(Found In) Richmond District (San Francisco, California): 1965 Buick Skylark Convertible

image (19)As we head into Convertible season, we look back 50+ years to the peak of the Convertible Market. All American brands minus soon to exit the sales field Studebaker offered convertibles. From petite to ponderous, the choices abounded for budgets stuck in the basement all the way to Bergdorfs.

Buick didn’t stay out of the game at all, offering convertibles in all series except the super exclusive Riviera for ’65. Prize of the smaller lines however was the delightful, spritely and spirited bird named Skylark. For those looking for a pinch of personal luxury in a more petite (if not by as much in the recent past) the Skylark proved the perfect pie to consume on the interstates.

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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1966 Cadillac DeVille Convertible Coupe

image (5)As the 2nd half of the 1960’s got underway, Cadillac found itself not doing much wrong. The most premium General Motors offering had long banished American luxury rivals to the lower rungs of the sales charts, if not into the grave. However, this swagger combined with swelling size would eventually be the sword The Standard of The World would nearly mortally wound itself on.

The 1966 Model year represented perhaps the pinnacle of substance, style and snob appeal that would be eventually whittled away from copious Caddies for more than 2 decades. This knight in shining white armor droptop tells a rather peculiar tale of being laurel crowded, yet resting on said laurels at the same time.
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(Found In) Portola (San Franciso, California) : 1960 Chevrolet Impala Convertible Coupe

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It might be amazing to most minds that this flaming red finned flamingo of late 50’s meets the turn-of-the-decade imagination was considered more conservative than what came before. With some flattening of curves and angles, the Space, Spirit and Splendor of the 1960 full sized Chervolets prepped them for a decade of more mature motoring and discretionary buyer tastes.

The rationality mixed with moxie would propel the Impala towards becoming one of the keystone cars of the 1960’s. Like the missile trim on the sides, there was nowhere to go but forward for the priciest non-sports Chevrolet.
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(Found In) The Dogpatch (San Francisco, California): 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Sports Coupe

image (4)Although late to the heart of the intermediate market, General Motors soon ruled the roost in mid-sized car offerings. Of course, Chevrolet held the reputation of offering a sensible, stylish way to step into new car ownership. Once the segment of the market was discovered, it took no time for Chevrolet to field an entry. No doubt, the Chevelle Malibu Hardtop proved to be a familiar favorite almost from the beginning.

After all, the Chevelle Malibu fit into a size slot vacated by one of the most popular used cars of the early 1960’s: the 1955-56-57 standard Chevrolet. For many a buyer graduating from used cars to their first new cars, the Chevelle proved to be a perfect choice.
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(Found In) Uptown-Northgate (Oakland, California) 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Convertible

14870503304_33bc4e5b89_h The call to let the sunshine in and dawn the Age of Aquarius was a decade turning herald call. However, the sun was about to set on the American Convertible as the 1970’s plowed on. In the personalization and self-actualization days of the early 1970s, the coddling comforts of Air Conditioning, tinted glass and vinyl roofs conferred more savvy than free in-the-breeze sporty, top down motoring. Sunroofs and too many sunburns lead people away from top down motoring in the way it had been embraced in the past.

As sporting life gave way to laps of luxuries, convertibles fell on their swords one by one. One of the last rousing relative successes of the genre was the burgeoning darling of the middle of the market, the much beloved Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale 4 Door Sedan

imageIn so many ways for the last rear-wheel drive Oldsmobile 88, it was the same at the ending as it was at the beginning. Once the star of the horsepower race, over time the Oldsmobile 88 became your average middle class car for Ordinary People. It wasn’t so much a fall from grace one might expect. Moreso the manifestation was consistent conservatism for Lansing’s biggest bread and butter loaf.

For 35+ years, the 88 gave reliable doses of 6 passenger comfort, smooth rides, quiet operation and a decent surge of V8 power. Soon enough though, the double-eight badging would have little significance as the march of badge engineering acted as a stick of dynamite against the GM Sloan ladder from the 1920s. It continued to splinter and crack under the weight of more profits and more competition for a shrinking class of buyer.

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(Found In) Oak Center (Oakland, California): 1970 Oldsmobile Ninety – Eight Holiday 4 Door Hardtop Sedan

24201093003_f2e9738c84_kThe Oldsmobile Ninety Eight had made a career of stating “why buy a Cadillac?” The distance between what the Oldsmobile offered at a 25-30% discount over a comparable edition of The Standard Of The World often made the Ninety Eight seem like the most sensible sensation in the Near-Luxury field.

Quite often, the details of this most premium of Oldsmobiles actively upset product managers at Cadillac. The “Deep Discount DeVille” matched with the sterling reputation Oldsmobile cultivated for decades, but most importantly in the post-war market, set the groundwork for the brands stratospheric rise during the “me” decade of the 1970’s which found the brand even ahead of Ford at points for the #2 spot on the sales charts. Continue reading “(Found In) Oak Center (Oakland, California): 1970 Oldsmobile Ninety – Eight Holiday 4 Door Hardtop Sedan”

(Found In) Northbrae (Berkeley, California) : 1954 Buick Century Series 60 Riviera Hardtop Coupe

24491960910_e9746b5df3_kOnce Buick engineered their Nailhead V8, they weren’t happy with letting their competitors in-house and beyond have the performance crown. Buicks were once known as Banker’s Hot Rods. Returning for 1954 was the quicksilver Century, ready to snatch trophies from in house cousin the Oldsmobile 88, among others.

Along with accessible performance came a new beefier body, and a desire to capture even more sales. On the backs of the B-Body Special and Century, Buick wanted more than the delinquents in suits, it wanted to rob the whole medium price sales bank. In a number of ways they did.
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(Found In) Santa Fe (Oakland, California): 1968 Chevrolet Caprice Custom Coupe

24154492823_93527b6c57_k The increased emphasis of accessible luxury made the Caprice the new King of the Chevrolet castle in a short number of buyer seasons. Although the Impala still held the sway over many new car buyers as the default choice for motoring finery, more and more people elevated their purchases to the most princely of Chevies as the 1960’s wound down.

American audiences love a little snob appeal. The American-as-Apple-Pie and Baseball Impala seemed too optimistic a choice, too unaware to cynical self preservation and exclusivity. Hoping to catch buyers before they elevated themselves further up the Sloan ladder, or into different products within Chevrolet’s showroom, the Caprice vowed to be the luxury car for the every-person.
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(Found On) Solano Avenue (Albany, California) : 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne 4 Door Sedan

12584137_10153265271507201_331493942_nAlthough recognized as an icon today, the 1957 line of Chevrolet standard sized cars got left in the popularity and newness dust by both rivals Ford and Plymouth. The remarkably upright and befinned Bel-Airs and below saw themselves trying to peddle modest virtues and technological updates compared to time-traveling Plymouths and Fancier Fords.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with USA-1, as they found themselves in the #2 spot by the end of the year, nor did it make General Motors feel comfortable about any upsurge with rivals. What to do? Bulk up your bargain offering for the next season. American consumers tend to associate value with bulk, what possibly could go wrong?

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