Street Scenes 2: More ’80s Daily Drivers

Here’s another round of the vintage insured photos I rescued from the recycle bin at the insurance company twenty-odd years ago. I saved them purely for the cars in the pictures, but nowadays I can appreciate the buildings too.

East Dubuque IL, 1/21/86

Cars and main streets everywhere are getting more boring by the day. National chains, national bars, national restaurants-all with a hefty dose of cheap plastic-and a silver silvermist rash of combovers driven by portly consumers. So it’s always interesting to see what things looked like a few decades ago.

Huntley IL, 12/27/85

You know you’re in Illinois when you see Old Style beer signs. There are still a ton of them in my area, even in 2022. The two Cutlasses in this shot show just how popular these cars were. I remember seeing Colonnade Cutlass Supremes into the early ’90s around here, though most were seriously dissolved by then.

Loves Park IL, 12/12/85

When’s the last time you saw a front wheel drive Pontiac Phoenix? Believe it or not, I did see one in downtown Davenport about ten years ago. My principal in grade school had one of these, an ’80 or ’81 in burgundy. I don’t remember him having problems with it, but he did trade it in on a gunmetal gray 1986 Accord LXi sedan, which he drove well into the Nineties.

Freeport, IL 2/11/86

Anyway you slice it, things were quite a bit more diverse back then transportation-wise, albeit not necessarily better!

Cherry IL, 2/12/86

22 Replies to “Street Scenes 2: More ’80s Daily Drivers”

        • Carmine

          I’m going to go with ToyoVan from the date on the photo, I don’t think the Nissan one was available until 1987 from what I recall, and it was rare, I think all the Nissan ones got bought back because of fires I recall?

          There was a Mitsubishi lunchbox van too……

          • Jack Baruth

            That’s a Toyota, and it’s the Wagon version, which is to say one that had seats and windows put in at the factory.

            Toyota dealers being what they’ve always been, there was a roaring business in taking commercial-spec Toyota vans and having them cut up into cheap-and-cheerful conversions. Not all of these were what we think of as “conversion cans” nowadays. Some were just a way to sell a basic passenger van for more profit.

            Come to think of it, all of this is probably worth a column.

          • Carmine

            I used “Toyovan” as a generic name for it, it looks like its the factory window van, it might even be the fancy one with the captains chairs, double sunroofs and the fridge between the seats, a friend of mines mom had one just like that when we were kids, we though we were Dr. Detroit riding in the back with our own sunroof.

            Later a friend in college had a beat up conversion van version like you mentioned, everyone nicknamed it “The Mystery Machine”……

          • Tom Klockau

            I remember the Hiace from the Majorette 1/64 scale diecast version I had as a kid. Silver with red interior. I think I had a blue one too.

  1. John C.

    This seems a darker set than the one from a few weeks back. The dead of winter is part of it, but the dive bars play a part and the older and worse condition cars play in.

    In my bank consulting days about 15 years ago, I was frequently in a small town in Alabama. It was in a slow but fairly stately decline. Then someone had the bright idea to allow bingo halls, and you suddenly saw a rush of activity of elders enacting the Townes van Zandt song, “waitin round to die” with new friend bingo playing the part of new friend codeine. Sad.

    • stingray65

      There is a great website called “Ghosts of North Dakota” that has picture and stories of what remains of the hundreds of North Dakota towns that have disappeared or are holding on by a thread. Almost every ghost town listed has many comments from former residents recalling the days when the town was alive and the good times they had living/growing up in them, but despite being happy and friendly places it is interesting to consider why so many died in less than 3 generations. Most of the towns were built on rail lines to service settlers from Scandinavia, Russia, and Germany flocking to get some the the last remaining available farmland in the country, but in terms of weather (harsh), scenery (flat), or employment (muscle based and increasingly mechanized) there were few attractions once the land was settled. As steam trains were replaced with lower maintenance diesels (or trucks), farms became mechanized and consolidated, and better roads and communication brought mail-order goods and offered an easy exit for the restless and underemployed, there became smaller population bases and economic needs to sustain towns and local businesses, and most kids moved away upon graduation. The older, smaller populations that remained had fewer kids and schools started to close down, which took away another employment opportunity and an important social element of the town and further hastened its demise as no one came to replace the original settlers as they died. The fracking based oil boom has revived a few of the ND towns, but no other industry is going to locate in a place with so few locals to hire or service so when the oil prices fall the revival proves to be temporary.

      In theory with today’s remote work possibilities, any quiet and lonely place with access to the Internet can potentially be a place of residence for people tired of crime, traffic, noise, and high prices of many Democrat run large cities, but most will likely seek better weather, better scenery, and better services/entertainment than many dying rural or mining related areas can offer, so many more small towns are likely to disappear in memory holes and become ghosts.

      • jc

        Cool website thanks for sharing! It seems like my hometown is going the same way. Every time I come home there’s fewer jobs and more drugs

      • John C.

        That site is blessed with great photography and concentrating on one building at a time. A decade ago, there were a lot of google maps time shots of the decline of Detroit but looking at them had the effect of pornography.

        Not the small towns (yet) but this century the population of North Dakota has started to rise.

        • stingray65

          Fargo, Bismarck, Minot, and Grand Forks are typically rated as pretty decent places to live if you can stand the cold winters. Large enough to have some things to do, reasonable shopping, and medical, small enough to have good public services and not have traffic, crime, or crazy real estate costs and taxes. Good places to raise families.

  2. dejal

    Seeing the Pabst Blue Ribbon signs reminds me of the movie “Blue Velvet”. One the best and weird ass movies I’ve ever seen.

  3. gtem

    Tom , these photos are, as the kids say, “a mood.” I’m a frequenter of midwestern dive bars, my local favorite is just across the Marion county line so you can still smoke there (I don’t smoke but it keeps the riff raff out). And stingray is right to note, not a single import in sight (okay the oddball Toyota van snuck in). I recently drove through Kokomo Indiana which is still heavy UAW country (Mopar and GM plants/suppliers mosty, but maybe some Ford stuff too). Even in 2021 people who who butters the bread so it’s incredibly domestic heavy, Mopars in particular.

    Really enjoyed these photos, thanks for sharing them with us.


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