From a time when General Motors ruled the world: This newsreel presents the fabulous 1954 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
There really are no modern parallels to the annual GM Motorama spectaculars of the American mid-century. As we’ve often referenced here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, the Motoramas were elaborate multimedia extravaganzas that used theater, music, even interpretive dance to present the corporation’s advanced products, from the latest Cadillac dream cars to the kitchens of tomorrow.
More than 1.9 million visitors took in the show in the 1954 season, which opened on January 26 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. In this two-minute newsreel on the ’54 show, we see a number of Motorama dream cars that would soon become famous, including:
+ The Chevrolet Nomad, which showcased the division’s sports wagon concept, on a Corvette theme in its original form.
+ The Buick Wildcat II, a radical sports roadster that still exists today at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan.
+ The Cadillac El Camino, a close-coupled coupe that introduced GM customers to the El Camino name, later used on a series of Chevy passenger car-based pickups.
+ The turbine-powered GM Firebird I, which even six decades later looks more like a jet fighter than an automobile.
+ The Pontiac Bonneville, the Pontiac division’s take on the two-seat sports car category as exemplified by the Chevrolet Corvette.
See all these wonders and more in the video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The name Bonneville has been synonymous with automotive performance since nearly the advent of the motorized carriage itself. The first land speed record events were held at the massive dry lake bed, along I-80 located near the Utah-Nevada border all the way back in 1914. In the years since, the 46-square-mile expanses of the densely-packed salt pan have hosted all manner of high-performance contests and testing. Few locations in the world carry a moniker as apropos for a vehicle with a focus on straight-line thrust.
Determined to steer General Motors in a more youthful, performance-oriented direction, designer Harley Earl went to the source for inspiration — the enthusiasts. Designed by Earl, and named after a trip to the Salt Flats, the Bonneville Special was the Pontiac division’s theoretical answer to the Corvette. The car was outfitted with a Plexiglas canopy with gullwing sides and a fiberglass body. Motivation came from a high-output version of Pontiac’s 268ci inline-eight powerplant, which the company dubbed the “Special-8.” | GM photo
GM first attached the name to one of their automobiles in 1954, when they debuted the Bonneville Special concept at the Motorama show at the New York City’s Waldorf Astoria. Designer Harley J. Earl had been inspired by a recent trip to the Salt Flats to check out the speed trials, and he was keen to find new ways to frame Pontiac as GM’s premiere high-performance brand.
While the concept car shared much of its underpinnings with the two-seater Corvette, the vehicle that would actually go into production in 1958 was a different animal entirely. The Bonneville helped establish the muscle car formula that Pontiac would use to great effect just a few years down the road with the GTO: Build a coupe that could be optioned with minimal frills, stuff the most potent engine your company builds into the engine bay, and offer it at a price that folks can afford.
In 1957 the Bonneville name had been used as a trim package for the Star Chief called the Star Chief Custom Bonneville. But the Star Chief Custom Bonneville was loaded with features as standard and carried a hefty price tag as a result. When the Bonneville became its own model the following year, that strategy changed. Although the car could be lavishly appointed if customers saw fit, most of the luxury content was now optional, thus allowing enthusiasts to spec out a machine that was high on horsepower and low on frills. | Barrett-Jackson photos
The result was the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville. Produced to celebrate both GM’s 50th anniversary and Earl’s forthcoming retirement, the Bonneville was based on the luxury-focused Star Chief (which itself was a derivative of Chevrolet’s 210/Bel Air coupe), but its more performance-focused design would help put the Pontiac brand on enthusiasts’ radar in the late 50s. While the vehicles that the nameplate was attached to would change dramatically over the subsequent decades, the original Bonneville spawned a production legacy that spanned nearly half a century across ten different generations.
Development and Specifications
For the 1958 model year, General Motors introduced new bodies and chassis for all of its passenger cars, and this major shake-up of the model portfolio gave Pontiac some room to reposition the brand with a more sporting, youthful vibe. The Bonneville went from being a trim package on the Star Chief the previous year to its own stand-alone model. Positioned as a direct response to Chrysler’s letter-series Chrysler 300 and the DeSoto Golden Adventurer – two Mopar models which were built on a similar concept of placing high performance near the top of the list of priorities – the Bonneville scored the high-performance powerplants of the Star Chief, but it rode on the shorter, 122-inch wheelbase of the Chieftan. While the Chieftan wasn’t exactly svelte, this shorter wheelbase provided a tangible performance advantage over the larger Star Chief chassis.
