The Truth About Cars » nash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 05 Dec 2014 12:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » nash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1957 Nash Metropolitan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1957-nash-metropolitan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1957-nash-metropolitan/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496832 When we had a 1960 Nash Metropolitan Junkyard Find a couple months back, you may have thought “Well, that was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion!” As it turns out, finding examples of the little Austin-built proto-AMC commuter in cheap self-service wrecking yards isn’t difficult at all— here’s another one, discovered at a yard in Denver. This one […]

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16 - 1957 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen we had a 1960 Nash Metropolitan Junkyard Find a couple months back, you may have thought “Well, that was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion!” As it turns out, finding examples of the little Austin-built proto-AMC commuter in cheap self-service wrecking yards isn’t difficult at all— here’s another one, discovered at a yard in Denver.
12 - 1957 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is much rougher than the ’60 in California; it’s not very rusty, but its paint has been well-nuked by many decades in the Colorado sun.
02 - 1957 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou can smell the decaying horsehair through the glass of your computer monitor.
05 - 1957 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe BMC B engine, a larger-displacement version of which went into the MGB, looks intact.
15 - 1957 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWorth restoring? No way. Still, some good parts await pulling by owners of nicer Metropolitans. In fact, the trunk contained some NOS Pleasurizers.

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Junkyard Find: 1960 Nash Metropolitan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1960-nash-metropolitan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1960-nash-metropolitan/#comments Wed, 22 May 2013 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489176 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 […]

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13 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI 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!
19 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen cars like this end up high-turnover self-serve yards such as this one in Newark, California, most often they’ve been through an auction process and no bidder was willing to pay a price likely to be barely better than scrap value. This particular junkyard chain will attempt to sell complete collectible cars before placing them out for parts sales… and nobody was interested in this Nash at that point, either. What I’m trying to say is that this car had at least two (and probably more) chances for a reprieve, hundreds of car freaks took a look at it, and nobody cared.
07 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat tends to call into question the common perception that rough-but-restorable examples of these little Nashes are worth big bucks in the real world. This one looks like a solid car, no rust that I could see, all the glass and most of the trim still present, and the drivetrain pretty much intact.
15 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is trashed, of course, and perhaps there’s suspension or frame damage that I didn’t see. But still, how is this possible?
05 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, MGB (and early Hindustan Ambassador) owners, this engine sure looks familiar.
14 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOver the years, I have known three non-car-expert individuals who took on Nash Metropolitan projects (because they were “cute”) only to give up a year or so later when it turned out that cute old cars require just as much work to get running as rusty old pickups… especially when they were built in England (one of these was a guy who had some idea he could convert his basket-case Metro to electric power). I assume that there is a large population of fixer-upper Metropolitans being passed around from clueless owner to clueless owner; some wind up in the hands of those who know how to fix them, while others end up at places like this.
11 - 1960 Nash Metropolitan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ve always liked these cars, but I prefer a somewhat larger Nash.

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Junkyard Find: 1951 Nash Airflyte http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-1951-nash-airflyte/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-1951-nash-airflyte/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2012 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456836 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. […]

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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.
It turned out that the yard’s owner wants to keep this ’51 for himself, so I had to content myself with shooting photos instead of wheeling and dealing for a purchase. Fortunately, I’d brought the DSLR and a 25mm lens instead of my usual battered point-and-shoot, so these shots are a little sharper than what you’ll get in most Junkyard Finds.
The days of the flathead six as the standard powerplant for full-sized American cars were coming to an end by 1951, with just about all the Detroit major players working on (or, in the case of Cadillac and Oldsmobile, delivering) overhead-valve V8s.
Through the dust, you can just make out the gorgeous font used for the speedometer numbers.
AM radios were ungodly expensive options in this era, and you had to wait quite a while for the tubes to warm up before you could listen to Ike Turner singing the first-ever rock-and-roll song.
I’m a little disappointed that this car is unavailable, but I’ve got about a thousand more to choose from in this yard.

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Corvairs, Kaisers, and Cadillacs: Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard Is a Mile High… and a Mile Wide http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/corvairs-kaisers-and-cadillacs-brain-melting-colorado-junkyard-is-a-mile-high-and-a-mile-wide/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/corvairs-kaisers-and-cadillacs-brain-melting-colorado-junkyard-is-a-mile-high-and-a-mile-wide/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452449 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 […]

