other is to build a brand-new replica from fiberglass or steel in the style of the car you want. The increasing availability of fiberglass bodies for custom cars over the past few decades calls into question the provenance of many of the rods and customs one sees at shows nowadays. Several of the most common replicas include '32 Fords, '33-34 Fords, Shelby Cobras, 1941 Willys Americars and, to a lesser extent, the Beetle/Chevette/Pinto-based 1929 Mercedes SSK ("Gazelle"), Beetle-based Porsche 356 Speedster, and any number of Italian exotics mimicked poorly on the long-suffering Pontiac Fiero chassis. One of the cars I didn't previously know is available as a fiberglass replica, though, is the 1934-1935 Chevrolet 3-window coupe.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1919 Ford Model T Touring Car

I think it's safe to say this is officially the oldest car I've seen used as a daily driver. There's a man in Alameda who loves his Model Ts, and I just happened to cross paths with him one evening while cruising for cars. Specifically, I was parked and on the phone when the aged black Tin Lizzie puttered by. I decided to follow it until it parked, which it did minutes later. The Model T is such a ubiquitous vehicle, I always wanted to find one and feature it here. However, despite 15 million of them rolling off the production line over 19 years, they're pretty hard to come by on public roads. Alameda, with its 25-mph speed limits, is one of the few places where a Model T can keep up with modern traffic.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Livermore Street Sighting - 1955 Pontiac Chieftain 860

Perhaps one of the most important model years ever for Pontiac was 1955, the year that the brand lost its stodgy, roly-poly image and gained V8 engines across the entire model range. The 1955 V8 replaced the old inline-six and straight-eight engines that had served Pontiac for many years. What the '55 Bel Air did for Chevy, the '55 Chieftain and Star Chief did for Pontiac. The '55 was one of the last "Silver Streak" Pontiacs, the bright trim pieces that ran over the hood and down the sides of the little tail fins. Silver Streak had long been a trademark of Pontiac, and had become something of a symbol of the "old" Pontiac. After 1956, Pontiac was reworked into a sporty brand that would be heavily marketed as such right up until its final years.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1977 Pontiac Sunbird Sport Coupe

If you think '1977 Pontiac', there's probably a 90% chance you think of the black Trans-Am Burt Reynolds drove in Smokey and the Bandit. Admit it, that's what you thought.

Pretty much everything else Pontiac made back then was less interesting. At the bottom of the food chain was this, the Sunbird. It was built on the GM H-platform shared with the Chevy Monza, Buick Skyhawk and Oldsmobile Starfire, all of which were based on the old Chevy Vega and Pontiac Astre. The Sunbird Sport Coupe evolved from the Monza Towne Coupe and in 1977 could be had with a 2.5 liter Iron Duke four only - except in California and high-altitude areas, which got the old Vega 2.3. A fastback-styled hatchback was new for 1977. Two more powerful V6 and V8 engines would be added for 1978. The old Astre wagon continued as a Sunbird Safari for a couple more years. These little cars were available with some interesting appearance and mild performance packages, including Trams-Am-inspired sport touches like 'snowflake' cast aluminum wheels, sport steering wheel and body striping. A Sunbird Formula was a pretty cool little package for what it was.

Monday, November 25, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1967 Pontiac Tempest Custom

I'm a big fan of the Pontiac brand, so this week I'm doing a Pontiac theme.

The Pontiac GTO has garnered almost universal respect in the muscle car community as a strong performer and a very collectible vehicle. But there is a double standard, as the GTO was really a higher trim level and performance package based on the mainstream Tempest. Despite these humble roots, the GTO is considered a collector's item and the Tempest is a used car. If either is less than pristine, the GTO is a restoration project and the Tempest is its parts donor.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oakland Street Sighting - 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Sedan

At this stage I'd have to say that one of the most cliched vehicles known today is the 1957 Chevy Bel Air. If I were to have you name a generic 1950s car, you'd probably either come up with the '57 Chevy or the '59 Cadillac, because both are so distinctive due to their chrome fronts and pointed tailfins and are heavily associated with drive-ins, rock and roll and anything retro from the era. Of course, I then disprove my own point by doing a Google Image Search for "1950s car" and the first thing that came up was an Edsel. The '57 Bel Air didn't appear until the fifth row of results on page 1. But still, it's a popular enough car that the Santa Cruz Boardwalk has a ride attraction called Rock & Roll, where the riders sit in little cars on a track that are all clearly patterned after the '57 Bel Air - the attraction's sign even has a full-scale fiberglass Bel Air front end bursting out of it. Arlen Ness, a Northern California motorcycle builder, built a bike called Ness-Stalgia that's directly inspired by the '57 Bel Air. And when you go to car shows, try counting how many '57 Bel Airs show up. They all seem to come out of the woodwork, as well as their '55 and '56 brethren. It has to be something really special to get me to photograph one at a show. And the ones that do show up are typically red, blue, or black and sitting on American Racing TorqThrust wheels. Not that that's bad, necessarily. People do it because it looks good. These things still go for big money on the collector car market and are very collectible. Heck, I loved the '57 Bel Air as a kid. I built a model of one. I painted it blue and put on the TorqThrust wheels that were optional in the box. So yeah, the '57 Bel Air is a bit stale. But do you see the '57s on the street? Rarely.

