Blue Plate

1974 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The license-plate frame on this Corvette says it’s a ’74 model, and I’m inclined to believe it, but the rear bumper is definitely from a ’75 Corvette. 1974 Corvettes were the first year of the urethane-molded rear bumper assembly, but the first year had a split bumper with a visible seam running down the middle (which isn’t visible on this car’s bumper). The presence of rear bumper guards also pegs this as a ’75. But the front bumper is definitely from a ’74: otherwise it would have bumper guards of its own. So my best guess is that this is indeed a ’74 Corvette, but one that got rear-ended at some point and reassembled by a less-than-fastidious repairer.

Sawtelle, Los Angeles, CA

Photos by The Professor

1969 Ford Torino

The Torino was introduced for the 1968 model year, as an upmarket series of the Fairlane. This particular Torino, a 1969 model, sports the new-for-’69 351 “Windsor” V8, one of around 8.6 million 351W’s that would eventually be manufactured by the end of production in 1996.

It’s also a great example of my favorite types of finds: old cars that are still being put to good use. It’s not in the greatest shape: there’s a few dings and some misaligned trim and a badly battered roof, but it’s honest in its weather-worn state. While it hasn’t quite aged gracefully, it’s still plugging along almost 50 years after it started, and that’s quite an achievement indeed.

Santa Monica, CA

Photos by The Professor

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

1970 Buick Electra 225

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New for the 1970 Electra model was a 455 cubic inch V8 pumping out 370 horsepower, making it the most powerful Electra ever. The newly redesigned 1971 models would keep the same engine, but, due to a lower compression ratio, see their output drop to 315 horses.

1970 was also the last year of the Electra “Coke bottle” design first introduced in 1965; the ’71 models would ditch the sleek lines for more slab-sided styling.

The Electra name soldiered on until 1990, by which time the name was but a shadow of its former glory, saddled with a 3.8L (232 cubic inch) V6 and a FWD chassis.

Los Angeles, CA

Photos by The Professor

1973 De Tomaso Pantera


Designed by Tom Tjaarda, the Pantera featured exotic Italian styling coupled with a 5.8L Ford V8 engine. Ford imported around 5,500 Panteras between 1971 and 1975, selling them through their Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Early Panteras were notorious for their unreliability; Elvis Presley once shot a gun at his when it would not start.

Though Ford ceased importing Panteras after 1975, they were imported via the grey market through the 1980s. A total of 7,260 were sold between 1971 and 1992.

Pacific Palisades, CA

Photos by The Professor

1976 Cadillac Eldorado

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1976 Eldorados were promoted by Cadillac as the “last American convertible;” selling over 14,000 in total. However, Cadillac re-introduced the Eldorado convertible for the 1984 model year.

1976 was also the last year for the massive 8.2L V8 engine; the next year, a downsized 7.0L engine was introduced.

Pacific Palisades, CA

Photos by The Professor

1973 Jensen-Healey

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A car that was a mess of different parts from different manufacturers: Lotus engine, Vauxhall suspension, Chrysler transmission…none of it worked very well. Most of these rusted out a long time ago; this one seems to have lived its whole life in Southern California and has fared considerably better.

This car, which marked the end for two fine British marques, was not so fine itself (I suppose that’s why it marked the end, then).

Santa Monica, CA

Photos by The Professor

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