Old Cars

Carspotting 2020

I love old cars! Always have, probably always will. I’m excited to see an old car still on the road, doing what it was designed to do. I photograph them when I come upon them parked.

COVID-19 saw me out and about far less this year. But I still managed to find 23 old cars parked. By “old” I mean made at least 20 years ago.

I am shocked to realize that a car from the year 2000 is now 20 years old! 2000 doesn’t feel like that long ago to me. But I remember being in college in 1985, playing classic rock on the campus radio station. These were songs largely from 1965 to 1975, give or take a couple years on either side. That 20 year stretch felt like a long time ago to me then! I guess your sense of “a long time ago” grows ever longer as you age.

Here now, the cars.

1966-70 Jeep Jeepster Commando. You never know what you’re going to find in my mechanic’s lot. This survivor looks all original.

1968-73 BMW 2002. Spotted in Old Louisville, this Bimmer sports a custom paint job. I love the way these look. I imagine the visibility inside these is commanding given all the glass in the greenhouse.

1970 BMW 2002. I haven’t spotted a BMW 2002 since 2015 — and this year suddenly I find two. On the square in Bloomington, Indiana. I assume this is a ’70 because of the custom front plate.

1973-79 Volkswagen Bus. This cheerful reminder of the freewheeling 1970s was parked for months by a boutique in Zionsville. Readers with long memories might cry Foul! because this Bus was on last year’s list. But this is my blog and I’ll do what I want! At least I legitimately made this photograph in 2020.

1974-80 Triumph Spitfire 1500. Margaret and I saw this tiny car tooling around Bardstown, Kentucky, the whole weekend we visited. We found it parked in front of our Airbnb, right on the main drag.

1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V Cartier Edition. This might be my luckiest find of the year. A tiny bit of Googling pinned this one right down. On the trunk lid, within the fake spare tire hump that was the Mark’s signature styling element, is a Cartier emblem. The Cartier edition had the red stripe and coach lamp bordering the landau vinyl roof only in 1979. Boom. Spotted at Meijer, of all places.

1979-83 Toyota Truck. I thought surely all of these had rusted away in the Midwest, but here’s this one, still hanging on. I found it on the old Northside of Indianapolis.

1985-92 BMW 325i convertible. Here in wealthy Zionsville, all manner of fun cars show up in the Meijer parking lot. Most of them are newer, but classic BMWs do show up from time to time.

1987-90 Pontiac Firebird Formula. I came upon this one in Bloomington’s Switchyard Park when I was there to take a long walk with my oldest daughter. It looks like a good, original driver.

1990-92 Cadillac Brougham. I’m pretty sure this one is owned by someone who works at Meijer, because I see it there all the time. It’s easy to tell it’s from 1990-1992 because of the composite headlamps. Earlier Broughams had two sealed-beam headlights on each side.

1992-95 Geo Metro convertible. In Old Louisville we came upon this itty bitty convertible. It’s surprising to see it still on the road — these were not the hardiest of cars.

1992-97 Ford F-150. I see lots of these but simply because they’re still so common I frequently fail to photograph them. I found this one parked in my neighborhood.

1993-97 Ford Ranger. These second-generation Rangers are mighty rare these days. Isn’t this dark teal color totally 90s-tastic? I’ve seen it running around Zionsville for a long time, and I was pleased to find it parked on a downtown street.

1994-96 Cadillac Sedan deVille. I thought for a long time that Cadillac built these on the same platform as the Chevrolet Caprice. But nope — it’s on a stretched Cadillac Seville platform. This Caddy was just down the street from the F-150 above. Both are parked in these spots most days.

1994-97 Chevrolet S-10. Chevy made these for 11 years and they were reasonably sturdy trucks, so they aren’t uncommon today. In 1998 they facelifted the headlights and grille, so when you see one with a face like this you know it’s from the first three years. I like those wheels on this truck. I spotted this a block from my home.

1996-98 Ford Mustang convertible. One of these would make a very nice “starter” old car. These are hardly scarce yet, and parts are widely available. Spotted at Meijer.

1997-2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport. This late XJ Cherokee was in the parking garage at work. I rode in one exactly once and was shocked by how narrow they are inside, and how little legroom they have. Spotted in the parking garage next to where I work.

1997-99 Buick LeSabre. Spotted in downtown Shelbyville, this era of Buick LeSabre (and Buick Century) make a great inexpensive used car. If I needed cheap wheels, I’d look for one of these.