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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?
I got an invitation to this exclusive venue from a couple of friends who were picking up a pair of scrap-ready VW Rabbits that had been stored there for a decade. In the un-air-conditioned cab of the bad-gas-contaminated big-block ’75 Chevy Scottsdale are me and a pair of LeMons racers who like to build weird projects. That mission was an adventure in itself.
The air was a wildfire-smoky 100 degrees on the Great Plains when we got to our destination, and I couldn’t quite comprehend the size of the place. As far as I could see in all directions were rows of old and interesting vehicles.
The proprietor of this collection has been accumulating vehicles for several decades. There’s a little of everything, but several themes stand out. First, Chevrolet Corvairs and International Harvester Travelalls are everywhere.
I can’t tell you how many Corvairs— cars and vans— I saw as I staggered among the prickly-pears, but the total must be better than 100.
Travelalls, Scouts, and IHC pickups are also present in large quantities.
Once my shock over the Corvairs and IHCs had subsided, I began to notice the clusters of old school buses and vintage step vans. Can anybody put a rough model-year date on this hyper-cool GMC? Plenty more nearby!
Ever seen an Olds Cutlass coupe with diesel engine and factory four-on-the-floor? Yes, GM built at least one.
Speaking of diesels, oil-burning (and gasoline-fueled) Chevettes are also present in large quantities. Here’s a very rare Diesel Chevette Limited Edition.
I was looking for parts for my ’66 Dodge A100, though after picking this junkyard example clean over the winter my shopping list is down to a few rare trim bits.
This toy Trans Am has been baking on an A100 dash for decades. I am going to frame this image and hang it up in my office, for inspiration.
In addition to several A100s, the other members of the 1960s forward-control van clan are well-represented in this yard.
I may have to make another visit just to chronicle the dozens of FC vans to be seen in this magical place.
Another theme of this yard is the GM H Platform; I didn’t see many Vegas, but this must be the heaviest concentration of H-Body Monzas, Starfires, Skyhawks, and Sunbirds in the Western Hemisphere.
AMCs? Of course! In addition to several Marlins and the Matador we saw earlier, Pacers and Gremlins lurk in the tall grass.
I am profoundly tempted to adopt this (proto-AMC) Nash Ambassador as my next project. How hard could it be?
The really old stuff got me the most hypnotized. Much of the 1950s and 1960s Big Three machinery is now being shipped to restorers in Europe, leaving behind a lot of 1940s and off-brand stuff.
DeSotos, Willys, Kaisers, Nashes. Firedomes, Airflytes, Aeros.
Even Crosleys!
A photographer with more skill than I have could probably make a career out of nothing but closeups of patinas in this yard.
Even though Rich of Rocket Surgery Racing has an overwhelming number of projects going on, he took a look at the many Willys Aeros here and decided that he needed to drop one of his small-block Chevy engines in one. Sounds like a fine idea to me!
Finally, the Rabbits were loaded on the flatbed, we were all exhausted, and even the junkyard cat needed a rest. I’ll be focusing on some individual cars and trucks from this expedition in future Junkyard Finds, so you haven’t seen the end of this collection yet. For now, check out the even older stuff at this Colorado yard.

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Down On The Junkyard: Time Stops At Ancient Colorado Yard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/down-on-the-junkyard-time-stops-at-ancient-colorado-yard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/down-on-the-junkyard-time-stops-at-ancient-colorado-yard/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2011 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=398045 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 […]

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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.

This is the first REO I’ve ever seen in a junkyard. Sadly, it’s not an REO Speed Wagon; I believe this is an late-30s REO 19AS.

You know the inventory has been sitting for a while when the junked work trucks have four- and five-digit phone numbers painted on the doors.

The searing high-altitude sun in Colorado has a way of stripping paint down to bare metal over the decades. In the case of this truck, the sun has exposed layers of old business names.

This much-bleached “Goddess of the Rockies” emblem is painted on the door of a 1940s dairy truck.

I was tempted to buy the Goddess of the Rockies truck door, to hang on my garage wall… but then I saw this. Flames, a Viking ship, and a berserker. I may have to steal this design for my van’s paint job.

There’s something sad about an abandoned flathead V8 sitting in the dirt for 50 years.

Looking for parts for your 1955 Nash Statesman project? This one seems just about totally complete.

Just like the MGB-GT and Ferrari 308, the Statesman featured Pininfarina design.

And a “Double Strength” unit body.

Not to mention Weather Eye climate control.

Let’s jump forward a decade to a later AMC product.

Shift Command!

IHC Scouts galore here, including this one that was victimized by a shotgun.

I’ve always loved the old Plymouth sailing-ship hood ornaments, ever since I fell in love with this semi-rat-rodded ’47.

No A100s here, but I know where to go if I ever get a Corvair Greenbrier.

I could spend all day just photographing patina-with-emblem-ghosts.

In fact, I believe I’ll return and do just that. These shots are just scratching the surface.

Even though I left empty-handed (other than these photographs), my friends scored some parts for their 40s Ford pickup projects, off a ’43 military Ford truck with all sorts of cool war-wagon-only goodies, inlcuding a super-rare flip-up windshield.

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For Memorial Day: The Arsenal of Democracy – The Independents http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/for-memorial-day-the-arsenal-of-democracy-the-independents/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/for-memorial-day-the-arsenal-of-democracy-the-independents/#comments Mon, 30 May 2011 18:03:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396566 Willys MA, Willys’ entrant in the jeep competition 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. […]

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Willys MA, Willys’ entrant in the jeep competition

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.

Though car companies made boats and bombers, guns and gyroscopes, helmets and helicopters, really anything they could do for the war effort and keep the doors open, much of the military product development and manufacturing concerned their core competencies. When your company name includes the word “motors”, in wartime you make engines. Sometimes, like Chrysler’s A57 multibank 30 cylinder tank engine, the engines were in-house designs, but more often than not, the automakers produced marine and aviation engines under license from their original manufacturers.

Packard Motor Car made a variety of military engines. In our look at the Big 3, we already saw how Packard stepped to make Rolls-Royce Merlin engines when Henry Ford canceled the deal that Edsel Ford had negotiated with William Knudsen to make 9,000 Merlin 27 liter V12 engines. Henry Ford had earlier indicated to Treasury Sec. Henry Morgenthau Jr. that he was willing to make up to 1,000 planes a day, if the government would let him do it his way, but when Ford found out that Edsel’s deal meant supplying Britain, Henry had a fit, insisting that he’d supply the US government but not the Brits. Packard Motor was eventually selected to fulfill the $130 million order, in part because the Rolls-Royce company had high regard for Packard’s engineering expertise and quality.

That choice proved to be a wise one. Packard’s improvements on the original Merlin made it possible for the P-51 Mustang fighter to be able to operate at a high level of performance at high altitude. That in turn allowed American bombers to have fighter escorts all the way from England to Berlin and back. With a 4% chance of not surviving any one mission, and a quota of 25 missions before rotation back to the States (do the math, 25X4=100%), bomber crews had a horrific casualty rate. Without Packard’s improvements on the Merlin, the daytime bombing raids over Germany would have come at even a much higher cost.

The Packard V-1650, as its version of the Merlin was designated, was not just used in the P-51. It also was used on p-40F “Kittyhawks”, the Avro Lancaster bomber that the British used, and later in the war on some British Spitfires, though RAF pilots considered it unreliable, an opinion not shared by P-51 jockeys.

Less than a year after the contracts were signed the first Packard Merlin ran in August of 1941. It was based on the Mark XX Merlin 28. Right away the Packard engineers started modifying the V16. The first improvements were modest, changing the main bearings from copper to indium plated silver/lead, a trick borrowed from Pontiac. It was Packard’s third iteration of the V-1650 that had the most significant upgrades. The original R-R design used a single stage, two speed supercharger. Packard replaced it with a Wright designed two speed, two stage supercharger.

The more advanced blower meant that the induction system was able to maintain sea level atmospheric pressure even beyond 30,000 feet in altitude. The Packard Merlin was capable of putting out full power up to 26,000 feet and could still generate over 1,270 HP at 30,000 feet. Over the course of the war, Packard built over 55,000 V-1650s.

Packard PT boat engine. Based on the Liberty L-12.

Though Packard made military aircraft engines based on Rolls-Royce’s Merlin design, the motors they made for naval vessels had their origins a little closer to home. American PT boats were powered by Packard V12s. That engine was essentially a modified Liberty L-12 first used as an aircraft engine in World War One. The Liberty was designed jointly by E.J. Hall of the Hall-Scott engine company, and Jesse Vincent, Packard’s top engine designer. The engine was a SOHC modular design and could be made in 6, 8 and 12 cylinder configurations. Packard built the first prototype, a V8, and the V12 soon after, at the Packard plant on East Grand Blvd in Detroit. Coincidentally, the Packard V12 and the Merlin V12 had identical displacements. This has caused some confusion, particularly since Packard also designated one of their WWI era versions of the Liberty as the V-1650, the same name they would use for the Packard Merlin. As a result it is sometimes erroneously reported that PT boats used a version of the Merlin.

Though original equipment on PT boats was the Packard Liberty V12, in war you have to make do with what you have, so in service some of those Packard engines were replaced with the Invader 168, a 998 cubic inch 265 HP inline six made by Hudson Motors under license from Hall-Scott. The Invader was primarily used as a landing craft engine.

Unlike GM, Ford & Chrysler, who made trucks, jeeps and reconnaissance cars, Hudson’s contributions to the war effort were decidedly not automotive and mostly related to the air war. Hudson’s first military contract was to produce 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. Hudson built a million square foot factory in Center Line, Michigan, that employed 4,000 workers making those guns, which Hudson assembled from 1941 to 1943, when the Navy suddenly canceled the contract, awarding it to Westinghouse. Hudson would struggle to meet production quotas on most of their wartime products. The transition from civilian to military production was not always smooth. Though Martin and Curtiss-Wright were relatively happy with the work that Hudson did for them, the Navy felt that Hudson was slow in getting production up to speed.

Eventually Hudson found its niche making airplane parts, and parts of airplanes. Hudson supplied pistons to Wright, B-26 Marauder fuselage sections for Martin, wings for the Curtiss-Wright SB2C Helldiver dive-bomber and the Lockheed P-38 fighter, and armored cockpits for Bell’s P-63 King Cobra fighter. The last major wartime contract for Hudson was to make wings and fuselage sections for Boeing’s B-29 heavy bomber.

In addition, before they moved the Hudson Naval Arsenal into Westinghouse control, the Navy had Hudson produce small runs of specialty products like catapults for launching airplanes.

One interesting factoid about Hudson’s wartime production was their use of female plant guards. Though like many other military suppliers Hudson hired women for most production and inspection positions, using women in security positions was a novel thing and the company publicized it.

Hudson also hired blacks, but in June 1942, when they tried to place African-Americans in production work at the Hudson Naval Arsenal, white workers in a number of departments walked off the job in protest, apparently instigated by elements of the Ku Klux Klan. Remember that many southern whites and blacks had moved north to work in the auto plants. Racial animus would explode in Detroit a year later when a riot that started on Belle Isle eventually led to the deaths of 43 people. In the case of the “hate strike”, though, the secretary of the Navy told the UAW that not only would the Navy fire any strikers, they’d make sure that the strikers would not be able to find work at other munitions plants. Four ringleaders of the strike were fired, with the blessing of UAW leadership. That was not the only labor problem Hudson faced. There were a number of strikes and work stoppages in 1944 and 1945. That may go against the narrative that everyone pulled together for the war effort, but facts are facts.

The last “prewar” Nash rolled off the Kenosha line in January of 1942, the company having already mostly converted to military production. Like Hudson, Nash also devoted most of their wartime production to aviation, not automotive products. Nash was one of seven companies to produce the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 “Double Wasp” radial, building almost 17.000 of them. Nash’s other primary wartime product was Hamilton Standard’s hydromatic variable pitch propellers. At the height of production, Nash was the largest propeller manufacturer in the world, producing even more than Hamilton Standard. By the end of the war, Nash had made over 150,000 propeller assemblies and over 85,000 spare blades. The finished propeller assemblies had over 1,000 component parts each. Nash also made propeller governors and propeller feathering devices.

Additionally, for the duration, Nash supplied over 200,000 pairs of binoculars and cases, 650,000 bomb fuses and over 200,000 rocket motors, plus 44,000 cargo trailers, probably the closest thing to something automotive that the company produced from 1942-1945.

Nash-Kelvinator Plymouth Road plant that built Sikorsky R-6 helicopters. After merging Nash and Hudson, AMC made this facility their headquarters, later the Jeep engineering center.

Nash even made complete aircraft. A contract was signed for Nash to supply the Navy with 112 flying boats. The planes were designed, and a factory was planned near Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, but the Navy canceled the contract, reimbursing Nash for their expenses. Though they never put fixed wing aircraft into production, Nash did assemble Sikorsky helicopters. In 1943, Sikorsky designed a new model, the R-6 and the Army Air Corps was ready to order but Sikorsky did not have the capacity to meet the orders so they suggested Nash-Kelvinator to do the job. A contract was signed for 900 copters. Sikorsky supplied most of the drivetrain and rotor components, and the fuselages were built in Grand Rapids. Final assembly took place in N-K’s Plymouth Road factory in Detroit. That building would later be American Motors’ headquarters and after that Jeep’s engineering center. The building still stands but is empty, the Jeep personnel having been moved to Auburn Hills in 2009.

Production took a while to start up, primarily because Sikorsky made about 20,000 revisions to the original design. The first production model was tested in Sept. 1944. To test the helicopters, Nash built what was perhaps the smallest airport in Michigan just north of the Plymouth Road plant. When the contract was canceled a week after VJ day, Nash-Kelvinator had built 262 helicopters.

Though this series has been focusing primarily on Detroit based automakers, South Bend based Studebaker, the largest of the independents, was also a major military supplier. They built over 60,000 Wright Cyclone engines for the B-17 Flying Fortress. Like other automakers doing defense work, Studebaker was proud of their effort and took out advertisements featuring B-17s. some of those ads are featured in the photo gallery below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Studebaker also made the M-29 “Weasel”, a tracked vehicle originally intended to carry commandos used to attack German nuclear research facilities in Norway. In service they were primarily used to resupply front line troops who could not be reached by conventional trucks. Though designed to be amphibious, the Weasel didn’t have much freeboard, so the M-29C was developed with added buoyancy cells and rudders.

Red Army troops on a Lend Lease Studebaker 6X6

Studebaker made thousands of US6 (M16A) 4X4 and 6X6 trucks for the war effort, many of which were sent to the Soviet Union under the Lend Lease program. The Stude trucks performed so well on the terrible roads and in the harsh Russian winters that for a while “Studebaker” was synonymous with “truck” in Russian slang. They were so well built that GIs would see a pretty woman walk by and say “Now she’s a Studebaker”.

Speaking of four wheel drive military vehicles, no discussion of the independent automakers during WWII would be complete without a discussion of the jeep, since two of the three companies involved in the jeep were independents, the third being Ford.

