Meet the new Oldsmobiles for 1958, now with an exciting high-tech feature: the Trans-Portable Radio.
The special focus of this 1958 Oldsmobile spot is a short-lived General Motors feature called the Trans-Portable Radio. (Note GM’s distinctive rendering of an ordinary word, “transportable.”) This optional gadget was essentially a 10-transistor portable radio that nested within the car’s in-dash radio. The removable sub-unit included its own tuner, battery pack, and 3-inch speaker, allowing it to be operated separately from the car—for entertainment at picnics, at the beach, and so on. (Pontiac and Buick offered versions as well.) Trans-Portable Radio lasted only two years, ’58 and ’59, overrun almost overnight by the rapid advances in semiconductor technology. Soon, personal transistor radios of shirt-pocket size were everywhere, and they sold for far less than the expensive ($146) Delco in-car unit.
At Oldsmobile, 1958 will forever be known as the year of chrome. All five GM brands for ’58 were lavishly decked out with bright metal, Oldsmobile more than most. It was said that longtime Olds general manager Jack Wolfram, who ran the division from 1951 to 1964, had a special love of the stuff. From the base-model Dynamic 88 to the deluxe Ninety-Eight, all ’58 Oldsmobiles featured multiple chrome side spears running in both directions. And as we can see here, most of the instrument panel was dressed in shiny chrome as well. Grab your sunglasses and check out the video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
One of numerous innovations from the Pontiac Motor Division in the 1960s was the hood-mounted tachometer, which was conceived by GM designer Ron Hill as a charismatic cure for the overly congested instrument panel of the full-size cars. In The Definitive Firebird and Trans Am Guide 1967-1969 by Rocky Rotella, Hill stated, "While I was in the Pontiac studio, I came up with the idea of placing it outside the vehicle on the hood and designed its shape. The GM patent was issued in my name."
The hood tach was first offered as a dealer-installed accessory in 1967, before its availability expanded to a factory-installed option during the model year. It featured a smooth, rounded housing, and the face had a 180-degree needle sweep, an 8,000-rpm limit, and marks at 200-rpm increments. "Pontiac" lettering and "RPM X 100" were also present, as was a redline that began at 5,100 rpm with V-8s or 6,500 rpm with the OHC-6 engine. According to the GTO Recognition Guide by Paul Zazarine, the GTOs and full-size Pontiacs used a steel-blue background with white characters, but the Firebird employed a black background with green characters. The unit was lit by a single bulb, making it somewhat dim.
A main selling point was that the tach was positioned right in the driver's line of vision, so there would be less eye movement required to read it—and, of course, it just looked cool. Detractors pointed out that the delicate electronic instrument was mounted outside in the elements and would be subjected to additional shocks each time the hood was closed. Another concern was theft, but by using pop rivets for two of the four fasteners (the other two were studs and nuts) the unit was more difficult to steal.
The redesigned 1968 hood tach had a lower profile and slightly shorter housing length than the 1967 model, and it mounted with two studs and nuts and one pop rivet. Its reshaped face also had different fonts, the 200-rpm-increment hashmarks and redline moved to the inside of the numbers, "RPM X 100" was removed from the face, and "RPM" was added to the needle's base cover.
According to the Pontiac GTO Restoration Guide 1964-1972 by Paul Zazarine and Chuck Roberts, a few tach face designs were used in 1968. On the early version, "The characters were [laid out in a] circular shape and the sweep needle was approximately ¼-inch shorter than other 1968 needles. Redline started at 5,100 rpm."
The next design featured the more commonly seen wider-spaced character layout and longer needle, and it retained the 5,100-rpm redline. Another was visually the same but had a higher 5,500-rpm redline for the OHC-6 engines. It was later set up for a V-8 and used with the Ram Air II 400 that arrived in the spring of 1968. A steel-blue face with white characters was retained for 1968, but for 1969 the background changed to black. The 1968-and-newer hood tachs used two bulbs, making them easier to read at night.
Though Pontiac sealed the unit from the elements, fogging issues led to the addition of a hose during the 1970 model year; this line ran from the heater box to the tach to clear its lens. Sometime that same year, the redline color changed to orange.