1998-99 Ford Taurus. People thought these looked flat out weird when they were new, but I liked them. I even bought one, albeit the Mercury version, and as a station wagon. Single most unreliable vehicle I ever owned. I spotted this Taurus at my nearby Meijer.

1998-2002 Chevy Prism. This beater rebadged Toyota Corolla parks in my neighborhood.

1998-2002 Chevy Prism. As reliable as these cars were, it’s surprising how few of them remain on the road. It’s therefore even more surprising that I came upon two of them this year. Spotted in the parking garage at work.

1998-2005 Chevrolet Blazer. Chevy made these for a lot of years. The headlight and grille treatment narrow it down to these years. Spotted at Meijer, obviously.

2000 Saturn SL. Here it is, the first car unambiguously from the 2000s to show up on my annual Carspotting list. Honestly, I might have come upon more of them, but I don’t know that I noticed them as cars from 2000 and after still seem new-ish to me. I might be looking right past them. I would have looked right past this one except that it’s my son’s car. He stumbled upon a good deal on this car, which had only 30,000 miles on it when he bought it (after an unfortunate accident spelled the end of my old Ford Focus, which I had sold him). Here, it’s parked in the lot by his college dorm.

To see all of the Carspotting posts I’ve made over the years, click here.

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31 thoughts on “Carspotting 2020

  1. It has been a terrible car spotting year for me. Then stuff newer than the 80s generally fails to move me enough to make the effort to photograph, so perhaps much of my bad luck is brought on by tight specs.

    Yes, 2000 being 20 years ago is a problem for me. One that will get worse in another week and a half.

    • I’m trying to make myself photograph the cars of the 90s, and now the first of the 2000s. But like you, anything after the 80s generally doesn’t move me.

  2. Dan Cluley says:

    Definitely an off year for me as well. As far as Meijer finds go, it’s going to be tough to top the 1953 Bentley I saw in 2019.

  3. Those are some nice finds. The 1970 BMW and the VW van are my favourites. It’s not easy to find older cars here. Maybe it’s because the earlier Korean cars weren’t built that well and maybe it’s because Koreans tend to like new things and throw out the old (in my experience).

    • I remember the Korean cars that came here starting in the late 80s. They were … iffy. My brother had one. It was sold as a Pontiac but it was really a Daewoo. It was terrible. But we own a Kia today and it’s terrific.

  4. Andy Umbo says:

    Glad to see the BMW 2002’s are still being kept alive. The car of choice for “hipster” art college prof’s when I was in college in the mid 70’s. I loved the Triumph Spitfire, but ended up with a GT-6 Mk3 (and a beat up old TR-4, I turned around quickly): literally the worst car for dependability ever, and one of my most loved. Almost bankrupted me! I got rid of it and had to ride the bus and a small bore motorcycle until I could save enough money for better car! Rough!

    I used to go to the Brit Car Day at Lyons Park in Zionsville, and if I was lucky, I’d see maybe one Triumph GT6 Mk 1, no 3’s though! I asked a Triumph guy there once and he basically reaffirmed my thoughts from the time, that the poor design, mechanics and metallurgy were so bad that there’s almost none left in restored or restorable shape. He said if I had kept it and kept it clean, it’d be valuable because of running condition rarity! I guess when it comes to Brit car dependability, Austin Healey 3000 was the way to go, and MGs in every era were more dependable than Triumph!

    And when it comes to “car-spotting”, because of the salt and rust, anywhere north of Chicago is a crap-shoot! The only vintage you see are people that don’t drive them in the winter, and have the financial means to do that…

  5. tbm3fan says:

    Nice examples in a not so forgiving environment unlike the Bay Area for me. Now I can’t say I have seen more older cars on the roads around here lately. Older being 60s, 70s, and 80s. The 90s I just don’t register in my mind as old much less even recognize the car as a 90. I just stopped paying attention to most all cars after 1990. One thing I can say is that what is on Craigslist has changed dramatically over the last few years. I look every day and have seen anything from Ford in the 90s like Taurus, Sable, Crown Vic, Thunderbird, Cougar and Grand Marquis pretty much vanish compared to four years ago. Same with any Mazda, except Miata, older than 1997. Two of my favorites that I watch. Another would be the Volvo 240 over the last two years as well as early to mid-80s Mercedes 300D.

