I love old cars! I always have. As a kid I used to be able to pinpoint the year, make, and model of any car built starting in about 1955, and of many cars built since the end of World War II. It still fills me with pleasure to find an old car parked, and I usually pause to photograph them, usually with my iPhone.

I’m a lot older now, and I’m amused to find that cars I remember debuting when I was an adult are now old and used up.

For the purposes of this annual post, I include any car 20 or more years old. Here now, the cars.

1956-71 Morris Minor 1000. I’ve seen this car at shows around town so I was pleasantly surprised to find it parked in Lions Park in Zionsville one day when Margaret and I took a walk there. I’m hardly knowledgeable in this car’s year-to-year trim changes; perhaps one of my UK readers can narrow down this car’s year better than I.

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Lakewood. This may be the rarest automobile I’ve ever found parked somewhere. Only about 33,000 Corvair wagons were ever built. Given this wagon’s Lakewood badging it has to be from 1961, as in 1962 the Lakewood name disappeared and these were just Corvair wagons.

1965 Chevrolet Corvairs. There must have been a Corvair convention nearby because these two Corvair two-doors were parked across the street from the Lakewood. I’m positive one of them is a ’65 because it has a 1965 license plate on it. I’m only pretty sure the other one is a ’65. I found all three of these Corvairs on the square in Lebanon, IN.

1967 Pontiac Tempest Custom. This car belongs to the fellow who lives two doors down from me. One day he and it were out at the curb by his house, so I went over to talk to him about his car. He said, “Would you like to drive it?” Does a drunk want a case of Jim Beam? I drove it around the neighborhood and photographed it in our community area. My neighbor has had the car for a few decades, and was friends with the original owner. He restored and gently modified it, replacing its tired but original 326 cubic-inch V8 with a crate 350 and doing other little things to it. It drove very nicely and stopped confidently on its drum brakes. Assuming the top doesn’t leak this would be a fun car to own.

1973-79 VW Bus. Good lord, but do I love these things. They were common during my 1970s kidhood and I got to ride in several. They had great visibility and plenty of room for a large crew. When Chrysler introduced its minivans in the 1980s I wondered what all the hubbub was about, because VW had already done it with its ubiquitous Bus. Spotted in downtown Zionsville.

1985 Toyota Celica Supra. A college buddy owned one of these; he bought it new. He let me drive it a time or two and it was great fun — low slung, tight handling, good acceleration. I guess this was more a boulevard cruiser than true sports car but so what? It was still a joy to drive. Spotted in downtown Zionsville.

1987-91 Honda Civic. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these. Most of them have died a sad death because the kids all bought ’em cheap, hopped ’em up, and hooned ’em into the ground. And holy cow, is this ever an itty bitty car. When they were new they didn’t seem so small, but cars are so much taller and bulkier now. I found this in the parking garage next to my office in Downtown Indianapolis.

1987-91 Ford F-150. Ford trucks from the last 30 years are so common that it’s easy to overlook one. But here, parked in downtown Zionsville, was this one looking very nice. If I had to guess, I’d say it was an unrestored original that has received great care.

1987-91 Ford F150. When it rains, it pours. Here’s another F150 of this generation, also in very nice original condition. I found it at a nearby big-box store.

1989-93 Plymouth Sundance. This Sundance is an art project! I found it behind the dormitory my son lives in at his school.

1990-92 Oldsmobile Silhouette. Good heavens, how did GM’s designers think this design was a good idea? But these sold well enough, and were hardy enough, that I manage to find one every two years or so. I found this one at a Cracker Barrel in Indianapolis.

1992 Mercury Tracer. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came upon this Tracer in the big-box-store parking lot. Tracers were far less common than their Ford Escort sisters, and the wagons were the rarest of them all. I know this is a ’92 as that was the first year for the lightbar grille and the last year for motorized front seat belts. I sort of wished this one had a For Sale sign in the window. I’ve always really liked these cars, ever since my dad had a terrific one in four-door hatchback form that lasted and lasted. The wagon would be just that much more useful.

1992-97 Ford F150. It was a good year for old trucks. This shortbed F150 is in like-new condition. It parked next to me in the garage where I park to go to work.

1996-99 Saturn SW. I always thought this body redesign of the original Saturn was better than the original but still weird looking. Spotted in Downtown Indianapolis. That broken side mirror and a little peeling clear coat were the only obvious flaws on an otherwise nice condition survivor.

1996-99 Toyota Celica. In profile, I always thought these looked like the old Ford Pinto. I always thought the headlight treatment was cartoonish. Spotted in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis.

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14 responses to “Carspotting 2019”

  1. J P Avatar

    It’s funny how the 1970s is so poorly represented here with a single entry. And I too have begun noticing some really nice Ford trucks from that 87-91 bunch.

