It may not be totally obvious today, but the one car that inspired the 1965 Ford Mustang more than any other was the first-generation Corvair Monza of 1960-64.
This is the sort of thing you’ll almost never hear an auto executive admit out loud, but in his 1984 memoir, Iacocca: An Autobiography, former Ford boss Lee Iacocca frankly declared that the basic concept for probably his most famous car, the 1965 Mustang, actually came from a competitor’s product: namely, the Chevrolet Corvair.
“General Motors,” Iaococca wrote, “had taken the Corvair, an economy car, and transformed it into the hot-selling Corvair Monza simply by adding a few sporty accessories such as bucket seats, stick shift and fancy interior trim. We at Ford had nothing to offer to the people who were considering a Monza, but it was clear to us that they represented a growing market.”
In just a few words, Iacocca nailed both the Corvair Monza’s content and its appeal. Introduced in May of 1960, the Monza included a full vinyl interior with sporty front bucket seats, deep-pile carpeting, a special steering wheel with chrome horn ring, and other deluxe extras. Although sales were a little slow the partial first year, the volume shot straight up in 1961 to more than 140,000 units—better than half the Corvair’s total deliveries. For 1962 a convertible and a wagon were added to the Monza line, and at mid-year in ’62 the Monza Spyder Coupe and Convertible arrived, offering a 150-hp turbocharged version of the air-cooled flat six and other performance enhancements.
This may seem like a stretch to enthusiasts of today, but as car buyers of the early ’60s checked out the Monza in the showrooms, with its bucket seats, vinyl cockpit, and four-speed floor shifter—complete with white cue-ball gearshift knob—they could see some Corvette flavor in the Chevy compact. (GM interior stylist Blaine Jenkins was credited with the Monza’s compelling cabin design.) And just to make sure shoppers didn’t miss the connection, the Chevy ad people included the Corvette in the Monza’s print campaign.
All this was carefully studied by Iacocca and the Fairlane Committee, his hand-picked task force assembled to identify emerging market opportunities. (Members included Hal Sperlich and Don Frey.) They could see that the 18-to-34 age bracket was set to blow up, that soon it would account for more than half the new car market. And clearly, the Monza had qualities that spoke to these buyers. For 1961, Ford introduced the Futura, a bucket-seat version of the Falcon, but it was merely a stopgap. On April 17, 1964, the company launched its full-scale engagement of the youth market: the 1965 Mustang.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage
Here’s one solid candidate for the title of most garish Cadillac dream car ever conceived: the gold-trimmed, animal-skinned 1950 Cadillac Debutante.
When chrome and leather aren’t enough, how do you kick things up a notch? With 24-karat gold plating and exotic animal skins, evidently. That was the apparent strategy behind the Cadillac Debutante dream car, built for display at the 1950 Chicago Auto Show and at the General Motors Mid-Century Motorama, which was staged at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan that same year. In the company’s press materials, the Debutante was described as “the most luxurious Cadillac ever constructed,” and its value was estimated at $35,000.
A Detroit furrier was commissioned to obtain the 14 choice animal skins, described as “Somaliland Leopard from the East Coast of Africa,” that were used to cover the upper portions of the the front and rear seats and portions of the door panels, while the seat lowers were upholstered in opalescent gray nylon silk. (Today we’ve found a more practical use for leopard skins: on leopards.) Adding to the spectacle, all the interior trim including the instrument bezels, horn rings, and door handles—and even the ignition key—were plated 24-karat gold.
Based on an otherwise production-spec Series 61 convertible, the Debutante was painted a bright shade of canary yellow, which Cadillac called Tawny Yellow Buff, then prepped for show duty, as shown below. What became of the car after that is unknown, but as with so many one-off GM show cars, it is presumed to be lost and destroyed.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Ford Motor Company has built nearly every kind of V8 engine we can imagine over the past century, but the biggest was the 1100 CID GAA tank engine of World War II.
