The museum’s new “History of the Future Gallery” looks at mid-century concept cars and designs with an amazing collection of concept cars. Concept cars are merely prototype cars that are built to showcase new styling or technology and presented at prestigious car shows to elicit the public’s reaction.
The cars may eventually be built, with some changes, or not built at all. The ones that do make it to the production line seldom resemble the original concept. In fact, most production vehicles are radically different than the concept cars that were presented to the enthusiasts in the beginning.
The Petersen’s “History of the Future Gallery” displays three of the most exciting and unique concept cars, each from a major American Manufacturer, that allows us to take a look back at what the big three automakers thought the future would look like. Here are the three concept vehicles currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum:
1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37:
The 1955 Biscayne was built by Chevrolet to showcase its new “Turbo-Fire” 265 cubic-inch V-8 engine and innovative features such as a panoramic windshield, rear suicide doors and swiveling front seats. Its futuristic styling cues would influence subsequent General Motors vehicles, including the Corvette, Corvair and Riviera.
This four-door, pillarless hardtop was billed as an “exploration in elegance” by GM and toured the nation in Chevy’s Motorama dream car for 1955. The Biscayne incorporated many of the Corvette design ideas, including featuring side covers on the rear quarters that appeared on the front fenders of the 1956 Corvette.
This concept car was long thought to be destroyed until noted car collector Joe Bortz’s son spotted the car in a photo printed in the Automobile Quarterly magazine. The photo was a shot of an auto scrap yard in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Bortz bought the car and began to retrieve all the pieces. With no drivetrain or chassis, he managed to find and assemble the car’s body parts that were scattered around the wrecking yard.
The concept car underwent a twenty-two year ground-up restoration by Bortz with help from the GM Technical Center, and was reintroduced to the public at the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. Needless to say, it was one of the highlights of the show.
1954 Plymouth Explorer by Ghia:
Like a majority of other Chrysler Corporation “dream cars” of the period, the sporty Plymouth Explorer was bodied by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy. Its hand-formed coachwork was distinguished by carefully sculpted contours and accentuated by horizontal spears on the sides that were painted white to contrast with the striking metallic green body color. Interior features included leather upholstery, fitted luggage and concealed radio controls.
A 114-inch wheelbase Plymouth chassis that stood a mere 54-inches tall, the Plymouth Explorer was powered by a 230 cubic-inch Plymouth L-head (flathead) six-cylinder engine that pumped out a modest 110 horsepower. A Plymouth semi-automatic transmission completed the powertrain combination.
Debuting in the May 1954 Motor Trend magazine, the Explorer was also discovered by Joe Bortz in the late 1980’s. Located in Sweden, Bortz bought the car and shipped it back to the United States where Bortz Auto Collection had the restoration work completed back to original status.
1955 Mercury D-528 “Beldone”:
The D-528 was built to test advanced concepts in safety, lighting, air conditioning, and front frame design. The oddly designed hinged rear fender bulges were functional, concealing a spare tire on one side and a gas tank on the other.
Originally fitted with an experimental Y-block V8 with a two barrel carburetor, the two speed automatic – with overdrive – featured a separate frame with coil sprung suspension and four wheel drum brakes. The Beldone was built with a 120-inch wheelbase.
The extraordinary luggage capacity is obvious, and probably would have fit in well in the mid-fifties larger family car lifestyle. The large trunk also fit the large air conditioning evaporators required for the air conditioning system.
The hollow roof was shaped like a “T” that allowed the cold air from the evaporators to flow through the C-pliiars into the roof and exit through perforations in the headliner panels. The car also Featured a Pillarless windshield and reverse-sloping retractable rear window, it would likely have been well received, but the D-528 was an in-house research vehicle that was never seen publicly until its appearances in the Outer Limits television series and the 1964 Jerry Lewis movie The Patsy.
Article courtesy of Street Legal TV, written by Bobby Kimbrough.
Even for those who have not heard it, the phrase "All I ever wanted was a hot rod" is simple in both its meaning and level of sophistication. It could be explained as: nothing extravagant—just something basic. But for anyone accustomed to not settling for second best, sometimes "basic" won't cover the bill.
A few years back Bob Briggs, a self-made man who in 1981 took a basic idea (custom hollow metal doors for buildings) and built it into a multimillion dollar business based in Fontana, California, looked back across a lifetime to a photograph he had of himself as a teenager posed against his 1936 Ford coupe, elbow on the roof and foot on the running board. What he'd like, Bob thought, is a hot rod: a baby blue 1936 Ford coupe.
Bob Briggs Jr. knew of his father's desire, and decided he'd get his dad the car he wants. So, after going on the hunt, he was able to purchase one. It had already been chopped and, wanting to freshen it up and make it completely driveable, both Bobs took the car to Fred Ingle at Fred's Wiring in Ontario, California.
Now don't let the name fool you. Fred's shop doesn't just do wiring—that's only one facet of the company that can do complete projects, from chassis assembly to turnkeys, with an emphasis on expert body- and paintwork. When they talked with Fred, the idea was to roll a new chassis under the car and give it some paint and new upholstery. So Fred ordered up a complete 1936 frame from Total Cost Involved Engineering (a company Ingle has worked with for more than 28 years) and began tearing down the car so it could go to the strip booth and everyone could see what was under the paint. And that's when things changed.
When they got the car body back, they were shocked and surprised on how much filler had been used in the old car. It was obvious a thin skim coat wouldn't fix these problems, so Fred told the Briggs about Marcel's Custom Metal in Corona, California. Known for their metal fabrication skills (they have built far more America's Most Beautiful Roadster and Don Ridler Memorial Award winners than anyone else in country), Marcel De Ley and his two sons, Luc and Marc, looked the project over (Luc says the "body looked like lace" and Marc understated the previous chop as being "not very good") and the trio told Fred and the Bobs what they've told many of their other customers: it would be easier for them to scratch build a new 1936 three-window coupe from a stack of 4x8 steel sheetmetal than it would be to repair what they had. Junior and Senior talked it over and soon agreed to the plan, but one more ingredient needed to be added.
Though the 82-year-old Marcel has been bending metal for more than 60 years and his two sons grew up in the shop absorbing their father's knowledge doesn't mean they're car designers. For that they've relied on Chip Foose, the well-known automotive designer and illustrator who, before his hosting of multiple television shows, met the De Leys back in the early '90s when he was working for Boyd's, as it was Coddington who relied on the De Leys to build the award winners he laid claim to.
Foose met with the Briggs, Ingle, and the De Leys to go over what was called for, and soon Foose's sketches were being prepared. The basic idea was to change the profile found on an original 1936 three-window to include angling the doors back a bit, laying the grille back, and pulling the top rearward for a more sweeping profile. Once the basic concept was okayed, Foose went about starting the project as he does all of the cars he designs: with a side elevation 1/4-scale drawing. First mapping out the chassis plus the height and location of the wheels, Chip then draws the side shape of the car, and takes them to a Kinkos to be blown up to full 1:1 scale. Those fullsize blow-ups, sometimes 18 feet long and 5 feet tall, are delivered to Marcel's shop and pinned to the wall. From that point on it would be the De Ley's job to use the drawings and make a car out of them.
Though they've built about as many different type of cars as you can think of, hot rods are easily the majority of what the De Leys do, though Marcel especially likes working on Delahaye-type vehicles the most. Work usually begins by taking the measurements right off the drawing and bending 3/4- and 1/4-inch tubing to build a fixture. With the TCI Engineering chassis already in the shop, the floor is made (with 1.5x0.75-inch tubing added for structure and strength), which will serve as a base for the rest of the car's jig.
Next the grille's profile is located, and from there horizontal stringers are copied from the drawing to mimic certain body lines and peaks. The drawing also shows the door opening, so the De Leys bend up the metal to create that, and more stringers soon help locate other sections on the car, such as the windshield. At some point the De Leys leave the illustrations and create areas not found on the drawing by eyeballing and, having worked with Foose for decades, can usually second-guess what Chip would want to do.
With the grille and door opening where they're supposed to be, the De Leys start on the cowl and firewall as most everything else is located off of them. They work in 18-gauge metal, shaping the material both over a tree stump as well as various machines, including shrinkers and stretchers and, for larger panels, an English Wheel. Since the old, hole-ridden body was still at the shop, Luc De Ley can take advantage of the fact by using it as a buck and shape new pieces and sections over the old one.
For the trunk, the rain gutters were made first before the rear apron was made to meet it. Each section is crafted and then another piece mirrored for the other side of the car. For the decklid, a hinged boxed structure is made to open and close before being skinned with aluminum. Once done, a smooth inner skin, also in aluminum, is made for added strength.
