By on December 16, 2010

This week’s Silversides Bus and Tempest CCs were high on my wish list, and finding them motivated me to put in some serious overtime. So today I need a breather, say an urban hike from our house to Skinner Butte, the geographic focal point of Eugene. Now some of you have asked if you could join me sometime on a CC hunt in Eugene; of course you all have a standing invitation; just show up. In the meantime you can join me on a virtual tour/hunt of the Skinner Butte District. I’ll just point out the highlights of the neighborhood, and you just give a shout out when you see something that interests you.

To get oriented, we’ll start at the viewpoint on top: we’re facing south, towards downtown Eugene and Spencer Butte, and our house is a couple of miles off in the distance. A quick note on these two cars: they both passed me as I was heading up, and the two drivers are now both in the black car; that’s a very big dog in the back seat of the red one. The top of the Butte has a long tradition of being favorite meeting (or finding) spot, and Stephanie and I have witnessed some ah…free porn here, once right up against the front of a car. Well, the view is rather romantic…

This is the Butte looking up from where downtown runs into it. That’s the old package depot next to the train station. The Amtrak Coast Starlight stops in Eugene, and we have cool Spanish-built Talgo trains that run up to Portland and Seattle twice daily. But lets head on over the west side of the Butte, which is a lot more colorful.

It’s a little hard to make out, but right above the blue garage are the exposed basalt columns. Here’s a closeup:

No old cars in the parking lot here on this winter day. But if you want to do something active on your lunch break, this is just a few blocks from downtown and five minutes from the university. And there a  number of hiking trails on both sides of the butte. Eugene got its start at the base of Skinner Butte with pioneer settler Eugene Skinner, who so generously lent is first name to the town he founded here in 1851.

This mixed-use neighborhood is a jumble of a few old houses, some businesses that were converted from old mills, like the popular REI store,

and other small commercial and industrial properties.

Just west of the REI store is the seedy Jefferson-Washington “bridge”, actually the very end of the connector freeway (105) that drops one into Eugene, and separates Skinner Butte District from the Whitaker District, the most colorful and CC fertile neighborhood of all. We’ll save that for another “day off”.

Around the corner I will point out a couple of CC milestone cars. The ’72 Caddy was the first CC ever, almost two years ago. And the Corolla served as the first anniversary CC.

Let’s check in on the Caddy’s vinyl roof “garden” and see how it’s coming along. Nice.

Before we leave them to age some more, let’s take a quick look at the faded bread van’s exhortation. Was that Sunbeam bread?

One block south, we can see the back of the old bread van and Tactics, the board sports shop that used to be a popular destination for my younger son (and my wallet).

This neighborhood does attract a higher than average share of eccentrics, or he’s just ready for all contingencies, including cross-country skis on top.

There’s even a small steel fabricating operation around the next corner here. Looks like some of it originated at the Rouge.

Since it’s a bit of a rough neighborhood, some folks feel the need to protect their precious valuables with security fences. Can’t totally blame them, although I doubt they’d have much luck getting this started. But it might make a nice human-powered RV for a transient; beats a shopping cart.

Let’s head north, towards the Willamette River, which runs right through the middle of Eugene. The river runs cool and clean, and is a great place to swim, kayak or drift down on a hot summer day. Here we see the butte from the northwest.

There’s a number of modest cottages here;

Some newer infill houses;

And an apartment building or two.

This bus has been here for a while. I already shot it for a future CC, because it’s surprisingly unusual, likely the only one of its particular make and year still on the road. Patience!  But it’s sporting a brand new paint job today, so maybe I better re-shoot it. Zingy! After you’ve spent a few gray winters in the northwest, you learn to appreciate strong bright colors. You should see our kitchen.

Across the street from the bus is a fellow who operates a vegetarian food cart.

This is the last block before we hit the park, which encompasses the whole north side, from the butte to the river.

There’s a re-creation of Eugene Skinner’s log cabin. Before the town was named Eugene, it was commonly referred to as Skinner’s Mudhole. Now that’s a bit more colorful than Eugene, no?

