Dig that psychedelic early '70s background
It's always interesting to see the initial design sketch for a production car, as it takes a familiar-to-us form and shows the idealized version of that car, the designer's blue-sky dream before it went through the mill of production feasibility, market research, cost analysis and the countless other hurdles that stand between design studio and showroom. Here, we see a design sketch for mid-cycle update of the huge 1970s Chevrolet Impala/Caprice that initially was launched for 1971.
The image appeared in GM Design's Instagram feed, and the sketched was done by Bill Michalak circa 1972. Dig that groovy background. Apparently, it wasn't just Folger's fueling the creative minds at GM design in the early '70s.
The big Chevrolet would have been in its second model year at this point. Below is an image of the '72 Chevy, which shows the differences versus the car Michalak sketched.
This generation Impala/Caprice initially had a front end that was framed by upright fender extensions, in the formal style of the era. Michalak's design would move the fascia in a more aerodynamic direction, eliminating the fender extensions, putting the headlights at the outer edge of the fascia (with the bonus of making the car look even wider), and angling the headlights back toward the fenders. His square headlights were incorporated as well, although they were reserved for the Caprice. This new look appeared for 1975 and remained through '76. Additionally, we can see in this sketch the switch from the coupe's rear window being part of the side daylight opening as shown above and to a large fixed "opera" window for the two-doors, a change that arrived for '74.
Here's the '76 Chevy two-door in production form below.
Michalak's horizontal-bar grille didn't make the cut, as the eggcrate texture was by then considered part of the Caprice look. Outside of the grille and the square headlights, the big Chevys' looks would change dramatically for 1977, as the cars underwent a major redesign and downsizing.
Abridged Article courtesy of Autoblog.com, written by Joe Lorio.
1969 Buick Riviera. Photos by Richard Lentinello.
Vintage-car enthusiasts often debate which postwar cars should be recognized as hallmark designs, but there seems to be little argument about Buick's first-generation Riviera. It is almost unanimously lauded as the postwar automobile that transformed the personal-luxury-car market from an industry niche into a fashionable social statement.
Riviera's story can be recited with ease. Conceptualized as the La Salle II, it was refused by Cadillac, and then Chevrolet, because both divisions were operating at full capacity. It was then offered to Oldsmobile and Pontiac, but quickly retracted when both divisions made it clear they would make sweeping changes. Which left Buick: a division that—looking to alter its sales image— saw potential, grabbed the design, and, with only minor function-over-form tweaks, successfully transformed the Riviera from clay mockup to 40,000 street-legal units in 1963.
The part of the tale that few remember is how Riviera's first-year output was an early high-water mark. Despite tasteful visual refinements through 1965, and the availability of performance options, such as the Gran Sport package, production slowly fell to 37,658 examples for '64, and then to 34,586 a year later. Meanwhile, Fisher Body had been working with Oldsmobile since early '63, sculpting sheetmetal for the front-wheel-drive Toronado. The target year for the Oldsmobile's introduction was 1966. Since that project was similar in stature to the Riviera and was intended for the same market, GM stipulated, early in the '66 Riviera's development, that the Buick was to share the new E-body.
When unveiled, both cars had a uniform fastback roofline with an accentuated hardtop design, thanks to the elimination of vent windows, but Buick's designers set the rearwheel-drive Riviera apart from its corporate rival with crisp, forward-protruding fenders. Coupled with a new hood and bumper, the panels emphasized Buick's W-shaped front end. New running lamps flanked a deeply recessed grille, while headlamps appeared from under the hood lip when activated. A considerable reduction of polished exterior trim made the Riviera's appearance both aggressive and elegant.
The 211.2-inch-long body required a new 119-inch-wheelbase cruciform frame with a wider track that increased stability. Up front, there was an independent front suspension with unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shocks, and an anti-roll bar. In the rear were coil springs and hydraulic shocks anchoring a live axle. Buick's venerable 340-hp, 425-cu.in. engine was retained from '65, as well as the Super Turbine 400 three-speed automatic.
The interior was restyled too, finished with a bench seat, relegating buckets to a no-cost option, and an instrument panel that featured "cockpit-type controls." At the center of the panel was a 140-mph barrel-type speedometer, while "direct-reading" auxiliary gauges were set to either side. Flanking the gauges, and choice of radio, were paddle switches that controlled lighting and other accessories.
Bolstered by comfort and performance options, including the continuation of the GS package, response to the 1966 Riviera produced a sales figure of 42,799 units, surpassing Flint's expectations. Considered a perfect balance of visual appeal, size, and power, the second-gen Riviera was bestowed with mere mechanical improvements—such as the change to a 430-cu.in. engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic—and minor visual updates though 1970, proving that the output of '66 was no fluke. By 1969, Riviera production numbered 52,872 units, including our feature car.
While built during an era known for a plethora of earth tones, this exceptionally documented Riviera left the factory wearing rare Twilight blue. According to the Riviera Owner's Association, just 1,679 (or 3.18 percent) were painted as such. It was also built with the bucket seat and center console options, the latter mandating the relocation of the automatic shift lever off the steering column. Along with 17 other options, it stickered for $6,218, or $45,010 in today's money.
Engine 430-cu.in. V-8
Horsepower 360 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque 475 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
Transmission Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 three-speed automatic
Rear axle Hypoid, semi-floating, Positive Traction
Tires 8.55 x 15-inch bias ply
Wheels 15 x 6-inch chrome five spoke
Wheelbase 119 inches
Weight 4,200 pounds
Total production 52,872 (includes 5,272 GS editions)
Base price new $4,701
2020 equivalent $34,029
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Matt Litwin.
For 1976, Lincoln added one more level of exclusivity to its luxurious Continental Mark IV with the introduction of the Designer Series.
Celebrity and lifestyle co-branding have become fairly commonplace in the car biz. We recall the Eddie Bauer edition Ford SUVS, the L.L. Bean Subarus, the North Face Chevy Avalanche. But in 1976 it was a relatively fresh approach to automotive mass marketing. That’s when the Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Company put the technique on the map, so to speak, with its Designer Series for the swank Continental Mark IV.
In response to the problem of how to offer something exclusive to luxury car buyers when you are already offering them something exclusive, presumably, Lincoln offered a series of four Designer models for 1976 (the final year in the Mark IV product cycle). Each one was endorsed by a famous name from the world of fashion and style: Bill Blass, Cartier, Hubert de Givenchy, and Emilio Pucci.
Hubert de Givenchy, the famed French fashion designer favored by Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, lent his style and name to the Givency edition (above) which featured Aqua Blue high-metallic paint, a white vinyl roof, and your choice of two interior combinations in Aqua Blue leather or Aqua Blue velour. It’s interesting to note that in all four Designer Series models, the velour cabin cost more than the leather version: $2000 vs. $1,500, added to a base price of just over $11,000. Like all Mark IVs, the Designer Series models were an imposing 228.1 inches in length—just over 19 feet.
Known for his lively colors and bold geometric prints, Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci made his Mark IV Designer model a study in red: Dark Red Moondust Metallic exterior with all-red upholstery inside in either Dark Red Versailles Velour or Dark Red Leather. All four Mark IV Designer cars were essentially identical in mechanical specifications, and all four wore the same dished aluminum wheels that were standard in the Designer Series.
American clothing designer Bill Blass, noted for his classic taste, contributed his name and ideas to the Bill Blass edition. The cabin was finished in Dark Blue velour or leather, while the exterior paint was Dark Blue Diamond Fire Metallic with a contrasting cream-colored vinyl landau top. All four Designer models bore the appropriate signature in the Mark IV’s trademark opera windows in the rear C pillars, and each featured an engraved, gold-plated emblem on the instrument panel.
The only car in the Designer Series lineup not associated with a clothing designer was the Cartier edition, which was co-branded with the renowned Paris jewelry maker. The Cartier (also shown in the lead photo at top) got Dove Grey exterior paint with a matching Dove Grey vinyl roof covering, while the cockpit was finished in Dove Gray cloth or leather. All four Designer Series cars launched on October 3, 1975 along with the rest of the Mark IV lineup.
The Designer Series program was apparently a very successful one for Lincoln, as the various models carried on in the Continental Mark series for many years after the 1976 intro. The Cartier name was eventually transferred from the Continental Mark to the Lincoln Town Car platform and continued all the way to 2003. Will we ever see a Designer Series from the Motor City again? Sure, why not. But where we’re headed , it will most likely be on a battery-powered SUV.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
This 1956 Ford Motor Company film signals a major shift in direction for the Dearborn car maker.
This 1956 film, produced by the Raphael G. Woods Studios of Hollywood, represents a major departure for the Ford Motor Company. All through the reign of company founder Henry Ford I, public relations campaigns most often centered largely around Ford the man. While the company didn’t come right out and claim that Henry created every feature and personally directed the assembly of every Ford car, if you were to somehow get that idea, they wouldn’t mind. The Ford Motor Company story as presented to the American public was very much the story of Henry Ford himself.
But in this production, introduced by Henry Ford II, grandson of the founder, the perspective has been turned around. Now the story is about the thousands of Ford workers doing the thousands of important Ford jobs, and these are the people who make up the Ford Motor Company. There was an important reason behind this shift: On January 17, 1956, the company went public, selling almost $658 million in shares. (At that time, it was the largest public offering in history, and while the Ford heirs now owned 40 percent of the company, special voting provisions allowed them to maintain near-total control.) This film was intended in part to to shed the company’s image as Henry Ford’s personal kingdom and present the automaker as a modern, responsive corporation in tune with the times.
Naturally, the presentation features numerous 1955 and 1956 Ford cars and trucks from around the world, and there’s a chapter toward the end devoted to the company’s ambitious flagship project, the 1956-57 Continental Mark II. We also get some priceless glimpses of the Highland Park and Rouge plants, the Dearborn Proving Grounds, the Rotunda, and the brand new Ford world headquarters. Enjoy the movie.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Here’s an interesting item in Motor City car lore: The Valiant, Chrysler Corporation’s all-new compact offering for 1960, was not originally badged as a Plymouth.
When the Valiant was introduced for the 1960 model year, the Detroit automakers were still struggling with the question of how to market their new compacts. Should these smaller models be promoted as completely new car brands, from a clean sheet of paper if you will, or should they be cradled in the marketplace as junior versions of the existing brands, trading on their familiarity and reputation? While the company would soon reverse its decision, Chrysler originally chose to market its new compact as a stand-alone brand with the tagline, “Nobody’s kid brother.”
There was was careful reasoning behind the Valiant’s unusual styling (peculiar, some would call it). The short nose and low hood profile, enabled by the Chrysler Corporation’s cleverly packaged Slant 6 engine, were designed to improve driver visibility and command of the road. (Read all about the Slant 6 here.) The elevated rear deck line increased the trunk’s useful luggage capacity, while the thin, bowed-out doors and football-shaped passenger cab maximized interior volume without enlarging the car’s footprint.
To develop the new compact, Chrysler set up a “Valiant Task Force” of 200 engineers and designers in a rented factory a few miles from the company’s Highland Park, Michigan headquarters. Shrouded in secrecy, the project was most likely a government defense program, many Chrysler employees assumed. Along with the Slant 6, engineering firsts for the Valiant included the automaker’s first alternator and a downsized version of the famed Torqueflite transmission called the A-904.
Unlike some Detroit compacts, which were intended as second cars for their customer families, the Valiant was engineered from the start as a “prime vehicle,” the only car a family would need with full seating for six. While the Valiant styling team was directed by Robert Bingman, one obvious flourish from Chrysler styling chief Virgil Exner was the faux spare tire stamping on the deck lid, a gimmick the critics named the “washing machine lid” or “toilet seat.”
All Valiants for 1960 rode on the same 106.5-inch wheelbase unibody platform, and for the inaugural model year, the body styles included a four-door sedan, a six-passenger wagon, and a nine-passenger wagon. A two-door would not be added until the following year, and a convertible was never offered in the first-generation Valiant.
There were two trim levels: the base V-100 and the V-200, which added a little more chrome and some upgraded interior materials. Neither was flashy as the Valiant’s original focus was on function and practicality. The Motor City automakers, Chrysler included, had not yet fully sorted out that many buyers chose compacts simply because they were fun to drive. The bucket seats and convertible models would arrive shortly.
Introduced on September 21, 1959, the Valiant was originally sold and serviced by Chrysler- Plymouth and DeSoto-Plymouth dealers. Some of them, that is—around half the dealers elected to take on the Valiant franchise. Volume was respectable the first year at more than 195,000 units, but clearly, potential sales had been left on the table. For 1961, both the product lineup and corporate management at Chrysler (there was a major scandal in the executive suites in ’60) were given a good shaking as the DeSoto brand was eliminated, the Valiant was rebranded as an official Plymouth model, and the Dodge division got its own badge-engineered version of the Valiant called the Lancer.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor Garage.
We have a special thing for the obscure factory show cars of the Motor City, and few are more obscure than the 1966 Rambler St. Moritz station wagon.
Unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February of 1966, the Rambler St. Moritz is sort of an odd fit in the design timeline at American Motors. Nothing like the advanced and exciting Project IV vehicles rolled out a bit later in June of that year by AMC design chief Richard Teague, the St. Moritz was based on a production Rambler Classic Cross Country station wagon, but with a twist. The gimmick, if you will, was a custom greenhouse with a pair of curved observation windows for the rear seat passengers.
