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.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1957 GMC 100 Pickup

GMC is often forgotten when people think of classic pickup trucks. Always overshadowed by its Chevrolet twin, especially the slick Cameo with its fiberglass fleetside bed, GMC was a curious formula. GMC trucks were at times a simple rebadge job with a different grille and tailgate, though sometimes they had engines from other GM divisions such as Pontiac. Chevy trucks were sold through Chevrolet dealerships only, but GMC could be marketed at Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac or Oldsmobile dealers that otherwise sold no pickups.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1968 Dodge Coronet 440

Several months ago I featured a 1968 Dodge Coronet 440 sedan that I found in San Francisco. That car was pretty well used, but a tough survivor. Here's a coupe that's also seen some use in its lifetime and endured.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1974 Mazda B1600 Pickup

I'm on kind of a Japanese truck kick right now, so after the '66 Toyota Stout from Friday let's look at a 1974 Mazda B-Series. No, it's not a REPU (Rotary Engined Pick Up), but it's the next best thing.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Oakland Street Sighting - 1966 Toyota Stout 1900 Pickup

An old Toyota pickup to me is nothing special. The Hilux and its successor, the "Truck" or "Pickup" are mostly just old trucks driven by landscapers and junk collection companies. A vintage 1960s-era Toyota Stout, on the other hand, is kind of a big deal to find. An unrestored, generally complete Stout that runs is a particularly rare find. Finding one completely at random, forgetting where it was and then finding it again months later completely at random is really something, or at least it is for me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1995 GMC G2500 Vandura

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Those were the trademark words uttered by Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, leader of the ragtag group of ex-soldiers in the NBC TV show The A-Team. The cast of characters acted as benevolent mercenaries, helping people who needed the special kind of assistance a bunch of trained military men could provide. And they did it all in style, traveling the country in a very distinctive customized GMC van.