The Truth About Cars » Look What I Found! The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Look What I Found! Nissan Debuts Self-Cleaning Note For European Market Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:00:59 +0000 nissan-note-self-cleaning-paint-001-1

For Europeans who enjoy self-cleaning ovens and cats, and would prefer not to wash and wax their Nissan Note, Nissan in Europe has unveiled a Note for them that is resistant to dirt and oil by way of its new coating.

Autoblog reports the Note wears an experimental super-hydrophobic/oleophobic coating which casts off water, dirt, oil and grime in the same manner as a duck’s back, leaving the paint underneath free and clear.

Dubbed Ultra-Ever Dry by its maker, Ultra-Tech International Inc., the coating will undergo a number of tests over the coming months at the Nissan Technical Centre Europe in Switzerland before making the the coating available for the Note as a potential aftermarket option.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata Caught Nude In Home Plant Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:37:20 +0000 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-3

New spy photos of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata have emerged showing the upcoming sedan fully nude in its home plant in South Korea.

The Korean Car Blog reports spy photographers have said the Sonata boasted a 2-liter T-GDI four-pot pushing 274 horsepower toward the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Sonata will make its official launch March 24.

2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-3 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-1 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-2 hyundai-sonata-turbo-seven-speed-dual-clutch-transmission-dct-scooped-1 hyundai-sonata-turbo-seven-speed-dual-clutch-transmission-dct-scooped-2 hyundai-sonata-turbo-seven-speed-dual-clutch-transmission-dct-scooped-3 ]]> 54
Google’s New Car Search Makes Shopping Easier Thu, 05 Dec 2013 12:57:27 +0000 jaguar f-type - Google Search

Whether you’re in the market for an F-150 or an F-Type, you may have at some point used Google to learn all you could about your next car purchase. The Mountain View, Calif. company decided to make your quest for knowledge easier by unveiling their New Car Search feature as seen above.

At the same time, Google looks to have abandoned their previous new car shopping tool, which had a separate landing page, and allowed shoppers to search for available inventory, while generating leads for dealers.

The current iteration appears to be a lot more simple, at least for now. By entering the car of interest into Google’s search bar, the results page will bring up a box with info on pricing, trim levels, MPG, and similar cars others have sought out.

That said, the current selection with this new widget is limited, focusing upon newer cars within the past three model years or so (i.e., the Chevrolet Impala). Thus, if you were hoping to go back in time to see how much a Ford Mustang II was worth when it debuted, you might have better luck going through an old issue of National Geographic for the time being.


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A Plethora of Air-Cooled Porsches Sat, 26 Oct 2013 12:00:27 +0000 img_0118

1967 Porsche 911S. Full gallery here.

I’ve always respected but never quite been a fan of P.J. O’Rourke’s favorite AENSC, the Porsche 911, but our Editor in Chief pro tem is indeed a fan of that car, or at least of the classic air-cooled variety, if not the more recent versions (or, for the matter, the company that makes them). Hence, last summer when I saw that the Concours of America at St. John’s had, as two of its judged categories, Porsche 911 Early 1963-1978 and Porsche 911 Late 1979-2013, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Porsche icon, I knew that I’d be able to get lots of photos of 911s powered by boxers bereft of wasser for the EIC’s enjoyment and yours as well. The cars pictured here span almost the entire 1963-1997 run for the air-cooled 911. The oldest one pictured here is a 1964 Cabriolet prototype, one of two extant 901 prototypes (the car was renamed before it went on sale to avoid a conflict with Peugeot, who objected to the three digit name with zero in the middle). The youngest is a 993 Targa from 1997, the final year for the air-cooled 911.

In addition to the street-going 911 cars, I’ve also included photos of some other significant air-cooled Porsches, Peter Gregg’s 1977 Brumos Porsche 934.5, which won the Trans Am championship that year, sort of, and a 1964 Porsche 904, the midengine car Porsche built to go sports car racing in the mid-1960s, also known as the Carrera GTS, and a 906, which was developed from the 904.


1977 Brumos Porsche 934.5. Full gallery here.

The Brumos 934.5 has a great story, with a race winning quasi-championship provenance. As you might guess from model number, it’s a bit of a hybrid. Based on the FIA Group 4 Porsche 934, as built by Porsche it had the wider rear wheels and wing from a 935, and was powered by a 590 hp 3.0 liter flat six with a KKK turbocharger. Porsche built 10 of them and Brumos Porsche owner and racer Peter Gregg bought two of them. He sold one to a customer and was going to use the other as his personal racer. This is where racing politics entered the story.

After its 1975 season was dominated by the 934, IMSA, in an attempt to appease major American sponsors, changed the rules, effectively banning the Porsche. Teams running that car moved to the SCCA’s Trans-Am series for the 1976 season. The quality of the IMSA fields dropped and it wasn’t a successful year for the sanctioning body, so for 1977, they invited the Porsche teams back. Gregg drove a 934 equipped with the 935′s tire package and wing at a special test session for Jim Bishop, who ran IMSA. Bishop decided that the car wouldn’t dominate and approved it to run in IMSA’s ’77 season. The SCCA similarly approved what would be known as the 934.5. When Gregg showed up at the April IMSA race at Road Atlanta, though, he’d added more 935 parts and IMSA sent him home to revert the car back to how it had been tested. Instead, Gregg went to the SCCA who approved the modifications and more. He went on to win six of the ten Trans-Am races that season, winning the championship, at least according to the SCCA at first. The FIA, the international auto racing body, though, disagreed.

One of those six winning races was when the Trans-Am series stopped at the Mosport track in Canada for a six hour endurance race that was part of the World Championship of Makes, ultimately under the jurisdiction of the FIA. A racing rival, Canadian Porsche dealer Ludwig Heimrath protested Gregg’s 934.5 to the FIA which ruled against Gregg eight months after the race. Porsche didn’t care and published a championship poster.


Suffering from a progressive and incurable disease of the nervous system that stopped his racing career, Peter Gregg took his own life in 1980. The late Dave Aase, who dismantled Porsches in southern California, bought Gregg’s 934.5 to use as a showroom display. Current owner Bob Weber had first seen the car when Gregg raced it at Road America in 1977. “I was a kid at the fence in 1977 at Elkhart Lake, watching this monster belching fire and tearing around with a whoosh,” he recalled. “It made me want to own a Porsche turbo someday.” He saw it again, in 1993, at Aase’s shop and finally in 2004 he was able to fulfill his boyhood dream and buy a very special Porsche turbo. Weber then entrusted former Brumos team member Paul Willison with a show-winning restoration to how it was as raced by Gregg.

Click here to view the embedded video.






1963 Porsche 904 aka Carrera GTS. Full gallery here.





1970 911S R-Gruppe Coupe, owned by Rick Riley. The car combines the reduced weight of a 911-R and the power of a 2.7 911 Carrera RS. It has a fiberglass hood, front fenders, doors, aluminum engine lid, Lexan windows and a custom roll cage. The current curb weight is 1,800lbs dry and the 2.7 liter mechanically injected twin plug engine produces 250 hp.




1972 Porsche 911 RSR tribute.


1979 Porsche 911 SC




1966 Porsche 911 with 102,000 miles.


1988 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet – in nougat brown metallic


The one on the right is a 1992 964 America Roadster in raspberry red metallic. One of 250 made, it has Turbo bodywork, but not the turbo engine. It has just 1,200 original miles. The one on the left is a 993 Targa from 1997. the last year of the air-cooled Porsches.


Dave Renner and his 1986 911 Carrera Coupe M491. It’s a Euro version 3.2 liter Carrera that features the M491 option also known as the “Factory Turbo-Look”. He imported it himself and took delivery at the Port of Detroit.


The ‘Barn Queen’, as this 911 is affectionately known, is a Signal Orange 1970 911 ‘S’ Porsche coupe with a black interior. Originally found in an exposed carport in March 2010, it had been parked since 1996. The engine had not been cranked in all that time, the tires had rotted, and squirrels even built nests in the engine compartment. Brumos Porsche of Jacksonville did the rotisserie restoration.



1964 Porsche 911 Cabriolet prototype. The first “open” 901 prototype, it is one of two remaining 901 prototypes. Butzi Porsche’s design was approved February 1965 and the production model name become known as the Targa. This 901 has not been altered from the way it left the factory and it was equipped with 911S model equipment including prototype Fuchs wheels. It is owned by Myron Vernis, who has an outstanding collection of unique and unusual cars.







Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallac view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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BMW’s M235i Revealed Via Leak Thu, 24 Oct 2013 10:00:30 +0000 M235i-01

BMW’s replacement for the 1-Series has been revealed in its M form courtesy of leaked photos posted to an online forum after a dealer presentation, according the lads at Autocar.

The M235i seen in the photos is as how the smallest BMW will appear when the 2-Series debuts in showrooms next year, with the 220i and 220d filling out the ranks. The M variant will be driven by a turbocharged 3-liter I6, pushing 322 horses out the back door with 332 pounds of tree-pulling power from 0 to 60 in just under 5 seconds; top speed is 155 mph.

The 2-Series overall is longer than the 1-Series it will replace, providing more comfort and cargo room for potential buyers to consider. The collection has been engineered to accommodate both rear- and four-wheel drive, as well.


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Bricklin SV-1 and Delorean DMC-12: So Alike Yet So Different Sat, 07 Sep 2013 01:10:43 +0000 IMG_0370

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that people who like unusual gullwing cars are people who like unusual gullwing cars. There are a number of car enthusiasts who own both DeLorean DMC-12 and Bricklin SV-1 cars and there appears to be a sense of camaraderie as well between DeLorean and Bricklin enthusiasts. I first realized this when visiting the Lingenfelter Collection, which includes both of those cars in a collection that’s focused primarily on Corvettes, American muscle and Ferraris. Then, more recently, a couple of Bricklin owners decided to take in the Woodward Dream Cruise, sharing the same north Woodward vantage point where DeLorean owners gather each year.


It makes some sense, the two cars share a remarkable number of similarities, besides those distinguishing upward opening doors.  Both were the brainchildren of automotive entrepreneurs with egos and hubris to match whatever talents they had, John Z. DeLorean and Malcolm Bricklin (to be fair, DeLorean was an engineer with an accomplished record at Packard and General Motors, Bricklin is a hondler). Both cars are sporting two-seaters based on wedge styling, with fastback rooflines and sail panel C pillars that have inset windows for visibility.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Both cars feature unique body materials layered over fiberglass panels, in the case of the DeLorean, stainless steel, in the case of the Bricklin, color impregnated acrylic. Both cars were assembled from a melange of off-the-shelf components shared with other manufacturers.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Both cars were built in factories located in geographic places that formerly were not associated with the traditional auto industry and both of those factories were established through regional government funding, intended to create jobs. The DeLorean factory in Northern Ireland was funded by the government of Northern Ireland and the Bricklin factory in New Brunswick was financed by that Canadian province’s government. Both companies went out of business after those governments pulled the plug and would not continue to finance operations.  Both the DeLorean and the Bricklin have endured in enthusiasts minds and are supported by active collector communities. Both cars may be more popular now than when they were sold new.


Still, for all their seeming similarities, the two cars are completely different. One is powered by a French V6 mounted in back, while the other has an American V8 in a conventional front engine rear wheel drive layout. The DeLorean could accurately be described as a rear engined Renault V6 powered Lotus Esprit with a stainless steel skin hung on the fiberglass body. The Bricklin could likewise be characterized as a composite bodied American Motors Hornet, with either Ford or AMC V8 power.


Getting back to the similarities, enthusiasts of both brands don’t seem to be purists who look down on people who modify their beloved cars. One of the DeLoreans at the gathering was mounted on top of a 4X4 monster truck chassis. Another otherwise stock looking DeLorean had a prop “flux capacitor” from the Back To The Future movie franchise, complete with flashing LEDs, mounted to the rear bulkhead. That car also wore 1PT21GW vanity plates, another reference to the movie (1.21 gigawatts).

Click here to view the embedded video.

Both of the Bricklins that were there had their  exceptionally slow door lifts replaced with remote controlled pneumatically powered cylinders and one of them had a rather nice full custom interior. The stock Bricklin interior, with a gear selector identical to the one you’d see in a Gremlin, hardly hides the AMC origins of many of its parts. Though a supply (or payment) issue caused Bricklin to switch from the AMC 360 V8 to Ford’s 351 Windsor engine partway through the 1974 model year (Bricklins were made for 1974 and 1975 model years), most of the rest of the SV-1′s running gear was still AMC sourced.


One other similarity between Bricklin and DeLorean was obvious, the problems that small manufacturers have meeting the kind of uniform quality big car companies routinely put out. DeLorean never got the plastic on the front and rear fascias to properly color match the stainless steel, nor did they ever get the front trim to fit just right. On both Bricklins you can see that the company had some kind of issue getting the passenger side of the rear hatch to lay down completely flush. Small manufacturers also will often make running changes in the middle of a model year, like Bricklin switching engine suppliers or the fact that the original DMC-12 cars had a small gas filler door inset in the front hood of the car, while later versions made owners open up the entire hood panel to fill their tanks.


Still, those are the kinds of flaws that endear a car to its enthusiasts. There were lots of smiles as the DeLorean and Bricklin owners showed each other their cars’ special features. Sometimes you go to a car event and it’s just a little too “clubby”, not very inviting to outsiders, but there was none of that with the DeLorean and Bricklin owners. Approachable and willing to share. When I mentioned the low mile barn find DeLorean that The Smoking Tire‘s Matt Farah just bought and is having slightly restomodded for performance, the DeLorean owners knew about it and were enthused about it, not jealous. Bill Schafer, who owns the green Bricklin pictured here, told me that he was “honored” that I wanted to publish photos and video of his car. I suppose that it’s hard putting on airs when you collect a famous failure.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Stereo pics of the DeLoreans here, and the Bricklins here. Like cutaway engines, gull winged cars were made to be seen in three dimensions.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


IMG_0291a IMG_0292 IMG_0293 IMG_0296 IMG_0297 IMG_0298 IMG_0299 IMG_0300 IMG_0301 IMG_0302 IMG_0303 IMG_0304 IMG_0305 IMG_0306 IMG_0307 IMG_0310 IMG_0311 IMG_0312 IMG_0313 IMG_0314 IMG_0315 IMG_0316 IMG_0337 IMG_0338 IMG_0339 IMG_0340 IMG_0341 IMG_0343 IMG_0348 IMG_0350 IMG_0351 IMG_0352 IMG_0355 IMG_0358 IMG_0359 IMG_0360 IMG_0361 IMG_0362 IMG_0368 IMG_0369 IMG_0370 IMG_0376 IMG_0377 IMG_0378 IMG_0379 IMG_0380 IMG_0382 IMG_0384 IMG_0393 IMG_0394 IMG_0285 IMG_0286 IMG_0287 IMG_0290 IMG_0291 IMG_0282 IMG_0284 IMG_0285 IMG_0288 IMG_0294 IMG_0295 IMG_0317 IMG_0318 IMG_0319 IMG_0320 IMG_0321 IMG_0322 IMG_0323 IMG_0324 IMG_0325 IMG_0326 IMG_0327 IMG_0328 IMG_0329 IMG_0330 IMG_0331 IMG_0331a IMG_0333 IMG_0334 IMG_0335 IMG_0336 IMG_0342 IMG_0344 IMG_0347 IMG_0347a IMG_0352 IMG_0353 IMG_0354 IMG_0357 IMG_0364 IMG_0366 IMG_0368 IMG_0369 IMG_0370 IMG_0372 IMG_0373 IMG_0374 IMG_0375 IMG_0381 IMG_0382 IMG_0385 IMG_0386 IMG_0389 IMG_0389a IMG_0390 IMG_0395 IMG_0396 ]]> 40
Look At What I Found!: 1951 Crosley Hotshot Sun, 25 Aug 2013 15:00:35 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Foodies start restaurants. Most new restaurants fail. Gearheads’ most common business dream/fantasy may be starting up a new car company. Those usually fail too.  The appeal has attracted diverse entrepreneurs with near addictive quality, and with nearly the same ruinous results as a physical addiction. For every Walter Chrysler, there is at least one Henry J. Kaiser. For every Colin Chapman there has been a least a couple of Malcolm Bricklins. Bricklin’s own attempt to build a safety car was predated by that of Preston Tucker. Bricklin actually sold a lot more cars than Tucker ever did. That’s not even counting the frauds like “Liz Carmichael” and the Dale. Powell Crosley Jr. also caught the car building bug, and was both more successful and more influential than most of those dreamers.

1940 Crosley convertible

1940 Crosley convertible

Crosley had an early interest in automobiles and before 1920 made a number of failed attempts to make cars. He was more successful, though, selling gadgets and accessories in the automotive aftermarket, creating the foundation for his later ventures. In the early 1920s when his son wanted a radio, the latest fad, Crosley discovered how expensive they were and started to apply mass production techniques borrowed from Henry Ford, first to make radio components, and later complete radios. By 1924 Crosley was the largest radio manufacturer in the world. The Crosley brand was so well established that nearly a century later, a modern company selling retro consumer electronics is now using the name.

1951 Crosley Hotshot

Photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

From selling radio receivers, Crosley went on to the content side of what was then modern communications and started a 50 watt radio station, WLW, which would eventually blanket the entire United States, using a signal ranging as high as 700,000 watts. The strength of that signal was one factor in the wide popularity of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, which by then Crosley had bought. His financial fortunes well established, Powell Crosley returned to his original dream of making a car of his own.

1950 Crosley CD

1950 Crosley CD

Working with his brother Lewis, a graduate engineer, in the late 1930s Crosley developed an inexpensive subcompact car. Production started in 1939 at two Indiana factories and by the time the switch to military production in World War II put an end to most consumer manufacturing, Crosley had sold nearly 5,000 Crosley sedans, coupes, convertibles and station wagons. Much like celebrities today flock to startups like Tesla, Crosley cars had many famous owners including Gen. Omar Bradley, former general Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, politician Nelson Rockefeller and entertainers Gloria Swanson, Humphrey Bogart and Art Linkletter.

Photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

Crosley cars may have been cheap (the first Crosleys cost only $250) but the company was unquestionably a technological and automotive marketing pioneer with many “firsts”. Beside selling the first successful subcompact car in the US, Crosley introduced the first use of the term ‘Sport Utility’, the first mass-market single overhead camshaft  engine in 1946, the first slab-sided postwar car, the first all steel-bodied station wagon in 1947 (earlier wagons used wood framing under the steel panels), and the first American car to be fitted with 4-wheel disc brakes in 1949,  standard on the first American sports car, the Hotshot, introduced in 1949. Crosley even anticipated UTVs like the John Deere Gator with the  Farm-O-Road model, a 63-inch wheelbase utility vehicle. All of this is in addition to the novel COBRA engine which Powell developed during WWII, whose cylinder block was made up of steel stampings, copper brass welded together. It showed promise but reliability issues prompted a switch to cast iron.

