Viewed in Vashon

Following my earlier spread in the July Newsletter on classics spotted during my travels in Seattle, I was inundated with a request for more. So, for this piece I decided to take a look to see what could be found on Vashon – an island nestling in Puget Sound just South of Bainbridge and one recently visited by Sue and your scribe together with our daughter Samantha. Sam needed to collect some wine that she had ordered and we felt it would be good to include some sightseeing along the way. The wines here are delicious, by the way.

This lovely island not only provides fine wine, but also boasts beaches, varied accommodations, family-run restaurants, art galleries and some quaint shops, all just a ferry ride from Seattle. But these are not the only pleasures that Vashon has to offer. Look carefully and you will come across some interesting old Detroit hardware, some wrecked and some pristine, but all interesting.


Window shopping, viewing art galleries and looking at shoe shops was high on the agenda, and so having parked Sam’s Merc in the local supermarket car park we saw our first “classic”. Well, not really, it was the worst Mk 1 Golf I had seen this side of a breakers yard. It was decomposing before my very eyes. It takes that “grunge look” to a different level.

Vashon is not big and its centre consists of just one main street and, whilst the girls inspected another flower shop, I sauntered down the sidewalk to photograph a pristine white Dodge Dart Swinger of 1970 vintage that I had seen as we drove into town. The model line was noted as a compact in the States and was manufactured during the 60s and 70s. This was the cheapest model Dodge made and it shared much of its hardware with its Plymouth sibling. It was a popular economy car, family car, muscle car and a world car. Not bad.

In a nearby car park I spotted a 90s XJS. You do see a few in the States and all look pretty good. This one had square headlights, unusual for this part of the world. A pity I couldn’t get a better shot.

Back to the compact theme, Ford were manufacturing their Falcon, not just in North America, but worldwide during the sixties. You could choose a station wagon, a two- or four-door sedan, a two-door hard top, a convertible or a pickup, all based on the Falcon floor pan. The contemporary Mustang also used much of its underpinnings. As with most American cars, they came with a choice of six cylinders or the full-fat V8 below the bonnet. We spied this tired looking example parked in a quiet country lane. It is, I believe, a 4-door sedan of early to mid-sixties vintage.

Many front gardens here have open access to the road so it is often easy to spot some old motor becoming one with nature. I took this Dodge from the back seat of our car as we sped past. No time to check it out, but I reckon it is a mid-sixties Dodge Polara, 2-door hard top. These came with a V8 displacing around 6.3 litres with either a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed Torqueflight auto box. There were other variations. In its prime, it would hit around 120mph and accelerate 0 to 60 in about 8 seconds. I want one!

This next bit is like something you may see in the Classics Magazines under the banner “Rust In Peace”. We came across a garage further into the island and couldn’t resist asking the owner for permission to photograph a few of the many vehicles lurking in the undergrowth. The first to be shot was a 1955/56 Chevy 4-door Station Wagon. This exhibited the “shoe box” look brought in for the 1955 model year which incorporated flatter, straighter panels than previous iterations. It sold well and is to this day popular with collectors and “rodders” alike – but it is mainly the 2-door hard top that commands the most interest. A 2-door Wagon called the Nomad was also available. This car may be a 210 series or the Bel Air and may have had a 4.3 litre OHV V8 small block to help move it around.

Perched on a flat-bed, another Ford compact was completing maybe its final journey. It was possibly a 1964 Falcon 4-door sedan, or it could have been a Futura.

Next to a crumbling Nissan, we see a glorious Oldsmobile Coupe, possibly a 1957 Super 88 or 98. Parent company GM also made a rare Golden Rocket 88 and Starfire 98 around that time. It had a 6.0 litre V8 with up to 300 ponies to help it along the highway. Another Olds sat not far away, this one being over a decade newer. It is an Oldsmobile Cutlass and was one of America’s best-selling cars. Perched at a rakish angle, this white coupe doesn’t look like it has been driven for some time but it would be good to try for some models boasted a 5.7 litre V8 corralling around 310 horses.

The last car is a real beaut’. Behold a 1960 Chevrolet Impala Convertible. Six and a half feet wide and seventeen and a half feet long, it came with a choice of seven V8s, cruise control and Flexomatic 6-way power seat adjustment. It was Chevy’s best seller with over 490,000 made. GM’s sister brands Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac also used much of its architecture. What is not to like?

And finally, take a look at this pristine red pick-up seen during a Gardens Open Day in the vicinity. Not a GMC, not a Ford but a Diamond T 222 from around 1949. These trucks were meant to be more luxurious than their contemporaries and it showed. Whist no actual pick-up was factory produced, you could order a dealer retro-fit using either a Ford or International bed. Sadly, it was more expensive than its rivals and the model was dropped around 1951/52. Maybe more on this another time.

And on that bombshell, I’ll say goodbye until the next time. As ever, if I have made any errors, and I probably have, do let me know. See you next time.

Neil Shanley