Category: Curbside Classics

By on October 28, 2010

From the blooming tree in the photo, it’s obvious that I didn’t just shoot this Tempo recently. But then it wasn’t just this past spring either; it was a year and a half ago. Why have I been temporizing? Few cars leave me feeling more conflicted than the Tempo: is it a Deadly Sin or a Greatest Hit? But I find myself in a temporary state of equanimity today, so let’s see if we can’t put the Tempo into proper perspective. Tempus fugit; it’s now or never. Read More >

By on October 26, 2010

The Volt is GM’s current answer to CAFE mandates and a hedge against high oil prices. In the mid eighties, the answer to the same challenge was the Chevy Sprint. The two couldn’t be more more different.

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By on October 24, 2010

The early eighties was the most revolutionary and unique time in the American automobile industry ever. Thanks to exploding oil and fuel prices, and with the expectation that the increases would continue indefinitely, for the only time ever Americans embraced radical downsizing with a fervor. It was as if the US was finally joining the rest of the world. Of course, it didn’t last; as soon as oil prices started dropping, everyone quickly forgot the whole episode, and the truck/SUV boom soon exploded. But for a few short years, it was out with the big, in with the small. The little relics from that era are becoming hard to find: K-Car limousines, Chevy Sprints, Diesel Rabbits (no worries; I have). And some of them I’d forgotten ever existed, like this tiny FWD diesel KubVan. Read More >

By on October 21, 2010

We’ve spent a lot of time in the sixties and seventies lately, probably alienating some of our younger readers, so lets set the time machine a bit closer to home. Why did I pick this? Because I think its a pretty fine looking car, as well as being one of the last of its genre: affordable fun-to-drive, lightweight RWD coupes. Kind of ironic, that this vintage of the SX/Silvia was a looker, because most of its predecessors sure weren’t. Some things do improve with age. Read More >

By on October 19, 2010

Go ahead and laugh. I did, when I first ran across this Mercedes 220S with genuine wire wheels. Yes, it’s a major cultural faux pax, if one understands the German approach to such things; it’s the equivalent to putting full wheel covers on an XK-E. But taken in the bigger context, this well-loved 1965 220S is highly symbolic of Americans’ love affair with the three pointed star that began to really bloom about then. And like most affairs of the heart, rational thinking wasn’t necessarily a predominant part of it.  Read More >

By on October 16, 2010

Dodge trucks have gotten short-shrift around here. They do tend to kind of disappear in the background, especially this generation, even thought they were built almost forever. But this one caught my attention, given the love and effort that went into this home-built “gypsy-wagon” camper on back. Let’s take a closer look. Read More >

By on October 14, 2010

What exactly is the American Dream? Was it easier to answer that question fifty years ago? If you were seven years old, and had just arrived from Austria at the same time this 1961 Thunderbird first appeared, the answer is definitely yes. What more was there to aspire to then this? Seeing fifty of these convertibles in Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade only cemented the image. In America anyone could realistically aspire to own a car that actually looked like a Dream Car in a car show, one that would glamorously jet you away from the humdrum of ordinary life, if not exactly rocket you to the moon. Yes, in the fall of 1960, Ford was building my dream. But it was short-lived.

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By on October 12, 2010

Our recent deep immersion in eccentric little French cars might have been a bit much for some of you, so I decided to give you something as all-American as possible: a loaf of Wonder Bread instead of a baguette.

This American certainly isn’t challenging; visually, technically or otherwise. A big, cast-iron six resides under the hood, with more than six times the displacement of the Citroen Ami 8’s little twin. Instead of an umbrella handle, a column mounted shifter operates the fully automatic transmission. And its output is sent back to a solid rear axle suspended by cart springs. The Rambler American and the Ami 8 are both from the same era, but approach their task about as differently as possible, in almost every conceivable way. And today, two of the best selling small cars in both countries, the Nissan Versa and Renault Clio/Modus are essentially siblings. That’s why I find haunting the streets more interesting than an auto show.

