The Truth About Cars » prototypes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 23 May 2015 15:11:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » prototypes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Possible Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius Prototype Caught In The Wild http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070114 Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius. The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something […]

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2016 Toyota Prius Getting Gas At Vons

Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius.

The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something more, however, could not be confirmed.

The upcoming Prius was held back for further refinement to its styling — which may take cues from the C-HR Concept from last year’s Paris Auto Show — and to prepare it for Toyota’s New Global Architecture modular platform.

The new hybrid is set for production by the end of this year, with its showroom debut expected the following spring.

[Photo credit: Savior1974/PriusChat]

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DeltaWing Entering GT, Eyeing Future Showroom Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/deltawing-entering-gt-eyeing-future-showroom-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/deltawing-entering-gt-eyeing-future-showroom-debut/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027369 Coming soon to a track near you, DeltaWing will bring its signature design to the GT class, and eyes set on the showroom down the road. The latest racing variant is expected to demonstrate on the track “that with far less horsepower than many of today’s best sports cars, a two-seat performance car based on […]

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DeltaWing GT race car concept chassis

Coming soon to a track near you, DeltaWing will bring its signature design to the GT class, and eyes set on the showroom down the road.

The latest racing variant is expected to demonstrate on the track “that with far less horsepower than many of today’s best sports cars, a two-seat performance car based on the DeltaWing® architecture would deliver the same performance, yet with previously unimagined fuel economy and efficiency.”

The GT will, like the DWC13 Coupe campaigned by DeltaWing Racing Cars, be a coupe using weight distribution to its advantage, thanks to its narrow nose and wide backside putting 30 percent up front, the rest in back. The project won’t interfere with the team and its efforts in IMSA’s TUDOR series.

Meanwhile, that same basic design forms the basis for two- and four-passenger prototypes that could lead to a road-legal version of the DeltaWing. Preliminary data suggests the design would net “an unadjusted EPA fuel economy rating of nearly 74 mpg Highway and over 57 mpg combined rating,” adding that if one could buy a DeltaWing from the showroom today, they would have a vehicle that was not only the most fuel efficient conventionally powered vehicle in the United States, but would also meet the 2025 54.5 mpg standard. The ratings are for a DeltaWing powered by a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter engine placed in the four-passenger variant.

Aside from traditional ICEs, the company says the prototype could be fitted with hybrid, diesel, CNG, hydrogen and electric power, with results ranging from better range for diesel, EV and FCV versions, to a 42 percent reduction in emissions for gasoline models.

DeltaWing GT race car - early concept 1 DeltaWing GT race car - early concept 2 DeltaWing GT race car concept chassis DeltaWing common chassis

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Elio Motors Dyno Tests Engine Prototype http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/elio-motors-dyno-tests-engine-prototype/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/elio-motors-dyno-tests-engine-prototype/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017306 Elio Motors, the startup automaker hoping to produce and sell a low cost, high mileage reverse trike announced yesterday that the prototype of the IAV designed 0.9 liter, three cylinder single overhead cam engine to be used in their vehicle has successfully started dynamometer testing. A short video of the engine running in a test cell […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Elio Motors, the startup automaker hoping to produce and sell a low cost, high mileage reverse trike announced yesterday that the prototype of the IAV designed 0.9 liter, three cylinder single overhead cam engine to be used in their vehicle has successfully started dynamometer testing. A short video of the engine running in a test cell has also been released. While it remains to be seen if Elio will be able to raise the $200 million or so they say they need to start production in 2016 (pushed back from this year), the engine test is one of the more important steps on the journey to reach that goal.

While no horsepower or torque figures have been released, Elio Motors founder and CEO, Paul Elio, expressed satisfaction with the initial testing. “We are extremely pleased with our first run on the dynamometer,” Elio said. “Seeing this new technology come to fruition has been one of the most exciting stages in our history. This prototype puts us right were we need to be at this stage of development.”

Considering how many existing car companies are making or developing three cylinder engines with about one liter of displacement, many have questioned why Elio Motors isn’t just buying an off the shelf motor from another company, particularly since the company has publicized how they plan to keep costs and prices low by using many components already being produced by automotive suppliers along with more bespoke parts like their engine. Paul Elio addressed that question in the company’s announcement. “We are literally trying to reinvent the auto industry, so why go the conventional route and rework someone else’s engine? There really was nothing available that combined the speed and power that we want and our customers deserve.”

