Saturday, May 8, 2010

Portrait of a '57 Chevy

Every now and then, it's good to throw out a curveball.  Something unexpected and unanticipated.  Anyone who has been following this blog, even periodically, probably has a good idea of what subject matter I'm particularly passionate about.   For the most part, that usually means subjects that have little or no human influence.

However, I do admit to having an affinity for old things constructed or crafted by human hands or ingenuity.  Something that combines form with function and aesthetics.  New is good when it comes to tools that make life or art easier, such as my iMac or Nikon DSLR.  Otherwise, I find little appeal in new:  new houses, new cars, electronics, appliances, etc.  These days, new often equates to shoddy quality and/or an uninspiring, soul-less design.

Take today's cars, for example; everyone has heard the phrase:  "they just don't make 'em like they used to", a sad testament to how quality has slipped over the decades.  Even the best aren't always that great, and are of utilitarian design and otherwise unremarkable.  They aren't built to last, being about half plastic and half computer now.  Some, like the Scion and Honda Element for example, are to me, aesthetically objectionable.

This post is an example of an automobile that was made "like they used to", over fifty years ago.  Enter the '57 Chevrolet Bel Air Hardtop.  It was designed in and for an era when driving was a pleasure, the American car companies were at the top of their game, and concepts like "oil embargo" and $3/gallon gasoline weren't even fathomable to the American consumer who loved their cars.

These photos were taken in the Lowell district of Bisbee, on my last day there.  Lowell is to the east of the large Lavender mine pit in Bisbee.  There are a few businesses open, like the Breakfast Club restaurant where my sister and I had lunch that day.   But, like the '57 Chevy, Lowell now represents a bygone era - most of the main street are buildings long since vacated, with fading paint and peeling facades.

After lunch, my sister and I walked down the main street.  This car was parked in front of a vintage Texaco gas station and garage, and as luck would have it, no other cars nearby.  Or people.  She is a real beauty - solid black, polished and gleaming, with lots of chrome, and lovingly maintained throughout the decades.  Pictures were in order, of course.

A funny bit of irony, re the new, fancy and technology:  taking advantage of those three things allowed me to transform these photos  more befitting an automobile that is 53 years old, and for that I'm grateful.

I hope you enjoy this unexpected subject matter, and let me just say that it won't be the first or the last time an old automobile makes its way into a blog post...

A Moment in Time
The Bel Air shows off her classic lines in front of the old Texaco station

Front Study
The beautifully crafted chrome grille and bumper, along with the hood and headlight chrome details, make this car a real looker.

Pump Reflections with Hubcap
Did the owner live in San Francisco at one point?  Drivers there know to curb their wheels on a sloping street like this.

Fins, Chrome and Gold
An antique filter allows the gold lettering to be appreciated on the rear quarter panel of this sleek and elegant car.

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