Monday, November 18, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1941 Dodge D-19 Luxury Liner

The first time I ever recall seeing a 1941 Dodge Luxury Liner was in January outside the Silicon Valley International Auto Show. They're not nearly as popular with owners today as Fords and Chevys of the same era, making them very hard to find. I commented on this in my feature on it. So naturally I stumbled upon another one in my own town a mere two days after I wrote the post.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1972 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina

One of my rules for shooting cars is that nothing is worth risking your life over. Running across the Pacific Coast Highway at rush hour on a blind curve to photograph a ridiculously clean International Scout might not have been wise. But the streets of Berkeley are rarely dangerous, aside from maybe the odd rented Zipcar Prius piloted by some millenial who hates driving because it interferes with their texting. I passed by this 1972 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina while searching for a mid-'50s Buick that I believed lived in the area. I pulled into a driveway to turn around, and while reversing I was forced to jam the car back in gear and gun it to avoid being slammed by a Honda that had crested the hill and was sailing downhill toward me without paying attention. Close calls are scary, and it would have really ruined my day to get my Focus written off over some pictures of an old Alfa.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Livermore Street Sighting - 1986 AM General HMMWV

Veterans Day is a holiday in the United States that honors those who have served in our armed forces, both past and present. For that reason I'm featuring a military vehicle. And not just any military vehicle, but one of the workhorses of the modern military, the AM General HMMWV, or Humvee.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Livermore Street Sighting - 1963 Dodge Polara Convertible

Regular readers here know that I'm not exactly a Mopar fanboy. By that I mean I like a lot of Chrysler products, but there are also a lot of models and model years I don't particularly favor. Much has been said about Chrysler's amusing gamble to downsize their 1962 Dodge and Plymouth models on short notice, and how it left their formerly fullsize cars roughly the size of their competitors' intermediate offerings. The end result was a line of ungainly vehicles with scaled-down styling cues meant for larger bodies. Chrysler executives fired designer Virgil Exner for the unpopular goof, even though downsizing wasn't his plan and he wasn't actually involved in the reinterpretation of his original design. Elwood Engel was brought in to "fix" things for '63, and the result was the Dodge Polara you see here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1972 Cadillac Superior Crown Landaulet Funeral Coach

Second in my Halloween hearse double-feature is a 1972 Cadillac Funeral Coach, which looks to be a Superior Crown Landaulet. Unlike the 1970 Superior hearse featured previously, this one has the half-roof bordered by a stainless roof band. Interestingly, it appears that the roof is not covered in vinyl as I initially thought, but it is actually a textured finish called a crinkle top. It's a 3-way hearse, meaning a casket can be loaded via the rear door or either of the rear-hinged suicide doors on the sides. It is in remarkably good condition and clearly shows pride of ownership. In fact, it's owned by a lady known as Miss Lynda, described by Grimrides.com as "hearse owner and burlesque star" and "Grim Rides Poster Girl". The site gives her credit for doing everything right in finding the perfect hearse, and it shows.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kensington Street Sighting - 1970 Cadillac Superior Crown Sovereign Funeral Coach

It's something of a tradition for me to feature a hearse for my Halloween post. This year I have two to share. The first is a 1970 Cadillac Superior Crown Sovereign Funeral Coach. That's kind of a mouthful. Specifically, it is a Cadillac Funeral Coach, with coachwork performed by Superior Coach Company, and the model as offered by Superior is the Crown Sovereign. These professional cars were offered as an end-loader or side-loader ("three-way"), the latter of which came with rear-hinged suicide doors to aid in sliding a casket through either side of the car. Other options included the Landau or Landaulet trims, a padded vinyl roof covering which covered the whole roof as on this car, or in the case of the Landaulet, only half the roof was covered. The vinyl ended at a stainless steel band which extended from the C-pillar up and across the roof.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1956 Nash Metropolitan Convertible

There are some cars that, when you see them, you just have to smile. One of the cutest vehicles to come out of the 1950s has to be the Nash Metropolitan.