No discussion of the independent automakers during WWII would be complete without a discussion of the jeep, since two of the three companies involved in the jeep were independents, the third being Ford. Though the origins of the name “jeep” are somewhat shrouded, the history of the jeep itself is well documented (though as with all histories there are controversies). [Note: I’m using the convention of capitalizing Jeep when referring to postwar products of Willys/Kaiser/AMC/Chrysler while wartime military jeeps will get a lower case spelling).

As with many WWII era weapons, the jeep’s story begins before the US entered the war. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. As the Germans quickly conquered most of Europe and North Africa, the US Army realized that it needed a small 4X4 truck capable of going where there weren’t necessarily any paved roads, to use as a reconnaissance vehicle. In early 1940, the Army put out a rush request for prototypes. Over 130 car, truck and other automotive companies were contacted, but most companies felt that they could not meet the 49 day deadline nor the 1300 lb maximum weight, and only Willys-Overland and tiny American Bantam submitted vehicles. Before the competition was judged, though, the Army pressured Ford Motor Company to participate, concerned that a large automaker would be needed to meet anticipated production numbers.

Ford GP, Ford’s entrant in the jeep competition

Willys asked for more time, but Bantam, who had been making a lightweight British 4 cylinder car under license, worked day and night and in 49 days they had their prototype. There’s some controversy over just who was involved. Most histories attribute the design to Karl Probst, a Detroit based engineer who was brought in to the project at the request of Bill Knudsen, then head of the National Defense Advisory Committee. It appears, though, that most of the layout and engineering had already been done by Bantam personnel. Probst’s major contribution seems to have been preparing the bid drawings. As such he surely had a role in how the jeep looked, but it’s likely that Probst didn’t “design” the first jeep.

The design brief called for:

  • 1,300 lb weight (later changed to 2,160 because the lower weight was not realistic)
  • Four wheel drive
  • Engine: 85 lb/ft of torque
  • Maximum tread width: 47 inches
  • Minimum ground clearance: 6.25 inches
  • Payload: 600 lbs (hence the 1/4 ton designation)
  • Cooling system: capable of allowing sustained low speeds without overheating

Bantam submitted their bid on time, though they fudged the weight specs, their vehicle being significantly heavier than 1,300 lbs. By September a prototype was running. After putting it through over 3,400 miles of torture testing, over 90% on unpaved roads or no roads at all, the Army concluded:

“This vehicle demonstrated ample power and all requirements of the service.”

The testers were so impressed that the Army forwarded Bantam’s blueprints to Willys and Ford, who then submitted prototypes more or less based on the Bantam designs, though the Willys “Quad” and the Ford “Pygmy” did have some significant differences. The Army then ordered 1,500 vehicles from each competitor. Only a handful survive. The Walter P. Chrysler museum has a Willys MA, and there’s a Ford GP in a suburban Detroit Ford dealer’s private collection. After evaluating the three jeeps, the Army decided on a standardized model that was based on the Bantam layout, but incorporated elements from the Ford and Willys designs.

The Bantam had an anemic 4 cylinder engine of fairly ancient British design. The Ford used an engine originally designed for Ford tractors. While those obsolete engines barely met the torque requirements, the Willys “Go Devil” engine was a recent design and had 25% more torque, as well as significantly more horsepower. So the standardized model used a Willys motor.

Willys “Go Devil” jeep engine

The Army also preferred the front end design of the Ford, that had a broad, flat hood over the engine which could be put into service carrying cargo or wounded soldiers on stretchers.

No good deed goes unpunished and for their contribution to the war effort, American Bantam was rewarded by the jeep contract being given to Willys. The War Department was skeptical of Bantam’s shaky manufacturing capacity and even shakier corporate finances. Willys-Overland subsequently gave the US government a non-exclusive license to make the jeep using Willys’ specs. Per the government’s wishes, Willys supplied Ford with a complete set of blueprints.

Willys-Overland MB standardized jeep

In total, over 700,000 jeeps were built by Ford and Willys, with Ford making slightly more GPWs than Willys made MBs. As a consolation prize, the Army awarded some other contracts to Bantam, but they were not nearly as profitable as supplying the jeep would have been. In an ironic footnote, though neither company had originated the jeep, after the war, when Willys started marketing civilian versions of the MB, Ford challenged their trademark on the name “Jeep”. Ford lost and in 1950 Willys registered “Jeep” as a trademark. In yet another irony, years later Chrysler/Jeep and GM/Hummer would go to court over who owned the trademark on the seven slat front grille of the Jeep (actually the result of the military HumVee being designed by American General while AMC owned Jeep). Chrysler and GM went to court over a front end design that originated at Ford.

Ford GPW standardized jeep

Regardless of who designed what parts of the military jeep, it did its job and then some. Ernie Pyle, the great war correspondent, said of the jeep: “It’s as faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule and agile as a goat.” Every one of the US service branches, in both Europe and in the Pacific, used the jeep, as did the forces of Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The were used for reconnaisance and with mounted guns, as ambulances for the wounded, and as limousines for prime ministers and presidents.

