There’s something about motorcycles with seemingly impossibly huge engines that captures people’s fancy. Mention “V10 motorcycle” and people will bring up Chrysler’s V10 Tomahawk show vehicle, but Allen Millyard’s custom Viper V10 powered bike is actually a functional motorcycle. Monte Wayne’s Boss Hoss company in Tennessee has sold thousands of Chevy V8-powered motorcycles over the past three decades. Before that, starting in the 1950s the late, great “Michigan Madman”, E.J. Potter, set records and thrilled drag racing fans with a series of bikes named Widowmaker, propelled by V8 engines.
I was having a conversation with a female friend a few weeks ago and she admitted to having “fooled around” in no fewer than four different brands of minitrucks during the Nineties and Oughties. I suppose in her case that would be the Noughties — but that’s besides the point. I should also mention that the fourth “minitruck” was really a Colorado, and the incident in question happened fairly recently.
“There’s always some kind of stick shift in the way, in those little trucks, you know?” she said.
“Those are the little crosses that empowered young women have to bear,” was my response.
The conversation could have gone in any number of directions from there, but where it actually went was to A Brief Discussion Of Mini-Trucks In America, 1970-2010. I thought it might be a conversation worth having with all of you, as well, because it showcases a rather unique phenomenon in American automotive history.
Duesenberg Model J Murphy Body Roadster – One of These Is Not Like the Other. Can You Spot the Fake?
One of these cars is not like the other. A while back I wrote about the replica Duesenberg Murphy Roadster that former GM designer Steve Pasteiner’s Advanced Automotive Technologies fabricated for someone who owned a real Duesenberg. The person who commissioned the replica wanted to be able to drive in that style without risking damage or deterioration to a seriously expensive classic car (though the replica undoubtedly cost into six figures to build). Before I provide a link to that post, though, I want you to agree not to link over there until you’ve finished reading this one because I’m going to give you a test.
1946 Ford 9N Tractor, full gallery here
I’m sure that it’s a cliche to say that as a writer I try to avoid cliches. While gearshifts often do fall readily to hand, it’s not a good idea to put that in every review. Not long ago another writer (and I wish I could remember who it was to give him credit) was describing a car’s engine that wasn’t exactly the smoothest running machine and he mocked a common automotive cliche with the phrase “insert agricultural implement metaphor here”. When you read “it runs like a tractor”, they aren’t exactly praising an engine’s durability or torque, they’re calling it primitive and uncouth. Since I like to see things first hand, when I saw that there was going to be a tractor show this fall in Ira Twp, Michigan about an hour away, I decided to see, hear and feel for myself just how roughly tractor engines run. I’m glad that I did because what started out as a lark ended up teaching me something about automotive history and also American culture.
One of the things that makes Murilee Martin’s Junkyard Find series so engaging is not just his fine writing and photography, it’s the elegiac nature of the subjects and their settings. As with any elegy it’s hard to come away without a sense of sadness, at what was and is no longer and at what could have been and never was. I was uploading some images for a post that I was writing and I noticed that Murilee was working on another Nash Metropolitan Junkyard Find. The “little Nash Rambler” is such a cheerful, happy looking car, one that never fails to bring a smile to faces of both their drivers and those who see those drivers motoring around in their Metropolitans, that they look particularly forlorn sitting waiting to get recycled into scrap steel. I thought that some of you might enjoy seeing some Metropolitans that are treasured, not trashed.
1973 Ford Pinto Sportiva Concept
Is it a cliche to say that as a writer I try to avoid cliches? Anyway, I do try to avoid the word legendary (see Dash Parr on being special), but some concept and show cars are, well, legendary. Not in the sense, of course, that people tell grand tales about them but because they are remembered, ending up in books and blog posts. Some concept and show cars are, if not the stuff of legends, certainly the stuff of history. Other cars, not so much. For every memorable Cadillac Evoq, Sixteen and Converj, there’s been at least one La Espada or Aurora, cars that never really caught the public or auto enthusiasts’ imagination even if they may have influenced production cars. A concept car can cost an easy million dollars to build, but once that year’s auto show season is over, it’s often forgotten.
1998 Pontiac Rageous
Oldsmobile, Packard, Plymouth. Another dead brand with obscure concept cars in this part of the alphabet is Pontiac. This is their Rageous concept from 1997, another proto-CUV, and what some have called “the Aztek that should have been”. Imagine a four door Trans Am (the rear doors are suicide style like on the RX-8 Mazda) with a hatchback and a flat load floor that will accommodate a 4X8 sheet of plywood. A ’90s vintage LT1 and a Corvette based rear suspension completed the package, which of course had Pontiac’s supernumerary nostrils from that era. Actually, the Rageous isn’t that obscure. Mattel’s Hot Wheels released their own version of it in 1999 and reissued it at least 8 times since then. Like the Jeep Jeepster concept, if you’re a Gen Y’er, or a baby boomer who collects Hot Wheels you may actually remember the Pontiac Rageous.