1952 Crosley Station Wagon with COBRA engine in foreground

Crosley COBRA engine on display in the Indiana Cars hall of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, Auburn, IN

The Hotshot cost half ($900) of what a base Chevy cost then. It’s diminutive size and price did not deter owners from using the little two seater in competition, rather successfully I might add, winning both the Index of Performance and taking overall victory at the first Sebring 6-hour race in 1950. Other notable results included victory in the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix and second in the 1951 Tokyo Grand Prix.

Photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

Crosley engines also powered a number of racing specials, including those built by Bandini, Moretti and Siata. The Crosley powered specials were very successful with a Siata/Crosley winning the 12-hour SCCA race at Vero Beach, while a Bandini/Crosley won the 6-hour event. Crosley specials also led the SCCA H-modified class throughout the late 1950s, and at Bonneville, a Crosley-powered “belly tanker” significantly increased the Class O record to almost 100 miles per hour.

1952 Crosley Station Wagon

1952 Crosley Station Wagon

Crosley’s best year was 1948, during the postwar car sales boom when consumers were buying anything new that was available after years of wartime rationing and most consumer industries switched to military production. Crosley sold almost 25,000 cars that year. As more and more of the established (and startup) automakers introduced all new postwar designs, Crosley sales started to decline even after the Hotshot was introduced in 1949 and the Farm-O-Road the next year. Nash’s introduction of the compact Rambler didn’t help things. By 1952 sales had dropped to only 1,522 cars, with production ending in July of that year.

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's 1952 Crosley Super Roadster, in Taliesin Red, just like his Cord L-29 in the background

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1952 Crosley Super Roadster, in Taliesin Red, just like his Cord L-29 in the background

Considering what restored VW Beetles and Buses are getting today, the $15,000-$20,000 that a restored Hotshot or other Crosley will cost you seems to me to be a reasonable price for a unique and very historic automobile.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

IMG_0380 crosleywagon-2 crosley-sta_0682 crosleyroadster-4 crosleyroadster-2 crosleyroadster-1 crosley-sta_0682 IMG_0331a IMG_0331 IMG_0328b IMG_0328a IMG_0328 IMG_0327 IMG_0187 IMG_0184 IMG_0176 IMG_0174 IMG_0173 IMG_0172 IMG_0171 IMG_0170 IMG_0169 IMG_0025 IMG_0024 IMG_0023 IMG_0022 IMG_0020 IMG_0019a IMG_0019 IMG_0018a IMG_0018 IMG_0017 IMG_0016 IMG_0015a IMG_0015 IMG_0014 IMG_0013a IMG_0013 IMG_0012 IMG_0011a IMG_0011 IMG_0010 crosley-sta_0682 crosley-img_0692a crosley-img_0692 crosley-img_0688 crosley-img_0552 crosley1950cd-15 crosley1950cd-14 crosley1950cd-13 crosley1950cd-12 crosley1950cd-10 crosley1950cd-9 crosley1950cd-8 crosley1950cd-7 crosley1950cd-6 crosley1950cd-5 crosley1950cd-4 crosley1950cd-3 crosley1950cd-2 crosley1950cd-1 1950 Crosley CD 1940 Crosley convertible 1952 Crosley Station Wagon 1952 Crosley Station Wagon with COBRA engine in foreground Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's 1952 Crosley Super Roadster, in Taliesin Red, just like his Cord L-29 in the background


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You Say You Prefer The Ford GT To Galpin’s GTR1? Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:53:11 +0000 img_0213

While I personally find the Ford GT based GTR1 that Galpin Auto Sports will be selling for a million dollars rather inoffensive, a number of the Best and Brightest expressed some distaste for styling of the 1,000+ horsepower, twin turbo 225 MPH (estimated) supercar. Even some of those that didn’t necessarily dislike the GTR1 said they still preferred the looks of the GT. I happen to agree. As a matter of fact, this is going to sound like heresy to some folks, but I think the Ford GT is even a better looking car than the original Ford GT40.

Remember, the original was designed to win races, not for aesthetics. Camilo Pardo’s design of the GT improves on the GT40, at least to my eyes. YMMV. Fortunately for those of you who like the way the Ford GT looks the Mustang Owners Club of Southeast Michigan (MOCSEM) held its Mustang Memories show in the parking lot of Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn a couple of weeks ago. While it’s possibly the biggest one day Mustang show in the world, with about 800 pony cars of every stripe (wouldn’t that make it zebra car?), Mustang Memories is open to any Ford powered vehicle and the show was host to a Ford GT reunion. I was told that at least 40 GTs were present, but in addition to the ones parked in a row, I also spotted a handful of others at vendor displays.


When you go to a car show with hundreds of cars, you have to decide which cars you’re going to shoot pictures of, and which cars don’t hold your or your readers’ interest. I joke that my rule is “no ’57 Chevys or ’69 Camaros”. With close to a thousand Mustangs, do I really need to get pics of another factory built late model Shelby GT500, albeit customized and personalized… just like almost every other Mustang at the show?


While the Mustang Memories show had a plethora of customized cars there was also plenty of original bodywork.

I’m no fool, at least some of the time, so I know when to bend my rules. I have lots of photos I’ve taken of a couple of real-baby-seal 1969 Camaro ZL-1 cars that were on display at local shows, and at Mustang Memories I likewise took shots of Henry Ford II’s personal K-code preproduction Mustang with a one-off leather interior.


While I took photos of only some of the Mustangs at the show, I made sure to get my *usual sequence of photos for each and every one of those Ford GTs at the show. Interestingly, a lot like the Ford Mustangs in the show, many of the Ford GTs were also tuned, customized or otherwise made personal by their owners. A number of the cars in the show, GTs included, had vanity license plates. One plate was TWIN61S, which I assume is a reference to the use of two 61mm turbos. Another read 123IN66, which was hard to decipher at first. The owner wasn’t around and none of the folks sitting nearby had any idea what it meant. Then I saw how Carroll Shelby had signed the engine compartment (right next to Jack Roush’s autograph). Carroll signed it “1-2-3 in 66″ Carroll Shelby and I realized it was a reference to the original Ford GT40 sweeping the podium at the 1966 LeMans. Shelby managed that team for Ford.


If you like the GTR1, think of these cars as its inspiration. If you find the Galpin supercar hideous, though, think of this post as an optical palate cleanser (there I go mixing metaphors again).


I bet the trailer’s tires are V rated.

*My esteemed colleague Murilee Martin has spoken of the regular sequence of photos that he takes of his junkyard finds. My own sequence includes 3/4 shots from all four corners, side, front and rear views, a shot or two of the interior, and anything else that I think is a distinguishing feature on the car or will make a nice 3D photo. Speaking of 3D, if you want to, you can check out the Ford GTs in stereo here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Why You Should Go To A Concours d’Elegance Fri, 09 Aug 2013 18:50:41 +0000  

Click here to view the embedded video.

This is at least my third, maybe the fourth, attempt at writing a post explaining why, if you’re a car enthusiast of any stripe, you owe it to yourself to attend a first rate concours. I first started writing it after seeing a real baby seal Jaguar D Type, the kind of car that you would normally only see in photos, videos or in museums, actually being driven after the end of the Concours of America at St John’s last year. Okay, so the D Type was being driven off the show field to a trailer in the parking lot but it was still being driven. Still, after those attempts, I just didn’t think I was doing the subject justice so I never submitted any of them for publication.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I go to lots of car shows. The internet is voracious when it comes to content, I like to have fresh 3D photos or video up on Cars In Depth as often as I can, and it’s also nice to have photos of specific cars to use here at TTAC without needing copyright clearances and permissions. Besides, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than looking at cool cars in the presence of fellow enthusiasts. I’m a procrastinator by nature and because of that I realized that if I take my time at car shows and hang around until they’re over, I can see (and shoot 3D video of) the trailer queens actually being driven. Sometimes the vehicles are even rarer than a run of the mill overrestored Boss 302 Mustang clone. At this year’s Eyes On Design show, for example, I got video of two truly iconic custom cars built by Detroit’s truly legendary builders, the Alexander brothers, being driven, the Dodge Deora of Hot Wheels fame and the Little Deuce Coupe that graced the cover of the Beach Boys album of the same name. At the EoD show I was also able to see that the Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis concept is not a pushmobile but rather a fully functioning automobile – or at least functional enough to be driven from show field to trailer.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The car shows that I attend range from parking lot events to regional meets to major events like the NAIAS or the Detroit Autorama. In addition to those, the Detroit area has a couple of very special shows, the Eyes On Design show held on Fathers Day at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford estate on the northern edge of Grosse Pointe and the Concours of America, usually staged at the end of July at the St. John’s conference center and golf course in Plymouth (formerly a seminary belonging to the Catholic archdiocese of Detroit). Eyes On Design is a great show with concours level cars, and it’s unique among important shows because it’s all about design, but unquestionably the event that is now called the Concours of America at St John’s, formerly the Meadow Brook Concours, is the top shelf car event in the Detroit area. Now the simple fact is that almost all car events around Detroit, even the aforementioned regional or parking lot events will sometimes have special cars and significant people in attendance, but the Concours is on a different level, a level that is recognized outside of southeastern Michigan, in the wider world of collector and special interest cars.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m not part of the competitive show car world. I’m just a car guy who’s lucky enough to get paid writing about my hobby, but it seems to me that while there are many fine concours d’elegance in America, the Detroit area show is one of the three premier judged shows in the country, on a level with Amelia Island in Florida and Pebble Beach in California. I say that not as Detroit booster but rather as someone who reads a lot about significant cars who sees only those three shows mentioned in the provenance of cars that I research, well, that is if they win an award at those shows.

As I mentioned, I like to hang around car shows at the end to see the cars being driven. This year it rained on Saturday, the day before the Concours, when the cars are usually taken off their trailers (to be fair, some of the cars are indeed driven to the show, like the irreplaceable McLaren M1B at last year’s concours) and put on the show field. I realized that the cars would likely be driven out onto the show field early Sunday morning. I got the bright idea that if I drove out to Plymouth early enough, I’d get to see some very special cars on the road (well, on a driveway or paved parking lot at least) being driven as they were intended (well, at low speeds, but at least under their own power).

Click here to view the embedded video.

I got there before dawn and it was cold for a July morning, so cold that my fingers were getting kind of numb, but losing sleep and cold hands were worth it. How often do you get to see one Duesenberg being driven, let alone maybe a half dozen? A Porsche 908? A Lola T70 race car? Century old electric and steam powered cars? A Tatra? Yes, a Tatra. Not one, but two “Pullman” Mercedes-Benz 600s. Hupmobiles. Cords. Even a ‘Hupmobile/Cord’. Speaking of Cords, last year I wrote about a one-off replica of the 1931 Cord L-29 La Grande Boattail Speedster that was being auctioned off by RM at the sale held in conjunction with last year’s St. John’s concours. This year I got to see it started (it took a few tries to get it to idle, btw) and driven. The Cord La Grande speedster took a while to idle. Junior Johnson’s 1963 Chevy with the famed “mystery motor” also idled kinda roughly. That wasn’t the only historic NASCAR racer that went by me. There was also Ramo Stott’s Daytona 500 running, ARCA championship winning 1970 Plymouth Superbird, the only known extant Superbird race car with all original bodywork and period modifications from when it was raced. It was a cornucopia of great and significant cars, a candy store for car guys and gals. While I was shooting the video, one of the show’s judges, an engineer at Ford, was standing on a berm overlooking the show field entrance, three hours before the judging began, just to enjoy the parade. The oldest and newest cars in the show, for what it’s worth, were both battery electrics, an experimental electric runabout made by Thomas Edison in 1889, seven years before an employee of his named Ford would build his own first car, and a Tesla Model S made earlier this year.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Just about all of the cars in the show were moving under their own motivation. A handful of vehicles were towed in by utility vehicle or, as in the case of some rare historical artifacts like the Edison runabout or electric concept vehicles from GM’s Heritage Center and collection, on trailers, but well over 90% of the show’s ~375 vehicles were driven on and off the show field. Some of the juxtapositions were remarkable, like a Nissan Leaf (EVs, old and new, were a judged category this year) and a Stanley Steamer waiting together to get on the show field.

I’m still not sure that I can do the topic justice with mere words. In fact right now the word count is past the cliched verbal value of a single picture. If a picture of a car is worth 1,000 words, what’s the value of action video of hundreds of very special cars?

So instead of trying to tell you why you owe it to yourself to see a first rate car show, I’ll just let the motion pictures do the talking.

Click here to view the embedded video.

A note on my videography. The videos were shot with inexpensive Kodak ZX3 pocket cams and the editing is rudimentary at best. As a photographer, I make a decent writer. Somehow I managed to get one of the cameras set to zoom for a period so one of the video compilations isn’t available in 3D. When playing the other videos, for those of you who haven’t used YouTube’s 3D video player, after you start the video if you click on the 3D icon in player, you can select a variety of 3D formats, or shut off 3D and watch it in mono. I would also suggest viewing them in 720P high definition.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

]]> 17
Beep Beep! Nash Metropolitans That Are Not Waiting for the Crusher Thu, 25 Jul 2013 12:00:22 +0000 nashmetropolitanconvertible-4_r

One of the things that makes Murilee Martin’s Junkyard Find series so engaging is not just his fine writing and photography, it’s the elegiac nature of the subjects and their settings. As with any elegy it’s hard to come away without a sense of sadness, at what was and is no longer and at what could have been and never was. I was uploading some images for a post that I was writing and I noticed that Murilee was working on another Nash Metropolitan Junkyard Find. The “little Nash Rambler” is such a cheerful, happy looking car, one that never fails to bring a smile to faces of both their drivers and those who see those drivers motoring around in their Metropolitans, that they look particularly forlorn sitting waiting to get recycled into scrap steel. I thought that some of you might enjoy seeing some Metropolitans that are treasured, not trashed.


That 1960 Metropolitan that Murilee featured back in May was a very solid looking candidate for restoration, but the truth is that while the car may be cute and while the model may be collectible enough that you see them at car shows, they just aren’t very valuable.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Right now there are 15 Metropolitans for sale listed at Hemmings, and it looks like you can have your choice of restored stock ones for somewhere between $7,000 and $15,000. It’d probably cost you more than that to restore that solid ’60 in the junkyard.


Perhaps if the Metropolitans were really small, their owners might be enjoying the current microcar bubble, no pun intended. When Bruce Weiner sold off his museum of microcars recently, they fetched really serious (or really silly from a different perspective) money.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I suppose, though, that Nash Metropolitans are in a never never land. Not small enough to be a microcar and not as hip as an early Mini Cooper or Fiat 500. Still, like I said, you see them at car shows and their owners love them.


These Nash Metropolitans were shot at the Orphan Car Show held in Ypsilanti every fall. If you want to find out more about the little Anglo-American car, Aaron Severson does his usual comprehensive job looking at the history of the Nash Metropolitan over at Ate Up With Motor.


 Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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What’s Wrong With This Picture? Valiantly Different in Canada Sun, 30 Sep 2012 17:02:25 +0000 Photo credit: Cars In Depth

If you’re an average Mopar enthusiast you may be wondering what the front of a Plymouth Valiant is doing on a 1963 Dodge Dart. Unlike urban legends about cars with front ends from one brand and rear ends from another of that automaker’s brands that was being built on the same assembly line, and unlike custom car mashups, this was factory built and sold by authorized dealers.

If you were born after the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show you can be excused for not knowing this, but  Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants weren’t always badge engineered twins. In 1963 they were more like bigger and smaller brothers, with an odd Canadian cousin in the family.

The Dart brand had previously been used by Dodge for both full size and intermediate cars but by the early 1960s compact cars were a growing segment of the market. AMC was selling record numbers of Ramblers, VW was on it’s way to importing a half million Beetles a year, and GM and Ford were both introducing compact cars like the Pontiac Tempest, the Chevy II and the Falcon. When Plymouth dealers got the compact Valiant, Dodge dealers got a more luxurious version and it was decided to use the Lancer nameplate. For whatever reason, the 1961-62 Lancer didn’t thrive, perhaps because it was just a badge engineered Valiant. Today it’s hard to realize it, what with Hyundai Genesis trying to compete with Mercedes Benz, but in the late ’50s and early ’60s there were fairly rigid class distinctions between car brands. Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth were not embarrassed to reference themselves as the “low priced three” and if you could afford to drive something more aspirational (though they didn’t use that term back then) you didn’t want your ride confused with an economy car. Alfred Sloan’s business model reigned supreme, and not just at General Motors. For the 1963 model year, Dodge’s compact was renamed the Dart and to distinguish it from the Valiant it was given a 5″ longer wheelbase, 111 inches, a different roofline and unique rear passenger windows. So an average Mopar fan would notice that this is a long wheelbase 1963 car with a Dart’s sheet metal from the cowl back but it’s wearing the front clip of a Valiant. Is it a Dodge or is it a Plymouth?

1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics1963 Plymouth Valiant Convertible (U.S. Market)

An average Mopar fan might notice the difference and scratch his head, but a serious Mopar fan, or one located in the Great White North, would know that actually it’s not either a Dodge or a Plymouth, it’s a “Valiant”, made exclusively for the Canadian market and sold at both Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge dealers in Canada. Chrysler had previously marketed the Valiant as it’s own brand in Canada, so it could sell it through both Chrysler-Plymouth-Fargo and DeSoto-Dodge sales channels. It’s not unusual for the American car companies to use slightly different branding in Canada. Beaumonts may look like Pontiacs and even carry the arrowhead logo, but you won’t find the word Pontiac anywhere on those cars. There are Canadian Ford Monarchs that don’t say Mercury anywhere on the cars. So this is a Valiant.

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo1963 Dodge Dart Convertible

With the Valiant brand established in Canada, it made sense to continue with that nameplate. They were already selling the identical car in both Canadian sales channels, so it didn’t make sense to sell two different wheelbase variants. Since it was sold in Chrysler-Plymouth dealers the Valiant name was identified somewhat by Canadian consumers with Chrysler, an upscale brand. In the 1960s larger equated to more luxurious so using the  longer wheelbase car made sense. Using the longer wheelbase Dart necessarily meant using its rear end sheet metal. Swapping out front clips is a simple process, everything bolts on. Changing the rear end of a car’s sheet meta, though,l means welding on different quarter panels and other panels plus labor to finish the seams. That’s assuming the stock Valiant rear panels would mate up to the Dart midsection without modifications.  They might have had to stamp completely different rear “Valiant” panels for everything to go together properly.  The Dart wasn’t being sold in Canada so why spend the money if nobody would notice the difference? The Canadian Valiant also had a Valiant instrument cluster, which was different from the Dart’s, Valiant hubcaps, Valiant trim on the interior door panels, and seats embossed with the Valiant crest. On the rear deck lid, instead of a plastic insert inscribed with”Dodge GT”, on the stainless steel panel between the backup lights there’s a black plastic insert with “Signet” flanked by two Valiant crests.