The GAA V8 story actually begins with a proposed Ford V12 aircraft engine (above) that was developed in the hectic days leading up to the USA’s entry into World War II. Much misinformation surrounds this engine: contrary to the campfire stories, the Ford V12 was not a copy or derivative of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, but an all-new design. And it was a particularly advanced one, with four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts, bucket-style valve followers, and an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger. Additionally, unlike the Merlin, this engine was designed for high-volume production with a number of castings in its construction. (Ford did produce thousands of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines at its Trafford Park plant in England.)
The U.S. government declined to approve the Ford V12 for production, but not due to any particular fault of the engine, reportedly. Rather, the U.S. military planners, especially at the navy, were focused on air-cooled radials rather than liquid-cooled inline engines for aircraft use. But the Allied war effort was in desperate need of tank engines for the ground war, which was bound to be protracted and difficult, so the Ford V12 was hastily converted into a V8 (hence the 60-degree bank angle). With a bore and stroke of 5.402 inches by 6.0 inches, the V8 version displaced 1100 cubic inches (18 liters) and was nominally rated at 500 hp at 2600 rpm, with 1050 lb-ft of torque at 2200 rpm.
Ford produced the GAA and its variants (GAF, GAN, etc., and a V12, the GAC) at its Lincoln auto plant on Warren Avenue on the west side of Detroit, above. Historically, this brought the Lincoln facility full circle, if you will. Henry and Wilfred Leland had originally built the factory to produce Liberty aircraft engines for World War I.
By passenger car standards, the GAA was enormous: five feet long, four feet tall, and almost 1,500 lbs. But it was a perfect fit in the engine bay in the rear of the Sherman M4A3 tank, below, which weighed more than 71,000 lbs, sported a 76mm gun, and carried a crew of five. Various engines were used in the Sherman, including the strange Chrysler A57 we featured here.
Produced in vast numbers, the Sherman was instrumental to the Allied war effort, especially in infantry support. The GAA-series engines were used in other U.S. military tracked vehicles as well, and all told, more than 28,000 of the monster V8s were manufactured between 1940 and 1950. Experts estimate that somewhere between 500 and 1,000 of the engines are still in existence today.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Gragae.
For a brief five-year run, the Bonneville was replaced at the top of the Pontiac full-size line by the Grand Ville.
1973 Pontiac Grand Ville Hardtop Sedan
From its introduction in 1957, the Bonneville represented the top of the heap in Pontiac luxury and features—the flagship of the line. Initially an extension of the Star Chief Custom in ’57, the Bonneville became a stand-alone model in 1958 and a full product line in 1959 with the addition of a station wagon. And as the biggest, costliest, and most luxuriously equipped Pontiac, the Bonneville was a consistent earner for the second-largest General Motors brand.
But for reasons probably best known to the GM product planners themselves, for 1971 the Bonneville was knocked down one notch to the middle of the full-sized line, replacing the 1967-70 Executive, which was now discontinued. (The Executive, in turn, rode in the former Star Chief slot.) The new flagship at the Pontiac division for the next five model years was the Grand Ville, a less familiar name today than Bonneville, Catalina, or Star Chief.
1975 Pontiac Grand Ville Brougham
While the name Bonneville had at least implied performance, the new Grand Ville badge suggested… well, grandness. The Motor City’s full-sized cars were entering their Brougham period, and this latest Pontiac model followed right along with rich velour fabrics, deep-pile carpeting, and the full complement of power accessories and conveniences. A 455 CID V8 was standard, and while the Grand Ville rode on the standard GM B-body platform, its formal roofline was shared with the corporation’s larger C-body cars. On the 1973-75 cars, among the popular options were fender skirts, an interesting throwback to the ’50s land-yacht era.
The 1975 model year brought some significant changes to the Grand Ville. First, the standard V8 was now a 400-CID version of the familiar Pontiac V8 rather than the big 455. (See our feature on the Pontiac V8 here.) Next, the name was altered slightly from Grand Ville to Grand Ville Brougham (there was no non-Brougham Grand Ville). MY 1975 would prove to be the last for the Grand Ville name, as the Bonneville regained its flagship role at Pontiac. For 1976 there would be two Bonnevilles: Bonneville and Bonneville Brougham. As things turned out, the Bonneville name would be repurposed and repackaged several more times before it was finally retired in 2005.
1971 Pontiac Grand Ville
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage