Saturday, December 31, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Vista

All right, let's end this year on a high note. This was one of my favorite subjects of 2016 and one that I waited nearly three years to shoot.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Van Man Review - 2008 Dodge Sprinter 2500 CRD

In the three-plus years I've worked for Country Club Cleaners in the eastern Bay Area, there have been few vehicular constants. When I came on board the company fleet consisted of six Ford Transit Connects, two Dodge Caravans, two Chevrolet Astros, one Ford Econoline, two Chevrolet Expresses and a Dodge Sprinter. Of those vehicles I believe we have one Express and four Transits left; the rest have been replaced due to age and mileage. It's easy to take something for granted that's just always there, and the Sprinter has been the biggest workhorse of the company.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Well, it's that time of year already. As 2016 draws to a close I'd like to wish all of my readers and their families a safe and happy holiday season.

I hope that the new year brings new opportunities for adventures and as many new car sightings as possible.

As always, thank you to all who read and comment and appreciate this humble little blog. Merry Christmas to you!

Jay W

Friday, December 2, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1955 Oldsmobile 88 Holiday

One of the defining characteristics of 1950s car styling is ostentation. Two- and three-tone paint jobs, tail fins, whitewall tires and lots of chrome trim everywhere are what most people associate with the era. But occasionally one comes across a car that does an awful lot with very little. I have come to really like the simpler designs of cheaper models that make do with less ornamentation. Some mildly customized cars like this 1955 Oldsmobile 88 can also pull it off.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Van Man Review - 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan C/V

Some say that autocross teaches you how to drive in second gear. I learned it from a Chrysler minivan.

Welcome to Van Man Reviews, a recurring feature where I talk about vehicles I've driven for work. I used to drive this 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan C/V two days a week on a delivery route.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1982 Jeep J-10 Honcho Sportside Pickup

Who here remembers the movie Twister? The Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton storm-chaser flick with the roaring tornado and flying cows had its 20th anniversary this year. I've mentioned it before in a different post but that film was what got me interested in vintage Jeep trucks. The fact that as a little kid I was fascinated with tornadoes and natural disasters was just gravy. A yellow 1982 Jeep J-10 Honcho Townside pickup was used by the two protagonists in the beginning of the movie, then met its untimely demise when the twister picked it up. For the rest of the movie a 1995 Dodge Ram 2500 pulled hero truck duty. But I always liked that Jeep.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1931 Ford Model A Pickup

Autumn is in full swing and it's almost Halloween, so how about a vehicle that reflects the colors of the season? This 1931 Ford Model A pickup in cheerful yellow, orange and black is downright cute.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 Toyota Corona Mark II 1900 Automatic Wagon

For every model of car that someone values and keeps in great condition, there is someone else who beats up on theirs. Such is the case with the Toyota Corona Mark II station wagon that I posted earlier this week. The Corona isn't a terribly valuable vehicle but it is rather rare in the US. This has an upside and a downside: rarity makes them interesting, but it also makes parts hard to find. The guy who owns the red Corona 4x4 trail rig basically has a hacked-up Toyota body on top of a truck chassis. The car probably reached the point where the body panels were too damaged to justify repairing and he just decided to have fun with it. Then there's this Corona Mark II, basically identical except one or two years newer. But my goodness, what a difference in terms of condition.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reshoot - 1963 Buick Wildcat Convertible

Originally featured in November 2012. Re-shot in August 2013 and I still see it from time to time driving around town.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 2001 Qvale Mangusta

I've had a subscription to Motor Trend magazine for over fifteen years. One of the first issues I remember receiving, November 2000, featured a nine-way comparison of sports cars. It was the first time I ever saw mention of an unusual Italian car called the Qvale Mangusta. In my Need For Speed-fueled childhood the Porsche 911 Turbo, Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper, Ferrari 360, BMW Z8, Mustang Cobra R, Shelby Series 1, Pontiac Trans Am and the like, made total sense to me. But the test also featured a red car with very odd styling and a bubbly retractable hardtop. It had a 4.6 liter Ford V8 producing 320 horsepower, a five-speed manual and a small back seat.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Van Man Review - 2012 Ford Transit Connect XL

I am a delivery driver by trade, working for a dry cleaner in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area. My typical day involves pick-ups and deliveries to homes and businesses, and I drive one of the company's fleet of vans. Over the past three years I have been behind the wheel of almost every truck in the fleet. So I thought it might be interesting to my readers to know my thoughts on them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Plymouth Satellite

It's still rather interesting to me the way that car companies used to do models using the same body for several different trim levels and nameplates. In 1970 you could walk onto a Plymouth dealer lot and purchase a standard Belvedere, or you could spice it up with a Satellite, Sport Satellite, GTX or Road Runner. The lower Belvedere and Satellite models were available in a full complement of body styles, but the Sport Satellite was limited to hardtop coupe, sedan or station wagon and the GTX was hardtop only and the Road Runner was coupe or convertible. This car appears to be a regular Satellite hardtop. Satellites were offered with a 225 slant six or 318 small block V8, with a two- or four-barrel 383 V8 optional.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Oakland Street Sighting - 1978 Ford Fiesta

