In 1981 the CART/PPG Indy Car series was in its third year. Formed in 1979 by racing teams who had split from the previous sanctioning body, USAC, over how races were promoted, the way that television contracts were handled and what they believed to be the small size of the winners’ purses, the ‘81 PPG Indy Car World Series had 11 races on the schedule and featured drivers like Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. In time the series would go on to become the sole sanctioning body for all of Indy Car racing, but in 1981 the series was still in its infancy and, despite having Indy Car as a part of it name, did not even include the Indianapolis 500 among its officially sanctioned events. Read More >
Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time, making an estimated $200 million dollars and, in the process, turned several of those “nobodies,” people like Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Summers, and Cindy Williams, into bankable stars. In 1995, the National Library of Congress declared it to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation by adding it to the National Film Registry.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story by revealing any of the finer points of the plot. Generally speaking, it is the story of teenage angst and antics set amid classic cars and punctuated by great old-time rock and roll music and the action follows several teens on a hot August night in the far away year of 1962 as they cruise their cars around the California town of Modesto in search of action and adventure. The movie hit theaters just as the first wave of the baby boom generation, people born between 1946 and 64, began to close-in on the ripe old age of 30 and to see it now is to look back upon the days of their youth through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Read More >
You may never have heard of Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy, but almost a century before TV producer Matthew Weiner conjured up the fictional persona of ad man Don Draper, Jam Handy was inventing and shaping the way Americans bought and sold consumer goods, particularly cars. Along the way, he also shaped the way we learn about the world and how we see ourselves in it.
Last week we ran a post of mine about “Detroit Industry”, the murals that Diego Rivera painted for Edsel Ford in the main court of the Detroit Institute of Arts. More accurately, the post was about how a couple of artists, the Perre twins, commissioned to paint a mural in a new Detroit building, a commission inspired by Rivera’s work, claimed to know much about the artist and Detroit, but haven’t ever bothered to actually see Rivera’s Detroit masterpiece with their own eyes. That post was inspired by an article at the Detroit News by Rob Stanczak, from whence artist David Perre’s quote, “We have not seen it in person” jumped out at me. In our post, I linked to Rob Stanczak‘s article and, because I couldn’t find any photos of the Perres’ new mural that weren’t rights reserved, I used the DetNews’ video accompanying Rob Stanczak‘s article to illustrate my own. While not a formal citation per Modern Language Association guidelines, the link and DetNews video still gave our readers a couple of ways that they could access Rob Stanczak‘s work.
When I write about cars, my words are inspired by the works of Leonard Setright. While I haven’t actually read a word of what he’s written I know his writing and have educated myself about it and its significance.
Just how silly did that sound? About as silly as an artist saying that he’s inspired by a work that he hasn’t actually seen. What’s this doing on a car site? The work of art is arguably the greatest piece of automotive fine art in the world. Read More >
Jaguar has announced that they’re getting back into the engine designing and building business, after more than a decade and a half of being dependent on buying motors from Ford. There was a time, though, that Jaguar designed and built what many considered at the time to be the most advanced engines in the automotive world. There was the venerable and powerful six-cylinder XK engine introduced in 1948 and in production for over four decades, followed by the Jaguar V12, introduced in the late 1960s. The XK engine was designed by Walter Hassan and William Heynes, while Hassan joined Harry Mundy to lead the design of the V12. Between the two of them, Hassan and Mundy had a hand in designing many of the most technologically advanced postwar British engines that were ever made. Read More >
111 articles. I’m a little surprised by that number. Some months ago, when I submitted my snippet to TTAC’s Future Writers’ Contest, I had no real idea that it would lead to a regular place on these hallowed pages. Like a lot of you, I had read TTAC for years and even commented from time to time, but until that contest began I had never thought about becoming a contributor. I am not an industry insider nor do I have any real insight into car design, manufacturing, sales or even repairs. I am just a regular guy who loves cars. Still, I knew I could write and so when the contest came up I thought I would go ahead and send in a piece to see how I stacked up. I’ve always had a way with words and I figured I would win hands down – boy was I wrong about that, I didn’t even win my own day. Still, I received enough votes to get a full try-out and once I got the editors’ email addresses I just kept on sending them stories until they gave me access to the back side of the site. For some reason no one has told me to stop and now, whether you like me or not, you are stuck with me. Read More >
The Dodge brand’s centennial celebration began this week with the announcement of special 100th Anniversary Editions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger. After more than a year of preparation, John and Horace Dodge went for a ride in public in a car with their own brand for the first time on November 14, 1914. That was after eleven years of supplying Henry Ford and his car company with every major component of Ford cars except for bodies, wheels and tires. The critical role that the Dodge brothers had in the success of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company is not widely known outside of serious Dodge and early Ford enthusiasts. It has been reliably estimated that from the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903 until 1914. when the Dodges ended their contracts with Ford, they supplied about 60% of the total value of the cars that Ford “built”. Without the Dodge brothers, Ford Motor Company would never have gotten off the ground.
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On November 14, 1914, after 11 years of supplying Henry Ford with components and rolling chassis, Horace and John Dodge started selling cars with the Dodge Brothers brand.
The ’91 GSXR 1100 was a feral beast. It had been tame once, well “mostly tame” anyhow, but the bike’s previous owner had stripped away the thin veneer that civilization had imposed upon it and restored it to its primeval form. It hadn’t taken much, really. Larger carburetors, performance cams and a full race exhaust had transformed the bike from a wickedly fast street machine into a full-race bike that, despite the license plates, had no business being on the street. Still, it had a sort of lethal charm that attracted men like me: confident, experienced, prideful. It was a battle of wills I would not lose. I was determined to master the bike and, like a living thing, the bike was determined to kill me. Read More >
Long before Knight Rider’s KITT, back in the mid 1960s there was a television show about a car that talked. I’m not sure just how they pitched the idea to the network, my guess is that it had something to do with the popularity of the Mister Ed show. If a horse could talk, why not a car? Anyhow, the 1965 show was called My Mother The Car and it’s generally acknowledged to be one of the worst tv sitcoms ever. Some feel it may even be the worst television show, comedy or drama, ever, though it managed to last a full season, 30 episodes. The show starred Jerry Van Dyke whose character discovers, while shopping for a used car, that his late mother, played by Ann Sothern’s voice over the car radio, has been reincarnated as a 1928 Porter. Don’t bother doing a search, there was no 1928 Porter, unlike Jack Benny’s Maxwell. Though there has been a couple of car companies named Porter, Mother, the car, was fictional, created just for the tv show, said to be named after the show’s production manager. Read More >
My 1974 Nova was as utilitarian as they come. It was a low optioned base model with a 250 CID inline six mounting a one barrel carb and backed by a three speed manual with a column mounted shift lever. It had so few options that on the inside it had a rubber floors, vinyl seats and a pegboard for a headliner. Outside there was no decoration, nary a pinstripe nor so much as a strip of trim to protect the car’s flanks from door dings. It was a plain, gutless, spiritless little car that inspired no passion or love from anyone other than the 17 year old boy who owned it. To me it was, and still is, one of the greatest cars ever built. Read More >
Our Editor in Chief Pro Tempore’s post about the new unofficial coast to coast driving record, facilitated by the use of bed pans and big gas tanks, got the old synapses firing and I remembered something from my youth, maybe an episode of What’s My Line? or To Tell The Truth, about a guy who set continuous driving records in a highly modified Cadillac. Master of search fu that I am (it helps to have learned how to do an index/abstract/journal search back in the dead tree book days) I quickly discovered that the gentleman in question was named Louie Mattar. The San Diego garage owner bought a 1947 Cadillac new and started to add some custom features, like a built in shower, a back seat grill for cooking hot dogs and a wire recorder, as this 1951 issue of Modern Mechanix (today Popular Mechanics) shows. Then he started modifying the Cadillac mechanically, it so he could do things like change tires without stopping the car. Mattar made it his life’s mission to set and then break, over and over, the “record” for non-stop driving. His first record was a *non-stop drive in 1952 from San Diego to New York City and back, 6,320 miles. Read More >
Robert Avrech is an Emmy Award winning screenwriter who blogs at a site called Seraphic Secret. He has a post up about the automobile and freedom and since Robert is an avowed political conservative you can probably guess how he feels about things like taxpayer funded high speed rail and government regulations. If advocacy of limited government gives you the vapors, you might want to skip over his text, but Avrech is a part of the entertainment industry, lives in Los Angeles and knows the fashions and trends in his own industry.
Today, my wacky morning DJ, right after he said democracy was a joke and called me “dude,” hit us with this fun fact: 39% of young people choose the same brand of car their parents drove. I’m not sure if that is impressive as the previous day’s fact, that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the United States, but it made me think about my father’s preference in vehicles and whether or not I had followed suit. Despite the fact that my old man had pretty good taste in cars, the answer, oddly enough, is “no.” Read More >