Sunday, March 31, 2013

Collector's Corner - UT Models 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

UT Models is a brand that I know mainly as a defunct maker of models that sell for really big money on eBay. The company produced 1:18 scale models mostly in the 1990s and has an interesting history. While UT went out of business around 2000, parts of the company survived through Gateway Global, and were absorbed into the now-established Auto Art premium brand.
Pretty much all UT diecasts are rare now, but the 1999 release of the 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS in Dark Gray Green is one of the more difficult ones to find. The GM B-body models are sought-after by police car aficionados who kit them out with LED flashing lights. I adored the '96 Impala SS in general, but my favorite color was the metallic gray-green. When I learned about the UT model's existence, I decided I wanted one. But prices were too high! As I type this, there is a green UT Impala SS on eBay, mint in box, for $129.94. Three years ago I was surfing eBay and found a green Impala listed with a starting bid of $9.99. The car was loose with no box, a bit dusty and needed the side mirrors touched up where the black paint had rubbed off. The car had been sitting in someone's closet for years. I jumped on it. It was used, sure, but where else are you going to get a UT Impala for $11?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1950 Dodge B-2B Pickup

The Dodge B-Series was the first new postwar truck design from Chrysler Corporation, introduced for 1948. Most of the large manufacturers revamped their truck lineups before their passenger car ranges, and Dodge was no exception. Following Dodge economy-vehicle tradition, the new trucks had a flathead six-cylinder engine. The new cab was designed for improved visibility and more space, dubbed the Pilot House cab. The new truck bed featured improved cargo capacity.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1951 International Harvester L-110 Pickup

I haven't featured a whole lot of trucks here, mainly because most old trucks are pretty ordinary. It's the oddball manufacturers mostly that interest me, or at least anything that's not Ford or Chevy. Maybe it's something that's just visually unique and cool, and maybe even pre-1960. Every so often you run across something that satisfies all of those criteria. You get something like this 1951 International Harvester L-110 pickup.

Friday, March 22, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Cadillac Eldorado

One of my guilty pleasures of the automotive world is the 1967-70 Cadillac Eldorado. I've never understood what it is about that car that I like, but I think it's mostly the dramatic rear three-quarter view. Otherwise this generation is notable to me only for being the first FWD Cadillacs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Plymouth Valiant

I love Bernal Heights for car spotting. It's a gold mine for old and unusual vehicles, most of which are daily drivers with various stages of patina. Here we have a 1962 Plymouth Valiant sedan. The Valiant was introduced in 1960 as its own brand, sporting a radically styled body and a new slant-six engine. It competed with the Ford Falcon and GM's compacts, intended to provide large car space without the large car dimensions and mileage. The separate brand identity only lasted one year before it was folded into the Plymouth lineup, but the Valiant built a reputation for reliability and toughness.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon

People who know me, know that I adore the Ford Pinto. It's an interest that first developed in junior high school, and it grew as I collected my first piece of Pinto memorabilia - a Pinto badge I bought at the Turlock Swap Meet for $4. It became my good luck charm; I literally brought it to school every day in my backpack. Today I do not own a Pinto, but I have some Pinto literature, an owner's manual (did you know the Pinto's optional roof rack has a higher load rating than the roof rack of a first-generation Honda CR-V?), and multiple Motormax Fresh Cherries diecast Pintos. I actually bypassed the Johnny Lightning diecast of the Pinto because the proportions were wrong. In a college book arts class I made a 1:15 scale papercraft model of a '73 Pinto Squire with an opening tailgate and corduroy-lined cargo bay. I told everyone it was a storage box.
I'm sure most of my love for Ford's 1970s compact is due to nostalgia for an era before I was born, and the irony that I 'adopt' vehicles most people detest, such as the Edsel and most AMC products. I'm not a hipster, I just like unconventional stuff. That, and the Pinto is in my opinion a rather good-looking little car.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Malibu Street Sighting - 1956 Seagrave 70th Anniversary Series 1000-300 Fire Truck

It's not every day you see a car or truck with a name that's as long as the vehicle. But Seagrave Fire Apparatus didn't mess around when they came up with the name for this fire truck. Seagrave has been around for a long time, since 1881. In 1951 they celebrated their 70th year in the business with the 70th Anniversary Series. Apparently they were like Disneyland and never let a big anniversary go to waste, so the series continued in production for some 19 years. Seagrave prided itself on being the 'greatest name in fire apparatus' - and it says so on the side. As far as I can tell, power for a truck like this came from a gasoline V12 engine producing 300 horses, with a 4-speed manual transmission.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

