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Wednesday, January 21

For the love of cars

If you're a regular reader you might have picked up on my long-term interest in cars. Not the modern, shiny ones but rather those with a past. I'm actively trying to find an old Saab 900 (the original model now known as the Classic) or an earlier 96 (the first car I bought) in a bid to recapture my lost youth.

It's come to nought so far. I've looked at four or five 900s and all have been, well, rust buckets or a close approximation thereof. I let a 96 slip through my hands (I've written about my unsuccessful car-finding efforts here. If you know of anyone with a 900 or 96 available for sale in the UK then please get in touch) and I'm not likely to see another one any time soon without being prepared to travel a few hundreds miles and spend around £5000 which, quite frankly, I don't have.

Not only do I like old cars but I also like photographing them, preferably in unrestored condition. The five on this page were photographed at an inner city scrapyard in my home city of Dundee. Sadly, this old automobile graveyard was "improved" by its eradication and replacement by an old folks' home. Better, yes, if you're looking at it from a social standpoint but not if you're looking at it through a viewfinder.

In each of these photographs, I've tried to capture the "human" nature of the cars. They do, after all, have a "face" of sorts or a cute derriere in the case of the Mini. This personification might be peculiar to me or maybe it's the reason that classic car enthusiasts are so enthusiastic. I don't know but I guess it's the latter.

They date back a number of years to a time when a scruffy Mamiya Press was my constant companion almost to the exclusion of other cameras and formats. I had the 65mm, 90mm and 150mm lenses for it and found I could tackle most of the subjects I fancied with that basic outfit, a yellow filter and a handheld exposure meter. I've considered getting back to something like that level of simplicity - whether 35mm or 6x6 - but haven't yet plucked up the courage to take the plunge.

There's no denying that, as far as I'm concerned, limiting my camera options has the opposite effect on my photography. It's like that with most things, I've found. When I had one bicycle, I did a lot of cycling. When the collecting bug bit me I started adding more and more bikes/frames to my stable and spending less and less time in the saddle until I've reached the point where I have half a garage full of vintage racing machines and haven't actually cycled anywhere for about 18 months.

It's even worked out like that, to some extent, with enlargers. I've now got four in my darkroom and I'm doing far less printing than when I had just the one. Pretty stupid really but I suffer from the collector's disease which stipulates that if one of something is good then more must be better. If I won the lottery I'm sure I'd become one of those guys who buys a new house just for the huge garage or outbuildings and then fills them with classic cars.

But, for the moment, I'm stuck with having too many cameras and not enough cars. That could change if a suitable Saab appears from nowhere as I'll probably off-load lots of camera gear to fund it and it's restoration. One Saab and a single camera outfit would be the ideal. In fact, I'd be back to the same car/camera position I was in when I took the photographs published here. And all the better for it.


Jim Grey said...

These are wonderful photos, with great contrast and tones.

You might enjoy the old-car site to which I contribute, Curbside Classic, at Old cars, still doing their duty, found parked.

Paul Glover said...

Love the photos, and the sentiment on older cars. They were interesting, whereas today's cars, as comfortable and reliable as they may be, are mere appliances for the most part, with few distinguishing features from one another.

I apparently share your penchant for the different where cars are concerned. When I lived in the UK I ended up owning a Pontiac Trans-Am (think "Knight Rider") and now I'm in the US I have to suppress the urge to ask the guy in this area with the Rover 3500 (SD-1 on UK shores) if he'd ever consider selling it (probably not such a great idea, that).

Dave Jenkins said...

I'm working on a book (seriously) to be titled "Found On Road Dead: An Anthology of Abandoned Automobiles."

Bruce Robbins said...

Hi Jim,

Had a look at the website you suggested but I'd have a heart attack if I spent much time there. They seem to hate British classics while I love them! I could understand the criticism more if it was a German website but Americans complaining about the quality of other countries' cars is too hard for me to take!

Bruce Robbins said...


I had an SD1 in my early twenties and enjoyed it very much. It was a 2600 automatic and very comfy if not too good when it came to fuel consumption. I wouldn't fancy owning another one thirty years on unless it had been very well cared for.

morris1800 said...

Hi Bruce I had SD1 2600, the vitesse model with all the gadgets but not the build quality of the Rover P6 I owned in the late 70's . Sadly it was only the 2200cc version but a P6 with the V8 engine is top of my classic car wish list.

Bruce Robbins said...

I had a P6 2200 as well! They're beautiful cars and so nice to drive - at least in a straight line! The back stepped out quite quickly going too fast on roundabouts. Mine was a tobacco colour with big black leather seats that wouldn't have looked out of place in a gentlemen's club. I'd happily have another one as well.

morris1800 said...

Yes corners were fun , wasn't it the de ion suspension or something. I do remember the inboard disc brakes in this design. Sugar you've rekindled my interest in P6 now. I have still got my original Haynes manual somewhere! My P6 was chocolate brown with tan interior . When you shut any of the doors it sounded as sweet as a Leica shutter . I always lusted after the spare tyre boot mounting kit. But those doors it did not matter how crap your 8 track cartridge system was with the speakers mounted in those doors it was a real quality sound..... Happy days.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Yet again Bruce, I think the Mamiya Press was a magic combo for you - they've really got something!

You've reminded me of my brother finding a pranged Fraser-Nash in some outbuildings of a garage in Beattock in the 1960's and paying a pittance for it - - wish he still had it!