The Truth About Cars » Eyes On Design The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:00:24 +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 » Eyes On Design The Stout Scarab – An Art Deco Automotive Artifact That Was Ahead of Its Time Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:00:01 +0000 img_0274

Full gallery here

In looking at Henry Ford’s forays into the airplane and aviation industries we’ve touched on the story of William Bushnell Stout. Stout was the man behind Ford’s successful endeavor into aviation with the Ford Trimotor. Car enthusiasts, though, might be more familiar with the small run of Stout Scarab automobiles, said to be the “first minivans”. Stout introduced a few other other automotive firsts like air suspension and the use of composite bodies. How much of an innovator Stout was, as opposed to someone who saw value in the ideas of others and brought them to fruition, is open to debate. He was certainly respected by the engineering community, serving as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It’s undeniable, though, that Stout saw the promise, later fulfilled, of commercial passenger aviation, and while many of the Scarabs’ more prominent features can be called dead-ends, quite a few of the things that Stout built into his cars are probably present on the car or truck you drive.

William Bushnell Stout was born in 1880 in Quincy, Illinois, though by the time he was in high school his family was living in Minnesota as he graduated from St. Paul’s Mechanic Arts High School in 1898. He attended Hamline University and the University of Minnesota but never graduated, due to developing a problem with his eyesight that apparently improved over time. Adding aeronautics to his mechanical interest, after marriage and a move back to Illinois he founded the Model Aero Club of Illinois, experimenting with model airplanes. He must have resolved the issue with his vision because in 1907 he became Chief Engineer of the Schurmeir Motor Truck Company of Chicago.


William B. Stout

As with a number of automotive and aviation engineers Stout also tried his hand with writing about his passions and in 1912 he was named automobile and aviation editor for the Chicago Tribune. That year also saw Stout founding Aerial Age, the first aviation magazine to be published in America. He was also a contributor to the Minneapolis Times under the clever pen name of  “Jack Kneiff”.

In 1914, Stout was hired to be head engineer of the Scripps-Booth Automobile Company of Detroit. Today Scripps-Booth is best known for making the one-off Bi AutoGo, which had nothing to do with being attracted to both men and women but rather was an enormous two wheeled vehicle (with little outrigger training wheels) that was the first V8 powered vehicle made in Detroit. Of perhaps greater significance to automotive history is the fact that the Scripps-Booth company was one of the firms that Billy Durant bought on his path to create General Motors. Scripps-Booth was the project of philanthropist, artist and engineer James Scripps Booth, an heir to the family that founded the Detroit News and the Cranbrook educational community. The car company he founded made conventional automobiles but also tried to capitalize on the popularity of lightweight “cyclecars” with the JB Rocket cyclecar, designed by William Stout.


JB Rocket Cyclecar on display at the Henry Ford Museum. Full gallery here

The moderate success of the JB Rocket brought Stout to the attention of Alvan Macauley, who headed the Packard Motor Car Company. Macauley made Stout general sales manager of Packard and in 1916, when the automaker started up an aviation division Stout was named to be its chief engineer. Stout seems to have been a bit peripatetic because only three years later he left Packard to start his own company, Stout Engineering, in Dearborn.

Stout Engineering led to the creation of the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which I covered a bit in my post on the Trimotor. After Henry Ford more or less edged Wm Stout out of Stout Metal Airplane Company, which built the Trimotor, the aeronautical engineer went back to his Laboratories to apply what he’d learned from making airplanes to designing an advanced automobile. In the 1930s, a number of automotive engineers and designers including Josef Ganz, Ferdinand Porsche and Hans Ledwinka were looking into both aerodynamics and the packaging needs of inexpensive “peoples cars”. Along with those European engineers, Stout embraced the rear engine, rear wheel drive layout as a solution to both of those design issues. In an article in Scientific American, Stout extolled the virtues of moving the engine from the front of the car to the back, “When we finally ‘unhitch Old Dobbin’ from the automobile, the driver will have infinitely better vision from all angles. The automobile will be lighter and more efficient and yet safer, the ride will be easier, and the body will be more roomy without sacrificing maneuverability.”