Named after the famed ski resort town in the Swiss Alps, of course, the St. Moritz was constructed around a winter sports theme with a ski rack on top and and a snowflake motif for the interior. There were three rows of seats, with the rearmost seats facing the rear (known in the car biz as “Dramamine seating”) and upholstery in dark blue Dupont Corfam, a simulated leather product of days gone by. Snowflakes embroidered in metallic thread completed the winter sports theme inside, while the exterior paint was a snowy ice-blue/white in candy pearl. The roof area between the two large glass panels was trimmed out in stainless steel.
We don’t know this, but we’re guessing that the massive side glass was constructed in acrylic plastic—Plexiglass or suchlike. On a one-off show car with little production intent and a shelf life of one season at best, real glass would have been a fiendishly expensive undertaking. (As a side note, the production Classic wagon for ’66 used contrasting two-tone paint that approximated the look of the St. Moritz greenhouse.) Except for a press release and a handful of photos, little seems to remain of the Rambler St. Moritz, and we assume the wagon was scrapped long ago.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Corvette prototypes have taken countless forms over the years. Here’s a furtive attempt at a 1963 Sting Ray four-seater from GM Styling.
The Chevrolet Corvette story, which now spans eight decades, features a number of fascinating twists and turns along the way. Here’s one that, fortunately for the Corvette legacy—in our opinion, anyway—never got the green light for production: a four-seat version of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.
In Corvette lore, the executive responsible for the 2+2 Sting Ray (internal code name XP-796) was GM’s powerful car and truck boss, Ed Cole, who looked on in envy as the four-place Ford Thunderbird continued to rack up impressive sales figures year after year. Of course, the notion of a Corvette with a rear seat was not entirely original (read our feature on the 1956 Corvette Impala here) and in the Motor City, the traditional rule of thumb is that a two-seater is a niche product by definition, while a four-seat package has real volume potential. The ’63 Sting Ray redesign was an expensive and ambitious undertaking for Chevrolet, so we can understand Cole’s instinct for covering his bets.
While the GM styling crew led by Bill Mitchell reportedly hated the four-seat Sting Ray variant, they did an admirable job trying to make the proportions work out. In the photo at the top of this page, a careful camera angle nearly conceals the awkward stretch job, but a normal side view gives away the game: The chassis and the graceful Sting Ray profile have been stretched a good six inches to create a rear passenger area. And even so, the folding 2+2 seating (above) is probably even less comfortable than it looks.
The one-off prototype was shown to the company brass in around January of 1962 in the GM styling studios, parked next to a new Thunderbird to provide the obvious competitive benchmark. It was there, as the story goes, that GM president John F. Gordon was trying out the rear seat when a front seat latch jammed, trapping him inside. And although he was quickly rescued, that, they say, was pretty much the end of the four-seat Sting Ray project.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
When it was introduced in 1930, Cadillac’s mighty V16 engine represented the pinnacle of automotive engineering.
When the Cadillac V16 made its debut at the New York Auto Show on January 4, 1930, the automotive world was gobsmacked. In those days General Motors was arguably the greatest engineering company in the world, with technical resources second to none and a staff that boasted some of the greatest minds in the business, including Charles “Boss” Kettering, Owen Nacker, and Earl A. Thompson. With the Cadillac V16, GM raised the bar in engineering excellence, to a level many automobile manufacturers couldn’t reach.
The Cadillac V16 was such a grand, over-the-top engineering statement, in fact, that it’s easy to lose sight of how fiendishly clever it was in its smallest details. Rated at 175 horsepower at introduction, the V16 was more powerful than most every other American car on the market (the Duesenberg was rated at 265 hp, notably). But the engine wasn’t designed for all-out performance; rather, Owen Nacker and his team carefully optimized smoothness and flexibility.
With a bore of three inches and a stroke of four inches, the 16 cylinders displaced a mammoth 452 cubic inches. But the torque curve was deliberately engineered to mimic the characteristics of the standard Cadillac V8, so the V16 could share the existing V8 drivetrain. Intake and exhaust systems were located on the outboard side of each cast-iron cylinder bank, so the V16 was in effect two overhead-valve straight eights on a common crankcase, if you will. (The two cylinder blocks were cast iron and the crankcase was aluminum.) With the banks separated 45 degrees, the engine and its 135-lb crankshaft were perfectly balanced, and with eight firing impulses per crankshaft rotation (16 per four-stroke cycle) it was dead smooth. There was virtually no perceptible vibration at idle, and the engine could pull top gear from 2.5 mph to over 100 mph, depending on gearing and bodywork.
While the V16 was an engineering tour de force, commercially it was only a qualified success. Cadillac offered the mighty V16 on a 148-inch wheelbase chassis in 54 lavish styles, and sales were brisk at first, as more than 2,500 were produced in the first year. But sales quickly plummeted as the limited demand was exhausted and the nation’s economic depression deepened, and in the final two years, 1936 and 1937, the annual output dwindled to barely 49 units. Cadillac also introduced a 368 CID V12 closely based on the V16’s architecture, giving the brand a head-on competitor with the V12 Packard and Lincoln, but it didn’t fare much better.
For 1938, Cadillac rolled out a totally redesigned V16 (above). With its nearly pancake-like 135-degree bank angle and L-head valvetrain, it wasn’t nearly as attractive as the previous 45-degree V16 and its beautifully enameled rocker covers. (Harley Earl’s styling team reportedly assisted in the original V16’s visual presentation.) But in its own way this new V16 was as clever as the original. With its square 3.25-in bore/stroke dimensions and aggressive 6.67:1 compression ratio, it sacrificed nothing to the original in performance. Additionally, it was six inches shorter and 250 lbs lighter than the first-generation V16, and with its flattened proportions, it could fit in the same chassis/body package as the standard V8. This second-generation V16 remained in production through 1940, but the annual production numbers remained small.
Naturally, nobody is more aware of the magic and mystique of the mighty V16 than the Cadillac Motor Division itself. The GM brand has periodically revisited the concept over the years, most recently with the XV16 concept engine of 2003 (below). This engine was actually based on the Chevrolet/GM LS architecture and a handful were built, including the one that powers the Cadillac Sixteen, a fully roadworthy test vehicle and show car. Will there ever be another Cadillac V16 production car? As the electric future looms, that seems highly unlikely. But we will always have the original.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Oh, right. Smack dab in between the grilles of the 1959 Pontiac Bonneville
The official United States Space Force logo has been unveiled, and we love it. The delta-shaped insignia "signifies defense and protection from all adversaries" and incorporates an internal star at its heart, "which symbolizes how the core values guide the Space Force mission." This is all according to a statement and infographic from the new branch of the military, as you can see above.
Like we said at the outset, we're big fans. And we as a collective group of automotive enthusiasts have been big fans ever since it was unveiled pointing downward (it makes sense that the Space Force's logo would point upward since its motto is Semper Supra, or Always Above) as the Arrowhead emblem in 1959 in between the split grilles of the Pontiac Bonneville.
Or, um, in 1965, when Gene Roddenberry first introduced the world to "Star Trek" and Starfleet Command, boldly taking the logo where no other logo had gone before. At least until the Space Force's seal was unveiled to the world by President Trump on Twitter in January of 2020.
All joking aside, the new Space Force logo may indeed draw some inspiration from Pontiac and "Star Trek," but really it's a logical extension of the Air Force Space Command. So if we're going to point fingers for copying the automotive and science fiction realms, we'd better hop in a DeLorean and slingshot around the sun to travel back in time to 1982, when the AFSC came into existence.
Article courtesy of Autoblog, written by Jeremy Korzeniewski.
By 1965, the Ford Thunderbird had grown into a luxurious 4,500-lb boulevard cruiser with some memorable gee-whiz features.
As we’ve chronicled before here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, each successive generation of the Ford Thunderbird earns a nickname from the car enthusiast community. First come the 1955-57 two-seater Baby Birds, then the 1958-60 Squarebirds, followed by the 1961-63 Bullet Birds. The fourth-generation models of 1964-66 are known by T-bird fanciers as Flair Birds, though we’re not sure if that name has stuck quite as well as the other Thunderbird handles.
By its fourth generation, the Thunderbird had departed far from its origins to become an all-out luxury car with barely a trace of sports car flavoring—the curb weight was now over 4,500 lbs. With a base price of $4,394, by far the most expensive model in the Ford model line for ’65, the Thunderbird was priced a bit higher than even its upmarket rival, the Buick Riviera. As the pioneer of the personal luxury class, the T-Bird outsold the Riviera by a comfortable margin, too: nearly 75,000 units, compared to not quite 35,000 for the Buick.
The Flair Bird’s marketing tagline, “the private world of Thunderbird,” spoke to the nearly endless list of standard and optional luxury features, but the two most memorable items, even to this day, were the fabulous wrap-around rear passenger seat and, brand new for ’65, the gee-whiz sequential turn signals. As car-crazy little kids in the ’60s, we were impressed by these neat gimmicks. Courtesy of Ford Heritage at the UK’s National Motor Museum, we have this nicely preserved dealer film singing the praises of the Thunderbird for ’65. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.