Henry Leland is a man without an automotive country though he started both surviving American luxury automobile brands. He founded Cadillac from the economic ruins of Henry Ford’s second failed car company (the third time was a charm for Ford), having been brought in by Ford’s financiers to appraise the company’s assets for a planned liquidation. Leland ran Leland & Faulkner, Detroit’s premier machine shop. Instead of liquidating Ford’s assets he convinced them to build cars using an engine of his own design that he originally had planned on selling to Ransom Olds. That new car became the basis of Cadillac, later acquired by General Motors.
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Ironically, the Continental Mark IV is the most “American” car ever. It’s the ultimate counterpart to that most continental/ European car ever, the VW Rabbit/Golf Mk I that appeared about the same time. The Golf was a brilliant triumph of modern design: space efficiency, economy, light weight, visibility, sparkling performance and handling. And in Europe, the Golf became known as the “classless” car; one that didn’t make a statement about its owner. The Mark? Well, take all those qualities, turn them upside down, inside out, and then toss them out the window. Americans have long had ambivalence about “modern” anyway; it hinted at socialistic and intellectual influences that didn’t always sit so well. The most modern American car ever was the Corvair, and look how that turned out. Even the Kennedy Lincolns were a touch too modern. America was ripe for the first true post-modern car, and Ford was the obvious company to make it. (Read More…)
In honor of our greatest president’s birthday this Friday, it’s going to be Lincoln Week at Curbside Classic. We’ll start with a brief history of the brand to set us up for the sixties, when our featured cars begin. (Read More…)