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 These trucks were improved over the pre-war design that, while visually interesting, was woefully outdated by the time it was phased out.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 Citro├źn 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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1986 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur

When I was growing up, the name Rolls-Royce mostly meant two cars to me. One was the Silver Shadow, and the other was the Silver Spirit. The Silver Shadow and its convertible variant, the Corniche, was the quintessential modern Rolls of the 1970s. For the 1980s, the folks in Crewe rolled out the Silver Spirit and a long wheelbase model called the Silver Spur. Instead of making a Corniche replacement with the Spirit body, the old car soldiered on with updates well into the 1990s. The Silver Spirit itself was based on the outgoing Shadow, sharing the same floorpan and powertrain - including the GM 3-speed automatic transmission - but the body and interior were new. Rolls played it conservative, keeping what was good about the old car to maintain the famously smooth ride quality and "adequate" performance. Early cars sold in the U.S. came with quad sealed-beam headlamps as seen on this example, while the rest of the world got large, flush-mounted composite lights. The latter became standard in the U.S. market cars in later years.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Petaluma Street Sighting - 1995 Porsche 968 Cabriolet

Some months ago I featured a 1995 Porsche 968 coupe, the final iteration of the front-engined entry level Porsche that began with the 924. The 968 is rare enough as it is, but the convertibles are rarer still. Some 12,776 cars were built worldwide, of which 4,389 were convertibles. I spoke with the driver who told me that only 2,000 were made, which was close. Wikipedia says Porsche sold 2,248 of these convertibles in North America - Porsche Club of North America believes it's actually 1944 cars. Between the coupe and convertible, the convertible is slightly less common in the US - however, we have the highest concentration of them in the world. There used to be two or three of them in my town alone.