Of course, making a unique model for Canadians, a relatively small market, costs more money than selling them a car identical to the American model, so the unique Canadian Valiant was fairly short lived. Also, in 1965, the United States and Canada signed the U.S.-Canada Automotive Trade Pact, a precursor to NAFTA, which was the death knell for unique Canadian variants of American cars. When the compact Mopars were restyled with the “fuselage” look for 1967, the wheelbases of Darts and Valiants were rationalized and Canadians got Valiants that were identical, save for no Plymouth logos, to what Americans were buying.

This 1963 Valiant Signet 200 was photographed at the 2012 Orphan Car Show, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It’s owned by Terry and Marge Metcalf of Ontario. The Signet trim line was equivalent to a Dart GT in the States so this is as fancy as a Canadian Valiant got. If I understand the story correctly, Terry’s family had one when he was a kid and he resolved to find one to own. After searching high and low across Canada and the US for one, his wife spotted this car parked in a driveway not far from their own home and they bought it and restored it. The restoration was easier than with some Canada only cars. With the exception of that trim on the back of the car, you can find parts – what isn’t identical to a ’63 Dart you can retrieve from a ’63 American market Valiant.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading– RJS

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo 1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics IMG_0272 IMG_0255 Photo credit: Cars In Depth IMG_0262 IMG_0268 IMG_0269 IMG_0270 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 23
Ask the Best and Brightest: What was the Last Crank Start Car? UPDATE: Contest Added – Win a New Car! Fri, 28 Sep 2012 13:50:36 +0000 Yank Moi, Crank Moi - Yeah, I know, Madame Arsenault would be so, so disappointed, so in her, Mrs. Kowalski's and Miss Bodzin's honor, I suppose that properly speaking it should be "tirez moi, tourner moi manivelle" but I think Mr. Nugent (who may or may not have played at my sister's synagogue confirmation, it was his band The Lourdes (mostly looking and sounding like the Rolling Stones in the Brian Jones era), but he might have already split for Chicago and the Amboy Dukes, I'm been scanning the negatives but haven't yet identified Tedly) would prefer Yank Moi, Crank Moi .

Since I’m the guy who generally won’t take photographs of ’69 Camaros and ’57 Chevys (well, unless they’re really special ’69 Camaros and ’57 Chevys ) and who will walk past 5 “Eleanor” Mustangs to look at one American Motors Hornet, it should come as no surprise that for the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to attend the annual Orphan Car Show held in Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Riverside Park. This year was the 16th iteration of the OCS, which is affiliated with Ypsi’s Automotive Heritage Museum. With a number of century old (and older) brass era cars at the event, it’s not surprising that some of them had to be started with hand cranks. What is surprising is that not all the crank starting cars dated to before World War One. Actually, a couple of them date to the Vietnam War era and later.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Start the YouTube 3D video player. Click on the red 3D icon that will appear in the menu bar to select 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats.

The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum is located in what was the Miller Motors building, the last surviving Hudson dealership in the world, and it is dedicated to that marque as well as the Nash, Kaiser Frazer and Tucker brands (plus Corvairs and GM Hydramatic products, both assembled in Ypsilanti), so the Orphan Car Show was a natural idea. It’s a judged show with rules and the cars range from genuine barn finds to museum loans and top level concours cars. As with other Detroit area car shows, some of the car owners and judges are industry designers, engineers and executives. Buck Mook, a retired Ford designer, was showing his 1954 Ford Comete Monte Carlo coupe, one of only 699 that were made, with a body designed by Pininfarina, commissioned by Henry Ford II, based on a French Ford with a flathead V8 and a body coachbuilt by Facel. Mook’s car was actually the Deuce’s personal car and he bought it from the company in 1967. Not far from the Comete coupe was Howard Payne‘s superb black bustle backed 1937 Cord 812 Beverly sedan. Howard worked with Mook at Ford. Before they collaborated on the Mustang II with Mook doing the exterior and Payne the interior (don’t laugh, the Mustang II was very successful by Detroit’s most important metric, they sold train loads of them), Payne had a significant role in what became the 1961 Lincoln Continental.

To get into the show, a car must be an orphan. For the purposes of the show that means a car from a brand that has not been sold in the United States for at least 8 years. Therefore Plymouths have been allowed in the show since 2009, and since Oldsmobile died in April of 2004, this was the first year that Olds cars were on display. Mercury went out of production in late 2010 so it won’t be let into the show until the 2019 version, but Pontiacs will make it in for the 2017 show. Show organizers bend their own rules a bit because there is usually a large contingent of Corvairs. With the museum’s nice collection of Corvairs, that’s understandable, though Chevy is still in business.

Ford is also still in business but European Fords that are no longer sold here are also displayed. Continental Mark II cars from 1956 and 1957 (surely one of the great bargains among collectible cars, you can buy a nice driver for the cost of a loaded Camry) can be displayed, because technically they were made and sold by Ford’s short lived “Continental” division. AMCs are permitted as are pre-1987 Jeeps by that company, Willys or Kaiser. Cars also apparently have to be stock, another rule that is bent, since one of the Corvairs that’s regularly in the show has obvious modifications (it was the personal car of Corvair designer Ned Nickles and all the mods were done by him, some at GM). Another car owner alluded to that rule when he looked around before lifting the hood of his car and said, “They’re supposed to be stock”. I’m sure some of that engine was still stock but it didn’t leave the factory with that carburetor, those cast valve covers or those headers. I don’t want to get the owner in trouble with show organizers so I’ll just say that it was a later first generation version of a car whose second generation has been the subject of one of Murilee’s Junkyard Finds, an import sold by a company that still exists but under a brand that no longer is sold in the United States, a model name that has been used by the same parent company over the course of many decades on a variety of cars. Note: The first person who correctly identifies the year, brand sold under in the USA, model, country of origin and engine family will win a new car (taxes and delivery fees not included). For tie breaking purposes, please also include all the different models that wore this nameplate.

With Citroens not having been imported to this country in a while (other than the SM, was there ever official distribution of Citroen product in the US?), it’s not surprising that there’d be some cars bearing the double chevron along with the other orphans. Last year there was a Traction Avant, a 2CV and a Dyane.

This year there was a larger contingent of Citroens. Well large is a relative term. The Traction Avant didn’t make it (rain was threatening and there were even a few sprinkles) but there were four Citroens, a pair of 2CVs, separated in production by almost two decades, and two Dyanes. One of the Dyane owners got out the jack handle/lug wrench and stuck it in a hole in the front of the car. If you’re a young’un you may not know this but crank starting cars did not end with Charles Kettering’s invention of the electric self-starter in 1913 (making it possible for many women to drive gasoline powered cars). A number of postwar European cars, and not just microcars, could be started manually… or as in the case of this Dyane with a dead battery, not started manually. The guy cranked it over by hand a few times without starting it and then he and his Citroen buddies decided that they’d push start it later.

I know that Citroens were not the only postwar cars which could be crank or pull started. Early Volkswagen Beetles had a special fastener on the crankshaft pulley and a hole in the rear valence so a hand crank could be inserted.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you’re older than, let’s say 50, or if you hang around with people who collect old lawnmowers or outboard motors, you might know that small engines didn’t always have a recoil gizmo for the pull start cord. Before they figured out how to make a pull starter that recoiled the rope and freewheeled once the engine started, your lawnmower or outboard came with a rope. It was knotted at both ends (calm down, Bertel) and the rope passed through a hole in a wooden handle. The engine had a pulley or cup with a notch in it for the rope’s knot. You put the knot in the notch, wrapped the rope around the pulley or cup and gave it a good pull. It works the same with an air-cooled VW.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The brother of a friend had a 1964 Beetle with such a notch in the crankshaft pulley. The engines are low enough compression that it’s not too hard, particularly with the early 1300cc models. Just remember, a Model T has a 2.5 liter inline four and people hand started those. I believe that the notched pulley was a factory VW part but it’s been 20 years since I last rebuilt a VeeDub engine. I’m sure that our esteemed editor emeritus Ed’s father could tell us for sure.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I do know that you could buy aftermarket pulleys and it looks like there was also the alternative of using the generator pulley, as an accessory called the Startfix Handenlasser was made in Germany and marketed in the US by Small Car Essentials for the grand sum of $2.45. It’s a leather strap that had a handle secured at one end and a metal rivet at the other. The instructions say to drill a small hole in the generator pulley’s outer flange so you can engage the rivet, you wrap the strap around the pulley, stand to the side and give it a yank.

Click here to view the embedded video.

According to the Samba forum, VW discontinued the hand crank on Beetles by 1950 though Type IIs (Buses) had them through ’59. Apparently all VW 181 models (aka The Thing) had a hole in the bumper though it’s not clear how many came from the factory with the correct sheet metal and crankshaft nut. So what other postwar cars besides the air cooled Citroens and VWs could be hand started? The Dyane was in production until 1987. What was the last car built that came with a crank for hand starting sold new in Europe, Japan or North America? Are there any cars still being produced somewhere in the world that still have the facility for hand starting? Have you ever crank started or pull started a car?


Click here to view the embedded video.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Look At What I Found! The Most Significant Car at the 2012 NAIAS: Edsel Ford’s 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster Sun, 22 Jan 2012 15:38:57 +0000

After years of retrenching, financial crisis and bankruptcies, the world’s automakers are now introducing new concept and production vehicles. The 2012 NAIAS in Detroit was one of the more product-rich big auto shows of the past decade. Just about every exhibitor at the show was revealing all-new vehicles or concepts giving us a look at future production plans. Cadillac’s 3 Series fighter, the ATS, Lincoln’s all new and attractive MKZ, Ford’s Aston-Martin looking Fusion and Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo based Dodge Dart were all significant new introductions by the domestics. Toyota showed concepts that will probably end up as the next Camry and Prius (plus Lexus’ stunning LF-LC concept that will most likely not see production). Mercedes introduced the first all-new SL roadster in a decade.  Hyundai showed the highly anticipated Veloster Turbo. I could go down the list of exhibitors with other examples but you get the idea: lots of significant new product. However, over at the far end of Cobo Hall, tucked away upstairs in a corner of the Lincoln exhibit, was probably the most significant car of the entire show.  I suppose you could call it a concept car, but it represents a concept that is larger than just the design of one individual car. It’s one of the cars that can be said to have been part of the invention of automotive styling. I think that makes it the most significant car, new or old, at the 2012 NAIAS.

Lincoln used the NAIAS to display the recently restored custom speedster that Bob Gregorie designed and built for Edsel Ford. Edsel, who had taken training as an artist and unquestionably had a fine collector’s eye and appreciation for art and design, hired Gregorie to start a styling studio at Ford. Edsel’s father, Henry Ford, couldn’t be bothered with things like aesthetic design, the Model T was all about practicality, not style. As a matter of fact, when Henry found out Edsel had a restyled Model T prototype built while the senior Ford was out of the country, Henry physically attacked and damaged the prototype.

The Speedster was no mere prototype. It was Edsel’s personal sports car that he drove on public streets and raced around the driveways of his estate on Lake St. Claire, just north of Grosse Pointe (it was no coincidence that Edsel built his and Eleanor’s home way across town from Henry’s estate in Dearborn). Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie had started out working for Brewster, the New York coachbuilder, and later moved to Detroit, working for Harley Earl’s new GM styling department. Edsel hired him away, using him first at Lincoln, which Edsel’s father had bought as his son’s playtoy, and then Gregorie contributed to the design of the Model A, which was essentially a scaled down Lincoln. Gregorie’s styling of an English Ford was scaled up for the 1933-34 American Fords.

Edsel Ford's '32 boat tail speedster.

In the early ’30s, after a trip to the continent Edsel asked Gregorie to design him a speedster with European flair. That resulted in the creation of two boattail speedsters. The car on display at the NAIAS is the second of the two Edsel Ford specials. In an oral history recorded in 1985 by the University of Michigan Dearborn, Gregorie reminisced:

A.       Earlier, Edsel Ford came to me and wanted a special body built on one of the first ’32 V-8 chassis, and I drew up a little boat tail speedster with cycle fenders. A pretty, little thing. We had it built partically in the Engineering Laboratory and over at the Lincoln plant.

Q:      This is Mr. Ford’s personal car?

A:      Edsel Ford’s. Yes, yes, that’s right. Beautiful gun-metal gray, gray leather upholstery, and so on. He kept that out at his estate, and I don’t know what ever happened to the little car. It was a pretty, little car. Have you seen pictures of it?

Q:      Yes, I have.

Q:      Well, we are back in 1932, and you’ve just about…

A:      Yeah, we finished up that little two-seater for Edsel Ford at the Lincoln plant.

Q:      Right. Was this the boat tail?

A:      The little boat tail speedster. That was in the Summer of ’32 we built that and ready for him in the Fall.

Q:      And the boat tail resulted from both your’s and Edsel Ford’s love of boats…?

A:      He was amused by the fact that I drew up the sections of it like you draw the hull of a boat and developed the paneling for it and so on [note: early automotive designers used techniques borrowed from ship builders, including "lofting", a method of representing three dimensions on paper]. When the car was finished, it wasn’t finished until around the Fall, I know the weather was cold. I drove it back from the Lincoln plant. There was snow. I never saw the car after that. He took it out to his house, and he used to use it out there. But, he made a cute remark at that time. During the Summer of 1932, the Lincoln plant was shut down-­ period! Just the maintenance crew there, and…

Q:      Sales were way down?

A:      Robinson–Robbie, we used to call him–he was the manager of the plant. Robbie and I and two or three of the maintenance men there did most of the work on the car. When the car was finished, Mr. Ford made the comment that it cost $25 to drive a nail there in the plant at that time. He said, “You should see the bill I got for this car.” He said, “You wouldn’t believe it.” Of course, it was all Ford money. It didn’t make any difference, you know, they had the people there. It came out as part of the overhead of the plant, see. Some of those things were interesting when you stop to think of the amount of money that was available to spend, and the way it was spent. I think he felt good about keeping a few people busy, really.

Q:      So the 1933-34 Ford is a success, and you’ve established your rap­port with Mr. Edsel Ford by not only that, but by working on a personal boat tail speedster that he liked.

A:      Yes. Then, in 1934, the Summer of 1934, he had given me the use of the Ford aircraft plant for any experimental work that we wanted to do.

Q:      Which was now vacant?

A:      Yes. They had a skeleton crew there of sheet metal workers and eight or ten top mechanics and whatnot. The reason they were kept on there was to provide service parts for the old Ford Tri-Motor planes of which there quite a number still in service–manifolds and landing gear parts, and things of that nature. It provided a place for me to do some experimental work without interfering with regular Ford activities. That summer discussions about a Ford sports car came up again. Some sort of–this incidentally is really the beginning of the Continental. For all intents and purposes it could be classified that way. I developed a sports car chassis based on the 1934 Ford.

Q:      Which was one of your more beautiful designs, as I recall?

A:      Yes, but it–all that we used from the ’34 Ford was the chassis-­ the chassis frame and the power unit and so on. I developed a special front-end suspension which enabled us to lower the car down five or six inches and also extend the wheelbase about 10 inches. It involved an entirely different front-end suspension, and also we lowered the rear end of it by cutting the rear end of the standard Ford frame off just ahead of the kickup and turning it upside down, welding it together which allowed the frame to go under the axle. It was underslung rear suspen­sion. I built up a chassis based on that concept which I road tested for a couple of months in the surrounding area–with no body work on it. But later, the two front fenders were made from Ford Tri-Motor fenders. The aluminum stampings, which covered the wheels on the Ford Tri-Motor landing gear, we cut them off and pieced them out and made some very nice, extended fenders for the car. So, we finished the car up with some improvisations, and I sent it over to the Lincoln plant, had some nice trim put on it, and had it painted–Mr. Ford’s favorite gun metal gray. Along in January and February, I guess it was, it had to be February, 1935, we talked about the possibility of putting it into production through one of the custom body builders. Well, we’d furnish the chassis, and the custom body builder would provide the body work and finish it up, and it would be sponsored by Ford. I suggested to Mr. Ford that we drive it down to New York and show it to Johnny Inskip.

The second Edsel Ford Speedster with the original front end styling. The brick wall leads me to think that the photo was taken near Greenfield Village or someplace else on the Ford Dearborn campus.

The Edsel Ford Speedster had two iterations. The original 1934 design had a very elegant front end design that featured headlamps integrated into the sheetmetal. At the time, most cars used traditional free standing headlamps (with the notable exception of Pierce Arrow). Unfortunately, the car’s flathead Ford V8 engine overheated, necessitating a 1940 redesign with more open grille space.

Bob Gregorie's scale model of the 1940 restyling. The note is from Edsel Ford to Gregorie, approving of the design but also suggesting a different grille. Edsel wasn't a designer but, like Harley Earl, he had a keen eye and an aesthetic way of giving designers direction.

The result isn’t quite as elegant as the original, and though in photographs it looks a bit awkward, in person (or in 3D) you can see how Gregorie smoothly integrated the new sheet-metal with the rest of the body. It’s still an impressive design that  foreshadows the look of the ’41 and ’42 Fords.

After Edsel’s death in 1943 the Speedster was eventually sold and its whereabouts were not known for four decades until the car resurfaced in 1999. In 2010, the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Edsel’s lakeside estate which is owned by a non-profit organization that also now owns Fairlane, Henry and Clara Ford’s Dearborn estate) acquired the Edsel Ford Speedster. It had previously sold at auction in 2008 for $1.76 million.  The catalog description from that auction with a more complete history of the car is reproduced below.  After the acquisition, the Ford House commissioned the restoration division of RM Auctions to do a full restoration of the car to the condition it was in 1940, after Gregorie’s restyling. The Speedster wasn’t in bad shape, having been mechanically restored, but it was painted bright red, apparently for a movie it had appeared in, not Edsel’s favorite Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark Grey. A more complete gallery of photos of the newly restored Edsel Ford Speedster can be seen here. The restored Speedster had its coming out party at the Pebble Beach concourse last year and after being displayed at events like the NAIAS this year, it will eventually go on permanent display at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options.


