Tag: History

By on April 10, 2020

With no reason to risk going outside and industrial news at an all-time low, I’ve retreated into curiously dry hobbies as a way to maintain my sanity.

A substantial portion of my time has been devoted to parsing through old automotive catalogs and marketing materials. As someone who is notoriously difficult to shop for, dusty paperbacks that can easily be found for a nickel at any estate sale turned out to be ideal gifts… and I amassed a sizable collection. Over the weekend, I found myself going through vintage television spots — noticing they’re quite a bit different from the ads we encounter today.

While automotive marketing has evolved through the ages, there was a long stretch of time where companies basically just filmed a car driving around as a disembodied voice explained its strengths. This was back when advertisements featured voice-overs telling you that “Quality is Job 1” at Ford, or a choir of voices joyfully acknowledging that they absolutely loved what Toyota was doing for them.

Today, I’m celebrating the 30th anniversary of a totally mundane promotion from 1990 called “National Cadillac Week.” While the free AVIS rental and cash back on your purchase weren’t unusual (then or now), I happened to encounter it exactly three decades after it originally aired — as if destined by fate. It was a glaring reminder of how much car ads have changed in that time period. (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2020

“I’m a lawyer from Denver, Colorado, Mike… I probably can’t hit a thing.” – William Holden, The Bridges at Toko-Ri

Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you planned. Sometimes, despite erring on the side of caution and always treading the right path through life, fate deals a cruel blow. It’s just the way it is.

A man who did everything right can find himself dying in a muddy ditch, far from home. Other times, it’s an automotive brand laying in that ditch — a victim of circumstance, world events, changing societal trends, financial incompetence, or hasty cost-cutting. Whatever came before no longer matters.

Still, some deaths are worse than others. Which automotive demise was least charitable to the deceased? (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2020

With health concerns keeping everyone largely indoors, you may have spent this morning asking the mirror how you intend to get through the next few weeks with your sanity intact. We’ve been asking ourselves the same question. There’s not a lot going on out there and little reason to risk infection so you can witness nothingness first hand. That leaves millions of us at home trying to cobble together a battle plan on how to combat weapon’s grade boredom. The least fortunate will also have to do this for increasingly stir-crazy children. Luckily, reinforcements have arrived to stave off their youthful ennui for a few hours per day.

Temporarily closed on account of the coronavirus, Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum is offering free educational programing starting today. While the content is aimed at children under 12, the site is primarily concerned with producing family entertainment that will satisfy those isolated in the homes. The museum intends on providing daily opportunities to learn about the physics and/or history behind the automobile through the month of March.  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2020

BMW is updating its logo for the modern era. The old glossy emblem with the dated lighting effects the company has leaned upon for the last 23 years will be replaced with a new transparent image that nixes the black background entirely while maintaining the lettering and central blue-and-white roundel. You’ve probably already seen it on the Concept i4, or are perhaps familiar with its monochrome cousin intended to help distinguish the brand’s flagship models.

The manufacturer has said the new logo aims to establish a new corporate identity for online and offline communication purposes, so it could be reserved for press materials and advertising. Yet it has appeared on one automobile already, indicating the brand may eventually have bins of them at the end of every assembly line. Is it a fashion faux pas or the perfect reimagining of the brand’s longstanding iconography?  (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2020

Listen, I know I’ve given Aston Martin a hard time ever since I’ve started writing about cars. My diatribe about the marque choosing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a brand ambassador netted me no shortage of attention from upset sportswriters and morning DJs who cared more about football than I ever could. To my surprise, the ordeal even landed my name in a book about the NFL that nobody read. Despite the indescribable waves of pleasure I feel from bashing the marketing efforts of any high-end brand, Aston’s cars have historically been quite desirable. In fact, I have a gigantic soft spot in my head heart for the V8 Vantage Volante Timothy Dalton drove around in The Living Daylights.

That bodes well for Aston as I prepare to exercise every ounce of pettiness from within my soul to comment up its 70th anniversary celebration of the Vantage. But then the manufacturer decided to put a bunch in an empty aircraft hangar for a photo op and I suddenly remembered that the Vantage name has been tainted by more than just Mr. Brady.  (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2020

2016 Chevrolet Impala LTZ Detroit - Image: GM

Mark this date on your calendar or, should you be so inclined, in your diary. Today — February 27th, 2020 — marks the end of the Chevrolet Impala.

Some 62 years after its launch, the last Impala sedan will roll off the line Thursday at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, The Detroit News reports. A very different future awaits both the factory and the industry, and it seems cars like the Impala have no role to play in it.

It’s been a long time coming. (Read More…)

By on January 28, 2020

DeLorean’s plan to produce updated versions of its only model has been delayed due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dragging its feet on the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act. The car was supposed to be here as a turnkey classic years ago, but the regulator failed to act after the 2016 election. The NHTSA doesn’t currently have an administrator, and the acting administrator would not sign off on the regulations. Vintage automobiles probably aren’t very important to an agency that’s also trying to manage autonomous and electric vehicles.

However, the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act was supposed to be the keystone in allowing DeLorean and the like to assemble new cars. Noticing three years had passed with no progress, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) decided to sue the NHTSA last fall. James Espey, vice president of DeLorean Motor Company, has taken this as a good sign — and he believes the company could start production in 2021.  (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2020

This must be some sort of irony-steeped Radwood thing. How else to explain the sudden resurgence in enthusiasm for a mid-sized van that loitered in General Motors’ lineup for two uneventful decades?

It seems there’s a concerted — though perhaps not entirely honest — effort to return the lowly Astro to the Chevrolet stable. It’s a plaintive wail that will absolutely fall on deaf ears in the boardrooms of the Renaissance Center. And so it should. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2020

Nothing lasts forever. Not even, apparently, the Morgan Plus 4 — a low-slung, quintessentially British roadster that started production in 1950 and still looks looks like it comes from a land of postwar rationing. Beneath the 2020 Plus 4 lies the same ladder frame that underpinned the first Plus 4, which arrived on the scene when Betty White was just 29.

You won’t find many 2020 Plus 4 models. Just 20 commemorative examples are planned as Morgan gears up to enter the modern age. (Read More…)

By on December 19, 2019

After years of trying, an urban revitalization group attempting to get Toledo, Ohio, back on track has gotten an affirmative nod from Fiat Chrysler to build an automotive museum devoted entirely to the Jeep brand. The 56,000 square-foot facility will be called “The Jeep Experience” and play host to numerous interactive exhibits.

Modeled after the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, the site has not yet been officially announced. Final negotiations are necessary before a contract is put in play. However, The Toledo Blade recently received confirmation from ProMedica President and CEO Randy Oostra, a member of the revitalization group, that there shouldn’t be anything standing in the way of the museum opening in 2022.  (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2019

GM Canada

Canada had just turned 40 and Teddy Roosevelt was running a zoo out of the White House when the first automobiles rolled out of Oshawa, Ontario.

Starting in 1907, Oshawa built vehicles of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company, with the cars carrying Buick drivetrains shipped in from Flint, Michigan. An early alliance! Thank the close friendship between Sam McLaughlin and William Durant for that partnership. The Chevrolet brand set up shop at the lakeside assembly plant not long thereafter, and in 1918 General Motors of Canada Limited was formed from McLaughlin and Chevrolet Canada.

Fast-forward 101 years, and the last GM vehicle has left the factory. Workers put the finishing touches on the final vehicle today. (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2019

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , hood ornament - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

As the automotive industry fluxes towards utility vehicles and electrics, the death of familiar nameplates has become an all-too-common occurrence. Goodbye, Focus, Fiesta, Taurus, LaCrosse, and Regal. And goodbye, too, to the Ultradrive four-speed automatic transmission, which meets its end in the coming year.

The Pentastar-stamped unit — seemingly older than Kirk Douglas’ dad — meets its maker after a lengthy career managing power in a dizzying array of models. (Read More…)

By on December 4, 2019

An article posted yesterday on these renowned pages really got me thinking about how certain brands seem to not have much of a future in the automotive landscape of 2020 — and beyond. If you didn’t click the link there, you may be wondering which brand I’m presently speaking of. It is of course Alfa Romeo.

Let’s do some Italian-style pondering.

(Read More…)

By on November 5, 2019

A strange coincidence today — as exotic-obsessed auto journos took to Twitter to drool over Caterham’s latest iteration of the classic Lotus Seven roadster (and rightly so, as motoring doesn’t get any purer), Lotus itself may be planning to resurrect a famous nameplate from the past.

This model’s a little more modern than the Seven, but only just. According to sources who spoke to Autocar, the British automaker, now flush with cash from its Chinese parent, has its eye on a new Elan. (Read More…)

By on October 2, 2019

1982 Dodge Aries Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin

Millennials find themselves at a societal crossroads. Wage growth isn’t ideal, living (and certainly education) costs are rising faster than their paychecks, and technological advancements are rendering swaths of middle-class jobs obsolete.

Which is why, in this author’s opinion, it’s time for Aries. (Read More…)

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