Humble, hard working and never willing to quit, in many ways the jeep symbolizes the “greatest generation”, Americans who fought the war in combat and on the home front, on the front lines and on the production lines.

Again, on this Memorial Day we honor and memorialize their struggles, their successes and their sacrifices.

Note: Most companies making war materiel made sure the public know that they were contributing to the cause. I’ve attached a gallery of wartime advertisements from automakers that feature their military production.

 

WWII_275_1 1944BayoW 4610 9881 191942-45_nash_ad-13 esavTGD3jlKIiCl eYkMlYJ2y4X2RqK KLD5AwOpEEDbodD MIX8_003_1 MIX8_022_1 MIX8_025_1 Nash_Ads-243ba09a Nash_Ads-244da05a o_54X9erq42WU8T1s o_CEnkQJL2RqDtVdI o_f4k5EKF125CVhdp o_ft1OaCl0A2QNUbR o_gGZqZhzWNAepsxi o_HEZtJvgrwWvCkj7 o_j7ybIPqjskS8NMM o_joZH3SeiBCkdA2G o_jpiJoW8kwgeMIn9 o_k218NZqfMN8jwhX o_MjKihxzrQ2M4zMW o_MNA5Chp3rU9zRPK o_mOVJmIBmNMvwTYi o_OhubYuOgYwr01qG o_pssjnGEs7dVLEzJ o_wjAHlHVMkpnOcFR WKh1EZ2sbmYld7j WWII_186_1 WWII_219_1 WWII_271_1 willys-ma-2 packard ptboat hudsoninvaderptboat hudsoninvaderengine2 nashkelvinator ford-gp-3 willys-overland-mb-1 willys-ma-go-devil ford-gpw-4 Studebaker US6 U3_2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Curbside Classic: 1957 Metropolitan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/curbside-classic-1957-metropolitan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/curbside-classic-1957-metropolitan/#comments Thu, 23 Sep 2010 15:19:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366384 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 […]

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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?”

If you’re Russel, you’re in luck. He saw it sitting forlorn for years in a neighbor’s carport, and at the age of ten, he talked his dad into buying it for him. And who says kids aren’t into cars anymore? Just depends on the ride.

It’s not like Russel was exactly the target demographic Nash’s George Mason had in mind in the late forties, when he got the small car bug. A bit surprising too, coming on the heels of the failure of the tiny Crosley. Well, Mason initially had in mind something much more substantial than that little flea, and the result was the 1950 Rambler, the first “compact” of the post-war era.

Wisely, Nash positioned it is a “premium” compact, with a roll-back top and well equipped. There simply wasn’t enough difference in the cost of building a compact from a full-sized car to allow it to be sold for much less, so the Rambler broke new ground with an upscale approach. It worked well enough in moderate numbers to encourage Nash to go even a step smaller.

Designer Bill Flajole (above) was thinking along the same lines, and when he hoked up with Nash, their joint ideas on the subject were expressed in the NXI prototype of 1950. One of the key aspects of the design was to save money on large body stampings, since it was assumed the little car would not likely be a large volume job. Note the symmetrical door, which made it into the production Metro. To my knowledge, the fenders on the prototype were also symmetrical, except for the minor cutout for the front wheel. Symmetry as a way to reduce tooling costs was a recurring theme, especially at AMC, even into the sixties, when the prototype for the Hornet (Cavalier) tried the same approach.

Mason was intrigued, but not enthusiastic about what it would take to actually produce it, profitably. The solution was outsourcing: with the devaluation of the British pound, having the Metro built in England made it viable. The firm Fisher & Ludlow, Ltd. built the body, and Austin supplied and installed the running gear, whose cars were already fairly common in the US as imports.

The 1954 Metro went on sale for about $1500 ($12k adjusted), pretty much the same as a Smart today. It used the popular 1500 cc B-block motor in 42 hp tune, and a three-speed with a column shifter. Given its light weight of some 1800 lbs, the Metro performed adequately, but then it was never positioned as a sports car. The suspension was tuned more for ride than handling. An MG in drag it was not.

Sales for the Metro were modest, bouncing around in the teens of thousands most of the years it was produced, from 1954 through 1960. The Big Three’s new compacts that final year put the kibosh on the Metro, but it’s had an enthusiastic following ever since, especially the young or young at heart.

My older brother (very much young at heart) went through a couple of these back in the late seventies, when they could be picked up for a song. His experiences keeping an MGA running years earlier came in handy, since they used the same basic motor and other BMC goodies and Lucas electrics. But their simplicity and availability of parts makes them a fun project, like for Russel and his dad.

The motor in this one is all original, and good to go. They’ve done some repair work to get the Metro back on the street, but like a good little CC, it is as original as possible, and shows it too. Russel has a lifetime of fun and improvements ahead of him. And, yes, he has put in some behind-the-wheel time in the Metro, despite his age, in undisclosed locations.

