I photograph old cars wherever I find them parked. 2017 turned out to be a great year for finding them — this is probably the biggest harvest since I started doing this, back in 2012. What a bumper crop!
My two rules: the car has to be parked, and it has to be at least 20 years old. And so, here now the cars.
1961 Ford Falcon. Margaret and I had finished a big dinner at our favorite Broad Ripple restaurant and were walking the surrounding neighborhood when we came upon this like-new Falcon. It has to have been restored at some point, pretty faithfully (I do question those dog-dish hubcaps).
1968 Buick Skylark. I had to move fast, as this car was preparing for takeoff. I spotted it in the parking lot at the Walmart Neighborhood Market near where I used to live.
1968 Chevrolet Camaro. The parking lot behind the Nickel Plate Bar and Grill in Fishers turned out to be fertile ground for old cars this year. It’s always nice to come upon a Camaro that hasn’t been resto-modded into a firebreathing muscle car.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro. Like this one has. At least it is tastefully done. By the way, I lived in my old neighborhood ten years and saw exactly one old car parked there…until this year. This was the first of several I saw, but I managed to photograph only this one and one other.
1970 Pontiac Firebird Esprit. Where the Camaro above was obviously a restoration, this Firebird is an unrestored original. That’s how I prefer them! Just check out the nicks in the paint. This was another find in the nearby Walmart parking lot.
1973 Chrysler Newport Custom. This is far and away my favorite find of the year. My cigar-chomping great uncle William drove a car much like this one. I remember riding in my dad’s car once as we followed William somewhere. His windshield washer nozzles were misaimed, and he took great delight in spraying washer fluid all the way over his car and onto the hood of Dad’s 1971 Chevy Impala while we waited at a light. This was another find in the Nickel Plate parking lot.
1975 Ford Thunderbird. A neighbor in my old neighborhood kept this car parked behind his house for several months before it suddenly appeared curbside. Turns out he’d listed it on Craigslist. It lingered here for several weeks, but finally disappeared.
1973-74 VW Thing. My Toyota needed some attention from my mechanic. As I parked it on his lot I spied this funky little Thing looking pretty used up.
1977 Chevrolet Corvette. While taking my sons out for dinner in Fishers, we came upon this electric blue Corvette. On the one hand I respect it for surviving, but on the other I’m not much of a fan of these boulevard cruisers.
1977 Ford F-150. A building is going up next door to where I work in Fishers, and all manner of the workers’ trucks park nearby. This is by far the oldest truck I’ve seen.
1977-81 Pontiac Firebird. On the day I helped my youngest son start his college career at the University of Indianapolis, we came upon this yellow Firebird on campus. Another unrestored survivor!
1983 Buick Skylark. I see this car on the road near my office almost every day. It passes by at about 11 am, like clockwork, beneath the window of a conference room where I have a daily meeting. One day I spotted it parked at the McDonald’s down the street. I never thought of these “J cars” as particularly well built, so it’s always a surprise to find one still rolling.
1983 Jeep Wagoneer Brougham. Indiana lets drivers of antique cars use old license plates from the car’s model year. The plate on this one was from 1983, but this grille is from 1974. Maybe the owner liked that grille better and bolted it onto his Wagoneer. Wagoneer Broughams (as this car is badged) were made only from 1981-83. It was the mid-level trim those three years, slotting below the base model and the upper-trim Limited.
1987-89 Chevrolet Celebrity. I was very surprised to find this well-used old car in a very tony Zionsville neighborhood.
1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Olds made Cutlass Cieras with composite headlamps and the original six-window greenhouse for just one year: 1988. Spotted in downtown Fishers.
1989-95 Plymouth Acclaim. These changed so little across their run that it’s very hard to know which model year this one is. I always think of these as the perfect car for people who don’t like cars. My friend Elsa owned one twenty years ago when I first met her. She doesn’t care at all about cars. She’s owned two Accords since, and still says her Acclaim was her favorite car. Spotted in downtown Fishers.
199x BMW 3-series. It’s hard to believe that BMW made these for so many years. To me, this is the ultimate 3-series body. I found this on the same day and in the same place as the 1977 Corvette. You can see the Vette’s hood through the BMW’s greenhouse.
1992-95 Pontiac Bonneville SE. Hard to believe these now qualify as old. Spotted at the Fishers Super Target.
1993-94 Ford Explorer Limited. Hard to believe given how many of these Ford made, but these early Explorers are quite rare today. Perhaps the Obama-era Cash for Clunkers program did a lot of them in. I found this one at the 38th St. Meijer (big-box store similar to Walmart) in Indianapolis.
1993-95 Chrysler LeBaron GTC. The LeBaron was once a high-end Chrysler. This compact convertible had nothing to do with the model’s history and should have been named something else. Another find in the Nickel Plate parking lot.
1994-99 Dodge/Plymouth Neon. I suppose this Neon could be newer than 20 years old, but it’s hard to tell just by looking at it, as Chrysler didn’t change these much over their manufacturing run. Someone sure slathered on the aftermarket trim bits, though. Spotted in the parking lot of my previous employer.
1995-96 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. Spotted at an Indianapolis Dairy Queen, this Camaro was in mighty fine shape considering how badly these were flogged by their teenaged second, third, and fourth owners.
1995-97 Ford Contour. Another once-common car that’s mighty thin on the ground today, this early Contour was waiting for its owner at the 38th Street Indianapolis Meijer.
There! A whopping 23 cars this year. That’s almost one every two weeks! A remarkable harvest for here in Rustopia.
Last updated on 3 March 2020 by Jim Grey