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.
Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
American Graffiti, the surprise summer blockbuster that ignited the career of filmmaker George Lucas (director and co-screenwriter), is one of the most car-saturated movies that is not explicitly about cars. Set in Modesto, California, at the tail end of summer 1962, it follows the exploits of a quartet of recent high-school grads: college-bound Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss), class president Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), the nerdy Terry the Toad (Charles Martin Smith), and drag-racer John Milner (Paul Le Mat). The action takes place on a single night against a backdrop of endless cruising. Lucas made the movie in 1972, and it was highly autobiographical. In an interview in The New York Times, Lucas said of the film:
It all happened to me, but I sort of glamorized it. I spent four years of my life cruising the main street of my hometown, Modesto, California. I went through all that stuff, drove the cars, bought liquor, chased girls... a very American experience. I started out as Terry the Toad, but then I went on to be John Milner, the local drag race champion, and then I became Curt Henderson, the intellectual who goes to college. They were all composite characters, based on my life, and on the lives of friends of mine. Some were killed in Vietnam, and quite a number were killed in auto accidents.
American Graffiti is newly available on HBO's streaming services this month, so we figured it was worth another pass down the main drag. Here are some lesser-known facts to know about it, in case you settle in for a rewatch or a first watch — it's highly recommended if you haven’t seen it before.
1. Some 300 cars were used in filming. Local vintage-car owners were paid $20 to $25 per night (reports vary) plus food.
Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
2. Milner’s ’32 Ford chopped-top Deuce coupe had a ’66 Chevy 327-cu.in. V-8 with four Rochester 2GC two-barrel carbs. The engine was mated to a Super T-10 four-speed gearbox, and a ’57 Chevy rear end with 4:11 gears. The car was originally red but was repainted yellow for filming, and the red-and-white interior was dyed black. The rear fenders were bobbed, front cycle fenders added, and the dropped front axle chrome-plated. When the movie was done, the car was advertised for $1,500 but failed to sell for more than a year. It eventually ended up with a collector in Kansas and has since gone to an owner in San Francisco, both of whom preserved it.
Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
3. The character Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), who drives a '55 Chevy, comes to town to challenge reigning drag racer Milner. Three black ’55 Chevys were used, including a junkyard find for the crash scene and two others. The two principle cars had previously appeared in the film Two Lane Blacktop. One had a 454-cu.in. V-8 and a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400, while the other was powered by a 427 cu.in. V-8 paired with a Muncie M-22 transmission. During the race scene, the car’s axle broke. In a second take, the replacement axle broke. Only one of the ’55 Chevys remains, and for a time was owned by the same Kansas collector who had the ’32 Deuce coupe. It later went to an owner in Maryland, who restored the car to show condition, but extensively changed from its appearance in the film.
4. After filming, transportation manager Henry Travers sold Steve’s '58 Impala via a classified ad in the San Francisco Chronicle. A local teenager bought it for $285, and on the way home, the brakes failed and one of the taillights fell off. The owner kept the car until 2015, when it went to auction and was purchased by NASCAR personality and racing commentator Ray Evernham. Evernham had the car restored to its as-filmed appearance, and the renewed Impala made its public debut at the 2016 SEMA show.
5. Curt’s obsession is a mysterious blonde (Suzanne Somers) in a white ’56 T-Bird. Somers had a surprise reunion with the car in 1999 on an episode of Leeza Gibbons’s TV show.
6. The film takes place in 1962 but Curt’s Citroën 2CV is actually a ’67 model.
7. Toad’s crashing his Vespa in the opening scene was unscripted. He lost control of the scooter but stayed in character, and George Lucas kept filming.
8. The license plate on Milner’s Deuce coupe is THX 138, a nod to George Lucas’s earlier science-fiction film THX-1138. Steve’s ’58 Chevy Impala has the license plate JPM 351, and that plate appears again on the Studebaker that Carol, Judy, and some other girls are riding in.