Sitting at the top of the engine totem pole for the ’58 Bonneville was this 370ci overhead-valve V8, which was outfitted with a Rochester fuel-injection system derived from the one introduced for the Corvette in 1957. While it was considered cutting-edge technology at the time, the injection system’s finicky reputation and high price tag pushed most buyers toward the mid-range engine option, which utilized a triple two-barrel carburetor setup. The Tri-Power engine might have been down ten horsepower versus the Fuelie from the showroom, but most enthusiasts were more comfortable tuning on this more-familiar hardware. | Barrett-Jackson photo
At the same time, engine design was evolving at a rapid pace. Pontiac had put their straight-six and straight-eight powerplants out to pasture at the end of 1954 to make room for a new overhead-valve V8 design that shared its core architecture with Chevrolet’s new small-block. Over the next few years, the displacement numbers would increase, along with the horsepower. By the time the engine found its way into the new Bonneville, it had ballooned to 370 cubic inches. Depending on the options selected, that mill’s output ranged from 255 horsepower all the way up to 310 ponies, the latter outfitted with GM’s new Rochester fuel-injection system that had debuted on the Corvette “Fuelie” the year prior.
Because of the fuel-injection system’s high price tag and reputation for temperamental behavior, most Bonneville buyers opted for the trio of two-barrel carburetors offered in the Tri-Power setup, which dropped the horsepower to an even 300 but offered better tunability and a more attractive bottom line.
Although a column-shifted, three-speed manual was the standard gearbox on the Bonneville, few buyers settled for it. Most instead, sprung the extra coin to get GM’s four-speed, Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic automatic, which featured a low 3.97:1 first-gear ratio for the better pull from a standstill. Also giving the big Bonneville some extra punch out of the hole was the availability of the Safe-T-Track limited-slip differential, which debuted in 1958 as well.
The '58 Bonneville was by no means a small vehicle, but riding on a two-inch shorter wheelbase than the Star Chief lent some credence to the notion that the car would be a better performer out on the street. Images: RM Auctions
The Bonneville’s suspension setup consisted of unequal length A-arms and shocks with coil springs up front, and coil springs also made their way to the rear in lieu of the leaf springs that Pontiac normally outfitted its cars with. An Ever-Level air suspension was also on the options list. Drum brakes were installed at all four corners as standard, measuring 12 inches in diameter up front and 11 at the rear.
Two body styles were offered for 1958 – Sport Coupe and Convertible. Hemmings reports that Pontiac would end up selling 12,240 Bonnevilles in total that year, with 9,144 customers opting for the coupe, while the remaining 3096 buyers chose the drop top.
The Strategy ChangesWith the debut of the second-generation Bonneville in 1959, the model lineup grew to five distinct configurations – coupe, convertible, four-door sedan, four-door hard top, and a wagon. The car’s appearance was a dramatic departure from its predecessor, not only due to a deliberate move away from the rocket-inspired aesthetic of the 1950s toward a more streamlined look that would typify early 1960s vehicle design, but also because of Pontiac engineer’s decision to push the wheels further out toward the fenders to create what would become known as the Pontiac Wide Track design.
While the '58 Bonneville had a clear nod to performance in its design, that quickly began to disappear as subsequent generations were introduced. By the time the fifth generation car debuted in 1971 (right), the Bonneville’s design had little to do with the original model’s intention. | Wiki Commons and GM photos
While the Bonneville continued to evolve as the 1960s progressed, intermediate-bodied cars like the GTO became the models synonymous with street performance. As a result, the larger Bonneville began to take on a more luxury-focused role in the Pontiac lineup.
By the early 1970s, the model’s connection to high performance was largely in name only, as Pontiac’s focus for the Bonneville became more specifically aimed at personal luxury.
