Old Cars

Getting very close to classic cars

Of the photos I took last week at the Mecum Spring Classic, I like these best. I do love to move in close with my camera to find interesting details.

1970 Plymouth Road Runner f

1970 Plymouth Road Runner. I’ve seen dozens of Road Runners at various Mecums, but had never looked at the steering wheel hub before.

1919 Ford Model T f

1919 Ford Model T. These are the pedals of a Model T, which drives differently from any other car you’ve ever seen. The pedals are C for clutch, R for reverse, and B for brake – go here to learn more about it.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette c

1963 Chevrolet Corvette. I find myself going to the same details over and over. Tail lights are a frequent subject.

1958 Plymouth Fury d

1958 Plymouth Fury. I took more photos of rooflines this year than before, however. I like this simple curve.

1961 Ford Galaxie Starliner i

1961 Ford Galaxie Starliner. I think this similar curve works better on this car.

1968 Dodge Charger RT e

1968 Dodge Charger RT. This has become almost an obligatory photo as I take it every year. I never tire of this car’s ultra-wide C pillar.

1968 Chevrolet El Camino b

1968 Chevrolet El Camino. This was among the first photos I took during my visit, while the day was still new and the light was still a little golden.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS 2 d

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS. Cars are stored all over the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and lighting conditions vary widely. This room offers particularly challenging light, except near the windows.

1957 Pontiac Safari g

1957 Pontiac Star Chief Safari. Sometimes a dramatic angle, shot casually, really works.

1957 Ford Ranch Wagon c

1957 Ford Ranch Wagon. More early-morning sunshine across this car’s wide flank.

1955 Ford Sunliner d

1955 Ford Sunliner. I like headlights. Ooh, look, my legs make a cameo appearance in this car’s bumper.

1954 Buick Skylark convertible e

1954 Buick Skylark convertible. The trunklid was up, and at just the right angle I was able to make the letters line up with the hood way at the other end of the car.

1953 Buick Skylark convertible b

1953 Buick Skylark convertible. A riff on a fat-toothed chrome grille.

1951 Chevrolet station wagon a

1951 Chevrolet station wagon. Ok, so this shot isn’t all that close. But I like the light falling on this car’s nose, and I’ve grown partial to this face.

1948 Oldsmobile Futuramic b

1948 Oldsmobile. Another headlight. Its simple lines are appealing, and repeat in the tiny turn signal light below it.

1937 Ford g

1937 Ford. I spent a lot of time admiring this car, which was probably my second favorite of the day. I’ll share my first favorite tomorrow.

Old Cars

Favorite cars from the 2013 Mecum Spring Classic

I go to the Mecum auction every May hoping to see cars I’ve never seen in person before, great examples of some cars I’ve known and loved for years, and some rare and unusual cars. I was not disappointed this year. Here are some of my favorites from my day at the auction.

1949 Hudson Commodore 8 convertible a

1949 Hudson Commodore 8 convertible. The four-door sedan is actually my favorite body style of all the step-down Hudsons – I think they look mean, like something a mafia don would drive to a massacre. But I wouldn’t turn down this convertible.

1938 Chrysler Royal a

1938 Chrysler Royal. This car has real presence. The more I see cars from the 1930s, the more I appreciate their style. Until just a few years ago, I never bothered to look at cars from before World War II. I credit my several visits to the Mecum auction, which has let me experience several great prewar cars up close, for helping me see their beauty.

1959 International Harvester Metro c

1959 International Harvester Metro. These delivery vans, which were designed by Raymond Loewy, were made from 1938 to 1975. Yet I’ve never seen one before. How have they escaped my notice?

1959 International Harvester Metro h

This Metro looks like it’s outfitted to vend ice cream. It’s well known around the Web, with writeups here and here.

1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk a

1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk. Here’s where I give a big shout out to the hometown this car and I have in common, South Bend, Indiana!

1958 Plymouth Fury a

1958 Plymouth Fury. I love all of the Forward Look Chryslers. They look fresh and crisp even today. Ford and GM’s 1958 styling was generally awkward and heavy-handed, making Chryslers look even better. This Fury is original and unrestored.

1958 Mercury Commuter a

1958 Mercury Commuter. See what I mean? This ’58 is overwrought, especially compared to that sleek Plymouth. But I’m a big fan of station wagons, and this big hauler is as tricked out as they come.

1958 Mercury Commuter k

Also, I really dig this shade of blue. I lingered for a long time over this Mercury, taking in its details.

1963 Chevrolet Impala wagon a

1963 Chevrolet Impala wagon. But I think that if I were classic-wagon shopping, I’d rather have this one. GM styling was really starting to soar in the early 1960s, and even their fairly utilitarian automobiles were crisply good looking.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS a

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS. The ’67 and ’68 big Chevy hardtop coupe is my favorite body of all time. I just love the way this car looks.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette d

1963 Chevrolet Corvette. I’m not a big Corvette fan but I’ve always liked these split-rear-window ’63s. I’m sure driving a car with a thick post blocking the rear view was less than a picnic. Chevy fitted a full-width window starting in 1964. It was certainly more practical, but it didn’t look as good.

