Nash Motors was eager to demonstrate that its new compact Rambler was a real, go-anywhere automobile.
When it made its debut in April of 1950, the Nash Rambler was the first in a wave of compact postwar automobiles from the Detroit carmakers that would soon include the Henry J, the Aero Willys, and the Hudson Jet. And from the start, Nash made a deliberate effort to demonstrate that its Rambler was a small car, but it wasn’t a cheap car. Trim and appointments were first-class, and the only body style available at first was a roll-back cabriolet with fixed side glass that Nash called a Convertible Landau. At $1,808, the Rambler was the lowest-priced convertible in America, but the price was still hundreds more than a stripped-down Ford or Chevy sedan, and the Nash marketing campaign was designed to show that the Rambler could do anything a Ford or Chevy could do.
With the title of this piece, we may have oversold the video a little. A more realistic header might be “Nash Rambler saunters up Pikes Peak” or “Nash Rambler strolls up Pikes Peak.” The car didn’t compete in the famous hill climb but merely made a demonstration run to the top of Zebulon Pike’s mountain. In the beginning of the video, there’s an odd little editing hiccup where the name of a “well-known automotive historian and publisher” has been deleted. We’re betting he was Floyd Clymer. Anyway, the new Nash admirably shows its stuff on the mountain run, with the little 173 CID sidevalve six showing plenty of spirit. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
FROM FLAME JOBS TO CUSTOM SHOW CARS TO A SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE MOUSE,
ED ROTH LEFT HIS MARK ON AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE
The Beatnik Bandit is one of the world’s most widely recognized custom show cars. A joystick controls acceleration, steering, and braking.
Into the boardroom at Revell strolled a young modeler and designer named Jim Keeler, who hoped to interest the company in a series of new plastic model kits. Keeler outlined his ideas–a 1956 Ford pickup, a replica of Mickey Thompson’s Challenger I–until one middle-aged executive jumped up, overcome by impatience. “OK, OK. We’ll do that one. But I want to hear about this Roth guy.”
That story, told by Keeler and related by Pat Ganahl in his definitive biography Ed “Big Daddy” Roth: His Life, Times, Cars, and Art, gives you an idea of what a major figure Roth had become in the pop culture movement of the early 1960s, and how much excitement swirled around him. It’s not an exaggeration to call him a Renaissance man–he was a restless creator and rule-bender who also possessed a keen sense of his commercial market. Those two worlds existed side by side most clearly in his greatest creation, the character of Rat Fink, the nasty anti-Mickey Mouse that’s been making cash registers ring for decades.
It was Roth’s revolutionary four-wheeled creations, which he brought on the car-show circuit and helped fuel the sale of his T-shirts, that attracted Revell’s attention, and the manufacturer, in turn, made him into a hot property, giving him a persona that was so goofy, it was cool. As a painter and car builder, he was an integral part of Southern California’s Kustom Kulture of the late 1950s and ’60s, part of the pantheon that includes Sam and George Barris, Dean Jeffries, and Kenny Howard, better known as Von Dutch.
Roth was born in 1932 in Beverly Hills, California. His parents had emigrated from Germany, his father working as a cabinetmaker and personal driver for a well-to-do widow. He graduated from high school in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, which sent him to a remote tracking station in Morocco. He married his high school sweetheart, Sally, and, after his discharge from the Air Force, the couple began a family.
The Outlaw was Roth’s first fiberglass-bodied show car; it was on the cover of the January 1960 issue of Car Craft.
He landed a job at Sears, dressing mannequins and designing store displays, and augmented his income by doing pinstriping and flame jobs in his driveway, at $4 per car. A self-taught pinstriper, Roth advertised his business by lettering and striping his 1948 Ford sedan–aka The Roth–and, after teaming up in 1957 with Bud “The Baron” Crozier and Tom Kelley to open a shop called The Crazy Painters, eventually attracted enough work to leave Sears.
Crazy Painters developed a reputation for putting flames, scallops, and other custom paintwork on anything that had wheels, and soon branched out into a sideline, airbrushing shirts. A local club, the Drag Wagons, had asked for shirts bearing the club name, and Roth, who was skilled with an airbrush, added a caricature of each member. The idea caught fire, and the shop began advertising its “weird shirts” in Car Craft magazine. When Roth left Crozier and Kelley to open his own shop in 1959, he began advertising his “Weird-O” or “Weerdo” shirts, and continued with his custom paintwork.