From RM Auctions:

120bhp, 239 cu. in. Mercury flathead V8 engine, fitted with twin Stromberg carburetors, three-speed manual transmission, I-beam front axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase (est.): 122″

Edsel Bryant Ford, President of Ford Motor Company from 1925 until his untimely death from cancer and undulant fever in 1943, had a considerable influence on Ford styling, first with Lincoln, then with the 1928 Model A, and soon afterward, with the 1932 Ford and many Ford models that followed. Edsel oversaw the design of the first Mercury cars and he initiated the concept that became the prototype Lincoln Continental. A true car enthusiast with impeccable taste, Edsel owned a series of interesting automobiles, ranging from Model T speedsters to a Stutz, a Bugatti and a Hispano-Suiza.

An accomplished artist who took art lessons all his life, Edsel had a particular interest in the design and styling of Ford Motor Company cars, an issue that didn’t much interest his puritanical father. In his book, Ford Design Department Concept & Show Cars, 1932-1961, former Ford stylist Jim Farrell wrote: “At a time when others did not recognize it as such, Edsel Ford saw the automobile as an art form. In reality, he was a far better designer than most who claimed the title. He knew design history and theory; he was Ford’s design director in the same sense that Harley Earl was design director at GM.”

Before Edsel’s involvement, Ford’s no-frills styling emanated from the company’s ultra-conservative engineering department. Edsel established Ford’s first styling group and chose E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, to head a small team. Gregorie, who had worked briefly at Harley Earl’s General Motors Art and Colour studio, was an accomplished sketch artist who was adept at translating Edsel’s visions into reality.

“Although Ford had only one-tenth the number of designers employed at GM,” Jim Farrell explained, “the cars designed at Ford during the Edsel Ford years consistently displayed an understated elegance and the sculptured simplicity he insisted on. They have aged well because of him.”

Edsel and Bob Gregorie began their collaboration in 1932. Gregorie had been a draftsman at Lincoln the previous year. Ford design folklore insists that Gregorie made certain that Edsel saw his talented sketches of yachts and speedboats. The two men soon found they worked very well together. Gregorie became adept at visualizing Edsel’s ideas through sketches; he quickly and skillfully translated concepts from two-dimensions-to-three. After Edsel returned from a 1932 European trip, he asked Gregorie to design and supervise the construction of a “sports car” similar to those he’d seen “…on the continent.”

The result, a custom boat tail speedster on a ’32 Ford chassis, was a smart-looking runabout with styling cues that foretold the 1933 Ford production cars, but Edsel soon wanted something more dramatic. Early in 1934, he and Gregorie planned a second, more contemporary speedster with a unique shape that would be much more streamlined. After sketching several alternatives, Gregorie built a 1/25th scale model, which he then tested in a wind tunnel in Ford Aviation’s Air Frame Building.

To achieve this new speedster’s dramatically low silhouette, Gregorie reversed the stock ’34 Ford frame’s rear kick-up and welded it back upside down for a six inch drop, so the frame rails now passed under the rear axle. A combination of existing and newly fabricated, specially-designed suspension parts were used to lower and extend the car’s front end as well. The front axle was moved forward ten inches in order to achieve the extended, elegant proportions Edsel desired.

Next, Gregorie and his Air Frame team fabricated a topless, two-passenger, taper-tailed aluminum body with a sharply vee-ed grille and cut-down doors, mounted on a tubular framework. Modified Ford Tri-motor aircraft “wheel pants” were adapted to serve as cycle fenders. The front fenders turned with the wheels. The speedster’s stock Ford wire wheels were covered by custom wheel discs. Painted Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark (a gray shade Edsel favored), with a handsome, gray leather interior and an engine-turned instrument panel, the 2,400-pound Speedster was powered by a stock 75 brake horsepower, Ford Model 40 V8 engine, with straight exhausts that ran through a section of the frame, and exited at the rear. Custom bucket seats and a three-spoke steering wheel rounded out the specification.

The design was remarkably well integrated. The canted louvers were stamped to match the precise angle of the grille and the rakish windscreens. A valence panel tapered from front to rear, attached to the alloy body with discreet and perfectly-spaced rivets – another vestige of this car’s aircraft construction.

More custom touches included twin Brooklands racing-style windscreens, a louvered, elegantly shaped alligator hood, low-mounted, faired-in headlights, a fully enclosed radiator with no radiator cap or ornamentation, almost no distracting brightwork and no running boards. These were all styling features that would not appear on production Fords for several years.
According to Jim Farrell, “Mr. Ford took title to the car personally, liked the way it handled and was generally pleased with its design.”

Farrell further notes that Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie “… spent many of their spare moments discussing the car’s design, and for the first time, both felt they had a car that could be built, somewhat modified, as a new, limited-production, sporty Ford.”

As he had done with his first Speedster, when it was not in use, Edsel stored the trim two-seater in an unheated shed on his Fair Lane estate (rather than incur the wrath of his stern father, who As he had done with his first Speedster, when it was not in use, Edsel stored the trim two-seater in an unheated shed on his Fair Lane estate (rather than incur the wrath of his stern father, who thought that sort of sporty job to be “frivolous”). Unfortunately, a sudden freeze in the winter of 1939-1940 cracked the engine block, so a new 1940 Mercury V8 was installed.

More recently, the Mercury engine was removed and replaced with a new old stock 1940 Ford flathead with a dual carb set up and dual exhausts. This engine was stored in its original packing crate for over 59 years and is in as-new, 1940 condition. The Mercury V8 remains with the Speedster, and will be offered along with the car, although it is in need of a rebuild. A sudden freeze in the winter of 1939-1940 cracked the engine block, so a new 1940 Mercury V8 was installed.

In actual operation, the enclosed sheet metal below the radiator partially blocked the flow of air to the radiator, and the Speedster had a tendency to overheat. To improve its cooling, Gregorie built a 1/10th-sized model that showed the discreet modifications he felt would cure the problem. After Edsel approved the design changes, Gregorie shortened the upper grille on the car, and fabricated a new horizontal lower grille with matching bars, flanked by large headlights.

No top was ever designed for the Speedster, so its stunningly low silhouette remained undisturbed and very seductive. One can only imagine the effect this ‘ahead-of-its-time’ car had on startled onlookers when the adventurous Mr. Ford took it for an occasional spin.

After Edsel Ford died in 1943, the second Model 40 Speedster, one of six cars in his estate, was driven first to Miami, Florida, then to Atlanta, Georgia, where it was sold for $1,000. In 1947, the owner shipped the Speedster to Los Angeles and put it in storage, but it would not remain there for long. In the May 1948 issue of Road & Track, an ad appeared that read: Especially constructed Ford chassis. Aluminum body built for Edsel Ford. Now powered with special Mercury Engine. Priced reasonably at $2,500. COACHCRAFT, LTD, 86 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, California.

Apparently, the Speedster did not sell. $2,500.00 was a lot of money in 1948. In 1952, the Edsel Speedster appeared in an issue of Auto Sport Review, photographed in Hollywood, along with an aspiring actress named Lynn Bari.

Into storage again it went, emerging in 1957 when it was driven back to Georgia. In January 1958, registered as a 1940 “Ford custom-built speedster,” it was offered for sale on the Garrard Import used car lot in Pensacola, Florida. Not long afterward, the Speedster was purchased by John Pallasch, a US Navy sailor on leave, for the sum of $603.00. Pallasch then drove the car to his home in Deland, Florida.

By now, the much-traveled Speedster was painted red and its upholstery had been modified to matching red leather. Pallasch claimed he could “bury the speedometer at 120 mph.” He reportedly drove the car for a few years before disassembling it in 1960 for an engine rebuild. Several accounts indicate that John’s father, Earl Pallasch, bought the car for his son, and the senior Pallasch reportedly took credit for the purchase, but the present owner confirms John to be the original buyer. John Pallasch shipped out for Vietnam on an extended tour, leaving the Speedster’s engine apart. Upon his return in the late 1960s, it had seized. The car remained apart and in storage for nearly 40 years until a fortuitous event occurred that brought it into the public eye.

In 1999, Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, was searching for the Edsel Speedster for a special display. Warner had read an article in Special Interest Autos magazine written by its editor Mike Lamm, which told the story of all three of Edsel’s unique roadsters, saying that each of the cars had dropped out of sight. The SIA article listed the last owner of the 1934 Edsel Speedster as Earl Pallasch, located in Deland, Florida. After failed attempts to locate an Earl Pallasch, Warner called Mike Lamm, who provided him with the contact information of Earl’s son John, who had inherited the Speedster from his father. Invited to bring the car to Amelia Island, Pallasch replied that it hadn’t run for years, and that he really wanted to sell it.

Recognizing he had stumbled upon a unique opportunity, Bill Warner hitched up a trailer and immediately drove to nearby Deland to investigate. Sitting in the Pallasch garage, dusty and forlorn, covered with junk and tin cans, the long-lost Edsel Ford Speedster was virtually complete except for its custom wheel discs. Incredibly, the car’s odometer read just 19,000 miles.

Warner wrote Pallasch a check on the spot and hauled his miraculous discovery away. “I decided to show the Speedster to Bob Gregorie (who was then 91 and living in Saint Augustine) on the way home,” Bill Warner says, “So I called Mr. Gregorie and asked if I could drop by. I said had something I wanted to show him.”

Bob Gregorie’s response was one of pleasant surprise. “Mr. Gregorie came out of his house, smiled, and ran his hands over the surface of the car.” “I haven’t seen it since 1940,” he said. “The old girl still looks pretty good for her age.”

Bill Warner initially considered doing a ground-up restoration to the Speedster’s first iteration, complete with narrowed V-grille and Pearl Essence Gunmetal finish, but upon consideration, he decided to preserve the car’s remarkable patina. “It was prettier with the front end that was designed in 1934,” Warner said, “but the 1940 grille was original. It would have been a travesty to completely restore it.”

Warner and his team carefully rebuilt the Speedster’s Mercury V8, meticulously touched up the body paint, repainted the fenders, and Al LaMarr replicated the aluminum wheel discs. Bill Warner’s restoration crew removed a set of finned Edelbrock high-compression heads that were on the engine, because they rubbed on the insides of the hood, lending credence to the theory that the Mercury engine was modified (with those heads, twin carburetors, and a racing camshaft) when the car was in Hollywood, not in Dearborn.

Bill Warner believes the car’s red paint was hastily applied when the car was used in a movie. He’s been searching for a copy of that film for years. “They didn’t paint under the hood,” he notes, “and the masking was poorly done, so there’s a little overspray. You can still see the original gray color coming through in some places.”

That said, the well-preserved Speedster remains a time warp, and a truly remarkable find. A few years ago, at the Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance, Bill Warner kindly allowed this author to drive the Speedster. Respecting the remarkable discovery’s rarity, its well-preserved condition and substantial value, I was reluctant to really get on it, but I was surprised at the car’s peppy acceleration, and enjoyed the visceral rap of the twin, un-muffled exhausts. The gearshift is a three-speed, floor-mounted setup with a handle that extends out from under the dash. The driver’s bucket seat is quite comfortable.

Once inside, one sits low in the narrow cockpit, where the front tires and fenders and can actually be seen as they respond to the changing road surface. The steering is a tad lazy, in a characteristic early Ford V8 way. There’s virtually no cowl shake, and the overall ride, cushioned by the car’s extended wheelbase, is pleasantly firm. The Speedster sits much lower than a typical ’34 Ford roadster, and its long, stylish hood stretches majestically forward like a prestigious, thirties-era classic. Even with its “push and pray” mechanical brakes, Edsel Ford’s custom-built Speedster remains a stylish performance car, just as its patron and creator intended.

Unseen for 40 years, sympathetically cleaned and preserved, and benefiting from a careful mechanical restoration, Edsel Ford’s Continental Series II Speedster, essentially a hand-built and operational concept car from the 1930s, conceived and designed by a pair of acknowledged automotive legends, remains of the most famous and well-documented special Ford cars in existence.

The opportunity to purchase this legendary automobile is unprecedented and unlikely to occur again in our lifetimes.

Edsel Ford’s first 1932 Speedster was sold to a man named Elmer Benzin who kept the car for a time, then resold it to a young designer at General Motors, who subsequently had an accident. The car was badly wrecked, and thought to have been junked and forever lost. In actuality, the damaged Speedster found its way to a body shop in Connecticut. The shop owner, not realizing what he had, customized the boat-tailed speedster and fitted it with modified fenders from a 1935 Chevrolet. Purchased from the bodyman’s widow a few years ago, after having been lost and out of sight for decades, Edsel Ford’s first Continental Speedster is undergoing restoration in North Carolina.

Interestingly, in order to test the new longer chassis, Bob Gregorie and Edsel Ford built a third prototype Continental Special Speedster, with a makeshift open four-seater body. In the winter of February, 1935, with just a flimsy convertible top and no heater fitted, Bob Gregorie bravely drove this one-off car to New York City, but he was unable to secure a production agreement with John Iskip at Brewster & Co. Edsel Ford decided not to try any further to put a Speedster concept into production. He gave the car to Gregorie who kept it for a time, then sold it. The third Speedster passed through subsequent hands, and it was last seen in California in 1952.

The second Edsel Ford Speedster with the original front end styling, most likely photographed at Edsel & Eleanor's estate. Edsel Ford's '32 boat tail speedster. Edsel Ford's '32 boat tail speedster. Bob Gregorie's scale model of the 1940 restyling. The note is from Edsel Ford to Gregorie, approving of the design but also suggesting a different grille. Edsel wasn't a designer but, like Harley Earl, he had a keen eye and an aesthetic way of giving designers direction. Photo Copyright 2012 Cars In Depth. Used with permission. Photo Copyright 2012 Cars In Depth. Used with permission. Photo Copyright 2012 Cars In Depth. Used with permission. Photo Copyright 2012 Cars In Depth. Used with permission. ]]> 17
Look At What I Found!: 1991 Plymouth Sundance America, Driven Only On Sundays Sat, 14 Jan 2012 14:00:13 +0000 It should come as no surprise to anyone that Look At What I Found! was inspired by Murilee Martin’s original Down On The Street series over at Jalopnik. For today’s installment I’ll be performing a trifecta of plagiarizing M&M’s work because we’ll be talking about not just a car I found when out and about, but about an exact model that Murilee covered in a Junkyard Find, with a side dish of Nice Price or Crack Pipe, another car blog staple that sprang, Athena-like, from the fertile mind of our own ‘Ms. Martin’. The main difference between Murilee’s find and mine is the car’s condition. Murilee’s was ready for the crusher,  but this one belongs in a museum, showing only 18,000 original miles on the odometer. With a little detailing it could win a prize at a car show, maybe even a concours. That’s not much of an exaggeration. Other than the barest hint of surface rust inside one of the rear wheel wells and the door hinges, the body is flawless. No dents or dings or any sign of damage. The interior looks just about brand new. The carpet by the driver’s seat shows minor wear but the pedals are not worn at all. The kick panels on the doors look like they’ve never been kicked. Other interior panels look similarly pristine. The back seat appears to never have been occupied, certainly not by any enfant terrible scribe pitching woo at an autojourno’s wife.

Now who would enter a Plymouth Sundance in a concours, I don’t know, but then it’s hard to imagine someone who would keep one in showroom condition either. This is a Sundance , not an anniversary or pace car Mustang, Corvette or Firebird. The Sundance was one of Chrysler’s seemingly unending iterations of the K-car, revised to create the P-car platform for the compact Sundance and it’s Dodge Shadow corporate sibling. They were attractive enough cars, but their weight and Chrysler’s reliance on their workhorse 2.2L engine meant that they didn’t get as good gas mileage as competing cars.

So the Sundance is a fairly mundane car to be getting the creampuff treatment in the first place. This is not just any Sundance, though, but rather it’s a a Sundance “America”, which was the moniker that Chrysler used in the late 1980s and early 1990s to designate an economy model. You couldn’t quite call them “stripper” models, since they came with enough standard equipment, like A/C, to be sold on value but as you can see from the photos, even the simplest radio was optional equipment. Nobody pampers a special value package thinking it will, someday, be worth more money.

From Allpar:

In 1991, following the success of the Omni/Horizon America models, Chrysler brought out the Sundance America and Shadow America. These were nicely featured versions of the vehicles with lower prices – they were the lowest priced cars on the market with driver’s-side airbags, and retailed for under $8,000 – for a full dollar under $8,000, unless you added in the destination charge, or $163 for the common rear-window defroster option. Still, at $8,627, it was hard to beat the Sundance/Shadow America, with their big 2.2 liter engine – providing much more torque than anything else in its class – along with a nice cloth interior with bucket seats, driver airbag, prop-rod-free hood, power brakes (discs up front, drums in back), fourteen-inch wheels, fold-down rear seatback, hidden-hatchback storage, and other niceties.

The niceties did not, apparently, include a radio as standard equipment

The niceties didn’t seem nice enough to most consumers. Chrysler never reached their goal of 200,000 units a year. That may actually have been fortunate since Chrysler is said to have lost money on each and every P-car it sold. Perhaps the most significant thing about the Sundance/Shadow is that it was replaced by the Neon, Chrysler first credible small car. Last March, Murilee was surprised to even see a Sundance America at a Rocky Mountain junkyard:

Apparently, no 1991 Plymouth Sundance Americas made it out of the showrooms. Well, none except for this example that managed to dodge The Crusher’s jaws for two full decades before its final tow into a Denver self-service wrecking yard…

The Sundance America was probably the most comfy of this group and it looked like a helluva deal, but buyers avoided it like chlamydia.

I’m not surprised that Murilee hasn’t seen more of those Sundances or Plymouth Shadows that Chrysler did manage to sell awaiting the crusher, or on the street for that matter. With the America model appealing to folks looking for cheap transportation, my guess is  that most Sundance Americas had every possible mile wrung out of them and have long since been recycled into various and sundry items labeled Made In China. That makes the condition of this particular Sundance America all the more remarkable. Who’s going to save an economy car?

Who? Maybe somebody exceptionally frugal, someone who used the car as frugally as they bought it. 18,000 miles in 20 year works is less than 20 miles a week, on average. Maybe this car really was only driven to church on Sundays.

Either way, this may be the lowest mileage Sundance America that exists. That’s why Danny, the nice Chaldean guy who owns the Sunoco station where I found it, is asking $3,800 for it. That’s a 25% premium over the Kelly Blue Book retail value for a Sundance America in “excellent” condition. KBB says that only 5% of cars are considered to be that clean. This one could be show quality with some touch ups and detailing. I say that based on having attended a lot of car events in the Detroit area. Car events in Michigan are different, in a good sense. In addition to the top shelf Concours of America and Eyes On Design events, car cruises across southeastern Michigan attract thousands of high quality cars and smaller local car shows attract hundreds. Regional GM, Mopar or Ford clubs meets more often than not feature rare and historically significant cars in survivor, pristine original and 100 point restored conditions.

