Between 1956 and 1964, the carmakers of the Motor City had a brief but serious fling with push-button driving.
Today we look back on the 1950s as a quiet time, but there was plenty enough going on. After all, the ’50s managed to include the Jet Age, the Atomic Age, the Television Age, the Push-Button Age. Change was upon us. And with pushbuttons, now every convenience of mid-20th century life was right at our fingertips. Or at least that was the theory, as suddenly all our gadgets from televisions to kitchen appliances were sporting push-button controls. And sure enough, the push-button fad quickly jumped over to the auto industry in 1956, when the Chrysler Corporation adopted push-button gear selectors for all its passenger cars.
But just to illustrate that seldom is anything new in the car business, this wasn’t the first push-button gear selector. Way back in 1914, the Vulcan Electric Shift was adopted by Haynes, Pullman, and a few other carmakers. The Vulcan system, which used column-mounted pushbuttons and a series of solenoids to actuate a conventional manual transmission, proved to be a flop and was immediately withdrawn from the market. Which brings us to 1956.
While Chrysler wasn’t the only carmaker to offer it, as we shall see, it was by far the major promoter of the push-button gear selector, offering the feature on all its automatic-transmission cars from 1956 through 1964. A ’56 DeSoto is shown above, but all the Chrysler brands used similar controls on the left side of the dash—Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Imperial. There were various names; Dodge called its version Magic Touch.
While a number of button arrangements (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) were used through the years, the controls were all mechanical, with a steel push/pull cable between the shifter assembly in the dash and the Powerflite (two-speed) or Torqueflite (three-speed) transmission. Note that originally, there was no P for Park. Chrysler later added an internal parking pawl mechanism to the transmission and a dash lever to operate it.
While the selector worked perfectly fine, it was dropped by Chrysler for 1965 in favor of a conventional column (or floor) lever. There are many theories as to why, but strictly from a product perspective, we can see that over time, the feature progressed from innovative to novel to merely odd. It didn’t seem to attract many buyers at the end, but it may well have discouraged some. In Chrysler advertising, the feature had all but disappeared a few years earlier.
Packard also stepped up with a push-button gearchange in 1956, which it called the Electronic Selector. Standard on the flagship Caribbean and optional ($52) on the rest of the Packard line, it mounted to the steering column on a stalk, above. Unlike the Chrysler system and just as the name indicates, the Packard system, supplied by Autolite, was electrically operated rather than mechanical, with a beefy 12-volt motor to rotate the transmission’s hydraulic shift valve. And going Chrysler one better, Packard included a Park button. When the Detroit-built Packards were discontinued at the end of the ’56 model year and production moved to South Bend, Indiana, that was the end of the Electronic Selector as well.
Introduced on E-Day, September 4, 1957, the 1958 Edsel featured a push-button gearchange that was branded as Teletouch Drive. Like Packard’s, the Edsel system employed an electric motor to shift the automatic transmission’s gears, but with the added innovation (headache, some would say) of steering wheel-mounted buttons. Alas, Teletouch had a few bugs in it, an especially painful problem in the launch of a bold new product like the Edsel. The feature was dropped for 1959.
Even little American Motors got in on the act with a push-button dash control for the top-of-the-line Rambler Ambassador. Called Telovac and developed by Borg-Warner, which also supplied AMC with its Flash-O-Matic automatic transmissions, the feature was offered from 1958 to 1962. Like Chrysler, the Rambler used a separate control for Park.
Ford’s Mercury division joined the push-button crowd with a straightforward system called Keyboard Control, then upped the ante for 1958 with the elaborate setup above. Multi-Drive Keyboard Control, as it was called, included two drive ranges, “performance” and “cruising,” along with a hill-control feature for the Merc-O-Matic transmission. Multi-Drive was continued in 1959, but the push-button dash console was replaced with a traditional column-mounted lever.
It’s interesting to note that while the Mercury and Edsel divisions of the Ford Motor Company gave pushbuttons a try, the Ford and Lincoln divisions never did. Until recently, that is: The 2018 Lincoln Navigator shown below sports a dash-mounted push-button array. Now that automatic transmissions are fly-by-wire with no mechanical linkage, pushbuttons make more sense than they ever did. (The user interface can be anything: buttons, a dial, an icon on a touchscreen.) In this form, we’ll probably be seeing pushbuttons for many years to come.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Even though it was developed more than 60 years ago, the Ford 9-Inch is the rear axle of choice throughout the American high-performance world. Here’s why.