The gentleman here is giving me the finger for photographing his rig. I did point out to him that I feel I have the right to shoot vehicles parked on the public streets whose existence and maintenance, as well as his ability to park there for free, has benefited substantially from my recent $17k annual property tax payment. He obviously didn’t buy my argument.

He’s not the only benefiting from my largess. Cheese!

On this blustery winter day, there aren’t any families bringing their kids to the big new playground. But there’s something very toy-like about this red, white and blue display in the parking lot.

I want to show a glimpse of the river but there’s no old cars here. Actually, there are some ancient relics of dumped cars embedded in the bank in one place, but the river’s running too high for me to swim out and show you them. Sorry!

As we head east, we emerge at the Campbell Senior Center parking lot. The river is just beyond the green bank.

We’re on the east side of the butte now, which is the most historic neighborhood in Eugene. Lots of charming Victorian houses, but this view shows the effects of no zoning: in the sixties this huge building, Yo Po Ah Terrace, was built right in the middle of it and smack in front of the butte, ruining the view from downtown. That woke up the city fathers and a severe height restriction was quickly enacted.

This house is representative of the scenery here.

The Parkview Apartments is a low-income senior housing project; one is likely to meet seniors in the parking lot too.

Sure enough. Let’s take a closer look at this trendy “green roof”.

Yikes! That’s really come along since the last time I saw it. Time to wrap up and head back to the top of the Butte to catch the sunset.

The west side has a bench which is a great place to catch the day’s last rays when the clouds cooperate.

Looking to the east, we see the pulp mills of sister-city Springfield adding to the clouds, as if they needed the help. The big yellow O is Autzen Stadium, home of the top rated Oregon University Ducks, headed to the BCS National Championship.

One final shot of downtown Eugene in the last light of day before we trot home again (a five mile round trip) for wine and dinner. Oh wait; you wanted to see cars, not scenery. Ok, I’ll dig up one from here that I shot last summer:

The folks in this ‘risienne were straight out of the Big Lebowski; the smoke wafting out the window is lost in the summer haze. Well, if you can’t get laid on top of Skinner Butte, you might as well get high.

For those that made it to the end, I hope that wasn’t too long or tiring. Care to join me on a different urban hike sometime?

[Note: place your cursor over the pics in the unlikely event you need help identifying them]

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49 Comments on “The Curbside Classics Treasure Hunt...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love the camo SUV.  You are eccentric if you write patriotic sayings on the side of an Isuzu AMIGO, although I know production was done in Lafayette, IN.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      The Isuzu owner’s obviously kooky, but I’ve always wondered about these patriots-in-their-own-mind.  Like for example, a guy who parks in my work complex (I think he works for a stock brokerage firm).  Replaces his Mercedes Benz every two years with the most expensive one he can find, them pastes a huge (easily 8×11″) American flag on the trunk lid, right to the left of the license plate.  Hellooooo…

  • avatar

    What a cool city!  Thanks again for sharing, Paul.

  • avatar

    Sure enjoyed the tour.  Thanks.  I believe the green LeSabre is a 1973.  Rear bumper sticks out a little as was necessary 2.5 mph (5 mph rear?) bumpers starting in 1973.  Also, front bumper looks like “blade” used in 73.

  • avatar

    Love the walking tour. I’m interested in old buildings as well as old cars, so this was great. My cousin’s husband would be all over that VW, especially if it had a for sale sign.  Looks like about a ’65.  Ironically, Paul, they live in West Branch, about 5 miles from your old stomping grounds.

  • avatar

    A treasure trove of old heaps and a charming town, to be sure.

    How many old hardtops still exist up there? How about some photos of the Talgo Amtrak trains? Do they still have their “fins” that transition the height difference between the locos and coaches?

    I’d like to come up that way someday. Meanwhile, I have to worry about getting out of Jack’s way if he comes thru Cincinnati!