It was here that he began working on the first of his scratch-built, fiberglass-body customs: the Outlaw. Roth had built traditional custom hot rods, but in fiberglass he found his ideal material, one that would allow his ideas to come to three-dimensional life. Breaking away from the traditional chopped-and-channeled “T-bucket” mold so many hot rodders copied, he created a shape that was entirely new, fashioning the body by building up the shape in plaster and wood and making a female mold. The Outlaw rode on a chromed, custom-built chassis, and was powered by a modified Cadillac V-8 crowned by four Stromberg 97 carburetors. It was a new kind of hot rod, if it was a hot rod at all.
The twin-engine Mysterion of 1963 has gone missing; this recreation is in The Collection at Galpin Auto Sports in California.
Automotive historian Ken Gross said that, as a “pretty conventional hot rod person,” it took him some time to appreciate what Roth was up to. “I came to the realization that Ed was very much a futurist,” he says. With the Outlaw, “the whole T idea that Norm Grabowski and Tommy Ivo had done was taken by Ed to the next generation. He really was ahead of his time in his materials, concepts and the breadth of his imagination.”
Finished in late 1959, the Outlaw was Grade A car-mag fodder, just as Roth had intended. Show organizers, knowing the car was a draw, would pay Roth to display the Outlaw, while the stir it created helped bring customers to his booth. That’s how he came to make his lucrative business deal with Revell.
Kids in the late 1950s and early 1960s were snapping up plastic model kits by the hundreds of thousands, spending their allowances and paper-route money at the neighborhood variety store or hobby shop on the latest releases. AMT, in particular, had tapped into the custom-car craze with its 3-in-1 customizing kits, and Revell must have been eager to cut itself a slice of the pie. When Jim Keeler presented his idea for a scale model of the Outlaw, they couldn’t say yes fast enough.
It was Revell’s publicist, Henry Blankfort, who thought that Roth needed a new image in order to stimulate sales. Blankfort came up with the nickname “Big Daddy,” a nod to the beatniks’ slang “daddy-o” and a reference to Roth’s six-foot-four, 240-pound physique. Blankfort is also widely credited for putting Roth into his trademark tuxedo and top hat, to try to clean up his slovenly image. It made for great model-box art, and Roth was a natural at mugging for the camera.
With the Outlaw finished, Roth began constructing his bubble-topped Beatnik Bandit, which emerged in 1961. Through the early 1960s, he turned out a car a year–the ground-effects Rotar in 1962, the twin-engined Mysterion in 1963, the Corvair-powered Road Agent in early 1964, the asymmetrical Orbitron in late 1964, the board-toting Surfite in early 1965 and the ornate Druid Princess in late 1966.
“I once asked him, ‘How do you knock out a car a year?'” explained custom hot rod and motorcycle builder Fritz Schenck, who built a faithful replica of the Outlaw and restored the original Druid Princess. “And he said, ‘You watch TV?’ I said, ‘Who doesn’t watch television.’ He said, ‘You ever watch Gilligan’s Island? I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Watch one episode, and you’ve seen them all. They never get off of the island.’ And he’s right.”
The model-car contract was lucrative, but it was the T-shirt business that really brought in the cash. Roth was the father of five boys, and he often found himself surrounded by kids as he drew his grotesque caricatures at shows, so he always had a good idea of what they wanted. What worked commercially, he discovered, were designs that the kids would like, and the parents wouldn’t–but not so offensive as to be banned by Mom and Dad.
This was the origin of characters like Mother’s Worry, Drag Nut, and Mr. Gasser, grotesque figures with bulging, bloodshot eyes, and gaping mouths filled with needle-sharp teeth. And sometime in the mid-1960s, it gave birth to Rat Fink.
There are various stories about when Rat Fink first took form, but the story Roth told was that he sketched the creature as a counterpoint to Mickey Mouse after becoming sick of seeing so many children wearing the trademark plastic ears. He claimed that the name had been made popular by television comedian Steve Allen, though the real story is that the “F” in R.F. stood for something far more vulgar–and all the kids knew it, even if their parents didn’t.
Roth’s monsters could be bought on T-shirts and decals. If that weren’t enough, the marketers at Revell realized that they could make three-dimensional plastic kits of these creations, too. Roth was hot, and everything that came from his studio turned to gold.
The second half of the 1960s was a time of shifting gears for Roth. He built an asymmetrical, Buick V-6 powered bike hauler called Captain Pepi’s Motorcycle and Zeppelin Repair, and turned his creative talents to a series of choppers and the first VW-powered trikes. When the mainstream motorcycle magazines wouldn’t feature his creations, he brought out his own magazine, called Choppers. His deal with Revell had ended; as he would later complain, the Beatles’ appearance on TV in 1965 had made kids want to trade their X-Acto knives for guitars.