When the Ford Motor Co. unveiled its 1957 vehicle line in October of 1956, in the press materials there was only brief mention of a new rear axle assembly for its cars and light trucks. Engineered in-house and produced by the company’s Sterling Axle Plant on Mound Road, which had opened only a few months earlier, the axle proved to be a winner—beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, actually. At the time, no one could have foreseen that today, more than 60 years later, the Ford 9-Inch is ubiquitous all across the American racing and performance scene.
The exploded diagram above reveals many of the design features that made the 9-Inch so popular:
+ The carrier housing is a front-loading dropout type, also known as a “banjo” or “pig” style, which is far more mechanic-friendly than the more common Salisbury/Spicer design in which the differential carrier loads into an integral axle housing from the rear. Here, backlash and pinion-depth adjustments are quick and easy, and gear ratio changes can be accomplished in minutes.
+ The pinion-shaft assembly is carried in a separate, detachable sub-housing (a cartridge, as some describe it), which simplifies adjustments even further and allows beefy, large-diameter bearings and yoke.
+ The axle shafts are secured in the housing with sturdy retainer plates at the housing ends, rather than with C-clips inside the carrier, a setup that is not terribly safe or suitable for serious racing use.
+ The ring gear (crown wheel in the Queen’s English) is a generous 9.0 inches in diameter, which allows the axle to withstand extreme torque loads and lent the rear axle its familiar name. Ford also manufactured axles of this design with 8.0-inch and 9.38-inch ring gears for various applications, and at one time or another, the axle family has been used in virtually every U.S. car and light truck platform produced by the company between 1957 and 1986.
So by fortune or design, the 9-Inch checks a number of important boxes for high-performance use. And when we dig a little deeper, we can see even more significant advantages, starting with a property called hypoid offset, above. In the hypoid gearset, introduced by Packard and Gleason Gear Works in 1926, the pinion gear is offset from the ring gear’s centerline, rather than centered as on a conventional spiral-bevel gearset. The result is a sort of bevel/worm gear hybrid, combining both meshing and sliding action between the gear teeth, and the increased contact area produces a stronger, quieter gearset. (Hypoid axles also allow a lower driveshaft and flatter passenger floor, surely the main reason they were embraced by the American car industry.)
In most U.S. passenger car drive axles, hypoid offset is generally in the 1.25-in. range (top left gearset). But on the Ford 9-inch (lower left gearset) the offset is much greater: 2.38 inches. This provides an even longer, deeper tooth contact (yellow arrow). The increased contact area does come at some cost: greater friction, more heat (often requiring a differential cooler), and a small but significant increase in mechanical loss— around two percent. In most applications, racers find the sacrifice is more than worth it. But it’s surely no coincidence that the 9-Inch was discontinued on production cars when fuel efficiency became a prime concern.
One more advantage of the 9-inch worth mentioning, as indicated by the red arrow above: Unlike most every other unit of its class, the Ford carrier includes an extra journal on the nose of the pinion to support a bearing set deep in the case, which stabilizes the gearset against deflection and allows a shorter, more compact pinion shaft.
With all these valuable attributes, the Ford 9-inch is far and away the favorite of the American high-performance scene, from street rodding to NASCAR, and it has been for decades—despite the fact that Ford hasn’t offered the unit in a production vehicle since 1986. Every component, down to the last spacer and seal, is now available in the performance aftermarket. Like a small-block Chevy V8 or a Fender guitar, an entire 9-inch axle can be assembled without a single original factory part. Specialist suppliers including Strange, Mark Williams, and Moser Engineering (shown above) offer a complete range of components and assemblies for every conceivable purpose.
It may seem a little odd that one of the top racing series in the world depends on a major component that was developed more than 60 years ago, but it’s true: Every car that runs in NASCAR Cup today has a Ford 9-Inch rear end under it—yes, even the non-Ford entries. As a result, the NASCAR teams have amassed vast inventories of 9-Inch assemblies, as shown below, in every gear ratio you can imagine, for tracks from Martinsville to Talladega.
But the way we hear it, that may be changing soon. Reportedly, NASCAR will ditch the venerable 9-Inch on the next-generation Cup car due in 2022 and adopt a sequential transaxle similar to those used in the Australia Supercars Championship. Still, we know that the Ford 9-Inch will be around the performance world for decades to come.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City.
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.
Full set of Allegheny Ludlum stainless steel-bodied Fords put up for sale by the company that built them
Photo courtesy Worldwide Auctioneers.