The 80s and 90s were not particularly kind to the Bonneville nameplate, which saw the model jump to the G-Body platform before moving over to the front-wheel drive H-body platform shared by the Cadillac Seville and Buick LeSabre. Though it would remain a front-wheel drive car for the rest of its days, the introduction of the GXP model in 2004 brought V8 power back to the menu, allowing the Bonneville to go out on a high(er) note. Image: GM
The model regained some of its performance credibility decades later with the addition of the 3.8-liter Eaton M90-supercharged L67 V6 to the engine lineup, which was good for 240 horsepower by 1996, and later with the addition of a 4.6-liter, 275 horsepower V8 to the options list, which had been plucked from the Cadillac parts bin for the debut of Bonneville GXP in 2004. However, the GXP’s production would prove to be short lived, as Pontiac would discontinue the Bonneville model entirely just a year later.
Ultimately, it’s the first-year cars that would endure in the hearts and minds of performance enthusiasts. Due to the car’s significance and scarcity, the 1958 Bonneville is now a highly-sought-after commodity in the collector car market. Well sorted examples can usually be had for around $50,000, though some Bonnevilles have commanded sums well into six-figure territory at auction.
Article courtesy of Street Muscle Magazine, written by Bradley Iger.
Craziest Car Engine Ever? The Crankshaft Is Stationary And The Engine Rotates Around It! The Adams-Farwell
I have to thank BangShift tipster Tony Hoffer for the lead on this amazing video of what is probably the craziest automotive engine ever actually running. This is an Adams-Farwell rotating cylinder engine. Produced for about 10 years starting in the early 1900s, the engines were powerful, efficient, and actually pretty brilliant. The company was gonzo by 1913 and there is only one functioning Adams-Farwell car left on Earth. Thankfully that car is in good care and this video is proof of that. Displacing 490ci and made up of five cylinders, we’re pretty sure this thing was rated at either 50 or 75hp. The performance of Adams-Farwell cars was as good or superior than anything else on the market back in those days. Like today though, it was a tough sell to take an idea as wild as this one and make a go of it.
As you will see in the video below, the crank is solid mounted to the frame and the engine spins around it. It seems like the whole thing would be impossible but when you see it working, the engine is almost beyond words in tis cool factor. The Adams-Farwell slogan to describe the engine was, “It spins like a top!” The man in the video does a far better job explaining the car than we ever could and we’re going to let him do it.
Along with all of the other stuff happening in the early 1900s, the range of options for people (who had the money) in the automotive world was completely insane. From engines that spun around their cranks to cars with toilets installed in them, the sky was the limit during this time in motoring life. Yes, these were basically hay wagons with engines in them but we’re sure glad that this single car survived all these years and can still fire up and show us all how wild those days really were.
PRESS PLAY BELOW TO SEE THE AMAZING ADAMS-FARWELL ROTATING CYLINDER ENGINE RUNNING
Article courtesy of BangShift.com, written by Brian Lohnes.
Some of the greatest Corvette creations were a direct result of an openly competitive challenger from across town. Such is the case with this over-the-top example of a C4 Corvette that was dipped in the pool of testosterone-laden monster juice back in the early nineties.
The ZR-12 was based on a ZR-1 platform which gave it the wider rear fascia and wider tires. It didn’t help.
When you think back to the way things were, you begin to understand just how obscenely over-the-top this Corvette creation was actually engineered to be. When the base model Corvette was capable of only 250 horsepower and pumped-up versions of the Callaway B2K (405hp) and ZR-1 (375-405hp) were deemed supercars and “The King of The Hill.” Anything that added the additional horsepower of another complete Corvette on top of either of them was in a word – excessive.
Fitting that huge V-12 was impossible without making the whole engine compartment longer by eight inches.
But, when you’re fresh from a decade chock-full of shoulder pads and leg warmers, a little over the top is barely enough to put a blip on the radar screen. So, the mad scientists in GM’s Corvette skunkworks devised a plan. They caught wind that Dodge was building a vicious beast of a car, one that would bite any competitor, and sometimes, its owner if they weren’t careful. With a hulk of a V10, each one of those 400 horses it contained under its long-swoopy hood would surely run for their lives if given the chance. Somehow, even the King of The Hill’s 375 and later 405hp were left wanting.
The horsepower war was definitely starting to march to the chest-thumping drum of the Viper crowd and something needed to be done to wrest the attention back to the Bowtie camp. We would love to have been a fly on the wall when a true enthusiast of an engineer, somewhere in a board meeting, started a sentence with, “What if we…?” We’re sure a few pocket protectors melted after hearing about V12 engines and stretching their halo Corvette eight inches to fit it all in. Somehow, the stars aligned, a Corvette wound up eight inches longer and the bean counters found a way to pay for it all.
