(Found In) Hoover/Foster (Oakland, California): 1969 Pontiac Bonneville 428 Convertible

IMG_4416The truth of the matter is that we can’t lead forever. As much as we crave the stability and consistency in life, time and competition makes sure that we never become stale. Pontiac found itself the leader of a new type of youthful, vibrant, and enthusiastic market of automobiles in the early 1960’s, far away from the gussied up Chevrolet with a Straight 8 that it was at the beginning of the 1950’s.

By the end of the 1960’s, success had started to spoil the sweetest of milk on the market. While all of Pontiac’s line-up in 1964 presented a sporting rakishness, just a mere 5 years later, like a number of American Brands, the Tin Indian tried to field itself in categories it was none too well adjusted to fit into.
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(Found In) Uptown (Oakland, California): 1988 Mercury Sable GS 4 Door Sedan

IMG_3844We’ve covered how much of a revelation the Ford Taurus was to new car buyers when it debuted 32 years ago in the Fall of 1985. But what is to be made of its sister ship, the too new for now Mercury Sable? With half skirted wheels, a full light bar substituting for grille work and a “floating” roof above “wrap around” glass, the Sable gave visual incentive to move into tomorrow today with many a styling feature that once was the reign of Science Fiction.

But was there much substance underneath the fantasy found in fancy Ford dealerships? What *more* did you get over the already trend setting Taurus?

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_3459Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or in the eye of the buyer, I guess. In the twilight zone of the late 50’s, many an automobile brings up the question of what exactly did “good taste” mean in terms of what American car shoppers wanted.

This is where the 1958 Oldsmobile enters into our consciousness. When all is said and done, can you believe that it was one of the most popular faces for ’58? Perhaps entranced by all the sparkling jewelry, we spend time with this glittery gem, figuring out if it was a ghoul or the genteel beast most middle class buyers wanted that year.

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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Cruiser Station Wagon

IMG_3341What if I proposed to you that the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was the most polarizing car of the last 40 years? I’m sure you’d point out there’s plenty of other cars that deserve a bigger medal in terms of era defining cars but I have some key arguments.

Some will say that it was the car that planted the seeds of death for the Oldsmobile brand. Others will tout their ability to abuse the basic sound design of them (of course, once those pesky GM bugs got worked out of the earliest editions) for more than 2 decades and multiple hundreds of thousands of miles worth of trips that could loop the globe. The true meaning of it, as a symbol, lies somewhere down the middle of course, and I try to rectify that while looking at this indeterminable of model year well-equipped Cruiser Wagon version.

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(Found In) Temescal (Oakland, California): 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 700 Sedan

IMG_2311It’s forgotten quite often that the original plan for the Chevrolet Corvair was to be an economical rival to the proliferation of modest European Sedans that found support on the shores of the United States throughout the 2nd half of the 1950’s. Not only was the Volkswagen Beetle a target. Sedans from Renault, Fiat and Volvo alongside more mundane rivals from the domestic market were part of The Corvair’s world domination plans.

Of course, the vast majority of Americans wanted their basic transportation, well, basic. Where did that leave the Corvair Sedans in the wake of the runaway niche success of the Corvair Coupes and new for ’62 Convertibles?

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Dynamic Divergence: My Mother (And) The Car

photo-1-3Social Networking can bring about some really awkward interactions with parents if they are young enough and/or technologically savvy. In my case, they center around my mother and her opinions on some of the curbside classics I find and post to Facebook from time to time.

Due to her direct experience as a fashion conscious (and cautious) teenager in the mid 1970s, a number of classic cars can elicit some pretty strong memories. “Oh god! That is the same Comet grandma tried to buy for me my junior year” was her robust response to this Split Pea Green Comet I found in the El Cerrito hills.

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(Found In) Berkeley Flats (Berkeley, California): 1963 Plymouth Fury Convertible

20464969_10154770123392201_1109620352_oIt’s a miracle Chrysler Corporation survived to see 1965. From the quality disasters of The Forward Look the corporation plunged headfirst into a series of questionable styling ideas that left even loyalists debating whether they were driving the next greatest style sensation or a joke.

By 1963, the Mopar Madness of the last 2 seasons started to fade like a fever dream. Although none of the cars were all-new, they sure looked the part. It was most important at the bottom of the totem pole at Plymouth. The mighty rock had fallen far from its traditional 3rd place in sales last held in 1960. That total only held weight once you factored in Valiant sales. To the bread and butter basic big Plymouth, it found itself emerging from the Chevrolet market missile crisis of ’62 in a brand new suit.

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(Found In) Outer Richmond (San Francisco, California): 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Station Wagon

IMG_1435The Vista Cruiser is an interesting detour in the concept of the family hauler. General Motors always struggled a wee bit with the concept of the station wagon (and the minivan and SUV crazes that followed) compared to Ford and Chrysler.

While Ford had no problem not only selling plenty of Country Sedans and Country Squires, even their Ford wagons had a snob appeal that belied them sharing floor space with the most basic of Henry’s vehicular grandchildren.

GM tried low priced to luxury, 4 door hardtop and sporty station wagons with names like Fiesta and Nomad. Although those wagons have become collectors items in the current, they weren’t exactly prized in the past. Buick and Oldsmobile, in particular, passed the baton from their Full Sized wagons for a good half decade, relying on scenic-cruising bus inspired family haulers based on their intermediate platforms for that certain level of panache for suburban driveways. We celebrate an icon in the sunset of its years as the dog days of summer settle in.

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(Found In) Longfellow (Emeryville, California): 1968 AMC Rambler American 440 Station Wagon

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Always walking to the beat of a different drum, the heritage of AMC stretched back into two independents that had long done it their way. It’s by no chance that the first, least expensive option on offer in their showrooms nationwide relied on the manifest-destiny ringing “American” nameplate.

Back in the days of AMC being rooted in Nash, the Rambler concept was by far the most continually successful compact car concept, making sure to offer those a lot of comfort in their decreased footprint. Closing in on 20 years after the beginning of that risk, what did the littlest AMC product give you in 1968?

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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1996 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency Elite Sedan

IMG_9789There’s been plenty said and 20/20 hindsighted about the fall of Oldsmobile and the historic brand’s demise in 2004. In reality it was a mixed storm, and an amazing bellwether of where consumer tastes had gone alongside the pursuits of ultimate profits by behemoth corporations.

In the crosshairs of being one of America’s legacy brands was the longest lasting legacy flagship, the Ninety Eight. Since 1941, the nameplate graced either the priciest or nearly most pricey proposition in the Oldsmobile showroom. By the time it was aging into being an AARP senior citizen in more ways than one, it found itself condensed down in Oldsmobile’s attempt to assert value priced luxury against the shifting tides towards international flair for fancy, while abdicating the throne to something new in Oldsmobile’s sky, the Aurora. How does one step down from such a profound legacy?

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