(Found In) Mission District (San Francisco, California): 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass “S” Hardtop Coupe

IMG_8691As Oldsmobile rose to their zenith in the 1970’s, it started to do so by playing musicial chairs with the various marketing images that made for being the toast of the town image that it had fostered since the 1950’s. The Olds-multiplicity of the brand had been a constant mix of practicality, performance and posh since the end of World War II. For the Elegant Ninety Eights there were the Superlative Super 88’s. For the practical F-85 there was the swashbuckling Cutlass. For the sword of intermediates, a crowned princess Supreme started an ascent to the top of the charts like Diana, Mary and Florence starting in 1966.

The “Little Limousine” sparkled the most when it focused on a formal roof’d coupe. Where did that leave it’s athletic, buxom and liberated sister ship the Cutlass S? In a curious place as Oldsmobile never wanted to commit to one specific identity.

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(Found In) McClymonds (Oakland, California): 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

IMG_8449Chrysler Corporation products of the early 1970’s embraced more fully than any other brand of car the intergalactic possibilities and fantasies of Science Fiction in the earthbound chariots they offered to consumers. Going from rectilinear boxes of the 1960’s, Chrysler flooded every sight line with bulbous curves with their new Fuselage look for everything above the Valiant and Dart.

First filling the largest shadows with the C-Body full sized line, the 1971 re-skin of the intermediate B-bodies took on a futuristic shape that in all irony, would soon lose market share to a heap of neo-classical tastes.

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(Found In) Rockridge (Oakland, California): 1968 Saab 95 Station Wagon

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In port cities there tends to be a wee bit more diversity in the classic cars one finds on the streets. Not everything slides into Camaro, Mustang and Cadillac territory. Liberal cities tend to have a bit of diversity in citizenry, and the heritage of such cultures might mean that there’ll be an eccentric offering showing a glimpse of history.

There’s this surprise of this Swedish Station Wagon that did more with far less than your average Country Squire that I found in the lush bushes of Rockridge recently. Stuffing plenty of capacity for buyers that might have a penchant for such a tiny meatball of a car was the calling card of this model for more than a decade.

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(Found In) Gold Coast (Alameda, California): 1962 Studebaker Lark Regal VIII 4 Door Sedan

IMG_5645A wing, a prayer, and perhaps some emergency road flares. That encapsulated where Studebaker was by 1962 with their standard passenger car line. Where the innovation of cropping the circa ’53 standard Studebaker down to the Lark in 1959 was a stroke of genius, by 1962 many manufacturers crowded around the special bird to make a feast. No longer was it the only downsized dowager with the pride of a potent V8 engine.

A nip and a tuck of plastic surgery, some new features and a fretting over where to go next signified where the Lark was in 1962. Emphasis on the blossoming of the specialized small American car seen elsewhere creeped in too. How much of the old bird was new in ’62.

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(Found In) Wedgewood Triangle (Alameda, California): 1964 Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 Celebrity Sedan

img_5673Caste systems find their function in strict boundaries. If there wasn’t exclusive traits to one station in life, the combination of fear and desire wouldn’t keep products in their proper places. As something that humans have created for each other, we oft find these systems in play in the products humans create as well.

This of course means that there’s rebellions and compromises throughout caste systems to gain more for the privileged. What does this have to do with an ordinary Oldsmobile sedan from 1964 you may ask. Plenty, when you’re one step up in the prestige sweepstakes, yet see a family rival walking away with spoils of riches.

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(Found In) Glen Park (San Francisco, California): 1958 Packard Hawk 2 Door Hardtop Coupe

img_5368Desperate times call for desperate measures. Fewer post-war manufacturer moments represented Code Red better than the reality of the Studebaker-Packard merger of 1954. In the imperfect marriage between the pearl of South Bend and once the most exclusive brand in the land of The USA saw a monumental undoing rather hastily. The debacles of Studebaker’s quality failings and poor ability to keep up with consumer demand of their 1953 coupes had long lasting implications. Packard’s own quality difficulties sunk their Clipper ships and their larger cruise ships.

It’s perhaps fitting irony that one of the final Packards offered were a variation on the latest update of the ill-starred Starlight coupes of 1953. What made this Packardbaker so special?

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(Found In) Ralph Bunchie (Oakland, California): 1970 Pontiac Bonneville 455 Hardtop Coupe

img_4854For the full decade of the 1960’s, Pontiac had been on a miraculous winning streak. Hitting a stride walking into the decade, they found themselves the perpetual #3 brand, ousting long time 3rd favorite brand, Plymouth, from their customary slot with a blend of prestige, panache and performance.

The performance anxiety started to settle in during the late 60’s with pressures coming in all directions, as the stewarts of Pontiac’s swing to the near top of the industry left for better pastures or bigger paychecks. Where did that leave the Pontiac Bonneville in its 14th season as a perennial favorite chariot of the near-luxury field?

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco): 1960 Plymouth Fury Convertible

img_4850We’ve mused before about the 1960 Plymouth, and the future it found itself in not being as kind as its forebearers had promised it in the Fall of ’56.  Plymouth had a hard time moving on from its miserly image in general, with Dodge prominently powerful as a more premium player in the makings of Mopar at the turn of the decade.

Nevertheless, Plymouth was to offer a glamorous convertible, as expected by all of the Low-Priced Three as a traditional halo model. 1960 would be no different for Plymouth, as they rivaled Chevrolet for the most flamboyant offering for 1960 for the smallest of open top budgets.

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(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1964 Studebaker Avanti

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The Studebaker Avanti is the most Christ-like of all personal coupes. I’m not too sure that the end of production at South Bend fell on a Friday, or whether the revival of limited production models came on a Sunday. In a number of ways it was perfect, in other ways it was perfectly flawed.

As we start to close out the year, let’s revisit this car I’ve covered before in terms of which crosses it had to bear for the sins of Studebaker before arising to a bespoke role.

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(Found In) Longfellow (Oakland, California): 1976 Mercury Marquis Colony Park Station Wagon

img_3055 Once upon a time in a world 40 years ago, the way to haul the herds through freshly minted suburbia wasn’t via sport utility vehicles, nor minivans. The new fangled concept of all things in one crossovers would have bewildered the average buyer in 1976. Only one thing got-er-done in Bi-Centennial ’76, and that was the wooly mammoth clad in wood known as the full sized Station Wagon.

FordMoCo long dominated the niche in sales performance, and to varying degrees, prestige. The Di-Noc slathered Country Squire was one of the first Ford products that didn’t mind its position as a member of one of the low priced three brands, being acceptable in Fields and at Country Clubs. How did the further upmarket Marquis Colony Park fare among the fancy precious cargo carriers?
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