Tuesday, December 29, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Falcon

This has to be one of the most visually interesting cars I photographed in 2015. The '67 Ford Falcon never set out to be exciting originally, just a basic economy car that lived in the shadow of the Mustang. Ford produced a car that checked the boxes for a car of the era: Four doors, two doors, station wagon; six or eight cylinders; automatic or manual, done. The body was conservatively styled and the chassis conservatively engineered. The colors it was offered in were generally conservative as well. Nothing about this car really stands out, but for the incredible patina it wears.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Collector's Corner - Maisto 1989 Porsche 911 Speedster

The story of how this model came to me is mildly interesting. It's no accident that I'm writing about toy cars so soon after Christmas, but this Maisto Porsche 911 Speedster was no gift. I was bored around 3:00 in the morning, browsing eBay for anything cheap in 1:18 scale. Someone had listed a black 1989 Speedster in a factory cardboard box and protective foam shell for under $10. Being the amateur speculator I thought I was at the time, I bid on it. I figured an auction ending in the early morning was unlikely to get much attention and I ended up owning the Porsche. My original plan was to turn around and try to sell it at a profit, but after taking a good look at the model I decided to keep it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas from California Streets!

It's that time of year again! Wishing all my readers and their families a safe, warm and happy holiday season.

See you in 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1979 Ford Thunderbird Town Landau

In my previous feature we looked at a 1956 Ford Thunderbird, which debuted a few years after Elvis Presley got into the rock 'n roll scene. Now we look at a 1979 Thunderbird, a car that was built a couple of years after Elvis died. And much like Elvis, the Thunderbird was immensely popular from the start and they both got very fat around the same time. Unlike Elvis, though, the Thunderbird survived for another few decades thanks to a series of total reinventions.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1956 Ford Thunderbird

When I was a kid I had a fairly limited range of interest in cars and one of my favorites was the first-generation Ford Thunderbird. Children aren't the most sophistocated creatures so I guess the most iconic designs make the biggest impression. For me it was the '57 Bel Air, the '59 Cadillac, '70 Chevelle and various bedroom-poster fare such as the Viper RT/10, Ferrari F50 and Lamborghini Diablo. Take a look on eBay sometime at the most common diecast models for sale and you'll see what I mean about what appeals to kids. That said, the early T-Birds are very pretty cars. I always preferred the '57 when I was young but the '55 and '56 have their own merit and my interest in them has grown over the years.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

Many of my readers are no doubt familiar with the Back To The Future franchise and the significance of October 21, 2015 as the so-called "Back to the Future Day", when Marty McFly traveled to the future. Well, I attended a double feature screening of BTTF I and II in Livermore's Vine Cinema on that night, and what turned up outside the theater but a DeLorean? A fan had driven his car there for the screening. Maybe it's cheating, but I know where at least three other DeLoreans live and none of them are ever parked on the street.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Ford Galaxie 500

I've always been kind of ambivalent toward the 1964 Ford full-size range. I like the '61, '63, '65, '66 and others but the '64 has always looked slightly unusual to me. I can't quite put my finger on it. In recent years I've warmed up to them somewhat.

Monday, September 14, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Plymouth Fury

Ever have those times when somebody needs help parallel parking? I've been there, on both sides. As a suburbanite I don't get a lot of practice parking parallel and certainly not often in the tight spaces in San Francisco. So I cringed when I saw a car put on its turn signal while I was photographing this 1962 Plymouth Fury sedan and start to pull in front of it to park. I stopped taking pictures and helped the lady avoid damaging the classic car with her Jetta. I've seen this Plymouth around the city multiple times but have rarely caught it standing still, so this feature includes photos from two different sightings a year apart in the same neighborhood.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Oakland Street Sighting - 1976 Ford Ranchero 500

Over the past several months, my friends have gotten me into a new pastime: flea markets. Every so often we get together early on a Sunday morning and hit the Laney College Swap Meet in Oakland. It's a fun little place full of bargains and occasionally sellers who think they have something made of gold-plated unobtainium, both of which make for amusing interactions. It has contributed significantly to my diecast collection, and also triggered my interest in customizing small-scale toy cars thanks to the low price of used examples at the swap meet.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Rambler Classic 660

This is the car I always forget about in the AMC model hierarchy. The Classic was a midrange car during the Rambler years that made up the bulk of Rambler sales between 1961 and 1966. The first Classics were cheaply refreshed 1950s cars and the line only received a complete redesign in 1963. All Classics were six-cylinder economy cars until the '63 model year when the V8 from the large Ambassador was offered as an option.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1979 Chrysler New Yorker

