There’s a lot of random chance happening in this post, so I figured that I, like a Dadaist, may as well embrace it. By chance I happened to see an Instagram post from the VWSlut account, which had a picture taken from Bruce Lee’s tribute Insta account, which featured Bruce Lee posing in front of a random selection of parked cars on a road in what I believe is mid-1960s Los Angeles. It could be Oakland, but I’m thinking LA. What I am sure of is that the cars that parked by chance behind Lee are a really wonderful and fascinating mix.
Here’s the photo in question:
Up until around 1965 or so Lee was living in Oakland, California. In 1966, he got his first big acting role, as Kato in the TV series Green Hornet. Based on the newest car in the shot—that blue 1965 Chevy Biscayne back there—I think this picture is from the Green Hornet era, and it looks more like LA, to me. Somewhere Hollywood-ish, maybe just south of Fountain?
The most obvious car in the shot is, of course, that deliriously red Beetle, which looks to be, I think, a 1960 to 1962 model. I’d need to see inside and the back to know for sure, and no matter how many times I scream “ZOOM AND ENHANCE” at my computer, it’s not doing it.
Across the street we have another rear-engined charmer, a Renault Dauphine. It’s easy to forget now, but around this time the Dauphine was the number two import in America, after the Beetle!
Dauphines were absolutely lovely little cars, but they didn’t have the VW’s durability or dealer network, so they never caught on like the Beetle did.
Behind the Beetle we have a really interesting car, a Hillman Husky, and it looks to be a Series I, so it’s either a ‘58 or ‘59. The Husky was basically a two-door wagon version of the Hillman Minx, and would have been a really cool little British car to have in LA in that era.
We already mentioned the blue 1965 Chevy Biscayne, the newest car in this picture, and a handsome, square-rigged example of a full-size American sedan. Chevy never talks about bringing back the Biscayne name, do they?
In front of the Biscayne, very blurry and green, is a 1956 Chrysler. Thank Raph for identifying that one, which was non-trivial.
This really shows how incredibly diverse LA was for cars in the 1960s. You really could get just about anything via small importers at that time, and this amazing, happenstance collection behind the legendary Bruce there just shows it.
This would be a fantastic collection for anyone today: a classic Beetle, an under-appreciated little British workhorse, an elegant French people’s car, and two examples of everyday American iron. If I knew someone with this very collection of cars, I’d think they had excellent and diverse taste.
Good job there, Bruce.