The hood tach remained available through 1972, but from the dealer only in its last year. Reproductions of the tall 1967 and the shorter 1968-and-up versions are currently available and generally feature upgrades over the originals. Pontiac's unique take on this tachometer's design and placement helped advance its performance image, and it remains a venerated option from the muscle car era.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Thomas A DeMauro.
Although the Studebaker company was around for over a century, they may be best known for a model they produced for only eighteen months. The South Bend, Indiana factory stopped manufacturing cars and trucks in 1963, but the Avanti lives on.
During the 1940’s, Studebaker was the fourth largest car company in America. After the Second World War ended, they were the first to offer freshly-styled cars to the American public, while their competitors could only re-hash prewar models.
Throughout the early Fifties Studebaker produced some beautiful and innovative cars, such as the Starlight and the Starliner models. 1950 was the company’s best year, but soon after started falling into the red. This led to an acquisition/merge with Packard in 1954. In another two years, however, Studebaker recorded a loss of 43 million dollars, partially due to poor marketing decisions. The new Lark model brought Studebaker hope in 1959, but was merely temporary.
As the Sixties began, the Big Three (Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Chrysler Corporation) started dominating American car sales and the smaller independent companies could not compete. In February of 1961, new Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert proposed designing and building a sports car to help boost the company’s image and attract younger buyers. He contacted industrial designer Raymond Loewy.
French-born Loewy was already established as a great designer by this time. To his credit were such diverse items as steam locomotives, jukeboxes, cigarette packs and refrigerators (he would go on to design the Zippo lighter, the Shell logo, the interior of the Nasa Skylab, and others). Loewy had worked with Studebaker previously; the Starlight and Starliner models were his designs. Egbert asked Loewy if he could create a new sporty car, and have a full-scale clay model ready within a six week period. A design team was assembled in quick order and the scale model car was completed on schedule.
The budget for the Avanti project allowed for a new body only; the frame and suspension were taken from the existing Lark convertible. To get the car produced quickly, fiberglass body panels were chosen over conventional sheet metal. There were two main reasons for this. First, there would not be enough time for the tooling process required for steel panels. Second, a fiberglass car would be lighter (Loewy has been quoted as saying, "Weight is the enemy"). After debate of whether or not to mold the fiberglass panels in their own factory, Studebaker contracted them out to Molded Fiberglass Products Company, the outfit that had been making the Corvette bodies for Chevrolet. This would prove to be a bad decision.
After great initial reception and an encouraging amount of pre-orders, the factory ran into serious production issues. The tolerances of the hundred-plus fiberglass body parts and panels were off, and the cars could not be assembled. There were reports of the rear window glass popping out at high speeds due to air pressure. Months rolled on and production backed up.
On a positive note, a specially-prepared Avanti established numerous speed records at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. The aerodynamic shape was well-suited for high-speed runs, and set a flying mile record of 168.15 mph.
Several engine options were available, top-rated was the 289 cubic-inch Paxton-supercharged engine, whose horsepower rating was also 289. Front disc-brakes were standard; a first for an American-made production car. There is a roll-bar built into the roof; T-tops were suggested but would not fit in the budget. The dash panel was padded for safety as well as aesthetics. As to the curious bulge on the left side of the hood, Loewy made this analogy: as a marksman looks down the sight of a rifle, the driver points and aims the car down the road.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Avanti is its smooth nose; Loewy considered front grilles far too commonplace. To ensure proper cooling, he and his team came up with a special radiator which used a bottom air dam.
Studebaker’s financial situation got worse. They tried diversifying to stay afloat, and started to manufacture home appliances, aircraft missile parts, and farm tractors. The South Bend, Indiana factory closed its doors in December 1963. Originally intending to sell tens of thousands of these beautiful cars, the final total for its 18 months in production was 4,643. Several other Studebaker models continued to be built at their Ontario, Canada plant until March of 1966, when the company finally dissolved.
