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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Photography, Preservation

Coxhall Gardens

It wasn’t that long ago that Hamilton County, Indiana, was mostly farmland. When I moved to central Indiana in the mid 1990s, if you drove north from Indianapolis into Hamilton County, city rapidly gave way to corn and soybean fields.

Today, it’s all developed. The Hamilton County towns of Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville have annexed a great deal of the county and, one by one, farmers have sold their land to developers. Office buildings line the major roads now. Everywhere else you’ll find homes, ranging from inexpensive vinyl-village subdivisions, to gated communities of stone and brick homes, to sprawling estates. You’ll also find the suburban shopping centers that follow residential development.

Jesse and Beulah Cox foresaw this all happening. They bought the farm of original Hamilton County settler John Williams in 1958, and by 1974 they had built their dream home on the property. In 1999, they donated their property to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department to preserve their land, to “create an oasis in a sea of homes,” Jesse said. Their farm, now known as Coxhall Gardens, is a sprawling park. It’s also one of my frequent photographic destinations.

Williams began farming this land in 1855, and built this house on it in 1865.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

As you drive by, this house is largely hidden by a row of trees. When the Coxes bought the property, they lived in the Williams house at first.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

The Williams’ barn still stands near the house.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Barn
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Looming behind the barn is the mansion the Coxes built in 1974. (But first, they built and lived in a single-story ranch in what looks like limestone. It still stands, but I’ve never photographed it.)

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

I was surprised to learn that this large, solid home was built so recently. It looks like something from a hundred years before.

Mansion at Coshall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

I especially enjoy the mansion during the warm months, because it is lushly landscaped.

Mansion at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I don’t know the significance of this statue, but I like it and have photographed it a number of times.

Statue at Coxhall Gardens
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

I’m partial to this photo of my wife on the mansion’s steps.

Margaret at Coxhall Gardens
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

Not far from the mansion is the ampitheater. The rotunda-like stage is large enough only for a small performance, such as a musical quartet.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Many times I’ve found people here making wedding photographs. This would be a lovely setting for an outdoor wedding.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Up the ampitheater
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

This monument to the Coxes, featuring their quote about the “sea of homes,” stands at the back of the ampitheater.

The Coxes
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

When you walk behind the ampitheater, you find yourself on a bridge over a large pond. From there, you can easily see the park’s two large clocks.

At Coxhall Gardens
Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200
Concrete donut
Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Fujicolor 200

Here’s one of the clocks from a little closer. I don’t know what their significance is, but they are a defining feature in the park. Notice the bells below the clock. I’ve never heard them ring.

At Coxhall Gardens

This is the bridge behind the ampitheater.

Coxhall Gardens
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL

Finally, there’s a little “wild west” village in a back corner of Coxhall Gardens, which I imagine might be fun for children.

Wild Wild West
Rollei 35B, Fujicolor 200

You’ll find the entrance to Coxhall Gardens on Towne Road, just north of 116th Street, in Carmel, Indiana.

Reviews of the cameras used in this photo essay: Rollei 35B, Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Pentax IQZoom 170SL, Pentax K10D.

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Old Louisville

Old Louisville
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL
2020

I don’t have much to say about this photo except that I like it. Also, while Old Louisville is stunning to see, I’m not sure I’d want to live there. The architecture is severe, imposing. It would wear on me quick.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: Old Louisville

A fountain and lovely homes in Old Louisville.

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Camera Reviews

Pentax K10D

If the Pentax K10D isn’t a dinosaur among DSLRs yet, it will be soon: it was introduced in 2006. At 10.2 megapixels, its image resolution doesn’t compare to modern cameras. But it was good for its day and is plenty even now. It’s a competent performer in all but low light. Critically, you can buy them used for as little as $100. I bought one because it promised to take all of the manual-focus K-mount lenses I already own. Also, other owners report that its CCD sensor returns film-like color.

Pentax K10D

The K10D was aimed at the “serious amateur” market, offering features entry-level DSLRs didn’t. It is sealed against dust and weather, and automatically removes dust from the sensor on startup. The K10D also includes a shake reduction system.