Once the body nears completion, with the cowl, roof, quarters, and rear section done, attention is turned to the fender bucks, also made from 1/2-inch square tubing. For this design, the front fenders and running boards will be one piece, and the rear fenders separate. And though the rear fenders can be made in just six pieces, the front fender itself (without the running board) is made in 14 pieces. Marcel and Luc De Ley soon follow with the creation of the aluminum hood and sides, and then the attention turns to the interior.
Foose has done a few conceptual drawings for the inside of the car, too, which not only dictates what the dash will look like but also how it will flow through the door tops and back under the rear window. Luc thinks he spent a month inside the car, creating the one-off dash and other pieces.
After the interior was complete, the exterior molding (a brass strip that runs from the nose and back to just above the rear wheel) was hand filed to a perfect shape before being sent to the chrome shop. But one section that still needed work was what to use for headlights and, after some discussions between Chip and Fred, Foose created a form for Marcel to shape the bulge that would contain the custom headlights, which uses a billet aluminum mounting ring machined at Chip's shop.
Once the De Leys were done with making the body and fenders (taking 155 days along the way to do it), the car went to Ingle's shop for, as Fred puts it, "the heart of the car." Fred, along with Zack Phillips (a 17-year veteran of the shop) and Jack Nickerson (whose been on board for the past four years), continued the construction with the addition of the structure to support the steering as well as designing an electric e-brake system especially for this car.
Though Marcel had made a plug for the car's grille, Fred gave the job of fabricating the one-off polished stainless steel grille to Don Stark of Street Rod Grilles in Twin Falls, Idaho. And though he never saw the car in person, Don followed the plug's design perfectly, so after he shipped it back to Fred, he was able to take it out of the box and pop it into place without any extra modifications.
As the car was going together, the project evolved from just a basic hot rod to a rather special one, but Bob Sr. always maintained throughout the build he was going to drive it when it was done, and not put it on the show circuit. For him, it just wasn't a consideration. Work continued with Fred's adding door rubber and then filing and fitting all the door and trunk gaps so they would have perfect spacing all the way around. Fred's also made new trunk and hood hinges, and they added limiting shocks inside the doors so they, being as heavy as they are, would swing open at a controlled and gentle rate. A custom nerf-type front bumper guards the leading edge of the grille, and 1955 Nomad bumperettes protect either side of the rear license plate.
Patterns were made up for the tempered side glass, and their edges were pencil-polished for a softer look. Fred also had Marcel fab up a rear belly pan that would hide a removable superstructure under the trunk, which houses the air tanks, solenoids, and other gear for the RideTech air suspension system. No item was too small to escape attention as even the vent lines for the gas tank include charcoal-filled canisters to eliminate any smell of gas inside the cab. Fred's also made up a symmetrical exhaust system, adding some electric cutouts so Bob could really hear the motor when he wanted to.
And though Bob Sr. had originally wanted a baby blue coupe, that color just wasn't going to work with a car like this, so many different color variations were being considered during the build. Some were solids while others featured a light top and a dark body. Ingle had made fixtures for the fenders so they could be painted at one time while off the car, and he'd sprayed nearly 40 different colors on some test panels (Fred likes to lean into the sages, silvers, and earth tones for his paintjobs) to see how Bob Sr. liked them. It seemed like the car was going to be dark green on top and light green below but, the day before painting was to begin, Foose had come up with some paint chips from BASF that turned out to be the final color: an elegant dark blue on top and a lighter shade below the trim line. Ingle sprayed the car with 90-line Glasurit waterborne paint and clear before Denis Rickleffs added a subtle pinstripe to the car.
Nearing completion, the coupe was sent to Gabe's Custom Interiors in San Bernardino, California, for some threads. Foose visited Gabe's shop during this phase, too, and he created another set of drawings for the upholstery team to follow. Blue, light gray, and dark gray leather was used throughout, with a wide pleated panel design mixed in with some contemporary sweeping lines. Lexus six-way electric seats were recovered and Dynamat was laid out below the wool carpet. The door pulls are from a '60s-era Porsche 356.
Once back at Fred's, the car was wired up with Auto Meter gauges, which were set into the dash along with a one-off insert made by Lil' Louie. An iPod-based stereo system was also put in place with five speakers, an amp, and an equalizer. A Vintage Air A/C system was hidden under the dash and Fred's created the wiring harness for the electronic fuel injection.
The engine in this ride is as impressive as the rest of the car, and it came from Roush Performance. One of their 427IR crate motors, the V-8 produces over 550 hp on the dyno. Mated to an Art Carr–prepped 4R70W four-speed automatic transmission (selected with a Lokar shifter), the powerplant will have more than enough power to quickly launch Bob Sr. anywhere he might want to go. That's in part to the CompuShift controller designed by Mike Hoy of HGM Automotive Electronics that allows programmable information to control the transmission.
