It was a cool Saturday night that greeted a large number of car enthusiasts at Beaumont St in Auckland City. And no rain so that was a blessing.
The cruise to St heliers got underway at 7:30 and after battling the city traffic and road works everyone duly arrived safely. A large crowd were already there and a large variety of cars were on display. Many wives had their husbands on reins and for good reason as the poor chaps cried out " I want, I want". The fireworks display was awesome and then it was time to go home.
Today when one looks at an American car, we think of the lovely sound it makes due to its overhead valve V8 engine. This was not always the case though. For example in 1950 each major maker of cars offered a different type of engine, but within 5 years all car makers were offering an overhead valve V8. These became the engine of choice for the car buying American public. Why did this happen?
Let’s go back to 1950. The two largest selling cars of that year were Ford and Chevrolet. Ford offered its venerable flat head V8, and although 6 cylinders engines were offered the eights were the most popular. Mercury and Lincoln offered just one engine type, the flat head V8. Chevrolet offered one type of engine, its well established overhead valve straight six. Plymouth, Dodge and DeSoto all offered flat head straight six motors, but Pontiac and Chrysler were different offering a straight eight flat head motor on their luxury models, and Buick had an overhead valve straight eight motor. The major car producers that stood out in 1950 were Oldsmobile and Cadillac, who both used an overhead valve V8.
Yet within five years the ever popular flat head V8’s were history, and straight 8’s, whether flat heads or overhead valves were gone. Plymouth and Dodge continued to offer flat head 6’s, but these were in their final days, and the vast majority of their buyers were now opting for the OHV V8 models.
What caused the major shift to this new type of engine?
1) The big horsepower race had begun. For example in 1950 a Ford V8 produced 100 bhp, but by 1955 this had increased to 162bhp, and other makers follow also. Overhead valve V8 engines were easier to adapt to this rising horse power race, due to changing carburettors, compression ratios, head design and engine capacity.
2) Interstate freeways were being developed and completed, which meant motorists were able to travel a lot further and faster. To make this more pleasant and to be able to overtake an increasing number of vehicles on the road, vehicles need to be able to travel faster, hence they needed more horse power. Cars became larger. The average family at this time had around four children, pets were popular, hence the demand for larger roomier cars continued.
3) The overhead powered V8 not only gained a reputation for increasing power but it was also proving to be reliable. Fuel economy was not really an issue in the 1950’s but it was soon apparent that the ever increasing powerful V8s were actually relatively fuel efficient and more much powerful, especially when compared to some of the older straight 8 motors.
4) The V8 is a compact engine. It takes up less room under a bonnet when compared to straight 6’s, and most certainly when compared to a straight 8.
5) Incomes were rising throughout the 1950’s and unemployment was at record lows. As a result, this increased the demand for cars. Hire purchase started to come into it own and it was much easier to purchase a car on time payment than just a decade previously. The two car family also started to develop in the 1950’s which further created the demand for cars.
6) Increase in suburban living. People were leaving the older type of apartments in the inner city and moving out to houses, with land and white picket fences in the suburbs. The term “commuter belt” developed. In order to live in the suburbs and commute to your place of work, often in the city centre, you needed a car. The cars had to be reliable and comfortable. This was further accentuated in the USA, as well as countries like Australia and New Zealand, which had under developed or virtually non-existent public transport systems. The car was the king.
This massive switch to the overhead valve V8 engine which occurred in the 1950’s is still around with us. Most of us who own American cars will agree that the engine type and sound is one of the major reasons that attracts us to our American cars today.
Owner of a 1949 Ford Single Spinner with a flat head V8
Club Activity Updates
Good morning Members,
I just wanted to update you all on some of the things that have some impact on our Club and what we can expect and what we can and cannot do, for the time being at least.
First up, it should come as little surprise after the Government’s announcement yesterday afternoon that, as we now remain at level 3 Covid alert level, there is no possibility of hosting our Club Run tomorrow, to the Ginger Crunch Cafe. Which is a damn shame as at least the weather appears to be behaving itself, even if nothing else is!
We will make an announcement over the planned run to Maungatapere on September 5th, once we know what direction we are being steered after the next Covid announcement scheduled for August 26th. The reality here is, if they won’t let anyone out of Auckland, past Te Hana, then we won’t be going to the Packard Museum either, sadly.
On other matters, after best part of 14 years in the ‘job’, Russell Wilson has respectfully advised that he will not be putting our quarterly Magazine, the Cruisepaper, together any longer. And as the balance of our committee do not have the time to take on additional responsibilities such as taking over the publication of the magazine, I am admittedly saddened somewhat to announce that it has become another printed statistic in this ever-increasing digital world we live in.
Rest assured, I would be happy to resurrect it, if there was a Club member prepared to take it on? But until that happens, it’s been consigned to Club history.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank Russell in particular for all of his efforts to produce the magazine over such a long period, from a black & white monthly to a very good quality full colour quarterly Club publication. We were often complimented on it, from sources outside of the club circles. And there’s no denying those efforts have been considerable, to say the least. I wish to thank all of the contributors to the magazine over that time also, and prior too, as without your contributions there would have been little to put into it and it may well have ceased some time ago.
Rest assured however, the Club Website will now be, more than ever, the place to look at for past and up-coming Club activities, articles of interest and all things Club related and Russell is more than happy to continue on as our go-to Webmaster! Thank heavens for that!
And you will begin to see some progressive changes to the formatting etc of the club website, to cater for the demise of the Cruisepaper. If you take a peak from today, you will see what I mean, with a crisp new modern layout. One new feature in particular, is the ‘Corkboard’, which will be the area where the likes of the Committee posts, my reports, and members articles etc, will be posted. Let us know what you think! Go to www.americanclassiccars.org.nz
Meantime… what can I say? Take care of yourselves, don’t over-polish your classic to the point your buff through the paint and at least think of the money you are saving in fuel, whilst you can’t really use them for the time being! Every cloud has a silver lining, apparently J .
Hopefully, we will see each other sometime soon. Cheers,
Rob Milligan – President