    @Educ.Dan: “Love the camo SUV” Ditto for the WWII-inspired annotations on the ex-postal Jeep, too!

  • avatar

    Is Eugene the town that time forget or is there no car dealer within a 1000 miles? lol

  • avatar

    Great report! The white Datsun 510 sedan was my favorite. I had a dark green one back in the 1980’s. Poor man’s BMW 2002.

  • avatar

    What a charming town!  I’d love to read about the Cutlass Supreme Brougham (looks to be a 1986).. A couple of FWIW’s, the Bronco is a 1979, and the Parisienne is a 1986, both were in their last years of production.
    Thanks for sharing. If I should ever find myself out west, I am so totally looking you up!

  • avatar

    Existentially joyful wandering through portions of your cluster of humanity.
    Always did enjoy the treks within the I-5 corridor within the Willamette Valley and the stops at “corporate” in Wilsonville where proximity to Portland allowed ventures to kindred spirits attempting to survive in the St Johns area.
    US 30 west to St Helens led to the quasi-commune-like abode of a fellow long-haul trucker who due to my quashing the desires of several neer-do-wells at a truck stop back east who desired the wealth in his wallet demanded I stop by whenever desired (and who had room to park a few semis on the property) and partake of the pleasures provided. Food and refreshments and some extremely righteous green-hued bud with the appearance of miniature Xmas trees.
    A different breed up that-away and the ambiance of the area, cultural, environmental, climatological, and other assorted classifications enhanced the pleasure of visiting and made me ponder the possibility of emigrating to that area but I never acquired the skills that would ensure I could dwell in the Pacific Northwest at more than an extremely rudimentary economic level.
    Here atop “Hillbilly Heights” the cost-of-living is far less than the cost in the MUCH more desirable, to me, geo-political environments of the “green” parts of Washington, Oregon and far northern California.
    Lemme’ win the Lottery for a few million bucks and I will likely roam yer’ terrain seeking a new dwelling with nary a need for scouting out suitable dumpsters for future dietary needs.
    Future similar postings are highly encouraged. Views of conveyances, abodes, local firms, signage and other items either unique to the area of just generally interesting are encouraged.
    If others performed a similar evolution covering their turf performed a similar evolution I would be giddy with glee.
    ‘Round these parts being too obvious with one of them pikcher-taking devices could lead to shootin’ irons being brandished requiring one to take quick-paced actions/reactions for evasion my decrepit aging body is not so good at performing nowadays.

    • 0 avatar

      Good work Paul. The  76 Chev pick up caught my eye. I think I might of built that Parisienne. I’m always shocked at the daily drivers you folks have. 25 year old cars and trucks,unheard  of in my part of the world………… @ obop…..Dude, you have a gift. I can’t be the only one that finds your stuff so interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Obbop, you do have a gift! I believe from many of your musings that the above Isuzu Amigo might’ve served as one of your humble residences at one time or the other!

      Regarding the Chevy P/U truck:
      My first new vehicle was a 1976 Chevy truck. 3/4 ton, 292, stick w/granny gear. Red w/white top, saddle tan interior, full guages, no radio. Rear step bumper, heavy-duty suspension options, Custom Deluxe. Ordered from the factory in October, 1975, delivered day after Thanksgiving, 1975. Sold it almost for what I paid for it two years later, day after Thanksgiving, 1977! No matter how I drove it, 13.5 mpg was the best I could do. Took the money and paid the loan, paid off other debts after getting married, bought our 1976 Gremlin, still had money left over! The Gremlin was loads of fun.

  • avatar

    The 510 looks remarkably clean…a good candidate for a cc.  The Ford Falcon would be a good one, especially if you get one of the handful built with the K Code 289.  What the hell is that rear engined van-type conveyance.
    And that El Camino is the perfect conveyance for, say, a licqour store robbery.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the great walking tour, paul! i’ll second that suggestion for the 510- sweet little car.

