On a mid-September Saturday in 2007, my longtime friend Brian and I documented all of the old alignments of US 31 we could find in northern Indiana. When we reached the town of Peru, we found the highway closed through the heart of town for a car show.
This is one of the reasons why I love to take road trips — you never know what you’ll encounter!
Brian knows I love old cars, so he patiently let me walk among these and photograph them. This little Nash is heavily customized.
I’m pretty sure this is a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster.
This 1960s Chevy truck was heavily customized. I liked its front end, so I squatted for a close photo. I make a cameo appearance in the bumper.
This boy from South Bend always stops to look at a Studebaker.
A Chevy Nova SS. It’s likely this didn’t roll off the assembly line as an SS — most Novas were what we used to call “grocery getters,” with boring sixes under the hood.
My favorite car of the day was this 1966 Plymouth VIP. Ford luxed up the Galaxie to make the LTD, and Chevy the Impala to make the Caprice. Plymouth put fake wood trim and upgraded seats into its Fury, and called it the VIP.
This one looks to have been modified some. The fake wood is missing, and the door cards don’t look stock to me. But whatever; it’s lovely and I lingered over it.
As I prepared to take the shot below, a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’ll have to charge you a quarter for each picture.” He owned the Plymouth. When I told him I had recently seen an old television ad for the VIP on one of the online video sites, he lit up for a moment. He told me that there was precious little information available about the VIP, which didn’t sell very well. He said he had had a difficult time finding trim parts for the car, and pointed out a few places where he had to use slightly scuffed chrome or parts that didn’t fit together just right because that’s what was available.
This blog was about six months old when I found these cars. I wrote about this Plymouth then; read about it here.
My camera’s battery died while shooting the Plymouth, which brought me out of my old-car delirium to notice that Brian was standing politely on the curb, ready to move along. Even though there were more cars to see, we headed back to my car to continue our trip. I fished my spare battery out of a cup holder, put it in the camera, and we were on our way.
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.
Cormorant hood ornament Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M Kodak Tri-X 400 (at EI 200 by mistake) 2016
Early Packard automobiles had an array of stunning hood ornaments. You might think this bird is a swan, but you’d be wrong; it’s a cormorant. You’d find cormorant hood ornaments on the finest Packards.
If I had not shot this at EI 200 by mistake, I might not have gotten just this perfect look.
One year I took a 110 camera to the Mecum auction. I’m not crazy about the 110 format for its itty-bitty negatives. But I’m also a curious man, and I wanted to see what that Minolta 110 camera was capable of.
I got the best photos I’d ever made on 110 film from that camera. That’s not to say the photos were particularly sharp or detailed. Maybe it’s better to say that I got the least bad photos I’d ever made on 110 film from that camera.
Have I ever mentioned that when I was in middle school I wrote short stories? I don’t have any of them anymore, and I’m sure none of them were any good. The only one I remember at all was the one where I had the main character drive a step-down Hudson.