(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) Northgate (Oakland, California): 1972 Buick LeSabre Hardtop Coupe

IMG_1155When did Buick become a car for the elderly? It’s really hard to say. For most of the early post-war era, Buick more or less espoused the belief in more subtle, less ostentatious luxury, in comparison to GM cousin brand Cadillac. During that same period, there were extensions downward to price categories just above Chevrolet, and attempts at re-cementing their reputation as Banker’s Hot Rods as well.

Another belief was offering a whole lotta car for a minimum of a premium. As the Special nameplate drifted out of sight to re-appear as a luxury compact in the fall of 1960, the least dear Buick for your pocketbook became the LeSabre. Perhaps being a perennial customer favorite with people starting in 1959 lead to something of a reputation.

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Dynamic Divergence: Seeing The U.S.A. Through Chevrolet

IMG_1057The Wonder Years is now on Netflix. So of course, when left to my own devices with a Netflix account (I don’t have one personally) of course I’m going to indulge in repetition of comforts. Front and Center, 3 episodes in, is the Arnold family’s 1963 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan, Green with a White top, as they swoop back silently, in middle class white grief, back from Winne Cooper’s brother’s funeral.

It reminded me of a quote I’m paraphrasing about 1960’s Middle Class station that Oprah made once. The determining entrance point for all middle class families that had “arrived” in some sense was purchasing a Chevrolet Impala. Once upon a time, the true marker of comfort meant the largest, most luxurious Chevrolet. Between 1960 and 1965 that number went from just under half a million to more than a Million. Year after year, a sextet of tail lamps meant equal if not more than a six figure salary does today.

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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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Dynamic Divergence: Town Pride – Oakland 100 years since becoming “Detroit of The West”

IMG_9202“Young blood, you should get you a Old Skool. Now that’s a true investment that’ll always increase in value” this old Black man said to me as he tried to sell me his 1971 Cutlass Supreme he’d just dumped $18,000 worth of work into. I was on my way to firm up details for a DJ gig that required me to walk through the monthly fair weather gathering between 21st and West Grand once anchored by the Telegraph Giant Burger location and the dueling Gas Stations on either side of Telegraph Avenue.

When I returned to the East Bay in 2011, it was a haven of the Oakland that had been rather key in bringing my family in their journey to this pocket of the West Coast. In the early 20th Century, Oakland more or less was The Detroit of The West.

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(Found In) Outer Richmond (San Francisco, California): 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Convertible

IMG_0622It’s weird to be David when your dad is Goliath. Compounding the dilemma is there’s always a series of giant killers out to strike down that object that towers over them. Here’s where we find the Chevrolet Corvair for its 6th Season, first comprehensive re-design standing in full embrace of its most appropriate mission statement.

Gone were the pretenses of being an economy machine. Gone with the wind was any pretense to really run with the pack of other jocks. The Corvair was General Motors first home grown international game player. Too bad dad was withholding of any true affection.

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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1987 Ford Taurus GL Station Wagon

IMG_0412It was a revolution on wheels for the ordinary American Family Sedan. Even more so as a Station Wagon. Therein lies the miracle of the Original Ford Taurus. Long having played catch up to everyone else when it came to mainstream innovation, Ford fancied a future for mainstream buyers GM, Chrysler and a host of competitors couldn’t envision slipping into as tomorrow’s dream today.

The softening of the two and three traditional boxes that the average sedan and wagon came in softened a lot of buyer’s hearts. Far from the upright, puritan machines that had courted most American buyers since the Post-War. Stepping up to an international stage in design language, the Taurus showed that patrician pragmatic patriotic lines could only take the American car only so far into the future. Readying us for a slew of technology for the 21st Century, we have the re-imagined family truckster to look over 30 years after it flew into dealerships for its second season.

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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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(Found In) Elmwood (Oakland, California): 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety – Eight Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_9731Although still tied to the Futuramic Ninety Eights that pushed Oldsmobile into the stratosphere of the 1950’s a few years too early, the once again warmed over line topping Rocket Oldsmobiles had plenty of new before they were more fully redesigned for 1954.

Like a sneak preview of the potential return to the showroom in the years to follow, enough goodies went above and below the skin for 1953 the keep viewers glued to the screen for the latest flight into the Pre-Interstate highway space. Here’s why folks continued to make dates with rocket powered Oldsmobiles in 1953.

 

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