Stout called his car the Scarab, no doubt because its envelope body shape resembled that Egyptian beetle’s shape. While Ganz had already introduced the idea of naming a car after a beetle, Stout likely arrived at the same idea independently. In any case, Ganz, who popularized the concept of a volkswagen, an inexpensive entry level automobile, and Stout were pursuing different market segments. From 1934 to 1939, Stout is believed to have built a total of 9 Scarabs with a starting price of $5,000, a price that would approach $90,000 in 2014 dollars. For their money, buyers got advanced design features like fenders incorporated into the body, no running boards, and skirted rear wheels. Not quite as obvious but still found on cars today were the Scarab’s hidden door hinges, flush mounted door handles, and flush glass, all intended to improve the Scarab’s aerodynamics.

In recent years, luxury car makers have started incorporating filters to remove dust from their cars’ ventilation systems. The Scarab featured those as well as other modern amenities like ambient lighting, thermostatic heating controls and powered door locks. One reason for being called the first minivan is the fact that while the driver had his or her own door, passengers used a single central mounted side door on the passenger side, similar to the original Chrysler minivans (and VW’s earlier Type II “Bus”). Another reason is that like some minivans, the passenger seats of the Scarab could be reconfigured around a table in the rear of the cabin. Since the seats were not secured to the floor, that might be a safety issue in the event of a collision.

It’s believed by many that the Scarab’s styling was the work of John Tjaarda, whose styling for the Briggs Dream Car, a rear engine streamlined design, would eventually turn up as the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr. Others say that the Scarab was not the work of Tjaarda, whose son Tom Tjaarda had his own successful career as a car designer, but rather was simply influenced by the senior Tjaarda’s earlier “Sterkenburg series” of streamlined monocoque car designs. In any case, the Scarab followed the streamlining style manual, adding a heavy dose of then au courant Art Deco ornamentation. From its headlight grilles and ancient Egyptian theme up front to the elaborate and delicate metal work and chrome trim in back, the Stout Scarab today is considered perhaps the finest automotive expression of the Art Deco design ethos. All nine of the Scarabs, built by a company set up by Stout, not surprisingly called Stout Motor Car, had slightly different interiors, as they were effectively custom, hand built cars.

Besides its radical styling and advanced design features, the Scarab was mechanically interesting. With Stout’s established relationship with Ford Motor Company it’s not surprising that the car featured a flathead Ford V8, but unlike in Ford cars it was mounted over the rear wheels. Output was rated at 95 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. Driving through a three-speed manual transmission, that 94 hp was good for a 0-60 mph time of 15 seconds, per a modern day test by Special Interest Autos. By using aircraft construction techniques, the Scarab weighed just 3,300 lbs, which is impressive considering that it’s 195.5 inches long and over 6 feet tall. Stout experimented with an aluminum body featuring magnesium doors in his 1932 prototype, but he decided those materials were too expensive to use in the production Scarabs, which were made with steel bodies mounted atop a steel tubing space frame. With the engine and transmission facing towards the back of the car, Stout came up with a layout that would later be used by Lamborghini on the Countach, Diablo and Murcielago. The power of the output shaft of the transmission is transferred to a driveshaft that runs underneath the transmission and engine back to the rear axle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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The suspension of the Scarab was sophisticated for its day, with all four wheels independently suspended. Actually, it might even be sophisticated for a modern car. Up front were lower control arms, coils springs and aircraft style “oleo” struts, while the rear suspension had swing axles (considered the latest thing in the ’20s and ’30s), unequal length upper and lower control arms, lower trailing arms, more “oleo struts” and a transverse leaf spring, something that the Corvette still uses, though from period build photos, the rear struts appear to be “coilover” units with coil springs (see the gallery below). Stout’s use of struts in the rear suspension of the Scarab is said to have been an influence on the development of the so-called Chapman strut, fitted by Colin Chapman to a number of Lotus cars including the Elan. Brakes were hydraulically operated with cast iron drums at all four wheels.

The Scarab was never intended to be a mass market vehicle, with production planned at no more than 100 cars a year. While some promotional materials were made, sales were by invitation only. As would expected those who bought Scarabs were well off, including family names like Firestone, Wrigley and Dow. Still, it was an expensive car and there was a depression going on. Combine a high price and styling that was radical in its day and still looks a little bit odd and you can see why sales never reached projections.

In the late 1930s, Stout started looking into the use of the Firestone Rubber Company’s experimental air springs and fitted them to his personal Scarab and they were also likely installed on Harvey S. Firestone’s Scarab as well. During World War II, Stout was a consultant with the War Production Board regarding the use of smaller industrial facilities and Stout Engineering became allied with the Consolidated Aircraft company, with Stout devoting most of his time developing the Aerocar and Helibus concepts.