That’s an interesting comment because at 55 horsepower, the Elio engine makes less than half the power of Ford’s one liter Ecoboost triple, though the Ecoboost is, of course, turbocharged. Previously, Elio Motors indicated to TTAC that Comau, which is doing Elio’s production engineering and automation at GM’s former Shreveport, LA factory where Elio hopes to maker their trike, has reserved an assembly station on the engine line for the installation of a possible turbocharger.

Paul Elio’s remarks are also interesting because IAV is indeed more or less reworking the design of the Suzuki triple most familiar to Americans as the engine in the Geo Metro. That’s the same engine that Elio Motors has been using in their prototype mules, like the one I test drove last summer. I suppose Paul’s entitled to some wiggle room on his statement because although the Elio 0.9 liter engine is ultimately based on the Suzuki architecture, and while Elio initially did consider putting the Suzuki motor back into production, they determined that it simply was not a modern enough design to meet their objectives and the engine has been redesigned. All of the major engine components were designed specifically for Elio by IAV, including the cylinder block, cylinder head, valve cover, front cover, oil pan, crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, pistons, connecting rods, bearings and water pump.

TTAC has asked Elio Motors about the actual horsepower and torque results from the testing and we’ll publish them if and when we get them.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Jaguar Lightweight E-Type Prototype To Bow At 2014 Pebble Beach Concours http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/jaguar-lightweight-e-type-prototype-bow-2014-pebble-beach-concours/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/jaguar-lightweight-e-type-prototype-bow-2014-pebble-beach-concours/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=889217 Should you find yourself at Pebble Beach this weekend for the golf course’s famed Concours d’Elegance, you’ll be able to gaze upon the prototype for Jaguar’s newest skunk works project, the Lightweight E-Type. Autoblog reports the prototype, known as “Car Zero,” will join Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations’ Pebble Beach lineup, posing for all the photos […]

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Should you find yourself at Pebble Beach this weekend for the golf course’s famed Concours d’Elegance, you’ll be able to gaze upon the prototype for Jaguar’s newest skunk works project, the Lightweight E-Type.

Autoblog reports the prototype, known as “Car Zero,” will join Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations’ Pebble Beach lineup, posing for all the photos alongside the Range Rover Sport SVR and F-Type Project 7 during the Concours’ opening reception August 14. Once its promotional activities and testing are complete, the prototype will become a permanent part of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust’s collection.

As reported earlier, the final six Lightweight E-Types are picking up where the series left off in 1964, following the production of the 12th vehicle in the limited edition series. Each of the six will be built-to-order at JLR Special Operations’ Jaguar Heritage workshop, and all will be FIA-certified for historic racing.

The all-aluminum E-Type is driven to anger through a 3.8-liter I6 pushing 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque to the rear 15-inch wheels through a four-speed manual. Each owner will also be presented with a bespoke matching watch from the Bremont Watch Company, just so they can always know when tea (or tee) time is.

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Ford Super Dutys To Follow F-150 Toward Aluminum Future http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-super-dutys-to-follow-f-150-toward-aluminum-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-super-dutys-to-follow-f-150-toward-aluminum-future/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850850 A new aluminum age is about to dawn on Truck Mountain when its ruler, the Ford F-150, adopts the alloy for its new body in 2015. However, the revolution may not stop there if the Blue Oval has anything to say about it. Automotive News reports KGP Photography spy photographer Brian Williams happened upon an […]

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2014 Ford Super Duty

A new aluminum age is about to dawn on Truck Mountain when its ruler, the Ford F-150, adopts the alloy for its new body in 2015. However, the revolution may not stop there if the Blue Oval has anything to say about it.

Automotive News reports KGP Photography spy photographer Brian Williams happened upon an F-350 prototype at an undisclosed testing facility in Colorado, where he applied a magnet upon the truck’s bed to discover a lack of attraction. KGP associate Glenn Paulina adds:

If they’re using aluminum here, in the key punishment-point of a heavy-duty work truck, it stands to reason that aluminum is being used throughout the rest of the Super Duty prototypes — just as they have on the 2015 Ford F-150.

The tactic discovered by Williams was first acknowledged by Ford earlier this year when it did the same to the F-150, providing six prototypes to its best commercial customers for a two-year pilot program where only the automaker knew what was behind the cab.

