The Truth About Cars » Down On The Street Bonus Edition The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Down On The Street Bonus Edition Not What Marx and Engels Had In Mind: Welcome To Hanoi! Thu, 22 Mar 2012 14:30:40 +0000 I just spent two weeks on vacation in Vietnam, and my pre-trip expectations of seeing fleets of left-behind-by-the-French Peugeots, left-behind-by-the-Americans Falcons, and left-behind-by-the-Soviets GAZs turned out to be ridiculously inaccurate. I saw a few old cars (more on that later), but most of the cars in Vietnam are boring late-model rides like Kia Rios and Toyota Innovas. However, I did see quite a few conspicuous-consumption statusmobiles in Saigon and Hanoi; the grumbling old-time revolutionary veterans no doubt refer to the current Hanoi leadership as CINOs. Here’s an example I spotted near St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
You see a lot of old-timey heroic-workers billboards celebrating stuff like the founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the sure-didn’t-look-like-victory-at-the-time Tet Offensive around the country, but Vietnam 2012 has— in the words of Ice-T— a capitalist migraine.
For most Vietnamese, being on wheels means rolling on two wheels; the bike-centric Top Gear Vietnam Special captured the spirit very well. Those of us in the USA have become accustomed to the idea that you need a full-sized SUV or minivan if you have even one child… but Vietnamese city dwellers know better. Motorbikes can squeeze through tiny 14th-century alleys, they get high-double-digit fuel economy, and they can negotiate your typical no-traffic-signal Saigon intersection without stopping.
The problem with bikes, though, is that they’re quite poor at flaunting your newfound wealth. Oh, sure, you can get a BMW or Hayabusa two-wheeler, but what the up-and-coming Vietnamese businessman really needs is a totally impractical, gas-sucking luxury ride. I saw plenty of Benzes and Porsches and even the occasional Bentley, but this is the king!
You want post-Cold-War irony? This H2 (which probably can’t even fit on 80% of Hanoi’s streets and is lucky to average 3 MPH while trying to force its way through a maelstrom of Super Cubs stacked with 50-kilo sacks of soybeans, pushcarts laden with a half-ton of hog innards, and bewildered cops in Toyota Crowns) was parked in front of a store selling vintage Communist propaganda posters.
I’m sure the grizzled NVA vets who see this thing shake their fists and yell “I lost all my buddies to B-52 strikes at Khe Sanh for this?”, but something like 80% of the Vietnamese population is under 30… and they probably ignore Grandpa and think “I’ll have one of those someday!”

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Down On the 1993 Hayward Street: Ripped-n-Stripped Victims Fri, 09 Sep 2011 13:00:28 +0000 When scanning old negatives for the most recent installment of the Impala Hell Project series, I found these Ansco Pix Panorama camera shots that I took in gritty, grimy, industrial Hayward, California in 1993. They didn’t add anything to the Impala Hell Project story, so I’m sharing them in a separate post.
The Fish Driver Warehouse was not far from the site of the now-defunct Hayward Pick Your Part, a yard I’d been visiting since the mid-1980s, and the stretch of West Winton Avenue right outside the junkyard gates was a popular spot to yank parts off stolen and/or unwanted vehicles. Nowadays, with scrap metal prices so high, you wouldn’t see a scene like this.
A de-fendered first-gen RX-7 parked in front of a scissors-jack-suspended Pinto wagon. One thing hasn’t changed: old beater RX-7s still aren’t worth much.
I took this shot through the fence of the Pick Your Part holding area. Look, it’s a Rover P5! Anybody want to take a shot at identifying the ancient truck in the foreground and the sedan in the background?