As a matter of fact there was another, more collectible Sundance in very nice shape at the WPC [Walter P. Chrysler] Club’s Great Lakes Region’s all Mopar meet last fall. It was a rare Shelby CSX-T model, Chrysler/Thrifty’s answer to Ford/Hertz’s Shelby GT-H rent-a-racer. Again, you can imagine someone saving or restoring a CSX, it being a rare high performance car with Ol’ Shel’s provenance. It’s a bit harder imagining that happening with a plain vanilla Sundance, and the even plainer unflavored gelatin America version. Still, like I said, it belongs in a museum. If you parked it next to the CSX-T, or next to any of the other cars at that show, it still might have drawn a crowd.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options.

mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0003 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0004 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0005 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0006 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0006a mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0007 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0008 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0009 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0010 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0011 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0013 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0014 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0015 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0016 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0017 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0018 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0018a mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0019 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0020 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0021 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0022 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0024 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0025 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0026 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0028 mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0029 The niceties did not, apparently, include a radio as standard equipment mono-sundance-sundance-IMG_0032a odometer dodgeshelbycsx-t-6 dodgeshelbycsx-t-1 dodgeshelbycsx-t-2 dodgeshelbycsx-t-3 dodgeshelbycsx-t-4 dodgeshelbycsx-t-5 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 54
Look At What I Found!: Not For Sale Thu, 06 Oct 2011 22:16:16 +0000  Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Every year, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum sponsors the Orphan Car Show, dedicated to vehicles, brands, and companies that are not with us anymore. Lots of oddball cars and classes means lots of graphic content for Cars In Depth and maybe an article or two at TTAC. It looks like there are more than 800 images on the memory cards so it’s going to be a bit before I get them all processed and winnowed for a proper report on the show for the Best & Brightest. Still, as I’ve said before, you never know when you’re going to find an interesting car or something else automotive worthy of note. Driving to the Orphan show I decided not to take the Interstates and instead took winding two lane roads out to the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area. I wasn’t sure about an intersection and ended up going a couple of miles in the wrong direction. On the way back I noticed a home with a bunch of old Fords in front of the garage. There were a couple of 1970s vintage LTDs, two Fox body Mustangs, and a Pinto. One of the Mustangs has current license plates and looks like it’s a daily driver. The rest of the cars appeared, from a distance of about 100 feet, to be solid restoration candidates, but they had the look of “when I get the time” projects. What really caught my eye, though, was the yard sign standing by one of the big Ford sedans: “Cars NOT For Sale – Don’t Ask!”. It’s enticing to wonder what’s out of sight in the garage, but it’s still a nice collection of Fords.

For a second I was tempted to knock on the door and ask the owner about his collection and his sign, but I figured that maybe, just maybe he was tired of answering questions. I’d like to write something poetic or insightful about dreams as yet unfulfilled, but to be honest, it was just a bunch of old cars by the side of the road.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Not long ago I found out about Cars In Barns, a web site devoted to, well, you’re not stupid. People report old cars that they spot in barns, behind buildings, in fields, and wherever you might find an interesting old car (but aren’t all old cars interesting?). Some are proverbial “ran when parked” barn finds. Others are shells, exposed to the elements and returning to the same. Many of the cars are probably beyond restoration, some of them are steel and rust lacework, but every single one of them is about passion, or obsession. Many of the reports at Cars In Barns read something like: “I’ve known about this car for ten years, but every time I ask the owner, he says that it’s not for sale.” To me that speaks of passion on both sides, the passion of the owner who still dreams of a restoration, and the passion of the guy that keeps bugging him about selling it. That passion for a specific car is sometimes rewarded. It’s not entirely uncommon, when reading a particular vehicle’s history or hearing an owner recounting the acquisition thereof, that the first efforts to buy it were rebuffed. “I’d been asking him to sell me the car for years and finally, when he was thinning out the collection and wanted it to go to a loving home, he called me.”

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

So I understand the guy with those Fords feeling the need to ward off the lookie loos and wish him well with his cars, whether they end up as 100 pt restorations, parts cars or, sadly, Chinese washing machines. I also understand the people who stop, see the sign and say, “well it can’t hurt to just leave my phone number in case he decides to sell.”


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Look At What I Found!: Bill Thomas Continuation Cheetah Coupe Wed, 03 Aug 2011 20:50:18 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

About a year ago TTAC ran a two part piece of mine on Carroll Shelby’s Cobra and Bill Thomas’ Cheetah, which some say could have been Chevy’s parry to Ford’s Cobra. The formula was pretty much the same, put a big block engine in a lightweight tube frame car, covered in a minimal but viscerally sexy body. The Cheetah is derivative. I see elements of E Type Jaguar, Devin, Cobra Daytona Coupe, and maybe some Corvette, but it works very well for me and is a very distinctive shape. Thomas, though, didn’t originally intend the Cheetah as a racer, but rather as a boulevard cruiser, so the frame and suspension weren’t really up to competitive racing. While the Cheetah won eleven SCCA races, it never developed a racing pedigree like the LeMans winning Ferrari vanquishing Cobras. Then GM stopped selling Thomas engines and he decided to walk away from the project.

A few replicar companies today offer Cheetahs in various stages of construction. The car has a bit of a following because of plastic models and slot cars back in the 1960s. Unlike the other firms building Cheetahs,  Robert Auxier established a relationship with the late Bill Thomas and was licensed by Thomas to build up to 100 “continuation” Cheetahs, made by BTM in Arizona using the original molds and fixtures. For safety reasons, the original’s spindly frame was replaced with one made of larger tubing that is 33% stiffer, brakes were upgraded to modern units and the suspension was made fully adjustable. Auxier made a run of 31 cars before the severe recession put a damper on all kinds of car sales, not just hand fabricated high end replicars. It’s not clear if he’ll make any more but don’t worry, recently two of those 31 cars have come up for sale on eBay, a coupe and a convertible, according to Autoblog. Sorry if you had your heart set on a Cheetah roadster, the convertible has been withdrawn from sale but the coupe is still available. I know, I saw it in person this afternoon.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

When I looked at the eBay listing I found out that the car was actually only about 5 miles away so I called the seller up to see about taking some photos. The car is owned by a private party culling his collection and it is being sold by Grandsport, a small car dealer and full service tuning and repair shop in Southfield, MI. Grandsport is also Ruf Auto US, the US representative for Alois Ruf’s high performance Porsche manufacturing and tuning shop as well as being a dealer for Intermeccanica, who make high quality bathtub Porsche and VW Kubelwagen replicas. David Laing of Grandsport graciously gave me access to their shop and the Cheetah for a photo shoot.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

The Cheetah originally had a 396 cubic inch big block “rat motor”. That must have been scary. Auxier’s Cheetahs come with small block Chevys, in this case a stroked 383 CI / 350 HP version, and Laing says that the car is still a handful even without the more powerful (and heavier) big block. Maybe the closest modern analog to the Cheetah would be the Dodge Viper. It’s very fast, says Laing on a shop floor where currently sit a Ruf 3800K Cayman with 440 HP for sale as well as customers’ turboed and whale tailed 911s, but it doesn’t handle particularly well.

David Laing, of Grandsport has some experience with fast cars. See that turbo on that Porsche engine? He says that the Cheetah is very fast. Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

He did say, though, that since the suspension is fully adjustable, with the right settings it can probably be made to handle decently. You might also want to add some kind of air dam or splitter up front to prevent lift and additional cabin ventilation. The Cheetah, to many, looks great but it’s not very aero friendly in stock form. It’s said that at speed, the Cheetah could blow it’s own doors off.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Those doors are not very robust, though it appears that there’s at least some form of safety cage for the occupants. It’s a fairly primitive car. Remember, it’s a replica of a 1960s vintage show car cum track racer. The steering wheel is removable and is held in place with a ringed pin. The back window appears to be acrylic or polycarbonate. When Laing offered to show me what it looked like under the long, forward hinged hood, he had to use a screw driver to remove about 8 quarter turn Dzus fasteners, and the fiberglass hood isn’t quite as rigid as let’s say the forward tilting front clip of a Jaguar XKE, perhaps where Thomas go the idea for a clamshell hood. The gull wing doors flex when you open them, they’re just a fiberglass skin. They’re held up by a sliding prop rod that you have to lock if you want the door to stay up. The hood has cutouts for the air cleaner and distributor as well as two big vents.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

One feature that the continuation Cheetahs have is something that the original owners would have loved: air conditioning, with a period correct looking unit in the cabin. Because the engine sits so far back in the chassis, the driver’s and passenger’s foot boxes sit right between the engine block and the exhaust headers. The Cheetah gets a bit warm inside. When you are hot footing it around in a Cheetah, you are really hot footing it around. Actually, that’s why Auxier offered a convertible. Even with the hood down, you can see how the foot box is wrapped with heat reflecting insulation. With the hood up you can see that the headers are wrapped with heat tape as well. While those hood vents may serve some aero purpose, I suspect their real reason is to let heat out.

Note the insulation on both the exhaust headers and the footwell. Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

In terms of cosmetics and construction quality, this Cheetah looks very good, considering how rudimentary the car is. The frame is powder coated and the silver body paint is flawless. It has a competition style flip up fuel filler cap as was used in the ’60s. Also period correct (and sized appropriately) are the 15″ American Racing Torq Thrust wheels . If you’ve seen the inside of a vintage Cobra, the continuation Cheetah shouldn’t look unfamiliar, with black carpeting, simple but complete instrumentation and red leather covered racing buckets. I could be wrong but I think that the Cobra also had a forward leaning gear shift lever.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

This continuation Cheetah has only 865 miles on the clock. If I’m not mistaken, it’s been certified by the FIA to race in the same series that allow Shelby’s own continuation Cobras, that is if you’re brave enough to race it and find out just what suspension settings will work. Grandsport wants $89K for the car, a bit less than one of David Kirkham‘s nice Cobra replicas will end up costing you (Kirkham Motorsports supplies Shelby American with bodies made in a former MiG factory Poland for their CSX4000, CSX7000, and CSX8000 289 and 427 Cobras). It might be a bit more than you’d pay for one of Superformance’s licensed fiberglass Shelby replicas. Considering how common Shelby replicas are, if you’re looking for something with provenance that is very fast and will stand out in a crowd, or want to live out your slot car fantasies on a vintage racing track, give Bob Schneider at Grandsport a call.

Don’t freak out, you can watch in 2D if you like.  Start the YouTube 3D player and click on the red 3D icon that appears in the menu bar to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats. Pardon the shaky camera, I’m still fine tuning my steadigizmo.

Specs from the eBay listing:

This is a 2008 built Cheetah continuation, number 30 of the 31 built. Titled in Michigan as a 1964 BTM Cheetah. Only 865 miles on the car. The car is painted in Mercedes silver with 3 coats of clear, period red racing seats and belts. Keeping with the Corvette heritage, it is powered by a small-block Chevy 383 making 350hp. Holley dual-feed 4 barrel; 3.34 posi rear end; Muncie close-ratio 4 speed; 9×15 American Racing wheels w/Radial TA’s and a complete second set with Hoosier track slicks. Footwells are double insulated and the headers are double asbestos wrapped to control cabin heat combined with a period correct air-conditioning system compensates for the fixed windows. This car is spotless PERFECT, look at the photos of the powder coated tube chassis! A piece of American road racing history.

I shot almost 50 photos of this Cheetah and picked out the photos that I thought illustrated this story best. If you’d like to see the complete set in your choice of 2D or stereo 3D formats, please visit Cars In Depth.

cheetah_IMG_0183_r cheetah_IMG_0140_r cheetah_IMG_0141_r cheetah_IMG_0143_r cheetah_IMG_0144_r cheetah_IMG_0147a_r cheetah_IMG_0148_r cheetah_IMG_0150_r cheetah_IMG_0152_r cheetah_IMG_0153_r cheetah_IMG_0154_r cheetah_IMG_0155_r cheetah_IMG_0156_r cheetah_IMG_0157_r cheetah_IMG_0158_r cheetah_IMG_0161_r cheetah_IMG_0162_r cheetah_IMG_0163_r cheetah_IMG_0166_r cheetah_IMG_0168a_r cheetah_IMG_0176_r cheetah_IMG_0178_r cheetah_IMG_0178heatinsulation_r cheetah_IMG_0180_r


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Look At What I Found!: My Continental Summer Fri, 15 Jul 2011 17:08:23 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

Jack Baruth called the 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Talisman that he delivered to Sajeev’s brother “majestic”. While Jack and Sajeev have been playing with a big Caddy, lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Dearborn’s favorite luxury brand and it’s given me a lot of opportunity to think about Lincoln’s past and future. Today, Cadillac, buoyed by the success of the CTS and its variants, along with profitable sales of the SRX (and Escalade too) seems strong compared to Lincoln. As has been the case since Henry Leland’s day Lincoln has almost always been Detroit’s weaker sister when it’s come to luxury cars. Almost always…

While the truth is that Cadillac has always outsold Lincoln, there was a time when the two American luxury car makers went toe to toe, when Lincoln was a contender. That was the 1970s, when Lincoln started eating up some of Cadillac’s market share, when buyers who formerly would have only considered a Cadillac could be seen shopping and even buying one of Ford’s luxury cars, when that Talisman was the best that Cadillac could offer. Were it not for the success of Lincoln in the 1970s, the Panther based Town Cars so beloved of the TTAC staff might never have been built. TTAC is home to many Panther enthusiasts who will tell you that their beloved Fords are the ultimate expression of the traditional rear wheel drive body on frame big American sedan. While the Panther is worthy of all the showered love, it seems to me that if you’re looking for the ultimate big body on frame Ford, you have go back another generation, to the 1971-79 Lincoln Continental. The Panther was the first downsized full size sedan platform from Ford. It came about, in part, due to fuel mileage requirements that called for a smaller Lincoln (and LTD and Grand Marquis) and was a response to GM’s downsized ’77 sedans. So if big, bold and smooth is your ticket, the 1970s Continental is right up your alley, or suburban driveway in this case.

Though it carried on most of the styling language developed for the classic 1961 model, the classic suicide door Lincolns had unitized construction. Ford went to a separate body and frame with their big sedans in 1971. Ford was all about smoothness in the ’70s and there is nothing like BOF construction to be able to isolate the car’s passengers from the turbulence of real life. This Town Coupé’s ‘green sofa’ vanity plates sum up the car’s distinction pretty well. There has probably never been a car with a smoother ride than the big 1970s Continentals.

As with the Panthers, in the 1970s the large Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns shared variations of the same platform. The Lincoln rode on the version with the longest wheelbase, ~127″, used for both two door and four door models. We’ll be looking primarily at the two door model in this edition of LAWIF! The ’70s vintage Lincolns were the second biggest modern American cars made, exceeded in length only by the Fleetwood Cadillacs, which were about three inches longer. The notion of a two door coupé on such a long wheelbase is almost too absurd to contemplate.

LAWIF! is based on the luck of the draw. I first started thinking about doing a piece on the big Lincolns when I saw a four door in a bright yellow driving out of an apartment complex near my home. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera rig with me but it planted the idea. Then, while riding my Litespeed to my credit union in Lathrup Village I saw the green late 1970s Continental Town Coupé you see here. Again, I didn’t have my camera bag, but I made a mental note to return and shoot the big Lincoln.

Last month, Hot Rod magazine’s Power Tour’s terminal point was in suburban Detroit, and with about 3,500 special interest cars participating, I went over to Metro Beach to see what unusual finds there were amidst the Camaros and Mustangs. When I saw this very clean and mild custom light metallic blue and black 1971 two door Continental (the ‘sportier’ Lincoln received the Town Coupé designation, a padded landau vinyl roof, large squarish opera windows, coach lights, and trim wheel arch inserts instead of full fender skirts in 1975), I knew I had to go back and get pics of the green one.

The earlier Continentals without the 5mph bumpers have a trim and tailored look for such a large car.

I decided that the following weekend, on my way to the Cars & Stars car show at the Packard Proving Grounds, I’d detour over to Lathrup. Unfortunately, just as I was about to turn into the subdivision where the Lincoln was, I saw it going out for a Sunday drive. Oh well, it would have to wait until another time.

It’s a bit of a schlep out to Shelby Twp, where the Packard Proving Grounds are, and while driving up Van Dyke, I noticed coming in the opposite direction was, yep, another big Town Coupé, this one in canary yellow. I don’t think that I’m usually worthy of getting signs from above, but this was getting silly. The first chance I got, I went back to Lathrup Village and got the pics you see here of the green Town Coupé.

From the Mark IV style chrome grille,and the big 5mph bumpers this appears to be either a ’77, ’78 or 1979 model. Over the decade, the Continental grew from 225″ to 233″, mostly due to those bumpers, though there was also a modest bump up in wheelbase. This example is in very nice original shape, with original paint that’s started to wear in only a couple of places. There’s a spot of rust near one rear wheel arch, and some of the chrome and other trim had a few dings. Other than that, it appears to be in great shape for a survivor. The original dealer’s sticker is still on the trunk lid.

Though Lincoln never seriously challenged Cadillac’s sale figures, it was in the 1970s that Lincoln started to chip away at Cadillac market share. Though it had some record sales years in the ’70s, as Jack pointed out in his piece on the Talisman by the middle of the decade Cadillac was beginning to lose its mojo, a decline that would be halted by the downsized 1977 models, only to accelerate as GM embraced mediocrity in the 1980s. In the early to mid 1970s, though, Cadillacs were beginning to seem more bloated than big. Luxury car buyers started considering first Lincoln, and then the high end Benzes.

The ’61 Continental is highly treasured today but that body style was never a big seller. While the ’61 made Continental a credible player in the mass luxury market, the next generation Continental had much better sales.  Lincoln was putting a lot of effort into reducing NVH, as well as giving the cars a glass smooth ride. One of the tricks was to use rubber body mounting bushings that had a lot of fore/aft play. Though not particularly effective in terms of cornering and handling, those trick body mounts helped create the living room on wheels ride that the big Lincolns and Mercurys were famous for. A befits a rolling living room, this Continental came with crushed velour upholstery.

The association of a smooth ride with the Lincoln brand was emphasized with Lincoln even running commercials with a diamond cutter splitting a raw stone while riding in the back seat, proclaiming success with the tag line “perfect!”. The ad was so popular, and Lincoln’s reputation for a smooth ride so well known, that Saturday Night Live did a parody with a mohel performing a bris in the back seat, “Poi-fect… a beautiful baby and a beautiful car.”

Lincoln also started offering more features as standard equipment than Cadillac, like power front vent windows. The vent wing window is an artifact of the pre flow through ventilation age. It’s utility survived into the air conditioned age, and Lincoln’s power version is perhaps the ultimate development of that feature beloved of smokers and their passengers.

After the big GMs were downsized in 1977, for two years the Lincoln Continental was the biggest car for sale in the US, perhaps the biggest mass produced car for sale then in the world. Most of the big Lincolns came equipped with the 460 cubic inch version of Ford’s 429. Though it started out with 365HP, by the middle of the decade, emissions controls would cut that power output by a third. The big block engine’s torque, though, remained sufficient with 356 lb/ft @ 2,000rpm, perfectly adequate to get the two and a half ton luxury barge moving.

This four door Town Car is part of Barry Wolk’s collection of Continentals. I think the sedan has cleaner lines than the coupé, but big two doors obviously have their fans.

By the time the big Lincolns finally went out of production to make way for the Panther based Town Cars, they would be not only the largest car for sale in North America, they would have the largest displacement engines then available too (the big Cadillac 500ci V8s having been discontinued in 1976).

It just so happened that at the Hot Rod Power Tour and the Cars & Stars show there were some other classic Lincolns, a couple of prewar Continentals (a black convertible and a gorgeous yellow hardtop), and two Continental Mark IIs.

The black Mark II is an original condition, single family third generation car. The original owner was a friend of Wm Clay Ford Sr., one of his drinking buddies before he went on the wagon.

The car is no longer numbers matching because according to family lore the Mark II’s owner complained to his friend Mr. Ford, about some kind of driveability issue with the car. Apparently while he and Ford were having an extended and well lubricated lunch,  Wm Clay Ford had the entire drivetrain replaced for his friend. Unlike Wm Clay Ford’s personal Mark II (in Detroit Lions’ Honolulu blue and silver), which had an upgrade to the 460 V8 performed by the fab shop in Dearborn, this car’s engine swap was not documented. It doesn’t really matter because the car will never leave the family.

After seeing those Mark IIs at the Power Tour and Cars “R” Stars, I saw even more of them when the three Ford family Mark IIs, now owned by the family that owns National Parts Depot, were on display at the Eyes On Design show benefiting the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology.

The black Mark II was made for Mrs. Henry Ford II, the metallic sea foam green Continental was Benson Ford’s and the Honolulu blue and silver car belonged to Wm Clay Ford, whose Detroit Lions wear the same colors.

Researching those cars led to the photo shoot of Barry Wolk’s convertible Continental Mark II. Barry has a collection of fabulous Continentals, made by Lincoln and others. He invited me to see his 1933 Lincoln when it’s on display at the upcoming Concours d’Elegance of America at St John’s and also stop by the national meet of the Lincoln Continental Owners Club, held in conjunction with the concours. Though I didn’t get over to Europe this year, it looks like I’m going to have a very continental summer.

One of two “official” Continental Mark II convertibles

Ford is trying to revive Lincoln. Lincoln has no brand identity, and if there is one thing that all the Continentals on this page have it’s a strong visual identity. In an era when people have difficulty distinguishing a Lexus from a Jaguar, each one of these cars is instantly identifiable, and identifiable as a Lincoln. I think the smartest thing that Ford could do is to lock its Jaguar design and brand management teams in a room with these cars and not let them out until they come up with a car that makes that same instantaneous impact, a car with the kind of visual presence all these cars have.


Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, which features great writers and 3D to give a realistic perspective on cars and car culture. If you poke around the site there, you can see many more photos of these cars (Schreiber’s too lazy to give you the links, there’s a search function there, you’re not stupid), in 2D or your choice of 3D formats. Cars In Depth is (we’re pretty sure) the largest archive of real stereographic 3D images of real cars anywhere, with over 5,000 photos and videos and more published daily. We have what are most likely the only 3D images of some very rare cars, historic and contemporary.

greensofacontinental_img_0458 greensofacontinental_img_0460 greensofacontinental_img_0461 greensofacontinental_img_0462 greensofacontinental_img_0463 greensofacontinental_img_0464 greensofacontinental_img_0465 greensofacontinental_img_0465a greensofacontinental_img_0467 greensofacontinental_img_0468 greensofacontinental_img_0469 greensofacontinental_img_0469a greensofacontinental_img_0471 greensofacontinental_img_0472 greensofacontinental_img_0473 greensofacontinental_img_0474 greensofacontinental_img_0475 greensofacontinental_img_0476 greensofacontinental_img_0477 greensofacontinental_img_0478 greensofacontinental_img_0479 greensofacontinental_img_0480 greensofacontinental_img_0481 greensofacontinental_img_0482 greensofacontinental_img_0483 greensofacontinental_img_0485 greensofacontinental_img_0487 greensofacontinental_img_0489 greensofacontinental_img_0490 greensofacontinental_img_0491 greensofacontinental_img_0492 greensofacontinental_img_0493 greensofacontinental_img_0494 lincolncontinental_img_0249 lincolncontinental_img_0250 lincolncontinental_img_0251 lincolncontinental_img_0253 lincolncontinental_img_0254 lincolncontinental_img_0257 lincolncontinental_img_0322 lincolncontinental_img_0324 lincolncontinental_img_0325 lincolncontinental_img_0326 lincolncontinental_img_0402 lincolncontinental_img_0405 lincolncontinental_img_0421 lincolncontinental_img_0423 lincolncontinental_img_0425 lincolncontinental_img_0426 lincolncontinental_img_0428 lincolncontinental_img_0429 lincolncontinental_img_0430 lincolncontinental_img_0431 powertour_img_0141 powertour_img_0142 powertour_img_0143 powertour_img_0144 powertour_img_0168 powertour_img_0169 powertour_img_0170 powertour_img_0171 powertour_img_0172 powertour_img_0173 powertour_img_0174 IMG_0977 IMG_0979 IMG_0889 continentalmarkii_r Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 34
Look What I Found In Japan! Sun, 10 Jul 2011 18:20:46 +0000

On Tuesday, I will go to the Fuji racetrack in the hills halfway between Tokyo and Nagoya. I will test drive a Toyota that is not available in Japan, nor is it in the U.S. It is however available and quite a success in India. Can you guess which one it is?

When I pointed at the map, my wife mentioned that her father, bless his heart, has some real estate in Yugawara, and that she has the keys. Yugawara, famous for its hot springs and not much else, sits right smack in the middle of the area which has an 87 percent chance of getting hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of about 8 within the next 30 years.

I was reminded of that this morning. Instead of being woken up with kisses and a cup of coffee, the house kicked me in the butt. Earthquake. We put one hand on our go-bags, eyed the door to the outside and waited for the second wave. It never came, and we had the coffee. It was a magnitude 7 quake, but nobody really mentions them anymore. In the world of new normals, magnitude 7 quakes definitely have carved out their place in Japan.

Import sales Japan

My wife’s dad’s holdings turned out to be spanking new, but what is parked across the street definitely is not: A Bug! I have no idea what vintage it is. I’d say end of  the 60s, beginning of the 70s. It has the big rear window. I could not get closer, because one respects private property in Japan.

The old car must be driven by someone who is even older than the car. See the orange sticker glowing in the window? That’s a golden leaf. There are green leaves for people who have a brand new driver’s license, and there are golden leaves for people over 70. Mandatory over 75, I am told.

In Japan, this is not considered age discrimination, it supposedly announces that there is a feeble driver who should be treated with care and respect for the elderly. The folks who are supposed to display the golden leaves think otherwise. Unless they have a really old car.

“Ore wa toshyori janai. Kuruma ga furinda.” It’s not me that’s old – it’s the car! Which brings us back to the Bug. How did it come here?

In 1972, Japan started to lower the import duties. Importing a car did cost only 6.4 percent (today: zero) and as you can see from the picture, imports to Japan finally got moving. 23,600 cars were imported to Japan in 1972. Of those, 10,920 were Volkswagens, 3,830 Fords, 3,093 were made by GM, 1,611 came from Mercedes, and the remaining 4,146 came from other makes.

As you also can see, Volkswagen marked its domineering role right away, but Americans had their chance and blew it.

Best-selling import nameplates, Japan 2010

1 Volkswagen Golf 26,075
2 Volkswagen Polo 14,507
3 BMW 3 Series 11,664
4 BMW MINI MINI 11,338
5 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 10,850
6 Toyota TOWN/LITE ACE 9,533
7 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 9,206
8 BMW 5 Series 6,049
9 BMW 1 Series 5,856
10 Audi A4 Series 5,660

Looking at the list of bestselling nameplates in 2010, not much has changed. Volkswagen still rules the roost of imports to Japan. In 2010, more than 70,000 Volkswagen and Audis were imported, holding a joint market share of 28 percent of the small import pie. The first American brand is Ford in place 13. Oddly enough, the bestselling GM brand was Cadillac (#22), followed by Chevrolet in rank 23. If you want more numbers, the  Japan Automobile Importers Association has tons of data.

Don’t think the Japanese are not into Americana. They just don’t fancy American cars a lot. Look what I found again! A Denny’s, just a block from the old bug. I guess I’ll have a burger there tomorrow.

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Look At What I Found!: 1956 Continental Mark II Convertible by Hess & Eisenhardt Thu, 30 Jun 2011 20:17:50 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth. TTAC thanks Mr. Barry Wolk for graciously making his car available for this photo shoot.

You can divide collectors into two main groups, generalists and specialists. In my taxonomy Barney Pollard and the Sultan of Brunei would be generalists and Joe Bortz would be a specialist. Some people collect Chevys. Others collect just “tri-five” mid 1950s Chevrolets. Of course for every specialty there’s a subspecialty, so some people collect only ’57 two-door Chevy pillarless hardtops with fuel injection and factory two tone paint.

Barry Wolk is a specialist. He collects Continentals. There’s his big black 1977 Lincoln Continental Town Car along with his 1956 Chris Craft Continental wood boat. He’s even got a Porsche Continental. In the mid 1950s, importer Max Hoffman convinced the headquarters in Stuttgart that Americans bought cars with names, not numbers, and the 356A with the 1500cc engine was briefly marketed in the US in 1955 and 1956 as the Continental. Ford, having established prior use for that model name in the late 1930s, complained and Porsche changed the badging from “Continental” to “European” before reverting to alphanumerics. One reason why Ford was concerned is that in 1955 they were about to relaunch the Continental brand with the Continental Mark II. Barry has one of those Continentals too, but as you might expect from a specialist collector, Wolk has a very unique Mark II, a Mark II convertible. Even more unique than that, it’s one of only two Mark IIs made into convertibles by Ford Motor Company.

The Mark II was designed with an open top in mind. One of the five original styling models was a convertible and the body and frame were designed to deal with the additional stresses an open car experiences. Ford’s short lived Continental Division, though, never made any production convertibles. Over the years a number of conversion companies have tried their hands at making convertible Mark IIs. While the results have been attractive, some Continental enthusiasts are ambivalent about them. There are two custom convertible Mark IIs extant, however, that the Lincoln Continental Owners Club considers to be authentic Ford Motor Company products. There is usually only one way that a customized car will be accepted as authentic by the kind of car clubs that are devoted to 100 point restorations. That’s if the customization has been done by the manufacturer, as with show cars and concept vehicles. Correspondingly, vehicles that start out as engineering and executive special builds (like the one of a kind 1968 Z-28 convertible built so that ragtop fanatic Pete Estes would sign off on the Z28 program) and end up in private hands are also accorded authenticity once their provenance has been established. So in the case of William Clay Ford’s personal Mark II, which had a 460 V8 drivetrain retrofitted into the car by Ford’s Dearborn fab shop in the late 1960s, the LCOC considers it to be 100% Ford.

The Mark II was in development when Chevrolet introduced the Corvette. To make a small two-seater in a hurry, the Mark II’s design was scaled down to make the 1955 Thunderbird. Later, the T-Bird would return the favor as Elwood Engel’s proposal for the 1961 Thunderbird had two doors added to make it into the classic ’61 Lincoln Continental

Barry Wolk’s Mark II convertible falls into that category. For a long time, it was thought that there was just one “official” Mark II convertible, commissioned by the Dearborn headquarters and built by the Derham Custom Body Company. Apparently there were supposed to be three Derham Mark IIs but there is no record of any others existing. Originally used as a show car, it was later given to Mrs. William Clay Ford for her personal use. Mrs. Ford subsequently sold it to a Ford executive who was a member of the LCOC. In time it passed into the possession of another LCOC member, Walter Goeppinger. Based on communications he had had with Wm Clay Ford, Goeppinger was convinced that he had that rare automotive bird, a one of one, and that his Mark II convertible was the only legitimate one of that one. Based mostly on Goeppinger’s claims, the car that Wolk ended up owning was said to be a counterfeit, not authorized by FoMoCo. The Derham Mark II car currently is owned by the Gilmore Museum.

So when Barry Wolk bought his Mark II, he was more interested in it as a thing of beauty, “rolling sculpture”, than its authenticity. Then, when he was invited to join the LCOC he started to research his own car’s provenance. It turned out that his car was indeed commissioned by Ford Motor Company in 1955, only by the automaker’s Chicago sales division, and that it was actually the first Mark II convertible made, before Dearborn started working with Derham. According to the Benson Ford Research Center in Dearborn, Wolk’s car was the 137th Mark II made, and it was built and shipped to the Chicago Ford distributor as an “introductory unit”, to be used on showroom floors to attract traffic but still owned by Ford Motor Company. Ford’s Chicago distributor, though, shipped the unit soon after to Hess & Eisenhardt, known for their limousine and hearse conversions. The intention was to show the car to gauge interest from potential customers in the Chicago area. There was apparently some thought given to producing a retractable hardtop version of the Mark II and work was begun on development. That would take time, so using a company like Hess & Eisenhardt was a quick way to get an open body Mark II in front of the public, though development on the retractable hardtop continued. When the Mark II was discontinued, Ford shifted development of the hardtop convertible to it’s more mainstream cars, resulting in the legendary Ford Fairlane and Galaxie Skyliner coupes of the late 1950s.

Though the Mark II had indeed been designed from scratch to accommodate an open body, Hess & Eisenhardt didn’t take anything for granted. In addition to adding a folding soft roof (based on Mercedes Benz mechanicals), a steel hoop was added to the body for reinforcement, and 1/8″ steel plates were welded to the top of the car’s frame rails.

Note the exhaust pipe running between the rocker panel and frame so the car could ride as low as possible.

The Mark II was designed with a “cow belly” ladder frame that retained foot room while allowing the car to be lowered. Additionally, special exhaust manifolds were designed to route the exhaust horizontally out of the engine compartment, then down inside the fender and back towards the rear end through a space between the rocker panels and the frame. Normally the exhaust would have been routed under the frame. To maintain proper body to frame clearance on the convertible, Hess & Eisenhardt shaved the rubber body mounting bushings by the thickness of the steel reinforcing plates. Early air conditioned luxury cars carried a lot of the equipment under the parcel shelf behind the rear seat. Because of the folding top’s mechanism, the a/c components were moved into the trunk, so between that and the “continental” spare tire location, there’s not much trunk space.

Next to the cast aluminum valve covers with Lincoln stars, are the darker grey exhaust manifolds routing the exhaust pipe into the fender and out to the back of the car.

But this isn’t a car to be filled with luggage for a long trip, it’s a car to be seen in. Still, Wolk says that it’s the best riding car he’s ever driven, stable well over 80 mph on the highway. He insisted that the Mark II’s massive drum brakes stop as well as modern discs stop. As a man of some means it’s not like he hasn’t driven contemporary luxury cars, so his opinion carries some weight. Mrs. Wolk drives a BMW Z3 roadster so I’m sure that when they’ve taken it in for routine service a BMW salesman or two has tried to sell them a sedan.

As mentioned, when he first bought the car, Wolk was interested in its styling, not its history. While the car was on display at the Ford headquarters in connection with their ’03 centennial, an older gentleman approached Wolk and told him that the workmanship was Hess & Eisenhardts. That piqued his curiosity and Wolk started looking into his car’s background. Eventually a long retired shop manager for the conversion company was located and he remembered the processes involved in making the car, down to markings on the modifications that verified that Wolk’s car was the same vehicle. Other former H&E employees have concurred that Wolk’s car is the first Mark II convertible.

Like with many 1950s cars, Ford got clever with the exhaust tips and fuel filler. Those are Wolk’s blue jeans reflecting in the chrome’s shinier-than-mirrored finish.

Since then Barry Wolk has become a bit of an expert on the Continental Mark II. You can read his account of the car’s history here, with some additional materials here. Or you can just search for [continental wolk]. Barry’s rather proud of his cars.

It’s tasteful but the Mark II brings the bling. That ashtray (remember ashtrays?) is for rear passengers. Front passengers had their own lighters but used an ashtray mounted on the dash. Today they’d say the car has 5 power ports.

Wolk’s car is beautifully restored and a show winner. Of course with two frame off restorations in less than 80,000 miles, it should look good. Flawless doesn’t do the car justice. The beautiful not-quite-dark-blue paint shows off the car’s contours exceptionally well and looks like it’s about a quarter of an inch thick. The fit and finish is the equivalent of any of today’s ultra luxury marques, not surprisingly because the Mark II indeed cost as much as a Rolls-Royce when new (about the cost of two Cadillacs or three Thunderbirds). The brightwork on the car is jewellike. The combined effect of the blue paint and silvery chrome is visually arresting. No gold plated blingmobile ever looked this good. The quality of the car’s finishes is such that in processing the photos for here and for the more extensive gallery at Cars In Depth I had to leave out some photos because the paint and chrome picked up clear reflections of some chubby redheaded dork in shorts, white socks and black loafers wearing a TTAC cap. Actually, you can see Wolk’s own blue jeans in a couple of the shots.

The owner of the three Ford family Mark IIs joked on My Classic Car that the car has 150 lbs of chrome in the plating. That may not be an exaggeration. To begin with, though brightwork is used tastefully on the car, it’s all over the place. The door jams have chrome plated panels on both the door and the striker plate. All the hardware for the door, including the latch mechanism, is chromed. Ford even had stainless steel trim polished and then chrome plated. The grille with tiny egg crating is also chrome plated, as are rings inside the frenched headllamps. The only exterior brightwork that isn’t chromed are the satin finished aluminum hubcaps, the matte finish being set off from the chrome and having some contrast from all that shiny stuff that looks just right. If the paint looks 1/4″ thick, the chrome on the grille and bumpers must be 1/2″ thick. All that blue and chrome is set off by an interior in blue and white leather upholstery.

All the door hardware was chrome plated from the factory.

I didn’t want to be rude and ask how much his own car is worth but Wolk said that Mark IIs are surprisingly affordable, that $80,000 will buy you a show winner and for the cost of a modern family sedan you can get a nice driver. One reason for their relatively low cost is that they aren’t that rare. Though Ford only made about 4,000, about half still exist, about the same percentage of Corvettes made, and most Corvettes weren’t made 55 years ago nor do their fiberglass bodies rust. The surviving Mark IIs’ longevity has to be at least in part due to the care with which the Continentals were assembled. The cars, including the drivetrains, were pretty much hand made. Something like seven coats of topcoat paint were used. The engines were essentially blueprinted, with hand picked and balanced parts. The brake drums were carefully balanced in sets. All that care resulted in cars that were pretty durable. As rare and as perfect as it is, it’s no trailer queen. Wolk drives it to car events and meets, putting about 2,000 miles a year on it. Wolk said that the car has only stranded him once, when an a/c compressor failed, seized and melted a fan belt. Another factor in their affordable collector value (well, for hardtop Mark IIs) is that restoration costs are kept in check by the Mark II’s use of mechanical components from the bigger selling Lincolns. That may also explain why so many of the Mark IIs are drivers, not museum pieces.

The a/c components had to be moved for the roof mechanism, so between that and the “continental” spare tire, there’s just enough room for a car show’s worth of folding chairs and car care products.

Getting paid to write about cars is a cool gig, no doubt. You get media access to things not open to the general public, you get to meet top shelf car guys, you get to drive a variety of cool cars for free, and you rarely pay to get into any car related event. Sometimes, though, the sense that you are being privileged is palpable. It’s trite to use it for an inanimate object like a car, but while taking these photos I had the feeling of being in the presence of greatness, like seeing the Hope Diamond. The Mark II may be an inanimate object but it sprang from the imaginations of some pretty creative people, with one objective, to make the best with no compromises. Though they met that objective, the Mark II wasn’t a commercial success. After initial sales that were far far better than expected, the big recession of 1957 cut sales by almost 90% and after only two years the Mark II ws discontinued and the new Continental Division, started just for the Mark II (though planned for more models like a four door version), was shuttered. The short line on the Continental Mark II is that Ford Motor Co. lost $1,000 on every $10,000 Mark II. Actually, that would have been less than half a million dollars, not a huge sum even back in 1957. After all, Ford was about to lose something like $200 million on the Edsel. Most likely that $1,000 doesn’t include the costs of setting up an entirely new division. At the very least, the Mark II was successful in baiting General Motors into selling an even more extravagantly priced Cadillac, the $13,074 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.  Still, the Mark II was a landmark design and the convertible version is a concrete example of what could have been.

The Mark II sits next to another of Barry Wolk’s Continentals

A note about Look At What I Found! I’m not sure if there’s a rulebook and I haven’t asked Murilee or Paul N. about what’s proper, but unlike other cars in this series I didn’t just happen upon the H&E Mark II convertible. I had written another LAWIF! about a late 1970s Lincoln Continental Town Coupe and have recently posted, on Cars In Depth, some classic prewar Lincolns and Mark IIs that I’d seen at local car shows, and had been researching the Mark II when I found out about the car.

Another Continental. Porsche importer Max Hoffman didn’t think Americans would buy cars without names so for about a year, the 356 was sold in the US as the Porsche Continental… until Ford complained because they were about to revive the name for the Mark II.

When I realized this car was located in the Detroit area I started to search to see if I could find a contact email address for Mr. Wolk. It’s a small world. On his Facebook page it said that we had a Facebook friend in common, my younger sister. My nephew is getting married next weekend and I did some embroidery for the chuppah, so I’ve been on the phone a bit with my sister. I asked her how she knew Barry and she told me that he’s a cousin by marriage. The world is smaller yet. It so happens that his wife and my mom are second cousins. Normally I’d be a little reluctant to just call a private collector up and ask to shoot his or her car, but how could mishpacha refuse? Besides, to say that Barry is proud of his car would be to grossly underestimate his affection for the car. When I asked, he told me that he loved having the car photographed, and a moment’s searching on the internet will show that he’s made the car available for both photo and video shoots. When I got to their home, the Wolks had already put the car on the drive. Their garden and landscaping was in full midsummer bloom and Barry had suggested that it made a great backdrop. It was a beautiful Michigan day and he was right. I’m hardly a skilled photographer, but with a subject like Wolk’s Mark II convertible, it’s hard to take a bad shot. The car simply has no bad angles.

Yet another Continental, this one a near original ’56 Chris Craft. Wolk bought it as a “prop” for his Mark II but now is getting into wooden boats. Even when the garden isn’t in bloom, the Continental looks great.

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Look What I Found: The Topless Topless Golf Sat, 11 Jun 2011 14:08:18 +0000

While walking down memory lane to the dark days of diesel, I came across this gem in the archives of the Volkswagen History Department: The prototype of the first Golf Convertible. It was developed and produced by Karmann in Osnabrück. The company went bankrupt. Volkswagen bought Karmann, and inherited this find.

This convertible had no roll-over bar. The shape of the windshield and the trunk lid were changed before the car went in series. The convertible was based on the Golf Mk I.  In 1993, a new convertible was built, based on the Mk III Golf.  2002 was the end of the open air season.

This year, a new Golf Convertible, based on the Golf Mk VI, will follow.

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Look At What I Found!: Avanti II Sat, 04 Jun 2011 19:34:14 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

You find unusual cars down on the street, stored off of the street, parked by by the curbside, ready for the crusher at a junkyard, or sometimes even abandoned in Brooklyn or Qatar. I first noticed this Avanti II while I was taking my mom to physical therapy. She broke her wrist and until she had recovered enough hand strength to take the shifter out of park I was given the task of driving Miss Peshie (Mom’s Yiddish name). My intention was to drop her off at the clinic and then attend the funeral for my cousin’s mechutan. When I passed the Avanti I was little disappointed. I’ve tried to get in the habit of taking my cameras with me most places that I go so I can seize the opportunity when I find a car worthy of note. I had my camera bag with me but there was no way I could shoot the Avanti while we were both driving in traffic. When I got to the cemetery, though, I noticed that the Avanti driver was also paying his respects.

For a second I considered the propriety of the situation but I realized it wouldn’t be the first time that I photographed a car at a marble orchard so I got out my 3D rig. The car looked to be in pristine condition, with smooth and straight body panels, and flawless paint. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner, but from the condition of the 30+ year old car, my guess is that it’s either been restored or babied since new.

This was an Avanti II, one of the continuation series made by South Bend Studebaker dealer Nate Altman. Altman never made more than a few hundred cars a year so Avanti IIs are pretty rare.  In 1964, after Studebaker stopped US production (they continued to build cars in Canada until 1966), Altman and his partner Leo Newman bought the tooling for the fiberglass sports tourer and six buildings in Studebaker’s South Bend complex plant to keep the car in production.

Nate Altman, the Studebaker dealer who saved the Avanti, with Raymond Loewy, whose studio designed it

Since the car was essentially handmade, Altman gave customers the option of a virtually unlimited choice of interior trims and fabrics. Such bespoke treatment is now commonplace at high end companies like Ferrari and Bentley, but Altman appears to have pioneered that service.

Altman died suddenly in 1976 and Newman died in 1980. Altman’s brother Arnold sold the business to Stephen Blake in 1982. Blake era Avantis dropped the II, and incorporated body color bumpers and rectangular headlamps, so this is clearly an Altman era Avanti II, with chromed bumpers and Avanti II badging.

The original Avanti was the product of Raymond Loewy’s studio, based on a “doodle” by Studebaker chief Sherwood Egbert, who wanted a sporty coupe to use as what we’d now call a halo car for Studebaker’s boring and fading product line.

Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews and John Ebstein’s original design for the Avanti was so successful that the car’s shape has survived a series of owners.

Michael Kelly bought the company after Blake ran into financial problems, moved production to Youngstown, Ohio and made radical changes, effectively making the new Avanti a rebodied Chevy Monte Carlo. Later versions would use a Ford Mustang platform. Kelly would sell the company in the late 1990s, then reacquire it some years later, making a big publicity splash announcing that production and corporate headquarters were relocating to Cancun, Mexico. Kelly was arrested and charged with securities fraud in late 2006. Though the Avanti Motors web site is still operating, their US phone number has been disconnected and it appears that the company is currently defunct. It’s interesting that though they’ve abandoned all of their other trademarks, Avanti Motor Corporation maintains their trademark registration on the Avanti logo and its use with cars. I think it’s a good bet that if there’s a market for perverse Packards then someone will eventually buy the rights to make some kind of replica of one of the most original car designs ever. If that doesn’t happen I expect the Studebaker museum to try and acquire the logo, as they’ve done with the Studebaker log and as the Packard club and foundation have done similarly with Packard trademarks.

Either way the Avanti is a stunning piece of design, unusual and attractive at the same time. It invariably ends up on lists of the most beautiful cars ever made (usually sharing the list with at least one other Stude, the ’53 Starliner coupe, and sometimes the ’48 bullet nose). It’s among the most distinctive car designs ever, as instantly recognizable as an XKE or a ’67 Vette. The E-Type and Sting Ray, to my eyes, though, are evocative of the 1960s, their styles declaring their eras just as surely as deuce coupes evoke the early 1930s. There is a reason why the original Avanti body styling stayed in production for two and a half decades, and that the original Avanti’s styling language was the brand’s raison d’etre with subsequent owners.  If ever the word “timeless” applied to a car, it applies perfectly to the Avanti.

If you have 3D capabilities, you can see this Avanti II in stereo at Cars In Depth.

For a more complete look at the history of the Avanti, both at Studebaker and beyond, see Aaron Severson’s usual fine job at Ate Up With Motor.

IMG_0029 IMG_0016 IMG_0017 IMG_0018 IMG_0019 IMG_0021 IMG_0022 IMG_0023 IMG_0024 IMG_0025 IMG_0026 IMG_0027 IMG_0028 IMG_0028a IMG_0029 Nate Altman, the Studebaker dealer who saved the Avanti, with Raymond Loewy, whose studio designed it natealtman Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 31
Corvette Clip Out On The Urban Prairie Fri, 06 May 2011 20:25:56 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

As a Detroiter I hate ruin porn. I particularly hate it when lazy journalists, bloggers, editors and video crews shoot photos or video, or worse, use stock footage and pics, of the Michigan Central Station and the old Packard plant. So I’m a little reluctant to share these photos that I shot just south of State Fair, east of Woodward. Ultimately, the photos were just too good, so emblematic of Detroit’s decay, that I had to share them. Also, it’s an opportunity to share some hope about the city.

I was coming back from Detroit’s east side headed to Woodlawn Cemetery to shoot some photos of the Dodge Brother’s tomb. Woodlawn is on Woodward across the street from the State Fair Grounds just south of the city limits at Eight Mile Road. My dad’s veterinary hospital was on Woodward just north of Seven Mile Road which meant it was more or less on my path. For some reason I decided to cut through the streets just off of Woodward, behind where my father’s clinic was (and where Dr. Francis, a nice Iraqi Chaldean who interned under my dad still practices). I was maybe two blocks east of Woodward and a block or so south of State Fair, at Bauman and Adeline which is only 1/2 mile south of Eight Mile. I had no idea that urban prairie had spread so close to the city limits.

This is what happens when a city loses 60% or more of its population.

I spotted this rear clip from what appears to be a 1980s Corvette sitting at the curb. I generally abhor ruin porn. I visited the Packard plant ruin not long ago and I just couldn’t bring myself to shoot any 3D there, but the Corvette has such a distinctive shape and the fraction of a car looked so incongruous and forlorn that I stopped to take some photos. Is there are more identifiable automotive body part than the rear clip to a ‘Vette? A broken and shattered symbol of Detroit muscle, characterized by the Corvette’s rear haunches, sits amidst empty lots and vandalized buildings.

I’m glad I stopped to take the photos, though, and not just because of some cliched images of the bottoming out Motor City. While I was taking these photos, I noticed what looked like a carnival of sorts behind a fence surrounding a cluster of remaining homes on State Fair and Adeline. You can see it in the background of the photo above. It turns out that some urban homesteaders are trying to make a stand, buying and rehabbing properties, and running a large annual Halloween event that has gained legendary status in the Detroit area, the Theater Bizarre. I stopped to speak to Ken Poirier who owns most of the properties and builds the sets for the show. There’s an abandoned elementary school on the carner of Bauman and State Fair. Poirier told me that only 10 years ago the city had spent millions renovating the school. Now, it’s slowly being gutted by strippers and scrappers.

Still Poirier has set down roots in the neighborhood and he and his merry band of artists and other creative folks are staying for the long haul. One would think that the city would appreciate people moving into the area and creating economic activity, bringing suburbanites and city dwellers together. Theater Bizarre has helped stabilize a rotting neighborhood and has grown from year to year. In 2008 it was 1,700 and in 2009 2,200 attended, costume required. Last year they sold 3,000 tickets at $65 a pop and that’s when the bureaucrats stepped in.

Understand that this is a labor of love more than profit. Theater Bizarre breaks even, and then only because there are volunteers who work hard to put on what is a truly a professional show with literally hundreds of entertainers. Still, bureaucrats and regulators will do what bureaucrats and regulators are want to do. Fire marshals shut down the 2010 event before it happened.

Speaking to the Detroit News at the time, Poirier explained “The fire marshal came down today and disliked everything, everything. Also, we are in a residential area and you can’t have something like this in a residential area.”

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s spokesperson Karen Dumas told the Detroit Free Press, “There are codes and requirements that the city must respect and enforce. We encourage those who wish to present events and activities to do the same.”

The event was moved to Detroit’s Fillmore, but it wasn’t the same.

When I spoke to Poirier a few weeks ago he was hopeful that they’d be able to get all the required permits for Halloween 2011. He’s a good neighbor. The remaining original occupants of nearby buildings love him and attend Detroit’s best Halloween party and spook show. Poirier’s properties may be surrounded by a tall fence but he’s not insulating himself. The fences are just to provide security and a sense of safety to the annual revelers. Poirier does his bit to clean up outside his fence. The tires you see near the Corvette clip are there because he put them there, collecting them from around the neighborhood, where dumpers had left them. In that sense the photos have been staged, but once you know the story what at first appears to be a sign of decay is actually the first green shoots of new growth.

You can see the photos in your choice of 3D formats at Cars In Depth.

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Look At What I Found!: Packards Return to the Packard Proving Grounds Test Track – w/ Video Fri, 06 May 2011 19:04:57 +0000
Start the video, then pause. Click on the “3D” icon on the YouTube menu bar to select your choice of 3D formats or 2D. Video and original photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

We’ve all seen too many pictures and videos of the magnificent ruin that was once the Packard plant on Detroit’s east side. It turns out that there’s a Packard site in the Detroit area that’s not a ruin, the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Twp. about 15 miles north of Eight Mile Road. Like the Packard plant on East Grand Blvd, Albert Kahn designed all the original Packard buildings on the proving grounds site, including a tudorish looking lodge where the facility’s manager and his family lived. It may be the only place where Kahn designed both residential and industrial buildings. It was built in 1927 at a cost of over a million dollars. Packard used the facility to develop and test their cars, aviation engines (there was a small airfield inside the big oval track – Charles Lindbergh visited the site), and also for publicity and marketing. The proving grounds even had a role in the Arsenal of Democracy. Chrysler used the facility during WWII to test Sherman tanks, erecting a building used to service the tanks that were tested inside the paved oval.

Additional video after the jump.

After Packard folded, the property passed into the hands of Ford. Packard had operated an engine and transmission factory on the north side of the facility, on 23 Mile Rd, where they developed and built the Ultramatic. That site became a Ford facility which now belongs to Visteon. Ford used the proving grounds buildings for storage. Eventually Ford Land started to develop the proving grounds site. There is a condo complex just south of the proving grounds buildings, that sits over part of the test track’s path but for the most part the site was unmolested, though slightly decaying.

A view from inside the restored timing shed at the remains of the test track.

Most of the 2.5 mile high speed oval was still intact until a few years ago when a trespassing hot rodder put his car off the track. Out of liability concerns, Ford Land tore up most of the track. Just the 458 feet immediately adjacent to the timing shed and Packard’s original tree lined driveways remains. That part of the track’s metal safety barrier also remains. The driveways lead from the entrance of the site past the lodge and other buildings out to the track.

The site’s original block and stone walls, stone gate posts, and ornamental iron gates and arches are intact, as is the proving ground’s period perfect water tower with its Packard script logo.

Fortunately for the marque, Packards have always been owned by wealthy folks. The Packard community got mobilized when they found out about Ford wanting to develop the site, kept up enough pressure and eventually the Packard Motor Car Foundation paid $7 million for the site. Ford Land then donated about the same amount of land for a total of about 14 acres. The foundation has started restoring the site, spending about $1 million on new slate roofs for the lodge & repair garage.

The trees have been replanted along the driveways and they have full time employees managing the site. The original timing shed has been mostly restored too. Essentially all the original buildings remain and are in restorable condition, including the “Lindbergh” airplane hanger which was moved to the foundation’s property from elsewhere on the site. The foundation also bought one of the Packard plant’s facades that the building’s owner had put up for auction and it will be on display when the foundation’s planned museum, to be constructed in the repair garage and engineering buildings, is completed. The lodge houses a nascent Packard research center and archive. The Packard Motor Car Foundation appears to be doing this right.

The facility has a few events every year, open houses in the spring and fall and a big car show in the summer. The spring open house was on Sunday, May 1, 2011 and I was able to hitch a ride out there in a ’48 Packard. There were about 3 dozen Packards including an absolutely spectacular red 1933 dual cowl phaeton. There were two postwar woody wagons, and a nice ’48 convertible owned by a Detroit area Chrysler-Fiat dealer. His store was one of the event sponsors so he also had a new Chrysler 300, 200 convertible (not a bad looking car with the top down but no Packard), and a Fiat 500 on display, away from the Packards.

Among the Packards that stood out.. wait, any Packard stands out, but the ones that most impressed me besides the ’33 were a beautiful blue prewar convertible coupe, a cream colored ’42 convertible and a black ’47 limo that was very long. There were also a couple of very clean woody wagons.

