Streetside: 20 Classics in SF

Philip Ruth

Philip Ruth | Aug 13, 2019

San Francisco is a temperate paradise for cars. True, you'll get rust if you park along Ocean Beach, and the hills have a way of grinding down a car's brakes and running gear. Mmm, who smells burning clutch?

But the perpetually-58-degrees weather definitely agrees with our four-wheeled friends. Here are 20 classics kicking back along the Barbary Coast.

Porsche 924

1980 Porsche 924 Turbo

The pedestrian Porsche 924 got mixed reactions during its run, and the flared 944 eventually set things right. The 1980 924 Turbo was a half-step toward performance respectability, but there were no partial measures in this owner's styling upgrades.

1982 Mazda RX-7

Japanese knockoffs were all the rage in the 1970s, and the slope-nosed RX-7 was Mazda's nod to the Porsche 924. The RX-7 was refreshed for 1981 with the wheels and trim seen here, and it remains an exceptionally clean design.

1986 Toyota MR2

Looking like a sports car that sprang from an Erector set, this MR2 proudly shows off the fold-and-spindle styling that made the 1980s great. Excellent condition, even the period-perfect bra appears new.

1987 Subaru XT

You sure won't see yourself coming and going in a Subaru XT. Like a lawn dart among loaves of bread, this XT stood in sharp relief from the gently curved compacts parked around it.

1960-64 Chevrolet Corvair

If you woke up one day and decided that a Corvair would make your life complete, then one like this first-gen doing daily driving duty would probably be a good place to start.

1965-69 Chevrolet Corvair

Literally right around the corner from the original-style Corvair was parked this later-gen version. There's so much that's right about this Corvair's lines that it demands a look every time you walk by.

1968 Renault 10

The 10 competed with the Chevy Corvair: it was also a rear-engined, subcompact family car. You'd go French if you wanted those mechanicals encased in a body that's as awkward as you were before your first school dance.

1961 Oldsmobile F-85

Larger and more conventional than the Corvair, this compact Olds F-85 combines a functional three-box shape with deeply contoured flanks. It showed that you could get lots of deluxe sculpting in your smaller American car.

Volkswagen Squareback

1973-74 Volkswagen 411 Wagon

The 411 was a transitional car, as VW shaped the Beetle into larger and more mainstream vehicles before going front-wheel drive with the Dasher and Rabbit in the US. Thick tires on this one give it a substantial look.

Datsun 210 Wagon

1980 Datsun 210 Wagon

Being slow and basic didn't stop the Datsun 210 Wagon from becoming a suburban fixture in the US. The B-210 that came before it was a special kind of ugly, but the 210 Wagon's crisp angles still look good today.

Toyota Camry Wagon

1990-91 Toyota Camry LE Wagon

This wagon comes from a time when the Camry was just about to begin its long domination of the US mid-sized car market, just prior to the landmark 1992 redesign. The wheels say this is probably a '90 or '91, and it clearly has been lightly used since its purchase.

Toyota Pickup SR-5

1979-81 Toyota Pickup Long Bed

In states with snow, rust has long eaten up the thin body metal on these otherwise indestructible trucks. But here in the Bay Area, this Toyota Pickup Long Bed lives apparently corrosion-free as it continues to haul lengthy covered loads.

Ford Falcon Ranchero

1960 Ford Falcon Ranchero

The Ford Falcon debuted as back-to-basics transportation following the florid 1950s, and adding an open bed was a no-brainer. This one impresses with its delightfully skinny tires and period Ford poverty caps.

1976 Chevrolet C10 Stepside

Stepside trucks shrunk the load beds but shaped the rear quarters into muscular haunches - not a coincidence, given how trucks and vans were scooping up the hotshoes who could no longer afford to insure their Cyclones and GTOs. This one lost its original paint but still sports its California blue plates.

1984 Dodge Rampage Prospector

We've written about this one before, and the sheer rarity of it - not only a Rampage, but a Prospector besides! And with at least one of those cool blocky alloy wheels! This aged Dodge never gets old.

1981-85 Jeep Scrambler

Who wants a convertible 4x4 pickup with hood stripes, white-letter tires and a tubular chrome front bumper? You do! Can't have it though, as this rugged chunk of rolling stock belongs to someone else.

1987-90 Dodge Grand Caravan

Lee Iaccoca has sadly passed on, but his legacy is well-represented by this still-working Dodge Grand Caravan. With its tidy bodywork and wide-open visibility, this Grand Caravan is tailor-made for city errands.

1984-88 Ford Bronco II Eddie Bauer

The Bronco II is a rare thing: a body-on-frame SUV that's smushed into the overall length of a Honda Fit. Narrow and tall, the Bronco II had its own US investigation into a rollover controversy, but the headlines on this one concern those cool curved rear windows. 

Volkswagen Bus

Kombi, Type 2, Transporter, Bus: there are so many of these vintage VW vans in SF that you could call each one you see a different name. This one is a neat blue that's all buttoned up for cargo, with a rubber-guarded rear bumper that's ready for those who park by feel.

Volkswagen Electric Bus

This converted VW gives up hope that future generations may still get to enjoy some of the best of the internal-combustion period of car design. This image is literally a breath of fresh air if you've ever sat behind a smoky old VW in traffic.


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