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Down On The Pasadena Street, 1964 Edition: How Many Cars Can You Identify? Wed, 31 Aug 2011 22:30:48 +0000 Many years ago, I bought a yard-sale box of old 35mm slides in order to score the reusable glass slide-mounts. A few of the original images were interesting, so I hung onto them. With all the scanning of old slides and negatives I’ve been doing for the ’65 Impala Hell Project series, I’ve also been searching for interesting automotive images among the rest of my collection. This photograph from 1964 Pasadena (as in “The Little Old Lady From”, which was a hit song in ’64) contains quite a few interesting vehicles. I’m going to follow up my 1973 San Francisco Car ID Challenge with the 1964 Pasadena Car ID Challenge: what vehicles do you see in this photograph?
The slide is dated 1964 and the Tournament of Roses banners nailed the street down as Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena (yes, the very same Colorado Boulevard terrorized by the Little Old Lady in her Super Stock Dodge), so it was a simple matter of searching business names to find the exact intersection. Patti’s Grill is gone, as is Jack Shannon’s and Bill and Corky’s, but the 35er is still in full effect; this photograph was shot looking west from the intersection of West Colorado Boulevard and North Fair Oaks Avenue.
The front row of cars at the stoplight should be pretty easy, but there’s some fascinating stuff behind them. What’s that lil’ red devil behind the Beetle? And is that a huge hood scoop on the car behind the mean-looking lowered Olds? You’ll be able to see larger version of the images by clicking on the gallery thumbnails below (and waiting patiently— very patiently— for the image to load).
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Down On The 1993 Stockton Highway: Battle-Scarred 1973 Buick Electra 225 Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:30:10 +0000 While scanning endless strips of 35mm negatives for the Impala Hell Project series, I keep running across shots of random cars I thought were interesting at the time. This sort of photography led, 15 years later, to my Down On The Street series, and so I thought I’d share this set of grainy Tri-X photographs of a Malaise Buick in California’s Central Valley, captured on a super-cheapo Ansco Pix Panorama camera.
For most of the later part of 1993, I had a job delivering tropical fish to aquarium stores throughout Northern California, either in a Mitsubishi Fuso box truck (top speed: 58 MPH!) or a beat-to-hell diesel Ford Econoline van. In addition to a boombox powered by alligator clips running to the truck’s fusebox, I always brought a camera along when I drove my route. These shots were taken from the Econoline, on I-5 near Stockton.
I remember thinking “In not too many years, all these battered Detroit luxury barges will be gone, so I should document the final years of this era” when I took these photographs. Sure enough, you rarely saw beater 5,000-pound Malaise dreamboats on the roads after about 1995, and they’re going to be all but extinct now that scrap steel is so valuable. This particular Electra probably never saw the 21st century.
It was 105 degrees out and the Buick’s windows were down, meaning the air conditioning (and probably more than half the power windows) was kaput. What would the equivalent car be today? A ’91 Roadmaster! Not quite as luxurious, thanks to its Caprice ancestry, and much less torque with a mere 305 or 350 cubic inches versus 455 for the Electra… but it’s still possible to enjoy a cheap 20-year-old Buick land yacht.

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Behind the Orange Curtain, 1993 Edition: V8 Mustang II, Ran When Parked Thu, 25 Aug 2011 17:30:35 +0000 After sharing this beater Torino wagon I photographed back in the early 1990s, I ran across a series of shots of an even Malaise-ier machine. Just as silver miners often find lead mixed in with their metal of choice (or maybe it’s the other way around), I keep discovering long-forgotten car photos as I scan the negatives for the 1965 Impala Hell Project series. Here’s a car that I believe has a 0.00043% chance of having avoided The Crusher during the 18 years that have passed since these photos were taken.
During a visit to a friend’s place in Santa Ana, I spotted this basket-case Mustang II in a driveway across the street. I had just discovered the joys of cheap 35mm cameras at that time, so I’d ditched the AE-1 in favor of thrift-store point-and-shoots, disposable cameras hacked and reloaded with black-and-white film, and crappy panorama cameras. This Mustang seemed like a good subject for some artsy experimentation, and so I shot it with three different terrible cameras. This panorama camera had such terrible light leakage that the sun-in-background shots blew out the images in several adjacent frames.
These days, the few Mustang IIs that didn’t die donating their front suspensions to Model A Fords are enjoying something of a comeback. They’re not exactly valuable, but they’re worth a lot more than the nadir of value they reached in the early 1990s.
The Pinto-based Mustang II spent the entire decade of the 1980s being loathed by car freaks, and so an ugly 15-year-old example with mismatched body parts— even with Centerlines— would be about as desirable in 1993 as, say, a slushbox ’91 Hyundai Scoupe with a full Manny, Moe, and Jack customization and a potato for a gas cap would be today.
But look! Finding details in these blurry, grainy photos is like looking for the second gunman in frames of the Zapruder Film, but this car definitely has a V8 emblem on the fender. The Mustang II was available with a just-barely-into-triple-digits-horsepower 302 starting in 1975, but the problem in 1993 was that California hadn’t yet exempted pre-1976 cars from emissions testing. That meant that the owner of this car couldn’t swap in a real V8 and still pass the smog test. Not that it really mattered, since this Mustang probably hadn’t run since Reagan’s first term by the time I photographed it.

