Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Street Sightings of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, let's take another look at some of my favorite street sighting posts of the year. These are the cars I had the most fun shooting, and/or interested me the most.

1929 Packard Model 640 Custom Eight Roadster, San Ramon

1930 Ford Model A Rumble Seat Coupe, Livermore

1932 Cadillac Model 452B V-16 Dual Cowl Phaeton, San Ramon

1948 Pontiac DeLuxe Torpedo Convertible, Danville

1951 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible, Danville

1957 Chrysler New Yorker, Alameda

1957 Fiat 600D Multipla, Berkeley

1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7, Los Gatos

1976 AMC Pacer X, San Francisco

1987 Yugo GV, Foster City

What were your favorites this year? What would you like me to look for?

See you in 2015!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1954 MG TF Roadster

I guess I went hog wild photographing this one. I typically don't pay much attention to old British sports cars but this first-year MG TF caught my interest. Where I work, a fellow comes into the shopping center occasionally with a beautiful black '55 TF roadster, and since I first saw it I've wanted to spot one on the street to feature. This one was out on Pleasanton's historic Main Street and it is lovely.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from California Streets!

Wishing all of my readers and their families a joyful and safe Christmas, and a happy 2015!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Collector's Corner - Maisto Hummer H1 Soft Top

Tomorrow is Christmas. Everyone knows that one of the most popular and enduring Christmas toys of the last 25 years is the Maisto 1:18 scale diecast model. And one of the most play-worthy Maisto models ever is their Hummer.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1970 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan

Admittedly I usually don't like photographing really beat-up cars but I do if they're interesting or uncommon. A 1970 Chevy Impala four-door hardtop used to be a common sight on America's roads, but certainly isn't anymore. GM produced over 600,000 Impalas in 1970, the vast majority of which were V8 cars. This number does not even include low-trim Biscaynes and Bel Airs or high-trim Caprices! I have seen an estimate of 46,000 for Impala Sport Sedan production but no actual number seems to be available.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164S

I've never known what to think of the Alfa Romeo 164. The Italian sport-luxury sedan has a look all its own, courtesy of Pininfarina and the last days of an Alfa Romeo independent of Fiat influence. There are some interesting shapes going on in the design, thanks to the overall square shape, bold triangular Alfa grille and deep character line that blends into the narrow strip taillights out back. The 164 featured a lot of technology and a variety of luxury and performance packages. It was available in base, 164L, 164S and 164 Quadrifoglio Verde (as well as a late-model Q4 variant with all-wheel-drive). The S featured a body kit and rear spoiler, 15-inch alloy wheels and a higher-performance version of the 3.0 liter V6 good for 200 horsepower.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1978 Ford Ranchero

I have a mild interest in late-model Ford Rancheros. The mid-to-late '70s utes are big and boxy, coming in two flavors mostly. There's the '72-76 model, beginning with the fish-mouth Torino-based front and evolving into the Starsky and Hutch '74-'76. An all-new Ranchero bowed for '77, based on the new LTD II. It used the same taillights as before, but the rest of the body was new and featured the LTD's coffin nose, pointed fenders and stacked quad headlamps. The body had more of a linear fuselage appearance as well, where the outgoing Torino-based pickup had a sculpted quarter panel.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Collector's Corner - IST Models 1971 Lada 1200

It's been a while since I did a diecast feature, and with Christmas coming it's time to do more. This is also when winter wreaks havoc on Russian roads and it makes for wild dash cam crash footage on YouTube. Put them together and you have a diecast model of a classic Soviet car, the 1971 Lada 1200, also known as the VAZ-2101 Zhiguli. It was AvtoVAZ's first model, a licensed copy of the Fiat 124. The Lada used thicker steel, softer suspension and tougher, simpler components compared to its Italian cousin.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1955 Cadillac Series 62

As Cadillac runs screaming away from its own heritage in order to compete with its European rivals, the concept of what makes a Cadillac a Cadillac is changing. A new logo for 2015 loses the old laurel wreath around the Cadillac crest. Apparently this was deemed outdated, though the wreath used to denote a higher-trim model. No longer are a floaty ride or squishy couch seats considered desirable, and big engines are reserved only for performance models or trucks. And for the first time, you can get Cadillac sedans with a cramped back seat borderline unsuitable for adults. With all due respect, this is an improvement? This is the future? I understand that you have to compete with BMW, but Bimmer buyers are probably going to buy a BMW anyway. Seems to me Cadillac would want to lure buyers away from Lexus mostly.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1989 Peugeot 405 Mi16

