The In-Motion Outtakes Of A Late ’80’s College Boy: They Called Me Shaky Hand Jim

As a teen in the Los Angeles suburbs and then a college man on the California Central Coast, cars and driving were my two (main) passions.  My Dad (and now my Mom as well) was huge into photography and quite good at it, however I myself had a little Vivitar point-and-shoot film camera that was usually in my glovebox, to be hauled out whenever something interested me enough that I’d actually want to pay money to see the resulting photo after having it developed.  Also having a touch of the packrat in me, I’ve decided to share some of the photos that I’ve hauled around in the thirty-odd years since.

The opening photo was taken by me in the driver’s seat of my 1979 Mazda 626 Coupe, and the subject is my best friend Ken driving his Dad’s 1978 VW Westfalia Camper exiting somewhere in the San Fernando Valley (note the smog layer).  Resplendent in its lime green color, he’d owned it since new, the only thing brighter than the outside color was the green and blue plaid interior fabric.  He actually used it for hiking and camping weekly, sometime in the early 90’s it was finally replaced by a new 4Runner.  But it still looked like new when he sold it (before they were worth real money again).

This was shot on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana (yes, named after Tarzan, it is on the site of a former ranch owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs), I lived nearby but on the other side of the tracks.  The main object in this photo is not a Ferrari 308 as it may appear but rather the very rare Ferrari 288 GTO, produced between 1984 and 1987.  This would have been shot around 1987, I may have actually still been in high school at the time.  The Celebrity wagon and the ’70’s Scirocco were both fairly common sights.  Of course the Ferrari is parked across several spots in prime Valley fashion.

Here we are heading northbound on Owensmouth Avenue, the Topanga (now Westfield) Plaza is on the left and the HQ and production facility of Rockwell International, maker of Space Shuttle engines as well as virtually all US liquid rocket engines except Titan, is on the right.  Of more immediate interest to me was the sight ahead that I was attempting to keep pace with in the trusty Mazda.

A Jim Klein “signature shot” with most of the subject out of frame but the important bits of the mid-engine Renault 5 Turbo were visible.  This was a pearl white example with five spoke Gotti wheels and the special edition California Sunset plates.

Our last shot from within the streets of the Valley is of a large piece of forbidden fruit located somewhere in the San Gabriel area.  This Euro Ford Granada (a 2.8 GL if I read the badging correctly) in my mind was the antithesis of the US Granada and fixed everything that was wrong with that one.  Still one of my favorite ’80’s design languages, this was a rare treat even though SoCal is the place to find random rare imports.

Something about this Cobra (replica most likely) struck my fancy at the time, so here we are most likely on the 101 near Woodland Hills.  As much as we say there wasn’t much American Iron around in the LA area, there is a lot of it in this pic, Taurus, Fiero, I think a Fairmont heading the other way, in fact I don’t see many imports at all besides maybe an ’85 or so Civic sedan ahead of the Taurus.

This is on 101 North somewhere after Santa Barbara and Goleta and I had been seeing interesting cars on trailers all morning.  Likely headed to Laguna Seca for some racing event, this was deemed worthy of risking life and limb at the 55mph speed limit at the time to bang off a few shots.  I’d forgotten all about dashboards cracking back in these days but this brings it back in stark relief.

Even in California, Porsche 935’s aren’t everyday sights, so this was well worthy of taking a roll of film to the FotoMat.  Looking at this pic now I see the Pierce College parking sticker I got the year before while taking a physics class there instead of at my high school and am marveling at how thin my A-pillar is.  If this was a current Grand Cherokee I don’t think we would see any of the Porsche, just a lot of pillar.

I got so excited I clearly juggled the camera.  But at least avoided my own car altogether here.  Still, true to form, the whole front is cut off.  Sorry, no panorama mode for me just yet.

Here we are again on 101, this time in the Santa Maria area, about thirty miles south of my college and hoo boy, I think that’s a Lambo, dude!  In coke-fiend white, no less!

Yeah, that’s right, I took him on the outside.  Actually I may have had a passenger or someone else was driving my car as this was taken from the right side of the car.  And the subject is in frame so it probably was someone else.  Having been closer to several of these since, it’s amazing how tiny the Countach really is, they always looked so big in the teen boy bedroom posters.  This one has the flares and the wing and all the baggage.

Here’s my friend Rob in his 1977 (I think) VW Rabbit Diesel, probably around 1990, this time heading South on 101, but again near Santa Maria, just to the south this time, I recognize those hills.  He was proud that he was passing me so I thought it fitting to take a pic.  Of part of his car.  It actually was a pretty good car once it got going and that color looks great to me now.  He ended up trading it in for a white 1991 Accord DX Coupe, a better car in every respect except perhaps personality.

Here’s a 1990 or so BMW 325is on most likely 101 North in the Gilroy area (but I could be wrong on this one).  I believe it was taken during my last quarter of college on a weekend trip to the San Francisco area with some friends of mine.

I distinctly remember this one on Highway 280 South around San Bruno a bit north of San Mateo, one of the prettiest stretches of freeway anywhere.  This BMW E30 M3 was and still is a very desirable car and nowadays are worth more than they were new.  This was shot from the passenger seat of my friend Tracy’s 1988 Mustang on the same trip as the above BMW 325is shot.  Those dash mats were a good way to avoid the dash cracking and a better way to avoid looking at the cracks.

This trip was also memorable for us going to a dance club in the San Jose or Santa Clara area and after years of dancing to New Order and various other New Wave bands in college, the new big thing was a little song from a new Seattle band.  That song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by of course Nirvana so this trip was in the fall of 1991, just before I graduated in December.

And because every driving trip has to come to an end, last but not least this shot of a box Ford Crown Victoria CHP unit, probably around 1990 or so.  No, I was not at speed, he was parked just past an underpass and traffic was at a stand-still on US-101 near Camarillo.  Notice that even when practically or actually stopped I still had trouble clearly getting the whole thing in frame, just no patience to go with the youth.  These days I don’t think I would point anything at a police officer though.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the parts of California I was cruising around in those days and am happy I was finally able to do something with these pictures.  They brought back a flood of memories, some good, some sad, for varied reasons both, but memories nonetheless.