A SPAL 16-inch puller fan operates with a Mattson aluminum radiator, and Smiley's Headers extract the motor's spent gases. The Total Cost Involved Engineering chassis is equipped with their polished stainless steel IFS setup and a Strange 9-inch (3.70:1) alloy rear is located with a TCI Engineering four-link. Wilwood disc brakes are on each corner, which slows the rotating 18x7 and 19x10 Foose wheels wrapped in Pirelli rubber.
The last time Bob Sr. had seen his car, it was in primer at Fred's shop. But his 78th birthday was arriving soon, and it was to make a grand entrance to a birthday party thrown in Senior's honor. As friends and family gathered in the front yard, Bob Jr. drove the car out of Fred's shop, through Ontario on a late afternoon, and down the street and into Senior's driveway where a beaming owner was waiting. Copying the photograph he posed for almost 60 years ago with his elbow on the roof and foot up on the running board (friends had even re-created the striped shirt he was wearing in the original photo) Bob posed for a new set of pictures with the car that has exceeded his wildest imagination.
Article courtesy of Hot Rod Network, written by Eric Geisert.
It is well known that before World War II, Ford Motor Company was never a well-organized corporation, and that in the wake of Edsel Ford’s death in 1943, things spiraled so nearly out of control that the Roosevelt administration contemplated nationalizing the company to preserve its contributions to the war effort. Instead, Henry Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, was released from his service with the U.S. Navy to take control of the ailing company and curb the excesses of his increasingly senile grandfather and corrupt henchman Harry Bennett.
After the war, Henry II set about remaking the company in the style of its arch competitor, General Motors. Included in this effort was the hiring of former GM executive Ernest Breech and others with a background at what was then the world’s largest automaker. Breech, in turn, hired a group of veterans of the Army Air Forces’ Statistical Control units who would be collectively remembered as the “Whiz Kids”.
While Breech was remaking FoMoCo as GM Lite, the Whiz Kids were tasked with rationalizing the way management was performed, replacing the anachronistic, seat-of-the-pants decision-making process with something logical and driven by data. In 1949, they elected to create a department tasked with product planning, the first of its kind in the industry. The 1952 Ford was the first model to come under the oversight of the product planning department and its newly hired head, Chase Morsey, Jr.
Morsey was a sort of Junior Whiz Kid in that he too was a Statistical Control veteran, and had served under Robert S. McNamara and Jack Reith during the war, but had not been hired in with the original group of Whiz Kids in 1946. To Morsey’s advantage, however, was that he was a lifelong Ford enthusiast with a personal enthusiasm for the product he would now help to shape. The original Whiz Kids were interested in scientific management and had dispassionately hired themselves out to the highest bidder.
It was into this environment of GM men and statisticians that Morsey stepped and almost immediately came into conflict. Handed the already approved plans for the 1952 Ford, Morsey learned that his beloved flathead V-8 (he had owned V-8 Fords exclusively since high school in the 1930s) was to be unceremoniously dropped in favor of a very Chevrolet-like inline-six. Morsey’s gut instinct was that this was a very bad move for Ford that would not only fail to solve the company’s existing problems, but would drive off a presently very dedicated customer base.
Morsey’s journey to prove to Breech, McNamara, Henry Ford II and the rest of the decision makers at Ford that the V-8 needed to remain in production is just the springboard for the rest of his memoir,The Man Who Saved the V-8, but it forms an important frame of reference for all of his later actions at FoMoCo. And important actions they were: Morsey would be instrumental in the creation of the Thunderbird, the Skyliner retractable and ultimately the Mustang—not as an engineer, or a stylist, but as someone who understood what the public wanted and how the company could give it to them and thereby sell more cars.
Other reviews have criticized The Man Who Saved the V-8 as egotistical or hyperbolic, but in reality it is neither. Morsey is not modest, but he is humble. While Morsey is highly aware of his own contributions to Ford and to the industry as a whole, he recounts those contributions without boast and he is quick to give credit to the others involved, as well.
Further, it does not seem Morsey gives unwarranted urgency to the action or weight to the decisions. The past is a comfortable place because we know the outcomes, but at the time these were current events with the potential to make or break the company’s place in the market. It is also worth noting that Morsey was a young man at the time, and his enthusiasm for the product and view of its importance to the consumer come off as completely genuine.
Not only is this book an amazing peek behind the curtain at Ford Motor Company in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, and as such an invaluable historical account, but it’s also an inspirational primer on leadership and courage in the workplace. Morsey came to Ford not only with a great work ethic, but a vision for the company that he was not afraid to defend to his superiors. He was still a probationary employee when he made his boardroom presentation in defense of the flathead V-8. That level of commitment and willingness to risk his job for the sake of the product was not often seen at that time, or ever, and that daring act led him to become the de facto voice of the customer within Ford.
If you’re looking for something to read as the weather turns colder, you could do far worse than to pick up a copy of The Man Who Saved the V-8 and learn something about a little-known chapter in Ford history.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by David Conwill.
In 1971, Mark Donahue delivered American Motors’s first Trans-Am championship behind the wheel of a Javelin AMX. The manufacturer wasted no time in promoting this, and a 1972 print ad proclaimed the new Javelin AMX was “The closest you can come to owning the Trans-Am champion.” More revolutionary, however, was the year-long “Buyer Protection Plan” offered by AMC for the 1972 model year.
AMC wasn’t the first manufacturer to offer a warranty to consumers, but it was the first to offer such comprehensive protection for such an extended duration. Excluding tires, the manufacturer agreed to pay for repair or replacement of any part found defective in materials or workmanship, for the first 12 months or 12,000 miles of operation. If repairs stretched overnight, AMC dealers were even obligated to provide a loaner car at no charge, and customers still dissatisfied were given a name and a toll-free telephone number to discuss the issue with a company representative. In return for this Buyer Protection Plan, customers were expected to have their cars serviced by an AMC dealer in accordance with the provided schedule.
Today, a 12-month, 12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is a given, with limited warranties sometimes stretching out as long as 10 years (typically for rust-through). In 1972, however, long-term accountability was something that automakers on any continent attempted to avoid.
On the performance side, the $3,109 1972 Javelin AMX came standard with a 304-cu.in., 150-horsepower V-8, fed by a single two-barrel carburetor. For additional thrust, buyers could opt for a 360-cu.in. V-8, rated at 175 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor or 195 with a four-barrel, or the 401 V-8, which put out a satisfying 255 horsepower and 345 pound-feet of torque. Transmission options included a three-speed manual or Torque-Command automatic with most engine choices, but the four-barrel 360 and 401 came with the buyer’s choice of a four-speed manual or Torque-Command automatic.
The Go Package also included dual exhausts, a T-shaped hood stripe, a blackened rear panel, Rally-Pak instrumentation, a handling package, a fiberglass cowl-induction hood, heavy-duty cooling, a Twin-Grip differential, power front disc brakes and E60x15 raised white letter Goodyear Polyglass tires. With the 401, such a car would have stickered at $3,614, about $400 more than a 396-equipped Camaro SS.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.
If ever there was a car with an identity crisis, it was the B-body Dodge Charger. Introduced in 1966 as a sporty personal luxury car, the Charger would evolve to become a legitimate performance standard-bearer for Dodge before ending its life, in 1978, as a rebadged Chrysler Cordoba. In 2016, the B-body Charger marks its 50th birthday, and given the car’s impact on the American landscape, it’s one worth celebrating.
As the 1960s reached the halfway point, Dodge dealers were impatiently pressuring the automaker for a response to the Ford Mustang. At Chrysler headquarters, the challenge was to market the Barracuda more effectively in an effort to counter Mustang sales, which did nothing to help the Dodge brand. The compromise was to create a new car, on an existing platform, that would drive traffic into Dodge dealerships without pirating customers away from Plymouth showrooms.
Instead of focusing its attention on a Mustang-fighting pony car, Dodge looked to counter the AMC Marlin and the Ford Thunderbird with a sleek fastback two-door hardtop, perched atop the Coronet’s 117-inch-wheelbase platform. A Charger II show car was displayed at auto shows throughout 1965, but the public wasn’t told that a car remarkably similar to the concept had already been approved by Chrysler management.
The production Charger made its public debut on January 1, 1966, in a television commercial aired during the Rose Bowl. Viewers were introduced to the “Leader of the Dodge Rebellion,” and the 1966 Charger immediately garnered both criticism and praise from the public and reviewers alike. Some panned its fastback styling for being too similar to the AMC Marlin, while others questioned the value of its $3,122 starting price, which was over $400 more than the Marlin’s $2,707 base. Detractors even complained about the car’s “electric shaver” grille, with its hidden headlamps, and its radical, full-width taillamp assembly, both unconventional design elements.