How long was the limo? Well, I shoot everything in 3D now and when you are doing stereo photography, there is one rule that you must obey if you don’t want people to complain about their eyes bleeding (just kidding, but it’s the most important rule). That’s the 1 to 30 rule. You can’t be closer to the subject that you are shooting than 30 times the distance between the two camera lenses. Put your arm out and hold up a finger. Now bring it towards you and touch your nose. At some point, you can’t cross your eyes enough to keep a single 3D image in your brain. Because current 3D camera rigs are not yet as adjustable as the human vision system it’s an important rule to follow. You can move the lenses in closer together, but that reduces the stereo quality. So when I’m framing a photo or video, I’m used to stepping back. One time while stepping back, at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, I ended up (or down) falling into an exhibit holding a 1915 Dodge Brothers’ touring car. Shooting the 1947 Packard limousine in one of the proving grounds buildings I first stepped back. Then when I saw that it wasn’t in the frame of both cameras, I went back another step or two. Still not enough. The ’47 limo, with a body made by Henney on one of Packard’s professional car (ambulance, hearse) chassis, has a 148″ wheelbase.

The Johnny Trudell big band played jazz in the repair garage and in addition to the cars outside there were cars and displays inside the garage and engineering building, and the Chrysler building. The lodge’s garage houses the facility’s gift shop and there were also other vendors and displays located there and elsewhere on the site. You could take a self guided tour through the lodge.

Some of the Packards were in show condition, others original. As a writer, I could get an article out of just the hood ornaments. I don’t know how big the crowd was, but the event was well attended.

One cool thing loaned to the site is a Packard chassis & drivetrain used as a showroom display in 1956. Also there is the original “towing dynamometer” that Packard built into a sedan so they could measure power out on the road. Allegedly General Motors once borrowed it, and it’s an important piece of automotive history. It’s in rough shape but a sign said that it’s “ready for restoration”.

Oh, and there was a boat. A big and fast boat. Gar Wood’s famous racer, the Miss America X, with four supercharged Packard V12s.

Photo:Packard Motor Car Foundation – 2009 Spring Open House

There were Packard engines on display, including marine and military applications.

In addition to the Packard stuff there were 100-200 other special interest cars most of which were pretty nice. Someone brought a Mercury Comet GT – a Maverick clone in Grabber Blue with a 302 V8. It was sitting next to a Dodge SRT10 pickup.

What the Packard foundation is doing is a great thing. People should know about it. When I got access to the GM Heritage Center back in February to shoot 3D for Cars In Depth, since I was already not far from the facility, I drove up to the proving grounds to get some pictures of the site in the snow.

A few weeks ago, I was walking out of Durst Lumber in Berkley and there was a ’48 Packard in the lot. The guy who owns it is a retired guy, Art Kirsh, who lives a half mile from me. He asked me if I was a “landsman”, and we started to talk, resulting in the Look At What I Found! about his car. I asked if he was going to the spring open house at the proving grounds and he graciously offered me a lift to the event in his car. Art is active in the Packard community, driving to most events in the midwest. Most of the other Packards there were also driven to the event. Art said that only a couple of them were trailered in. In this case, though, the trailer queens were true automotive royalty. Art’s ’48 is a fairly nice riding vehicle for a 63 year old car. He was able to keep up with traffic on the freeways, though Art kept it in the right lane. He said that he’s gotten it up to 85 before with no problems. It had a very smooth ride, but then it weighs almost two and a half tons. Not as steady as a modern car for sure but smoother than most modern cars today that are not luxury models. There was a noise in the dash when the car braked, with Art said was new and jokingly said must be a mouse in the heater. He also might want to get something checked in the front right suspension, because there was also a noise when making left turns. Back then you had to lubricate the suspension and chassis on a regular basis or bad things would happen.

A couple of owners were giving folks rides out on the test track in their Packards. There was a sign that said “Packard Taxi Stand”. I don’t know how many Packards were used for taxis, but as mentioned above, they did sell professional cars. I think one car giving rides was a ’39, not that much different from Clemenza’s Super Eight where Rocco Lampone made his bones by clipping Paulie Gatto. The other Packard on the test track was late 20s. I had my 3D video rig and it would have been stupid for me to not get video of the old Packards returning to the test track.

The word return might be historically accurate. In addition to using the test track and the mostly unpaved “torture track” on the site’s southwest side to develop Packard products, the facility was also used for quality control, with production models being taken off the line at random and being subjected to 25,000 miles of testing at the proving grounds. Packard promoted that QC testing in a brochure you can see in the photo gallery. According to that brochure, every V12 powered production Packard was tested at the proving grounds. That means that it’s very possible that this wasn’t the first time these particular Packards were on the test track. In any case, I was fortunate to get video of both vintage Packards on the Packard Proving Grounds test track, or on what remains of it. The track is wide enough that both drivers were able to enter the track near the timing shed, drive to the far end of what remains, make a U-turn and come back and exit via the drive on the other side of the timing shed.

Leon Duray and Norm Batton on the banking getting ready to exit the fourth turn of the 2.5 mile oval track in 1928. The view is looking towards the east northeast. You can see the water tower in the distance behind the track’s banking. The water tower is still there but there’s a condominium complex where this part of the track stood.

The guy driving the ’39, named Marvin, knew I was there to shoot 3D. I guess Marvin’s a bit of a showman. To celebrate his Godfather looking car, there’s a fake human arm, caught in the trunk lid. For all I know it might be the car from the movie. After all, Clemenza told Rocco to take the canoli and leave the car. Marvin started to show off for the cameras, taking an extra loop around the timing shed and then returning to the track for a figure eight, finally accelerating as he turned past me off the track and up the driveway. It was nice of him to put on a show like that because after the processing, the 3D was as good as I’ve been able to get so far with video. If you don’t have 3D, don’t worry, the YouTube 3D player will display 2D with a few clicks, and that’s plenty cool, but it’s worth scrounging up even some cheap red/blue glasses to watch in 3D.

I took about 70 still shots of the Packards, the buildings and the assorted Packard memorabilia. You can see the full gallery in 2D or 3D at Cars In Depth. I would have been able to get more but when you’re shooting 3D, all the photographers come up and ask you questions about shooting in stereo. That’s how you know they’re photographers, regular folks say 3D. That and the fact that they have three different cameras hanging off their necks.

I’ve also uploaded a gallery of historic black and white photographs of the construction and use of the Packard Proving Grounds. The photos are from the collection at the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library, the world’s largest public automotive archive. There are also a couple of shots of Gar Wood at the wheel of Miss America X and the aforementioned Packard brochure about the proving grounds. You can find them in the gallery below the second video.

The Packard foundation and club people are great car people. Friendly, willing to share whatever they know about their cars and justifiably proud of the marque and what they are accomplishing in preserving its history. If you’re in the Detroit area, pay the proving grounds a visit. Their next public event is Sunday, June 12, 2011, the Cars ‘R’ Stars Concours and swap meet.

Start the video, then pause. Click on the “3D” icon on the YouTube menu bar to select your choice of 3D formats or 2D. Video courtesy of Cars In Depth

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Look At What I Found!: 1903 Columbus Electric – Charging Forward Into the Past Sun, 01 May 2011 14:24:01 +0000

1903 Columbus Electric Model 1000 on display at the 2011 SAE World Congress. From the collection of Peter Fawcett.

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

The theme of this year’s SAE World Congress was “Charging Forward Together”. In case you haven’t noticed the electrification of the automobile industry, to make the phrase even more obvious the logo includes an electric plug. Keeping with that theme the automotive engineers’ professional association put a couple of early electric cars on display, a 1915 Detroit Electric and a 1903 Columbus Electric.

This is not the first time gasoline and diesel’s primacy as a transportation fuel was challenged. In the horseless carriage days, internal combustion, steam and electricity vied almost equally for early motorists’ cash. Each had its advocates, each had its detractors. Gasoline powered cars were difficult to start. The upper body strength needed to hand crank a gasoline engine meant many women could not drive on their own. In 1903, gasoline engines were not particularly refined, nor reliable. They were noisy, smelly and leaked oil. You had to adjust settings just to get the car to start and then to run, as well as operate the steering, brakes and transmission.

In 1903 the Columbus Buggy Co. of Columbus, Ohio, perhaps recognizing the end of the horse age, started to make automobiles and put its money on electric power. Electric cars were much easier to start and operate than gasoline cars., and at that point in time, electrical technology was probably more advanced and more reliable than internal combustion engines. The controls on electric cars were much simpler, they were quiet and with only few moving parts compared to a gas motor, they were reliable. The only drawback to electric cars was range. A century later little has changed.

The 1903 Columbus Electric could keep up in whatever traffic there was at the turn of the 20th century, with a top speed of 21 mile per hour and a range of 72 miles per charge. I haven’t been able to find out how long it took to recharge them, but they came equipped with Excide lead-acid batteries so the didn’t recharge quickly. Then as now, EV manufacturers highlighted their strong points, Columbus advertisements would  tout “The Car Supreme” as “Noiseless Clean Simple and Odorless”. In a manner reminiscent of how the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are being marketed, the Columbus Electric was being marketed as using technology appropriate for the many short trips that people take. A century before urban EVs started reappearing, the Columbus Electric was promoted as a true “town car” to distinguish it from the more powerful “touring cars” suitable for long distance driving. Back then those terms actually meant something and weren’t just trim packages.

Simplicity of operation was a major selling point, and the Columbus Electric apparently made things even simpler. There was a tiller to steer and a single lever that controlled speed and apparently some kind of electrical or mechanical brakes. There were no foot pedals. Moving the lever forward sequentially connected more batteries in series. The motor was connected to the solid rear axle via two chain drives, so I assume there was some kind of differential mechanism.

It appears that the primary market for early electrics was women. Columbus ads were specifically targeted at women. One ad pictures a woman at the tiller and describes the EV as a car “you can drive yourself”. Another ad mentions a “well dressed” woman’s distress at the thought of having to take the street car home from the theater. A third describes the Columbus Electric as “the town car for all the family” and says that it will “give all the service a man can ask, yet it is so simply constructed, so easily controlled, that a woman or even a child can run it safely.”


Both Clara Ford and Helen Newberry Joy, the wives of the men who ran Ford Motor Co. and Packard Motor Cars, owned and drove Detroit Electrics.

When I first started researching the EVs on display at the SAE congress I though the Detroit Electric would be more interesting, since it was the most successful early electric. By 1915, though, electric car sales had already peaked and had started declining as gasoline cars got more reliable. The Columbus Buggy Company was no longer in business making electric cars. That year Charles Kettering was granted a patent on the electric self starter, removing that particular barrier to women driving gasoline powered cars. Women eventually saw the noise and smell as the price to pay for power and range.

It turns out, though, that Columbus Electric car had a seminal role in the development on the automobile industry in that its manufacturer employed two people who themselves would later have important roles in car history, Eddie Rickenbacker and Harvey Firestone.

The founder of Columbus Buggy was Clinton D. Firestone. He hired a young relative, Harvey, after the younger Firestone graduated from high school. A few years later, in 1890, Harvey Firestone would start the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company  to supply the buggy industry. This was the height of the buggy industry and Columbus was one of the centers of that industry, along with Flint, Michigan. It’s interesting that while “buggy whip manufacturer” is a term for an industry that doesn’t recognize that it was being made obsolete, many in the buggy and carriage industries sensed the winds of change. Billy Durant in Flint and Harvey Firestone in Ohio were not the only men in the carriage trade who avoided becoming “buggy whip manufacturers”.

Rickenbacker had a storybook life with many acts. He was born and raised in Columbus and would go on to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor as an ace flying in World War One, own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for two decades and found Eastern Airlines. He also launched the  Rickenbacker Motor Company, with automotive veterans Byron F. Everitt, Harry Cunningham and Walter Flanders. Rickenbacker cars pioneered four wheel brakes. If that wasn’t enough, before the war he was a famous test driver, race car driver and mechanic. Rickenbacker went to work at a young age when his father died. After stints working for a railroad and an automotive repair garage and finding that he had an aptitude for cars, Rickenbacker took a correspondence course in mechanical engineering. That eventually led to a job in 1907 as a test driver and mechanic with the Columbus Buggy Company. As mentioned, electrics’ potential had not born fruit. Columbus had hedged their bets, producing cars with both electric and gasoline power by the end of the decade. Eddie entered his first race in 1910, while working as the company’s midwest sales manager. Gaining experience, Rickenbacker entered a factory backed stripped down Firestone-Columbus in the 1912 Indy 500, though he left the Columbus company later that year to become a professional driver. It’s not clear if the company’s financial situation was a factor, but it did go out of business the following year in 1913. Rickenbacker’s talent was noticed by the Duesenberg brothers and he raced for them in the 1914 Indy 500, finishing 10th, his best finish out of four starts. His association with Columbus Buggy Co. would become just a footnote in a magnificently illustrious life, just as much as the Columbus Electric has become a relative footnote in automotive history. Concerning footnotes, you must remember that even footnotes are obviously worthy of note.

Here’s video of Eddie Rickenbacker exhibition racing a Duesenberg against a barnstorming pilot around an oval track.

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Look At What I Found!: 1948 Packard Eight – Ask The Man Who Owns One Sun, 17 Apr 2011 14:40:59 +0000 Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

You never know what you’re going to see. I’ve been trying to get in the habit of taking the camera bag for my 3D rigs with me when I go out and about so that I don’t miss capturing the neat old vehicles that I happen across. Just last week there was an impossible-not-to-notice canary yellow 1972 Lincoln Continental that shoulda woulda coulda been posted here but the cameras were at home. So when I walked out of Durst Lumber after picking up a tripod nut for my video rig and saw a very clean, very black Buick Grand National, I was glad that I had the cameras in hand. That’s when I realized that as unique as the Grand National was in its malaise era day and as cool as it is today, there was something far more worthy of note just a few parking spaces away.

This originally equipped 1948 Packard Eight survivor is on only its third owner and has just 40,000 miles on the clock. Other than the tires, fluids, filters, belts and hoses, everything is original – nothing’s been rebuilt. All it takes is a walk around the stately exterior and a peak into the elegantly appointed interior and it’s easy to understand that while Cadillac may have been the standard of the world, Packard was America’s ultimate aspirational car. Packards were what truly wealthy people drove.

The original purchaser bought the car for his wife. She put 38,000 miles on the car, using it to go shopping or to the club. Her estate sold it to a collector who turned it into a trailer queen. The current owner, though, drives it regularly enough to keep it in good running condition.  He’d just taken it out of storage and had used it to pick up some hardware. The exterior isn’t perfect, there are some touched up scratches in the original maroon paint, but the body is in remarkable shape for a car that has spent almost 60 years in Michigan. For a non show car, the body panels are very straight – a tribute to the quality of work that Packard demanded from Briggs, who supplied their bodies. Every piece of chrome glistened in the early spring sunlight. The interior is flawless, except for some frayed upholstery on the driver’s side near the bottom of the seat. My guess is that the wear is from the fine coat of the matron who originally drove this luxury automobile. The finish and quality of the wood trim inside the car would not look out of place in a modern British luxury car like Bentley or Aston Martin.

One of the ironies about Packard is their carriage trade customer base, then and now. Packard went broke selling cars to wealthy people. Rich folks drove Packards and after the marque’s demise in the late 1950s, rich folks continued to collect Packards. In particular, the prewar Packards today are among the most valuable classic American cars there are, with restored models easily fetching six and seven figure prices. The marque’s mystique continues. When respected Packard restorer Fran Roxas tried making his first custom with the Strother Macminn penned “Myth“, right out of the box it was a Ridler Award Great Eight finalist at the 2010 Detroit Autorama and last August it sold for $407,000 at auction.

So though the marque is defunct, Packard collectors have the means to keep their cars running and in good condition. They also have the means to preserve the marque’s history.

Albert Kahn’s 1907 facade of the factory that built this car. The Packard Museum now owns this architectural artifact.

The entrance executives used is now in the possession of the Packard Motor Car Foundation


Though the old Packard plant on East Grand Blvd is a clichéd symbol of Detroit’s ruin, the factory’s two famous limestone facades have been saved by Dayton’s Packard Museum and by the Packard Motor Car Foundation. The Museum paid $161,000 at auction for their remnant in 2008, and crews subsequently removed it for eventual reassembly in Ohio.  The foundation plans on eventually displaying the other edifice at the Packard Proving Grounds, in suburban Detroit, which the foundation owns and is restoring.

The car’s current owner, Art, is an active member of the Packard owners club and the car is regularly driven to Packard meets. As a matter of fact, when I asked him if he’s planning on going to the spring open house at the Packard Proving Grounds on May 1, he offered me a ride there in this car.

It’s not the easiest car to drive. Today we measure luxury by the number and kinds of toys a car has. In 1948, luxury was more about quality construction. Though Packard had introduced air conditioning by the time this car was made, the only luxury equipment on this model was a heater, radio and vacuum operated windshield wipers. No power steering, no power brakes, not even an automatic transmission. Packard would not introduce the Ultramatic transmission for another year. This straight eight powered car has a “three on the tree”, a 3 speed shifter on the steering column, along with overdrive that is engaged by pressing on the clutch pedal at highway speeds.

Note: That’s not a loudspeaker on the kick panel, it’s an air vent. Familiar to drivers of pre 1970s cars.

It’s also a large car. It towered over all the other sedans in the parking lot and must stand at least 5 feet tall. No Ford GT40 for sure. It was about as tall as the Volvo XC90 SUV and even taller than the Dodge Dakota pickup parked near it.

The 1948 was the first true postwar Packard, though it was not a clean sheet design and it was based on the prewar Clipper. Designers tried to blend the Clipper’s 1930s style separate fenders into the hood and trunk for a more modern look, and while the results are not entirely unattractive, the “bathtub” Packards have a bloated look. They still had the Clipper’s 1930s vintage C pillar and they were significantly heavier than the Clipper. Trying to save money, Packard ended up spending as much developing the Twenty-Second Series Packard  as they would have had they started from scratch. Still, the ’48 Packard had a new enough look to be a success, selling almost 100,000 units, about double Cadillac’s sales that year. It was to be a high water mark, never again to be reached. The ’48 Cadillac, introduced in the spring of 1948, was a landmark car, the car that started the tail fin era. Despite the restyling, the Packard’s prewar heritage was obvious and soon looked dated compared to the P-38 inspired Caddy. Cadillac would go on to go from strength to strength, introducing its OHV V8 in 1949, a move that the increasingly financially strapped Packard could not match until 1955. Soon Packard’s circumstances would be so reduced that they were forced to merge with Studebaker. Not much later the oldest luxury marque in America disappeared.

For more information on the postwar Packards, you can check out TTAC’s Curbside Classics on the 1946 and 1951 Packards, as well as Aaron Severson’s usual fine job at Ate Up With Motor covering the history of Packard’s declining years.

You can see a full gallery of photos in your choice of 3D formats or 2D at Cars In Depth, along with video I shot of the old Packard gliding smoothly down the street.

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