Each year to celebrate my birth since I’ve turned 30, I close my eyes and think of somewhere new to go for vacation. This year it was Rose City, USA. While I did my best to enjoy being in a new city, the itch to chase glinting chrome under the Oregon sun proved too much of a thrill not chase.
It didn’t take long after getting off the train, and dropping off my suitcases that vintage iron appeared in front of me. In a matter of an hour I ran across this ’65 Park Lane Breezeway stripped of trim awaiting some body work. Apparently the phenomenon of these crawling around the Bay Area isn’t exclusive.
“Keep Portland Weird” extended deeper than I thought it would. Between trips to herbalist shops and Tiki Bars, a great number of the cars that I did encounter were orphans. I told others as I traipsed around North and Northeast Portland of two Oldsmobiles (a zaftig ’58 Dynamic 88 and a sleek ’62 Dynamic 88) that rocketed out of the frame before the shutter clicked. The 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire is a beast I had never seen before in person.
The family in “Harry and The Hendersons” sided with a “magic doorgate” Ford Country Squire. I think it would have been more compassionate to haul a friendly Sasquatch home in one of these. Instead of strapping the beast to the roofrack, just slide back the roof panel and let him catch a breeze!
51 + years later though there’s a good chance (left out in the soggier parts of the Pacific Northwest) that the sliding panel has rusted shut. The first year cars had leaks that were only partially solved for the remainder of the model run. Here’s hoping that this delightfully inventive bit of desperation from South Bend gets some use, unlike the forlorn 1967 Special that lurks in the shadowy driveway behind it.
Moving along the Portland Auto Orphanage, we encounter one of the most misguided “Mercurial Moments.” Although Dearborn had a pretty solid hit on their hands with the first few seasons of the Comet, the Meteor, as I’ve outlined previously, fell to earth. The reasons are varied, but in my experience, for every 30th Falcon, or 10th Comet you encounter a Meteor.
Granted, once the Comet scored the 260 V8, a Hardtop AND Convertible model, the Meteor may have seemed dowdy and redundant. I, for one, consider them perhaps the most handsome of all the Falcon Uni-Body’s earliest children. They proudly wear the thick “Thunderbird” C-Pillar, which creates less visual length than the “sportback” hardtop lines of the Falcon and Comet. Their execution of tail fin integrated tail lamps aren’t as out of date as the fraternal twin Fairlane either.
With that, pardon me if I have a hard time finding something to rhapsodize poetically about when it comes to the 1968 Ford Galaxie face. In a decade of some really distinct and outright banal faces, The 1968 “Non-Hidden Headlight” face of full sized Fords has to be one of the most coma inducing. It’s amazing the transformation this visage underwent by just “closing the eyes.”
One thing I did notice about Curbside Classics in Portland versus the Bay Area is in general they were a bit more worn. Surely many still see semi-daily duty, but the prettier, more kept examples I’d encounter showed up in traffic or came out on the weekends as the leisure vehicles they are more likely to be.
This tarnished gem of a Riviera is another example of how the mighty can fall.
However this sunbathing yellow 1973 Centurion was one of a bevy of Buicks that still shone proudly, befitting their place in the Sloan hierarchy.
Oregon would really rather you have the top tier versions of the B-Body apparently. The nicest example of any classic plying the tree lined streets that I caught digitally was this delightful Carmel and Cream colored 1963 LeSabre Hardtop.
1963 represented the last year that The LeSabre would share more of its content with its more prestigious Invicta/Wildcat/Electra brethren and not the smaller Special/Skylark for many years to come. 401 Cubic inches of Nail Head and the last pass of the Dynaflow/Turbine Drive concept sit underneath the hood and cowl. For 1964, the 300 Cube V8 and Super Turbine Automatic from the Special would make the LeSabre more of a bridge between the small Buicks and Big ones than it had before.
Hopefully I will encounter more travels over these approaching summer days, but for now, I hope you’ve been delighted by the flowering of classics in the City of Portland.
In love with the Wagonaire. That is a lot nicer than the one I found in Indiana. The car looks good in black, just like that Avanti II up front looks good in red.
I agree with your assessment of the Meteor and its being the most attractive of the pre-1966 cars to share this basic structure. I am also right there with you on the 68 Ford – it always seemed so dull to me after the 67 version.
And, as always, delightful photography. Always good to see your stuff here, Laurence.
Gorgeous square pictures, are you on Instagram?
No, he isn’t (to my knowledge), but Jim Grey (@Mobilene) is on Instagram.
