This good-looking but seldom seen 1969 show car, the Super Cobra, was the work of the ultra-talented GM and Ford designer Larry Shinoda.
Larry Shinoda wasn’t at the Ford Motor Company very long, barely more than a year, but he made quite a splash while he was there. In May of 1968 the gifted General Motors stylist followed his friend and boss Bunkie Knudsen to Ford, where Knudsen was appointed president, only to be fired in September of 1969 shortly after Knudsen was forced out. But while he was there, Shinoda designed the Boss 302 and Boss 429 Mustangs and the Torino Talladega, to name a few, and a whole fleet of concepts and show cars including this one: the Ford Super Cobra.
Construction of the Super Cobra has been credited here and there to the Italian coachbuilder Vignale of Turin, but we’re not certain about that. Based on a production Fairlane fastback, the coupe bore a strong familial resemblance to another Shinoda showpiece from ’69, the Ranchero Scrambler. (See our feature on the Scrambler here.) According to the press materials, the production Fairlane SportsRoof top was chopped two inches and the nose was stretched eight inches, giving the Super Cobra a dramatic, almost missile-like profile. A familiar Ford marketing tagline in those days was “The Going Thing,” and Shinoda clearly had a talent for producing vehicles that looked the part.
The Super Cobra was powered by Ford’s hot 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, sporting a taller version of the production Shaker through-the-hood air-scoop assembly. The two-tone cabin upholstery was described as “Candy Murano and Hot Red,” the better to complement the eyeball-searing Candy Apple Red exterior paint. The equally exuberant rear end treatment (below) featured a louvered backlite, a Shinoda trademark, and a wraparound spoiler with full-width tail lamp assembly. The machine made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February of 1969 and was also displayed at the Detroit Auto Show, but disappeared from public view not long after that. What became of the car? We don’t know this, but it’s reasonable to suspect that when Shinoda was terminated at the Ford Motor Company, the Super Cobra was dismissed as well.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Art and photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives.
The fertile imaginations of automotive designers have produced awe-inspiring renderings of idea cars with thought-provoking innovations. The freedom to explore new horizons, without having to be overly concerned about current production viability which could stymie creativity, has fostered positive results like those shown here.
Ford designer Charlie McHose, who's also known for conceiving the body enhancements for the legendary 1967 Shelby G.T. 500, made these Mustang concept drawings of what would become the Mach 1 experimental car, as FoMoCo referred to it at the time. Because the renderings likely pushed the limits of what was feasible, even for a concept car, the actual Mach 1 built for show duty in late 1966 didn’t incorporate a number of the ideas depicted.
Nevertheless, it was still quite the attention grabber with some GT40 traits incorporated, a dramatically lowered roofline, two-seat layout, and flip-out toll windows. Mirrors were added to the fixed side windows and large quick-release gas caps were installed. The front and rear treatments were revised, but they differed somewhat from the renderings. Additionally, the Shelby-like lamps in the grille, the power dome hood, and the lower scoop shown in the lead drawing in this article weren’t used on the Mach 1. More intriguing elements presented in the renderings are discussed in the captions below.
The professional legacy of Charlie McHose endures in the remarkable designs he created at Ford. Fortunately, we can still appreciate these works of art and what their creator had envisioned in them. Just imagine blasting out of your local Ford dealer’s lot in a Mustang with the styling and equipment depicted here.
A one-piece front clip that raised via remote control using electric motors would have been a crowd pleaser on the show circuit, but the finished Mach 1 concept didn’t have it. So too, would the Weber-carbureted 427, yet the multiple press releases we’ve seen regarding the show car don’t mention the engine.
The backlite with "laminated opaque strips" to keep the sun and heat out but retain proper vision and the rear spoiler that could serve as an airbrake were pretty ambitious, yet fun to consider. Though neither made it to the show car, a ducktail rear spoiler was added as part of the 1968 revisions.
The restyled for 1968 version of the Mach 1 did receive a hatchback that could be “opened hydraulically from inside the car,” according to Ford.
First shown with the frontend design above, the Mach 1's extensive restyling for 1968 is obvious in the color photo below.
The front and rear revisions are evident in the profile as well.
The new hatchback and ducktail spoiler, as well as the revised exhaust outlets for 1968 are shown below.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Thomas A. DeMauro.
Between 1956 and 1964, the carmakers of the Motor City had a brief but serious fling with push-button driving.