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Google Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Prototype, Roush Rumoured To Be Involved http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/google-unveils-autonomous-vehicle-prototype-roush-rumoured-to-be-involved/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/google-unveils-autonomous-vehicle-prototype-roush-rumoured-to-be-involved/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833985 The autonomous vehicle has taken a step closer to traversing the streets and highways of the world with Google’s new prototype, which may have racing — and Skynet — in its cybernetic blood. Autoblog reports the toy-esque prototype has room for two, push-button start and no manual controls of any sort. Speed is limited to […]

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The autonomous vehicle has taken a step closer to traversing the streets and highways of the world with Google’s new prototype, which may have racing — and Skynet — in its cybernetic blood.

Autoblog reports the toy-esque prototype has room for two, push-button start and no manual controls of any sort. Speed is limited to 25 mph — no source of power has been mentioned — with a visible integrated roll cage providing structural integrity. Project director Chris Urmson adds:

On the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seat belts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop and a screen that shows the route-and that’s about it.

As for the racing link, Roush has been rumoured to be the ones building the proposed 100 prototypes set to undergo testing this summer according to an anonymous source. The source also says assembly will take place in Michigan, and the company — who also improves Ford Mustangs on occasion, as well as deliver the goods for transportation and military applications — is hiring engineers for the project.

Public use of the Google commuter pods is expected to come online in a California-based pilot within a couple of years per the search engine giant.

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The Deuce’s Coupe – Henry Ford II’s Personal Prototype Mustang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-deuces-coupe-henry-ford-iis-personal-prototype-mustang/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 01:56:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804458 Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American […]

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Full gallery here.

Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American Motors had shown the viability of compact cars, in 1960, Ford introduced the Falcon, Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, and Pontiac brought out the original, compact, Tempest. When GM introduced the sportier Monza versions of the Corvair, Iacocca, who by then was a Ford corporate VP and general manager of the Ford division, wanted something to compete with it. Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce”, had to be convinced to spend money on the project, just a few short years after FoMoCo took a serious financial hit when the Edsel brand did not have a successful launch. Iacocca, one of the great salesmen, not only sold his boss on the concept of the Mustang, the Deuce came to love the pony car so much he had a very special one made just for himself.

 

Multiple accounts from other participants in the story affirm that HFII was reluctant to give the Mustang program a green light. By early 1962, Iacocca had already been turned down at least twice, with Ford shouting “No! No!” when Ford’s division boss asked for $75 million to go after the youth market with a reskinned Falcon. Iacocca’s unofficial “Fairlane Committee”, an advanced product planning group that met every couple of weeks at the Fairlane Motel, away from prying eyes and ears at the Glass House, Ford’s World headquarters, had been working on the Mustang idea, but the team despaired of getting HFII’s approval.

In an interview on the Mustang’s genesis, Iacocca explained his challenge:

Henry Ford II had just dealt with one of the biggest losses in Ford history with the Edsel. It was dumped just one year earlier at a loss of $250 million. Henry was not receptive to launching a new, unproven line of cars which would present further risk to the company.

I made a number of trips to his office before I gained approval to build. He told me if it wasn’t a success, it would be my ass, and I might be looking for a new job elsewhere.

Surprisingly, Iacocca got word that Ford would let him pitch the as yet unnamed sporty car one more time. With the meeting scheduled for the next morning, Iacocca convened an emergency meeting of his secret committee. Things had to be secret because in the wake of the Edsel debacle, Ford’s corporate culture had become very cautious.

According to Ford head of public relations and Iacocca’s speechwriter Walter T. Murphy, who was at the meeting, the group included: Don Frey, Ford’s chief product planner; John Bowers, advertising manager; Frank Zimmerman, Ford division head of marketing; Robert Eggert, the company’s chief market research authority; Hal Sperlich, who wore many hats as Iacocca’s right hand man (and would follow him to Chrysler): and William Laurie, senior officer of Ford’s advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson.

In a 1989 account that he wrote for Ward’s Auto, Murphy described the scene:

“What I need are some fresh grabbers for my meeting tomorrow morning with Henry at the Glass House,” Mr. Iacocca told his committee (Note: we always called him Henry at meetings when Mr. Ford was not present), Bob Eggert, the researcher, was first at bat: “Lee, let’s lead off with the name of the car we’ve decided on.”

The feeling was that Henry didn’t know we were picking the Mustang name and he’d be entranced. Mr. Frey supported Mr. Eggert. “That’s a good way to go, but emphasize that this stylish pony car will kick GM’s Monza square in the balls.” Henry should love that! “I’ve got it,” Mr. Iacocca responded as he snapped shut the little car research binder that Mr. Eggert had slipped in front of him. “Murphy, put together some notes for me by early tomorrow morning. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.”

The following morning Mr. Ford stretched out in his leather chair, fingers clasped atop his expanding belly. Mr. Iacocca stood holding a few index cards. He was not smoking or fingering a cigar, as he usually did. Mr. Ford asked “What have you got, Lee?”

Lee launched into his pitch on the market for the youthful low-cost cars that Ford once dominated but had surrendered to GM along with a bushel of profit/penetration points. “Now this new little pony car, the Mustang, would give an orgasm to anyone under 30,” he said. Henry sat upright as if he had been jabbed with a needle. “What was that you said, Lee?” asked Mr. Ford.

Lee began to repeat his orgasm line but Mr. Ford interrupted. “No not that crap, what did you call the car?” “It’s the Mustang, Mr. Ford, a name that will sell like hell.” “Sounds good; have Frey take it to the product planning committee and get it approved. And as of now, you’ve got $75 million to fund your Mustang.”

In the end, Henry Ford II’s approval of the Mustang came down to the name. I’ll note that Walker’s recollection is slightly different than that of Iacocca, who says that Ford initially committed just $45 million for the project.

The Mustang team first developed the four cylinder midengine Mustang (now known as Mustang I) concept for the 1962 show circuit, gauging interest in a sporty car targeted at young people. Because of cost concerns, they were likely to never build such a car (the Edsel failure guaranteed that the car would have to be based on an existing Ford car), but the reaction was positive, leading to the Falcon based Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the 1974 Mustang II production car). The Mustang II was based on a very early preproduction Mustang body shell, first used for a styling study with stretched front end (with “Cougar” badging – the name that convinced HFII was chosen very late in the process)  and then taken out on the ’63 auto show circuit to drum up interest in the new car. The Mustang II is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum and it would be hard to put a dollar value on such a rare and historically significant Mustang.

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Henry Ford II with the Mustang at Ford’s pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where the Mustang was first introduced to the public. Above and behind him you can see one of the convertibles used in the Walt Disney Co. designed Magic Skyway that carried visitors through Ford’s exhibit.

Before the official start of Mustang production on March 9, 1964, in February Ford started to build actual preproduction prototypes of the Mustang, about 180 of them in all. The bodies-in-white were pilot plant units built off of body bucks by Ford Body & Assembly in Allen Park, which explains the leaded seams. The bodies were then trucked to the nearby Dearborn assembly plant where they were assembled as part of the validation process.

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From left to right: Lee Iacocca, Henry Ford II, and Gene Bordinat

One of of those preproduction prototypes was set aside for special treatment by Ford Design. Ten years later, it was just another old Mustang when Art Cairo spotted a classified ad in a Detroit newspaper that read, “1965 Mustang once owned by the Ford family.” The asking price was a very reasonable $1,000 so Cairo went to look at the car. He found what appeared to be a Hi-Po 289 hardtop in black. It had some unusual parts, though. The vinyl roof was leather, not vinyl, as was the interior upholstery and dashpad. The brightwork on the wheel arch lips was die-cast, not anodized aluminum as on production cars. Door jams and trunk openings had fully leaded seams, and there were features like GT foglights in the grille, exhaust tips and styled steel wheels that were not available on early production Mustangs. Under the hood, there was an alternator instead of a generator, which was what ran the electrical system of early Mustangs. The only Ford products that offered alternators in mid 1964 were Lincolns.

On the interior, in addition to leather seats there was real teakwood, molded leather door panels with pistol-grip door handles, and a factory reverb unit and rear speaker under the package shelf. Door strikers and latches were chrome plated. In addition to what appeared to be an authentic High Performance 289, the car had disc brakes up front, a “top loader” four speed manual transmission and a 9 inch rear end with a 3.50:1 final drive ratio.

When Art read the VIN, 5F07K100148, and realized that it was a genuine “K code” Mustang, an early production “1964 1/2″ model, with a real Hi-Po 289 and lots of oddball parts, he recognized that it was a special car and that he needed to buy it (it would turn out later that Cairo’s Mustang was the very first K-code Mustang built). In the glovebox he found an owner’s manual for a ’65 Mustang written with the name “Edsel B. Ford II” and a Grosse Pointe address. The VIN in the manual, however, was for a fastback and didn’t match the one in the car.

Edsel, Henry Ford II’s son, would have been in high school when the car was new so Cairo figured it was an authentic Ford family car and bought it, assuming it was the younger Ford’s personal car. In 1983, when Art was interviewing Edsel for the Mustang Monthly magazine, Edsel revealed to him that the hardtop was not his, but his father’s and that somehow the owner’s manual for his fastback ’65 ended up with his dad’s car. Since the car’s restoration, Edsel autographed the teakwood glovebox door.