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Adventures In Used Car Sales, Recession Edition: Get In Here! Wed, 24 Aug 2011 18:30:11 +0000 Way back in 2008, I created the Nice Price or Crack Pipe? series for Jalopnik, kicking things off with— of course— a $12,500 Chrysler TC By Maserati. NCOCP was a way for me to do something with car ads that didn’t quite work for my Project Car Hell series, and it has remained a Jalopnik readership favorite since I passed the NPOCP torch to the very capable hands of Graverobber aka Robert Emslie. These days, however, I sometimes see cars for sale that make me wonder… hubba rocks required or real-world price? While in Wisconsin last week, I saw this fairly solid ’91 Lebaron convertible in a laundromat parking lot with this very compelling self-service invitation. How much?
Hmmm… $3,250? The Kelley Blue Book website says a private-party-seller 108,000-mile LeBaron convertible with six-cylinder engine in good condition should be worth $1,650 in Wisconsin.
It hasn’t been driven in winter since 2001, but it appears to suffer from multiple electrical problems, oil leaks, and other stuff I can’t quite make out. I’m sure these things are quite rare in the rusty Upper Midwest, so perhaps that buyer who’s been jonesing for a clean LeBaron convertible will come along and get in there.
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Down On The Oakland Street, 1994: Before Taurus Beaters Were Cheap Enough Wed, 24 Aug 2011 13:30:20 +0000 The reason I’m only doing ’65 Impala Hell Project posts every week or so is the fact that it takes for-freakin-ever for me to search and scan endless sheets of 35mm negatives and slides for images that are relevant to the story (the 1999-vintage SCSI film scanner I’m using sure isn’t helping matters). There is an unexpected bonus that comes with this process, however: I keep running across interesting car photos shot during my travels.
I shot this panoramic photograph out the window of my Impala in early 1994, just south of the Nimitz Freeway on High Street. That spot looks much different now, thanks to a new onramp configuration and Shell station upgrade, and you won’t see dudes hauling a pile of crap on the roof of a Malaise Era Torino wagon any more; look for Tempos and Tauruses in that role today.

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Down On the Wisconsin Street: Datsun Sports 2000 Fri, 19 Aug 2011 13:11:15 +0000 You’ve got to love a car named the Sports, if only because it reminds us of the pre-focus-group era. I’m on vacation in Door County, Wisconsin at the moment, which means I’m surrounded by endless Packers paraphernalia, startling quantities of Buicks driven by folks 50 years younger than the normal Buick demographic, cheese curds, and this beautiful street-parked vintage Datsun.
I’ve spotted a few interesting cars in my travels around the peninsula, mostly old Detroit stuff but also a well-preserved Volvo 164 and an MGA. I didn’t stop to photograph those cars, but the sight of the Datsun Sports parked in downtown Sturgeon Bay made me yell “STOP THE CAR!” at my wife.
I’m not enough of a vintage Nissan expert to state an exact year for this car, but I know the side marker lights mean it’s a 1968-70 model.
The wheels look good, the color looks good, and everything on the car looks very solid. These cars are slightly more reliable than their MG/Triumph/Sunbeam/Fiat/Alfa competition of the era, but not enough to have made them the Miata of their time.

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Down On The New Hampshire Street: World’s Nicest Bradley GT Thu, 19 May 2011 15:00:22 +0000
As we all know, 99 and many more nines percent of VW-pan-based fiberglass kit cars were never completed, instead clogging up garages until enraged spouses and/or landlords gave them the heave-ho. That makes the ones that actually got finished extremely rare… and well-built, good-looking examples? There’s probably one per time zone.

