Ford’s MEL V8 might not have a famous racing record, but it’s worthy of a closer look.
The Ford Motor Company had a plenty on its plate for the 1958 model year. First, there was the rollout of an entire new car division, the ambitious but unfortunate Edsel. Next, there were two distinct new big-block V8 engine families heading into production, the FE series and the MEL series. The FE (short for Ford-Edsel) went on to glory at Daytona, Le Mans, and elsewhere, while the MEL V8 (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) is largely forgotten today. But that doesn’t mean the MEL isn’t an interesting engine and worthy of a closer look.
Between 1958 and 1968, the MEL V8 was produced in four displacements: 383, 410, 430, and 462 cubic inches. All were built on the same basic architecture with 4.90-inch bore spacing, and they all shared the unusual design feature shown above. There were no combustion chambers in the cylinder head. Instead, the block deck was machined at a 10-degree angle, forming a wedge-shaped combustion space in the top of the cylinder bore. This unusual construction, engineered in part to provide manufacturing flexibility, was a Motor City fad of the late ’50s that was also found in the Chevrolet 348/409 V8 (read our feature on the 409 here) and Ford’s SD series large-displacement gasoline truck engines. While the MEL V8 resembles the big SD V8 in some aspects, it shares no major components with the SD, the FE, or any other FoMoCo engines—it’s a lone ranger. Applications for the MEL V8s break down as follows:
+ 383 CID: 4.30-in x 3.30-in bore and stroke, used by Mercury in 1958-60
+ 410 CID: 4.20-in x 3.70 bore and stroke, used in 1958 Edsel Corsair and Citation. Marketed as the E-475 V8 in accordance with its 475 lb-ft torque rating.
+ 430 CID: 4.30-in x 3.70-in bore and stroke, used in 1958-60 Mercury, 1959-60 Ford Thunderbird, and 1958-65 Lincoln.
+ 462 CID: 4.38-in x 3.83-in bore and stroke, used by Lincoln from 1966 to 1968, when it was replaced by the 460 CID V8 from the Ford 385 engine family and the MEL series was discontinued for good. The MEL and 385 engine families share 4.90-inch bore centers, suggesting that the 385 was designed to run on the MEL’s tooling.
As we’ve seen, Ford wasn’t afraid to try new things in this period. For example, check out the elaborate engine shroud with thermostatic air intake shown above left on an Edsel E-400 V8 (361 CID, FE series). While a press photo was released, it doesn’t seem the remarkably modern-looking engine cover ever made it into production. (We haven’t seen one, anyway.) However, we can see that the production Edsel engines (410 CID E-475, above right) did use thermostatic air control, ducting exhaust heat into the air cleaner housing.
Despite its multiple virtues, the MEL V8 never gained a foothold in the high-performance world. Its exploits in racing were few but noteworthy: Johnny Beauchamp’s 430-powered ’59 Thunderbird nearly won the 1959 Daytona 500 in the famous photo finish with Lee Petty, while the team of Rodney Singer and Karol Miller took Top Eliminator honors at the NHRA Nationals in Detroit in 1959 with their Lincoln-powered dragster.
Among production MEL V8s, the ultimate in looks and muscle might well be the 1958 Mercury Super Marauder, a special package with three two-barrel Holley carburetors and a fabulously styled cast-aluminum air cleaner assembly (below). With 400 hp at 5200 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm, the 430 CID beast is easily among the most powerful engines offered by the Motor City in the ’50s.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Most gearheads will instantly recognize the familiar GMC 6-71 blower, but its original application and backstory remain relatively unknown. Let’s explore.
The GMC blower of history and legend is, of course, a type of pump known as a Roots blower. Two brothers, Philander and Francis Roots of Connersville, Indiana (no relation to Rootes of Great Britain; note the spelling) initially devised their machine in the 1850s to pump water, but it has countless applications for moving fluids and gasses, from underground mines to blast furnaces. In common use, a Roots blower can be as small as a matchbox or as big as a house.