1971 Dodge Demon GSS f

1971 Dodge Demon GSS. I’m not a huge muscle-car fan. I do appreciate them for what they are, but I’m more partial to everyday cars that have been saved or restored. But when it comes to muscle cars, my heart goes right for the Mopars. The Dodge Demon shared a body with the better-known Plymouth Duster. A Dodge dealer in Chicago, Grand-Spaulding Dodge, was known for further souping up hot Dodge muscle cars. This Demon GSS is one of them, sporting triple carburetors and other hi-po goodies.

1970 Chevrolet Camaro (first one ever) a

1970 Chevrolet Camaro. What makes this Camaro special is that it’s the first ’70 built. I like firsts. I like this body style, at least in its earlier years before Chevy slathered it in plastic bolt-on boy-racer bits that turned this clean design into a cartoon.

On Thursday, I’ll share tons of photos of my most favorite car from the auction.

Old Cars

It’s classic-car week at Down the Road!

I almost didn’t make it to this year’s Mecum Spring Classic muscle-car auction. We were in crisis mode at work, cleaning up the mess after a software deployment went wrong. Thursday was to be my day among the cars, but we were still troubleshooting at work, so I put it off. Fortunately, we found the underlying problems Thursday afternoon. My team told me they had it under control and urged me to go on Friday.

I’m so glad I did. Mind you, I may have driven my team crazy by checking in every hour or so over instant messenger. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t relieved that their excellent skills allowed me one of my happiest days of the year!

I normally write a post or two sharing some photos from the auction, but this year I’m going wall to wall all week, with posts and photos every day through Friday. Then on Saturday I’ll share more from the auction over at Curbside Classic. If you’re not into cars, come back Monday when regular programming resumes.

It’s hard to believe the sheer number of cars at each year’s Mecum Spring Classic. This year, over 2,000 cars rolled by the auctioneer. While they wait their turn, and even after they are sold, they have to wait somewhere. So they fill five or six large buildings at the Fairgrounds, and even sit in the parking lots outside.

Wide shot from the Mecum Spring Classic

I took all of these photos in the 147,000-square-foot West Pavilion. As you can see, this enormous space is filled with cars. It takes me several hours to walk through just this building. I spent the entire day at the Mecum and I don’t think I saw all the available cars.

Wide shot from the Mecum Spring Classic

The Mecum Spring Classic focuses on muscle cars. There are so many Camaro Z28s, Boss Mustangs, Hemi Cudas, et al., that it’s overwhelming. But I’m not here to see them. I come every year searching for true classics, or the oddballs, or cars I’ve only ever seen in photographs.

Wide shot from the Mecum Spring Classic

I also bring two digital cameras with spare batteries. My twin Canons, the PowerShot S95 and the PowerShot S80, are highly competent point-and-shoots that slip easily into the big pockets of my cargo shorts. This year I took 700 photos. I’ll share more of them all week.

Past posts from the Mecum: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

Old Cars

Auto typography

Every May I go to the giant Mecum Spring Classic muscle car auction held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It is one of the top-five most favorite things I do for myself every year. I spend many happy hours there wandering around the old cars, and I take hundreds of photographs. I especially love to move in close and photograph each car’s little details.

I recently wrote a post for Curbside Classic about the excellent typographical design behind some of the badges on classic automobiles. While I was sorting through photos I took at the Mecum that illustrated my point, I found several other photos I wanted to share with you here just because they’re pleasing photos, at least to me.

I love the way the light falls across the hood and grille of this 1939 Ford.

1939 Ford Deluxe c

When I shoot my Canon S95 at its widest setting (28 mm), it can create a slight twisting effect in the image’s corners. I put it to good use in this photo of a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS.

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 b

This is among my favorite photos ever, of a hood scoop from a 1970 Dodge Super Bee. I love how the light falls on the matte scoop and the shadow the scoop casts, set off by the shiny yellow paint.

70 Dodge Super Bee

This is another of my all-time favorite photos, of the domed hood on a 1951 Chevrolet Deluxe. I so enjoy how the clouds reflect in the paint. I like this photo so much I had notecards made of it!

1951 Chevrolet Deluxe c

This 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury is every bit as long as this photo makes it look.

1959 Plymouth Sport Fury

The main hall at the auction always has several late-60s Dodge Chargers (like this one from 1969). I always move in close to the badge to capture how the light from the skylight bends across the car’s sail panel.

1969 Dodge Daytona

I like how this 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 reflects me! This car is black, but up close it took on a mirror finish.

67 Olds Delmont 88

The next Mecum Spring Classic is May 14-19. You’d better believe I’ll be there.

Old Cars, Photography

Getting close to classic cars

Color. Reflection. Shadow. Tone. Line. Angle. After four annual visits to the Mecum Spring Classic muscle-car auction, I am beginning to get a good feel for these photographic elements when I move in close to the cars. I’ve had some good luck in past years, but this year I feel like I relied less on luck and more on application of things I’ve learned. Some of that learning came from having shot hundreds of cars now, and some of it came from absorbing other photographers’ work that I admired.