1946 Stout Scarab Experimental “Project Y”, likely the first fiberglass car. Full gallery here

After the war, Stout returned to the Scarab concept, this time constructing what he called the Stout Scarab Experimental, also called the Project Y or Y-46. The styling was much more conventional than the original Scarabs, with normal sedan styling and two conventional doors but the construction was even more radical. Not only was the Project Y likely to have been the first car built with a fiberglass composite body, Stout predated the Lotus Elite by using the material to implement monocoque frame-in-body construction. The Y-46 also featured air suspension, likely transferred from Stout’s original Scarab (after Stout put over 250,000 miles on that car), and a wraparound windshield, a feature that wouldn’t show up on production cars for almost a decade.

While fewer than a dozen Stout Scarab automobiles were produced, Stout had more success with larger vehicles. Gar Wood Industries produced about 175 transit buses based on Stout’s designs, more or less scaled up Scarabs.

Drivers, then and now, describe the Scarab’s ride as being both smooth and stable. At least five of the nine original Scarabs still exist and a number of them are in running condition including the silver Scarab pictured here. It was made in 1936 and it belongs to Larry Smith of Pontiac, Michigan. It was photographed at the 2012 Eyes On Design show. You can see another of the surviving Stout Scarabs here. The Stout Scarab Experimental Y-46 also still survives, in the collection of the Gilmore Car Museum, near Kalamazoo.

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 parallax 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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Oddball Car Collector Extraordinaire Myron Vernis’ 1972 Mazda Cosmo and 1968 Toyota Sports 800 Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:02:43 +0000 IMG_0066

Full gallery here

A while back while researching the topic of automotive scams and scoundrels, I came across the story of the Amectran Exar-1, a proposed electric car, of which only a prototype was made from a Frua built concept car. It turns out that the Exar-1 still exists and it’s in the collection of Myron Vernis, who lives near Akron, Ohio. The car writing gig has given me access to some fine collections and contact with a number of prominent car collectors like Ken Lingenfelter and Jay Leno (both of them very much regular car guys who have the means to indulge a passion for cars that must of us share with them). Ken and Jay are great car guys, without a doubt, but I have a taste for the offbeat so my favorite car collector has got to be Myron because he might very well have the best collection in the world of unusual and oddball cars.

When I found out that the Amectran prototype still existed, I called up Myron and he clued me in about the Exar-1 and its creator, Edmond X. Ramirez, Sr. For what it’s worth, Vernis thinks Ramirez is a guy who ended up believing his own PR more than a scam artist. As I mentioned, I like unusual cars and it seemed that every time I brought up something weird, Myron would say, “I have/had one of those”. Since then I’ve run into Vernis a couple of times at the annual Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, first when he was displaying his Japanese domestic market Isuzu 117 XC, and then last year he brought a Citroen CX 25 TRI station wagon (now that’s a car you don’t usually see in America).

A few weeks ago he emailed me saying that in addition to bringing something to the Orphan Car Show in the fall, he was going to be in Detroit for both of the top shelf car shows held here, the Concours of America at St. John next month and he also said he was bringing a couple of cars to the Eyes On Design show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores.

I’m not exactly sure how his cars ended up in the “Tuner” category at Eyes On Design, because they are pretty much bone stock, but regardless of how they got in the show, I’m glad that Myron brought his 1972 Mazda Cosmo, the first rotary engine powered car made by Mazda (and the first production two-rotor Wankel in the world), and a 1968 Toyota Sports 800, the direct predecessor to the great 2000GT sports car.

You may go, “Hmmmm, the first Wankel powered Mazda, yeah that’s unusual, but what’s so weird about a Toyota?” How about an 800cc horizontally opposed air-cooled twin, normally used to run the air-conditioner compressors in Toyota buses? Yes, long before they hooked up with Subaru to make the GT 86 / FR-S / BRZ, Toyota was selling a rear wheel drive sports coupe with a flat engine up front.

The Sports 800 original design is cute as a button while the Cosmo’s styling is razor sharp and perhaps a bit inspired by the Alfa Romeo roadsters of the day. Looking over the photos, I think that I can also see influences from the E Type Jaguar, and the Chrysler Turbine car.