San Jose Street Sighting - 1941 White Super Power Fire Truck

Someone somewhere had to recognize the irony of a car company building a vehicle called the White Super Power at a time when Hitler's Nazis were steamrolling over Europe. This fact was not lost on other manufacturers such as Studebaker, who dropped the name Dictator from their lineup in 1937. The Studebaker Dictator had been so named because it 'dictated the standard' for its competitors. But by that year the word 'dictator' was not fashionable. Likewise, White Super Power refers to the White Motor Company flathead six-cylinder engine under the hood, not to any racist tendencies or support of Hitler on the part of the manufacturers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Danville Street Sighting - 1932 Ford V8 Roadster

Were this '32 Ford roadster not a local car that I see on a semi-regular basis, I might consider it cheating to have photographed it half a block from the barricades of a car show. The town of Danville holds two 'Hot Summer Nights' car shows every summer, where they close off the main drag for the afternoon and evening and a few hundred cool cars roll in to be viewed by the general public. It's fun and free. Well, free for spectators, that is. Those who get there early can park their special rides just outside the boundaries and avoid the $15-20 or whatever the car entry fee is.
So technically this Deuce isn't a show car. Technically it's a spectator's car (and is parked in almost the same spot where I photographed the 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC). Note the car behind it. That's the 1963 Buick Wildcat convertible I photographed several blocks away on the 4th of July. This mint-colored hot rod is frequently driven and often parks at a sports bar in my town. I had photographed it once before in the parking lot at the bar, but this was the first chance I'd had to find the car parked on a public street. So here it is.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Collector's Corner - Brookfield Collectors Guild 1995 Chrysler Cirrus

This is something of a departure from my usual Collector's Corner features because it's technically not a die-cast model and isn't 1:18 scale. It's a 1:25 scale plastic promotional model produced by Brookfield Collectors Guild for Chrysler. In 1995 Chrysler introduced the so-called 'Cloud Cars'; the Plymouth Breeze, Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus. To promote the Chrysler range, they contracted with Brookfield to make promo models for dealerships. The Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde and LHS were already reproduced in diecast metal with opening parts. The Cirrus didn't get that luxury, though, and was made in plastic like a craft store model kit. It was, however, nicely detailed and features rolling axles. I bought mine for $5 at a swap meet with no box. The windows are a little hazy from sitting in the sun on the guy's table for hours but there is no other damage to speak of.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1971 Plymouth Duster

There aren't a whole lot of good cars in my town. Actually, there are, but most are stored in garages or parked in driveways and thus are off-limits. You can actually credit my friend who was visiting from Canada for finding this one. He drove down here from Alberta and not five minutes after arriving at my house said "Hey, I saw an old Duster on the street." So away we went. I snagged this original '71 Duster just before the sun went down.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1976 Ford Mustang II

You see before you, arguably, the lowest point in the history of the Ford Mustang. Well, maybe not, because at least in 1976 it was possible to buy a Mustang II with a V8. But the era of the Ford Mustang II was a dark, uncertain time for ponycars. Even the horse on the grille looked worried. In 1974 Ford killed off the big, thirsty 'Boxstangs' in favor of this little filly engineered from the Pinto.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Malibu Street Sighting - 1978 International Scout II

I still really like the late model International Scout II. Competing with the Jeep CJ series originally and then with later models such as the Chevy K5 Blazer and Ford Bronco, the Scout had big shoes to fill. It never became as ubiquitous among personal 4x4s as the Blazer, Bronco or Jeep, but the Scout was a handsome looking and rugged alternative in the marketplace for nearly two decades. These trucks were versatile, offered in a variety of different versions ranging from an open soft top to a removable hardtop to a pickup truck-style roof with open cargo area. Later an extended version of the hardtop and pickup was offered as well.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1950 Plymouth DeLuxe sedan

The year 1950 is not really known for being a banner year of automotive design. Detroit was still emerging from pre-war design ideas and conventions. The all-new 1947 Studebakers put everyone on notice, and then Ford introduced all-new models for 1949 with fenders fully incorporated into the body and exciting new styling themes that looked nothing like the cars that came before them. GM and Chrysler's products were also new for 1949, but Dodge and Plymouth cars couldn't really be called the most exciting things on the street. Plymouth was the car you bought if you needed a sensible, cheap family car and didn't like paying for gas. They weren't made to be exciting, just dependable at low cost.