The 1948 and 1949 Cadillacs defined high-tech for their day. In those two years, the crest and wreath introduced styling and engineering innovations that would go on to influence the American auto industry for decades. Aircraft design inspired some of those innovations, but as we see from several renderings for the postwar Cadillac, planes could have had a much more prominent role in Cadillac design.
As Michael Lamm related more than 40 years ago in his story looking at the 1948 and 1949 Cadillacs for Special Interest Autos (issue #11, June 1972), Harley Earl gets credit for introducing the tailfin to GM’s designers when he took them on a field trip to Selfridge Field near Detroit to sketch the new Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. Whether legendary designer Frank Hershey was among that group, Lamm didn’t say, but it was Hershey’s advanced design studio within GM that got Earl’s assignment to design the postwar Cadillacs and in the process bring some of the P-38′s design elements into the automotive world.
Some of the renderings that Hershey provided to Lamm for the story look more like a fighter plane shorn of its wings than a Cadillac learning to fly. Along with the tailfins and side scoops (which Cadillac would incorporate in 1950), we also see the suggestion of the center of a propeller, the cowling for a plane’s engine, and the large airscoop underneath. As if the renderings – which Lamm attributed to Ned Nickles, who later went on to design cars for Buick and who apparently first tried out his fender-mount portholes while working under Hershey – didn’t have enough military connotations Nickles apparently wanted to use the Jeepster name for his design.
Even in these finless designs from about the same time, done by Nickles and one R.H. Wieland, we can still see the P-38′s influence in the prominent catwalks between the hood and front fenders.
Lamm wrote that the aircraft-inspired front-end designs did make it into production, in a way. “Nickles calls it the ‘interceptor’ or bullet nose that the fighter planes had in WWII. This theme was widened to become the rather delicate, arch-shaped grille of the ’48 Cadillac, taking its cue from previous Cadillacs at Harley Earl’s direction. An important, integral part of the front ensemble was the bumper, with its bullet guards and curved, wrapping ends. For 1949, the grille was widened and then got even wider as time went on.”
What Lamm didn’t have to point out is that the bumper guards remained integral on Cadillac front ends through 1958. While they grew bigger and gained the “Dagmar” nickname for their supposed resemblance to other prominent twin pokey-outie thingies, their origins are decidedly less prurient than most people believe.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.
The year 1957 would be the final one for Hudson. American Motors decimated the Hudson lineup by removing the Rambler, Wasp and Hornet Special, which accounted for a total of 10 different body styles; plus the Hornet was no longer available in the Super Sedan, which was a part of the Hornet Six line. All Hornets were V-8s in 1957, and that’s the main reason for the “V” medallion appearing on the grille. The Hornet was the only model available in both the Super and Custom line, with both offered in a four-door sedan and a two-door Hollywood Hardtop.
This robin’s-egg blue Hornet, a Super four-door sedan – the most common Hudson made that year – appeared in the June 1974 issue of Hemmings Motor News. More than 1,200 had been produced, and this one was offered at $1,750 (about $8,500 today).
The 1957 Hudsons will pop up from time to time as this Custom did back in 2011. The Super Sedans are valued at about $9,000 on average today and can go to a high of $18,000 for a top example. These cars are a time capsule of some of the gaudy styling that was taking place back in that era, and many people refer to these cars as “Hashes,” a nod to the Nash connection that was evident in 1955-1957. Special Interest Autos did a great story on a 1956 Hornet Special back in October of 1983, which dives much deeper into the post-merger Hudson era, as well as providing in-depth driving impressions of the 1956 Hudson.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by T
We gotta hand it to Ford’s PR people for writing a catchy headline and getting plenty of media exposure for the company’s latest press release about teaming up with Heinz ketchup to develop plant-based plastics for use in new cars. But they totally overlooked the fact that Ford has a long history with plant-based plastics, experimenting on using farm byproducts in car production as far back as the 1930s.
As we’ve pointed out before, and as Ford spokesman Michael W.R. Davis wrote in Special Interest Autos #11, June 1972, Henry Ford himself instituted the company’s experimental program back in 1929. Partly as an attempt to boost the economy – specifically farmers who struggled through the Dust Bowl and Depression years – and partly because he always felt a strong indebtedness to his agricultural roots, Henry Ford gathered a few dozen teenagers and young men, mostly graduates and students from his trade school, in a new research laboratory on the grounds of Greenfield Village. He believed that industry could benefit agriculture – and vice versa – and more importantly looked for less expensive ways to source raw materials to build a car, specifically by growing them. “Ford’s only orders were to find ways to convert farm products to Ford products,” Davis wrote.
To that end, according to an article that Mary Sharon Vrobel wrote for the November 1973 issue of The American Road, a magazine for Ford employees, Henry Ford would routinely drop off loads of farm products and byproducts to the lab in Greenfield Village: a bag of chicken bones, 20 truckloads of cantaloupes, watermelons, cabbages, carrots, cornstalks, onions, and more. Every load would one-by-one go into a cauldron – actually a retort, used to heat up the farm products and accelerate their decomposing process – and the trade school boys would go through the resulting mush to see what they could make of it.
