Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber

By on July 6, 2014

Since this isn’t The Truth About Airplanes or even Planelopnik, we don’t generally cover aviation here at TTAC, either general or commercial (sorry about that pun). However, Honda announced that last week the first production HondaJet took its maiden test flight, near Honda Aircraft’s Greensboro, NC headquarters, and Honda does, after all, make and sell a few cars too. They aren’t the first car company, though, to get into the airplane business. As a matter of fact an earlier automaker had a seminal role in the development of commercial passenger aviation and even took a flier (sorry again, couldn’t resist) at general aviation, though that experiment was less successful. I don’t know if Soichiro Honda’s ever envisioned his motor company making jet airplanes, but since one of Soichiro’s role models, Henry Ford, helped get passenger aviation off the ground (okay, the last time, I promise) it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the thought may have crossed Mr. Honda’s mind. (Read More…)

By on July 5, 2014

A while back, for the Fourth of July, I posted a story about Liberty Motors, which was briefly in business about 90 years ago. Liberty’s patriotic founder Percy Owens built the company’s headquarters on Detroit’s east side as an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. That means that Detroit is the only metropolitan area of the country with two replicas of America’s birthplace, the other being the clock tower that Henry Ford built as the centerpiece to the museum in Dearborn that bears his name. (Read More…)

By on July 3, 2014
1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the 1930s, something like Buicks were to Cadillac and Mercurys were to Lincoln, what we might today call entry level luxury, fatally tainted the prestige of the brand, ultimately leading to its demise. The other is that Jim Nance, who ran Packard in its last years as an independent automaker, mismanaged the company into oblivion. Contrarian that yours truly is, I’m not sure either of those things are quite accurate. (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2014

IonIgnitionSwitchRecall-page-001

Megan McArdle, over at Bloomberg View, wonders out loud if the flood of recalls issued by General Motors, covering every car they’ve sold for the past three years and a wide swatch of the vehicles the company has made and sold over the past decade and a half is a deliberate strategy on the part of the company to protect its  image with consumers from further harm. The strategy may be working. The sales reports for June show that the current sales of new GM vehicles seems to be unaffected by all of the publicity and controversy surrounding defective ignition switches that can shut off the car, rendering the airbag systems inoperable in case of a subsequent collision. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2014

One of the Best & Brightest recently asked me to write about the history of automotive safety equipment. Today’s consumers ask how many airbags a car offers as standard equipment but in the 1970s the idea had a difficult time getting accepted, by both automakers and consumers. (Read More…)

By on June 27, 2014
Detroit Electric Vice President Doug Moore. Note the used whiteboard in the conference room behind him.

Detroit Electric Vice President Doug Moore in the company’s Fisher Bldg headquarters in Detroit. Note the used whiteboard in the conference room behind him.

When Detroit Electric launched their brand last spring at a gala affair in Detroit’s magnificent Fisher Building they, and the building’s landlord, said that the revived electric car brand would be making its headquarters in a suite on the 18th floor of the historic Detroit skyscraper. They also laid out their plans for assembling cars in southeastern Michigan.

(Read More…)

By on June 25, 2014

It’s summertime, when ice cream trucks ply the residential streets of America, playing the same silly songs over and over and over again, or ringing their bells. There was a time when the ringing bells of Good Humor trucks could be heard across America, but now their bells are heard and the trucks are seen primarily at car shows and in museums. A vintage piece of Americana from yesteryear.

The story of the Good Humor truck, interestingly enough, starts with another brand of frozen treat. (Read More…)

By on June 24, 2014

It’s possible that the Ghia-built 1957-58 Crown Imperial limousine was Chrysler’s effort to show the other members of the Big 3 automakers that they too could sell an extravagantly assembled and appointed ultra-luxury car and lose big money on each and every unit they sold, just as Ford did with the Continental Mark II and the General Motors did with the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. More likely, though, Chrysler executives saw the Imperial limos as carrying on a nameplate that had graced Chrysler’s most elegant and exclusive cars since the 1920s. Perhaps more than the other big Detroit automakers, Chrysler had a reputation for innovative engineering and it used that reputation to give the Imperial some cachet. The Hemi engine, disc brakes, power steering and the Powerflite, Chrysler’s first automatic transmission, were first offered on the Imperial. Still, as the 1950s went on, Cadillac’s dominance in the luxury class went from strength to strength. Though Packard fell by the wayside, Chrysler managers soldiered on with the company’s luxury marque. (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2014

There’s been some attention on the recent acquisition by a Canadian muscle car collector of what Driving.ca called “the ultimate Canadian barn find”, about 40 late model American performance cars. While the assortment of Corvettes, SRT Mopars and limited edition Fords like Harley Davidson F-150s and three Ford GTs are undoubtedly desirable, I’m not sure if the term “barn finds” applies. I’m old enough that the first time I heard “the Cobra in the barn” urban legend, it had to do with a soldier who never came back from Vietnam. I’m sure the oldest version of that story has to do with a doughboy and and a 1917 Model T or even a Union soldier and a horse drawn Studebaker wagon. Either way, a barn find to me is exactly that, a find, in Yiddish a metzia, something perhaps overlooked or abandoned and now rediscovered. I wouldn’t necessarily apply it to a business proposition that didn’t pan out. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2014

A while back while researching the topic of automotive scams and scoundrels, I came across the story of the Amectran Exar-1, a proposed electric car, of which only a prototype was made from a Frua built concept car. It turns out that the Exar-1 still exists and it’s in the collection of Myron Vernis, who lives near Akron, Ohio. The car writing gig has given me access to some fine collections and contact with a number of prominent car collectors like Ken Lingenfelter and Jay Leno (both of them very much regular car guys who have the means to indulge a passion for cars that must of us share with them). Ken and Jay are great car guys, without a doubt, but I have a taste for the offbeat so my favorite car collector has got to be Myron because he might very well have the best collection in the world of unusual and oddball cars. (Read More…)

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