1961 Ford Ranchero

One of the most tragic byproducts of the evolution in car design has been the elimination of two-tone paintwork from the automotive color palette. Not that this Ranchero is the poster child of two-tone application: cream and light brown render perhaps too much of a resemblance to an oversized vanilla fudge sundae, but still: a massive improvement over a hypothetical solely-cream-colored Ranchero, which would just look like a slab of vanilla popsicle.

Just as two flavors are always better than one; so too are two car colors. Also, California should totally bring black the blue plates from the ’70s and early ’80s like this Ranchero has: they’re much more visually interesting than the drab blue-lettering-on-white-background plate that they haven’t changed since about 1993.

Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA

Photos by The Professor


1970-73 Volkswagen 1600 Squareback

Looking back through the archives, it seems I hadn’t yet posted a 1600 Squareback. Which is surprising, really, since this is one of no fewer than 8(!) that I’ve shot over the years.

Squarebacks are sort of on that weird frontier of being too common to stop and take a picture of and too old to not stop and take the picture. I also think that outside of California (and maybe the PNW) they’re not nearly as common: I imagine rust has claimed quite a few of them by now. Still, in Los Angeles at least, there are still quite a few rear-engined Volkswagen fans for whom a Beetle will simply not do. Or maybe they just want something a bit more practical.

(Side note: if anybody knows how to narrow these down by year for the ’70-’73 models, please let me know: I have absolutely no clue of any distinguishing features between the years.)

Santa Monica, CA

Photos by The Professor

1984 Volkswagen Jetta

After a brief new-car interlude, we return to our specialty with this Jetta: cars that most people wouldn’t look twice at but ones that are rapidly disappearing from the US’s roads. This is an ’84, the last year of the first-generation Jetta: one of 36,636 sold that year and one of 110,281 first-generation models sold on our shores over five model years. For comparison, the modern-day Jetta has eclipsed that number every year since 2010.

With 110,000 Jettas sold you’d think they would still be relatively common, at least until you realize Chevrolet sold 811,540 Citations in one model year and there are approximately 3 left in the country. Most of these cars have long since been disposed of, and this is one of the very few still left.

Mar Vista, Los Angeles, CA

Photos by The Professor

2017 Tesla Model 3

No, we’re not turning into a new-car blog. But our primary focus is rare cars found on the street (or, in this case, in a driveway), and at this point in time the Tesla Model 3 still counts. Why?

Well, it turns out Elon Musk had his sights set a little too high when he predicted back in July that Tesla would be producing 20,000 Model 3s a month by the end of the year. Hampered by “glitches” at Tesla’s Gigafactory and other various manufacturing issues, Tesla’s fourth-quarter production output totaled to just 2,425, which certainly counts as rare in my book. Up until about a week ago, I actually hadn’t seen a single one on the road, but in the days since then, I’ve noticed more and more of them popping up, which culminated in my finally finding one at a standstill.

It remains to be seen whether the Model 3 will follow through on Musk’s grand promises. I imagine they will proliferate in the coming months, but to what extent? This is the biggest challenge Tesla has ever faced, and it’s not entirely certain that they will make it through in one piece. Only time can tell.

Glendale, CA

Photos by The Professor

1964 Rambler Classic 550

I just realized that even though this blog is called “Roadside Rambler,” we had not, until now, featured an actual Rambler in any of our posts. So, to assuage any concerns of false advertising, the oversight has been remedied in the form of this car.

This particular Rambler is a base-model 550, equipped with AMC’s 232 cubic inch straight-six engine, the second year for an engine that lasted until 1979. Its parent family of engines is one of the more well-regarded designs in motoring history: introduced in 1964 in the Rambler American, it continued on until 2006 and included one of the most iconic American motors of all-time, the Jeep 4.0L straight-six. This particular example is finished in the lovely shade of Woodside Green.

But one of the most interesting parts of this car is its scandal-ridden salmon license plate. The situation went like this: Oregonians who spent an extra $30 (initially, plus every two years to renew the plate) were assured that this money was being used to fund salmon conservancy efforts: a worthy cause. However, in a shocking example of a severe public funds misappropriation, half of the money raised was actually being funneled to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, paying for, among other things, staff salaries and a website improvement project. The total misallocated funds ranged into the millions of dollars, prompting an understandable scandal and a hasty vote by the Oregon legislature to fix the issue.

Lesson learned: always double-check where your money is actually going.

Portland, OR

Photos by The Professor

Update: We’re (Finally) Back!

Well, it’s been over a year and a half since our last post here at Roadside Rambler, which means one of two things: 1) We’ve ceased our rambling or 2) We’ve been busy with other projects life has thrown our way. Thankfully for all, it is the latter malady which has sidelined our posts and not the former: we’re now up to over 2,500 cars in the archives and with just over 100 posted here so far, that means we have a whole lot more to show you. Spread the word and keep your eyes peeled: Roadside Rambler is back and (hopefully) here to stay in the new year. We’ll resume regular posting tomorrow and for the foreseeable future there should be a steady stream of new content. Please drop a comment from time to time if there’s anything that catches your eye or interests you, and we wish you all good fortune in the year ahead. Happy Rambling!

– The Professor

1988 Buick Reatta

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Though Buick intended to shift 20,000 Reattas per year, only 21,751 were produced in a four-year production run from 1988-1991. This car features Buick’s “Electronic Control Center,” which contained radio and climate controls on a touch-sensitive CRT screen. The screen, first introduced in the 1986 Riviera, proved unpopular and unreliable, and was dropped for the 1990 model year. In retrospect, though, it was far ahead of its time.

Santa Monica, CA

Photos by The Professor

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