9. The prank in which Curt attached a chain to the cop car’s rear axle, which is then ripped out from under the car when the police set off, was tried and proven not possible on Mythbusters. For the film, the axle had been cut away from the frame, and the chain was not really attached to a light pole but to a winch on a heavy-duty tow truck. The winch was activated as the cop car pulled away, yanking the axle out from underneath it.
10. Although set in George Lucas’s hometown of Modesto, California, the film was shot largely Petaluma, California. Petaluma hosts an annual Salute to American Graffiti.
11. The entire movie takes place over one night, and filming was done between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The shoot lasted just 28 days.
Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
12. An assistant camera man fell off the trailer of a truck and was run over shooting one of the road scenes, suffering minor injuries.
13. The DC-7 airliner that appears in the final scene was later converted to cargo use, and in 1986 it crashed after taking off from Dakar, Senegal, killing all four people on board.
14. All of the principal actors were unknown, and Universal Studios was so sure the movie would flop that it wanted to release it as a TV movie. Co-producer Francis Ford Coppola convinced the studio to do a theatrical release, and the film grossed $55 million (on a budget of just over $750,000); it earned another $63 million in re-release. It also earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination and the Golden Globe for Best Picture.
Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.
15. There was a 1979 sequel, More American Graffiti, that checked in with the crew in the mid 1960s, but it lacked the cruising theme (although the Milner character had become a drag racer). The sequel was a critical failure and a box-office flop.
Article courtesy of Hemings, written by Joe Lorio.
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.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by Daniel Strohl.
Chris Webb of Webb Motorworks has done the unfathomable: He’s converted the beloved small-block Chevy V8 into an all-electric vehicle propulsion module.
This flabbergasting project is the work of Chris Webb of Webb Motorworks of Victoria, British Columbia, where the previous products include conversion kits to make a Chevrolet small-block V8 resemble a vintage Ford V8 or Lincoln Zephyr V12. From there, it seems the next step was only natural, almost. Now he’s re-engineered the familiar Chevy SBC to contain a pair of electric motors hidden away inside, creating a drop-in EV conversion unit for hot rods, street machines, and so on. How will this product go over with the traditional hot rodding crowd? We have no clue, but it’s an awesome and fascinating idea.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
The CBS television series Route 66 was every car guy’s fantasy: two footloose young men exploring America and looking for adventure in a brand new Corvette.
We have to wonder how many young baby boomers were transformed into lifelong Corvette fans by the television drama Route 66, which aired on CBS from October 7, 1960 to March 20, 1964. Seldom has roaming aimlessly through the countryside without a home or a job looked so glamorous.
Every Friday night at 8:30, Tod Stiles (played by Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis) managed to find a new adventure, hopping from one town to the next, one thought-provoking drama to the next, in Tod’s new Corvette. Who hasn’t wanted to be Tod or Buz, at least for a week or two? And who hasn’t lusted after a Corvette like Tod’s, if for only a moment?
One thing that may surprise fans of the show: Tod’s Corvettes weren’t red. Although the show was filmed entirely in black and white, somehow viewers came to assume that the cars were red—following, perhaps, the notion that All Corvettes are Red. But in truth, the production crew chose neutral metallic factory colors including Sateen Silver, Fawn Beige, and Saddle Tan for the Corvettes, reportedly because they looked the best on film. We don’t know how many Corvettes were used in the show, but we can see they were updated most every season, and that multiple cars were apparently shuffled in and out for closeups. In one episode in season two, the Corvette Mako Shark factory show car makes a guest appearance, driven by an heiress played by Janice Rule.
One novel aspect of the series was that it was filmed largely on location at sites across the country, on and off the real Route 66. This gave the show a more authentic look than the typical sitcoms and police dramas of the day, which were produced mainly on Hollywood sound stages and studio lots. Entertainment critics were also impressed by the writerly scripts and gritty story lines, with topical themes that included mental illness, the Vietnam war, and gang violence. When CBS was unable to obtain rights to the Bobby Troup song “Route 66,” Nelson Riddle composed an equally memorable alternative theme (you can hear it here).
