Elements of classic cars

My love of old cars is certainly enough to drive me to the Mecum Spring Classic auction every year, but I also go because it gives me a chance to practice my photography. You can walk right up to the cars, close enough to touch them – though out of respect for the owners, I keep my hands to myself. But to the extent a car has personal space, I definitely invade it looking for details I can use to compose interesting photographs. Not only has this practice improved my photography, but it has also helped me enjoy these classic cars in new ways. Of such photos I took this year, I like these the most.

A 1935 Chrysler Airflow kept me busy composing and capturing for quite some time. I liked this photo the best. I think it captures key elements of the car’s style.

1935 Chrysler Airflow f

I like the way the light plays off the hood and grille of this 1939 Ford Deluxe.

1939 Ford Deluxe c

I wish I could remember what kind of car that is reflecting in the paint of this 1947 Cadillac.

1947 Cadillac d

I can easily make out the Pontiac GTO and a Chevrolet Corvette reflecting in this 1950 Ford Custom.

1950 Ford Custom coupe b

This is my favorite photograph from the auction. I love how the clouds reflect in the domed hood of this 1951 Chevrolet Deluxe, and I think the black paint flaking off the Chevrolet script adds character. This photo looks better larger.

1951 Chevrolet Deluxe c

Normally I try to keep people out of my car shots, but I couldn’t resist including this owner polishing the hood of his 1958 Edsel Citation convertible.

1958 Edsel Citation convertible b

In days gone by, auto manufacturers badged their cars proudly and prominently, as on this 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

1959 Chevrolet Impala 2-door hardtop c

Cars seemed to have more fine styling details in the old days, too. The 1963 Ford Galaxie XL had one of these spears atop each front fender. They served no purpose other than to look good.

1963 Ford Galaxie XL b

For years, tail lights were a key styling cue of Chevrolet’s large cars. Low-line cars had two separate lights per side, and high-line cars had three. In 1963, the Impala was the top-of-the-line large Chevrolet; here are its three tail lights.

1963 Chevrolet Impala b

The Mecum Spring Classic is always packed to the gills with potent Chevelles. I’m partial to the body style from 1970, but I liked the angle I got across the engine bay of this 1969 Chevelle SS.

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 b

Finally, I love the way the skylight played across the sail panel of this 1969 Dodge Charger R/T.

1969 Dodge Charger RT b

I spent six and a half hours at the auction this year, walking and crouching all the way. My legs were sore for four days!

Do you think you know your cars? Then play the game of identifying them only by details like these! Check it out.


20 responses to “Elements of classic cars”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Yeah, I agree, the converging curves and alternating, orderly lights and darks of the grillwork are particularly satisfying; that is a really pleasing capture. I also like the shallow depth of field and nice drop-off on the Caddy tag. That achieved using the S95?

    Woo, an Edsel! Been a fave of mine since I was a kid and learned about how the flopped. I’m always for the underdog. :) Unless it’s Apple; they bank on it. :P

    1. Jim Avatar

      The Chevrolet shot came out of the S95. But the Ford Deluxe and Cadillac shots came from the S80!

  2. Renee Davies Avatar

    Wow. These shots are stunning. The first one should be poster size. Beautiful.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you! Now you’re making me imagine that Airflow shot hanging larger than life somewhere in my house!

      1. Renee Davies Avatar

        I definitely would enlarge that shot. I’d buy a print of it myself and I’m just a girl with limited knowledge of cars. It’s an older car, but the shot gives it a modern impression.

        1. Jim Avatar

          Renee, thank you for the compliment!

  3. vanilla Avatar

    Your detail work is outstanding!

    Looked at the flickr album. The hawthorne green 50 Ford Custom– color and model of my first car!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you! I’ve always liked the ’49-’51 Ford. It”s a great design.

  4. Mike Avatar

    Well done. Those details say a lot about the times when those cars were made.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Mike — I find it much more challenging to find good details for photos on modern cars.

  5. ryoko861 Avatar

    I love taking pictures of the badges on certain cars. The Mustang and Corvette are my favorite.

    The tail lights on the Impala were always cool. I like that they TRIED to replicate it on today’s Impalas but it sort of lost it’s charm.

    I LOVE the 1950 Ford! So Cute!! Yes, that’s my word for it, cute.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I always liked the big Chevy’s tail lights, from the 1960s right up until they downsized the car in 1976. My dad had a ’71 Impala Sport Coupe and those tail lights were dope. But the ones from the ’60s could put your eye out if you got too close.

  6. gaycarboys Avatar

    I just had a look at the pics. I LOVE the pink Edsel. It’s so awful, it’s fabulous. I’ve always had a soft spot for Studebaker Hawks. I still think they are beautiful even today. It’s such a shame they were never sold here in Oz. Wonderful shots!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I didn’t know that Hawks never made it to Oz! But I shouldn’t be surprised. My understanding is that in the 50s and 60s, cars bound for Oz needed to be a lot more rugged than those let loose in the US because of the driving conditions you all had.

  7. Christopher Cocca Avatar

    Great, great photos. I love what you’ve don with reflections.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks! They were fun photos to take.

  8. Dani Avatar

    The classics cannot be replaced though Chrysler and Volkswagon, to name a couple, have tried. Great pics!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I almost fell for the PT Cruiser when it was new. It’s become such a bad cliche now, I’m so glad I didn’t buy one!

  9. tori nelson Avatar

    Love the second shot! Crouching Jim Hidden Lens?

    1. Jim Avatar

      Crouching is right. Holy cow. It was like doing 1,000 squats. My thighs were like jello for the next three days!

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