For decades, Allegheny Ludlum and its successor company have held on to the bulk of the 11 stainless-bodied Ford products that resulted from three different collaborations between the two companies. A source of pride for the company and for the Pittsburgh region in general, it seemed that the cars would forever remain in possession of the specialty metals company. However, in the face of a tough economic climate, Allegheny has decided to sell three of the cars, apparently the first time a complete set of the stainless Fords has ever hit the market.
"We didn't make the decision lightly," said Natalie Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Technologies Inc. "But we decided it's only appropriate to utilize every lever we have...as we're faced with this extraordinary economic challenge."
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Allegheny started out 2020 downsizing its salaried workforce "to align cost structures to demand levels," according to its first-quarter shareholders report. With sales down five percent year-over-year and with tougher times ahead due to the pandemic, the company has temporarily idled some of its facilities, cut executive pay by 20 percent, furloughed non-essential workers, and made various other cuts in expenses.
While it didn't seem like the five stainless Fords that Allegheny had held onto until just recently cost much to keep around - they'd been relegated in recent years from regular parade duty to the occasional car show and recruiting fair - the cars also weren't doing much for the company's bottom line. After all, most of its business these days comes from the aerospace, defense, and energy sectors with automotive sales accounting for just 7 percent of its business.
In the Thirties, however, Allegheny envisioned entire cars built from its stainless steel. The company was already supplying Ford with stainless for trim and radiator shells so, as Walt Gosden wrote in Special Interest Autos #60, December 1980, Allegheny took the next logical step of stamping entire bodies out of stainless. Six 1936 Ford Tudor Touring Sedans - which used standard Ford chassis and running gear - resulted, and by the end of the run the tougher stainless had reportedly ruined Ford's dies. Each of the six went to Allegheny district offices around the country and remained on the road as demonstrator vehicles well into the 1940s, by which time the bodies remained intact and in good shape but the chassis had racked up hundreds of thousands of miles and had worn out like any other 1936 Ford with that many miles would.
Postcard photo of three of the Allegheny Ludlum stainless-bodied Fords. Hemmings archive image.
The two companies didn't collaborate again until 1960 when Allegheny stamped body panels, bumpers, grilles, and exhaust systems for two Thunderbird coupes out of T302 stainless and then sent those to Budd for assembly. Then again, six years later, Allegheny and Ford collaborated to build three Lincoln Continental convertibles, two of which went on to receive updates to 1967 Lincoln Continental appearance. According to Gosden, both the Thunderbirds and the Continentals somehow ended up weighing about the same as their production counterparts. (According to Frank Scheidt of the Early Ford V-8 Foundation, the stainless 1936 Ford weighs anywhere from a couple hundred pounds to 500 pounds more than a comparable production 1936 Ford.)
Allegheny made the latter five easy to keep track of: It held on to the two Thunderbirds and two of the three Continentals and eventually bought back the third Continental before the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland obtained one of each.
The six 1936 Fords, however, Allegheny sold off after their use as demonstrators. Allegheny re-purchased two of the six over the years and the Crawford tracked down another to compile the first complete set of the three for public display. A fourth passed through a number of private owners before it was donated to the Early Ford V-8 Museum in 2016. Two remain unaccounted for.
The 1936 Ford that has since been donated to the Early Ford V-8 Museum. Photo by Jeff Koch.
Of the five remaining in Allegheny's possession, the company recently donated one to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. "It was our way of ensuring that a piece of Allegheny Ludlum's legacy is retained in Pittsburgh," Gillespie said. One of the Lincoln Continentals will remain with Allegheny Technologies, but the three others - one 1936 Ford, one 1960 Thunderbird, and one 1966/1967 Lincoln Continental - will head to auction this fall at the Worldwide Auctioneers Auburn sale.
"They're fantastic," Gillespie said, "but we want to make sure these three are kept and maintained by somebody who loves them."
At what is perhaps the only time any of the 11 stainless cars has previously come up for auction, the 1936 Ford that has since joined the Early Ford V-8 Museum's collection bid up to $550,000 at the 2009 Mecum Monterey sale. Leo Gephardt, the owner of the car at the time, later told Hemmings Classic Car that he valued it at about triple that price.
According to Worldwide, the three will cross the block as one lot with no reserve. Worldwide's Auburn sale is planned to take place September 5. For more information, visit WorldwideAuctioneers.com.
UPDATE (10.September 2020): The trio of stainless cars sold for $1.045 million.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Daniel Strohl.
While November 3rd might not be the optimal time of year to hold a car show when the Automobile Club of America chose this date to hold their first event, there wasn’t much of a precedent— the year was 1900. The term “automobile” hadn’t caught on yet, so the show was dubbed the “Horseless Carriage Show,” to help folks relate to the up-and-coming mode of transportation. Since the event was being held in New York City, Madison Square Garden was the designated place to hold the event and keep attendees out of the cold.
