I recently updated my 2012 review of the Pentax K1000; see it here. On my first ever roll in that camera I walked through the parking lot at work, photographing colorful everyday cars up close. I’ve always thought these photos were fun. A couple of these have been only on my hard drive all these years.
Over at Curbside Classic, the old-car blog to which I sometimes contribute, someone will occasionally post a parking-lot photo from 30 or 50 years ago. It’s always great fun to see the everyday cars of the era. The cars that get saved or restored tend to be the more noteworthy or upper-trim models.
These photographs are far too close up to ever provide much of that feeling of nostalgia. But even seven years later, when was the last time you saw a Dodge Neon R/T (above)? Even the once-ubiquitous Chevy Malibu Maxx (below) is starting to be thin on the ground.
Cars date photographs. I follow a group on Facebook for vintage photographs of Indiana. The posters are often left to guess when photos were made. Because I have good knowledge of American automobiles after World War II, I can frequently help narrow it down. “That had to be made no earlier than 1968 because there’s a 1968 Chevy in the photo.”
I made all of these photos with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens on Fujicolor 200.
It’s easy to make detail photos of old cars; there are so many details. I find newer cars to be more challenging. Revisiting these seven-year-old photographs makes me want to try more often now.
Have you ever missed a car you owned after you sold it?
I miss my old blue Toyota Matrix. A lot. Above you see it shortly after I bought it, in 2009. The photo is from its first road trip, along the National Road in western Indiana.
I owned this car for nine years, the longest I’ve ever owned a car. I bought it used with about 90,000 miles on it, and I drove it another 90,000. By the time I sold it about a year and a half ago, it looked terrible. It had several scrapes and dents, and the front fascia had broken off. The paint had gone chalky, and had peeled off a large section of the hood and a little on the front bumper.
I bought a used Ford Focus in 2012 to be my primary car, but kept the Matrix. The Focus was terrific to drive, more fun than the Matrix by far. But I never bonded with it like I did this Matrix. I was always happy behind its wheel for reasons I can’t put my finger on.
In the last couple years I owned the Matrix I used it like a work truck, hauling anything and everything in its capacious wayback. By the time I traded it in on my VW Passat, it looked every bit as used up as it was.
I was happy to get my new car, and it’s working out fine for me and my family. But every time I see a Matrix rolling on the road, I find myself hoping to see a for a For Sale sign in the window.
I’ve reached a time in life where I can recall memories from my adulthood with great clarity, as if they happened last week — but to my surprise, some of those memories are 30 years old.
As I think back beyond 30 years, memories seem to have aged on a logarithmic scale — the farther back I go, the disproportionately more ancient the memory seems. My college days now firmly feel like they happened a long time ago. My public-school days feel more remote and disconnected the farther back I recall them. What little I recall from before those days seems to have happened in another era, in a different place, the jumbled images faded and color-shifted like cheap photo prints left in the sun.
Yet so much happens in even a relatively short time span that it’s easy to forget key details. In this ten-year-old photo I’m at my first Mecum classic-car auction, having won tickets in a radio contest. I was in nirvana, happily experiencing cars I’d only ever before seen in photographs. I had recently bought my first digital camera, a surprisingly capable Kodak. I shot a couple hundred photos there with it, depleted the battery, and wished I had a spare. I switched to shooting with my phone, a Palm Pre, until its battery had depleted as well. And look at my hair! I wore it to my shoulders in those days.
This photo reminds me of most of these details. Would they be lost to me now otherwise? Do I remember the last 30 years as clearly as I think I do?
More importantly to me now: at what point will my 20s start to feel like they happened a very long time ago? My 30s? My 40s? I know a blogger in his 80s who says he mostly can’t remember his kids’ childhoods anymore. Is that my fate, too?
Analogue Wonderland, who sponsor this post, ships film almost anywhere. Click their logo to choose from their extensive selection.
I love car shows! Especially those where everyday people show off their old iron. A nearby dealer of classic cars invites folks to bring their muscle and classic cars the last Saturday of every month during the warm-weather months. I visited last month with my Nikon N90s and 50mm f/2 AF Nikkor lens.
My Nikon was packing Fujifilm Fujicolor Industrial 100, which Analogue Wonderland sent me in exchange for the mentions in this review. I liked the old Fujifilm Superia 100 very much — the two rolls I got to shoot before it was discontinued. I’d heard that this film was still available in Japan, but was rebranded as Fujicolor Industrial 100.
