E-Body Moments In Time

Photo by Jim Campisano

E-Body Moments In Time
By Jim Campisano

Whenever I look at a vintage photo of an automobile, I always try to imagine what was happening when it was taken. Whether it’s a Model A Ford in front of an old drug store or a racecar on a long-shuttered track, my mind starts reeling. Who was driving? Where were they going? What were the people on the street thinking? These are moments in time that were probably important to those involved, but have been lost to the never-ending march of the clock.

I once bought a vintage framed print that showed a ’64 Dodge taxi rolling down Park Avenue in New York City, heading away from the Pan Am building. There are other vehicles in the photo, plus a cop in the street with his back to the photographer, hands in pockets. The reflections in a puddle tell me it had rained earlier in the day. An ancient grey day in the Big Apple, you can feel the cold and damp. Pan Am Airlines is gone, though the building that once bore its name remains. Where’s the policeman today? Is he still alive? Have any of the cars survived?

I’ve always had a thing for Mopar E-bodies, and the Power Nation TV/Detroit Muscle Challenger project car sitting not 20 feet my office stirred up some good memories. The black and white picture you see here is from 1980 or ’81. I had a photography class assignment about perspective and depth of field, so my buddy Jack suggested I bring my ’71 Barracuda convertible to his place of employ early one Sunday morning. He was working security at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, watching over the historic Jersey Central Railroad Terminal, which was undergoing a restoration. What better place to burn off a roll of Tri-X? It was early spring and chilly out, but the wind off the Hudson River was fairly calm. I captured a bunch of images of my Plymouth in a location that would soon be off limits. (I guess it was technically off-limits then.) If you’d told me that day the Twin Towers would one day be obliterated in a terrorist attack, I’d have thought you mad. This is a photo that can’t be duplicated today.

After I was done, Jack told me to hang out for a while. It’ll be worth it, he said. Shortly thereafter, a number of street racers pulled up, the likes of which you’re not likely to see, even on reality TV. We’re talking full-size, pre-downsized GM monsters—Olds 88s, Buick Electra 225s (the proverbial deuce-and-a-quarter), Caddys, you name it. There were nitrous bottles, large flex-pipe exhausts and lots of money changing hands—not exactly what I expected to see on a Sunday before noon.

That’s the story behind this vintage photo.

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