One interesting aspect of the Roots blower is that its internal flow is the opposite of what we may imagine: around the outside of the rotors or impellers (above right). In automotive applications, a Roots blower typically has two, three, or four lobes per rotor (the GMC uses three in its original form). The Roots is a positive-displacement pump. That is, with each rotation it will pump its approximate displacement. When pumping air, it’s one atmosphere in and one atmosphere out with each turn of the rotors. There is no net internal pressurization in the blower itself.
The concept of supercharging is essentially as old as the automobile. Obviously, if we can pump more air through an engine at a given speed, we can burn more fuel and make more power. Numerous types of pumps are suitable for the job, including the Roots blower, and Mercedes was the first to offer a Roots blower on a volume production vehicle with its Kompressor models in 1921. But there were many others to follow, including Bugatti, Bentley, and Maserati.
A small but noteworthy point: Since the Roots is a positive-displacement device without internal pressure, supercharging is achieved by using the blower to pump more air than the engine can, thereby raising the air pressure in the intake manifold above atmospheric. For this reason, some insist that the Roots blower, unlike most other types, is technically not a supercharger—even though supercharging is the ultimate result. If we call the machine a Roots blower, everyone can be happy.
Above is the GMC 6-71 blower in its original habitat: mounted on the side of a GMC Detroit Diesel 6-71 engine. Introduced in 1938 and produced well into the 1990s, the 6-71 is a two-stroke, six-cylinder diesel. In GMC diesel nomenclature, 6 represents the number of cylinders, while 71 represents the cubic-inch displacement per cylinder. So the displacement here is 426 cubic inches, and that is the approximate displacement of the blower as well. The 71-series has been produced in versions of one to 24 cylinders, and each one has a blower (or blowers) of appropriate size. Here the blower does not serve as a supercharger but simply as an air pump. Since the 71 series is a two-stroke, the blower is used to pull in fresh air and push out the spent exhaust gas.
As we saw earlier, Roots blowers were originally found only on the most exotic and expensive cars—beyond the reach of the backyard mechanic. But that changed in 1948 when pioneer hot rodder Barney Navarro mounted a war surplus GMC 3-71 blower on the flathead V8 roadster he raced on the California dry lakes. Others followed, and now thanks to General Motors, hot rodders had an affordable and plentiful supply of Roots blowers in a number of sizes, including 3-71, 4-71, and the 6-71, the latter being perfect for the new overhead-valve Detroit V8s. Regardless of size, all the GMC blowers have the same authoritative sound, somewhere between a growl and an angry whine.
Soon enough, the ever-inventive hot rod industry developed a number of adapters and drive systems, including gears, chains, multiple v-belts, and the most popular setup, the toothed Gilmer belt. Aftermarket cases, rotors, end plates with sealed bearings, and other parts also appeared, and complete turn-key kits as well. (Above, Weiand kit at left and Dyers kit at right.) There were also front-mount kits from Potvin, Cragar, and others (see below) that echo the original Blower Bentley setup, though the conventional top-mount system with Gilmer belt proved to be more practical.
In ’70s drag racing, the 6-71 size gave way to 8-71 and larger blower displacements and today, NHRA racers in Top Fuel and Funny Car use blowers of extrapolated 14-71 dimensions as defined by the current rules. On a 6-71, the impellers are not quite 15 inches long while the 14-71’s are a full 19 inches in length. But the design itself is based on the original GMC two-stroke blower.
To tell the truth, these days the GMC 6-71 blower is increasingly obsolete as a performance booster. There are newer and better alternatives including the turbocharger and the Lysholm twin-screw supercharger (which resembles a Roots blower but isn’t). Still, hot rodders continue to embrace the venerable 6-71. For looks and sound, it’s difficult to top.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
We’re seeing many hot rods with great looking drilled and/or slotted rotors behind big billet as well as forged wheels. There’s no question that they look trick, but what is the straight story on how they work? Are they better than plain rotors, or worse? In the real world of street driven cars, will they help my stopping power? Rather than listen to a lot of opinions, let’s look at the science behind these questions by getting info from the experts at Wilwood brakes and ECI.