While the program was a critical and commercial success for several years, fans agree that the story began to lose its steam midway through the third season, when George Maharis left the show and was ultimately replaced by Glenn Corbett, playing a new companion named Lincoln Case. The last Route 66 Corvette was a 1963 Stingray convertible (below) in Saddle Tan, which was used through the final show aired in March of 1964. There have been several attempts to revive the program, including a 1993 series reboot that lasted only a handful of episodes. There was talk of a new series a few years ago, but nothing more came of it.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
FROM FLAME JOBS TO CUSTOM SHOW CARS TO A SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE MOUSE,
ED ROTH LEFT HIS MARK ON AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE
The Beatnik Bandit is one of the world’s most widely recognized custom show cars. A joystick controls acceleration, steering, and braking.
Into the boardroom at Revell strolled a young modeler and designer named Jim Keeler, who hoped to interest the company in a series of new plastic model kits. Keeler outlined his ideas–a 1956 Ford pickup, a replica of Mickey Thompson’s Challenger I–until one middle-aged executive jumped up, overcome by impatience. “OK, OK. We’ll do that one. But I want to hear about this Roth guy.”
That story, told by Keeler and related by Pat Ganahl in his definitive biography Ed “Big Daddy” Roth: His Life, Times, Cars, and Art, gives you an idea of what a major figure Roth had become in the pop culture movement of the early 1960s, and how much excitement swirled around him. It’s not an exaggeration to call him a Renaissance man–he was a restless creator and rule-bender who also possessed a keen sense of his commercial market. Those two worlds existed side by side most clearly in his greatest creation, the character of Rat Fink, the nasty anti-Mickey Mouse that’s been making cash registers ring for decades.
It was Roth’s revolutionary four-wheeled creations, which he brought on the car-show circuit and helped fuel the sale of his T-shirts, that attracted Revell’s attention, and the manufacturer, in turn, made him into a hot property, giving him a persona that was so goofy, it was cool. As a painter and car builder, he was an integral part of Southern California’s Kustom Kulture of the late 1950s and ’60s, part of the pantheon that includes Sam and George Barris, Dean Jeffries, and Kenny Howard, better known as Von Dutch.
Roth was born in 1932 in Beverly Hills, California. His parents had emigrated from Germany, his father working as a cabinetmaker and personal driver for a well-to-do widow. He graduated from high school in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, which sent him to a remote tracking station in Morocco. He married his high school sweetheart, Sally, and, after his discharge from the Air Force, the couple began a family.
The Outlaw was Roth’s first fiberglass-bodied show car; it was on the cover of the January 1960 issue of Car Craft.
He landed a job at Sears, dressing mannequins and designing store displays, and augmented his income by doing pinstriping and flame jobs in his driveway, at $4 per car. A self-taught pinstriper, Roth advertised his business by lettering and striping his 1948 Ford sedan–aka The Roth–and, after teaming up in 1957 with Bud “The Baron” Crozier and Tom Kelley to open a shop called The Crazy Painters, eventually attracted enough work to leave Sears.
Crazy Painters developed a reputation for putting flames, scallops, and other custom paintwork on anything that had wheels, and soon branched out into a sideline, airbrushing shirts. A local club, the Drag Wagons, had asked for shirts bearing the club name, and Roth, who was skilled with an airbrush, added a caricature of each member. The idea caught fire, and the shop began advertising its “weird shirts” in Car Craft magazine. When Roth left Crozier and Kelley to open his own shop in 1959, he began advertising his “Weird-O” or “Weerdo” shirts, and continued with his custom paintwork.
It was here that he began working on the first of his scratch-built, fiberglass-body customs: the Outlaw. Roth had built traditional custom hot rods, but in fiberglass he found his ideal material, one that would allow his ideas to come to three-dimensional life. Breaking away from the traditional chopped-and-channeled “T-bucket” mold so many hot rodders copied, he created a shape that was entirely new, fashioning the body by building up the shape in plaster and wood and making a female mold. The Outlaw rode on a chromed, custom-built chassis, and was powered by a modified Cadillac V-8 crowned by four Stromberg 97 carburetors. It was a new kind of hot rod, if it was a hot rod at all.
