Category: History

By on September 23, 2016

Golf Country

The recent news that Volkswagen is pondering an all-wheel-drive Golf for U.S. customers surprised many.

“All-wheel drive is now part of the Volkswagen DNA,” commented Dr. Hendrik Muth of Volkswagen at the U.S. launch of the Alltrack.

That means Volkswagen will be taking on Subaru, the reigning king of all-wheel drive for the masses in the U.S. And since the Golf is already fairly dear in price, adding an all-wheel-drive option to the hatch will make Volkswagen’s compact a near-luxury item. At that price, why wouldn’t you just buy an Audi? It’s the brand with the all-wheel-drive expertise in the VAG clan.

But the reality of an all-wheel-drive Golf is now 20 years old.

Let’s take a look back at nine of the more interesting pre-Alltrack, pre-4Motion versions of the Golf that most U.S. customers have never even heard of.

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By on September 16, 2016

Porsche 924 Turbo (931)

There are few better ways to get instant recognition as a connoisseur of cars than to drive a classic. People will applaud your discerning taste, your unique choice in an age of appliance automobiles. Good for you!

You’ve decided to get something German because you like your 1970s classic to run. And you’d like a sports car, which pretty much makes Porsche your default choice. Few models now generate the collective automotive “OOoooo!” of the air-cooled 911. It’s so cool, it’s backwards!

But then you find out what classic 911s cost. If you’ve been living under a rock recently, prices for classic and rare 911s are through the roof. One of the last great air-cooled models just sold at RM Sotheby’s London Auction for £1,848,000. I’ll save you some quick math: that’s $2,460,242 USD at time of writing.

As you wipe the coffee from your screen, allow me to suggest it doesn’t have to be this way. You, too, can have an obscure, classic Porsche for only around 1/1000th the price of an air-cooled 911.

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By on September 1, 2016

1982 BMW 635CSi The Observer Coupé, Image: 4Star Classics

Mercedes-Benz has four convertibles now. As does Audi, with a fifth in a new R8 Spyder not far off. BMW has five ‘verts you can buy. And if you count the various configurations of Porsches from which you can choose, the German sportscar maker has nine — nine! — convertibles. (Heck, there are seven different versions of the 911 now with large sections of roof missing!)

But the story was quite different in 1982.

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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 >

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