The R-platform cars are not often regarded as a high point in Chrysler's history. To some observers, it's a miracle that Chrysler has survived this long, what with a long succession of great cars, terrible cars, apathetic cars and a lot of strange decisions in design and marketing. In the latter half of the 1970s, Chrysler was in deep trouble. General Motors rolled out an all-new fullsize car platform for 1977 that was shared across all of its core passenger car brands. Chrysler management often used a wait-and-see approach for market trends -- if something worked for GM and Ford, Chrysler would usually follow. In 1978, Chrysler dumped their Dodge and Plymouth C-body fullsize lines, leaving only luxury-minded Chrysler to peddle big cars. In '79 the R-body appeared, a reworked midsize B-body with smaller engines, a three-inch stretch and over a quarter ton of weight loss. The platform was old, the engines were old, but the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and did their best with a small budget. This car would serve as Chrysler's big sedans for all three divisions through 1981.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1964 Mercury Montclair Breezeway

I have a lot of respect for people who collect oddball classics, off-brand cars and base models. All it takes to own a fleet of shiny Bel Airs, Camaro and Chevelle Super Sports is money. Barrett-Jackson will be happy to peddle you any number of perfectly restored cookie-cutter showboats. But then you have the small-time collector with a two-car garage and ten old cars that all have to park on the street because his wife's car gets the garage, and she rates higher in his book than any of the cars. At least, she does if he knows what's good for him.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1956 Chevrolet Corvette

Every month on the first Sunday morning, the Blackhawk Automotive Museum holds a Cars and Coffee meet in their parking lot. A lot of local enthusiasts show up, from car club members to nouveau riche exotic owners to some older gentlemen just looking for a good excuse to get their favorite classics out of the garage. It's always different and a nice little free show for a couple of hours. After one of these meets I ventured into downtown Danville and ran across a car I didn't see at Blackhawk, this black and silver 1956 Corvette convertible.

Friday, July 24, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1962 Fiat Ghia 1500 GT

This post marks my 600th street sighting feature. I thought that I might as well pick something truly rare and unusual, so here we have a 1962 Fiat 1500 GT by Ghia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Jaguar 3.8 S-Type

Do you remember the Jaguar S-Type sold between 1999 and 2008? It didn't sell all that well stateside, despite the retro styling craze that saw the success of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and 2005 Ford Mustang. Perhaps it was difficult for American buyers to relate to a retro-styled Jaguar that hearkened back to the days of the 1960s, and wasn't an E-Type. It was inspired by, and named after, this.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Collector's Corner - Cars & Co. 1989 Trabant 601S De Luxe

What's this? An East German Trabant in the United States? Well yes, and no.

I would absolutely love to find a Trabant as a street sighting -- and I know that there are some in California. But this is just a diecast, 1:18 scale replica. It's issued by "Cars & Co." and is a Sun Star casting first used in the late 1990s by Vitesse. From what little I can find, it appears that Cars & Co. is a German Sun Star diecast distributor. That would make sense given that both of my Trabant models were purchased from sources in Germany. This one is the 601s De Luxe Limousine, the two-door sedan model.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1982 Jeep Cherokee Laredo

I think few auto manufacturers have gotten as much mileage from one vehicle platform as Jeep did with the Wagoneer. The proto-SUV made its debut as a 1963 model based on the J-Series Gladiator pickup truck, and served a long and distinguished career as a go-anywhere station wagon with four doors or two, a utilitarian panel truck and perhaps the first "luxury" SUV (Super Wagoneer/Wagoneer Limited/Grand Wagoneer). The SJ Wagoneer lasted until 1991, with the name appearing again periodically on special models of the compact Cherokee (XJ) and midsize Grand Cherokee (ZJ) through 1993. The two-door Wagoneer was always a slow seller, and only lasted from 1963-68. American Motors purchased Kaiser Jeep in 1970 and in '74 a two-door variant of the Wagoneer was back, now called Cherokee and sporting new side windows and standard four-wheel-drive.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1967 Cadillac Coupe De Ville Convertible

It's officially the beginning of summer which marks convertible season. Warm sunny weather is perfect for top-down cruising no matter what kind of convertible you have. A big lazy V8 convertible is great for taking you and five of your closest friends to nowhere in particular. A '67 Cadillac De Ville would be a fine candidate.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1949 Packard Standard Eight

This is Independents' Week, a recurring feature here on California Streets around the 4th of July, celebrating cars from independent American manufacturers. That means no Big Three cars from Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. This is a 1949 Packard Standard Eight Touring Sedan.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Oakland Street Sighting - 1973 AMC Javelin SST

This is Independents' Week, a recurring feature here on California Streets around the 4th of July, celebrating cars from independent American manufacturers. That means no Big Three cars from Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. This is a 1973 (or possibly '74) AMC Javelin.