Friday, October 25, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1988 Isuzu Impulse

Rounding out my week of 1980s products from orphan brands is a car from a company that is still in business, but which no longer builds cars. It's a 1988 Isuzu Impulse.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1989 Merkur Scorpio

This week we're looking at 1980s models from orphaned brands. Second up is a 1989 Merkur Scorpio.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1982 Plymouth Sapporo

It's been a few years since we last looked at a Plymouth Sapporo, a butterscotch 1979 model in San Francisco. These coupes are getting to be very rare, so it's pretty special to me when I find one that runs. This '82 Sapporo, found by chance on a quiet street in Berkeley, is a later example. The Sapporo and its Dodge Challenger twin were rebadged versions of the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe, and sold in the U.S. from 1978 to 1983. They were something of a midsize sport/luxury coupe and were decently equipped and sporty for their own time. Propulsion came from a 2.6 liter Mitsubishi four designed to operate on lean-burn settings until real power was needed. Transmissions were a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Collector's Corner - Bburago 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10

When I was a kid, I loved the Dodge Viper RT/10. It was a perfect car for a bedroom wall poster, especially in red. And Bburago knew exactly what they were doing when they churned out thousands of 1:18 scale red Vipers to meet the demand of children who thought the V10 truck-engined sports roadster was the awesomest thing ever.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Panhard Dyna Z16 Grand Standing

Browsing Flickr has its perks. That's where I first found out that there was a classic Panhard living in the Bay Area. That's all fine and good, but it had to be found if I wanted to photograph it, and the Bay Area is a big place. As it turned out, the owner and I both attended the California Mille this year in San Francisco. So yes, this is one of those cars that I shot very close to a car show, but it is on a public street that was open to traffic and parking at the time. Note the 1970 Citroën Ami 8 Break parked in front. I photographed that car outside the 2011 California Mille.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1982 Toyota Starlet S

Admittedly, when searching for notable cars to photograph and document here, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the compact economy runabouts of the 1980s. But every now and then there is a bright star among the sea of rattly little crapcans. One such econobox that now has something of a small cult following is the Toyota Starlet.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1968 Morgan Plus 4

The beginning of fall brought a huge termite swarm across the Bay Area this past Sunday. Usually that's only a problem for homeowners, and doesn't affect cars. Coincidentally, however, that same day marked the Danville D'Elegance concours car show in Danville, California. And one car present there would be very much at risk from termites - the Morgan.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1983 Chrysler Executive Sedan

I never thought I would geek out over a K-Car.

In the late 1970s Chrysler Corporation was in deep financial trouble. A government bailout kept the doors open, but only if the Pentastar could source some profitable product that could pay back the loan. The Chrysler K platform arguably saved the company with a wide range of FWD sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons mostly powered by frugal four-cylinder engines. This platform gave rise to the first Chrysler minivans and the larger E-platform sedans, and darn near everything else they made in the '80s and to an extent, even into the '90s. But perhaps the oddest K-Car variant was the Chrysler Executive.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1974 Chevrolet Camaro Type LT

Until recently I had a strict rule for myself regarding pony cars, particularly Mustangs and GM F-Bodies. And that rule basically was that I wouldn't feature, let alone shoot, any of them unless they were sufficiently rare or awesome. Usually a Malaise-era, big-bumper Camaro evokes no emotional response from me whatsoever, but I really like this one.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1963 Rambler American Wagon

When I travel down to Santa Cruz with friends, one of my favorite places to stop is the Santa Cruz Diner on Ocean Street. It's an eclectic little place that apparently is good enough that Guy Fieri from the Food Network stopped by to sample their food. But this is a car blog and you aren't here to read about how much I like their Monte Cristo sandwich. This 1963 Rambler American was parked just around the corner.
While coming off of highway 17 into town, I couldn't help but notice the odd little Rambler grinning (grimacing?) at us as we drove by. I've seen another '63 Rambler in Santa Cruz before, a blue 440 convertible that was featured here in October 2012. I always enjoy visiting Santa Cruz, in no small part because its unique population of artists, hippies, surfers and eccentrics makes for a mix of unusual cars dotting the streets. Some of them dot the street in more ways than one.