The Cosmo’s origins date to early 1961 when Toyo Kogyo, the corporate parent of Mazda, obtained a license from NSU for the production of a rotary Wankel engine. NSU held the patent on Felix Wankel’s motor. Work began immediately on prototypes and by mid-1963, two 798cc Type 8A twin rotor engines began testing. The following year, a Cosmo concept car featuring the latest version of Mazda’s rotary, the 982cc 10A, was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show. Company engineers had trouble getting the rotors’ cast iron apex seals to last before settling on a design that used both carbon and aluminum. Eighty prototypes of what was by then known as the 0810 engine were assembled, with the majority installed in cars that were shipped to dealers for real world testing. The design of the engine was finalized in late 1966, producing 110 hp.

Production of the Cosmo coupes, intended as a halo car for the Mazda brand and for their revolutionary new engine, began in May, 1967. Front suspension was independent with A-arms, coilover spring/damper units, and a sway bar. There was a live axle on leaf springs in the back, but it was fairly sophisticated with a de Dion tube and trailing arms to control it. Brakes were disks up front with drums in the back, with no vacuum assist. The lightweight Cosmo was capable a 16.4 second quarter mile time with a top speed of 115 mph. It cost 1.48 million yen, ($4,100 in U.S. dollars). About 350 Series I Mazda Cosmos were made before a revised version was introduced in 1968. The Series II car, which stayed in production until 1972, the year of Vernis’ car, had a more powerful 0813 engine with 128 hp and 103 lb-ft, power brakes, bigger 15 inch wheels and a 5 speed gearbox. Wheelbase was bumped up 15 inches for a better ride and more interior room. The Series II car was capable of 120 mph and was more than a half second faster in the 1/4 mile than the original Cosmo, 15.8 seconds.

Another 1,176 Series II Cosmos were made for a total of 1,519 cars, which makes them pretty rare. All of them were hand made. Since only six were known to have been imported to the U.S. at the time, they are exceedingly rare here. Wikipedia says that Jay Leno owns a 1970 Cosmo and that Mazda USA found one in a garage a few years back. There’s also apparently one in Alberta, Canada. Then there’s Vernis’ Cosmo, which is actually rarer than Leno’s since Leno’s Cosmo has a more modern 12a motor from an RX-7 and Myron’s Cosmo has the numbers matching 10A with which it left Mazda’s fabrication shop in Hiroshima.

Vernis told me how he came to own his Cosmo:

I purchased the Cosmo from one of my very best friends in Greece three years ago. He is a great enthusiast and collector of Etceterini. He brought the car from Japan with a fresh rebuild on its original engine. He is a much more focused collector than I am and sold it because it really didn’t fit the nature of his collection. 

While the Cosmo competed with the now treasured 2000GT, that iconic sports car was not Toyota’s first sporting automobile. That honor goes to the miniscule Sports 800, whose history dates to 1955 and an effort by Japans famed MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. MITI wanted to encourage the development of an inexpensive “people’s car”, homegrown for the Japanese market yet and suitable for export, unlike much of the postwar Japanese car industry that was making designs licensed from outside of Japan.

MITI’s design brief was a 400 kg vehicle that had a top speed of 100 kph and fuel consumption of 1 liter per 30 kilometers when traveling 60 kph on a level road. Major repairs wouldn’t be needed for 100,000 km.

The government agency wanted the Japanese auto industry to work together on a single new design but the automakers wanted their independence and made their own versions. Toyota’s was called the Publica, a two door sedan introduced in 1961 with rear wheel drive after a developmental detour with front wheel drive caused a delay. The first Publica was a four seater powered by an air-cooled flat twin 697cc engine that put out 28 hp. There was no cargo space for luggage, nor a radio or heater, but it was fairly modern for its day with double wishbones and torsion bars up front and a live axle on leaf springs in the rear. Brakes were drums all around. It cost 389,000 yen, around $1,000 in the U.S. dollar of the day. Toyota had high hopes and even set up a separate dealer network for the Publica but like Tata would find out years later with the Nano, sometimes consumers are more aspirational than automakers give them credit for and sales were not great.

To generate interest in the Publica line, in 1962, Toyota showed a concept for a Publica based sports car with a removable roof panel, and when the Sports 800 went into production three years later, it would be the first car with such a roof, before Porsche gave it the Targa name. It was called the Sports 800 for the 790cc 2U engine, as mentioned a horizontally opposed two cylinder job directly cooled by air. By then the stock Publica had 36 horsepower. With two carburetors the power was boosted to about 45 hp in the Sports 800.

Years before the Hachi-Roku AE86, the Sports 800 got its own nickname, Yoda-Hachi (Yoda, as in Toyota, Hachi, as in Japanese  for the number eight). It was designed by Toyota engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa who had designed military aircraft during WWII, and Shozo Sato, who spent most of his career at another Japanese automaker, Nissan. The Sports 800 has a steel monocoque with aluminum trunklid, hood, roof panel and even seat frames to reduce the mass that the little 790cc twin had to carry around. The final curb weight was 1,279 lbs.

The front end foreshadows the 2000GT, and, like cars from the classic era, manually activated shutters in the grille to allow for faster heating in the winter. The body is low and aerodynamic while the tall greenhouse allows even tall drivers to fit. Good aero allowed the Sports 800 to see 100 mph if the straightaway was long enough and fuel economy exceeded MITI’s original 1 liter per 30 km standard by one km, the equivalent of 73 mpg.  A race prepped Sports 800 won the inaugural 500 km enduro at Suzuka in 1966, against much more powerful cars like the Nissan Skyline and Lotus Elan. A fuel mileage strategy kept the Sports 800 out of the pits, allowing Shihomi Hosoya to take the checkered flag.

A few left hand drive models were built to test market conditions in the U.S. but it was never officially sold here so like the Mazda Cosmo it’s not likely that you’ll see one. It’s estimated that perhaps a dozen out of the 300 or so that still exist are in the States. About 3,000 total were made from 1965 to 1969.

Vernis described his purchase of the historic Toyota:

The Sports 800 came from Seattle. It was in collection of four such vehicles imported several years ago by an exotic Koi (yes, the fish) purveyor. He retired to Hawaii and offered the package to another close friend of mine in Texas who, in turn, gave me the option on this one. The gold color is not original but was done for a special magazine feature in Japan about fifteen years ago.

Myron Vernis is a special car guy with a very special car collection but he has a humble affect and I get the impression that he sees himself as everyman. As an enthusiast he’s knows that he has an impressive collection, he just doesn’t seem to be that impressed with him Online he goes by the screen-name of “Junkman”. Even though many of his cars are rather rare and quite historic, they’re not trailer queens. Myron and his lovely daughter Zoe drove the Cosmo and Sports 800 to the show from their hotel in Troy, some miles away from the Ford estate.

I asked Myron if there was anything interesting in the provenance of either of the cars and his response demonstrates well why he’s my favorite car collector.

Even though they are pretty special cars by their nature, neither one of my examples are exceptional. The one thing that I’m most proud of is that they are probably the most driven examples of their respective models in the US and possibly globally.

He’s undoubtedly correct. Both of the cars have a very high cool factor, and they’re both very rare in this country so it was a treat to see them, but to be frank, at a car show with a large number of very special cars I enjoyed hanging out with Myron and his daughter more than I enjoyed any of the cars at the show. He’s a font of knowledge about automobiles and he’s got an almost perpetual grin on his face. Of course if you had as many unusual, special, and fun to drive cars at your disposal as Vernis does, you’d probably be grinning to.

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 parallax 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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Eyes On Design Announces Aliterative Show: Mustangs, Maseratis, Mass Market, Military, Muscle & Movies – Cars and Pop Culture Sat, 31 May 2014 16:00:19 +0000 eyesondesign2014poster

The Eyes On Design car show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, just north of Detroit, is a unique event. While many, perhaps most, of the cars on display there are of concours level quality, the show is not about perfection, authenticity or preparation. In fact it’s not actually called a show but rather an “automotive design exhibition”. Eyes On Design is run by the Detroit area automotive styling community so what judging is done and the awards that are given are based on design. The Father’s Day show is the major fundraiser for the organization, which holds a number of other events throughout the year (including design awards at the NAIAS aka Detroit auto show in January) to benefit the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, part of the Henry Ford Health System. That’s the hospital system that’s grown out of Henry Ford Hospital, founded by the automotive pioneer. Seventeen vehicle categories for this year’s exhibition, to be held on June 15th, have been announced to complement the overall theme of the event – “Automotive design’s influence on popular culture”.

Over 250 cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display, chosen for those that “provoke a nostalgic reflection about cars that have, through their design, affected the popular culture of their day”. In addition to the general theme of the event, 2014 will mark four important automotive anniversaries, Dodge celebrates its centennial and this year is the golden anniversary for both the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO. It’s also been 50 years since the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, where automakers and many suppliers had elaborate displays. Motorcycles will be represented at the show with a selection of Indians. Perhaps the category with the strongest connection between cars and pop culture will be a display of movie and tv cars. While some will be replicas, the authentic Monkeemobile from the tv series and the real Black Beauty from the 1966 version of the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee, both built by the late, great Dean Jeffries, along with a real Smokey & The Bandit Trans Am, will be on display, as will be a few fictional cars made for movies. The complete list of movie and tv cars follows the category listing below.

As part of the publicity runup to the event, the organizers recently revealed the poster for the 27th Eyes On Design exhibition. The artist is Nicola Wood of Los Angeles and it features a blue 1936 Cadillac “Aerodynamic Coupe” in front of the swimming pool on the grounds of the Ford estate. In the foreground a woman’s eye is seen in the reflection from a cosmetic compact’s mirror. Seven other eyes are hidden in the background. The symbolism expresses the charitable goal of the show, medical treatment for eye disorders. Though it’s a commissioned work, the painting was also labor of love for the classically trained Wood, a member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS), who continues to paint after losing vision in one eye due to macular degeneration.

The poster was revealed by General Motors former assistant chief designer, Steve Pasteiner, who discussed the origins of the car on the poster. Originally a show car that Harley Earl created for the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago, the Aerodynamic Coupe established what today we’d call the design language for many GM cars in the mid and late 1930s. Pasteiner, whose AAT shop builds concept cars for automakers, is a big fan of the rolling sculpture era of the 1930s. His Buick Blackhawk, which was built to celebrate Buick’s centennial and sold at auction for more than a half million dollars and AAT’s Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk, which sold for $269,500, were heavily influenced by the Aerodynamic Coupe.

I’ll be covering Eyes On Design this year, God willing and the creek don’t rise, so if there’s a particular car or category you’d like me to check out, let me know in the comments.

Here are the categories for this year’s Eyes On Design exhibition:

50th Anniversary of the GTO – celebrating 50 year’s of Pontiac’s muscle car
Classic Era – high culture becomes pop culture, from the mid-20s to WW2
100 Years of Dodge – a century of survival and success stories
Color, Chrome and Fins – symbols of post-war American optimism
1964 New York World’s Fair – 50-years on from the event in Queens
50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang – the original pony car
Tuners – the evolution of car personalization from 1967 to today
Muscle Cars – high horsepower straight from Detroit
Working Class of 1928 – American car culture is born – the birth of Plymouth and Ford’s Model A
Pure Michigan – a celebration of some of the lesser-know makers from Flint, MI
Personal Luxury Coupés – a look at the high-end mid-size coupés of the 1970s
Movie & TV Cars – including four-wheeled stars from the big and small screen
Maserati – highlights from 100 years of the Italian maker
Stock to Rock – standard models paired with their heavily customized twins
Collector’s Circle – supporting car collectors and their hobby
Military Vehicles – from war-torn roads to off road heroes
Indian Motorcycles – an enduring and endearing tribe founded back in 1897

The movie and television cars will be:

1965 VW Beetle (“Herbie”) from “The Love Bug” (1969). The anthropomorphic Beetle with a mind of its own and the number “53″ racing number, which starred in six Disney productions through 2005. This is a correct replica owned and put together by a Lynn Anderson, who’s a contributing editor for Hot VWs magazine.

1966 Pontiac GTO from “The Monkees” (1966). California car customizer Dean Jeffries built the original highly-modified GTO convertible, known as the “Monkeemobile,” for use by the pop rock band during their NBC TV series, which originally aired from 1966 to 1968. This is the actual car from the tv series, as “restored” by George Barris’ shop, currently owned by a Detroit area collector who paid more than $300,000 for it. Pics here.

1975 Ford Gran Torino from “Starsky & Hutch” (1975). A replica of the red-with white stripes car driven by the two California detectives in the TV cop series, which originally aired from 1975 to 1979. A “Starsky & Hutch” movie was made in 2005.