Today we look back on the 1950s as a quiet time, but there was plenty enough going on. After all, the ’50s managed to include the Jet Age, the Atomic Age, the Television Age, the Push-Button Age. Change was upon us. And with pushbuttons, now every convenience of mid-20th century life was right at our fingertips. Or at least that was the theory, as suddenly all our gadgets from televisions to kitchen appliances were sporting push-button controls. And sure enough, the push-button fad quickly jumped over to the auto industry in 1956, when the Chrysler Corporation adopted push-button gear selectors for all its passenger cars.
But just to illustrate that seldom is anything new in the car business, this wasn’t the first push-button gear selector. Way back in 1914, the Vulcan Electric Shift was adopted by Haynes, Pullman, and a few other carmakers. The Vulcan system, which used column-mounted pushbuttons and a series of solenoids to actuate a conventional manual transmission, proved to be a flop and was immediately withdrawn from the market. Which brings us to 1956.
While Chrysler wasn’t the only carmaker to offer it, as we shall see, it was by far the major promoter of the push-button gear selector, offering the feature on all its automatic-transmission cars from 1956 through 1964. A ’56 DeSoto is shown above, but all the Chrysler brands used similar controls on the left side of the dash—Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Imperial. There were various names; Dodge called its version Magic Touch.
While a number of button arrangements (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) were used through the years, the controls were all mechanical, with a steel push/pull cable between the shifter assembly in the dash and the Powerflite (two-speed) or Torqueflite (three-speed) transmission. Note that originally, there was no P for Park. Chrysler later added an internal parking pawl mechanism to the transmission and a dash lever to operate it.
While the selector worked perfectly fine, it was dropped by Chrysler for 1965 in favor of a conventional column (or floor) lever. There are many theories as to why, but strictly from a product perspective, we can see that over time, the feature progressed from innovative to novel to merely odd. It didn’t seem to attract many buyers at the end, but it may well have discouraged some. In Chrysler advertising, the feature had all but disappeared a few years earlier.
Packard also stepped up with a push-button gearchange in 1956, which it called the Electronic Selector. Standard on the flagship Caribbean and optional ($52) on the rest of the Packard line, it mounted to the steering column on a stalk, above. Unlike the Chrysler system and just as the name indicates, the Packard system, supplied by Autolite, was electrically operated rather than mechanical, with a beefy 12-volt motor to rotate the transmission’s hydraulic shift valve. And going Chrysler one better, Packard included a Park button. When the Detroit-built Packards were discontinued at the end of the ’56 model year and production moved to South Bend, Indiana, that was the end of the Electronic Selector as well.
Introduced on E-Day, September 4, 1957, the 1958 Edsel featured a push-button gearchange that was branded as Teletouch Drive. Like Packard’s, the Edsel system employed an electric motor to shift the automatic transmission’s gears, but with the added innovation (headache, some would say) of steering wheel-mounted buttons. Alas, Teletouch had a few bugs in it, an especially painful problem in the launch of a bold new product like the Edsel. The feature was dropped for 1959.
Even little American Motors got in on the act with a push-button dash control for the top-of-the-line Rambler Ambassador. Called Telovac and developed by Borg-Warner, which also supplied AMC with its Flash-O-Matic automatic transmissions, the feature was offered from 1958 to 1962. Like Chrysler, the Rambler used a separate control for Park.
Ford’s Mercury division joined the push-button crowd with a straightforward system called Keyboard Control, then upped the ante for 1958 with the elaborate setup above. Multi-Drive Keyboard Control, as it was called, included two drive ranges, “performance” and “cruising,” along with a hill-control feature for the Merc-O-Matic transmission. Multi-Drive was continued in 1959, but the push-button dash console was replaced with a traditional column-mounted lever.
It’s interesting to note that while the Mercury and Edsel divisions of the Ford Motor Company gave pushbuttons a try, the Ford and Lincoln divisions never did. Until recently, that is: The 2018 Lincoln Navigator shown below sports a dash-mounted push-button array. Now that automatic transmissions are fly-by-wire with no mechanical linkage, pushbuttons make more sense than they ever did. (The user interface can be anything: buttons, a dial, an icon on a touchscreen.) In this form, we’ll probably be seeing pushbuttons for many years to come.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Chevrolet Impala was all new for 1965—inside and out. With some show-biz trickery, here General Motors managed to show off both at the same time.
