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Beautiful Photos Of NYC Parked Cars In The 1970s By Photographer Langdon Clay

Culture | March 23, 2020

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Between 1974 and 1976 Langdon Clay photographed the cars he found on the streets of New York and Hoboken, New Jersey whenever he was out on a late night walk. These striking photos don’t just show us the cars of the ‘70s but the way New York looked at a time of major upheaval. The photos may be digitized, but they have an inherently tactile sensation. Whether you’re a car lover or you just have a passing interest in these four wheel classics, Langdon Clay's '70s car photos are a time machine to an era when every automobile exuded a sense of raw power.

Street photography doesn’t just provide the viewer with a peek into a world that they may not know, but it gives us insight into the person behind the camera. What do they love? What’s their secret obsession?

Many would say cars are the best eye candy, and a pop of color and Detroit style like this red Ford Fairlane, snapped somewhere near Sixth Street, bears that out.  The Ford Fairlane is one of those cars that seems like it’s been forgotten in the 21st century. These babies were rolled out between 1955 and 1970 as a mid-size cruiser in spite of its generally large size. Named after Henry’s Ford’s estate near Dearborn, Michigan, Fair Lane, the car appealed all kinds of drivers. Whether you were in the suburbs or the heart of the city the Fairlane was there for you.

A Galaxie 500 in Manhattan

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With the space race firmly on everyone’s mind it’s no wonder that Ford rolled out a car called the Galaxie. Whether you’re looking at the Galaxie 500, the Sunliner, or the XL, these cars are extremely cool looking. Even the 1972 Station. Wagon version of these cars look like some kind of retro-futuristic daydream. Ford stopped manufacturing the Galaxie in 1974, but if you look hard enough you can still find them out on the street.

A forever cool Monte Carlo parked in Hoboken, New Jersey

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In the late ‘60s Chevy decided that they needed to come up with a car that could go head to head - or grill to grill - with the Pontiac Grand Prix. Using a G-body platform they created the Monte Carlo. It was initially marketed as a luxury coupe that was “a lot more car than it has to be” for just over $3,123. According to car specialist Greg Ingold, first run Monte Carlos are pretty much the same as a Chevlle. At the time that meant that Monte Carlo drivers got more bang for their buck.

Orange Impala Hoboken

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Between 1971 and 1976 Chevy didn’t make a lot of changes to its fifth generation model of the Impala. The engines in these cars were configured to have lower compression rates to make them more compatible with both leaded and unleaded fuel. Throughout the early ‘70s Chevy refined the look and specifics of the Impala, changing the size of the grill, adding insulation to the interior and side-guard beams in the doors. By 1976 the Impala was Chevy’s lowest priced full-size car.

 Some Kind Of Car In Chelsea

Believe it or not but I’m not a car guy so I’m at a loss to know exactly what kind of ride this is but it looks remarkably similar to a Lincoln Continental. These land yachts definitely look cool, but it’s hard to imagine maneuvering one around the city, especially the Chelsea district. Maybe the streets were wider in the ‘70s.

Find Snow-encrusted Impala At 28th And 7th In Manhattan

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This crusted Impala looks like its from an era when cars manufacturers were still addicted to their 1960s designs. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see one of these little babies flying down the 405 to the beach with Dan and Jean blasting out of the stereo. It’s just as cool tooling around New York, but Impalas are the kind of car that beg to have their engines opened up on a Sunday afternoon.

Greenwich Village feels like the perfect place for a Mitsubishi Lancer

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This Mitsubishi Lancer may have been one of an entire fleet of little cars, but it looks entirely unique. While we may not think of Mitsubishi as a car company, they’ve dipped their mechanical toes into just about every industry possible. In 1973 they released the Lancer 1600GSR, a small sedan that looks similar to a lot of Japanese cars of the era with a mix of the Dodge Colt. One of the coolest things about this car is that it has a racing prestige. In ’73 it took the first four positions at the Southern Cross rally in Australia. 

Has there ever been a more fashionable Chevy truck?

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Hands down, one of the coolest automobiles that’s ever been manufactured is the Chevrolet C/K truck. The models constructed in the 1960s and 70s are some of the most memorable and recognizable trucks on the road. The model has changed incrementally over time, but for more than a decade Chevy kept the mid-century design that defined this truck for a generation.

Was this International Scout II painted to match the windows?

