Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick Visit to the Arcane Auto Show

Dave "Smith" and I zipped down to SF this morning for the annual Arcane Auto Society show at Cowden Motors.  The club is open to just about anything 'odd', and members own everything from Crosleys (that's West Coast Club President David Brodsky's teal '47 vert above) to Amphicars to homebuilts.  If Average Joe on the street scratches his head when it drives by, it's probably eligible for Arcane membership.  And 'driving by' seems to be a key- I don't think any car at the show was trailered.
There were a lot of neat cars there, but if I had to pick a favorite, it might be this 1957 Fiat wagon.  The styling is clean and concise with just a hint of strangeness- note that third headlight in the center.  It was an immaculate car, and the color combo was perfect.  I didn't note the displacement, but I'm guessing 1200 cc.
This Fiat 600 rolled in just after Dave and I got there.  I have a real soft spot for these cars- if I hadn't gotten into Crosleys I'd have probably ended up with a 600... and I still might. My Dad had one of these before I was born, and watching the 8mm movie footage of him driving it on the sidewalks of 1963 Princeton, New Jersey is a cherished memory.   The Fiat was the only European car besides Bugatti and Jaguar that my Dad didn't regard as a complete POS (which, given the reputation of fifties/sixties Fiats, still boggles my mind).  He loved his, drove the snot out of it, and I wish he'd held on to it (along with the Bugatti, the '31 Ford Vicky, '51 Mercury and '72 VW bus) long enough for me to have at least had a ride in it.   
Dave didn't have a clear favorite, but he did keep wandering back to look at this Austin a lot.  Truth be told, I stayed clear for fear that if I looked at it enough I'd decide I need one.
This Berkeley buzzed in sounding like an angry hornet, 2 cylinder motorcycle engine revving hard.  It was a great driver, with paint chips, hazy plexiglass windshield and well worn upholstery.  I dream of the day that my '51 Super Sport has this kind of worn-in feel.

This '53 Ford Comete  was featured on Jalopnik a couple of years ago- I don't know if the person showing it was the buyer, or if it didn't sell.  It didn't have a for sale listing, so I'm guessing that it was here with the new owner.  This thing was nice, and Dave and I did cartoonish double-takes when we spotted it rolling down Folsom Street on the way to the show.  It was powered by the Ford V860 motor that never went over that well in the US market, but worked like gangbusters in France for decades.  Hotrod guys have rediscovered these little flatheads, and I remember reading that a warehouse full of NOS French V860s was discovered 10 years or so ago, making them available at an affordable price.   Back in the day, enterprising Crosley owners stuffed these engines into their cars, more than doubling the power with only a moderate weight gain.  I looked at a V860 powered 1948 wagon when I first started shopping for a Crosley-the seller thought it was the best part of the car!   
I don't know much about these Toyota 800s other than that they are rare, pricey and really cool.  I have to think that that back area would catch a lot of wind if you actually drove it with the top off.
Again, I don't know a whole lot about Traction Avants.  They look a lot older than they actually are, and there's one in Sacto that I was praying was for sale when I saw it parked on the street last year.   Thankfully for my wallet and the sanity of my household (yes, Liv would have killed me) it wasn't.
This Thames van was incredibly well restored, but was an obvious driver too.  I saw one of these for sale last year and thought, 'Where would you get parts?'  Seems like I might have been right to worry, judging by the owner's answer to the query, 'Looking for parts?'  Answer: 'Always.'  They get bonus points for having a van that the Beatles could have toured in circa 1960.  Here's the front:
And, yes, you did see it poking into a picture back there.  A Pacer.  like I said, if it's weird, it gets in the club.  There was a moment (approximately June 7-13, 1988) where I wanted one of these for the sheer absurdity of it, but the fact that they weren't dirt cheap (like almost free) and that every one I saw was beat nearly to death, cured me.
There were plenty more cars, including an Amphicar, an Elf, and even a much-modified Opel- but my photos didn't all turn out so well.  All in all, a day well spent looking at cars, and getting my inspiration to maybe drive one of my Crosleys, or maybe Dave's NSU there next year.  

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