Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber

By on July 17, 2014

A perennial candidate for most beautiful of all times lists is the Studebaker Avanti. It’s admittedly somewhat of a polarizing design since the Avanti also sometimes shows up on lists of the oddest looking or ugliest cars ever made. I’m in the former camp and think it’s a great looking piece of human creation, but I can understand those who think it looks a little funny. Perhaps that’s how it should be as the Avanti was created to get people’s attention for Studebaker, the last independent car company in America, which was quickly becoming irrelevant as its financials got worse and worse. Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert did what he could with limited resources and a board of directors that seemed determined to run the more than century old company into the ground. The Avanti was part of Egbert’s plan in the early 1960s to give Studebaker, a company with a dowdy reputation in consumers’ minds, a new image, a rebranding in today’s parlance. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2014

In looking at Henry Ford’s forays into the airplane and aviation industries we’ve touched on the story of William Bushnell Stout. Stout was the man behind Ford’s successful endeavor into aviation with the Ford Trimotor. Car enthusiasts, though, might be more familiar with the small run of Stout Scarab automobiles, said to be the “first minivans”. Stout introduced a few other other automotive firsts like air suspension and the use of composite bodies. How much of an innovator Stout was, as opposed to someone who saw value in the ideas of others and brought them to fruition, is open to debate. He was certainly respected by the engineering community, serving as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It’s undeniable, though, that Stout saw the promise, later fulfilled, of commercial passenger aviation, and while many of the Scarabs’ more prominent features can be called dead-ends, quite a few of the things that Stout built into his cars are probably present on the car or truck you drive. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2014

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The autoblogosphere is abuzz with the topic of “rolling coal“, apparently the practice of some diesel pickup truck enthusiasts who fiddle with their fuel systems so as to produce voluminous clouds of dense black, sooty exhaust smoke. I have to admit that when I first saw the phrase “rolling coal” in a headline at Jalopnik I thought it had something to do coal gasification and running cars on wood gas or syngas. After finding out that rolling coal wasn’t what I thought it was, I did look into the history of powering motor vehicles on wood gas and ended up finding out about these rather odd looking cars and trucks known as gas bag vehicles. Frankly they’re more interesting to me than whether or not pickup truck driving bros are blowing smoke in the faces of Prius drivers. I believe that you’ll find these vehicles interesting as well. (Read More…)

By on July 8, 2014

Following the success of the Ford Trimotor, one of the first successful commercial passenger and cargo airplanes, which was introduced in 1925, Henry Ford got the aviation bug and decided to build what he called a “Model T of the air”, a small, affordable single seat airplane. He first proposed the idea to the men running his aircraft division, Trimotor designer William Bushnell Stout and William Benson Mayo but based on Henry’s design brief, neither experienced aeronautical man wanted anything to do with project. By then Henry Ford had bought out all of his investors and partners. All of Ford Motor Company stock was owned by Henry, Clara, and Edsel Ford, with Henry having the greatest share (49/3/48) so the firm was effectively Henry’s private feudal empire. Mr. Ford simply moved the project to a building in the Ford Laboratories complex. (Read More…)

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

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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 ┬áimage 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…)

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