Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Lost Cars Of Mt. Washington

I'm starting a semi-regular feature on the blog, which I'm calling The Lost Cars Of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington is the neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles where I live. It's one of the oldest neighborhoods on the city, halfway between Downtown and Pasadena in the historic Arroyo Seco.

It's a strange burg, one of the true secrets of Los Angeles; as far, at least socially, from Hollywood and the West Side as from Katmandu. Mount Washington has always been bohemian; it's a craggy run of hillsides with hollows as deep as Appalachia and otherworldly views of Downtown and the San Gabriel Mountains. On its impossibly winding and steep streets you find all kinds of homes, mostly populated by progressive types. Old hippies in their ancient wooden shepherds shacks surrounded by thickly overrun gardens butt property lines with industry creatives in beautifully preserved mid-century modern "glass-box" houses hanging out over space, while across the street equity-flush bohos reside in contemporary homes of eclectic design, including some of the most innovative current architecture in America. It takes folks with a certain commitment to aestheticism to put up with the scary one lane streets, mudslides, and inconvenient, often creaky and weird old houses like these.

This aestheticism shows through in their cars as well.

As everyone says, Los Angeles is the city of the automobile. Nowhere else does the car lay such central claim to a city's psyche. While Mt. Washington has it's own train stop on the Gold Line, most anyone who can afford a car in this city (though many cannot) will own one.

But people in Mt. Washington like things that are old and unusual. This is why they live in such an old and unusual neighborhood, and why Mt. Washington is prime hunting ground for Lost Cars.

Lost cars are cars that are no longer made. Maybe they were popular, but mostly they were not. They are cars that are not necesarily lionized or remembered with great pride. They may not have owners clubs, or be featured in parades.

Lost Cars are interesting simply because they have survived. Someone has owned this car, and grown attached, enough to maintain it and to keep it on the road, or even just let it take up space immobile in their garage. When most of their brethren have ended in the junk heap, Lost Cars have found a place to hide out from the fate that besets us all, growing old in odd corners, sometimes gracefully, sometimes not. But they all have a certain dignity, if only in the pride of being one of the last of their tribe.

I'll be posting pictures of these Lost Cars. Some of them will be widely recognizable models. Some will be unknown to all but previous owners or the most fanatical of car buffs. I'll scour the narrow hillside roads and wooded dirt driveways of my neighborhood for them. When I post the pictures, I won't identify what I think the cars are. I'll leave this to you, the readers, to make guesses. After a while, I'll go back and add what information I have in the comments section, figuring out the make and model as best I can. I'll see what I can do to stump you car nuts out there who think you can name everything on four wheels ever sold on these shores.

Los Angeles is a city of unnumbered autos. Most of them are entirely without note or distinction; bland machine-produced bits of conservative design, lacking in art or poetry. But if they survive, if they outlive the whims of middlebrow fashion that set their curves and guided their design, some day, they too may be Lost Cars.

I'll start with this triplet of lost pieces of Detroit steel.
Check back, and maybe you'll recognize a car you lost once.

P.S. Welcome Jalopnik readers. I'm currently getting my ass kicked in the latest Jalopnik caption contest, and I would love it if you would consider voting for me here. My caption is the last one, which reads:

Billy Wong would have given his left nut to cut ten minutes off of his daily commute from West Hollywood to Pasadena, but nonetheless, he instantly regretted his high-speed short cut through Toontown

No go out there are stuff those ballot boxes! I really want that free Jeep swag, and considering I once owned the most homosexual yellow Wrangler in history, I think I deserve it!


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