      • Hey, Jim. I have been cleaning and located some film that never got developed. No idea how old it is but I’m thinking 2008 or before. Is it worth processing? It’s been in a closet all these years.

        • It’s exposed film? Unless it’s been exposed to a lot of heat it’s probably fine and is worth having developed. It probably won’t look as good as fresh film — more grain, “off” colors — but at least you’ll get to see what the images look like.

          If you don’t have a good lab near you, mail the film to Fulltone Photo, which is in greater Louisville: fulltonephoto.com.

        • Thanks for this! I had finished the rolls and packaged them up to send away for processing. Can’t imagine how they got pushed to the back of a closet.

          I will be sure to use Fulltone. Thanks!!!

    • Don’t feel bad. It is a rare car that makes me pull over and park just to photograph it. Generally, I photograph old cars when I am already out of my car and have time to get my iPhone out and make a photograph.

  6. Wow! Jim, 23 years in one year despite COVID!

    I once owned a <a href=”https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1994-acura-integra-6/“Milano Red 1994 Acura Integra GS-R. It was the first car I owned that I was truly excited to drive. I was like one of the characters in a Fast and Furious movie (at least until my kids were born). I put nearly 200,000 miles on it before I sold it in 2006 for a Honda Accord (so boring). That model year is now considered a classic.

    P.S.

    I was in college around the same time as you. The campus radio station mostly played what was at the time “alternative rock” (e.g Pixies, R.E.M., The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain etc.). Classic Rock was something I only head at “i-drank-too-much” student parties.

    • Notice how many of these cars I photographed at Meijer? I still have to go grocery shopping during the pandemic! :-)

      You are fortunate to have owned that Integra. I did not get to own a fun car when I was young. I didn’t make much money and I was fortunate to have a basic coupe.

      I remember the alt rock of the day. I grew into it, but my heart was in the rock of the 60s and 70s.

  7. tbm3fan says:

    I have looked at BaT but can’t stand the commentators. More than half the comments are about I had a car just like this blah, blah, and blah. Another group telling the seller you have a great car there. It is all too much for me and it is mainly rarer low mileage cars which don’t interest me besides just being a step under B-J which I truly can’t stand.

    • BaT is nice eye candy, though, and you can stop scrolling when you reach the comments. But agreed, I’m not looking for rarer, low-mileage cars either.

      • Kevin Thomas says:

        I owned a 98 Taurus, that looked just like that! Never had any problem with it until after paying it off and then having two accidents in a month (rear ended at a stop light, then had someone pull out in front of me at an intersection). Nevef drove as good after that, so I traded it for a 2002 model (with a larger engine) that I’m still driving 😁😁 I love driving a paid off vehicle.

  8. Spotting old cars on the road is a much more difficult proposition over here in the UK. A couple of factors have consigned most older vehicles to the great road in the sky.

    Firstly, twenty years ago, when leaded fuel was largely banned, many old cars were scrapped due to the cost of having them converted (plus there were various schemes encouraging owners to get a replacement vehicle). Secondly, the MOT test which is a legal requirement for all vehicles in the UK that are three years old or more means that older cars are rendered illegal to drive if not kept roadworthy. While this is a good thing as it means the chances of accidents from poorly maintained vehicles is reduced, it means we dont get the older vehicles – and particulalry, the “beater” cars – that you often seem to be able to find in the States. Most of them over here are in the hands of enthusiasts who are willing to keep then in roadworthy condition, so you mostly tend to see them at organised events unless you fall lucky.

    • Interesting. I don’t think we could get away with a MOT test here. We have so, so much ground to cover, and public transportation (except on the coasts) that doesn’t serve everybody everywhere. Where I lived in Indianapolis before I moved to Zionsville, and here on the outskirts of Zionsville, you HAVE to have a car. It’s not optional. The place I lived in Indianapolis last is in decline as the core old city gentrifies. People of low status are moving in there and all they can afford are old cars, frequently in poor cosmetic and/or running condition. It’s a lousy way to have to live but it is their only option.

      • Oh, certainly. I think your infrastructure is largely built around car use – several states are larger than the entirety of the UK, nevermind the entire nation, so having transportation is a must. Over here, even in the most remote parts of the country, nothing is that far away in comparison with larger places such as the US. A lot of our infrastructure as a result is built around public transport networks such as buses and rail, plus there is almost always provision for pedestrians too, at least in any built-up area. Thus my envy over the much larger number of older cars you get the opportunity to photograph more easily. :)

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