I used to hate all second-generation Javelins made between 1971 and 1974. I hated the big flared fenders mostly, and they struck me as just strange to look at. This one changed all that.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Emeryville Street Sighting - 1971 AMC Hornet

One of my favorite annual traditions on this blog is Independents' Week. Not coincidentally, it falls on the week of July 4th, America's Independence Day.

It's an opportunity to look at some classic American cars not produced by Detroit's Big Three, Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. First up this week is a 1971 AMC Hornet sedan.

I've featured a few Hornets previously, including one four-door sedan, a hatchback coupe and a two-door sedan. This one is an early model, one of the oldest Hornets I've seen. I love the AMC Hornet and this is a refreshingly simple, honest example in factory stock form. There is a utilitarian look and feel to the Hornet, particularly on non-SST base models such as this one, featuring dog dish hubcaps and a single side mirror. The styling is so Spartan, the cool tri-color contrasting pinstripe seems almost like an extravagance. I like the detailed bee emblems on the front fenders and the fuel filler cap, the former of which was dropped on 1972 models presumably to cut costs.

Condition is decent, not mint by any means but a good solid daily driver. I'd expect a 3.8 liter straight-six under the hood and either a three-speed manual or the three-speed Shift-Command automatic. I actually really like it with the black steel wheels and stainless/chrome dog dishes. It gives the car a sort of 1970s government fleet look. At this point, a lot of the low-spec basic family cars that were prevalent on the roads decades ago have gone by the wayside, so it's great to see a basic Hornet sedan that hasn't gone to Pick 'n Pull.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Berkeley Street Sighting - 1985 Mercedes-Benz 409D Trueblood RV

There are a lot of old motorhomes on California's streets and roads, and a fair number of them are fascinating machines from long-defunct manufacturers and conversion companies. Unfortunately, a lot of them are also decrepit, parked in terrible areas and/or serving as permanent shelter for people down on their luck. For that reason I tend not to shoot such vehicles. But this oddball conversion van intrigued me. It's a 1980s-vintage Mercedes 409D van built into a camper by Trueblood RV GmbH of Frankfurt, Germany.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1951 Plymouth Concord

One of the curious things about the 1950s to a modern observer is the complete market dominance of the full-size car in the U.S. To many in that era a large car represented space, safety, stability and status. Oh yes, and value. Some drivers favored the little foreign jobs like the early Volkswagens or some of the British MGs, Triumphs or the odd Austin or Morris that were popularized by returning military servicemen after WWII. The Japanese were still a few years away from attempting a toehold in the United States with diminutive Toyopets and Datsuns. Even such American small cars as the tiny Crosley, prewar Willys Americar and postwar Aero, upcoming Hudson Jet and Nash Metropolitan would prove to be little more than bit players in their respective times. Large American cars owned the roads and if you could only afford one car for the whole family, you might as well get the biggest and best car in your price range.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1965 Buick LeSabre

I could have owned this car.

In 2009 the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association chose a light blue '65 Buick LeSabre as their annual giveaway car for their Northern California shows. I entered to win it, but it was not to be. I enter most of the giveaway contests and have been a finalist twice (red 1965 Mustang notchback and yellow '69 Chevelle SS 396), but have never gotten lucky. This is the car they gave away.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Alameda Street Sighting - 1976 Morris Mini Clubman

It's been a little while since our last car feature so here's a little feature on a little car. I don't recall ever seeing a Mini Clubman before I spotted this one on the streets of Alameda, California. Okay, I've seen a lot of the modern MINI Clubman, the extra-long variant of the MINI Cooper. But this is the original Clubman, an effort to modernize the classic Mini whose original design and styling dated to 1959. Clubman was a more expensive car than the regular Mini and featured a longer front end with improved crash safety and easier service access.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Ford LTD Country Squire

I often find myself becoming nostalgic for the days of the traditional American station wagon. They're big, spacious and to me they just look cool. Of course, I never had to ride in one on a family road trip, frying my backside on hot vinyl seats through untinted windows, getting carsick on the highway while choking on exhaust fumes sucked in through the open tailgate window. My parents both owned at least one compact station wagon each years ago, including a Chevy Vega Kammback, Ford Escort and Chevy Cavalier RS. But that was before I was born, and neither of them ever had a monster barge like a '71 Ford LTD Country Squire.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1969 AMC Javelin SST

Today is Easter, a holiday associated with a number of various symbols depending on how you observe it. Sometimes I like to tie in the most appropriate car I can find for holiday features, so here is a robin's-egg blue 1969 AMC Javelin SST. It has nothing to do with bunnies, marshmallow Peeps or the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is a rare car in a good spring color on a holiday known for seeking out hidden pastel eggs. And if you really, really want to associate a javelin with Easter time, read the Bible verses (specifically John 19:34) about what happened on Good Friday, three days before Easter Sunday. Beyond that, this is a car blog and it's not my place to lecture my readers on religion.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan Art Car