This Bradley GT was parked at the LeMons HQ hotel during our Loudon Annoying journey, and it looked incredible with its metalflake bronze paint (a Chevy Aveo factory color, according to its owner) and matching interior.

Yes, that’s a Samuel Adams beer tap as a shifter. Powering this lightweight plastic machine is a 57-horsepower, 1600cc VW air-cooled engine, which is plenty for a car that probably weighs about 1,200 pounds.

This would have been the ideal pace car for our race, but the owner couldn’t make it to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the green flag.

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Down On The Mile High Street: 1971 Chrysler Newport Custom Wed, 09 Mar 2011 14:00:03 +0000
Plenty of interesting street-marked machinery in my Denver neighborhood; on the same block as the Subaru GL hatchback coupe is this huge survivor of three major fuel-price upswings. It didn’t get crushed after 1973 or 1979, and so we can assume— or at least hope— that it won’t get crushed now.

Four-door hardtops are inherently cool, even when they sport a green vinyl top… or maybe that’s especially when they sport a green vinyl top.

The ’71 Newport was a pretty good deal at the time (some would say it kicked off the cheapening of the Chrysler brand that reached its nadir with the Sebring), with the four-door hardtop sedan priced at $4,496 (about $25,500 in 2011 bucks). As Aaron Severson points out in his excellent history of the Plymouth Fury, the more upscale Furies came with sticker prices within a few hundred bucks of their Chrysler-badged C-body siblings, so why buy the Fury?

The base engine in the ’71 Newport was the reliable, though thirsty, 383 V8; for $198, Newport buyers could get the monstrous 375-horse 440 engine. Sure, you’d get 8 MPG instead of 11 MPG, but it would be so worth it!

I’ve always liked the early-70s big Chryslers, and I’m glad to have found a Newport in Denver after shooting several in my former place of residence. There’s this ’71 Newport sedan, for example.

But I much prefer the Newport coupes, even though a 4,000-pound two-door is a pretty silly idea. Here’s a ’71 Newport Royal down on the Alameda street.

And, of course, my favorite: This mean-looking (and mean-sounding) ’70 Newport coupe. I tried to contact the owner of this car, with the idea that I’d buy it and install a 4-speed and 6-71 blower, but (probably fortunately) he or she never responded to the notes I left under the wiper.

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Down On The Street: 1992 Acura NSX Braves Streets of San Francisco Fri, 11 Feb 2011 22:00:00 +0000
Every time I see an early NSX— which, sadly, isn’t often— it reinforces my belief that the early 1990s were a golden age for the automobile. You had decent electronic engine controls instead of carburetors (and primitive might-as-well-be-carburetors 80s EFI), model bloat hadn’t gotten totally out of hand, and the SUV revolution hadn’t yet caused cup holders and other McMansion-esque gear to metastasize from every interior surface of every vehicle. Sure, we’re now living in the Golden Age Of Engines— there’s no arguing with the horsepower and efficiency numbers we’re seeing from internal combustion these days— but I’ll take the early 1990s. And the NSX.

I shot this car in San Francisco a couple of years back, while in transit to the nightmarish Gumball 3000 kickoff, and I was reminded of the photos when I spotted a black mid-90s NSX cruising through the snow in Denver earlier this week.

While the Miata’s “like an MGB, only you can actually drive the thing” concept inspired legions of worshipers, the NSX never really inspired the same sort of passion among North American car freaks (even given the $65,000-versus-$13,400 price tag comparison in 1992).

Speaking of price tags, the ’3,010-pound/270-horsepower ’92 NSX listed at about a grand more than the 3,031-pound/250-horsepower ’92 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 coupe. You could also get a ’92 ZR1 Corvette for a few hundred bucks more than the NSX, which would have given you a mighty 375 horses in a 3,465-pound machine; sure, the build quality might not have been in the same universe as the Acura or the Porsche, but what a deal! Say you were time-machined back to 1992 with a suitcase full of cash and had to choose, which would it be: the NSX, 911, or ZR1?

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