The week-long event featured goods from fifty-one vendors, thirty-one of which had some form of the new self-propelled carriage to try and sell to the auto’s well-to-do, early adopters. It is estimated that up to 40,000 people attended the auto’s first indoor car show event. Of those trying to move ahead in this highly-vertical sector was Ransom Eli Olds’ prototype for a new body style known as the “runabout.”
The first car show was held at the beginning of the last Century at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The horseless carriage was new and exciting to many. It is reported that up to 40,000 people flocked to see the show.
The Oldsmobile nameplate has established itself in racing and automotive lore throughout history, but did you know that its creator, Ransom Eli Olds, holds other accomplishments beyond the company that bears his name? Before Oldsmobile, the company was called the Olds Motor Works, which through Ransom’s persistence of driving his creations and attending shows such as North America’s first one in 1900, had increased production of their horseless carriage to around 4,000 units a year in just a few short years.
By 1905, Ransom became disenfranchised with investors and left the company to start another. Of course, there was already a company bearing the name Olds, and a quick lawsuit from those who held title to it helped draw the point home with Ransom. He decided to use his initials “REO” to draw from a distant-enough well to avert further legal action.
The REO Motor Car (and truck) Company existed from 1905 through 1975 in various forms, its most famous contribution to pop culture in the form of “REO Speedwagon,” using the title of one of REO’s early trucks as their band’s name.
What’s Olds Is New Again!As is the case with many of the early automotive nameplates from the dawn of the automotive age, Both the REO and Olds monikers were absorbed into larger entities, with REO going the way of heavy haulers and Olds being absorbed into General Motors. And that is where history circles back around to November 3rd, 1911.
Famed French racer, Louis Chevrolet and Flint, Michigan’s William C. “Billy” Durant joined forces in 1911 to form the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Only years before that, Billy Durant founded and ran what would become the massive General Motors Corporation. After forming GM by numerous acquisitions of companies such as Oakland (Pontiac), Olds (Oldsmobile), Buick, and Cadillac, Billy Durant was tossed from the cash-strapped corporation and looking for another endeavor to scratch his entrepreneurial spirit. The Chevrolet automobile’s sales had increased to a level where Durant could again, leverage his way back into the General Motors board room. By 1916, Billy Durant had purchased enough GM stock to re-establish himself as President of the corporation, a title he would hold until 1920.
What started out as a joint venture between Durant and Chevrolet has withstood the test of time, becoming a world-famous brand which has changed throughout the years, but stayed true to its original intent.
Billy Durant would eventually leave the corporation for the last time, and reportedly spent the remainder of his days in Flint, Michigan, where he tended the grill of his bowling alley/restaurant. The company he founded with the famous French racer still stands as a cornerstone of the world-wide corporation called GM. Holding true to its early values of, “a car for every purse and purpose” has secured Chevrolet as a world leader when other marques (and their founders, such as Durant) have fallen between the dusty pages of the history books.
For over 100 years, car shows and Chevrolets have become major components in the automotive scene. It is interesting to note that while both were officially started years apart, they both have the same birthday this day in history.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Andy Bolig.
Google Street View image.
As vacant lots in the metro Detroit area go, the one above, on a bend on the northern section of Snow Avenue in Dearborn, looks rather plain. Some nicely maintained landscaping right up beside Ford's fenced-off Product Development Center next door, a little sidewalk cutting through a trim lawn, and most importantly, no house; otherwise, Ford's secrets might have not remained secret for very long.
When Ford's Product Development Center arose on an 800-acre tract of wooded land just off of Oakwood Boulevard in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it butted up against an established residential neighborhood to the northeast. Snow Avenue, which swung south off Monroe Street and then curved to the west, formed the boundary of the neighborhood and even provided overflow parking just outside the center's back entrance. At the time the PDC - including the styling rotunda and the adjacent courtyard - opened in 1953, vacant lots occupied much of that section of Snow Avenue (there's another section of Snow Avenue, south of Rotunda Drive, which doesn't figure into this story). However, at least a couple of houses did occupy that bend in the road, and one in particular would soon have to come down.
The house in question is marked with number 6 in this photo of the PDC around the time it opened.
Image courtesy Ford Media, via Jim and Cheryl Farrell.
The house didn't look like much in historic photos - just a two-story house of similar construction to its neighbors, maybe a little higher in elevation thanks to the knoll it sat on. Might have had a nice porch out front and some decent attic space for storage under that asymmetrical sloping roof. Might have had a garage or carriage house tucked in next to it. It stood rather close to the road and thus to the entrance to the PDC, but that proximity itself didn't seem to be an issue.
Rather, as Jim and Cheryl Farrell pointed out in their book on Ford's Design Department, the house's second story provided a direct line of sight into the PDC's courtyard, where Ford's design staff and executives spent plenty of time reviewing design clays and prototypes in ambient light rather than the direct light of the studios. And it didn't take long before somebody in Detroit figured out how to take advantage of that fact. According to the Farrells, a competitor rented out the whole house to spy on the courtyard goings-on.
Which competitor exactly, the Farrells didn't say. A comprehensive comparison of Ford's mid-1950s advanced designs and similar designs from the other Detroit-based automakers might pinpoint who took inspiration from that second-story view, or it might be a wild goose chase. Everybody in Detroit at the time looked for some edge over their competition in the race to look as modern and technologically/stylistically superior as possible, whether through spying, poaching talent, or just keeping a keen ear out at the bars.
Property lines for Ford's PDC near Snow Avenue. Image via LandGrid.com.
Ford's brass certainly knew the stakes, and once they discovered the spying from the neighboring house, they took no chances. As the Farrells wrote, Ford subsequently bought the house and immediately tore it down. The Wayne County Assessor's list doesn't appear to break out that parcel as a separate plot from the PDC, so without a trip to the assessor's office, it's difficult to determine exactly when Ford bought the house. However, from historic aerial photos, it appears the house (along with the two adjacent buildings) was demolished sometime before 1957. By 1964, Ford built an addition that blocked the northwest side of the courtyard, and by the early Seventies more additional buildings completely enclosed the courtyard.
Today, a row of duplexes fills many of the formerly vacant plots on Snow Avenue, but their march comes just short of that corner lot. They don't appear to be in any danger of coming down to make way for the proposed redevelopment of the PDC, but if somebody in those houses happens to figure out some Ford WiFi passwords, perhaps Ford might be inclined to snap up a few more Snow Avenue properties.
Article courtesy of Hemings, written by Daniel Strohl.
In late 1963, two auto industry legends, Brooks Stevens and Charles Sorensen, joined forces in a last-ditch attempt to revive Studebaker.
For this story, history owes a debt of gratitude to automotive writer Rich Taylor, who interviewed designer Brooks Stevens for the April 1984 issue of Special Interest Autos, memorializing the events described here, and to the Milwaukee Museum of Art, which hosts the Brooks Stevens Archives.
On December 12, 1963, two old friends and auto industry associates—industrial designer Brooks “Kip” Stevens and manufacturing wizard Charles Sorensen—met in Florida for a one-day brainstorming session. Stevens, the contract designer of many memorable Studebakers including the Gran Turismo Hawk, and Sorensen, known as Cast Iron Charlie for his decades as the production boss at the gigantic Ford Rouge plant, were on a rather desperate mission: Come up with a plan to save Studebaker, America’s oldest car company.
It was a hail-Mary play. Only a few days earlier on December 9, company management had decided to shut down the South Bend, Indiana plant and cease auto production in the USA. The Stevens/Sorensen solution was a bold one: a stripped-down, almost third-world approach to auto manufacturing called the Low Cost Molded Vehicle, or LCMV.
As the above diagram illustrates, the Studebaker LCMV would be based on a unitized fiberglass body and chassis molded in two halves, split longitudinally right down the middle. (Sorensen devised a giant Ferris Wheel-type machine to mold four body sections at once.) Hood and deck lid were identical, while the four doors were diagonally interchangeable and all the glass was flat. Interior panels and headliner would be vacuum-formed plastic, further shaving tooling and inventory costs to the bone, and a transverse front-drive powertrain module was built around the trusty Studebaker OHV six. By Sorensen’s rough calculations, the unit cost per vehicle was only $560, enabling a retail price of $1085 and a tidy profit margin both for Studebaker and its dealers. On paper, anyway.
Along with the base four-door sedan, Stevens also envisioned a pair of cab-forward variants with the powertrain module relocated to the rear. Two alternate seating arrangements provided a three-row layout similar to a modern crossover (above) or facing rear seats to create an executive limousine (below).
While the Sorensen/Stevens plan was imaginative and audacious, to say the least, Studebaker management, then led by former Packard accountant Byers Burlingame, expressed zero interest. Pretty much as you would expect, their focus was entirely on preserving the remaining investor capital at that point. Studebaker would continue to build cars for a few more years, but only in Canada, and with modest annual facelifts by Brooks Stevens.
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.
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.