    It would not surprise me if that blue Olds minivan belongs to a fellow parishioner. His wife, actually, who has been driving it from new. I almost want to ask him to let me know if they ever sell. I never really liked them, but the thing has become oddly compelling to me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I found 4 from the 70s last year, and 7 the year before. Interesting that I found just one this year!

      Small world dept. that you probably know the owner of that Silhouette. Unbelievable that she drove it since new!

  2. Khürt Williams Avatar

    My love of cars did not start until I was in college when Acura released the 1994 Acura Integra GS-R. I bought mine used (pre-owned?) in 1996 from a then middle-aged golfer. It wasn’t the fastest or most powerful, but for me, it was the most fun drive I have ever had. I drove it until 2006 when Bhavna insisted that trade in my impractical two-door sports car for a more practical four-door “responsible dad” sedan, e.g., a Honda Accord.

    As a boy living on small islands in the West Indies in the 1970-1980s, I was exposed only to cars from Japan and Britain. The West Indies was at that time an aftermarket for used (pre-owned?) Japanese and British cars. The Morris, Triumph, Datsun/Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Daihatsu, Mitsubishi, Suzuki brands are all very familiar to me. Similarly to Japan, all of the islands of the former British West Indies drive on the left side of the road.

    My dad had a Morris Mini, which, when we lived on the island of Bequia, served as the family car until his third son, my youngest brother, was born. While my dad was not a sports car driver, some of his friends took to rally racing Mini Coopers around a course near the Arnos Vale airport in the then British Overseas Territory of St. Vincent & The Grenadines.

    Shortly after that, Morris introduced the Mini Moke, which one of my uncles thought was the best car for Bequia. Another uncle owned a Triumph, another a Morris Marina.

    Dad also had a UK version of the Volkswagen Beetle, which I think was his last European car. By the early 70s’ cheaper Japanese vehicles had entered the Caribbean market. Mom bought a Toyota Starlet hatchback when she started driving. Dad purchased a Datsun then a Toyota Carona. Toyota was his brand of choice until Mazda entered the market, but in later years, he drove Hondas.

    All of that was a long-winded way of saying, that from a 1970’s I know a lot about classic Japanese cars; I know a little about classic British cars. I know very little about American cars.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You have an interesting perspective on old cars given where you grew up. You might enjoy a blog I sometimes contribute to, Curbside Classic, at curbsideclassic.com — we share photos and stories about old cars we find parked, all over the world.

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    The Lakewood is definitely the rarest of ‘Vairs.
    I find it hard to equate things built during my adult life as “classic”, much less “antique” but the criterion used here is 25 years for collector plates, and that wasn’t so long ago by my reckoning! *LOL*

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I struggle with that a little, too. Those Ford trucks, for example. It was quite a realization for me that they’re as old as they are. How can they be classic? Yet, they are.

  4. Russ Ray Avatar

    So, as I recall (and Google helped me to confirm), I remember that the space-age design of the Olds Silhouette coincided with commercials with Leonard Nimoy and his daughter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl7FwcHyNlQ

    I remember these had odd tail lights, and given the commercial, I imagined that their target audience was sci-fi fans, because who else would buy one of those?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh good lord, I’d forgotten all about that commercial! Hilarious to see it again.

  5. Dennis Avatar

    Not only being able to identify them by year ( difference between 57 and 58 Ford) but I remember every year waiting to see what the new model looked like .

    Thinking back on the cars I have had and unfortunately let go.
    -64 ford fairlane 500. 3 speed in the column with a 260
    – 54 ford counsel( passed from GI to GI in Bangkok
    – 68 fiat 500
    – 68 mg midget with wire knockoffs
    – 69 red mustang convertible. 351w
    -72 Ltd brougham ( 2 kids by then )
    – triumph tr3
    – -280z t top


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I can guess every car made after WW II to about 1980, make, model, and year, and be right within 1 year 99% of the time. I’m a walking compendium of such useless knowledge! You had a nice run of cars.

  6. John Holt Avatar

    Thanks, Jim,for the trip through time in cars. I, too, had love affairs with a few of these cars!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Haven’t we all had a love affair with one car or another in our time?

  7. Olli Thomson Avatar

    My dad had at least one Morris Minor when I was a very young kid, but of a more basic kind this this lovingly cared for model. A friend of mine had one of the old VW Camper vans and we spent one week about 30 years ago camping and driving round Kerry and the West coast of Ireland while hiking in the mountains. Happy days.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I guess the Minor was a common car for everyman in its day. They’ve always been unusual sights here in the US!

      Ah, the lovely memories a car we experienced in our pasts can call up.

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