Pentax K10D

It offers the usual Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes. You also get Sensitivity Priority (Sv) mode, where you dial in the ISO and the camera chooses aperture and shutter speed; and Shutter/Aperture Priority (TAv), where you set aperture and shutter speed and the camera chooses the ISO. In these modes you adjust shutter speed with the dial on the camera front below the shutter button, and the aperture with the dial on the camera back below the LCD screen.

Pentax K10D

The K10D uses an 11-point autofocus system, with 9 points clustered around the center of the frame. It offers matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. A menu setting lets you choose the ISO range the camera will use in auto ISO mode. I set mine to 100-400 ISO, because ISOs higher than that lead to progressively noisier images on the K10D. Its ISO range is 100 to 1600.

By the way, I’ve reviewed a handful of other digital cameras: the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here), the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here), the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here), and the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here). Have a look!

I bought the K10D to see how vintage Pentax glass performed against a digital sensor. I started with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M. Because the K10D’s APS-C sensor is smaller than a frame of 35mm film, a 50mm lens behaves more like an 85mm lens would on 35mm film. I liked doing close work with this lens.

Daisies

I also bought an adapter to let me mount my screw-mount Takumar lenses. It worked, and here’s one photo to prove it. I made this through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens.

Ford

I mounted my 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens for a trip to Chicago. This lens is a little too wide for me on my 35mm SLRs, but it was just right on the K10D.

Ross Trump Self-Park (with Man)

This photo from the 28/2.8 shows the brilliant color the K10D’s CCD sensor can deliver. It reminds me of shooting on color slide film.

Colorful tables and chairs

Shooting a manual lens on the K10D isn’t as simple as mount and go. You first have to go into the camera’s menus to enable the Using Aperture Ring setting, which lets the camera recognize the aperture you select on the lens. You also need to set the mode dial to M, for manual exposure. And then when you’ve framed and focused a scene, you have to press the green-dot button (next to the shutter button) to stop the lens down and meter.

It works very well. But on my trip to Chicago I soon wished for easier shooting. I started looking for a good autofocus lens for my K10D. I first found a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens for cheap.

Country Marathon

The lens was best with distant subjects. It struggled to find focus closer than about five feet. Also, when I shot subjects with a lot of depth in anything other than great light, things up close were out of focus.

Indiana State Road 45

The narrow end of this 28-80mm lens was mighty useful on road trips, however, where I sometimes want to zoom in on something distant. Thanks to the APS-C crop factor, 80mm is like 120mm on 35mm film.

Martinsville

Next I tried a 35mm f/2 SMC PENTAX-FA AL lens, thinking a prime would perform better. This lens cost way more than I’m used to paying for my gear. Unfortunately, with this lens mounted the K10D frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter, and the autofocus often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. When it hit, it hit big, however, as this photo attests. Still, I sold this lens pretty quickly, for what I paid for it.

Jimmy

I feared that I would soon let the K10D find its next owner. Then I read somewhere that the lens that came with the K10D in its kit, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL, worked well with this body and performed beautifully. So I bought one. Verdict: oh heck yeah.

Cary Quad *EXPLORED*

How wonderfully this light, plastic-bodied kit lens performs. It focuses quickly and nearly silently. It’s super sharp. It has a tiny bit of barrel distortion at the wide end and a tiny bit of pincushion distortion at the narrow end, both easily corrected in Photoshop. Except for that slight flaw, this lens makes the K10D almost a pleasure to shoot.

Damion

Since getting the 18-55mm lens I’ve taken the K10D on more road trips. This is a fairly heavy camera — my wife’s Nikon D3100 feels feather light in comparison. By the end of a long day on the road I definitely feel the K10D slung over my shoulder. This is why the K10D is almost a pleasure to shoot.

Eastbound on IL 64

I’m not thrilled with the JPEGs the K10D generates — for a CCD sensor, colors are surprisingly muted. Fortunately, shooting in RAW and applying a couple quick tweaks in Photoshop’s RAW editor makes the colors pop.

