Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang

I must admit I'm disappointed. When I was driving through the neighborhood and rolled up on a pretty blue Mustang California Special I grabbed my camera immediately. A GT-CS is pretty, well, special. They were produced originally for one year, 1968, and were the closest thing to a notchback Shelby that a customer could buy. The GT-CS was based heavily on a 1967 Shelby design study called "Little Red", and received many of the same Shelby fiberglass pieces for the side scoops, taillight panel with '65 Thunderbird taillights, trunk lid and ducktail spoiler. Up front, the Mustang running horse "corral" was removed and two rectangular foglamps occupied the otherwise empty black grille opening. Unique "California Special" script badges and side stripes were also created and stuck on the cars. Only 4,118 were built including 251 cars marketed as "High Country Specials" for the Denver, Colorado area.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1978 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT

I've always liked the Alfa Romeo GTV6 of the 1980s. What I didn't know for a long time was that the GTV6 had its roots in the 1972 Alfetta sedan. The Alfetta range was expanded in 1974 when a fastback coupe, the Alfetta GT, was added. The GT initially was offered with only a 1.8 liter engine, though a 1.6 and 2.0 were added later. This was where the GTV moniker came from, the top-spec 2.0 engine. At this point it was still a pretty simple-looking package, a car that could almost wear four rings on the grille if the Alfa triangle were removed. If my comparison seems far-fetched, Google "Audi 100 Coupe S". The similarity is uncanny. I don't think Giugiaro was involved with designing the Audi like he was for the Alfetta, though the 100 Coupe S has been described by Audi themselves as having "distinct echoes of contemporary Italian car design". Funny given that it came to market more than four years before the Alfetta coupe.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

San Jose Street Sighting - 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

I never really knew what to make of the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser when I was younger. Well, the older ones made sense to me, the big boxy ones built between 1977 and 1990. To me, they had always been, and they were kind of cool.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1965 Mercury Monterey

A few months ago we looked at a 1965 Mercury Park Lane Marauder four-door hardtop sedan in San Francisco. Now we're looking at a lower-spec Monterey four-door pillared sedan from the coastal community of Santa Cruz. The Monterey was Mercury's cheapest full-size car for '65, but still came with standard 390 V8 power. This one seems to have found use as a metalhead's rat-rod cruiser.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

What?! A 1973 Caprice that's not a lowrider or a donk? Hold the phone!

Actually, it's not that unheard of. Chevrolet built literally 800,000 of their big cars in 1973, and the luxury-oriented V8 Caprice accounted for 212,754 of them. That's pretty impressive for a full-size car today, with that segment of the (retail) market shrinking with each passing year. Chevy sold about 160,000 Impalas in the US and Canada last year, and you probably rented one of them. Back in 1973 though, a full-size car was still pretty much a fact of life and it was what you drove if you had a family of four or more. Yup, right up until that pesky OPEC oil embargo left you and all your neighbors waiting around the block for gas.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacaville Street Sighting - 1979 Chevrolet Corvette L-82

Take a look at any list of the worst Corvettes or worst sports cars and you might see a late-model C3 generation 'Vette in there somewhere. Circa 1980 the C3 Corvette was a hopelessly old, increasingly plasticky sport coupe with no convertible option and low-performance variants to comply with California's draconian emissions standards. In 1980 it was not possible to buy a Corvette in California with a manual transmission, a 350 cubic inch engine, or a horsepower rating of 200 or more. A 305 making 180 hp and a three-speed auto was all you got. And an 85-mph speedometer. Dark days indeed, and yet the thing sold like hotcakes. The year this car was built, 1979, was Corvette's all-time best sales year. Maybe buyers saw what was coming.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1956 Packard Four Hundred

It seems fitting to me that some of the last Packards were named after Roman aristocrats and medieval politicians. The patricians held titles of wealth and power from storied civilizations that rose and fell, much as the great luxury car manufacturer Packard emerged from the horseless carriages of the nineteenth century only to fizzle out as a fish-faced, rebadged Studebaker in a market that had moved on. The latter days of Rome still had some splendor, and Packard's last shining moment was the 1956 lineup with its Patrician, Caribbean and Four Hundred.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alameda Street Sighting - 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix Model J