Most of the experiments didn’t yield much – at least, not much that could be used in cars – but Ford persisted, particularly when it came to soybeans. As Davis related, Ford’s interest (some would say obsession) in the legume came after he wandered into the laboratory one day, read The Soybean by Charles V. Piper and William J. Morse cover-to-cover, then ordered everybody in the lab to throw out everything they were working on and focus exclusively on soybeans. He had 8,000 acres of Ford farmland converted to growing 300 varieties of soybeans, had a six-and-a-half-ton pressing machine designed for processing the beans, reportedly spent $1.25 million on soybean development, and ordered Ford Motor Company cafeterias to serve soybean-based dishes (soybean milk and ice cream, soybean bread and butter, soybean cheese, soybean croquettes with green soybeans). He would later don entire outfits – suit, shirt, tie, hat, the works – made from soybeans.
While the laboratory’s experiments with soybeans didn’t directly lead to any car parts, Davis wrote, they did indirectly lead to research into new forms of plastic, research that culminated with the Lowell Overly-designed experimental plastic-bodied Ford of 1941 and the plastic decklid that Ford famously swung an axe at. The research also resulted in a number of other innovations ranging from insecticides and solvents to imitation meat, but more importantly it helped jumpstart the cultivation of soybeans in the United States, giving farmers a crop that would regenerate their soil and leading to a multibillion-dollar industry today.
So, Ford, good luck with that tomatoes thing. Maybe check your archives to see what the Greenfield Village boys did with them.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.
Mustang I and Mustang II concepts to join Mustang serial number 10001 at The Henry Ford Motor Muster
Every year, The Henry Ford presents its Motor Muster, an annual celebration that honors cars, trucks (and even bicycles) built between 1933 and 1976. This year, in honor of its 50th birthday, The Henry Ford will be paying homage to the Ford Mustang by showing the 1962 Mustang I concept, the 1963 Mustang II concept and the Mustang bearing serial number 100001.
Hoping to portray itself as a young and desirable brand, in late 1961 Ford launched a marketing effort it called “Total Performance,” fueled in part by the paranoia over Chevrolet’s innovative Corvair. Ford styling head Gene Bordinat was tasked with developing a concept car that personified this Total Performance image, which would be a daunting task even with unlimited resources. Bordinat didn’t have unlimited resources, so he did the best he could with what was at hand, and with a team of designers that included John Najjar, Jim Sipple and Phil Clark, created a two-seat roadster with an aerodynamic body built upon a reversed Ford Taunus platform in roughly 100 days.
The Mustang Experimental Sports Car (which would later become known as the Mustang I) debuted at the 1962 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The venue was significant for Ford, as it had received word that Chevrolet would debut the 1963 Corvair at the race, and Ford didn’t want to be left out. The Corvair made an appearance, but only in static form; the Mustang I, on the other hand, was driven around the circuit by Dan Gurney to the delight of the crowd. Later, on the show circuit, the Mustang I generated an enormous response from consumers, the bulk of whom wrote to Ford saying, “build this.”
That presented a problem for Ford, as a second project was well under way at the automaker to build a four-seat sports car, coincidentally also named the Mustang. If the public loved the Mustang I roadster with its wedge-shaped front end and two-seat impracticality, would they also warm to a car that used the same name but carried over very few design elements?
Seeking proof that the production Mustang was still headed down the right path, Ford commissioned the construction of the 1963 Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the production Mustang II, which debuted in 1974), meant to temper the public’s expectations of what the actual Mustang would be like when it hit dealerships as a 1965 model. Like the production car, the Mustang II concept carried four seats, dual three-bar taillamps and faux side scoops. Like the Mustang I concept, it featured a white with blue stripe livery and used a front end that seemed to split the difference between the Mustang I and the production Mustang (and, coincidentally, managed to look somewhat like a Thunderbird in 3/4-scale). Though often shown in topless form, the Mustang II featured a removable roof, foreshadowing the fact that the upcoming production Mustang would be available in both convertible and coupe body styles.
Built from a pre-production Mustang, the Mustang II’s use of design elements seen on both cars served as a bridge between the intentionally impractical Mustang I and the production-based Mustang. Like the first concept, the Mustang II proved to be a hit at its introduction, timed for the 1963 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and public reaction to the car gave Ford the confidence that its production Mustang would indeed be a hit when it reached dealer showrooms.
Even the Mustang carrying serial number 100001, now owned by The Henry Ford (along with the Mustang I concept) has an interesting story to tell. Never meant for sale, serial number 100001 was delivered to a St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, Ford dealership for display purposes only. There, it caught the eye of Captain Stanley Tucker, an airline pilot for Eastern Provincial Airlines. Though the dealership advised Tucker the car was not for sale, he was not dissuaded. Facing the loss of a sale, the dealership eventually agreed to sell the car to the impatient customer. This didn’t sit well with Ford, which wasted little time in contacting Tucker to strike a deal for his car. After nearly two years of negotiations, the parties agreed to terms: Tucker would turn over the keys to serial number 100001 in exchange for the millionth Mustang built.
Visitors to The Henry Ford can see the Mustang I concept and serial number 100001, but the Mustang II concept is part of the Detroit Historical Society’s collection. This year’s The Henry Ford Motor Muster will give Mustang fans their only chance to see the Mustang I concept, Mustang II concept and the production Mustang bearing serial number 100001 together at a single venue in 2014, which may be reason enough to attend the event.
The Henry Ford Motor Muster is scheduled for June 14-15 at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. For additional details, visit TheHenryFord.org.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.