Over and over, this post transported me back to my 1970s kidhood, because cars like these in condition much like this were all over the place.
Particularly a kidhood spent in or around South Bend, one of the few places you would see a decent number of Wagonaires or Avanti IIs. 🙂
Growing up in Elkhart and going to South Bend on a regular basis, I say many Avanti II’s around.
When I was a kid, all I had to do was look in the driveway to see a Studebaker.
Made a pass through South Bend in 75. Seems like all the old factories were still standing then. Found the Avanti plant. They didn’t have organized tours, and I suspect my beaming 22 year old self failed the wallet biopsy to get a personal tour. They let me look at the four or so cars they had on the floor. I remember a reconditioned 63, and a new one in bronze with knockout wire wheels. I still have the sales package they gave me.
JPC: Oh yes. Lots of Studes prowled the streets during my kidhood.
I couldn’t get away from them. The Studie dealer in Kalamazoo hung on for quite a while. I routinely saw a white 64-65 Wagonaire and a red 64-65 sedan into the 70s. One guy had a 57 Scotsman seemingly forever.
And, I could always look in the driveway.
When are we going to have Studebaker week?
Haven’t we already? But dang, another one would be fun.
Meteor fan here,one of the few!
Count me in as a fan too!
Whenever I see the exposed headlight version of the ’68 Ford, or ” ord” in this case, I think of the car Gene Hackman drove in “The French Connection”.
Speaking of ” ord”, at the time I remember reading that the lettering on the trunk of the ’68 Ford marked the first large production use of adhesives for attaching trim to a production car. I’m sure cost was the main driver in this application, but there was also the benefit of increased corrosion resistance from not drilling holes in the body.
Are you sure it was 1968? Those letters look identical to the ones on my 67, each of which had two posts cast into the back of it that went into a pair of holes (actually into plastic grommets that went into the holes.) Or, perhaps the adhesive replaced the plastic grommets. I vividly remember prying those letters and emblems off of mine, praying each time that I would not snap off another post, which was a very tight fit in the grommet. Pretty much every emblem on the car (letters and engine callout) was affixed that way.
JPC, I’m pretty sure that it was ’68. Though it’s hard to make it out in this photo, I don’t think I see any holes for the lettering in the trunk lid on this car. I think I read about this new adhesive in a newsletter my Dad brought home from work, and for some reason I remember I was looking at it when LBJ announced he wasn’t seeking re-election. Funny how one remembers certain things in life, isn’t it?
If Ford did try it in 1968 they quickly abandoned it because many Fords in the 70’s and even early 80’s still had their emblems attached by pins that stuck into retainers in the holes punched into the bodies. Since they were punched when the panel was stamped the paint covered the edge of the holes. Of course the retainer was metal and it could damage or wear off the paint leading to corrosion. When they went away from using the metal retainers or nuts they kept with the holes punched in the body to line up the emblem even though it was double stick tape that held them on.
There is a good story behind the reason why the slogan in the first photo has been covered with red paint. Nice photos and cars, think I have seen a few of these around town. The suburbs and Vancouver are not as good for catching cool cars. Perhaps I will post more photos of mine on Curbside Classic’s Flicker account.
Looks like you had a classic vacation. Yes, in Oregon, the CCs tend to be a little scruffier than in CA; maybe the weather, and that the tend to more often be used regularly. Great finds; great shots.
Awesome pictures! Thanks for posting. My favourite cars are the 1963 Buick LeSabre hardtop, the 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire, the 1963-64 Riviera, the 1968 Ford Galaxie, and the Jeep SUV.
Wow, Laurence in Portland! Great choice, man, as you quickly found out. I loved walking for miles around southeast when I was living there. Pup up a handful of articles about many of them. Good stuff.
Great pics as always Laurence. My favorites are the Wagonaire and LeSabre. The side profile of the Buick almost looks like a dealer promo superimposed on the steeet; very cool! 1963 was a good year for cars.
Nice to see you post again Laurence. Excellent photos and commentary as always.
Interesting that you ran into so many Buicks. In a version of the CC effect at the car show on Cape Cod last Sunday there were a disproportionate number of Buicks. From 50’s 4 holer rag tops to GS 400s and plain Skylarks and LeSabres along with more Ford products than Chevys. It was a nice change of pace.
Not that I should have favorites, but:
Laurence for photography
Paul for the writing
I real almost every post, so other contributors, please don’t feel bad.
And Tom Klockau for unbridled enthusiasm.
Thanx for these great photos and I hope you had a nice vacation .