Category: History

By on May 27, 2016

Nelson and Bud in the Vermont

by Richard A. Ratay

The first noteworthy attempt to drive across America began as many ill-advised feats do — on a bet. While visiting California in 1903, a 31-year old doctor named Horatio Jackson accepted a friend’s invitation to join him for a drink at San Francisco’s University Club.

It’s there, over a cocktail — or likely several — that Jackson found himself in debate with another gentleman on the topic of whether automobiles, then just beginning to appear on city streets, were merely a passing fad. An enthusiastic admirer of the new contraptions, Jackson passionately argued that cars were nothing less than the future of transportation.

In fact, Jackson boldly asserted, automobiles were already so rugged and reliable he could drive a car clear across the country back to his home in Vermont.

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By on May 2, 2016

Adolf Rosenberger in 1966.

In Part One, we looked at Adolf Rosenberger’s success as a businessman and racer, his seminal role in the creation of Auto Union, and his vital role in the founding of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s design agency in 1931. We also reviewed how increased persecution of Jews in Germany after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933 led to Rosenberger’s 1935 arrest by the Gestapo, his subsequent release (no thanks to the Porsches), and his leaving Germany for good in 1935.

In Part Two, we’ll look at Rosenberger’s life after Porsche.

In 1936, Rosenberger first visited the United States and eventually emigrated there, changing his name to Alan Arthur Robert. He tried his luck looking for work in the auto industry in Detroit, but moved to California after failing to find opportunity in the Motor City.

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By on April 25, 2016

Porsche's Third Man, Left to Right: Adolf Rosenberger, Ferdinand Porsche, Anton Piech

According to official Porsche lore, the automotive design firm, Dr. Ing. Hc F. Porsche GmbH, was founded in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen in 1931 by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and his son-in-law Anton Piëch. The Porsche and Piëch families still control the sports car company and the larger Volkswagen Group that owns it. At that beginning though, there was a third, now forgotten man without whom there would likely not be a Porsche company today.

In fact, without Adolf Rosenberger, there would not have been a Porsche company in the first place. Read More >

By on March 31, 2016

Chrysler 300M, Image: © 2015 Thomas Kreutzer/The Truth About Cars

The shopping center had seen better days.

Most of its smaller spaces were vacant, long since abandoned with only the leaves left scuttling about on the breeze to give the empty storefronts the illusion of life. Now, only the anchor stores remained. On one end of the complex, a dollar store. It somehow managed to look even more run down than most and had perhaps a dozen cars parked out front. At the other end, a cut rate supermarket — one of those places that sell mostly canned food and dried goods on the verge of expiry — had a dozen more cars sitting at its doors.

Much to my disappointment, a Chrysler 300M was among them. Read More >

By on March 9, 2016

Tom Mix Duesenberg front 3/4 right, Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

The high-dollar-custom Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama gets a lot of worthy attention, but real salt of the earth Detroit car culture can be found in Cobo Hall’s basement, The promoters bill the area as Autorama Extreme, and I always make it a point to check out the cars and people downstairs. There’s usually something worthwhile down there like “the first Mustang,” a bassackwards, mid-engine Ford F-1 pickup, or even an Allison V12-powered ’39 Chevy.

This year, walking past the bandstand where a local rockabilly band was doing a Jerry Lee Lewis song, I spotted something around a corner and immediately recognized it as a Duesenberg I’d written about before here at TTAC. It’s a distinctive car. For aesthetic reasons, I doubt anyone would make a replica. So even before I got near enough to see the longhorns up front and the tailfin that looks more like a hunchback’s deformity in back, I knew it was the so-called Tom Mix Duesenberg — a real Doozy in more ways than one.

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By on March 3, 2016

Kreutzer Nissan March 5

February ends. March begins. What better way to celebrate the sunny-but-cool weather of early spring than by looking at military castoffs? Luckily, the Lemon Lot full of them, and some were quite appropriately named.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of Nissan’s cutest products: the March. Read More >

By on February 26, 2016

Round Door Rolls, 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe front 3/4, Petersen Automotive Museum, Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

I’ve tangentially touched on the topic of this post, the famous art deco “Round Door Rolls-Royce”, before when discussing Audi advertising and some Detroit history. On my recent trip to Los Angeles to drive a McLaren 675LT (you think Jack Baruth is the only TTAC staffer who can swing the loan of a supercar?), I took the opportunity to visit the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum and the unusually bodied Rolls happened to be on display right where you walk into the building.

It’s a striking looking car, to say the least, and a multiple show winner undoubtedly worthy of historical note. Almost more interesting than the car, though, is the way its tale is presented and what that teaches us about the way ideas get entrenched, how a single facet of a story can obscure its context. Read More >

By on February 22, 2016

1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster Lake Maggiore Mullin Museum front 3/4 beauty shot flash © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

Every car has a story. In the case of this 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster, it has two. Both are good stories. One, however, is the stuff of legend, and the other closer to historical truth. Read More >

By on February 19, 2016

Toyota Soarer Celica

I had another opportunity to visit United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka last week and, naturally, I brought along my camera for another visit to the “Lemon Lot.”

While my last visit noted the many people haulers for sale and focused on a pair of cheerful Toyota Fun Cargoes, this time, my attention was drawn to sportier fare. Read More >

By on January 26, 2016

IMG_0143

Before U.S. importer Max Hoffman convinced Mercedes-Benz there was a market for the now famous gull-winged grand tourer, the 300SL badge was earlier applied to the company’s first postwar factory racecar, the W194 that was victorious at LeMans in 1952.

Sixty years later, at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mercedes-Benz introduced their latest iteration of the SL concept: the SL 550. To commemorate the occasion, and the original SL’s 60th birthday, Daimler restored the oldest existing 1952 300SL — chassis #002 — and brought it to Detroit with its newest descendant. Unfortunately for the hundreds of photographers who tried to seize what was likely their only opportunity to capture such a rare and historic car, stagehands quickly surrounded the car with stanchions and rope almost as soon as the 300SL #002 came to a halt on the stage. Read More >

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  • Bark M., United States
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