I have a friend who owns a 2015 Ford Fiesta hatchback. He loves all things Fiesta. This is is the ancestor to his car, the first year the Fiesta was offered in the United States. His mother had one of these as her first car. The 1978 Fiesta served as a stopgap model for buyers who wanted something smaller and more European than the aging Pinto, until the 1981 Escort "world car" arrived. It was a captive import that competed with the likes of the Honda Civic, VW Rabbit and Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Tercel, and Datsun B210 or 510.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1987 Merkur XR4Ti

It's the mid 1980s. You're a moderately successful professional in the market for a new prestige car. You could buy a Cadillac, or a Lincoln, or a nice Chrysler. But you want something a little more European, smaller, and sporty. You could buy a BMW 3 Series, but every yuppie buys a BMW. So you bite your lip and walk onto the lot at the Lincoln-Mercury dealer, past the squishy Grand Marquis and Town Cars, past the formal-roofed Cougar and hump-trunked Mark VII LSC with their thirsty V8s. On one side of the lot there's a shiny two-tone hatchback that looks like nothing else there. "What's a Merkur?" you ask the eager salesman who caught you staring at this strange car that says it was made in Germany. A four-cylinder with a turbocharger? The salesman proudly tells you this car shares its 2.3 liter turbo engine with the Mustang SVO and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. You didn't even know you could get a Mustang with a turbo! So you test drive this unusual alphanumeric car. It ticks the boxes you're looking for. Alloy wheels, moonroof, rear spoiler, minimal brightwork, rear-wheel-drive, sport-tuned suspension, five-speed manual, and it pulls when you stomp the gas and the turbo spools up. You take a chance, sign on the dotted line and become the only person in your neighborhood with a Merkur XR4Ti.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Alameda Street Sighting - 1946 Chevrolet Stakebed Truck

Two years ago I featured a mid-1940s Chevy commercial flatbed truck. That one was a challenge to identify because of I don't know commercial trucks very well. Here we have another one which may be a 3600 series 3/4 ton model, which if I've guessed correctly is classified as a model 3609 stake bed.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Oakland Street Sighting - 1966 Plymouth Sport Fury

I'm not really sure how the words "Sport" and "Fury" go together. I guess it's something like "Mustang" and "Cobra". When you don't think about it, it makes perfect sense. The name Fury comes from the three Greek goddesses of vengeance. So a Sport Fury must be a very athletic, angry goddess.

Monday, July 18, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1959 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan

My God, has it really been almost two years since we last visited with Fifties Guy? My schedule doesn't allow me to visit San Francisco as often as I used to, and that means fewer opportunities to stop by the street-parked collection of the man I like to call Fifties Guy. Keen readers will remember his steel menagerie of chrome boats. Every so often he buys one, sells another, but always has enough old cars to stay busy with their upkeep. Here's a 1959 Chevy Impala flattop.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1968 AMC AMX

My Independents' Week feature series may be over, but I decided to add a bonus one just for the heck of it. Here's a 1968 AMC AMX.

Friday, July 8, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1972 Jeep Wagoneer

Alright, alright, I know. This is Independents' Week. So why a Jeep? Jeep is part of Chrysler, hardly an independent automaker. (One could argue that Chrysler is pretty darn dependent nowadays, seeing as Fiat's calling the shots, but that's another story.) Well, Jeep used to be independent or at least was produced by a series of independent companies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1949 Kaiser Traveler

This is Independents' Week, where we take a look at American classic cars not produced by the Big Three of Ford, General Motors or Chrysler. Second up this week is a 1949 Kaiser Traveler.

Monday, July 4, 2016

San Jose Street Sighting - 1950 Studebaker Champion

Today is July 4, America's Independence Day. You may have noticed that the entire last month was devoted to British cars and by now you might be ready for your own declaration of independence. So this week let's check out some classics from independent American automakers. First up is a 1950 Studebaker Champion sedan.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1962 Triumph TR3B

I've never really known what to make of most older Triumph sports cars. The 1950s and 1960s TR2 and TR3 roadsters have a certain bug-eyed look to them. The TR4 was starting to evolve into a modern sports car and eventually turned into the pretty TR6. Then everything went to hell with the wedge-shaped TR7 and Rover V8 powered TR8 in the late 1970s. (I'd love to feature a TR7 or TR8 someday, but they're hard to find.)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1957 Berkeley Sports

I've mentioned the Arcane Auto Society car club before when writing for this site. They're all about preservation and driving of weird old cars that nobody else appreciates. I went to one of their club meetings and this was parked down the block. Folks, this one is pretty arcane. It's a Berkeley Sports roadster ...and that's about all I know.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Just wanted to say thank you to my readers for over 500,000 pageviews. It's been a long road these past seven years, and I'm glad you're here.