Two local Indiana Studebaker dealers, who knew there was still a great deal of interest in the car, bought the rights to the Avanti, as well as the tooling and space in the former factory. The car was re-named the Avanti Two, and released as a 1965 model. The cars were now hand-built, and the powerplant upgraded to the lighter, more powerful small-block Chevy engine. Power steering, air conditioning, electric windows, and an AM/FM radio were some of the options added. Production continued through the Sixties and Seventies, with nearly 200 cars being produced annually.
In 1982 the rights were sold again to another independent company. A convertible was introduced in the mid-Eighties, as well as a Twentieth-Anniversary edition. Starting in 1987, Avanti used a GM G-body (Monte-Carlo) chassis. Around this time, designer Tom Kellogg (a member of the original Raymond Loewy team) was asked to re-design the car. This car, often called the second-generation Avanti, was perched upon GM’s Camaro/Firebird chassis. Company ownership changed hands several other times. In 2005, rumors surfaced of a third-generation Avanti built with Ford Mustang running gear.
Before his death in 1986, Raymond Loewy called the Avanti “one of the most wonderful events of my career.” Throughout its years, the succession of small independent companies mark this car’s jagged history. No other model has survived so many builders, which seems to make the Avanti immortal.
Article courtesy of Old Car Trader written by Mark V. Trotta.
With only 241 cubic inches, the Dodge Red Ram was the Chrysler Corporation’s smallest hemi V8 in the 1950s, but it was an able performer in its own right.
In a display of corporate extravagance we seldom see from an automaker today, the Chrysler Corporation produced three separate and distinct hemi V8 engine families in the 1950s. The senior Chrysler division came first with its 331 CID hemi V8 in 1951, followed by DeSoto’s 276 CID V8 one year later. In 1953, Dodge unveiled its own V8, the Red Ram, and it was the smallest of the three at introduction with just 241 cubic inches. (Plymouth would get a V8 in 1955 as well, but it wasn’t a hemi.) While the three hemi engines were very similar in design, each one boasted its own unique architecture and they shared no major internal components. As the tiniest of the three V8s, the Dodge featured a compact bore spacing of only 4.1875 inches. To provide scale, we note that the familiar small-block Chevy V8 is constructed on 4.40-in. bore centers.
The 241 cubic-inch displacement—very nearly 4.0 liters—was obtained with a bore if 3.4375 in. (87.3 mm) and a stroke of 3.25 in (82.6 mm). By the standards of the day, the Red Ram was considered a short-stroke layout, offering reduced piston speeds and longer engine life. And like many American V8s of the period, the Red Ram received periodic boosts in displacement as the cars grew in size and weight: 270 CID in 1955, 315 CID in 1956, and ultimately 325 CID in 1957, the final year. There were non-hemi variants with polyspherical combustion chambers that shared their basic architecture with the Red Ram V8, but we will set those aside for now.
While the Red Ram stood alone as an engine family, it shared many high-value attributes with its Chrysler and DeSoto big sisters, including a dual breaker-point distributor, and on cars that featured the early Gyro-Torque automatic transmission, the engine, transmission, and torque converter shared a common 12-quart oil supply. One distinct feature of the Red Ram was its conservative 7.1:1 compression ratio, which allowed the engine to run on regular gas. So while the marketing message for the Chrysler and DeSoto hemi V8s emphasized performance, Dodge’s advertising focused on economy and efficiency.
The ultimate versions of the Red Ram, from the horsepower angle anyway, were the 500-1 engines of 1956 (315 CID) and 1957 (325 CID). Known as the “Dash-One” hemi V8s among ’50s Mopar buffs, these engine packages, available in very small numbers, featured dual four-barrel Carter carburetors and other speed tricks. (A 1956 Dash-One with 296 hp is shown in the lead photo above.) The little Dodge hemi shared much the same fate as its bigger Chrysler and DeSoto siblings. With their dual rocker shafts per bank and heavy, complicated cylinder head castings, all three hemi V8s were expensive engines to produce, and they were replaced in 1957-58 by wedge-head V8s of more conventional design.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The most expensive car in the Buick lineup for 1979, the Riviera was the brand’s first production vehicle to offer front-wheel-drive.
For 1979, the Buick Riviera joined its E-body siblings at General Motors, the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, and adopted front wheel-drive. The three E-body vehicles at GM already shared internal structure and components, but for reasons of its own, the Buick division at first rejected the Toronado front-drive system introduced in ’66, sticking with its tried-and-true rear-drive hardware. When the Riviera finally embraced fwd for ’79, it became the first front-drive Buick production model in the company’s (then) 76-year history. Many more would soon follow, of course.
The RIviera arrived in the midst of an aggressive downsizing program at GM. The company’s full-size B and C-bodied cars (Chevy Impala et al) were the first to go under the knife in the ’77 model year, followed by the A-body intermediates in ’78. When the E-body personal luxury platform got the shrinking treatment for ’79, the longitudinal-V8 front-drive system pioneered on the ’66 Toronado was retained, but with a smaller. lighter transaxle unit, the THM 325.
On the RIviera, the L-form front-drive module was paired with a choice of two engines: an Olds-sourced 350 CID V8 with 170 hp, or Buick’s 231 CID turbocharged V6. With 175 hp, the turbo V6 (then equipped with a carburetor and no intercooler) was one of the most powerful cars produced in America that year, odd as that may seem today.
There were two basic models for ’79, the standard Riviera Coupe (Z57) and the mildly sport-flavored Riviera S Type (Y57), in which the Turbo V6 and some blacked-out exterior trim pieces were standard. As befitting a personal-luxury coupe of the period, each was fitted out with lush interior appointments (above) in the buyer’s choice of rich velour or leather. (Read our feature on the velour era, “Life In a Trombone Case,” here.) Priced at $10,664 for the standard coupe and $10,960 for the S Type, the Rivieras were by far the most expensive cars in the ’79 Buick lineup, topping the big Park Avenue sedan by nearly a thousand bucks.
At more than 50,000 units in MY 1979, the sixth-generation Riviera was a respectable seller for Buick, and the basic package was carried forward with regular changes and additions (including GM’s ill-starred 5.7-liter diesel V8) through 1985. The Riviera badge would continue through two more design generations before it was finally retired in 1999. A bold Riviera concept car, complete with gullwing doors, was unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2007, and if the Riviera name does reappear, it will probably be in China, where Buick now sells far more cars than it does in the USA.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Packard Executive is a handsome and well-appointed car, but the purpose behind its existence was less than entirely clear.
The Packard Executive was not a bad car by any means, and in fact it wasn’t such a bad idea overall. But it’s a car that still manages to prompt the question: Why? By early 1956, the Packard Motor Car Company was wobbling around on its last legs, running short of both time and money. Meanwhile, an ill-considered decision to move the final assembly line from the old East Grand Boulevard complex to the former Briggs body plant on Conner Avenue, a few miles away, had generated only chaos, confusion, and a rash of production problems. The last thing the automaker needed at that moment was a new model.
On the other hand, the Executive was not such a heavy lift for the company. Introduced on April 9, 1956 as a mid-year model, the Executive was essentially a junior series Clipper with a senior Packard front end and badges bolted on. Furthermore, it wasn’t an addition to the Packard line, but rather a replacement for the Clipper Custom series. Yet it still brings to mind the familiar trope about rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ocean liiner.
Badged and branded as a Packard, not a Clipper, the Executive was still mostly a Clipper, sharing the junior car’s 352 CID V8 with 320 horsepower rather than the 374 CID V8 of the big Packards. The chassis was Clipper as well with a 122-inch wheelbase, and there were just two body styles, four-door sedan and two-door hardtop. The Executive also shared the Clipper’s interior colors and materials—as nice as anything in the mid-luxury class–with a unique pattern for the hardtop.
Priced at $3465, around $400 more than the Clipper Custom it replaced, the Executive cost almost $700 less than the next-cheapest Packard. This underlines another curious aspect of the Executive: It worked at cross purposes with the strategy of Packard president James Nance to market Packard and Clipper as distinctly separate makes. As a Packard/Clipper hybrid, the Executive only blurred the distinction.