It turns out that while the cars were built for Ford family members to use, they were not titled to the Ford’s but rather remained the possession of the Ford company. After Henry and Edsel were done with their Mustangs, they were returned to FoMoCo and sold. The story that Cairo had heard was that the Deuce gave his Mustang to his chauffeur, who then sold it to the person who sold it to Cairo.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, other modifications were discovered when the car was finally restored. The alternator meant that the car had a custom wiring harness. A steel scatter shield was welded into the transmission tunnel in case of a failure of the clutch or flywheel. The engine was a real Hi-Po 289, but it had experimental cylinder heads, and even the steering box was not a production unit. The original headliner was leather, to match the roof and upholstery and in addition to all the real wood and chrome plating, a custom AM radio with die-cast knobs and buttons was installed.

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“X” stands for experimental. The Hi-Po 289 V8 in Henry Ford II’s personal Mustang had experimental heads.

The fog lamps, exhaust trumpets and die-cast moldings were developmental parts planned to be introduced the following year, installed by Ford Design.

As mentioned, when Cairo bought the car, he knew it was special, being an early K-code car, but he didn’t take the Ford family provenance that seriously. He loaned the car to his brother, who beat on it pretty hard until something broke in the 289’s valvetrain. Art retrieved the keys, overhauled the heads and did a mild restoration and respray.

He didn’t drive it much because his job involving new vehicle launches at Ford kept him on the road a lot, moving from assembly plant to assembly plant. Though he drove 5F07K100148 sparingly, for the most part the car was unknown to the Mustang community.

In 2002, Cairo started getting worried about the long term effects of inactivity and humidity and a deep inspection found significant decay, rust and rodent damage. Rustbusters, a restoration shop in Redford, Michigan was entrusted with the car.

This was going to be a complicated job. Some parts, like the headliner and upholstery are so original they cannot be “restored”. How do you restore a one off with a replica?

The car was carefully taken apart, with copious notes and photographs taken. Once disassembled, they discovered that the rust had eaten through body panels, floors, frame-rails, wheelhouses, quarter-panels, inner fenders, doors, and the cowl vent. Had this been a run of the mill ’65 Mustang, most owners would have removed the VIN and bought a replacement body from Dynacorn.

Instead, with the help of reproduction company National Parts Depot, Rustbusters used a body jig custom designed for vintage Mustangs and repaired all of the sheet metal. A modern self-etching primer sealer was used as was polymer seam sealer, but Cairo was able to locate some vintage Ford Raven Black enamel, and after spraying, the Mustang was color sanded and hand rubbed old school style to replicate a 1964 era paint job. Unfortunately, the die-cast prototype wheel-lip moldings were too corroded to use.

Early production Mustangs came with an unimproved hood that had sharp edges, replaced in 1965 with a hood that had a rolled lip. Since all preproduction and Indy Pace Car Mustangs (Ford provided the pace car for the 1964 race) that have surfaced so far feature the later style hood, Art decided to go with the “1965” hood, which is how he found the car when he bought it.

The engine was rebuilt to factory specs, other than a .030 overbore, but inspections revealed that both the transmission and rear end just needed new seals and gaskets.

The car was finished just in time for Ford’s centennial in 2003 and Art was invited to display his car in front of Ford World Headquarters as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. This month it’s appropriately back in the lobby of the “Glass House”, whose official name is the Henry Ford II World Center, along with some other historic Mustangs, to celebrate the Mustang’s semicentennial.

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Now YOU Can Be A Spy Shot Paparazzo (No Prior Knowledge Required) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/now-you-can-be-a-spy-short-paparazzo-no-prior-knowledge-required/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/now-you-can-be-a-spy-short-paparazzo-no-prior-knowledge-required/#comments Fri, 14 May 2010 12:07:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356515 Hunting prototypes for spyshots can be a frustrating and (if done in Finland) frosty affair. Carmakers are taking extreme measures to ward off paparazzi. Carmakers camouflage their prototypes (see video.) This doesn’t faze bloggers. Bloggers found a way to catch future cars in the comfort of their own home or office: From a ragtop Panamera […]

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Hunting prototypes for spyshots can be a frustrating and (if done in Finland) frosty affair. Carmakers are taking extreme measures to ward off paparazzi. Carmakers camouflage their prototypes (see video.) This doesn’t faze bloggers. Bloggers found a way to catch future cars in the comfort of their own home or office: From a ragtop Panamera in egmcartech to a similarly topless Mercedes AMG SLS in Topspeed, no future car is safe from bloggers anymore, even before the first prototype is built.  Understandably, the Chinese are highly interested in the technique. You can learn it in a few minutes. What is the secret?