Mitsubishi HSR III from 1992
It started with a photo of a strange looking Pinto with a targa style roof and it metastasized into an encyclopedia of just about every concept car you never heard about. Part One, Acura to Chevrolet, is here. Part two, Chrysler to Ford, is here. Part three, Honda to Mercury, is here.
Mitsubishi likes three letter acronyms and alphanumerics. Behold, above, the HSR III from 1992, some kind of Eclipse concept, I think.
1954 Chrysler La Comtesse
Yesterday, we started are look through concept and show cars from major car companies that may have slipped your attention by being rather obscure. I delight in the obscure and the unusual, figuring that not everyone needs more pics of ’69 Camaros or ’58 Isettas. We continue with barely known Chrysler, Dodge and Ford concepts.
The best science fiction tells human stories set against a backdrop of strange worlds or futuristic cities. Because pacing and plot are more important than lengthy, accurate descriptions of the technology at work in those worlds, most sci-fi writers don’t spend a lot of time on the various machines their protagonists use. We might know that our hero traveled in a shiny aluminum air car, but the details generally are left to our imagination.
Fortunately for those of us who want a real peek into the future, film is a visual medium. The best directors know that set and prop design are critical to the tone of a movie and that machines can be as important as the action. They pay a lot of attention to getting just the right look and, even though we may not get to open the hood on that futuristic air car, we definitely get to see it at work, get a feel for its lines and even some idea of how it handles. If they do their job right, we might even believe these vehicle could be real.
The following are, in this author’s opinion, some of sci-fi’s finest.
They can cuff me anytime.
Hot girls in short skirts are the first things that leap into my mind whenever anyone says anything about the Japanese. The internet has not helped to change that, in fact it may have made things worse. If you add the word “Japanese” to any noun that describes a group of people and enter it into your favorite search engine, pictures of hot young girls will always appear near the top of the results. Look for Japanese tour guides, Japanese students, Japanese beach volleyball players or Japanese anything and you will see I am right. Try it, I’ll wait.
Now that you’re back, did you look for Japanese Police? I did, and despite my prior confession I was surprised at what I found.
In the 80’s, I took a sabbatical from marketing and propaganda, and managed a record distribution company in the U.S. My warehouse manager was Rick, a redheaded bear of a guy who also could have been Master at Arms of the local Hells Angels chapter. Come to think of it, he managed the parts department of a motorcycle store before I hired him. The love of his life were a motor cycle and his Z Car. Rick would have suffered a heart attack, would he have known that his manly Z was a ladyboy. At home in Japan, the Z had a girlie name : The Fairlady.
I came across this vehicle in a parking lot in Beijing. It is a Ford Tempo GL. The Tempo was made in the US from 1984 until 1994, the white car in the parking lot was a second generation Tempo, which would put it in the 1988 the 1994 timeframe. How did it get to China? Ford never officially exported the Tempo to China. It is not the first Tempo I had seen in Beijing, I have seen many over the years. One could be a diplomat’s car, two also, but ten? There had to more to this Tempo-invasion of China, and there is…
Mercedes-Benz 320 (W 142 series, 1937 to 1942) in the Streamline Saloon version, also known as “Autobahn Kurier”, 1938.
In 1937, Mercedes-Benz had a familiar problem: It lacked a car in what we would today call the “obere Mittelklasse,” or the upper middle class, that sweet spot between medium-sized vehicles and top-of-the line. Apparently, auto managers already engaged in the art of positioning. At least, that’s what the “Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung” (AAZ or “General Automotive Magazine”) wrote when Mercedes showed its 3.2 liter Mercedes-Benz Type 320 (W 142 series) at the International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition (IAMA) in Berlin in February 1937.
A photograph of a driver sitting at side of the Nürburgring course, reading a newspaper, his Bugatti racer next to him. Zoltan Glass c. 1931.
Zoltan Glass was an amateur car racer and professional photographer who shot many of the major racing events in Germany in the 1930s as well as shooting commercial photography for automotive clients like Mercedes Benz, Horch and Auto Union.
100 years ago, just 25 years after the automobile was invented, a car reached the speed of 141.73 mph while the earth shook. The car could have done it a few years earlier. The pavement had to catch up first. The car was the Blitzen-Benz with a massive displacement. And this is its story.
You may never have heard of Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy, but almost a century before TV producer Matthew Weiner conjured up the fictional persona of ad man Don Draper, Jam Handy was inventing and shaping the way Americans bought and sold consumer goods, particularly cars. Along the way, he also shaped the way we learn about the world and how we see ourselves in it.
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- SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
- Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
- MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
- Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
- SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.