When one thinks of European sport sedans of the late 1980s, one might name the Germans first: BMW E34 M5, Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16, Audi 4000S Quattro and the like. Then there are the others like the Italian Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio and smaller 75/Milano, but the French weren't necessarily known for building sporty sedans during most of the 1980s. You could get a 505 Turbo, or if you wanted something that looked like 1990 instead of 1980 you could opt for the smaller and more modern 405. And the hottest 405 sold in the States was the Mi16.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

A lot of people are familiar with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation. Anyone remember what Clark Griswold traded in at Lou Glutz Motors when he got the Truckster? It was an Olds Vista Cruiser wagon. Unlike the Griswold car, though, this '72 model hasn't been crushed flat by an unscrupulous car dealer bent on selling a badly-modified Country Squire.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1972 Fiat 850 Sport Spider

The Fiat 850 is a rather interesting car. A lot of older Italian family cars feature expanded lineups with several unique products on the same chassis, and the 850 is a great example of this. It was offered as a two-door Berlina sedan, two-door Familiare wagon, Furgonata small van, coupe and Spider roadster. Two versions of certain models were available, the mainstream Normale and higher-performance Super. Coupe and Spider models received a special engine tuned for even greater power (47 horsepower instead of the Normale's 34 and Super's 37). All models came with a four-speed stick, rear engine and rear-wheel drive. American 850s got a smaller-displacement, 49.8 cubic inch engine to evade federal emissions regulations applying to engines of 50 ci and larger -- pretty sneaky.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Los Angeles Street Sighting - 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V

Okay, full disclosure. This car belongs to my friend, who purchased it in L.A. a few years ago for $600 to save it from being crushed. These photos were taken the first time I ever laid eyes on it. This is also perhaps the only street sighting to date which I've actually ridden in.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1970 Mini Cooper S

It's been over a month since our last classic Mini, so it was time for another. I've come across a few Mk III Minis from the early 1970s and they almost all seem to be Coopers or at least done up as such. To the untrained observer (like me), any old Mini with a few visual enhancements and some replica badges from Mini Mania or Moss Motors could be a Cooper or Cooper S.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1955 Chevrolet Two-Ten Sedan

When all else fails, Tri-Five Chevy. I've featured a number of these cars previously in all different body styles and models, and yet this is the first pillared four-door we've looked at.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1964 Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe

Ask anybody in the United States who never owned one of these cars, and chances are they won't know what it is. Tell them it's a Ford and they'll be confused. Then show it to a kid and they'll tell you it's the Weasleys' flying car from the Harry Potter movies. And indeed it is. It's a Ford Anglia 105E.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saratoga Street Sighting - 1920 Ford Model T Touring Car

Today is the day after Thanksgiving, better known as Black Friday. It's the day when people forget everything they celebrated the day before and start tackling each other for discounted items on the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. Since some of us are still feeling thankful and the rest of us are out buying on Black Friday, what better car to feature than a Ford Model T? It's the car everyone ran out to buy because it was cheap, and it's black. Oh yeah, and you should darn well be thankful it existed. This is the car that revolutionized mass production techniques and interchangeable parts in the auto industry, and first made cars truly affordable to the average person.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 AMC Eagle 4WD Wagon

As Thanksgiving approaches, we pause to reflect on things we're thankful for in life. Which begs the question, what cars are we thankful for? One of many I'm thankful for is the AMC Eagle.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1966 Dodge Polara Wagon

Much of the United States is buried under snow as I type this, and I'm again hearing the words "polar vortex" tossed around. So I figured it's as good a time as any for this snow-white Dodge Polara, a wagon big enough to evacuate yourself and your whole family from the siege of bitter winter storms.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1983 Mitsubishi Starion

A couple days ago we took a look at a 1920s American luxury car. Now for something completely different, a 1980s Japanese compact turbocharged sport coupe. This is a 1983 Mitsubishi Starion.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1929 Packard Model 640 Custom Eight Roadster

I've posted a couple of times previously about a collector in my area with a nice assortment of pre-war classics. His '40 Buick and '32 Cadillac have been featured here, and there are numerous others that end up in his garage from time to time. It should be noted that as of this writing I have never once asked him to pull a car out of the garage for me to shoot as a "street sighting". Sometimes I just get lucky! Today we're looking at what I believe to be a 1929 Packard Model 640 Custom Eight roadster.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday Sedan

Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. Not quite a Cadillac, almost a Buick. It's a puzzling place to be in the car market and in the old General Motors brand hierarchy. The Ninety-Eight was the fanciest Olds you could buy, but it was still an Oldsmobile. Even I can't figure out whether Olds or Buick was considered more prestigious in the world of middle-class luxury. You could get an Olds or Buick with the fancy vinyl roof, ornately patterned luxury interior trims, whitewall tires, script badges and convenience options similar to a Cadillac. But it would never quite be a Cadillac.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Pontiac Catalina

I keep coming back to Bernal Heights when I'm in San Francisco. It's an eclectic neighborhood and I seem to have good luck finding interesting cars there. The vicinity of the park where I found this 1962 Pontiac Catalina is also where I found the '51 International pickup, '62 T-Bird, '79 Ford LTD coupe and '74 Volvo 164E. There's a 1954 Buick around the corner that I've been trying to photograph for the past couple of years, but every time I stop by, it's underneath a car cover. Alas. I had to settle for this metallic blue Pontiac instead. It's good that I did, because I have not seen it since.

Friday, November 14, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Fairlane Ranchero

I love the '67 Ford Fairlane. I've been a big fan of them for about ten years now, and I also dig the Ranchero coupe utility pickup-car thingy produced from 1957 to 1979. So it figures that I like the 1967 Ranchero based on the Fairlane.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1958 Nash Metropolitan 1500 Series III

After a succession of several "bad" vintage compact cars that are sort of cool, let's look at one of the early compacts that was a bit of a joke in its own time. This is the second Nash Metropolitan that's appeared here. Both hailed from Alameda, a place that with its 25-mph speed limits appears to be the domain of Model Ts, neighborhood electric vehicles and Nash Metropolitans.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Foster City Street Sighting - 1987 Yugo GV

This is one of my favorite street sightings. This past week I've featured some famously "bad" cars, so here is the king of them all. It's a 1987 Yugo GV.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1973 Ford Pinto

The first thing viewers may notice about this shoot is that the lighting varies wildly among the pictures. Yes, it does. I shot this car basically three times on two different days, several months apart with two different cameras. Now that we're past that, this is one cool little Pinto.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1975 Pontiac Astre SJ

It's funny how people lampoon one car for being terrible to the point it becomes infamous, and completely forget that rebadges of the same car even exist. Such is the case with the Pontiac Astre. The Astre was a rebadge job on the Chevrolet Vega, now famous for its rust problems and unreliable 2.3 liter aluminum-block engines. The Astre was sold in Canada only from 1973 to '74, then it came to the US market in '75 as Pontiac's smallest and cheapest model.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1976 AMC Pacer X

I adore early AMC Pacers. They're just so dorky, awkward and such a symbol of the 1970s that they've become sort of ironically cool. Between Wayne's World and Pixar's Cars 2, the Pacer is recognizable to all generations. It even made an appearance on Top Gear once, and Goofy drove a yellow one in Disney's A Goofy Movie. Unfortunately the Pacer is also remembered by many for being a "bad" car that failed at its intended purpose.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 Lancia Zagato

This was almost my Halloween post. Halloween for many people is all about getting scared, and what can be more scary than keeping a Lancia Beta running in America? Then I checked my local Craigslist and found three of them for sale in good condition. So they're still out there. Funny thing is, I've been trying unsuccessfully for two years to track down a blue Beta coupe in Bernal Heights, and found this one quite by coincidence in another neighborhood nearby.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1964 Mercedes-Benz Unimog 404S

Today is Halloween. With the current zombie craze in popular culture, everybody likes to fantasize about how they'd survive the zombie apocalypse. Well, here you go. A Mercedes-Benz Unimog is a military-grade four-wheel-drive truck known for its off-road prowess and durability. It might also do well for running down hordes of zombies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Millbrae Street Sighting - 1982 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Mirage Pickup

Last year I commemorated Halloween with two vintage Cadillac hearses. I hoped to feature another hearse this year but I haven't seen one on the street since a midnight screening of Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" in Oakland. Photographing a black car on a dimly lit street at night while waiting in line for a movie doesn't work so well. So the closest thing I had in the archives was this, a 1982 Cadillac Coupe DeVille converted into a pickup truck. How is that related to a hearse? Well, some people I showed these pictures to believed it was a funeral flower car. I'm not so sure.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1975 Datsun 280Z