Winton Flyer from “The Reivers” (1969). Designed to look like a 1904 car, this one-of-a-kind fictional vehicle driven in the movie by Steve McQueen and owned by him. It was created by the legendary artist and car craftsman Kenneth Howard, aka Von Dutch.

1966 Chrysler Imperial (“Black Beauty”) from “Green Hornet” (1966). Originally created by customizer Dean Jeffries, this modified Imperial rolling arsenal starred with Van Williams and Bruce Lee in the 1966-1967 ABC TV series.

Leslie Special from “The Great Race” (1965). Driven by good guy Tony Curtis in the Warner Brothers movie, this gleaming white roadster was loosely designed to look like a 1907 Thomas Flyer, which actually won the real “Great Race of 1908″ from New York to Paris.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am  from “Smoky & The Bandit” (1977). This special black “T-top” Trans Am was driven by Burt Reynolds in the smash hit Universal Pictures movie, which made $300 million and almost doubled the sales of Trans Ams

1982 Pontiac Trans Am (“K.I.T.T.”)  from “Knight Rider” (1982). A replica of the advanced supercomputer in a bullet-proof body on wheels. The robotic KITT could communicate with humans, drive itself and shoot flames and tear gas in the NBC TV series which ran into 1986.

Nissan 240 SX  from “Fast & Furious IV” (2009).One of the many customized cars used in scenes from the Universal Pictures action movie starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.

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 parallax 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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Look What I Found!: A JDM R34 Nissan Skyline in Detroit Tue, 25 Jun 2013 17:05:01 +0000 IMG_0211_revised

People that don’t live in the Detroit area often assume that car shows and similar events in the region are all focused on American iron and Detroit muscle. The fact is that car guys in Detroit are pretty much like car guys everywhere and most can appreciate all automotive excellence. That’s true within the auto industry as well. Engineers and designers working for GM, Ford and Chrysler have respect for the work of their colleagues both across town and across the oceans. The earliest expression of Cadillac’s brand identifying “Art & Science” styling theme was the Evoq roadster concept, designed by Kip Wasenko, now retired from GM Design. The first time that I met Kip was when I pulled up next to his Ferrari Dino on north Woodward a few days before the Woodward Dream Cruise.


Still, like the Suzuka winning tiny little Honda S800, found literally right in the middle of Ford country in Dearborn, now and then you still see a foreign car that you don’t expect to see tooling around the Motor City. To be frank, a “R34” 1999 Japanese domestic market Nissan Skyline GT-R would probably stand out just about anyplace in America, not just in Detroit and not just because it has the steering wheel on the wrong side. The R34 GT-R was never imported to the United States, so it caught my eye when I saw one on display at the 2013 Eyes On Design car show. EoD is held every Fathers’ Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate just north of Grosse Pointe. The show benefits a local vision institute and it’s put on and judged by members of the automotive design community. This year, one of the featured categories at the show was “Tuner Cars”, a phrase often associated with imported car fans, so the presence of two JDM Skylines, this ’99 and a white ’97 from Ontario didn’t really surprise me. When I got around to the back of the Skyline, though, and saw that it had current Michigan license plates, I was intrigued. There is a reason why we don’t see a lot of JDM cars in America – they’re not legal.


The federal government’s rules have been relaxed a little bit, now allowing the importation of foreign cars that do not meet current U.S. safety and emissions standards providing that they’re at least 25 years old but that exemption obviously does not apply to 1999 model year cars, made only 14 years ago. I asked the owner, Daniel Maczan, how he managed to get it registered. He told me that when he bought it, the Skyline GT-R had already been ‘federalized’, that is brought up to EPA and DOT standards, by a company called Motorex.

That means that the blue Skyline is not just a rare car, it’s a rare car with a story, a somewhat notorious story. Motorex eventually flamed out financially and while it was circling the drain they managed to ship cars that had never passed testing, ultimately resulting in the Feds seizing and crushing some highly desirable and collectible GT-Rs. The early Motorex imported cars were apparently kosher so the Feds allowed them to be grandfathered in and they can still be legally registered and driven, but in the wake of the Motorex scandal, no other R34 Skylines have been federalized. I like unusual cars and I’ll walk past a half dozen ’69 Camaros to see a single AMC Gremlin, but I don’t think you can get much more unique than a barely legal right hand drive Japanese hot rod at a Detroit car show.

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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