Mike Skelly of Wilwood offered us a little history on the origin of drilled rotors. As road racing tires allowed greater track speeds in the 1960s, race teams began seeing a great loss in brake capability. In that era of organic and asbestos based pad friction material, a problem occurred with the adhesives used to fasten the pad to the steel backing plates. As the temperature of the pads increased, the adhesive would break down and cause a layer of gas to form between the rotor and the pads. That vapor layer retained heat in the rotor and acted as an “air-bearing” high-pressure area between the pad and rotor. By drilling holes in the rotor surface, those gasses were able to be dissipated into the vented center of the rotor, no longer interfering with the pad to rotor friction. Racers also liked the idea that the rotating mass of the rotor was reduced, causing a small advantage of less inertia during acceleration and braking.
Slotting the rotor is felt to have its greatest effect removing worn off pad debris from the rotor surface. The relatively sharp edges of the slots are also considered as an aid in resolving the pad glazing that can occur at high temperatures. Fresh pad material is then exposed for better braking action at the cost of faster pad wear due to the constant renewing of the pad surface. The conclusion is that slotting may improve braking, with little chance of loss.
Since asbestos based brake pads were outlawed in the nineties, new materials and bonding adhesives have been developed. The now common ceramic based pads do not produce the outgassing problem in any conceivable street use, so there is no real function-based reason to use drilled rotors. Slotted rotors may still be useful in their ability to remove pad glazing but consequently produce faster pad wear. That spells more brake dust on your wheels, which can be corrosive to aluminum wheels, as are many of the chemical cleaners used to remove that dust. Since most hot rods are not driven hard enough to get hot enough to glaze the pads, slotted rotors may offer little in the way of better brake function.
Heat damaged brake rotor
It’s important to recall that a major function of the rotor is to transfer heat out of the brake system. The laws of Physics tell us that energy can be moved and converted to other forms of energy, but never destroyed. That means the kinetic energy (rotating mass) of the rolling wheel and tire are resisted by the brakes, which convert that motion energy into heat energy. That heat is then dissipated into the air by the cooling of the caliper body and rotor. Think of the rotor as the radiator for the brake system. That’s why brake fluids with higher temperature tolerances were developed, and why vented rotors are common today.
Following that heat transfer logic tells us that a rotor with more mass can absorb more heat energy than a lighter rotor of the same design. That is an advantage of larger diameter rotors, along with the greater leverage of increased size. The problem with regard to our question of drilled and slotted rotors is that those practices act to reduce the mass of the rotor, reducing the desired heat transfer. Some rodders have correctly stated that the rotor surface area is increased by drilling or slotting, but the issue in heat transfer is mass, not surface area. It does seem that a greater rotor surface area may allow a faster cool down after the heavy braking has stopped, but the issue is more about heat transfer during braking due to rotor total mass.
It is the experience based opinion of every single brake expert I have consulted, that the loss of rotor mass due to drilling and slotting creates more brake loss than any possible gains due to degassing or faster cooling of the surface area. There is no better authority on hot rod brakes than Ralph Lisena at ECI. Ralph agrees that practical street driven vehicles rarely encounter the high heat conditions that make drilled or slotted rotors beneficial from a strictly functional stand point.
For the street, you want a heavier, larger diameter rotor. As a case in point, the ’73-’87 Chevy pickups offered a light duty one-inch thick front rotor, and a heavy duty option that was one and a quarter-inch thick. Since both were ttwelve-inchdiameter cast iron vented rotors, using calipers of the same piston bore and using the same pads, the conclusion we draw is that GM engineers agreed that the larger rotor mass would produce the desired better brakes for heavier loads.
So we seem to be back to the idea that the major issue in brake system heat transfer is the rotor mass. Outgassing of heated brake pads is not an issue in any conceivable street application. Therefore, drilling the rotors may cause a very small loss of braking power, rather than an increase. But, we may be over thinking a small issue. The consensus among experts is that there will be little effect either way in the real world. So, if you like the way they look, go for it. You’ll have the racy look, and the car should stop just fine. In fact, I just got thirteen-inch Wilwood rotors for my own ’57 Chevy “Smokey Yunick” Tribute AutoCross car. I’ll run it hard in the Goodguys AutoCross series, so we’ll take Wilwood’s advice to run slotted, but not drilled rotors.
Article courtesy of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, written by Brent Vandevort.
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.