The twin-engine Mysterion of 1963 has gone missing; this recreation is in The Collection at Galpin Auto Sports in California.
Automotive historian Ken Gross said that, as a “pretty conventional hot rod person,” it took him some time to appreciate what Roth was up to. “I came to the realization that Ed was very much a futurist,” he says. With the Outlaw, “the whole T idea that Norm Grabowski and Tommy Ivo had done was taken by Ed to the next generation. He really was ahead of his time in his materials, concepts and the breadth of his imagination.”
Finished in late 1959, the Outlaw was Grade A car-mag fodder, just as Roth had intended. Show organizers, knowing the car was a draw, would pay Roth to display the Outlaw, while the stir it created helped bring customers to his booth. That’s how he came to make his lucrative business deal with Revell.
Kids in the late 1950s and early 1960s were snapping up plastic model kits by the hundreds of thousands, spending their allowances and paper-route money at the neighborhood variety store or hobby shop on the latest releases. AMT, in particular, had tapped into the custom-car craze with its 3-in-1 customizing kits, and Revell must have been eager to cut itself a slice of the pie. When Jim Keeler presented his idea for a scale model of the Outlaw, they couldn’t say yes fast enough.
It was Revell’s publicist, Henry Blankfort, who thought that Roth needed a new image in order to stimulate sales. Blankfort came up with the nickname “Big Daddy,” a nod to the beatniks’ slang “daddy-o” and a reference to Roth’s six-foot-four, 240-pound physique. Blankfort is also widely credited for putting Roth into his trademark tuxedo and top hat, to try to clean up his slovenly image. It made for great model-box art, and Roth was a natural at mugging for the camera.
With the Outlaw finished, Roth began constructing his bubble-topped Beatnik Bandit, which emerged in 1961. Through the early 1960s, he turned out a car a year–the ground-effects Rotar in 1962, the twin-engined Mysterion in 1963, the Corvair-powered Road Agent in early 1964, the asymmetrical Orbitron in late 1964, the board-toting Surfite in early 1965 and the ornate Druid Princess in late 1966.
“I once asked him, ‘How do you knock out a car a year?'” explained custom hot rod and motorcycle builder Fritz Schenck, who built a faithful replica of the Outlaw and restored the original Druid Princess. “And he said, ‘You watch TV?’ I said, ‘Who doesn’t watch television.’ He said, ‘You ever watch Gilligan’s Island? I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Watch one episode, and you’ve seen them all. They never get off of the island.’ And he’s right.”
The model-car contract was lucrative, but it was the T-shirt business that really brought in the cash. Roth was the father of five boys, and he often found himself surrounded by kids as he drew his grotesque caricatures at shows, so he always had a good idea of what they wanted. What worked commercially, he discovered, were designs that the kids would like, and the parents wouldn’t–but not so offensive as to be banned by Mom and Dad.
This was the origin of characters like Mother’s Worry, Drag Nut, and Mr. Gasser, grotesque figures with bulging, bloodshot eyes, and gaping mouths filled with needle-sharp teeth. And sometime in the mid-1960s, it gave birth to Rat Fink.
There are various stories about when Rat Fink first took form, but the story Roth told was that he sketched the creature as a counterpoint to Mickey Mouse after becoming sick of seeing so many children wearing the trademark plastic ears. He claimed that the name had been made popular by television comedian Steve Allen, though the real story is that the “F” in R.F. stood for something far more vulgar–and all the kids knew it, even if their parents didn’t.
Roth’s monsters could be bought on T-shirts and decals. If that weren’t enough, the marketers at Revell realized that they could make three-dimensional plastic kits of these creations, too. Roth was hot, and everything that came from his studio turned to gold.