Roth eventually wound down his business, and in 1970 went to work for Jim Brucker, building the sets for the new Cars of the Stars museum in Buena Park, where several of his cars were on display. He also took a job at the nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, as a sign painter and artist, working under a pseudonym.
He had a revival in the early 1980s, once again marketing shirts, comics, decals, and more, and signing a licensing agreement with Kenner Toys for a series of monster-driven toy cars. He lived long enough to see his work rediscovered by art galleries and museums, and to be toasted by the mayor of San Francisco with a day in his honor. He was still appearing at car shows across the country, and working on new designs, up until his death in 2001.
“I think Ed was a visionary,” Ken Gross sums up. “He was rebellious in a fun way, and he kind of nailed it before anybody else did. Everything Ed did had a whimsical side. He had a great imagination, and he saw the fun side of hot rodding that nobody else had.”
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by David LaChance.
The Dodge Six Pack and Plynouth Six Barrel of 1969 were not as illustrious as the mighty Street Hemis, maybe, but they sure got the job done.
The Plymouth Road Runner Six Barrel (in Rallye Green, above) and Dodge Super Bee Six Pack (in Hemi Orange, below) filled a critical gap in the Mopar muscle car lineup for 1969, one that might not be apparent at first glance. With the 426 Hemi, Chrysler Corporation was already king of the mountain in the performance youth market, pretty much. But as dominating as it was, the Hemi was costly to buy and tricky to tune and maintain. The Six Pack and Six Barrel models were intended to offer similar performance at a more affordable price, and with a stripped-down, no-nonsense appearance package. If the mighty Mopar Hemi was muscle car royalty, the Six Pack and Six Barrel were the working class heroes.
Introduced in February of 1969 as mid-year models, the Dodge Super Bee Six Pack and Plymouth Road Runner Six Barrel were very similar, naturally, sharing a common Chrysler B-body platform and black metal. (The Dodge version got the cooler name of the two, many will say.) Both were available in pillarless hardtop and two-door coupe (swing-out quarter glass) body styles, and they are known today by Mopar fans as A12 cars, the factory option code for the three-carb package. The models are also identified by the letter M in the fifth character of their VIN code.
The success of the sparsely equipped Road Runner and Super Bee had taught the Mopar product planners that performance buyers couldn’t care less about frills, so the Six Pack/SIx Barrel cars were stripped to the bone as well. Since racers would just remove them anyway, there were no wheel covers, only black steel wheels with chrome acorn nuts. One obvious visual signifier was the flat black fiberglass hood sporting a giant, fully functional air scoop, attached with four racing-style hood pins—no hinges. Most of the good stuff was hidden away inside and underneath: heavy-duty suspension parts from the 426 Street Hemi, the buyer’s choice of a A883 four-speed manual or Torqueflite 727 automatic transmission, and a beefy Dana 60 rear axle with limited-slip differential and 4.10:1 gears.
Obviously, the beating heart of the Six Pack/Six Barrel package was the 440 cubic-inch V8 with three two-barrel Holley carburetors. Edelbrock, the famed California speed equipment maker, was the original supplier of the aluminum intake manifold (above left) that carried the three 2300-series carbs with center-hung floats. (The piece was assigned an actual Chrysler part number, P4529056.) A12 engines also received upgraded connecting rods, Street Hemi valve springs, moly-filled top piston rings, a half-point greater compression ratio, a dual-point distributor, and a trick high-overlap camshaft. The package was rated at 390 hp, only 15 more than the standard 440 big-block Magnum single-carb engine and a gross understatement of the true potential.
Indeed, magazine ads for the Road Runner Six Barrel boasted of quarter-mile times deep into the 13-second zone at 107-110 mph (and even a little better than that with Ronnie Sox at the wheel) running with stock tires and exhaust system. There you have it: The Six Pack/Six Barrel cars were as quick as most anything on the streets that year, and at hundreds of dollars less than the Street Hemi, so mission accomplished.
Due to the mid-year introduction and production hassles at the Lynch Road plant in Detroit, relatively few A12 cars were built in 1969, which makes them all the more valuable in the collector market today. But they did serve as proof-of-concept, if you will, for the the triple-carb 440 CID V8, which was spun off the following year as an optional engine across the model lines at Chrysler and carried on into 1972, just as the curtain was falling on the muscle car era.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Powerglide automatic transmission loyally served Chevrolet and General Motors for nearly a quarter of a century.
When the Chevrolet Powerglide made its debut in 1950, it was the first automatic transmission intended specifically for the low-priced field. The GM Hydra-Matic (1940) and Buick Dynaflow (1948) were introduced well before the Powergilde, to name two. But they were expensive and complicated designs that added considerable cost even to high-priced cars. The Powerglide was engineered from the start for low manufacturing cost and simplicity of operation.