The entire front of the car was stretched to fit the V12. Coil packs make great use of the additional space.
Corporate officers aren’t in the business to pay for ego embellishments, so there had to be another reason to divert funds to create such a beast. That came in the form of durability testing. With a relatively new drivetrain to contain the power output of the new LT5 engine, engineers continued the conversation by asking how much more it could contain. The new ZF-designed 6-speed transmission was proving itself behind factory horsepower ratings and thanks to the efforts of GM engineers and several other outside sources, was found capable of corralling as many ponies as this behemoth’s V12 engine could muster.
The hood and the side gills are the only place where you can see the additional eight inches, and only if you’re looking for it.
To put a V12 in anything, you must first have a V12. That part came easy for Ryan Falconer Racing Engines of Chino Valley, Arizona. Their engines have found their way into street rods, trucks and even scaled-down, air racing P-51 Mustang aircraft. While the all-aluminum V12 is based on the small-block Chevy engine, fitting it into a C4 Corvette took a little more space management, thanks to the folks at SportsFab in Wixom, Michigan. They stretched the entire front of the car the necessary eight inches to fit another fifty-percent more small-block under the clam-shell hood. The entire subframe and hood were stretched, with evidence of the additional length most notable in the side gills area. Even with the addition of four more cylinders and eight inches to the car’s length, the weight of the vehicle is reportedly only 100 pounds more than the factory version, thanks to the V12’s all-aluminum block.
When the car was originally built, signs of excessiveness oozed out through those side gills in the form of black-coated side-pipes that neither hinted at noise abatement nor cared for emissions compliance. Over time, the furry knuckles were scrubbed and a complete under-car exhaust replaced the raucous boom tubes. Still, with over 600 horsepower and 680 lb/ft of torque, there’s plenty of grunt left over when the tall, skinny pedal is punched. True to this car’s nature, the Falconer Racing Engine’s website unapologetically states, “We do not perform any work on emissions-controlled engines or vehicles.”
The Falconer engine uses EFI to feed fuel to the beast and unlike the competitor that it was created to eclipse, the ZR-12 had air conditioning also!
In the early ‘90s, this car was nothing short of god-like status. In fact, engineers began to call it the “Conan Corvette.” For a short time, it pleased the press at long-leads when drivers like Corvette Powertrain Systems Manager Jim Minneker would shred those massive rear tires for over half the quarter-mile. The drivetrain proved completely adequate but the cooling system was not. The car was parked due to overheating issues and, after single-handedly captivating the horsepower-hungry, it was relegated to GM’s storage facility, where it languished for years.
Luckily, the car survived via the GM Heritage Center. The car wears several tags indicating its special heritage. The P9Y0074 means P=Prototype, 9=Year, Y=Corvette and 0074 is the car number. The metal "EX" plate denotes the car is an experimental build for engineering.
Thankfully, it was spared from a similar fate of many of GM’s “experimental” vehicles once their usefulness was completed. The plate beneath the windshield designates this car as experimental vehicle “EX5664” and as such, a life of the open road was never a consideration. Instead, the car spent a portion of its retirement in the GM Heritage Collection where it stood as a testament to at least one daring engineer who asked the question “What if…?” way back in the early nineties.
The car wears a complete early C4 interior, in agreement with the ’89 build date on the window sticker. Think about that, this was one of the ’89 ZR-1s that was converted.
Today, the car still wows enthusiasts, but with a little less exhaust note as before. It currently resides in the National Corvette Museum, where it is on loan from Chevrolet. The NCM Curator, Derek Moore recently did a short video highlighting the ZR-12 Corvette on one of his Monday’s With Moore segments. You can view the video HERE. We were honored to spend a little time with the Conan ZR-12 Corvette and to get a few photos of the car. It truly is a marvel to behold and anyone that has tried to squeeze any sort of power adder or additional goodies under the hood compartment of a C4 Corvette can surely appreciate how much effort it took to find the room for another four cylinders. If you’re ever headed through Bowling Green, Kentucky, be sure to stop by the National Corvette Museum and say “hi” to Conan, the ZR-12 Corvette and all the other rare and significant Corvettes they’ve got on display.
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Andy Bolig.