These results are good enough for me: if this isn’t the same film it’s darn close. Unfortunately, it’s a little pricey. But when you need a smooth-grained, bold-colored film with managed contrast and excellent sharpness, this option remains available. As of this writing, at least; Fujifilm loves to discontinue film stocks. (You can buy this film from Analogue Wonderland here.)
This isn’t my first time shooting cars with a Fujifilm ISO 100 color film. I used Superia 100 at a show a couple years ago; see my shots here. I liked those photos so much that I saved my one roll of Industrial 100 until I could again find myself among some old cars. So far I’ve shared a ’67 Corvette, a Pontiac GTO from the late 60s (with the tachometer on the hood), an early-70s VW Bug from Australia (hence the amber turn signal; they were red in the US), and a ’66 Plymouth Satellite reflecting a newer Ford Mustang.
This photo of a ’76 Chevy El Camino shows the sharpness this film can capture. The 50/1.8 AF Nikkor lets this film’s capabilities shine through. This El Camino was yellow and white (which surely wasn’t a factory color combination). I find that many color films struggle to capture yellow. Not so the Industrial 100.
The light matters, of course; here’s the front fender of the same car and the yellow isn’t as vibrant. My Photoshoppery on these images was largely limited to using Auto Tone to remove a slight green caste, and to lightly tone down highlights and, sometimes, to boost contrast a little.
A car show is a great place to test color film because classic cars were painted in real colors, not just black, white, gray, and beige as today! Can you imagine buying a pea-soup-green sedan now? Various shades of green were common on cars in the ’70s. The jutting fender is out of focus because I made this shot inside in available light, and this ISO 100 film granted little depth of field.
What’s a car show without a ’57 Chevy?
I loved how this one had a model of itself on the back parcel shelf.
This film even likes black. A lot. Notice how the blacks are different on the ’57 Chevy above and ’67 Camaro below? It’s not a difference in lighting — these are legitimately two different blacks, and Fujicolor Industrial 100 rendered them both beautifully.
Now I want to buy five or six rolls of this film and keep shooting it. But I have too much Agfa Vista 200 in the freezer to need more color negative film. Maybe after I finish shooting up the Agfa, buying some more Fujicolor Industrial 100 can be my reward.
You can buy Fujicolor Industrial 100 in a few places online — including Analogue Wonderland, here.
In college, one of my roommates had one of these. He bought it new in 1985. It was a hell of a car for a college freshman to own, and he was very happy with it.
I got to drive it once. He and I had been at a bar in town and where I had just one beer he had three. He was always extra careful when he’d been drinking, so he handed me the keys.
This car is super low, so much so that oncoming cars’ headlights shone directly into my eyes as if they were high beams. I don’t know how fast it would go as I drove it only over city streets near the speed limit. But I remember its stiff chassis and excellent clutch and shifter.
I shot this on Kodak ColorPlus, which was provided by Analogue Wonderland in exchange for this mention. You can buy ColorPlus from them here.
When I was a kid, my dad wanted a Chevy El Camino. I mean, really really wanted. He imagined himself driving in carlike comfort while being able to haul lumber and other large items with ease in its bed. He was so hot to own one that he tried to convince my mom that our family of four would fit just fine shoulder to shoulder across the front seat.
Mom wasn’t having it. Thank goodness, because the four of us shoulder-tight on that bench seat did not sound like fun to me. But I feel bad for my dad that he never got his El Camino.
As Dad aged, that spark for fun motoring left him. I think that’s natural for anyone who didn’t get to sow those oats when they were younger — he never knew the joy of the fun car and so those synapses never formed in his brain. By his middle age he declared that his cars were meant only to get him from A to B.
I’m in the middle of making the same mistake. When I was young I wanted a 3-series BMW coupe. Really really wanted one. But I never felt like I should extend myself financially to buy even a well-used one. I could have, but I always played it safe with my money.
I regret it. While it’s important to be good stewards of our finances, it’s also important to seek good, fun experiences in life.
I’ve already told my wife that after the kids are done with college I’d like to buy a fun car. I’ve lost my BMW lust in middle age, so I don’t know yet what that car will be except that it’ll be older and will not be my daily driver. Whatever I choose, it’ll be our road-trip car and we will make memories together in it.
This one’s for my dad, who would have been 78 today.