It’s a head-scratcher, but it’s all fairly moot anyway as the Packard lines in Detroit stopped altogether only a few months later on August 15, 1956. Packard managed to build a total of 28,835 cars that year, including 1,784 Executive sedans and another 1,031 hardtops. For 1957 and 1958, the final years, Packards were essentially rebadged Studebakers. (Read our feature about the Packardbakers here.) If you happen to see an Executive at a local car show, be sure to check it out. They’re handsome and nicely appointed cars, even if the purpose behind their existence was never entirely clear.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Most firms are rushing towards electric cars, but Mercedes, Porsche and Geely are looking at alternatives
What with the current government announcing that internal combustion engines will be banned from sale in a decade and the huge sums being sunk into EV development by Europe’s biggest carmakers, you’d be forgiven for thinking the argument has been won by battery power.
I think not. The massive increase of extraction rates, both of rare earth minerals and commodities such as copper, will become a serious - possibly insurmountable - issue for mass electric vehicle adoption. And the shift to ‘net-zero’ for power generation will also mean that, unlike today, road transport will be fighting for the same power supply as households and industry.
Battery cost, according to a report released yesterday, may flatline at $100/kWh and even rise on increasing commodity cost. Plus, some of the most bullish forecasters think EVs will only account for 31% of global sales by 2030.
We really need another ‘net-zero’ power source for global automobility.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask Daimler (owner of Mercedes) and Chinese company Geely (owner of Volvo). Or ask Porsche and German engineering giant Siemens.
A recent leak in the German newspaper Handelsblatt revealed that Mercedes-Benz was teaming up with Geely to develop a new family of petrol engines, which will be manufactured from 2024 onwards. Surprising, when some have claimed European carmakers are winding down ICE development work.
But much more interesting is Handelsblatt’s claim that these ICE engines will be able to run on both Hydrogen gas and ‘efuels’. The former isn’t science fiction at all. BMW’s Valvetronic petrol engines could burn Hydrogen as a fuel with relatively little modification. Indeed, over a decade ago, I drove a 7-series demonstrator on the much-missed Future Car Run from Brighton to London.
Efuels, though you’d be forgiven for not knowing it, are also a chemical reality. In the 2000s, Audi created ‘e-diesel’ in plastic, using genetically modified organisms and water tubes laid out in desert conditions, using the sun’s energy to make artificial diesel.
Audi has also been working with universities, using a North Sea wind turbine to ‘crack’ Hydrogen from seawater and combine it with CO2 to make synthetic methane.
So far, so experimental? Well, last week Porsche and Siemens unveiled plans for mass production of efuels, using wind power in Southern Chile. After cracking hydrogen from seawater, the gas will be combined with CO2 extracted from the atmosphere to create synthetic methanol.
Motor sport fans will remember that methanol was used in US motorsport and even available in production cars in California.
What’s interesting is the speed of ramping at the Porsche/Siemens project. 130,000 litres will be made by 2022, 55 million litres by 2024 and 560 million litres by 2025. Porsche’s plan is to use "eFuels in vehicles for Porsche motorsports, at the Porsche Experience Centers and prospectively also in serial production sports cars", powering both combustion engines and plug-in hybrids.
It’s not too fanciful to imagine a future hypercar designed to run on Porsche eFuel, fuelled at the local Porsche dealer, or by home-delivery bowser. Perhaps green methanol will save the 911?
Mercedes, Porsche and Geely clearly have faith in fuels made from intermittent wind power. When you also factor in the huge geopolitical advantages of countries such as Chile and Morocco - blessed with strong winds and open space - becoming massive production hubs for cheaply storable efuels, there are clearly environmental, economic and engineering reasons behind this plan.
So, by 2030 where will we be? I suspect efuels will be gaining serious traction. The 70% of new vehicles that aren’t EVs could well be 45% efuel and 25% hydrogen.
Remarkably, as I was writing this piece an academic contact got in touch to say he was moving to a university in the Middle East because Saudi Arabia is poised to heavily invest in eFuel production.
I feel that reports of the death of the ICE are being greatly exaggerated.
Article courtesy of Autocar.co.uk, written by Hilton Holloway.
General Motors’ familiar contribution to automotive styling, the tail fin, reached its ultimate expression with the 1959 Cadillac.
In 1958, social critic John C. Keats (no relation to the English romantic poet) wrote a comprehensive takedown of the U.S. auto industry called The Insolent Chariots. As he saw it, American cars had ceased to serve their owners. They had grown into grotesque iron monsters and now, in the ultimate triumph of form over function, we were serving them. Just one year later, General Motors introduced the car that, as much as any one make or model could, epitomized all the alleged evils and excesses that Keats detailed in his book: the 1959 Cadillac.
The ’59 Cadillac has been described as not so much a car, really, as a pair of long, towering tail fins that a family could ride in. GM had introduced fins to automobile styling a decade earlier on the 1948 Cadillac, led by GM styling czar Harley Earl and chief Cadillac stylist Frank Hershey. As the story goes, they were inspired by the twin tail assemblies of a World War II fighter aircraft, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
So it was only fitting, then, that fender fins would find their ultimate expression around 10 years later on the 1959 Cadillac. Styling for the ’59 Caddy line is generally credited to a team that included Ed Glowacke, Chuck Jordan, and Dave Holls, under the direction of Earl and his successor as GM’s vice president of design, Bill Mitchell.
While the tailfins play the leading role in the ’59 Cadillac’s presentation, the car was grandly overstated and overwrought in every way, from the front to the rear. The bumpers alone were a die maker’s nightmare: heavy and complicated multi-piece steel stampings, chrome-plated and then bolted together. The wheelbase was 130 inches; overall length a ponderous 225 inches, and curb weights exceeded 5000 lbs. To haul all this metal around, for ’59 the Cadilac V8 was upsized from 365 to 390 cubic inches and the output increased to 325 horsepower. On the optional Eldorado V8, boasting a team of three gas-guzzling carburetors, 345 hp was available. A standard Sedan DeVille cost around $5500, more than twice the price of a well-equipped Chevrolet Impala.
On the more common Cadillac models for ’59, the fins were reasonably integrated into the overall visual theme—of a piece, more or less. But on some models, including the hearse/ambulance professional cars and the Fleetwood 75 formal sedan above, the fins appear as vestigal appendages, serving no evident purpose. And at that point the jig is up, if you will. In truth the fins have no actual function on any Cadillac models. You could hack them off the fenders and the car would drive exactly the same, but with improved rearward visibility. This may be urban folklore, but it’s said that one auto executive was seriously injured when he tripped in the garage and fell into his Cadillac’s tail fin.
eanwhile, there was one Cadillac model for ’59 that didn’t include the giant fins. The top-of-the-line Eldorado Brougham, above, its body constructed in only 99 copies by the Italian coach house Pininfarina, employed a more refined and subdued version of the fin, and it was this general configuration that was adopted by Cadillac across the line in 1960. Just as it peaked, the epoch of the tail fin was passing. Over the next few years, tail fins would disappear from Cadillacs almost completely.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
When you ask professional automotive stylists to name their favorite designs, the 1961 Lincoln Continental is usually near the top of the list.
It’s one of the great stories in American car design: The 1961 Lincoln Continental, celebrated to this day for its exquisite taste and refinement, was originally conceived as a sporty Ford Thunderbird.
Created by a Ford Special Projects team that was led by Elwood Engel and included John Najjar, Bob Thomas, John Orfe, and Colin Neale, the car first took shape in clay in the summer of 1958 as a close-coupled, four-seat coupe. Ford styling boss George Walker took a liking to the project, as did powerful Ford executive Robert S. McNamara, who asked Engel to expand the finely chiseled package into a full-sized sedan with four doors—that is, as the next Lincoln Continental. A crash program followed, and by mid-autumn the new Continental was ready to receive the green light for production.
According to preeminent automotive historian Michael Lamm, there’s another interesting angle to the Continental creation story (Special Interest Autos #154, July/Aug 1996). In June of ’58, Engel visited the Ford styling studio in Cologne, Germany, where he saw the next Taunus 17M P3 (above), then under development by Wes Dahlberg and Uwe Bahnsen. Engel was taken by the sharply creased front fenders and hood—like a sheet of canvas stretched between two wires. We can see that theme used to fine effect, and both front and rear, on the much larger ’61 Continental.