It's April Fools Day, and this is probably the only time you'll ever see a '94 Dodge Caravan as a feature post here. It's an art car, a Burning Man creation, and there's not a whole lot more I can say about it. It has toilet seats on the windows.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Fiat 500L

This is the third classic Fiat 500 we've looked at here, and the third to have been photographed on the streets of San Francisco. This one is fairly interesting, since it participates in the annual California Melee road rally and other events.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Danville Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

I've held off on featuring this car for a long time, because it's a dark green Ford Mustang fastback. Why? Because it's March 24, and that's Steve McQueen's birthday. He would have been 85 this year.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Livermore Street Sighting - 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten Sedan

California Streets has been on a sort of hiatus for the past month, owing to real-life responsibilities and a lack of motivation to write. So I employed my rule of "When in doubt, Tri-Five Chevy". Here's a 1956 Chevrolet Two-Ten (or 210) pillared sedan.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Alameda Street Sighting - 1973 Pontiac Le Mans Sport Coupe

For most car brands, 1973 wasn't a banner year. It's memorable mainly for bad things, like the OPEC oil crisis and the beginning of federal 5-mph bumper standards. A lot of cars that year were retreads of 1970 or '71 models. For General Motors, 1973 brought the introduction of the midsize A platform's all-new "Colonnade" body. Colonnade refers to the style of roof pillars GM employed to allow frameless door glass without building a traditional hardtop. This was intended to allow the car to perform better in a rollover crash. The change was sort of a big deal since it meant a new Chevelle, new Olds Cutlass, new Buick Century and new Pontiac Le Mans. All of these models were huge volume sellers so getting them right was important. All mainstream Pontiac midsize models were now badged as Le Mans, with such option packages and styles as Luxury Le Mans, Le Mans Sport, Le Mans Safari (wagons), and for more adventurous buyers a GTO or new "European-styled" Grand Am could be specified. The Grand Prix luxury coupe was also based on the Le Mans this year.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1989 Nissan S-Cargo

Some people go nuts for Japanese culture and "JDM" everything. JDM refers to Japanese Domestic Market, a Japanese car made to be sold in the Japanese islands and comply with Japanese road laws. That usually means right-hand-drive, different styles of lights, sometimes unique sheetmetal, trim packages and sometimes unique models entirely. This is one such Japan-only model, the Nissan S-Cargo.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1952 Ford F-1 Pickup

Some of the most interesting vehicles turn up when I'm not actively carspotting. I was with a friend in San Francisco, searching for parking near the Cable Car Museum when we happened upon this '52 Ford pickup. Ultimately we did find street parking and managed to visit the museum, but not before I took a moment to shoot the old truck.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Citroën DS 19

All right, I may have cheated some.
Last year a relative invited me to a meeting of his car club, the Arcane Auto Society, in San Francisco. This was what I found parked on the street outside the garage where the members met. It's a 1965 Citroën DS 19. It was not the only club member vehicle I photographed on the street that morning and I'll be happy to share the others with you at a later date. The club meeting functioned as an unofficial indoor car show and was a fascinating assemblage of everything from a right-hand-drive Reliant Regal three-wheeler with UK plates to a Peel Trident bubble car. Regrettably, those were off the street and within the boundaries of a car show and not eligible for blog features at the time, even though they were awesome. Even here, we have rules...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Alameda Street Sighting - 1939 Ford V8 Panel Truck

Ahh, patina. One man's restoration project is another man's rat rod. Coming to Alameda from Barn Fine Classics in Washington state is this '39 Ford panel truck with not very much paint but a whole lot of character.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Collector's Corner - Motormax 2001 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

If you've ever checked out eBay for police car diecasts, you'll know that it's a highly lucrative business. Collectors are often willing to pay a hefty price premium for an authentic replica, custom or otherwise, of their local agency's cruisers. A multitude of brands produce dozens of department liveries, and those that aren't covered by official releases are accommodated by releasing a plain black or plain white car ready to be detailed with waterslide decals offered in the online aftermarket. Some builders run wiring through the big 1:18 scale cars and install battery-powered LEDs that allow the squad car to have flashing lights and sometimes even sounds. It's a pretty cool effect. Unfortunately, a lot of the better police car replicas are rare and expensive, such as Auto Art's Ford Crown Victoria and UT Models's Chevrolet Caprice.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Mini 1000 Automatic

I've sort of made a recurring thing posting classic Minis every so often. Here's another monthly Mini, if you will. It's our first factory-automatic one, a 1971 Mini 1000.