Tag: History

By on May 19, 2017

olds omega 1977

Around the time of the Bicentennial, 300 horsepower was reserved for from-the-factory supercars and custom builds aimed at the drag strip. Today, you can find family sedans eclipsing that benchmark without a lot of trouble. Compare the first decade of Toyota Corollas to hit North American shores to their modern day equivalents and you’ll note that 0 to 60 time have been almost halved.

It’s the same with most models. A few years ago, I had the privilege of driving a well-maintained 1977 Oldsmobile Omega and wondered how enthusiasm ever survived malaise era automobiles. It must have been the gorgeous styling keeping us going.

Modern cars aren’t just more powerful, they’re also far more efficient and significantly less dirty. Additional safety regulations and standard equipment should have left us with bogged-down fuel hogs, yet automakers have managed to roll with the punches — not just maintaining the status quo but routinely moving it forward. However, to really appreciate just how far we’ve come you need to see those decades of progress plotted.  (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

[Image: Josephew/Wikimedia]

Sometimes readers just need a reminder that Martha Stewart — culinary queen, decorating maven, celebrity roast participant, buddy to Snoop, ex-con — owns Edsel Ford’s sprawling vacation home in Maine.

Yes, the Mount Desert Island property built for Henry Ford’s only child in 1925 has been in Martha’s experienced hands for 20 years now, and yes, she’s got an Edsel there. The laws of tablescaping demand it. And not even one of the popular Edsel models, either (if you can use that descriptor for any progeny of the disastrous brand). No, she owns a very, very rare Edsel. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2017

Hyundai Santa Fe Antarctica

Northerners, and almost all Canadians, will tell you that starting your car in -28 Celsius (-18.4 Fahrenheit) weather is a drag, but at least it wasn’t colder that morning.

With this in mind, the temperatures experienced during an expedition to the South Pole in that continent’s high summer aren’t outside the realm of personal knowledge. A good many of us have gauged the frostiness of the outside air by the speed in which our nose hair freezes.

Still, Hyundai’s recent stunt, which put famed explorer Ernest Shackleton’s great-grandson behind the wheel of a modified Santa Fe Sport, impresses. It’s not solely the distance covered, the conditions experienced during the 3,600-mile crossing of Antarctica, or the mechanical feat of turning a pedestrian crossover into the most rugged of all-terrain vehicles. It’s the historical tie-in.

If you grew up reading — and re-reading — Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, you know what I mean. Hollywood writers could not have penned a better adventure, nor can any scientific-minded person believe that such a feat was even survivable. (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2017

{Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Most of us are slaves to convenience, but there’s a good number of motorists who long to relive a nostalgic chapter from their younger days; back when cars were less sterile (externally, anyways), and less overburdened with all-thinking, all-knowing technology.

“Those were good days,” they think, their minds drifting back to a warm, hazy period washed clean of all the bad things they’d prefer not to remember. “Cigarettes were ten cents a pack. I didn’t have the government choking things up between my carburetor and tailpipe.”

There’s no going back to the days before seatbelts and airbags, nor would anyone want a return of car bodies that fold like wet cardboard during a crash, but there are some extinct features we’d like to see again — even if it’s just to satisfy a tiny, memory-filled recess of our overburdened brains. (Read More…)

By on April 8, 2017

[Inmage: Ford Motor Company]

By now, you’ve probably read that Ford Motor Company has developed a crib that mimics a late-night car ride. You know, those journeys to nowhere fueled by nothing other than a desperate desire to shut your kid up for a few hours?

Yes, with Ford’s prototype crib, your bundle of joy will be rocked and jostled to sleep while you grab some much-needed shuteye. Your car never needs to leave the garage. Had my parents owned such a thing, it would have curtailed many nocturnal forays in a Lean Burn-equipped Plymouth Volaré that stalled when it reached a stop sign — at least, until the engine temperature rose.

There’s no need for compromised Slant Six engines when Mark Fields is doing the babysitting. You see, Ford’s Max Motor Dreams cot will record the vehicle movements and sounds of your go-to driving route and reproduce them in the comfort of your home. The company even claims that the German-designed cot might see production.

That’s great, but a crib isn’t a vehicle.

So, in light of this static, motorized cot (why didn’t Ford shape it like a Fox-body Mustang?), here are some neat Blue Oval products from yesteryear: one of which will kill you, another that killed one of its two operators, and a final product that could kill your entire neighborhood. (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2017

Subaru STI bobsled

Most automotive advertising has little to nothing to do with the actual car. It’s usually about presenting an image or hawking brand identity and then loosely associating it with a vehicle — Mercedes’ current “Grow Up” campaign is a perfect, cringeworthy example. However, enthusiasts know that the best car ads feature incredible shenanigans and loads of life-or-death action.

Dave Chapelle mocked Mitsubishi for its pop-and-lock Eclipse spot, while Top Gear honored Land Rover for winching a Defender up the side of a dam. Keenly aware of this is Subaru, which, after sending Mark Higgins and a WRX STI around the Isle of Man TT course in 2014, brought both man and vehicle to the world’s oldest bobsled run in St. Moritz, Switzerland to record another automotive spectacle.

Unfortunately, Subaru is more than 50 years too late for this particular publicity stunt. Ford filmed an identical feature in the Italian Alps with the Cortina GT way back in 1964. It even named the car after the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where it later held the event. Subaru may be calling it “boxersledding” today, but it’s really just a rehash of Ford’s classic “auto-bobbing.”  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2017

bullitt mustang

Steve McQueen tear-assing around the streets of San Francisco in a Highland Green 1968 Mustang GT, hoping desperately to catch the two contract killers in a stealth black Dodge Charger R/T of the same vintage, is the standout moment from the film Bullitt. Three minutes of tension-building tailing followed by seven minutes of the most enjoyable and realistic on-screen tire-smoking mayhem ever set to jazz fusion. It is still one of the best car chases in any film, if not the best.

Sadly, as with most movie cars, the Mustang that did the majority of that incredible driving and took the brunt of the abuse vanished while the one kept pristine for the camera ended up on the East Coast in someone’s private collection. The owner of that car is notoriously secretive about it and has used it off-and-on as a daily driver, which is a shame, as the stunt car was assumed to have been sent to a junkyard and destroyed.

Then it cropped up in Mexico after having languished in anonymity for decades.  (Read More…)

By on February 21, 2017

Fordlandia

Welcome to the Paradise of Fordlândia. Three rules: no booze, no Jews, and we want to check your junk now and then.

Well, those were the rules (one of them unwritten) when the Brazilian town, hacked out of the jungle in 1928, was at its peak. Abandoned by Ford Motor Company in 1945, the bizarre utopian industrial and social experiment remains, slowly decomposing and encroached upon by vegetation, on the shores of an Amazonian backwater.

It is here, along the Tapajós river, that revolutionary industrialist and noted oddball Henry Ford created his rubber-producing settlement in the image of a modern Michigan city. Thanks to one enterprising reporter who probably owns a dog-eared copy of Heart of Darkness, we can now see what the failed experiment looks like in 2017. (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

Citroen Traction Avant 11C, Image: Citroen

The Volkswagen Golf GTi may be what many consider the definitive “hot hatch,” and most enthusiasts credit it with popularizing the idea of a functional yet fun-to-drive and economical daily driver. From its roots have sprung countless pocket-sized performance variants, right up to today’s current Focus RS.

But the Volkswagen Golf was far from the world’s first hatchback. It wasn’t even close.

So where did the idea of a hinged-rear body panel begin? More than 40 years prior to the launch of the GTi, another innovative car introduced the world to the idea of the hatchback, among a few other new features. Are you surprised that it was French, after our Matra article last month?

(Read More…)

By on February 3, 2017

1960 BMW 700, Image: BMW

Following in the footsteps of last week’s Karmann Ghia article, it seemed natural to take a look at two other lesser-known German alternatives to Volkswagen’s Type 1 Beetle and the ‘Beetle-in-a-suit’ Karmann Ghia.

Like the Karmann Ghia, both were attempts to capitalize on a new and expanding market for automobiles in Germany during the postwar economic boom times. That meant that the models had to incorporate existing technology, yet also appeal to a crowd increasingly interested in performance and style. However, both had to be at least somewhat economical and practical as family cars.

The result was a series of interesting and mostly forgotten air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-drive sedans, coupes and convertibles from both BMW and NSU.

(Read More…)

By on January 19, 2017

untitled

No, not Kato Kaelin. (That’s two OJ references on one day. We’re done. – Ed.)

Mouth-watering classics hit the block at Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction house all the time, but few were ever driven by the embodiment of 1980s masculinity. Well, today’s your chance to clear out your retirement funds and make a bid on one of the most recognizable vehicles in all of TV Land. (Read More…)

By on January 12, 2017

1971_dodge_demon (Wikimedia)

Here’s some sage advice: there’s no known way to use snippets of Metallica’s ‘Fuel’ in an automotive video without prompting audience eye-rolling. Scientists are working around the clock, but hopes remain dim.

The song appears towards the end of a teaser video produced by Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge division, featuring a snarling, caged beast that suddenly shape shifts into a fiery demon once released. There’s no new vehicle in sight — just a Ram Heavy Duty pulling the cage. More videos will follow, we’re told, but it’s the name that’s the focus here.

Demon. (Read More…)

By on December 22, 2016

volkswagen_microbus

For a solid 15 years — longer than the combined duration of World War I, II, and Korea — Volkswagen has made a habit of teasing consumers with boxy concepts that draw inspiration from the company’s far-out Microbus of yesteryear.

It doesn’t matter whether the automaker is flying high, like it was at the turn of the century (and decade), or digging itself out of a scandal, like it is now. There’s always a piece of flower power vaporware lurking nearby, ready to trigger increasingly distant memories of a free-wheeling, free-love past.

We’ve been tentatively promised some sort of modern-day Microbus since the New Beetle still seemed somewhat new, but to no avail. Well, times are changing, and along with it, technology. But VW’s tactics aren’t. (Read More…)

By on November 18, 2016

1983 Volkswagen Scirocco BiMotor (A1), Image: Volkswagen

Though today’s hybrids have popularized it, the idea of installing more than one engine in a car to supplement power isn’t particularly new or innovative. In fact, it’s almost as old as the automobile itself.

There are plenty of historical examples of multi-engine cars; probably the most notable are absolute land speed record attempts. Just last week, for example, was the 51st anniversary of the American-made Goldenrod’s 409 mph record, set using no less than four 426 Hemi V8s borrowed from Chrysler.

But even further back, Alfa-Romeo had tried to break the stranglehold of the Silver Arrows in Grand Prix racing by utilizing two straight-eights in a P3 Grand Prix chassis. The solution was innovative, if not particularly successful.

But the exploits of sticking multiple motors in a vehicle to boost power and traction were not limited to exotic racers and record setters. In the 1980s, the concept was reintroduced in a few interesting packages. As it became increasingly clear that Audi’s all-wheel drive would revolutionize the world of rally, Volkswagen Motorsport director Klaus-Peter Rosorius felt Volkswagen shouldn’t play second fiddle to the Quattro.

Instead, they’d play with a second engine.

(Read More…)

By on November 9, 2016

Robert_S._McNamara_and_General_Westmoreland_in_Vietnam_1965

November 9, 1960: Robert McNamara becomes president of Ford Motor Company just one day after John F. Kennedy is elected President of the United States.

He may have only held automotive office for a handful of weeks before becoming JFK’s Secretary of Defense, but McNamara’s legacy at Ford is everlasting. However, after saving the company from its own ill-planned and cannibalistic Edsel division, he later created an Edsel of his own in the Vietnam War.

(Read More…)

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