This 1965 Chevy spot (below) uses cinematic razzle-dazzle to promote the major news at the bow-tie division that year: a totally redesigned chassis. In the previous product cycle (’58-’64) the full-size Chevy cars employed an X-frame aka backbone chassis, a short-lived engineering trend at General Motors that was adopted by the other GM car brands as well. The Safety Girder frame, as Chevy called it, was prone to corrosion and drew fire from safety critics, who declared it lacked side-impact protection. For ’65, Chevrolet stuck with body-on-frame construction and coil springs at all four corners, but adopted a more conventional perimeter frame to support the assembly.
In those days, Chevrolet was a bit jet-happy in its product messaging—Turbo-Jet engines, Ramjet fuel injection, and so on—and here the theme continues with “jet smooth ride.” (It was the jet age, after all.) Exterior sheet metal was entirely new as well, the work of the Chevrolet Styling Studio group led by Irv Rybicki, who would later replace Bill Mitchell as VP of GM design. The narrator is Joel Aldred, the familiar voice of Chevrolet on radio and television. In the ad biz, he was called “the man with the $100,000 voice” and was known for delivering his lines without cue cards in a single take. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Learn all about the 1969 Rambler 440 Station Wagon—the final year for the familiar Rambler name—in his original American Motors dealer film.
The Rambler name took a number of twists and turns over the years at American Motors and its forebears. In 1950, Nash Motors introduced the Rambler, America’s first postwar compact, and soon it had a minor hit on its hands. (The Rambler name had a previous history with Jeffery, a Nash predecessor.) Nash merged with Hudson and became American Motors in 1954, and from 1958 through 1965, all American Motors passenger cars wore the popular Rambler badge. Meanwhile, the former Nash Rambler compact became the Rambler American to differentiate it from the intermediate and full-size cars in the Rambler product line.
By 1966, the company was turning away from the Rambler label, which was growing stale in the swinging ’60s, to adopt the American Motors brand identity. Then in 1969 the Rambler American was dropped as well to make room for AMC’s new compact, the Hornet. But note: In this final year, the smallest AMC product was known as simply the Rambler—no American. Evidently. “American Motors Rambler American” was deemed redundant. Between 1950 and 1969, something like 4.2 million Rambler compacts were produced.
For the final year of the Rambler name, there were four models: Rambler, Rambler 440, Rambler Rogue, and the hot rod SC/Rambler. (You can find our features on the Rogue here and on the SC/Rambler here.) Ramblers were basic machines in these final days: On the lower trim levels, vacuum-operated windshield wipers were standard. The mid-range 440 was offered in two practical body styles: a four-door sedan and a cute four-door wagon, and the wagon is the subject of the clip below, which is taken from a ’69 AMC dealer film. The pitch here is “cargo space for that family to come.” Video follows.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Here’s the complete rundown on the Dependable Dodge line for 1954.
The advertising theme at Dodge for 1954 was “elegance in action,” though it was a tall and boxy form of elegance. Chrysler’s powerful chief executive, K.T. Keller, who had succeeded Walter P. Chrysler himself in 1935, insisted on high rooflines on all the company’s products so that passengers could ride with their hats on. No fan of the longer, lower trend in styling, he once told his designers, “We build cars to sit in, not to pee over,” or so the story goes. Chrysler’s styling trailed behind the rest of the industry through the first half of the 1950s and sales suffered as a result—until Virgil Exner’s daring Forward Look arrived in 1955.
On the plus side for ’54, Dodge could offer the advanced Red Ram hemi V8, which made its debut the year before. (Check out our feature on the Red Ram here.) And there was a new and improved Powerflite fully automatic transmission to replace the quirky Gyro-Torque semi-automatic box, and Chrysler’s pioneering power steering system, too. Dodge served as the pace car for the Indy 500 that year, so there was a $201 pace car option with Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and continental spare, and a separate dealer kit was offered that included an Offenhauser intake manifold to boost the Red Ram’s power beyond the rated 150 hp.
Alas, no California speed equipment is mentioned in the original Dodge commercial below. Instead, the emphasis is on “the dependable Dodge,” a traditional theme in the brand’s messaging through the years. (Decades earlier, a famous Ted MacManus ad claimed, questionably, that Dodge had inspired the coinage of the word “dependability.”) In this spot, a couple is preparing for their upcoming vacation, which brings to mind the old showroom floor adage that Americans buy their cars for the vacations they never take. Hmm, that may explain all the giant SUVs on the road today. Video follows.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City.