The Metro gets lots of attention, wherever it goes. Russell is looking forward to the Metro’s magnetic appeal to the opposite sex, just as soon as he can take advantage of it. Picking up girls with his dad along is a bit compromising, since that back “seat” is more than a bit cramped, even for limber young bodies.

The Metro found a modest following for a few years, as did the Crosley in the forties. And the Smart is going down that same road; in fact its sales are pretty much in Metro territory. But the euro is a lot stronger today than the pound was in 1954, so although Nash made a modest profit from the Metro, the same is not the case for the Smart. And of course, the little Crosley just didn’t catch on either. Toy cars, all of them. And they want to raise the driving age?

PS: atewithmotor has an excellent detailed history of the Metro, for those wanting a more serious look at it.

More Curbside Classics are here

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An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics – In Three Parts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/an-illustrated-history-of-automotive-aerodynamics-in-three-parts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/an-illustrated-history-of-automotive-aerodynamics-in-three-parts/#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2010 20:29:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=345269 [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 […]

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[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.

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Racers, particularly those chasing the coveted Land Speed Record (LSR), were generally the first to employ aerodynamic aids. The La Jamais Contente (The Never Satisfied) was the first automobile to break the 100kmh (62 mph) record, in 1899. Like all the first batch of LSR holders, it was an EV. The driver’s position seems to negate the aerodynamic aids, or maybe he was just posing, and more likely crouched down for the actual run.

The evolution of aerodynamics for LSR cars was remarkably rapid, as this Stanley Steamer Rocket of 1906 evidently shows. And the increase in speed was even more dramatic: the Rocket broke the 200km barrier, with a run of 205.44 kmh (127.66  mph). That would not be bettered until 1924, and not until 2009 for steam powered vehicles.

The first known attempt at streamlining a passenger car is this Alfa Romeo from 1914, built by the coach builder Castagna for the Italian Count Ricotti. Due to the very heavy bodywork, it turned out to not improve on the top speed of the open Alfa it was based on.

Undoubtedly, the real breakthrough aerodynamic passenger car was the German Rumpler “Tropfenwagen” (teardrop car) of 1921. Unlike the impractical and heavy Castagna Alfa, the Rumpler was as dramatically different (and influential) for its completely integrated and original design and engineering. It had a mid-engined W6 engine, and four wheel independent suspension using swing axles which Rumpler patented. The Tropfenwagen was tested in VW’s wind tunnel in 1979, and achieved a remarkable Coefficient of drag (Cd) of .28; a degree of slipperiness that VW’s Passat wouldn’t equal until 1988.

It’s important to remember that the Cd is a coefficient, and denotes the relative aerodynamic slipperiness of a body, regardless of its overall size. A brick of any size has a Cd of 1.0; a bullet about .295.  To arrive at the critical total aerodynamic drag that determines power required and efficiency, the frontal area (cross section of the vehicle looking straight on) is multiplied by the Cd. The Rumpler was relatively very aerodynamic, but it was also quite tall and boxy, which resulted in the one hundred or so production cars being used primarily as taxis. An ironic ending for Rumpler, but his ideas spawned imitations and extensions world-wide, and opened the whole field.

To put the nascent field of automotive aerodynamics in perspective, the typical two-box car of the twenties was more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards, as this ass-backwards car showed. That brings back memories of Bob Lutz stating that the Volt concept would have had better aerodynamics if they put it in the wind tunnel backwards.

Hungarian-born Paul Jaray used his experience working int the aeronautical field, and especially designing Zeppelins, to develop a specific formula for automotive aerodynamic design principles that lead to a patent, applied for in 1922 and issued in 1927.  His approach was influential, and numerous companies used Jaray licensed bodies during the streamliner craze that unfolded in the early thirties. His early designs tended to be very tall, and with questionable proportions and space utilization (below).

His designs eventually became more mainstream, and Mercedes, Opel, Maybach, and numerous other makes, primarily German, built special streamliner versions using Jaray bodies, like this Mercedes below:

The limitation of these cars is like the Castagna Alfa, they were re-bodied conventional cars with frames, front engines and RWD. Jaray only addressed the aerodynamics, not the complete vehicle like Rumpler had. It was a start, but others were taking up where Rumpler left off, like the English Burney, below:

Obviously more Rumpler influenced and less by Jaray, the 1930 English Burney featured a then-radical rear engine and also four wheel independent suspension.

One of the most influential and lasting designers of the whole era was Austrian Hans Ledwinka. After he took over as chief design engineer at the Czech firm Tatra in 1921, he developed the basis of a series of remarkable Tatra cars and eventually streamliners with platform frames, independent suspensions and rear air-cooled engines that Ferdinand Porsche cribbed from heavily in his design of the Volkswagen (VW made a substantial payment to Tatra in the 1960s to compensate them for this theft of IP).

The compact Tatra v570 of 1933 (above) is the forerunner of both the larger Tatras soon to come, and obviously of the Volkswagen. We’ll come back to Tatra later.

This Volkswagen prototype from 1934 (above) shows a very strong resemblance to the cribbed Tatra v570, with the benefit of some further refinement. Although the visual cues are not really as significant as they might appear to us now, because these were the leading-edge design elements of the time, and widely imitated or shared, on both side of the Atlantic.

As this 1934 prototype for an American rear-engined sedan by John Tjaarda shows, the Europeans weren’t working alone. This fairly radical design became tamed-down for the production 1936 front-engined Lincoln Zephyr, of which the less common but handsome coupe version is shown below:

Of course, Americans’ introduction to streamlining had come two years earlier  in 1934, with the stunning Chrysler Airflow (below). An essentially pragmatic approach, the Airflow also kept the traditional Body On Frame (BOF) front-engine RWD standard, but made some significant advances in terms vehicle design by pushing the engine further forward over the front wheels. This, combined with a wider body, dramatically improved interior space and accommodations. The Airflow had the same basic configuration as American cars from the late forties and early fifties. Progress is not always linear.

The failure of the practical Airflow can probably comes down to one thing: that overly flat waterfall grille. That was too much of  a break for the symbolism still engendered in the remnants of the classic car prow. The Zephyr had one, and it was a success, despite not being nearly as a good a car as the Airflow.

An even less pragmatic but remarkably practical and effective American vehicle was the Stout Scarab (above). Aviation engineer William B. Stout designed this extremely roomy mini-van precursor using  a unitized body structure and a rear Ford V8 engine. The first was built in 1932, and several more variations, a total of nine, were built in the mid thirties, but series production never got off the ground, due to an asking price almost four times higher than a Chrysler Imperial Airflow of the times, and even those weren’t selling so well just then.

A much more radical approaches to streamlining was Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion. The first of several prototypes also saw the light of day in 1933, in the midst of this fertile period on both side of the Atlantic. The Dymaxion also had a rear Ford V8, but with a tricycle carriage and rear wheel steering, which allowed it to turn on the length of its body.

Another lesser-know variation of the popular Ford V8 engined aerodynamic vehicles was this Dubonnet Ford of 1936, whose very slippery body allowed it to reach 108 mph. I appears to have  Isetta-type front doors for the front seat passengers. About as much crumple zone too.

Let’s jump back to Czechoslovakia and the fertile Tatra design studios. Here are some clays from about 1933 or so, showing the development of both the smaller VW-like v570 on the right, and the larger streamliners in the rear. The first of these, the T77, arrived in 1934 (below):

The T77 was measured to have a Cd of .212, a number that was not broken by a production car until GM’s EV-1 of 1995, which measured at .195.  A remarkable achievement, the long-tailed T77 was powered by a rear air-cooled V8, and began a long series of Tatras until the 1980’s along similar lines. My retrospective of Tatra is here.

Tatra became synonymous with the advanced streamliner of the pre-war era, enabling remarkably fast travel (100 mph) on the fledgling Autobahns of the Third Reich. Favored especially by Luftwaffe brass, they had a nasty habit of killing them, due to its wickedly-abrupt oversteer, thanks to the combination of rear V8 and swing axles. That earned it the nick name of “the Czech secret weapon”.  So many died at its hands, that supposedly Hitler forbade his best men to drive them. In many (other) ways, the Tatra 87 was the Porsche Panamera of its time.


To demonstrate just how far the aerodynamic envelope was pushed in this golden decade of streamlining, this 1939 Schlörwagen prototype was tested originally at Cd .186, and a model of it was retested by VW in the seventies with a Cd of .15. Either of these values put the “pillbug” at or near the top of the list of the most aerodynamic concept cars ever built, like the Ford Probe V of 1985, with a Cd of .137. Built on the chassis of the rear-engine Mercedes 170H, it was substantially faster as well as 20% to 40% more fuel efficient than its donor car. The Russians took the Schlörwagen as war booty and conducted tests as a propeller driven vehicle. It represents a state of aerodynamic efficiency in league with the most aerodynamic cars being considered today, such as the Aptera.

Its important to note that the rise of interest in aerodynamics in the 1930s arose out of the desire to reinvent the automobile from its horse and wagon origins and the assumptions that average driving speeds would be on the rise with modern roads. This made it a forward looking undertaking, as most drivers were plodding along at 35-45 mph outside of cities. But the first freeways were being built in Germany, and improvements in US roads, including the first parkways and freeways were taking place. It also explains the particularly strong interest and adoption of streamlining in Germany.

Note that I have not attempted to survey the influence of aerodynamics on the styling of cars in the latter thirties and up to WW II. Needless to say the influence was utterly profound, and gave us some of the most remarkable cars of the late classic era. But this had relatively more to do with style (and even affectation) than a genuine effort to push the envelope in terms of leading edge aerodynamics. Nevertheless, the benefits and beauty that resulted, like in this Bugatti Atlantique coupe are undeniable, but beyond our scope here.

Part 2: 1939 to 1955

Part 3: 1955 to the Present

The post An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics – In Three Parts appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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