Inside, the Charger was designed to stand out from the crowd. A full-length console split seating into a 2+2 configuration, while the rear seat backs folded flat to provide additional cargo room. The trunk was carpeted instead of just lined with a vinyl mat, a subtle nod to luxury that would also be mirrored in the Charger’s electroluminescent gauges, set in aluminum bezels and powered by a 200-volt AC transformer.
The base engine for the 1966 Charger was a 318-cu.in. V-8 topped by a two-barrel Stromberg carburetor, which produced 230 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. Buyers could also opt for a two-barrel 361-cu.in. V-8, rated at 265 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque; a four-barrel 383 V-8, rated at 325 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque; or the top dog in the range, the legendary 426 Street Hemi. Topped with a pair of Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors, the 426 V-8 was good for a conservatively rated 425 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque.
In 1966, buyers took home 37,344 Dodge Chargers, but sales fell off to 15,788 units for 1967 as buyers turned to smaller cars like the Mustang and the newly introduced Chevrolet Camaro. To counter the slide, Dodge debuted a newly styled Charger for the 1968 model year that did away with the earlier model’s fastback roof in favor of a more conventional flying buttress design with a recessed rear window. The Kamm-style rear opted for four taillamps over a full-width panel, and to give the car an even sportier look, Dodge moved the racing-inspired fuel filler cap to the left rear fender.
Though the base engine was now Chrysler’s 225-cu.in. “Slant Six,” buyers of the second-gen Charger could opt for no less than three performance-centered V-8s, including the four-barrel 383, rated at 330 horsepower; the four-barrel 440, rated at 375 horsepower; and the 426 Hemi, rated at 425 horsepower. The Charger’s new emphasis on performance over personal luxury helped land it a starring role in the 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt, and consumers once again gave the car a second look. In 1968, Dodge sold 96,100 Chargers; in 1969, the division moved another 89,200 units; and in 1970, the final year of the body style, roughly 49,800 Chargers were built.
The second-generation Charger went racing, too, first in Charger 500 guise (which featured flush rear glass to reduce rear-end lift and a flush grille to reduce drag) and later in Charger Daytona form, with its distinctive aerodynamic nose and massive basket-handle rear wing. Both variants were offered for sale in limited numbers to the public (to meet NASCAR homologation requirements), and remain among the most collectible of B-body Charger models.
A new Charger debuted for 1971, and though it still carried a familiar shape, the trend away from performance and (again) towards personal luxury became apparent by the 1973 model year. The 426 Hemi was discontinued after 1971, and by 1973 the most powerful engine available was the 280 horsepower (net) 440 V-8, topped by a single four-barrel carburetor. The third generation ended with the 1974 model year, and while sales peaked at 119,318 units in 1973, they struggled to reach 37,000 units in 1974.
The final generation of B-body Chargers appeared in 1975, wearing sheetmetal that was remarkably similar to the Chrysler Cordoba. Gone were any real nods to performance, and while a 440-cu.in. V-8 remained available, output was down to 215 net horsepower. Even NASCAR teams avoided the new body style, which was deemed too blocky to be fast or stable at high speed; instead, NASCAR allowed the third-generation Charger body style to be raced up until January of 1978, when the Magnum replaced the Charger in competition.
Compared to earlier generations, sales of the fourth-generation Charger were disappointing, peaking at 65,900 units in 1976 but falling to 36,204 in 1977 and 2,735 in 1978 (a carryover year in which the last Chargers were built from remaining parts inventory). Perhaps the B-body Charger had exceeded its shelf life, or perhaps Chrysler intentionally removed the car from life support to focus on smaller and more fuel-efficient models. For a storied model that once brought racing glory to the brand (on street, strip and oval tracks), it was, perhaps, an ignoble end.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.
Chuck Redding, Sr., is a lifelong automotive enthusiast with a passion for building custom street rods. His builds exceed what is considered to be normal or typical, and tend to lean more towards unique or different.
Redding’s St. Petersburg shop with a few of his creations out front.
Two of his creations have recently been featured: His very unique Corvair MonzaRod turns heads everywhere it goes, and the drastically different Western Flyer Rocket Wagon is truly one-of-a-kind. However, this little orange and white Nash Metropolitan may just be Redding’s masterpiece.
Originally from Waltham, Massachusetts, Redding now resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida. For the past 32 years, along with his son, Chuck Jr., Redding has owned and operated Redding’s Auto Servic & Sales, just a few miles northwest of downtown Saint Petersburg. The shop is a full service, general repair center and surprisingly enough, other than his personal projects, very few street rods ever roll in the door.
“We don’t really work on rods here in the shop,” Redding said. “Our primary focus is on general repair, cars, and light trucks, we can even accommodate RV’s and medium-duty trucks, but building hot rods is strictly my hobby.”
Redding’s pretty little orange and white Metropolitan is a 1960, Series IV production. The Series IV production models incorporated several re-designs, including a functional rear deck lid, and front vent windows. The interior on the Series IV vehicles also featured a diamond pattern, and white vinyl trimmed seats.
Sales for the Series IV Metropolitan exceeded 22,000 units, making it the best selling Metropolitan ever. American Motors advertising touted the car as one of the best imports of its time. Production of the Metropolitan ended at the close of the 1961 model year, and sales of the remaining inventory continued through March of 1962.
Before we examine Redding’s Metropolitan, let’s take a quick look at the history of America’s first imported economy car. When most U.S. auto makers were going with the “bigger-is-better” attitude, the Nash Motor Company felt there was an untapped market for an economical transportation alternative, and that U.S. buyers would welcome such a vehicle.
Nash-KelvinatorNash-Kelvinator Corporation was the result of a merger in 1937 between Nash Motors and Kelvinator Appliance Company. In 1952 Kelvinator introduced the Food-A-Rama side by side refrigerator, the earliest modern side by side, frost proof refrigerator sold in America. In 1954 Nash-Kelvinator acquired Hudson Motor Company forming American Motors Corporation, and was directly responsible for the design and introduction of the Metropolitan to the American automotive market.
The first prototype was built and designed for Nash-Kelvinator by William Flajole; the car was unveiled as the NKI (Nash-Kelvinator International) in 1950 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Public reaction to this new “little car” was very positive and confirmed Nash’s theory that there was indeed a market for a vehicle of this type, if it could be produced and sold at a competitive price.
In 1952 Nash came to agreement with theAustin Motor Company in Birmingham, England to manufacture their new postwar, “personal use” automobile. This would be the first ever American-designed automobile that would be marketed exclusively throughout North America, sold and serviced through Nash, and later American Motors dealer distribution system, to be manufactured entirely by a foreign based auto maker and imported into the U.S.
The Metropolitan was also the first ever American automobile marketed directly at the lady of the house. Nash advertised the car prominently in “Women’s Wear Daily” as a perfect second car for the family; Nash also paid 1954 Miss America, Evelyn Ay Sempier to function as their official spokesperson for this new small family car.
Redding discovered his Metropolitan during a parts finding expedition for another rod he was working on. “I needed some parts for another Met I had on the rotisserie,” Redding said. “I had met this guy at one of the local car shows, he said he had a bunch of Metropolitan parts in his garage, and invited me to come by and take a look.”
Several days later he made the drive to the man’s home in North Port, Florida, about two hours south of his Saint Petersburg shop to see exactly what the man had available. “When I walked into this guy’s garage I was amazed,” he said. Not only did the gentleman have piles of Metropolitan parts, but sitting back in the far corner of the garage were two Metropolitans, all in different stages of restoration, the orange one caught his eye.
“The car was not much more that a rolling chassis when I first saw it,” Redding remembers. When he first saw the little orange car, he immediately knew, in his head, what he wanted to do with this car. His intentions were fairly simple: build the car to a stock appearing configuration, with an obnoxious power to weight ratio, a proverbial sleeper. He wanted to build a car that would have the kids with the modified imports thinking they knew a think or two about cars, only to be upstaged by this orange Metropolitan. Redding smiled at the thought and knew he couldn’t leave this man’s garage without that orange and white Metropolitan in tow.
After coming to an agreement with the previous owner, Redding returned with the Metropolitan to the familiar confines of Reddings Auto Service and began working on his latest project. The first step in the build was to modify the engine bay for the planned350cid Chevrolet power plant. He started by widened the engine bay and removing the inner front fender wells; he also removed and relocated the firewall seven-inches aft to accommodate the small block Chevy.
“The engine bay was the toughest part of the build,” Redding said. The previous owner, for some unknown reason, had completely painted the car, and had also installed a sub-frame with a Fat Man front suspension. “I wanted to save the paint and Fat Man suspension, so getting in there with a torch and sawzall was pretty touchy,” he said.
