Old cars, Photography

Up close and personal with vintage automobiles

My favorite thing to do at the Mecum Spring Classic vintage-car auction is move in close to the cars’ details with my camera. At the Mecum, you can get close enough to the cars to touch them! (But please don’t; they don’t belong to you.) If I were to see these cars in museums, they’d be well behind velvet ropes and out of range from my macro lens.

1950 Hudson Commodore h

1950 Hudson Commodore. Meet the hood ornament of my favorite car at this year’s auction. When photographing chrome straight on, you always make a cameo appearance in the photograph. Can you spot me?

1949 Hudson Commodore j

1949 Hudson Commodore. A step-down Hudson from the previous year was on hand, too. It was every bit as nice as the ’50 I claim as my favorite; I just liked the ’50 in yellow better than the ’49 in pewter.

1956 Studebaker Commander e

1956 Studebaker Commander. The strong typography on this car’s decklid drew me right in.

1966 Plymouth Belvedere f

1966 Plymouth Belvedere. I am amused by the stuff automakers used to tack onto cars – things that could easily be broken off, like this period Plymouth logo.

1964 Studebaker GT Hawk e

1964 Studebaker GT Hawk. Studebaker’s last logo was startlingly modern, and still looks good today, even in hood-ornament form.

1969 Dodge Charger 500 SE c

1969 Dodge Charger 500 SE. I always thought these fuel-filler doors were wicked cool. The current Dodge Challenger has a fuel-filler door that evokes this design.

1965 Ford Falcon Futura e

1965 Ford Falcon Futura. I really enjoy the badging on vintage automobiles, all chromy and colorful. Futura was the top trim line on Ford’s compact Falcon.

1950 Buick Roadmaster f

1950 Buick Roadmaster. Dynaflow was Buick’s first automatic transmission. It was engineered for smoothness, I hear, but at the cost of power. That earned this tranny the nickname, “Dynaslush.”

1935 Buick Victoria replica b

1935 Buick Victoria. I am amused by how many hood ornaments on 1930s cars feature stretching women.

1965 Volkswagen Bus h

1965 Volkswagen Bus. Ok, so this isn’t a close shot. But I enjoy this perspective on the 21-window experience.

1956 Ford F100 c

1956 Ford F100. Finally, this badge from a Ford truck. Lightning and gears, baby, that’s what trucks are all about. Seriously, I just like the colors in this one.

Want to see more old-car photographic goodness? Click here and scroll on through!

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6 thoughts on “Up close and personal with vintage automobiles

  1. Wes C says:

    Very nice! Lot’s of exciting details to be seen on vintage cars. The jet-age inspired ornaments always catch my eye.. Like wings, propellers, the turbine blades around the Charger fuel cap. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to capture these details by filling the frame with them. After all, these are the things that made us want to take a photo in the first place!

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  2. bodegabayf2 says:

    Lots of chrome and over-the-top styling elements make vintage cars fun to photograph. I think I would have to circle a new Ford Focus or Nissan Altima plenty of times to find even one interesting design element to photograph.

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    • I think the thing that makes modern cars challenging to photograph up close like this is the lack of corners and details. Every surface is curved and “soft,” and ornamentation is minimal.

      I’ve photographed my little Toyota Matrix extensively as a camera-test subject, and have gotten only a couple truly interesting shots.

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  3. hmunro says:

    Great post, Jim! Loved your beautiful photos, and your witty commentary.

    Cars used to be such works of art, didn’t they? They were really on the vanguard of design and typography — and they made a *statement.* Too bad we’ve all but lost those elements in our modern, utilitarian vehicles. On the plus side, though, we’re no longer spending entire weekends polishing chrome.

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    • Thanks Heather! The kinds of cars that show up at the Mecum tend to be top-trim models and lovingly and carefully restored, so they have all the chrome and all the goodies. But you’re right, the basic design was more artful in days gone by. Even a basic, low-trim 1952 Chevrolet had some wonderful angles to photograph.

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