Patented Panamera ragtop. Picture courtesy egmcartech.com

Patent applications.  Bloggers and industrial spies mine patent applications for future car designs. Contrary to popular belief and public whining, there is no automatic copyright on car designs. As long as someone else doesn’t blatantly copy the design 1:1, it’s fair game. Design patents offer some protection.

However, here is the hitch: The designs must be filed. In public. Accompanied by drawings. How could one protect a design, without a drawing enclosed with the patent application? Unfair? As Wikipedia explains it in layperson’s terms: With a patent, “an inventor is granted a monopoly for a given period of time in exchange for the inventor disclosing to the public how to make or practice his or her invention.”

There is no camouflaging in these drawings. Au contraire: The novel aspects of the design must be clearly discernible. Otherwise: No patent.

In China, the matter gets even trickier. Very much contrary to popular belief, there is a fully functioning patent system in China, patents are being enforced. If they have been filed. Filed in China, not elsewhere. A lot of whining about “intellectual property robbery” comes from a lack of understanding of the Chinese patent system.

Patented AMG SLS ragtop. Picture courtesy topspeed.com

Highly misunderstood: China, unlike the United States and most other countries, follows the first-to-file doctrine. If a patent application is filed for the same innovation, the first to file will get the patent. You snooze, you lose.

It gets even dicier: In the United States, you can “publicly disclose” (use, talk about, advertise) an innovation, and then you have a full year to file your patent application at your leisure. In China, public disclosure before filing in China pretty much assures that you will not get the patent. You must file the patent before disclosure.

Up until quite recently, it was relatively easy for someone else to file in China for a patent that had already been granted to someone in another jurisdiction, say in the United States. If you filed for a patent in the U.S., but forgot to file in China, someone else could easily get a utility, or design patent in China. The patent holder could then use this patent to prevent others, including the original patent holder, from producing or selling the product in China. Howling ensued each time that happened, but it‘s the law. Well, it was.

Patented Traverse. Picture courtesy TheTycho.com

Effective on October 1, 2009, this loophole was closed. Under the amended patent law, an invention loses its novelty in China if it has been before publicly disclosed in the world. If it’s not novel, it can’t be patented. Neither by someone else, nor by yourself. Patent lawyers advise to file a Chinese patent application before there is any disclosure of the invention anywhere else. Now isn’t that counter-intuitive? You invent something in the U.S.A., and the first patent you apply for is in China? If you don’t want to get ripped off, yes. As a side effect, China receives prior knowledge of anything you think the Chinese shouldn’t copy, but them’s the rules.

Companies that ignore or misunderstand these differences (the above is a very condensed version, more for a hefty fee,) complain loudly about IP theft and routinely lose in Chinese courts. Companies that understand the system successfully file patents in China and usually win the case. Maybe. Anyway, they have a fighting chance.

A design patent in China is much like a design patent in the United States, or elsewhere. It protects “any new design of the shape, pattern, color, or their combination, of a product, which creates an aesthetic feeling and is fit for industrial application.” Just like elsewhere, the realistic protection from a Chinese design patent is limited. There is a huge grey zone between patent infringement and inspiration. A design patent in China provides protection for ten years. And at the very least, it prevents third parties from copying body parts of the car for use in the after sale market. There are voices that want to kill design protection for repair parts. The voices are not from China. They are from Brussels. Horrors! The House of Representatives blatantly copied the EU ideas! Someone call a lawyer.

Back to the bloggers: A side effect of the above is that many advanced designs appear first in patent applications. Such as the drawings for the new Buick Excelle, which a few days ago were confirmed by my new Beijing buddy TheTycho who found a new Buick Excelle sloppily parked on the proverbial grassy knoll.

He used the same technique to root out the design of the new Chevy Traverse. The heavy lifting was done by the Chinese site Bitauto, which must have a permanent correspondent at China’s State Intellectual Property Office (“SIPO”.) The new Traverse should be on sale in China by the end of the year. Good news for the UAW local in Lansing, Michigan: The Traverse will be exported to China. And because it’s a patented design, it can’t be easily ripped off. At least in theory.

However, everybody can be a spy shot paparazzo these days. Just sift through the files.

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