I loved how the light oozed across the hood of this 1972 Dodge Charger. This car was outside in a thin white tent, which acted as a giant diffuser.

1972 Dodge Charger c

Every year, I take this shot of a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. I never get tired of it. Growing experience meant that I moved in and got this shot the first time, rather than needing to take it six or seven times until it felt right, as in past years.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

Ditto this shot of a 1969 Dodge Charger. There’s always at least one Charger in this room with the skylights that splash so interestingly across that wide C pillar.

1969 Dodge Daytona

I like this composition, although my irrational love of the 1967 Chevrolet may be impairing my judgment.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS

These headlights from a 1963 Buick Riviera are my favorite shot of the day.

1963 Buick Riviera

I shot this1956 Cadillac Series 62 and 1956 GMC 100 for their candy colors and almost parallel lines. I think I shot this a dozen times trying to get the lines to be perfectly parallel, thank you OCD.

1956 Cadillac Series 62 and 1956 GMC 100

For all the intentional shooting I did this day, this shot turned out well by accident. It wasn’t until I looked at it later that I noticed how well the building’s exposed trusswork framed this 1935 Ford. Bonus: Find the napping car owner.

1935 Ford

I also love to find classic cars on the street. Check out the ones I photographed last year

Old Cars, Photography

Cars I’d only ever seen in pictures, which I now present to you…in pictures

When I was a car-crazy boy, I spent a large amount of my allowance on car magazines and books. My favorite book was the Encyclopedia of American Cars, an exhaustive look at virtually every automobile ever made on these shores. My copy was from the 1980s, but the publisher updated it periodically through the early 2000s. That same publisher issues six issues of Collectible Automobile magazine annually, and I’ve subscribed for nearly 20 years. I’m still car crazy! Then as now, I drool over photos of cars I can only dream of owning, and pore over their histories and manufacturing statistics.

And so every May when I go to the Mecum Spring Classic, a large classic-car auction held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, I hope to see some of the most exotic, rare, and unusual cars that I have only ever seen in photographs. Each year, I mark a few more cars off my list. Here are the cars I got to see in person for the first time at this year’s auction.

Stutz cars were made right here in Indianapolis, so you’d think I would have seen one by now. But this 1926 Stutz Model 695 was my first.

1926 Stutz Model 695

I’ve always really liked the 1949-1951 Fords. They’re pretty common and I’ve certainly seen plenty of them – but never a Crestliner coupe with its distinctive two-tone paint scheme. This Crestliner is from 1951.

1951 Ford Crestliner

Buick introduced its Skylark in 1953 to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary. During my 1970s kidhood, Skylarks were compact cars near the entry-level end of the Buick hierarchy. But the first Skylarks were premium automobiles that stickered north of $5,000, which is equivalent to about $43,000 today.

1953 Buick Skylark

Ford flirted with see-through roofs in 1954, producing such a car in both the Ford and Mercury lines. Both cars shared the same green acrylic roof panel. This is the Mercury version, which was called the Sun Valley.

1954 Mercury Sun Valley

Ford produced the Continental Mark II in 1956 as its own make – in other words, it wasn’t a Lincoln Continental, it was just a Continental. And it was ex-pen-sive at more than $10,000 – that’s more than $84,000 today. Unbelievably, Ford took a loss on each one! They sold fewer than 3,000 Mark IIs before pulling the plug in 1957, so it’s no wonder I’d never encountered one before.

1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

The 1956 Packard Carribean couldn’t breathe the Mark II’s air, but it was still a plenty exclusive and expensive car. Fewer than 1,000 Carribeans were built in each of the model’s four years.

1956 Packard Carribean

I didn’t know that the Carribean’s seat cushions could be flipped. One side was cloth and the other leather.

1956 Packard Carribean

It may be hard to believe today, but all trucks came with “stepside” beds before 1955, when Chevrolet introduced its straight-sided Cameo Carrier. (This one’s from 1957.) Obviously, the look caught on.

1957 Chevrolet Cameo

When American Motors introduced the Rambler Marlin in 1965, it was trying for a sporty midsize car, something for the guy who really wanted a Mustang but needed a usable rear seat. Few liked the styling, however. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney drove one when he was in high school – no doubt because his father was running American Motors at the time.

1965 Rambler Marlin

Malcolm Bricklin may be best remembered for being the first to import Subarus into the United States, but he also produced a sports car of sorts in the 1970s. The Bricklin SV-1 had powered gullwing doors and a slew of safety equipment that made the car very heavy, and therefore quite slow.

1975 Bricklin SV1

John DeLorean also used gullwing doors in his sports car, the DMC-12, but you had to push them open yourself. It’s funny – I’d always looked forward to encountering my first DeLorean, but I was simply underwhelmed by this one. I think its 1980s styling, so daring in its day, seems mighty tame today.

1983 DeLorean DMC-12

Next time: My favorite photos from this year’s auction.

This was my fourth year at the auction. See photos from the other years here, here, and here