Friday, August 30, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1954 Ford Crestline Victoria

One of the things I like about my job as a delivery driver is that I get to see new places I wouldn't otherwise go. One of the side effects of passing through new locations is finding the occasional interesting vehicle. Sometimes I get lucky and it's still there after work, so I grab my camera out of my car and photograph it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1973 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing

Back in May I featured a 1974 Volkswagen Thing from Alameda, the place Murilee Martin of The Truth About Cars (formerly of Jalopnik) dubbed The Island That Rust Forgot. Now we're looking at another Thing, which I think is a 1973 model.

Monday, August 5, 2013

El Segundo Street Sighting - 1961 Austin-Healey Sprite

I've long been a purist about cars. Heavy modifications in my opinion usually ruin a classic car's looks, even if they improve its performance. This can range from simple wheel and paint choices to ridiculous engine swaps and severe cutting of the frame and/or body. The rarer the car, the more it bothers me. In the case of this Austin-Healey Sprite, I'm amused. The Sprite began as the Bugeye/Frogeye, a funny little roadster with round headlights that stuck up out of the hood and a happy-looking grille. The second-generation 1961 Sprite used much of the same body and underpinnings, but styling was more modern and conventional. A nearly identical MG Midget model was also offered, and soon handily outsold the Healey that spawned it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Holiday sedan

Not many old cars become local celebrities. This can change, of course, if they become known for being associated with a colorful local figure or have a fascinating past, or are just distinctive enough that they attract all manner of art students and photographers who think they look cool.

Friday, July 26, 2013

San Jose Street Sighting - 1972 Buick Riviera

One of my favorite car designs of the 1970s is the boattail Buick Riviera. This personal luxury coupe with its unique tapered fastback roofline was made between 1971 and 1973. It was a fresh departure from the odd-duck '70 that looked like a fatter version of the now dated 1966 model. The '71 Riviera's pointed prow and forward slanted front, and rear roof reminiscent of the C2 Corvette set it apart from more conventionally styled big coupes. The sharp styling was diluted somewhat on the 1973 cars, which wore a bulky front bumper with wraparound turn signals incorporated into the headlamp bezels, and the jutting point on the rear end was dumbed down to almost nothing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oakland Street Sighting - 1939 GMC AC 1-1/2 Ton Stakebed

Patina is an interesting thing. Some vehicles don't look right unless they have some degree of wear and tear, while others don't look right unless they appear brand new. What is it about an old faded, scratched, rusty work truck that makes it cool? Perhaps it's the way that it tells its own history in every bit of oxidation, discoloration and indentation.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1971 Volvo 1800E

I still see a fair number of old Volvos. In fact, Volvos made before 1990 are extremely common, mainly the 240 series cars - to the point that I don't pay attention to them. To a lesser extent, the 140 series and 164 are also still out there. The older Amazon and PV544 can still be found, as can the sporty P1800.
I've previously featured a P1800, and even did a Best of the Rest post as proof that these stylish coupes have survived in decent numbers. This car in fact made that post, and upon seeing it in better light I decided to photograph it again.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1971 Ford Bronco Sport

The Ford Bronco is one of history's great off-roaders. It came from humble beginnings as a small, six-cylinder truck with just enough amenities to make it more civilized and conventional than your average Jeep CJ. The beauty of it was its customizability and simplicity. It used F-100 and Falcon technology, basic construction and offered an extensive options list. Whatever didn't come from the factory could be added or modified. A V8 engine was offered, initially a 289 but later enlarged to a 302. Ford got an impressive 11 years out of the first generation Bronco, with hardly any substantial body changes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus Pickup

There are a few Volkswagen Type 2 Bus pickups already on this site. All of them, however, have been the early T1 model, or "Splittie". In 1968 the T2 was introduced, called the "Bay" Bus for its large curved windshield. The pickup versions of these Buses sold relatively well through the 1960s, but were curbed sharply by the U.S. Chicken Tax, a 25% tariff on imported light trucks. That tax all but eliminated VW pickups from the American market in the 1970s. The passenger vans were not affected and sold in large numbers well into the end of the decade, paving the way for the T3 Vanagon, T4 Eurovan (and later the T5 Transporter not sold in the States). The VW Rabbit also offered a pickup version, but for the American market it was built in Pennsylvania and avoided the tax.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1952 Dodge B-2B Job Rated Pickup

GMC likes to market itself as "Professional Grade". That tagline implies that GMC trucks are built to work hard and will hold up under the stress of whatever job they do. This kind of statement is nothing new. As long as the truck could reasonably live up to the claim, manufacturers would trumpet it loudly. And some even bolted that claim onto the front of their trucks. Long before Dodge spun its truck line off to become RAMs, they built these, the Job-Rated B-Series pickup.

