Spotted is Globe Drive writer Peter Cheney's weekly feature that takes you behind the scenes of his life as a vehicle and engineering journalist. We also highlight the best of your original photos and short video clips (10 seconds or less), which you should send with a short explanation. E-mail email@example.com, find him on Twitter @cheneydrive (#spotted), or join him on Facebook (no login required). All photos by Peter Cheney unless otherwise noted.
Lowest of the Low
Reader John Figg spotted this 1961 VW Beetle in Mississauga. If you were around for the hotrod VW era, you’ll recognize the lowered and de-cambered suspension (note the canted rear wheels.) The Beetle’s torsion-bar spring setup makes this easy to do. De-cambering does improve some aspects of the Beetle’s handling (like axle-jacking) but it destroys ground clearance. Tires and rear-wheel bearings take a beating, too.
The Wayback Machine
Classic Beetle buffs love period accessories like tubular roof racks, fender-mount mirrors and chromed headlight glare shields. The widened steel wheels with chromed VW hubcaps are a connoisseur’s touch - to make these, you have to cut the original wheels on a lathe and weld in an extra section of rim. It calls for fabrication skills, but it keeps costs down and preserves the original design.
I spotted this customized bike in Parkdale. If you follow the world of chopped motorcycles, you’ve probably heard about “ape-hanger” handlebars. These ones would be oversized on a Harley, let alone a beach-cruiser bicycle. He definitely gets points for originality, though.
Bigger Bike, Smaller Bars
By way of comparison, here’s a Harley I spotted on Interstate 75. If they were competing in the Ape Hanger Handlebar Olympics, the Parkdale bike guy would definitely take the gold medal.
When Pickups Were Truly Cool
I’ve always loved postwar pickup trucks. I spotted this 1964 Chev near Flamborough, Ont.. The worn paint and American Racing wheels are nice touches.
The Solution to Distracted Driving
The interior of the 1964 pickup takes you back to a time when there were no cell phones, and in-car entertainment was limited to a push-button radio (this truck doesn’t even have that.) There’s a real beauty to this kind of bare-bones cabin.
Nothing says sixties performance better than American Racing “Torq Thrust” mag wheels. The scuffed aluminum center caps show that the ones on this 1964 Chev have been around the block a few times.
Since unicycles are direct drive, the only way to change gearing is by changing the size of the wheel. Small wheel = low gear. Big wheel = overdrive. This is definitely a high-gear rig. I spotted this guy on College St. in Toronto.
If you want to keep the cost of car repair down, you can always find replacement body parts in a junkyard. To save even more, don’t bother painting them. I spotted this Toyota Previa near Seattle, Washington.
Dodging the Rust Bullet
The Volkswagen Type 3 “Squareback” was introduced in the early 1960s, and helped VW make the transition from Beetle-maker to full-line car manufacturer. The Type 3 used a modified version of the air-cooled engine that powered the Beetle. Although rust has destroyed many of them by now, there are still a few Type 3s kicking around. I spotted this one in Trenton, Georgia, where they don’t use road salt.
One Owner Since New
I spotted this classic GMC pickup near Ladner, B.C. I’m pretty sure the guy at the wheel drove it off the dealer's lot back in the 1970s, and has owned it ever since.
A Humpbacked Swede
Reader John Martins spotted this well-kept Volvo 544 in Hamilton. (I owned a couple of 544’s back in the 1970s.) The 544 isn’t the kind of car you see on pinup calendars, but it has charm and toughness (one of my motors went over 500,000 miles without an overhaul.)
Faster is Not Necessarily Better
John’s pictures reminded me of the happy times I spent in my own Volvo 544s. They were slow, but I learned a lot. A couple of years ago, reader Jim Jenkinson invited me to drive his own 544 – a 1959 model. Here’s a column I wrote about the experience: It takes skill to squeeze speed from a slow poke.