I admit that this generation of the Pontiac Grand Prix isn't my favorite. I like the earlier 1960s models including the '62, '63 and '65. These second-generation cars strike me as a slightly different flavor of the first-generation Chevy Monte Carlo, which is actually not true. The all-new '69 Grand Prix beat the Monte to market by one year, came with different engines and rode on a stretched version of the Monte Carlo's chassis. So while the Monte Carlo made the General Motors "G-body" famous, it was technically the Grand Prix that used it first.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1940 Buick Model 81C Limited Convertible Phaeton

Lately one of my favorite sources for street sightings is a quiet street within walking distance of my house. Most of the time I strike out, but when something's there, it's really good. This was the first one I found on the street, a 1940 Buick Limited convertible sedan.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1950 Dodge Wayfarer Sportabout

I never really considered the 1950 Dodge lineup to be anything to write home about. Dodges in the first half of the 1950s were blue-collar family sedans and business coupes, the car your insurance salesman drove, or the car you bought secondhand off a corner lot for a couple hundred dollars and couldn't wait to get rid of as soon as you could scrape together enough money for a V8 Ford or a more stylish Chevy. A Dodge was a biggish, roly-poly car with a side valve six-cylinder powerplant built for economy and reliability, not speed or handling. Drop Jimmy and Janie off at school, load up the week's groceries at the corner Kroger, and leave the stoplight drag racing to those darn teenage hooligans in their hopped-up old flathead V8 jalopies.

Friday, July 11, 2014

San Jose Street Sighting - 1974 Jeep J-10 Pickup

I love old Jeep trucks. They just look like a scaled-up pressed-steel Tonka toy, down to the squared off fenders and creased edges and chunky tailgate lettering. It's all very institutional and deliberately utilitarian, befitting a work truck of the era. My interest in Jeep pickups came from the yellow 1982 Honcho used in the 1996 film Twister, which sadly got destroyed. (Incidentally, the same movie also helped get me interested in Dodge Rams.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1946 Chevrolet 1-1/2 Ton Flatbed Truck

Let me just start this post by saying I'm not an expert on medium-duty commercial trucks. My identification of this truck is a best guess since the Chevy trucks didn't change a whole lot between 1941 and 1946 (1947 for the bigger ones). Near as I can tell, this is a '46 Model 4408, Series OS, 1-1/2 ton cab and platform truck with the 160-inch wheelbase. Or maybe not. Any help is appreciated.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Danville Street Sighting - 1954 Ford F-100 Pickup

Last Fourth of July I was in Danville for the Independence Day parade, which attracts many local classic car owners who enter their vehicles in the parade as rides for local politicians, high school teams, dignitaries, and special interest groups. I've driven my father's pickup in the parade once and know that rolling along at walking speed in gear for two hours takes its toll on a vehicle's cooling abilities. I had the truck bed full of cheerleaders throwing candy and U.S. pocket Constitutions to the crowd while I sat in the cab with the windows down and heater on full blast to keep the engine from overheating. Not everyone is so lucky. This 1954 Ford F-100 pickup had to bail on the parade after a couple of blocks and sit awhile to cool down.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1986 AMC Eagle 4WD Wagon

This is Independent's Week, a recurring annual series in honor of America's Independence Day. This time around, we're looking at American Motors station wagons. This one is a 1986 AMC Eagle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1962 Rambler Classic Cross Country Custom Wagon

Continuing this "Independent's Week" in honor of America's Independence Day, and celebrating the American summer vacation road trip, we're looking at American Motors station wagons. Second in the series is this 1962 Rambler Classic Cross Country.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country Custom Wagon

We're coming up on the Fourth of July again, Independence Day. And as is my custom, I'm featuring an assortment of cars from American manufacturers not affiliated with Detroit's Big Three. Welcome to Independents' Week.

It's summer in America, and summer is the best time for the American road trip. And traditionally, the American road trip takes place in a station wagon. And what's more American than an American Motors station wagon?