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By on October 9, 2010

I return from Paris fulfilled. This was a family trip, with a focus on culture, museums, food and window shopping; not cars. But in our walking haunts of Paris’ most colorful neighborhoods, I found exactly what I needed to keep CC going on its regular schedule: two classic little French cars, and one truck, to continue the trucks-on-Saturday tradition. And not just any old truck, but the most iconic French truck ever. The Citroen H Van’s distinctive appearance and corrugated panels exude everything that is the French approach to automotive solutions: technically innovative, eccentric yet practical, visually delightful (some may take exception), and with a timeless appeal. And I have my younger son to thank for finding it. Read More >

By on October 7, 2010

I know some of you dear readers think I’m overly infatuated with tiny underpowered foreign toy cars. And you’re right! But that’s not why you’re rubbing your eyes looking at this visually challenging Ami 8; it’s the only other French vintage car I’ve found parked on the streets we roam on foot. But…I’m thrilled with my fate; the Ami was very high on my list of cars I was hoping to find (after a Peugeot 404), even if its not the earlier and more bizarre Ami 6. Now that would have really made an expensive trip to Paris worthwhile. And get this: the Ami looks pretty tame compared to the car that Citroen planned to build in its place. Get your sunglasses ready: Read More >

By on October 5, 2010

Despite being in sensual Paris, no one is going to accuse me of shameless sexual exploitation by posting this ugly little R4, or the woman behind it. I was late on the draw, and just missed a gaggle of cute girls who just walked behind it thirty seconds earlier. Why do they all have to smoke, though? Back to the subject at hand: I know many Americans may barely know know of the R4’s existence, and would be quite happy to go their graves without being enlightened to its Gallic charms. But it does represents one of the most important milestone in the development of the modern car: this lowly little box created and defined the whole genre of the compact hatchback. And it has a few other significant honors in its resumé. So put your anti Frenchy-car bias aside for a few minutes, and I promise to make it quick. And I have a bit of sexiness for the end. Read More >

By on September 30, 2010

The Pontiac GTO generally gets bragging rights as the first of its kind: the classic intermediate-sized Detroit muscle car. It first appeared in 1964, and pretty much defined the category. But the Olds 442 also first saw the light of day in ’64, as a special performance package available on the F-85. The main differences between them: 59 cubic inches, 15 horsepower and healthy dollop of marketing savvy. The last one made all the difference: the Goat outsold the 442 by over ten to one in ’64. Chalk it up to John Z. DeLorean and the Mad Men. Read More >

By on September 28, 2010

Sorry, Hemi Cuda fans, but this is one of my most prized CC finds. As you know all too well by now, CC is not about haunting car shows for immaculate trailer queens. It’s about documenting the cars that were once so (kind of?) common on our streets, and now are mostly gone. When is the last time you ran across a gen1 I-Mark? There’s probably a thousand Hemi Cudas (genuine or clone) for every I-Mark still soldiering along. And let’s not forget that in addition to just its rarity, the I-Mark also represents GM’s first big global car adventure. The T-Cars were made and sold by the millions all over the globe. I assume you recognize a mildly disguised Chevette or Opel Kadett C when you see one? Read More >

By on September 25, 2010

This Econoline caught my eye for a number of reasons. These old bread boxes are getting scarce, even in Eugene. And this is one of the extended-body SuperVans, no less. But that’s not all; it has a trick in its hat. Watch this: Read More >

By on September 23, 2010

Americans generally just don’t take too well to tiny cars. Perhaps they’re too much like toys, not really yet grown up? The Metropolitan certainly looks the part, resembling an amusement park ride or clown car rather than a genuine automobile a self-respecting grown-up American would drive. And this particular Metro only reinforces that stereotype: it’s owner is fourteen, and he’s owned it since he was ten. “Dad, can I have this cool car?” Read More >

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