Job Rated was a term coined in 1939 to describe a range of Dodge trucks built for a spectrum of jobs. Lighter duty trucks would serve general pickup use, all the way up to big commercial rigs hauling or towing heavy payloads. Dodge introduced all-new trucks for 1948 with the B Series, beginning with the B-1. These trucks were improved over the pre-war design that, while visually interesting, was woefully outdated by the time it was phased out. The 1948-1953 trucks, in my opinion, are not the prettiest things out there. However, they do have a certain toughness to them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Collector's Corner: Cars & Co. 1989 Trabant 601 Universal

One of the diecast models in my collection that has special significance to me is this Trabant 601 Universal, made by Sun Star under the Cars & Co. brand name. I purchased the model from the gift shop at the Auto und Technikmuseum Sinsheim, an incredible German museum of all things automotive, military, aircraft and technology in general. I visited the museum in August 2009 after vowing that I would not return home to California without some kind of diecast Trabant. The museum pretty much blew my mind, featuring everything from a Citroën 2CV-bodied drag car to a Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic airliner and everything in between. They even had a real Trabant on display! If you ever find yourself in Germany, GO THERE. They even have a sister museum in Speyer to hold all the cool stuff that doesn't fit in Sinsheim, but I digress.

The Trabant is fairly ubiquitous as a relic of communism and the dreary days of the Iron Curtain. Built in East Germany for decades and always having a waiting list, the car was bread and butter motoring for many people stuck behind the Berlin Wall who had no access to "Western" BMWs, Mercedes, maybe even Volkswagens. When the wall came down in 1989, a lot of East Germans drove their Trabants to the west side and promptly got rid of them. Today the car is a bit of a punchline, much like the Serbian-built Yugo. The Trabant was decades out of date, inefficient and smoky with its 2-stroke two-cylinder engine producing up to 26 horsepower. The body was made from Duroplast, a combination of recycled cotton and resin that according to legend also incorporated rat poison to keep animals from trying to eat the body.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1937 Packard 120-C Convertible Coupe

This is the kind of car that makes readers say, "Come on, dude, you took this at a car show, it doesn't count!"

...Well, you'd be close. This lovely yellow 1937 Packard was parked two blocks from the Danville d'Elegance car show last year. I assume it was a spectator's vehicle and was parked in front of the restored Southern Pacific railroad station that now serves as the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. I'm a sucker for classic Packards because they're such classy, beautiful cars. This one appears to be a Model 120-C convertible coupe.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille

This Caddy is kind of a fixture in its neighborhood in Santa Cruz. I've been going there for the better part of a decade and it's almost always there. Every time my friends and I go for ice cream nearby I look for it and I'm always comforted seeing the old beast is still on the road.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Thunderbird Fordor Landau

In the late 1960s, the large personal luxury car made up a popular segment of the new-car market. Mercedes would have you believe that they invented the four-door luxury sports coupe niche in 2004 with their CLS. What does that make this 1967 Ford Thunderbird, then? The Thunderbird was primarily known as a luxury coupe with sporting pretensions, or at least a big plush car with an enormous engine. It would propel you down the road nicely, and into the ditch at the first hard corner. Let's face it, this is not a sports car. It's a luxury cruiser that twelve years earlier had been a sports car with two doors and two seats. The 1967 T-Bird was a body-on-frame car with formal, yet dramatic styling. It was available as a coupe or a sedan with rear suicide doors and a thick C-pillar exaggerated by very small windows and an unusual shape of the window frame, so that the fake landau bars actually follow the shut line of the door. The four-door accounted for 24,967 sales in 1967, nearly one-third of all T-Birds that year.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1976 Buick LeSabre Custom

One day last year I was driving and got passed by a big, tomato red vintage Buick on a main boulevard through my town. We were going to different destinations and I wasn't able to grab my camera since I was behind the wheel. Some time later on a different day, it passed me going the other direction. I figured it must be local. Sure enough, months later I discovered it quite by accident on a street I used to walk down every day when I was in high school. It turned out to be one of the nicest '76 LeSabres I've ever seen.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1967 Ford LTD

Meeting the owners of the cars I photograph for California Streets feature articles can be a touchy subject. It can go either way. Some owners are really cool people who get excited that someone shows interest in their vehicle. Others may be skeptical or downright hostile about some strange person taking pictures. For that reason I've generally preferred to shoot cars in public places without meeting their owners, but doing so misses a great opportunity to learn far more about that particular car than I would otherwise.