On an ordinary day, I don't expect to see a lot of exciting cars around Danville, at least not ones that appear to be daily drivers. This customized Datsun pops up here and there on occasion, and I happened to catch it sitting still one day. It's a near twin of the white one I found on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California two years ago.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

San Mateo Street Sighting - 1957 Ford Thunderbird

When I was a kid I adored the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird. They were just infinitely cool. I had a Hot Wheels '57 T-Bird from their "Gleam Team" series, a strange release with a plastic body molded in gold-chrome with geometric patterns. I also had a larger, probably 1:43 scale red '55 T-Bird coupe with opening doors, which was one of my favorite childhood toys until I accidentally broke it into several pieces. Oops! My childhood love of early T-Birds stuck with me and I still really like them today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1979 Ford LTD 2-Door Sedan

When I was a kid I saw a lot of the boxy 1979-1991 Ford Panther platform cars. FoMoCo sold a ton of LTDs, Crown Victorias, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Cars, and their Ford Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park wagon variants. What I didn't realize though, for a long time, was that Ford sold a coupe version (actually a two-door sedan) of the LTD/Crown Victoria. And what took me the longest to figure out, was that for the first few years of production there were two different front ends offered. Base models received a two-headlight front clip with its own unique eggcrate grille and turn signals mounted inside the grille. Fancier Landaus and Crown Victorias got quad headlamps placed on top of large amber blinkers. This base LTD became the LTD-S in 1980 and lost the hood ornament seen on this '79 car. Note the free-standing side mirrors (passenger side is a non-factory replacement) and funky 1970s holdover hubcaps. Those caps were apparently still used until 1983 -- in my opinion they looked dated on day one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Millbrae Street Sighting - 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe

The Tri-Five Bel Air must really be the low-hanging fruit of the classic-car world. It's beautiful, it's classic, and for the most part I'm completely sick of them. I grew up adoring 1955-1957 Chevrolets, built models of them, drew pictures of them. Now I go to shows and generally avoid taking pictures of them, because they're everywhere and they all look the same. They all end up painted blue, red, aqua or black with white two-tone, and frequently roll on American Racing Torq Thrust wheels or some other shiny billet aluminum five-spoke design. In fact, I made this same rant the last couple of times I featured one of these cars. So imagine my relief when I found this one, which is not only stock but features a uniquely 1950s color combination of Shadow Gray over Coral. I've seen only a handful of cars that wore such a color scheme, and all came from this era.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1965 Dodge Dart GT

I've said here before that the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant twins are small potatoes in the classic car world. They're Chrysler's Ford Falcon and Chevy Nova, grocery getters for the masses in their day that mostly came with conventional styling and engineering, and small-displacement engines tuned for fuel economy. Thousands are on the roads today, often the ride of choice for drivers who want a touch of vintage style but a useful back seat, useful trunk and an old car they can actually drive every day. They came with some of the most bulletproof powertrains in the business, like the 225 slant six and Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission. As long as the body and chassis don't rust out and no one blows up the engine, these cars pretty much just keep going.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hayward Street Sighting - 1966 Pontiac Ventura

It's no secret by now that I love vintage Pontiacs. The 1965 and '66 lineups are some of my favorites. This one is a '66 Ventura sedan. The Ventura name was usually a trim upgrade on the full-sized Catalina during the 1960s but it was a model series in its own right from 1966 to 1969.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1954 Ford Customline Tudor Sedan

Low-budget custom cars are inherently interesting, especially a fully customized cruiser. A proper "kustom" is expensive and labor-intensive, usually left to professional builders with shops full of specialized tools and equipment. It takes lots of planning and design work before the fabrication even begins. It can be done at home in the garage, and even on the cheap if the builder has the know-how and the will to do the work himself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1977 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Champagne Edition

For years I resisted photographing Beetles. Volkswagen cranked out 21 million of the things and a lot of them are still puttering around in various conditions. Our first featured Bug was a customized one made to look like a 1937 Ford. Since then I've wanted to find a Karmann convertible Beetle, since those are less common than their regular sedan siblings (just 331,847 built). I got lucky with this one, which turns out to be a 1977 Champagne special edition.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1961 Porsche 356B Sunroof Coupe

There haven't been a lot of vintage Porsches featured on California Streets. Why? Because old 911s are still pretty common, and the earlier 356s are now expensive collectibles that are almost always garaged when not in use. This one has the most awesome patina of any 356 I've seen since the crash-damaged 1954 356 Speedster displayed in time-capsule state in a plexiglass box at the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum in Germany.