Recently my wife and I travelled to California for a vacation. On the way from North to South, I captured cars through my lens along the way. Whether they were in traffic, , or in museums, I sought out the interesting, the old, the rare, and the obscure vehicles to share.
It was interesting seeing how different the local car culture could be between Northern and Southern California.
San Francisco traffic
In Southern California, it can almost seem like you can’t throw a rock without hitting a classic. However up toward San Francisco, among the vast sea of alternate fuel vehicles, finding something that wasn’t hybrid or electric powered was a little more challenging. As you’ll see I still managed to find a few to share.
Third generation Honda Prelude Si
When we flew into the Bay Area, I was surprised to see a few of the third generation Honda Prelude Si around on the street. All of them completely stock in appearance. After being caught unaware and without a camera a few times, I found this one on a walk around the neighborhood.
From the taillight design, this is either a ‘90 or ‘91 Si. Though this one lacked the “4WS” badges (four wheel steering) on the B-pillar, even the garden variety Si was a great driving car. The 4WS equipped models bested the handling prowess from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche of the time. On a personal note, I notice third generation models because of their visual similarity to the slightly boxier second generation that my mother owned in the late ‘80s. It ignited my interest in Japanese cars.
1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala
1958 Bel Air Impala
Something a bit more rare was this first generation Chevy Impala which was only offered for one year before undergoing significant changes that would differentiate it from the Bel Air.
It appeared to be in terrific shape for a car nearly 60 years old. The brakes proved their worth, as the driver had to make a short screeching panic stop while passing us by.
Breakdancing I saw near traffic.
Mk IV Toyota Supra
Mk IV Supra with t-tops
Seeing this Supra climb the big hill on Hyde Street made me wonder how well it would do in a Bullitt-style high speed chase.
Up at the top of the big hill was Lombard Street, which was like the world’s slowest, most compact version of a Best Motoring touge challenge.
Wandering a little further up the road, I saw an Altima driver caught by surprise going down this sudden dip on Filbert Street. It just about hit an SUV down at the bottom of the hill. It seems like it would be incredible to fly down on a skateboard. Once.
Hold on, is that a four wheel drive MPV!?!
Unfortunately I was in a big hurry to catch a train when I took this, so I didn’t get the 4WD side decals in the shot, but they were there. You don’t see these very often anymore. First Mazda I ever drove was one of these.
Whether meaning to or not, I tend to look for Miatas wherever I go, since I own one. There were not too many of them seen on this trip, especially up these tall hills, but there was one NC that I spotted here with a Saab 9-5 wagon. And then one NA, like mine, a few days later. Of course I spotted it before the 997 Turbo up ahead of it. One track mind…
W111 rusty surviving “fintail” Mercedes sedan
This W111 sedan looked to still be serving in daily driving duty. It had some dents and light rust, but was still in decent condition considering it’s been on the road since the ‘60s.
R107 Mercedes SL
Considering the condition of the previous Mercedes, this SL spotted down by the pier, was impossibly clean and polished looking. Not a scratch visible anywhere on it.
Google Self-Driving Car
Another one that caught me by surprise was the Google Self-Driving Car. I spotted it a couple of times wandering the streets of Mountainview.
’69 Ford F100
There was one point in Santa Cruz when I passed a decent handful of old Fords from the ’60s and ’70s, but since I was driving, I didn’t manage to get photos any of them. However this old ’69 showed up later on in the trip once we drove down South. Never would have got it if the top hadn’t have been down.
Air-cooled Volkswagens of L.A.
Porsche Muffler Man
By chance, I happened to see the Porsche Muffler Man on the way to a day trip out to San Diego. This is the location of the Porsche Experience Center in Carson, California.
De Tomaso Pantera
Spotted not far up the road from the muffler man was this pearlescent white Pantera; and it was probably the best of all. According to the license frame, it’s owned by the first lady of Team Pantera Racing. Judging by the flares and the larger wheels, this could be a GT5 model.
It appears to be missing the GT5 rear badge and front airdam though, and has some side strakes that don’t appear to be factory, so it could possibly be a GT5 replica or possibly a customized GT5. The GT5 was a higher trim level featuring a better interior, better brakes, bigger wheels, and the lovely widebody fender flares. According to , De Tomaso has not made its production records available, but “an analysis based on Vehicle Identification Numbers by the Pantera Owners Club of America (POCA) late model (9000 series) registrar has shown that fewer than 252 GT5 Panteras were likely to have been built.”
Whether it’s a replica or a real GT5, it was quite striking in person and makes for a nice car to end this edition of Vehicles I Saw In Traffic.
Text and Photography by Bryce Womeldurf