What's Wrong With This Picture? A Family Resemblance?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
whats wrong with this picture a family resemblance

Autopalooza, the umbrella PR campaign for sixteen top shelf automotive events in southeast Michigan, including races, cruises and car shows, had a kick off press event this past week. As a Detroit booster, I urge you to check out the schedule of events and try to attend as many of them as you can. While I haven’t been to all of them, I’ve attended most and if you get to check any of them out, you’ll find out why car events around Detroit are special.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though. The press conference was held at the General Motors Heritage Center, where GM displays some of the corporation’s large collection of cars and trucks. Even if I wasn’t a Detroit booster and at least a little interested in Autopalooza, just which one of us would pass up an opportunity get into the GMHC? I’ve been to the Heritage Center before, but they rotate cars in and out of the facility as some are loaned out for events or to museums, so it’s always worth a visit. Definitely worth taking lots of extra memory cards and charged up batteries for the cameras.

Of course I decided to get there early, to have more time to take pictures. From how many cars were in the parking lot a half hour early, it wasn’t a very original idea. The GMHC is not really a museum. More like a private collection in an industrial building than an elaborate Schlumpf-like display. It’s not ideal for photography. The cars are generally parked fairly close to each other, mostly side by side, but oh, what cars they are! Even the worst Government Motors haterz and most fervent FoMoCo or Mopar fanboys’ eyes will pop at what’s inside another of those proverbial nondescript industrial parks just outside Detroit.

Sometimes the way the cars were arranged set up interesting juxtapositions. First there was the Astro III turbine powered, space age looking car from the 1960s parked right in front of the restored art deco Futurliner bus styled Our American Crossroads diorama from the 1941 Parade of Progress. Call it days of future past or retro futurism, but the two artifacts of earlier times looked curious next to each other.

The other pairing took place, I suspect, because the GMHC had historic Chevys in a row right next to where they had GM’s experiments in alternative energy like the Electrovan and Electrovair II fuel cell and battery powered vehicles. Just down from the Electrovan was parked the Autonomy concept from 2002. The Autonomy, if you don’t remember, was also powered by fuel cells, with all of the car’s mechanical components mounted in a “skateboard” like chassis that could be mounted with a variety of body “top hats”.

I don’t recall if they ever showed any alternative bodies to this one. At the GMHC the Autonomy was also parked near a 1959 Chevrolet El Camino, which shares the ’59 Impala and other full size Chevys’ horizontal bat-wing like tail fins that curve down to a Vee. That dramatic styling is literally underlined by a simple horizontal bumper. The front end of the Autonomy has a hood line that also has a pronounced downward pointing Vee, sitting above a horizontal lower element. When I saw the two shapes in the same line of sight, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity and when I mentioned it to some of the others at the event, they agreed. I wouldn’t say that it’s uncanny, but there is a resemblance.

Sometimes shapes in automotive styling reappear in new contexts. For example, some people think that Jeff Teague’s Duesenberg concept’s rear end looks like the front end of a Lamborghini Gallardo, though I doubt that was a conscious influence. One of the ideas behind the Autonomy concept was that the “skateboard” would let exterior designers’ creativity flow, since they didn’t have to worry anymore about accommodating the mechanical bits. I think that it’s funny that with all the bodies they could have topped the Autonomy with, they chose one that looks like the back end of a ’59 Chevy.

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 dig deeper 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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  • Dtremit Dtremit on May 05, 2013

    Pity to hear that the Our American Crossroads diorama is locked away at the Tech Center. It was always a highlight of my childhood visits to the Museum of Science and Industry. I realize it's probably sacrilegious to suggest it, but it'd be nice to see them loan it out to the Henry Ford.

    • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on May 05, 2013

      It's at GM's Heritage Center, not the Tech Center. The Heritage Center is a few miles north of the Tech Center off of Mound Rd. After it was returned to Michigan and restored about 10 years ago, GM did have it on display at the NAIAS. The Motorcities.org umbrella group is trying to get a museum started that would display loans from the car companies and private collections. The Our American Crossroads diorama would be a good selection.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 05, 2013

    A 1959 El Camino rear end resembles a 2002 concept front end? What will they think of next! What they really have in common is neither the El Camino nor the pedestrian-unfriendly Autonomy concept front end will ever be built.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Auto insurance renewal every six months. Ten year old car, good driving record, own my own home, excellent credit score, no teenagers on the policy, etc, etc, etc.Yet, I pay thru the nose!!!!!Adds on the morning news brag about $500k settlements.I paid less when I lived in New York State.
  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
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