It wasn’t that many decades ago that imported cars— any imported cars— were considered fairly exotic. I’ve dredged up memories of some very funny 1980 Aamco ads that deal with that subject, and the internet has obliged by providing those very ads for us! Read More >
In the early 1980s, as the economy continued to slump and gas prices soared, American car makers were desperate for a way forward. The good old days were gone forever. Under pressure from the Japanese, whose small cars had gone from rolling jokes to serious, high quality competition in little more than a decade, the big three knew they needed to make a radical departure from their traditional approach before it was too late. Although some of the more stodgy cars would soldier on and continue to sell to members of the Greatest Generation well past their expiration dates, for the rest of us the future was a smaller, lighter and more efficient. The winds of change were blowing and even the Ford Mustang felt the chill.
At around 2:00 PM on the afternoon of October 6, 1973, more than 200 Soviet built Egyptian aircraft began to assault Israeli air bases and missile emplacements north of the Suez canal and the established line of defense, known as the Bar Lev Line. During the night that followed, Egyptian combat engineers crossed the canal in small boats and used gasoline powered pumps to throw streams of high pressure water against the massive sand wall the Israeli forces had erected at the water’s edge following their 1967 conquest of the Sinai. The water eroded the wall with amazing efficiency and by the next day more than 50,000 Egyptian troops and 400 tanks had made their way across the Suez, through the remains of the Bar Lev line and out onto the Sinai desert where they forced the Israeli military back in disarray. The offensive, known as Operation Badr was the opening of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and it makes interesting reading. The conflict had lasting effects in region and some say that it helped to set the stage for the Camp David Accords and eventually led to the peace treaty that President Carter helped negotiate between Egypt and Israel. The war also had effects closer to home and, thanks in part to the Arab Oil Embargo that was a direct result of America’s support of Israel during the conflict, it led to a new, fuel efficient car appearing in my family’s driveway.
Oldsmobile, Packard, Plymouth. Another dead brand with obscure concept cars in this part of the alphabet is Pontiac. This is their Rageous concept from 1997, another proto-CUV, and what some have called “the Aztek that should have been”. Imagine a four door Trans Am (the rear doors are suicide style like on the RX-8 Mazda) with a hatchback and a flat load floor that will accommodate a 4X8 sheet of plywood. A ’90s vintage LT1 and a Corvette based rear suspension completed the package, which of course had Pontiac’s supernumerary nostrils from that era. Actually, the Rageous isn’t that obscure. Mattel’s Hot Wheels released their own version of it in 1999 and reissued it at least 8 times since then. Like the Jeep Jeepster concept, if you’re a Gen Y’er, or a baby boomer who collects Hot Wheels you may actually remember the Pontiac Rageous. Read More >
It started with a photo of a strange looking Pinto with a targa style roof and it metastasized into an encyclopedia of just about every concept car you never heard about. Part One, Acura to Chevrolet, is here. Part two, Chrysler to Ford, is here. Part three, Honda to Mercury, is here.
Mitsubishi likes three letter acronyms and alphanumerics. Behold, above, the HSR III from 1992, some kind of Eclipse concept, I think. Read More >
Continuing with our look at long forgotten (and some not so long forgotten, but forgotten just the same) concept and show cars from the major automobile manufacturers. Part One, Acura to Chevrolet, is here. Part two, Chrysler to Ford, is here.
Sure, once you see it, the Honda SSM (Sports Study Model), first shown at the Tokyo show in 1995 and styled by Pininfarina, was obviously the concept for what became the S2000 roadster. The question is do S2000 fans even remember the SSM? Read More >
Yesterday, we started are look through concept and show cars from major car companies that may have slipped your attention by being rather obscure. I delight in the obscure and the unusual, figuring that not everyone needs more pics of ’69 Camaros or ’58 Isettas. We continue with barely known Chrysler, Dodge and Ford concepts. Read More >
I saw it this morning. Slipping along the in the dim, pre-dawn light and shrouded in the thin early morning fog that wicked up in wispy tendrils from the damp pavement, it was an apparition, a beast from another age. Like poor Yorick, alas I knew it well and although, in time, it has become the subject of infinite jest, it was in its day the most excellent fancy of many young men and it bore my youthful dreams upon its back a thousand times. It had, I thought, no right to be among the living when so many other, better, vehicles of its era were consigned to their graves, rotting away in fields, pulled apart for their components or crushed, shredded and melted wholesale back into their base elements. Why then, knowing through the clarifying lens of history the terrible truth about the trouble that lurked beneath its slick sheet metal, did its unexpected appearance stir a long-forgotten longing in my heart?
Is it a cliche to say that as a writer I try to avoid cliches? Anyway, I do try to avoid the word legendary (see Dash Parr on being special), but some concept and show cars are, well, legendary. Not in the sense, of course, that people tell grand tales about them but because they are remembered, ending up in books and blog posts. Some concept and show cars are, if not the stuff of legends, certainly the stuff of history. Other cars, not so much. For every memorable Cadillac Evoq, Sixteen and Converj, there’s been at least one La Espada or Aurora, cars that never really caught the public or auto enthusiasts’ imagination even if they may have influenced production cars. A concept car can cost an easy million dollars to build, but once that year’s auto show season is over, it’s often forgotten.
While researching the topic of the “blackout” cars of 1942, that had painted rather than plated trim due to wartime restrictions on strategic metals, I came across this promotional postcard for the 1942 DeSoto, the second American production car to feature hidden headlights, advertised as “airfoil lights” . “Boy,” I thought, “Now that’s a sleek, streamlined car, I’m surprised I don’t remember it,” well until I saw a photograph of an actual ’42 DeSoto. Read More >
If you have a spare four minutes and four seconds (plus time for the commercial) take the time to check out the following discussion over at Bloomberg.com. As a layman, I find these kind of discussions very interesting and would like to hear the best and the brightest, many of whom I know to be connected with auto industry, give a little perspective to what seems to me to be a very shallow look on the subject of modern car design.
The Lake Michigan Car Ferry website is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the operators of the Lake Michigan car ferry, the SS Badger, which runs between Ludington MI and Manitowoc, WI, have reached and agreement that will allow the historic steamship to continue operating. The Badger is one of the last coal fired vessels operating commercially on the great lakes and its continued operation means millions of trade and tourist dollars for the region it serves. During the summer months, the 6650 ton vessel makes two round trip crossings per day and can carry 600 passengers and up to 180 automobiles.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, I love cars and like a lot of people I spend a lot of time thinking about the ones I might like to own. My daydreams live in an odd place, they don’t run towards the higher plane of pure fantasy where the Ferrari and Lamborghini live, and, despite the fact I expect to be buying a new minivan or SUV in the next couple of years, they don’t run to the purely practical, either. No, my fantasies live in that middle place. A place where the cars are interesting and, as unlikely as a purchase may be, still attainable.
These days, with the nanny-state enforcers of IngSoc and Agenda 21 mandating 3,000 pounds of safety gear on each new motor vehicle, it’s refreshing to hear that folks in the very early days of motoring got some good yuks out of the idea of impalement on the tiller of a curved-dash Olds. We’ve dug up this 1904 Cal Stewart recording of “Uncle Josh In An Automobile” to demonstrate. Read More >
I was young, stupid and hopelessly in love. The girl, as has so often been the case in my life, hardly knew I existed but, regardless, I was determined to win her. Even in those pre-internet days, real advice for young men was in short supply, especially if you were too embarrassed to ask about such things, so when someone told me women were attracted to power, I listened. If power is what women wanted, power I could get. Fortunately, it happened to be on sale at my local Dodge dealership.