      That read engined ‘conveyance’ is a Fiat 600 Multipla… if anyone tune into ‘Chasing Classic Cars’ on HD Network they recently showcased on of those– dude wanted 40k+ for it.  crayz.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      There’s a 510 CC already in the CC Portal. A Falcon CC is overdue. Are you referring to the Fiat 600 Multipla?

  • avatar

    It is a charming town!  When I flew for a regional airline, we used to do our fair share of overnights in EUG.  We stayed in the Red Lion next to a grocery store (Albertsons?) that had a great deli and salad bar, and down the road just a bit was the river walk.  I spent lots of time on that river walk jogging, walking, taking in the sights.  Then a trip to Eugene HAD to include a stop by the Steelhead Brewery where they had these HUMONGOUS cobblers – delicious!  Eugene was so refreshing and relaxing after coming out of Phoenix, AZ. 

  • avatar

    Thank you…I enjoyed the look around.

  • avatar

    Love it…

    It seems like a place that is easy to love? this odyssey speaks a lot about love, and I like that. It seems to have its share of charm and eccentricity, and that is always interesting.

  • avatar

    It’s like stepping into an alternate dimension! Fiat Multipla, Corona wagon, Corolla wagon and Corolla Sportwagon, and a first gen Tercel! Awesome.

  • avatar

    Just wondering, does this town have any ‘new car’ dealerships?  This place is a treasure trove of old cars.  :o)

  • avatar

    Thanks for sharing.
    My brother had a Bronco like the one seen here, purchased despite my dad’s warning not to.
    He did and it consistently emptied his wallet by slurping gas and oil, from constant repairs and was flummoxed by anything calling for off road capability.
    The El Camino looks ridiculous with a topper IMHO, like a useless appendage.

  • avatar

    I’m trying to keep am appreciative heart, but a jealous rage is bubbling up inside me. But I’ll take a deep breath and thank you for the tour and all the great wheels. I love to learn about new places, especially to add context to the vehicles found there. The Falcon, Bronco and Buick are my favorites, but all the vehicles are worth a closer look.

  • avatar

    I lived on Monroe Street in that part of Eugene for much of the ’70’s while attending the U of O. My fall term student loan check was a sufficient down payment to become a home owner, something I don’t think you can do today.

    I love that some of those same cars were probably parked there back then.

  • avatar

    Hi Paul, nice little tour of Eugene… my older brother went to grad school at U of O… we have friends in the area… and we’ll probably be there in January for the FaerieWorlds Winter Ball… my problem with Eugene is (having first visited there 30 years ago) 1. All the aggressive, ubiquitous derelicts (I no longer have tolerance for homeless folks, after living in SB & SLO and getting ripped off, many, many times, by these folks) and 2. As I mentioned to one of our friends, “Eugene is like L.A. with pine trees.” We have lived in a small, rural town for two decades now, and we own property near Monmouth… I dunno… all the traffic, all the noise, all the crazy people… your town is interesting, but only in small doses… though I must admit, Eugene has a high per capita number of very cool cars!

  • avatar
    H Man

    Makes me homesick, Paul!  Nothing better than eatting a few “shrooms” and wandering around the Butte.
    Hope to see more of these.  Junction City, Harrisburg, Veneta… CC gold.

  • avatar

    Additional proof of your continually brilliant photo essays. So simple in concept. Done with such style. Always sweet. Always surprising. Jam packed with glorious detail. Thanks, Paul.

  • avatar

    Terrific! But there were a couple of pictures with no cars in them at all, and worse, one with a Dodge Shadow.

  • avatar
    - mr -

    What is it about this place that makes it such a treasure trove of old cars? Is it the demographics? It it the fact that people have stepped away from the rat race in the area?
    I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious – I’m English so have no clue about the area myself…..

