A photo essay celebrating the aesthetics of decay.
It is 2015, so the flying DeLorean that transported Marty McFly and Doc Brown from 1985 should be making a cameo pretty soon. Put aside for a moment that the Hollywood version could time-travel, fly, run on compost, and then recall that the real DeLorean was made from stainless steel, which means it was impervious to rust. “Rust” is a four-letter word to anyone who has owned a classic car; it remains the great equalizer, converting perfectly functional beauties into dusty shells of un-roadworthiness.
Today the DeLorean remains an automotive design classic, in part because it is made of a material that preserves its original finish even as it ages. As the manufacturers of self-driving and digitally connected cars explore the future of the automobile, we look back in time to examine simpler cars that have aged well.
The steep streets of San Francisco are home to all kinds of hidden automotive gems, many of which are street parked without shelter. Most of these cars are far from pampered. They are the scruffy Datsuns, Alfas, and Citroëns that lurk in the foggy grades of the city. Many of them are daily drivers that somehow miraculously pass California emissions tests some 40 years after their date of manufacture. Consider, for instance, cars like the 1979 Lotus Elite, a decomposing fixture in Dogpatch, or the 1966 Renault Dauphine on Potrero Hill, a car with rich patina that can only be earned by decades of outdoor street parking. One of my favorites is the yellow 1975 Datsun F10 that collects parking tickets in the Castro as though they are urban merit badges. At least the inevitable wheel boot will match the color of the car’s paint.
While the reality of time travel may not be here yet, the automotive industry will always look to the future. With this photo essay, we instead look back at cars that have survived years of being “old” and have emerged today as design classics. The test of time will sideline most cars, but the following surviving examples let us appreciate the process of aging well and celebrate the beauty of decay.
For more gems from the streets of San Francisco, visit www.StreetParkedSF.com. All photos used with permission from Remy Labesque.
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