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Between 1966 and 1980 the International Harvester Scout was one of the most low key cool trucks that ever tore down the highway or went off roading. These trucks date back to the 1950s and the Willys Jeep, the only four-wheel drive vehicle that was available at the time. International Harvester worked out the concept for this truck in 1958 but it wasn’t until 1960 that the first Scout was manufactured. As cool as these look, there were only a little over half a million Scouts produced and production came to a halt in October 1980.

A faded green car in Hoboken

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Cadillacs have been a mainstay of the road since they first went into production and while we tend to think of these big boats as some of the more expensive cars on the road General Motors also made entry level luxury cars that you didn’t have to be a millionaire to buy. The Cadillac Calais is a cool looking car that was in production for more than a decade. There’s a real New York vibe to this car, and no matter how beat up it gets it’s still pretty cool.

 A Cadillac outside the White Tower Diner

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Another empty New York street, another unknown model of Cadillac. Once again, not a car guy so it’s hard to know which model we’re looking at here. This photo captures the loneliness of New York City and the way that we can all feel cut off from one another in winter. The White Tower diner is the kind of place that you only fine in the big city, a small establishment in the middle of skyscrapers and apartment buildings; open all night and full of lonely people.

The only car on the sidewalk

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Who knows how long Langdon Clay spent walking the streets at night to take pictures of cars? He had just the right eye for capturing vehicles who feel timeless in spite of being encased in the 1970s. THere’s something about this Oldsmobile that feels like you can see it parked on the same street in Manhattan today as you would in 1975. 

Need a ride from this classic yellow cab?

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Getting a taxi in New Yok has never been easy, whether they were livery cabs, “black cars,” or a classic yellow taxi it always feels like they speed right by, leaving you far from home with your arm in the air. In order to be a taxi driver in the 1970s all you had to do was take a test proving that you spoke English and that you knew 29 major corridors and 168 routes to the most popular landmarks. You also had to be ready to deal with the car-jackers who were out in full force in the era.

A silver Electra in front of Con Edison

This car that looks to be a Buick Electra is ironically parked in front of a Con Edison station in Manhattan. However if it’s not an Electra then it’s just regularly parked there. These luxury cars were named after heiress and sculptor Electra Waggoner Biggs by her brother in law when he was acting as the president of Buick. The heyday of this car was during the production years of 1965 through 1970, after that the convertible top was phased out.

A VW Beatle at the Greenwich Theater

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The Beetle is somehow one of the most dated cars of the 20th century and the most timeless. It’s hard not to think of the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s and ‘70s when you see one of these little cars, but they’ve been puttering around since their inception in the late 1930s.

Flower Power

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This soft top Beetle parked in Manhattan definitely feels more ‘70s than the previous Beetle photographed by Langdon Clay. Something about the body feels more modern than the groovy look of the more ‘60s style car. Maybe it’s just me, but the soft top feels particularly tied to the 1970s even though that design option has been around since the car’s inception.

A Cadillac beneath the 59th Street Bridge

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This Caddi looks like a car that you’d see in Taxi Driver or one of Scorsese’s films from the 1970s. Something about these cars feels like they should always have a small time gangster behind the wheel even though you’re more likely to find a little old lady taking one of these babies out for a Sunday drive.

Golden car at the end of the street

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Many of the cars of the 1970s look like they’re part UFO, part tank. The colors used in this era are definitely from another time. Colors like goldenrod, mint green, and nuclear orange aren’t exactly the kind of thing that you’d find in this day and age but is that good? Maybe we should go back to these rich colors for at least a little while.

A rare maroon Checker

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Most people are used to seeing Checkers as a taxi cab, but this maroon wonder is obviously someone’s personal car. Checkers have been around since the beginning of the 20th century but this body type was first developed in 1955 in order to meet Manhattan’s taxi regulations. While the suspension on these cars was nothing to write home about the interior boasted enough room for three people to sit comfortably in the back seat and plenty of room for people up front. 

The Jaguar XK120, a car fit for a spy

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Can you imagine leaving a car like this parked on the streets of New York in the dangerous 1970s? This striking car could reach speeds of 120mph but it wasn’t a 1970s design. This car made its first appearance at Earls Court in 1948. The sleek modern look feel like something from a James Bond film, which makes it all the more fascinating that it was designed int he ‘40s. Who do you think was driving this car on a chilly New York night? It’s got to be Bowie, right?

Tags: 1950s Cars | 1960s Cars | 1970s Cars | New York City | Photography

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.