(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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(Found In) McClymonds (Oakland, California): 1970 Buick Skylark Custom Two Door Hardtop Coupe

img_4712Buick has counted on you really rather having its wares throughout its history. The turn of the decade from 1969 to 1970 was no different, as more commonality crept in between all of General Motors intermediate cars.

Gone from A-bodies were different base line Six Cylinder engines, oddball 2 speed automatic transmissions, and distinguishing curves and creases that gave more than brand loyalty to hang sales upon. Where did that leave Buick’s pride bird at the top of their fleet as buyers slid into the me decade?

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(Found In) Northwest Berkeley (Berkeley, California): 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

image (21).jpegIt’s not easy peaking the first time on stage. It happens with music acts, television shows, and quite often, cars. The combination of right place, right time and blessings from the stars (and economic conditions) bodes well for certain product successes. Here lies the story of the re-branded, midsized Ford Fairlane. For one shining moment, without market factors against it, it claimed a genre all unto it’s own.

By 1964, it found itself, like many a pioneering girl group in the shadows of something Supreme rising from Detroit. Once the starlet, now a reliable box office draw, it tried a hand at presenting something special, smart and sporty. Yet somehow time passed it by.

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(Found In) Cragmont (Berkeley, California): 1965 Pontiac GTO

image (31)In the middle Sixties fires shot among brands, the Pontiac GTO probably ranks a close second to one of the most potent bullets of the decade. Like the Ford Mustang, it satisfied a thirst for wild abandon behind smaller, sportier, more powerful machines from Detroit’s big three. The GTO maximized profits even further than the Mustang since it shared its humble body with other mid-sized Pontiacs, which, in reality, meant it shared quite a bit with offerings from Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Buick as well.

Pontiac, holding court as the third most popular brand in America in the mid 60’s, saw that its latest crowned performance prince became the winner above all others when it came to the image of being the best jock on the road. For its sophomore season, it secured its ranks on the Varsity team of performance cars in the United States.

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1959 Mercury Monterey 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

photo-2The superstitions around “Mercury Retrograde” are perceived as explanations for communication and travel gone awry. Maybe that was the first mistake Ford made; naming their middle brand Mercury in the first place. For every two steps forward the brand made, it seemingly made two steps back.

They always ended up in the same place: being a Fancy Ford. Before it gave up the ghost and entered another period of review, the 1959 Mercury models tried to right any wrongs that prevented its individualized success on the medium car market.
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(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) Lone Mountain (San Francisco): 1958 Dodge Royal Lancer D-500 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

12666505_10153279337232201_596618935_nThe fabulous fin-tailed Forward Look rocked the industry in 1957. Beyond the styling and the engineering, Mopar’s mainstream brands all fielded muscle coupes and convertibles as halo highway eaters. The most demonic Dodge was the least known, however.

Not casting a singular performance model, the Royal Lancer decidedly played double duty, offering a multi-layered approach to the burgeoning medium priced luxury field. Perhaps the only Dodge tactic not encroaching fully on DeSoto territory, it’s among the rarest of a rare breed of bird.
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(Found In) Poet’s Corner (Berkeley, California): 1973 Mercury Monterey Custom 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

12575907_10153265422877201_1392809317_nThe epitome of leviathan bulk during the excessive “Me” decade of the 1970’s can be exemplified by the bulk of full-sized offerings from all Detroit Brands. You can’t point a finger at any American Manufacturer without blaming the other for producing some of the most blatantly wasteful automobiles of all time, decidedly at the wrong time when it comes to market conditions.

No example shows a lack of ideas better than a 1973 Mercury Monterey 2 door hardtop coupe, however. Basically a super tanker on wheels, it spoke of everything possibly gone wrong with the traditional American Car. In the huge shadow that this porcine parkway pounder cast, many a sea change in the American Automotive landscape started to take root.

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(Found In) The Bayview (San Francisco, California): 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

12570985_10153265225732201_290692963_n If this Dodge Charger was decked out in All-Black, it would cut a far more threatening presence on the streets of San Francisco. As it stands, resplendent in a shade close to gold, it remains one of the most celebrated muscle machines of the late 1960’s.

The Charger was a cross section model with little definition. It too big to be a Pony Car, too unique in design to be a mainstream Mid Sized Muscle car (and Dodge had Coronet R/T models to serve that purpose) yet not as luxurious as some rivals to be cast as a personal coupe. In theory, it was one of the most unique Mopar offerings for the 2nd half of the 1960’s, and had a special corner of the market all to itself.
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(Found In) The Bayview (San Francisco, California): 1958 Pontiac Star Chief Catalina 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

23985721980_fc3af3262e_kToday we feature a little Black Lives Matters automotive history alongside the trajectory of the Pontiac Motor Division in the late 1950’s. Our subject car has a story too precious to pass up in terms of our collective history. It follows the intersection of race, class, consumerism and pride all wrapped up in chrome dreams from Baghdad By The Bay. 

With a photo a little out of format for our blog, we bring you one very special Pontiac Star Chief. Pride of multiple generations of San Franciscans both migrant and born, its a cherished family heirloom that moves along the streets nearly 60 years later.
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