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Your answered the question largely with your third question. And there’s no salt on the roads to rust the cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, as Paul said, much of the West coast, with exception of the actual coasts don’t have the rust issues that you find on the east coast.
      That said, I live in Seattle where 20 Y O cars are as rust free as you’ll find, and 25 YO cars and 30 YO cars too for that matter. Tis fun living where it’s not unusual to spot a 35 YO or older car still running under their own steam and looking relatively rust free for the most part if they spent much of their lives out here to begin with.
      Seattle is FULL of these older automotive treasures, just walk down about any street and you’ll see what I mean…

  • avatar

    Cool photo essay.  Many people don’t realize how much interesting stuff is in their own back yard.
    BTW, the green bus has the longest rear overhang I have ever seen on a vehicle.  That thing must be hell to pull out of a sloped driveway or railroad crossing!

  • avatar

    Very enjoyable! It just amazes me as a back-easter…all the older cars and they shape they’re in, although the moss growing on that Buick roof is just a bit creepy.

  • avatar

    The Electra in the first pic reminded me: Any review of the ’85 C-bodies coming soon? Perhaps a “Curbside Classics: Roger Smith Special Edition”?

  • avatar

    “…higher than average share of eccentrics…”

    I sold a house to a guy who thought he wanted to get away from the rain in Eugene-he sold it after six months to move back, complaining that Bend didn’t have enough “diversity”. I had to agree that Eugene’s got ‘diversity’-a-plenty, a bit much for my tastes.

    Great photo tour, thanks a bunch.

  • avatar

    Somehow even after all of my trips to Eugene growing up, I’ve never been up the hill for the view. May have to do that next time I’m in town.
    Everyone non-local, there are quite a few newish cars, and many places in the city that aren’t that weird. That neighborhood is a strange place though…

  • avatar

    Reminds me of when I used to live in Lawrence, KS.  I used to call it “Cuba” because of all of the old cars.  They weren’t collector cars — simply old cars (50s, 60s, 70s) that people, somehow, were keeping on the road, sometimes barely.

  • avatar

    “Eye Candy”, the first pic, the yellow Chevy truck (I’d love to own one of those with an LS1, injection, etc…), the A-Body and the white Caprice.
    Those 2 Ford trucks look very nice.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the tour, it must be the lack of road salt in Eugene, but here in Kansas (with the
    possible exception of Lawrence) the eclectic collection of vehicles simply doesn’t exist. One exception was several years ago on the military post I used to work on, a GI drove around in a
    Fiat 500 he had purchased in Italy-top speed 62 mph.  He claimed he took it out on I-70 which in my humble opinion was living dangerously.

  • avatar

    The 80’s was when Japan was king, and these pictures prove it.

  • avatar

    Nice walking tour of Eugene, what an eccentric place indeed! Love the collection of cars you spotted, some great, some not so great but man, the older Toyotas that exist!

    I was, fortunately, able to identify roughly half of the cars by at least their maker, if not model and/or year.

    Nice to see where people live. I can’t live in small towns/cities, places smaller than Seattle just don’t do me as I found out when I lived once, briefly in Medford Or. To quote Gary U.S. Bonds, I wanna holler, but the town’s too small…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I am getting a bit burned out on Atlanta.
    If I ever have have the moxie or some long free moments from the auctions, I’ll make sure to spend some extended time in your neck of the woods.
    Great article as always.

  • avatar

    During the depths of domestic auto manufacturing (the mid-to-late seventies), there was a great article in Car and Driver called ‘The Children of Eugene’. They drove around high school parking lots looking at the types of cars and the general gist was that the musclecars from the early seventies had depreciated enough in price that minority high-school teenagers could finally afford to buy them.

    Like CC, there were some great photos of what appeared to be a ’70 Chevelle, ’70 Torino, and ’71 Mach 1.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the tour, Paul. I would love to read a CC on that E28 BMW 535is.

  • avatar

    I love that ragged old ’72 coupe de Ville. driving thast I bet NOBODY would argue with you over right-of-way.

    Excellent article. I love Eugene, and used to vacation yearly abgout 30 miles away, east of there, in Vida, in a cottage overlooking the Mc Kenzie river. forests, waterfalls, the FCougar Dam, the Lava beds on 126 and Sisters. Truly a captivating area.

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