Cars on the street, 1984-1985

I again found myself poring through old photo albums when I noticed that I had a few street scenes from 1984 and 1985 which I found interesting. Here they are, and here’s hoping you also find them of some interest.

 

BLOOMFIELD, NJ

I lived in Bloomfield from 1980 to 1989, and would occasionally take snapshots of parked and moving cars.

 

This shot was taken along a service road of the Garden State Parkway. I was practicing my panning. Here is a Subaru Coupe neck and neck with a Mercury Colony Park station wagon

 

The silver VW Scirocco on the right was mine, parked behind my apartment complex. Next to it are a very rusty mid-70’s Chevelle, and a 1965 Ford Fairlane, coming up on 20 years old, making it an ancient car for its time.

My college friend Beth came to visit me in Bloomfield. I think she bought this Subaru new. (I find it ironic that it’s a 2-door like the Subie above; this was back when Americans actually bought 2-door cars.) It’s probably FWD, as AWD was not yet standard across the board. Note the VW Squareback; when did you last see one in the wild?

 

SMYTHE VOLVO, SUMMIT NJ

I worked at this Volvo dealership from 1980 to 1986, and would sometimes bring my camera to work, if only to document some of the goings-on.

 

The dealership bought, then later demolished, an apartment building on an adjacent property. I had the camera ready to take some photos of the planned destruction. Note the Ford T-Bird and Honda Civic on the left, and various Volvos in for service on the right. And that’s our gal Friday, Sue, imploring me to not take her photograph!

 

Street parking near the dealership was non-existent. Management made a deal with the church across the street which allowed employees to park there (the lot, frankly, was practically vacant except on Sundays). Yes, an employee (a son of one of the dealer principals) commuted in a Volvo 1800. At the top of the row, next to the Chevy Caprice, is a VW Dasher diesel wagon driven by the Parts Manager. The silver wagon on the far right is my Audi Fox wagon.

 

The Service write-up counters and the Parts retail counter were inside the workshop. Customers entered a back door and literally walked among cars on the lifts. This is the view from my service advisor’s desk. The place looks incredibly dingy, yet I don’t remember it that way. I guess I got used to being in that environment on a daily basis.

 

CLINTON, IOWA

 

I made a Christmastime trip with my girlfriend to visit her family in Iowa. We drove, and I didn’t trust the Audi to make the trip, so I rented this Tempo. It was among the first of Ford’s jellybean cars. The car performed just fine.

 

PARK SLOPE BROOKLYN, NY

These next two photos were taken in the Park Slope Brooklyn neighborhood where my girlfriend lived. This photo was heavily edited to focus on the cars. In the foreground are a Honda Civic and Toyota Tercel (I think). Across the street it’s harder to tell, but I will guess that the car on the left is a Datsun/Nissan, maybe a Sentra, and the one on the right a then-current Buick Riviera.

 

Yes, this Porsche 356 Coupe was parked on the street in Park Slope. What was it worth in 1984, a couple grand? My current edition of the CPI value guide pins this 356 SC at between $66k and $126k.

 

All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Once More: My 1977 Audi Fox Wagon

After buying new cars in 1977 and 1981, I decided to try to save a little money by returning to something used. Both of the new purchases had been Volkswagens, and my overall experience had been good. Although I was working for a Volvo dealer, the Swedish car maker’s then-current lineup of 240s, 260s, and 700s were too large and staid for a single dude like me. I liked the fuel economy, hatchback utility, and front wheel drive of these German subcompacts.

In the summer of 1984, the dealership where I was employed, Smythe Volvo, took in a 1977 Audi Fox station wagon on trade. The outside of the car looked scruffy, but the interior was OK, there was no significant rust, and the mileage of 79,500 was about what you’d expect on a 7-year-old car. Besides, it was a stick (an automatic would have been a deal-breaker). The car was what you might call a “beater”, and my rationale was that since I was mechanically inclined, a beater would give me a cheap entry price and allow me to perform my own maintenance and repairs as necessary.

The '77 Audi Fox, soon after purchase
The ’77 Audi Fox, soon after purchase

I spoke to Bill Smythe, one of the dealer principals, about buying the wagon. He seemed reluctant at first, but then relented, and sold me the car for $850 (plus tax & registration; they were kind enough to waive any doc fees).

The Bill of Sale
The Bill of Sale

The Audi Fox was the mechanical equivalent to the VW Dasher of the day (and not to be confused with the later VW Fox). As such, its engine sat longitudinally, not transversely like my two previous VWs. The Audi interior was likely a slight upgrade over its Dasher cousin. Other than that and an Audi grille, the Fox and Dasher were almost indistinguishable from each other.

The farther from the lens, the better it looked
The farther from the lens, the better it looked

The first issue I had with the car was oil consumption – by now, I knew the problem was valve stem seals, and I had one of the techs in our Service Department take care of it for me as a side job. I attended to the wipers/brakes/tires, to assure that they were good. The problem with the Fox, though, was typical of ‘beaters’ as they teeter toward the end of their useful lives: it was nickel-and-diming me to death.

Who decides on these poses anyway?
Who decides on these poses anyway?

Once I got the oil consumption conquered, the exhaust system fell off. The car ate front brake pads every 7-8,000 miles, and I didn’t know why. The radiator sprung a leak and needed replacement. That’s when I saw that every coolant hose was dry rotted. I blew out an almost-new Michelin tire on a sewer grate (not the car’s fault, but still….).

"We" failed inspection- note the sticker. One friend gave car the nickname "Worm wagon" (see plate)
“We” failed inspection- note the sticker. One friend nicknamed it the “worm wagon” (see plate)

While each one of these repairs was simple enough, and none of them broke the bank, it became obvious that the previous owner had neglected the beast. Confidence that the car would get me to my destination and back began to slip away.

Looking good in Adirondack scenery
Looking good immersed in Adirondack scenery

One of the final indignities was the fuel pump failure, which happened at a buddy’s house in Brooklyn. I borrowed a car to drive home and get a replacement part, because I had the bright idea to replace the pump in his driveway (in November) in order to save a tow charge. Sure, I got it done, but adding up the time and effort, towing it may have been the better decision.

In front of my brother's house, behind his '81 Ford Escort
In front of my brother’s house, behind his ’81 Ford Escort

By early 1986, after two and a half years, it was time to quit. According to the log book I kept, I got rid of it at 110,000 miles, which looking back, surprises me. My memory is of a car which almost constantly needed attention, yet, it carried me over 30,000 miles. Nevertheless, it was time to switch brands. After three Volkswagen products in a row, for the next car, I would be turning Japanese for the first time.

 

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.