When Engel’s group repurposed their T-Bird coupe as a Continental sedan, the result was a significantly smaller package than usually found in the luxury class at the time. The wheelbase was 123 inches, compared to 131 inches for the 1960 Lincoln and 129.5 inches for the 1961 Cadillac, permitting Harold C. McDonald’s engineering team to design an extremely rigid unibody. The structure was beefy, too. Despite its smaller size, the new Continental outweighed the Cadillac and Chrysler Imperial by several hundred pounds.
Among other benefits, this sturdy foundation allowed the Lincoln division to offer a four-door convertible, which featured a folding top that stowed under the deck lid, above. This was the Motor City’s first four-door convertible in a decade. The new Continental also shared its cowl assembly and other internal sheet metal with the ’61 Thunderbird, and both were built on the same production lines at Ford’s Wixom assembly plant just northwest of Detroit. (Read our feature on the ’61-’63 Bullet ‘Birds here.)
Inspired, we like to think, by the new car’s simple and elegant style, the Lincoln division greatly simplified the product line for ’61 as well, from three model lines and a lengthy list of body styles to just one model, Continental, and two body styles, sedan and convertible. While the Continental was a reasonable commercial success for Ford, posting measurable sales gains for the company, its lasting impact is on multiple generations of American luxury car designers, who often cite it as among the best.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The Chrysler Corporation rattled the foundations of the auto industry in 1957, while also creating one of the more memorable slogans of the car biz: “Suddenly, it’s 1960.”
It was in 1955 that Chrysler design boss Virgil Exner introduced his Forward Look, but the 1957 version was so fresh and distinctive that many enthusiasts of today assume the styling theme began two years later. All at once in ’57, the Chrysler Corporation’s cars, from Plymouth to Imperial, seemed lower, longer, and wider than everything else on the market. With their sleek, plunging rooflines and dramatic tail fins, it was as though the Chrysler car brands had somehow leaped several years ahead of the industry. To mark the achievement, Plymouth’s ad writers crafted one of the more memorable taglines in Motor City history: “Suddenly it’s 1960!”
The slogan was no empty boast. The company’s Detroit rivals immediately recognized Chrysler’s styling coup, too. At the General Motors design studios a few miles across town, a young stylist named Chuck Jordan decided to cruise past the Chrysler plant to get an advance look at the ’57 models, and he was stunned and shaken by what he saw through the chain-link fence. “All I could see were fins, fins, fins,” Jordan told Motor Trend magazine years later. “And I thought, wow!”
Jordan immediately alerted his superior, Bill Mitchell, and the group drove over that day to inspect the latest Mopars. While it was too late for the GM stylists to do anything about their ’57 and ’58 designs with their power-dome hoods and thick, heavy midsections, they still had time to scrap the entire ’59 program and start over, creating another series of distinctive designs in its own right: the 1959 GM product line. Jordan would later serve as vice president of design at GM from 1986 to 1992.
In particular, the Plymouth version of the Forward Look for ’57 is remarkable from several angles. First, we note that often, the low-priced cars in a carmaker’s lineup tend to get watered-down varieties of the latest styling trends. Not in this instance: The ’57 Plymouth was just as bold and striking as the other four Chrysler brands. It really was of a piece with Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, and Imperial. The Plymouth’s details were nicely executed, too. Over the ’57 model year, the corportation was navigating, on the fly, the transition from twin to quad headlamps, and the Plymouth version with twin outboard headlamps and stylized parking lamps was arguably the best solution of the lot.
The new look for ’57 sold well, allowing Plymouth to shove Buick out of the way and climb back into its traditional number three sales slot behind Chevrolet and Ford. But the revolution in styling failed to produce a similar shift in fortunes for the automaker. Briggs, Chrysler’s longtime body supplier, had left the business, and for ’57 body shells were engineered and manufactured in-house. Unfortunately, the Chrysler-built bodies were plagued with quality issues, including leaks, squeaks, and rampant corrosion, and it would take the corporation a few years to sort it out. From that angle, one could say that maybe beauty was skin deep.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.