I find 1960s cars in self-service wrecking yards all the time, but the last time I saw a Nash Metropolitan in this type of yard was, I think, in 1983, at the long-defunct U-Pull in east Oakland. I went back to the East Bay last weekend to visit family and decided to visit some of my favorite yards while I was there. I thought maybe I was hallucinating from the 90-degree heat and the endless rows of Tauruses, but no— this is a rust-free, complete Metropolitan! (Read More…)
Why does a car need wheel openings in the front fenders, anyway? The Nash Airflyte, aka the “Bathtub Nash,” proved that long, low, and wide (and a postwar American car-buying public starved for anything with four wheels and an engine) would move the iron off the showroom floor in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’ve been thinking about building an Airflyte-based project car lately, so I returned to the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard to do some window shopping. (Read More…)
That AMC Matador Barcelona we saw last week was quite a Junkyard Find, but it represents approximately 0.01% of the staggeringly tempting potential Hell Projects in this particular Colorado yard. Located not far from Pikes Peak (which I couldn’t see because of all the wildfire smoke), this not-open-to-the-public junkyard/open-air automotive museum is owned by a man with an eye for interesting Detroit iron and all the land he needs to store what he finds. After all my years of junkyard crawling, I think this may well be the Greatest Yard of Them All, and that includes the now-defunct Seven Sons yard and this 70-year-old yard north of Denver. Let’s take a little tour, shall we? (Read More…)
Most of my junkyard-prowling experience has taken place at the modern-day self-service yards, where the inventory turns over fast, prices are standardized, and 90% of the cars on the yard tend to be 15 to 20 years old. Now that I’m in a constant search for parts for a 45-year-old Dodge van, I’ve been venturing out to the more traditional wrecking yards, where you haggle for every part and the inventory sits for decades while each and every salable part gets picked. A couple weeks back, I went on a quest for A100 parts at a breathtakingly vintage junkyard located about halfway between Denver and Cheyenne. (Read More…)
General Motors was the largest supplier of war materiel to the American armed forces. Ford famously built B-24 Liberators that rolled off the Willow Run assembly line at a rate of one per hour. Chrysler alone built as many tanks as all the German tank manufacturers combined. With those high profile contributions to the war effort made by the big three automakers, it’s easy to forget that the independent automakers (and automotive suppliers as well) also switched over completely to military production.
Americans generally just don’t take too well to tiny cars. Perhaps they’re too much like toys, not really yet grown up? The Metropolitan certainly looks the part, resembling an amusement park ride or clown car rather than a genuine automobile a self-respecting grown-up American would drive. And this particular Metro only reinforces that stereotype: it’s owner is fourteen, and he’s owned it since he was ten. “Dad, can I have this cool car?” (Read More…)
[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]
That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence. (Read More…)