Once he finished the modifications to the engine bay, he turned his attention to the chassis and suspension. The Metropolitan was produced with a unibody construction, and due to the meager weight of the car at 1,785 pounds, suspension components were rather lightweight for what he had in mind. He retained the Fat Man Suspension that was in the car when he bought it, and extended the front subframe the length of the car to provide added stability and strength to the overall build.
“The new frame allowed me to install a little larger springs and shocks in the back of the car,” Redding stated. The Mustang differential that was already in the car was too wide, forcing him to remove and narrow the housing and drive axles some four inches. He upgraded the brakes to provide the anticipated stopping power that would be required to rein in his little orange beast, with 11-inch single-piston discs on the front, and 10-inch drums in the rear.
Once satisfied that the chassis would handle the load, Redding moved on to the task of installing the drive train. His engine of choice was the 350 cubic inch, small block Chevrolet, naturally aspirated. The first motor he dropped in the engine bay had been sitting on a stand in the back of the shop for a while.
“The first motor was just a little too hot,” he said. “When I first started it up and rolled out the shop to shake it down, it wouldn’t go anywhere, it just sat and spun the tires.” He exchanged the motor for a more mundane version, and that worked reasonably well. “I went with the mostly stock 350 and used a 700R4 transmission to help calm it down; I still ended up using a 2.73:1 rear gear to keep the tires on the ground,” he said.
The body of Redding’s Metropolitan is 100% steel, and original to the car. He eliminated the continental style spare tire from the back of the car, opting to utilize the area to house the fuel filler neck. The filler cap is from an early model Dodge Charger, and the taillight assemblies feature the orange European Lucas lens.
Front and rear bumpers have been painted to match, and the front headlights have been upgraded to Halogen. The car remains on a standard 85-inch wheelbase, and sits on custom chrome, 16-inch American Racing Wheels wrapped with low profile Sumitomo rubber. The door handles have been shaved, and all original badging has been removed. The grille is original to the car with the exception of the added bow-tie.
Redding entrusted the interior of his Metropolitan to long time friend, and upholstery guru, Jimmy Long. Long operates a small upholstery shop just down the street from Redding’s shop, and operates solely on a referral basis. Long is responsible for the carpet, the door panels, and both seats. The seats were done in a matching orange and white vinyl, in a very clean vertical pattern; both door panels follow the same theme and match the seats perfectly. Seat belts were special ordered in orange and the hand fabricated floor mounted console houses the sound system, gauges, and the Lo-Kar shifter. Redding installed a GM tilt steering column, and Auto Meter gauges provide Redding with all of the vital signs of the small block Chevrolet under the hood.
Speaking of under the hood; Redding finished the entire engine bay, and underside of the hood with polished stainless steel, to give a mirrored appearance when the hood is opened. The hand fabricated exhaust headers exit the engine bay through the stainless steel fender wells, travel under the car and terminate just in front of the rear wheels. The chrome Edelbrock intake and 750 Edelbrock carburetor add to the overall mirrored look under the hood, and last but not least, he has installed his signature see-through, color coded distributor cap as he has on all of his builds.
When asked what was next on his list, Redding sat back in his chair, rubbed his chin and calmly stated, “I’m not entirely sure, but I think it might be a rat rod of some sort, whatever I decide to do, I promise it will be something really bizarre, and your magazines will be the first to know.” Personally, this author can’t wait to see what this man comes up with next. It’s for sure, if Chuck Redding builds it, it will be cool, stay tuned.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Chuck Green.
Searching through the scores of customs on the web, we stumbled across this unique custom. Posted on Engine Swap Depot, it is a completely custom Army hot rod built from a M3 half-track. Whether this is just a show car or a legitimate road warrior, let’s jump into some of the details about this build. The body has been chopped and lowered significantly on a Military truck chassis. The stance is aggressively low, but the chopped top gives the build a custom look that separates it from the rest. Under the hood, the custom truck is powered by 454-cubic inch V8 mills, which are each connected to their own respective transmission and operates on a completely separate axle.
With so much going on inside and out, it is really hard to just call this your typical custom truck. Curb weight may have not been the aim for this truck, but it has plenty of power from the 454-cubic inch engines to keep this beast rolling down the street. With push bars in the front, huge front over fenders, and sixteen tire rearend, this custom truck is one absolute show stopper.
It may need a wide street to make turns on and may not have the best fuel economy, but this custom truck is a cool build that is both unique and imaginative. Thinking outside of the box, we commend this build simply for its engineering feats mechanically as well as its aesthetic styling and customization.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Nic Aguon.