Tag: History

By on March 25, 2016

Jaguar XK-SS (recreation)

When fire destroyed Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant on Feb. 12, 1957, nine of the 25 existing XK-SS models were consumed by flames. The spartan roadster — a road going version of the famous D-type race car — went on to become a legend and the remaining 16 examples are among the most valuable collector cars on the market.

Now, the lost nine are going to rise from the ashes, as Jaguar plans to use their serial numbers on a limited run of exact replicas, mirroring last year’s E-type Lightweight.

(Read More…)

By on March 8, 2016

BMW Vision Next 100 concept (Image: BMW Group)

It’s BMW Group’s centenary — and except for some problematic stuff in the late 1930s and early ’40s, it’s been a great 100 years.

Rather than gaze wistfully at the past, BMW is spending its birthday looking into the future and imagining what marvelous things might lie ahead. Naturally, one of those things will be a BMW, and, lo and behold, here’s a futuristic concept!

The BMW Vision Next 100 concept was unveiled in Munich on March 7 and was designed with an autonomous future in mind, one where individuality remains a selling point with buyers.

(Read More…)

By on February 26, 2016

Round Door Rolls, 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe front 3/4, Petersen Automotive Museum, Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

I’ve tangentially touched on the topic of this post, the famous art deco “Round Door Rolls-Royce”, before when discussing Audi advertising and some Detroit history. On my recent trip to Los Angeles to drive a McLaren 675LT (you think Jack Baruth is the only TTAC staffer who can swing the loan of a supercar?), I took the opportunity to visit the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum and the unusually bodied Rolls happened to be on display right where you walk into the building.

It’s a striking looking car, to say the least, and a multiple show winner undoubtedly worthy of historical note. Almost more interesting than the car, though, is the way its tale is presented and what that teaches us about the way ideas get entrenched, how a single facet of a story can obscure its context. (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2016

1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster Lake Maggiore Mullin Museum front 3/4 beauty shot flash © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

Every car has a story. In the case of this 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster, it has two. Both are good stories. One, however, is the stuff of legend, and the other closer to historical truth. (Read More…)

By on December 28, 2015
The first Ford electric car, 1914

The first Ford electric car, 1914

Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will be investing more than $4.5 billion over the next five years into its electric vehicle program and that it will have 13 electric vehicles on sale by 2020. The announcement follows the Ford company’s original investment in EV technology and the first Ford electric cars by 102 years.

Hopefully, the current spending will yield more fruitful results than did Henry Ford’s original look into EVs more than a century ago. (Read More…)

By on December 17, 2015

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The email had all the stopping power of a fart at an office Christmas party.

“TEAM JAPSPEED DRIFT TEAM TO RETURN TO AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL”

“Were they returning from 1943?” I wondered. How could any team be named “Jap” anything in 2015?

As it turns out, there are a lot of automotive-related companies and events with the prefix Jap. JapFest, JapAuto, JapSpeed. JustJap. Uh, huh.

I mean, “Jap” is still a bad word, right?

(Read More…)

By on December 1, 2015

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In Part One of this minitruckin’ history, we covered how the Big 3 provided their dealers with “captive import” minitrucks from Mazda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi during the Seventies. By 1975 or thereabouts, both GM and Ford were convinced that the small-pickup market was not a fad and began digging their own products out of the parts bin.

The Chevrolet S-10/GMC S-15 was a sort of truck version of the A-body (later G-body) intermediate. While it’s not dimensionally identical to the older sedans, it’s possible to swap much of the running gear between those two vehicles, particularly ahead of the firewall. The Ford Ranger arrived a few months after the S-10, a few inches smaller in most dimensions and looking remarkably ungainly compared to its sleek GM competitor. Those of you who followed the minitrucking hobby in the Nineties will recall that the Ranger was conspicuous by its absence; “domestic” minitruckers were almost exclusively loyal to the S-10/S-15. Part of that was due to the Twin-I-Beam’s reluctance to accept a lowering kit and/or airbags, but much of it was the Ranger’s hokey, hick-ish appearance compared to the S-10.

So what did that mean for the captive import trucks?

(Read More…)

By on November 24, 2015

I was having a conversation with a female friend a few weeks ago and she admitted to having “fooled around” in no fewer than four different brands of minitrucks during the Nineties and Oughties. I suppose in her case that would be the Noughties — but that’s besides the point. I should also mention that the fourth “minitruck” was really a Colorado, and the incident in question happened fairly recently.

“There’s always some kind of stick shift in the way, in those little trucks, you know?” she said.

“Those are the little crosses that empowered young women have to bear,” was my response.

The conversation could have gone in any number of directions from there, but where it actually went was to A Brief Discussion Of Mini-Trucks In America, 1970-2010. I thought it might be a conversation worth having with all of you, as well, because it showcases a rather unique phenomenon in American automotive history. (Read More…)

By on October 27, 2015

1984 Saturn Concept CarIn a 1992 op-ed that appeared in the Indianapolis Star and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I expounded on the predictions of the MIT-based authors of “The Machine That Changed the World”, and lean production. I cited that book, and Consumer Reports’ glowing review of the Saturn as evidence that real competition could make the U.S. auto industry great once again. Subsequently, I bought a Saturn, which ultimately proved inferior in durability to the car I had shopped it against, the Integra. Looking back more than two decades, how have we succeeded, and how have we failed, and how did the MIT authors’ predictions hold up?


Few experts would have predicted that an all new American car could have matched the first year reliability of the Toyotas and Hondas, the best of the Japanese. Yet General Motors’ Saturn did just that, according to the April Consumer Reports.

On top of that, the car has all the practical appeal of the old Volkswagen Beetle. The plastic body panels are built to take parking lot abuse without denting or scratching. But damaged panels can be replaced easily and inexpensively. How many people does it take to change a headlight on a Saturn? Just one, and it’s as easy as changing a lightbulb.

(Read More…)

By on October 6, 2015

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0051

A Volkswagen of America spokesman said Tuesday that electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars would be a “key part” of the automaker’s research and development strategy after CEO Matthias Müller told 20,000 workers in Wolfsburg that it would postpone or cancel other projects that weren’t critical to sales.

“Electrification, whether full EV, PHEV, or HEV, is a key part of our strategy long term in order to meet worldwide (greenhouse gas) targets,” a Volkswagen spokesman told TTAC on Tuesday.

In 2014, Volkswagen spent $13.5 billion on research and development — more than any other company in all sectors. However, that budget could be severely restricted as the automaker prepares to pay billions for software that cheated emissions tests.

Volkswagen could be looking for ways to not repeat history, when a 1960s lawsuit from Tatra crippled development well into the 1980s.

(Read More…)

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  • Bark M., United States
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