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1955 Morris Minor Series II

Before the Austin Mini made its debut and took the world by storm, the Morris Minor was British Motor Corporation's iconic postwar people's car. The Minor went into production in 1948 as the product of several years of development by Sir Alec Issigonis. It featured modern unit-body construction, rack and pinion steering and front independent suspension. Issigonis wanted to create a small cheap car that handled well, that a normal person would want to own and drive. He was successful in that mission and the Minor was the first British car to sell a million copies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1966 Austin Cooper S

Most everyone knows what a classic Mini looks like. It's up there with the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Model T in terms of recognition, because all three cars were important milestones in mass-market vehicle design. The Mini was sold worldwide under various names between 1959 and 2000 and cemented its place in history with over 5.3 million copies. Only about 10,000 were originally imported to the United States through 1967. This is probably one of them.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1934 MG PA Midget

It takes a hardcore British sports car enthusiast to own a pre-war MG. They're small, crude, slow, unsafe and probably leak fluids from every conceivable place. But I imagine that they are one of the purest forms of motoring in a world dominated by modern Suburbans and F-150s with power steering, power disc brakes, automatic transmissions, dual-zone climate control and other such luxuries. A car like this 1930s MG PA Midget has a four-speed manual transmission, non syncromesh. Cable-operated manual drum brakes. Manual steering. Your dual-zone air conditioning is to lower the fabric top and/or hinge down the windshield. And as for power windows... what windows?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pleasanton Street Sighting - 1967 Triumph 1200 Sports

This feature was several years in coming. I first saw this 1967 Triumph 1200 Sports roadster in March 2008, parked on the street near the Alameda County Fairgrounds during a Goodguys Rod and Custom Association car show. Back then it was wearing a set of vintage silver turbine wheels. The next time I saw it, in 2010 in Livermore, the Triumph was sitting on English-made Cosmic Mk1 road wheels painted white. I photographed the car that day but it was in angled street parking and I couldn't get a good profile. That, and the owner showed up during my shoot and needed to leave. I finally got lucky in summer 2015 when I was returning to my car after another Goodguys show and the Triumph was sitting near a railroad crossing a few blocks from the fairgrounds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1975 Jeep DJ-5D

Remember the postal Jeep? That little plodding truck with sliding doors that used to carry the mail for countless thousands of U.S. Mail customers. They have an unmistakable family resemblance to the famous CJ (Civilian Jeep) series 4x4s that evolved into the current Wrangler, but the DJ (Dispatcher Jeep) series was designed primarily for on-road use at low speeds.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1938 Dodge Brothers Fire Truck

May 4th is International Firefighters Day. I felt this was a good time to feature this classic Dodge fire truck in honor of the day and the men and women who serve.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1972 Chevrolet C-20 Custom Camper

I've been a big fan of the 1967-'72 GM pickups since I convinced my dad to purchase a '71 GMC stepside when I was a kid. Most of them around here are either restored customs or tired work trucks now, so a clean stock truck is a great find. This one is a 1972 Chevy C-20 3/4 ton Custom Camper fleetside longbed, and I really like it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1986 Oldsmobile Firenza Coupe

Of all the cars featured on California Streets, a Chevy Cavalier isn't most people's first idea of a rare classic. It isn't even on most people's list of classic cars. So why are you looking at one on this website? Because you aren't, it's an Oldsmobile Firenza Coupe. Same difference, you say? Yeah, it's a GM J-body compact that shares 90% of its body and parts with a Cavalier. But this one features bespoke fascias and wheels, and other goodies that you really can't get anymore. Not many people bought Firenzas when they were new and the aftermarket is nonexistent.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Emeryville Street Sighting - 1963 Volvo PV544 Sport

Tucked away on a quiet corner of a quiet street in Emeryville, California is an unassuming brick building with a simple script sign above its door that says "Fantasy Junction". It lives up to its name. Inside are dozens of classic sports cars worthy of anyone's dream garage, and all for sale. And outside... well, usually there's nothing special outside. But on one of my visits there with a friend who had never been, we encountered this cherry red Volvo PV 544 parked across the street.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1958 Edsel Corsair

It's my birthday today, and I decided that I would choose my favorite street sighting from the archives. I love Edsels and after several years of shooting and blogging street-parked cars, here we finally see one. The fact that my birthday falls just before April Fools Day, ties in well with the fact that the Edsel was a costly marketing failure for Ford Motor Company.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Livermore Street Sighting - 1969 Chevrolet Caprice

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, a holiday that many Americans use as an excuse to get drunk and pretend they're Irish. That means wearing the color green under threat of being pinched. So here's a green car for your viewing enjoyment, and try not to imbibe too much alcohol.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Santa Clara Street Sighting - 1972 Datsun 510

UrbanDictionary defines dropping a dime as snitching on someone, ratting them out. It's a reference to the old practice of putting a coin into a pay phone to make a 10-cent call. I contend this could be an alternate definition of the term. A Datsun 510 is also often known as a Dime in the owners' community, and this one definitely looks like it's been dropped.

Friday, March 11, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1963 Plymouth Belvedere Station Wagon

When cruising around for classic cars on the streets, I sometimes find that the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco yields interesting subjects. A sort of mecca for both tourists and eclectic locals, the Haight has mostly on-street parking for its various homes and businesses and I've run across a number of classics there. This '63 Plymouth Belvedere was a great spotting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1958 Ford Custom 300 Business Sedan

I'm a fan of the Arcane Auto Society car club of Northern California. My second-cousin is a member and I've managed to infiltrate a couple of their annual meets in San Francisco. It usually yields some unique street finds outside of the Cowden Automotive garage, which is too small to hold all of the multitude of oddball tin owned by club members. Is it cheating to shoot there? Maybe. But technically it's not really a car show in the traditional sense (officially it's a business meeting) and cars like this are parked in public street spaces. It's also my blog with my rules and really, what do my readers care if I bend my own arbitrary rules? This is a 1958 Ford Custom 300 Business Sedan.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 Toyota Celica GTA 10th Anniversary Sunchaser

I love the story behind this car. When I was going to college in San Francisco, I used to occasionally see a very tired-looking black and beige Toyota Celica driving around or parked during my walks after class. When I realized the Celica was in fact a rare Sunchaser convertible, I vowed to photograph it for this blog. Due to its poor condition at the time I feared it would soon be going to the junkyard.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1962 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan

It's been a good four years since I last photographed a '62 Chevy Impala for a feature here. I've previously mentioned that old Impalas are such a fixture in California's car culture, I tend not to pay much attention to them. However, they are still historic and still special even though GM rolled out nearly 705,000 of them for 1962. What clinched it for me to shoot this one was its relatively stock appearance and the story it tells.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1931 Ford Model A Pickup

A few years ago Ford killed off the Ranger pickup and a lot of people lamented the disappearance of one of the last true basic, compact trucks. For owners who want a very compact, even more basic truck, there's always one of these.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Emeryville Street Sighting - 1960 Lotus Type 14 Elite

I rarely get lucky enough to run across a car collector with a warehouse or garage full of cars. Just as rare is the collector who has something rare and awesome pulled outside on a nice day and is kind enough to talk to me about it. I had left the Laney College Swap Meet on a Sunday morning and decided to kill some time before I met up with a friend. That's when I happened upon this yellow Lotus Elite and its friend, an Elan SE roadster. The owner planned to take the Elan for a drive and needed to move the Elite in order to get the roadster out the garage door. The owner, a Lotus enthusiast, showed me around his garage filled with some incredible machinery. In the interest of privacy and respect for his property, I did not take any photos in the building and will not disclose its location.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Danville Street Sighting - 1986 Citroën 2CV

One of the things I like about researching for this blog is deciphering license plates. The seemingly random letter and number patterns, various colors and shapes tell a story about the car they're installed on. Sometimes an online resource like California's smog test database yields the model year of an unusual older vehicle. But when it's an import from another country, especially a European model that was built for a long time with few obvious visual changes, having an original plate gives more clues about it. Case in point here with this Citroën 2CV I stumbled upon in Danville.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1965 Porsche 356 SC

Remember back in the day when you wanted to buy a used car and the first place you went was your local classified paper? That told you what was available in your area, assuming the seller paid the fee for a two or three-line print ad that may or may not include a small photo. That worked for a lot of people who wanted a normal car or truck without having to visit a dealer or hang around the local auto auction. But what about the collector car market? Not so long ago you had to buy Hemmings Motor News or Old Car Trader or the DuPont Registry if you were shopping for secondhand classics or exotics. The really high-end stuff often went to auction through companies like Christie's, Bonham's or Barrett-Jackson, where hundreds of cars would be trucked in to a central location for bidding. With the advent of Craigslist and other online listing services like eBay, now you can search all over the world for the right vehicle and even bid on and buy cars online without having to hire a broker.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback

We've looked at a few late first-generation Mustangs here. I typically only shoot classic Mustangs when they evoke a reaction from me. And one way to get my attention is to put a clean fastback in front of me. I'm not usually excited about red cars but I love a good Mustang fastback and this one is a winner.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Santa Clara Street Sighting - 1963 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside

It's the first day of a new year, when we look forward to the potential for great new things. In the spirit of going forward, today's feature is a forward control Chevy Corvair 95 Rampside pickup.