The second half of the 1960s was a time of shifting gears for Roth. He built an asymmetrical, Buick V-6 powered bike hauler called Captain Pepi’s Motorcycle and Zeppelin Repair, and turned his creative talents to a series of choppers and the first VW-powered trikes. When the mainstream motorcycle magazines wouldn’t feature his creations, he brought out his own magazine, called Choppers. His deal with Revell had ended; as he would later complain, the Beatles’ appearance on TV in 1965 had made kids want to trade their X-Acto knives for guitars.
Roth eventually wound down his business, and in 1970 went to work for Jim Brucker, building the sets for the new Cars of the Stars museum in Buena Park, where several of his cars were on display. He also took a job at the nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, as a sign painter and artist, working under a pseudonym.
He had a revival in the early 1980s, once again marketing shirts, comics, decals, and more, and signing a licensing agreement with Kenner Toys for a series of monster-driven toy cars. He lived long enough to see his work rediscovered by art galleries and museums, and to be toasted by the mayor of San Francisco with a day in his honor. He was still appearing at car shows across the country, and working on new designs, up until his death in 2001.
“I think Ed was a visionary,” Ken Gross sums up. “He was rebellious in a fun way, and he kind of nailed it before anybody else did. Everything Ed did had a whimsical side. He had a great imagination, and he saw the fun side of hot rodding that nobody else had.”
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by David LaChance.
The Powerglide automatic transmission loyally served Chevrolet and General Motors for nearly a quarter of a century.
When the Chevrolet Powerglide made its debut in 1950, it was the first automatic transmission intended specifically for the low-priced field. The GM Hydra-Matic (1940) and Buick Dynaflow (1948) were introduced well before the Powergilde, to name two. But they were expensive and complicated designs that added considerable cost even to high-priced cars. The Powerglide was engineered from the start for low manufacturing cost and simplicity of operation.
The Powerglide has also been described as a “poor man’s Dynaflow,” and there’s more truth to that throwaway line than there might seem. While the two transmissions are quite different in detail—and in cost—both the Buick Dynaflow and the Chevy Powerglide were developed by automatic transmission guru O.K. Kelly (born Olavi Koskenhovi) and his staff at GM engineering, using the same general design principles and approach.
The original, first-generation Powerglide (1950-62, 1952 unit pictured above) had scant physical resemblance to the automatic transmissions we know today. There was no sump or pan on the bottom, and instead of a one-piece aluminum case, the Powerglide used a collection of cast-iron housings that bolted together. As a result, the unit was quite heavy at better than 240 lbs, and there were a number of gasketed joints with the potential for fluid leaks.
The heart of the first-generation Powerglide was its torque converter (above). In fact, the earliest Chevrolet technical literature often referred to the unit as a “torque converter transmission” rather than the more simple and familiar “automatic.” The original 1950 design employed a five-element, bolt-together converter that provided a torque multiplication factor of 2.20:1. Later, a simplified three-element converter was developed.
A two-speed planetary gearset with a first-gear ratio of 1.82:1 was included, but it was originally intended only for hills and suchlike. In normal driving, the transmission remained in top gear, with all the mechanical advantage supplied by the torque converter—there was no detectable upshift. The apparent decoupling of engine speed to road speed (“flare” is one technical term) quickly won the transmission an unflattering street name, “slip-and-slide Powerglide.” (In a similar way, the Dynaflow became known as the “Dynaslush.”)
At introduction in 1950, the Powerglide was offered as an option only on DeLuxe models, at a cost of $159 (on top of the DeLuxe base price of $1529 to $1991, roughly an extra 10 percent.) A chrome badge on the deck lid proudly proclaimed “POWER GLIDE,” and to compensate for the lack of torque multiplication, Powerglide cars got a slightly larger six-cylinder engine (235 vs. 216.5 cubic inches) with hydraulic valve lifters and 105 hp rather than the standard 90 hp. Meanwhile, the rear axle ratio was reduced from 4.11:1 to 3.55:1 to manage driveline noise and harshness.