Talk

Purple and yellow are, to me, the big tests for color fidelity on a digital sensor. Purples too often come out as blue and yellows too often wash out. The K10D handles both colors very well.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Typical of DSLRs, the K10D’s extra long battery life far outclasses my point-and-shoot Canon S95. For a full-day road trip I must bring my two extra batteries for the S95, while a full charge on the K10D’s battery is more than enough.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

Because of the K10D’s CCD sensor, you quickly reach the camera’s limits in low light. Better low-light performance was one factor that drove the industry to CMOS sensors. But so far, CMOS sensors can’t deliver the same bold color as CCD sensors.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

I don’t often use the K10D to photograph family. My Canon S95 is so much lighter and easier to handle for that kind of work. But whenever I do use the K10D with family, the images I get back richly reward me.

Lain

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax K10D gallery.

I’ve written mostly about the lenses I’ve tried and the images I’ve gotten. So let me wrap up by offering my take on the K10D under use. Its viewfinder is big and bright for a DSLR — you’ll find bigger and brighter viewfinders on plenty of 35mm SLRs but seldom on other DSLRs. All of the controls are just where you’d expect them to be, the body feels good in the hand, and the grip is perfect. It all adds up to easy, sure handling.

Despite its weight and the low-light limits of its sensor, the Pentax K10D is a winner.

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Personal

A walk around Indiana University

My son graduated from Purdue and then landed a job in Bloomington, home to Purdue’s arch-rival, Indiana University. So far, he’s not taken too much flak for his educational pedigree! I visited him a couple weeks ago and we strolled around campus as we talked. I had my Pentax K10D along with its 18-55mm zoom lens.

In 1988 I had a girlfriend at IU. Laura and I remain friends to this day. Sometimes she’d come to see me at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute and sometimes I’d visit her at IU. We walked campus a lot because it didn’t cost anything; neither of us had much money. It’s remarkable to me how after more than 30 years IU feels exactly like it did then, but I recognize almost nothing.

On the Indiana University campus
On the Indiana University campus
On the Indiana University campus
On the Indiana University campus

My son and I stepped off campus proper to walk some of the neighborhood directly to the north. I was drawn to its brick streets and the architecture of the houses. Many of these houses contain university departments today.

Brick streets of Bloomington
Brick streets of Bloomington
Brick streets of Bloomington

Kirkwood Avenue is the heart of the off-campus student experience. It’s remarkable to me how many places on it are still there since the 1980s, like Nick’s below. I remember well having beers at Kilroy’s and the Irish Lion back in the day, and pizza at Mother Bear’s. They’re all still open.

Nick's English Hut
The Von Lee
Buffa Louie's at the Gables

We’re still dealing with COVID-19, of course, and campus was crowded. So my son and I masked up for our walk.

I was just talking to a friend the other day, a fellow with young children who admitted that he doesn’t enjoy his children as babies. I was the same way. I loved them, but I didn’t start to enjoy them until they were mobile and verbal. The older they became, the more I enjoyed them. The middle- and high-school years were my favorite. What I wouldn’t do to have just one more year of high school with my sons! But that ship has sailed. I’m fortunate that my sons are happy that when their old dad wants to come see them. They always make time for me.

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The Von Lee

The Von Lee
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL
2020

This may look like a former movie theater, but only this entrance remains. Behind it is new construction.

This theater opened as the Ritz in 1928, and was renamed the Von Lee in 1948. It’s a half block from the vast Indiana University campus, on a street that most students consider to be Bloomington’s main drag.

In 1988 I saw at least one movie here, maybe two. I had a girlfriend at IU and we could walk here easily from her dorm. I remember the auditorium being cramped. But we didn’t think much of such things then. Enough old theaters still operated that it was just how it was sometimes. Newly built theaters offered only three or four screens then. The mega multiplex was several years into the future yet.

You’d think that a university town would have been able to find a community use for an old theater. Well, they did. The Indiana Theater stands a few blocks down this same street. It fell into disuse just like the Von Lee did, but it found fortune in being reused as a performing arts center in 1995. I suppose a town Bloomington’s size can support but one such venue. The Von Lee’s auditorium was demolished in about 2006.

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Photography, Preservation

single frame: The Von Lee

A quick look at the Von Lee Theater, what’s left of it anyway, in Bloomington, Indiana.

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