The Powerglide has also been described as a “poor man’s Dynaflow,” and there’s more truth to that throwaway line than there might seem. While the two transmissions are quite different in detail—and in cost—both the Buick Dynaflow and the Chevy Powerglide were developed by automatic transmission guru O.K. Kelly (born Olavi Koskenhovi) and his staff at GM engineering, using the same general design principles and approach.
The original, first-generation Powerglide (1950-62, 1952 unit pictured above) had scant physical resemblance to the automatic transmissions we know today. There was no sump or pan on the bottom, and instead of a one-piece aluminum case, the Powerglide used a collection of cast-iron housings that bolted together. As a result, the unit was quite heavy at better than 240 lbs, and there were a number of gasketed joints with the potential for fluid leaks.
The heart of the first-generation Powerglide was its torque converter (above). In fact, the earliest Chevrolet technical literature often referred to the unit as a “torque converter transmission” rather than the more simple and familiar “automatic.” The original 1950 design employed a five-element, bolt-together converter that provided a torque multiplication factor of 2.20:1. Later, a simplified three-element converter was developed.
A two-speed planetary gearset with a first-gear ratio of 1.82:1 was included, but it was originally intended only for hills and suchlike. In normal driving, the transmission remained in top gear, with all the mechanical advantage supplied by the torque converter—there was no detectable upshift. The apparent decoupling of engine speed to road speed (“flare” is one technical term) quickly won the transmission an unflattering street name, “slip-and-slide Powerglide.” (In a similar way, the Dynaflow became known as the “Dynaslush.”)
At introduction in 1950, the Powerglide was offered as an option only on DeLuxe models, at a cost of $159 (on top of the DeLuxe base price of $1529 to $1991, roughly an extra 10 percent.) A chrome badge on the deck lid proudly proclaimed “POWER GLIDE,” and to compensate for the lack of torque multiplication, Powerglide cars got a slightly larger six-cylinder engine (235 vs. 216.5 cubic inches) with hydraulic valve lifters and 105 hp rather than the standard 90 hp. Meanwhile, the rear axle ratio was reduced from 4.11:1 to 3.55:1 to manage driveline noise and harshness.
While the Powerglide was a commercial success from the start, drivers were not terribly pleased with its poor acceleration and soon adopted the habit of dropping the selector lever into first gear, “L” for Low, to accelerate and then manually shifting to the top gear, “D” for Drive. (The shift pattern was PNDLR, eventually revised to the familiar PRNDL.) Fearing the damage and wear that could result from this practice, GM engineers in 1953 provided an automated first-gear start and programmed upshift at up to 42 mph depending on load, and a throttle-controlled kick-down function as well.
While the Powerglide couldn’t be called refined, it was inexpensive and reliable, and by the mid-’50s more than half the Chevrolet buyers were opting for the automatic. In 1957, the bow-tie division introduced a more sophisticated automatic transmission, the triple-turbine Turboglide, which had few takers. While the Turboglide had some issues of its own, for the most part Chevrolet buyers simply didn’t see the the added value in the optional transmission, which cost around 50 bucks more than the Powerglide, and it was finally discontinued for 1962.
Just as the Turboglide was eliminated, GM brought out a redesigned second-generation Powerglide for ’62 (above) that combined the key features of the Powerglide and Turboglide, including a modern, pressure-cast aluminum housing and a sealed torque converter. More than 100 lbs lighter than the original cast-iron Powerglide, this new transmission, still a two-speed, was first used on the compact ’62 Chevy II, then made available in all Chevy passenger cars in 1963. Variants of the Powerglide were also used in the Corvair and Pontiac Tempest transaxles, and one of the final applications was in the subcompact 1971 Chevrolet Vega.
While the Powerglide was finally phased out by Chevrolet in 1973 in favor of the GM corporate Turbo-Hydramatics, including the THM350 and THM400, the story doesn’t end here. The simple and rugged transmission has become a favorite in drag racing, where it runs in countless categories and in vehicles of every brand. Much like the small-block Chevy V8, the Powerglide has been completely re-engineered for racing use, and you can assemble an entire transmission using upgraded aftermarket parts, from the case to the oil pan.
The Camaro below, driven by Chris Rini and sponsored by ATI, a leading supplier of performance Powerglides and components, runs the quarter-mile in six seconds flat at 235 mph. Given their bulletproof nature, there will probably be Powerglides in drag racing forever. –Photo below courtesy of ATI Performance Products.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.