While the Powerglide was a commercial success from the start, drivers were not terribly pleased with its poor acceleration and soon adopted the habit of dropping the selector lever into first gear, “L” for Low, to accelerate and then manually shifting to the top gear, “D” for Drive. (The shift pattern was PNDLR, eventually revised to the familiar PRNDL.) Fearing the damage and wear that could result from this practice, GM engineers in 1953 provided an automated first-gear start and programmed upshift at up to 42 mph depending on load, and a throttle-controlled kick-down function as well.
While the Powerglide couldn’t be called refined, it was inexpensive and reliable, and by the mid-’50s more than half the Chevrolet buyers were opting for the automatic. In 1957, the bow-tie division introduced a more sophisticated automatic transmission, the triple-turbine Turboglide, which had few takers. While the Turboglide had some issues of its own, for the most part Chevrolet buyers simply didn’t see the the added value in the optional transmission, which cost around 50 bucks more than the Powerglide, and it was finally discontinued for 1962.
Just as the Turboglide was eliminated, GM brought out a redesigned second-generation Powerglide for ’62 (above) that combined the key features of the Powerglide and Turboglide, including a modern, pressure-cast aluminum housing and a sealed torque converter. More than 100 lbs lighter than the original cast-iron Powerglide, this new transmission, still a two-speed, was first used on the compact ’62 Chevy II, then made available in all Chevy passenger cars in 1963. Variants of the Powerglide were also used in the Corvair and Pontiac Tempest transaxles, and one of the final applications was in the subcompact 1971 Chevrolet Vega.
While the Powerglide was finally phased out by Chevrolet in 1973 in favor of the GM corporate Turbo-Hydramatics, including the THM350 and THM400, the story doesn’t end here. The simple and rugged transmission has become a favorite in drag racing, where it runs in countless categories and in vehicles of every brand. Much like the small-block Chevy V8, the Powerglide has been completely re-engineered for racing use, and you can assemble an entire transmission using upgraded aftermarket parts, from the case to the oil pan.
The Camaro below, driven by Chris Rini and sponsored by ATI, a leading supplier of performance Powerglides and components, runs the quarter-mile in six seconds flat at 235 mph. Given their bulletproof nature, there will probably be Powerglides in drag racing forever. –Photo below courtesy of ATI Performance Products.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
One V8 hot-rodding trick of the ’50s that never quite caught on was the 5×2 carburetor setup. But you know, it’s not such a terrible idea.
The photos we’re sharing here have made a few laps around the hot-rodding message boards across the internet, where they never fail to stimulate interest and discussion. The images depict an idea that originated in the early-to-mid-50s for souping up American V8s: the 5×2 carburetor setup, with an intake manifold specially cast (or modified from a production component) to accept five two-barrel carburetors. While the configuration never really caught on, it’s not as strange as it may look today.
The system above, apparently built up from a production Pontiac V8 intake manifold, uses five Rochester 2GC two-barrel carburetors laid out in an X pattern, with the center carb in the original stock location. The early Oldsmobile (1949-64) manifold in the lead photo is of similar configuration, and also includes Rochester-style carburetor mounting flanges.
Here’s another angle of the Olds V8 manifold, above. So what were they thinking? In theory at least, the stock center carburetor would provide good idle characteristics and decent low-speed drivability, while the four outboard carbs provided the high-speed breathing and fuel capacity As a bonus, each two-barrel outboard carb was ideally located right on top of an intake port pair for good air/fuel distribution.
Drawbacks? Balancing five separate carbs can’t be fun, but much of that hassle can be avoided by eliminating the idle and low-speed circuits in all but the center carb. Next, this setup demands a throttle linkage that operates in two planes—bulky and complicated. The more conventional 3×2 and 2×4 carburetor setups weren’t nearly so fussy in that regard, and they were more than adequate for the needs of most hot rodders.
The idea wasn’t confined to hot rodding, though. The automakers played around with it as well, for example on the 1953 Ford X-100 dream car. (Read about the X-100 here.) This Ford experimental setup (below) used a Holley “teapot” carburetor in the central location with four 94-style two-barrels in the outboard positions. Of course, here in the 21st century we have no need for carburetors at all—they’ve gone the way of breaker points and wood-spoke wheels.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage