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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

1972 Ford Thunderbird

The 1972 Ford Thunderbird bowed on September 24, 1971.
Thunderbird was born at a difficult time; it arrived as most other North American automakers were abandoning the sports car field.

The 1955 Chevrolet Corvette.

Officials at the Chevrolet Division were about to pull the plug on its fiberglass sports car in 1955; the Corvette had been a great disappointment. The competition wasn’t doing so well, either.

Nash-Healey with body by Pinin Farina was stunning.
Although a few  Nash-Healey cars were left over from 1954, reserialed and sold as 1955 models, Nash had already cancelled the classy but pricey Anglo-Italian-American hybrid. Rumours were that despite the car's $6,000 price tag, Nash lost another $6,000 on each one sold. 

The Kaiser Darrin wore a 'sweetheart kiss' grille on a fibreglass body.

Kaiser-Frazer’s death rattle could be heard despite its sassy Darrin. K-F would abandon North America completely and move to Brazil at the end of the 1955 season.

 Competition or not, Ford bravely introduced the Thunderbird in 1955. The folks at Ford must have tasted Baby Bear’s porridge because they got the sassy two-seater T-Bird “just right.” Consumers wanted them as much as they wanted a suntan in July. Thunderbird was an instant hit. 

The sixth—count ‘em—sixth generation of Thunderbirds bowed for the 1972 model season. These were really big Birds—the biggest ever in the marque’s history. By order of Ford's president, Lee Iacocca, the prestigious personal luxury car now shared chassis and a good deal of sheet metal with the Lincoln Mark IV.
The 1972 Lincoln Mark IV shared its prestige with Ford's Thunderbird.

The massive two-door T-Bird hardtop topped the scales at 2 002 kilos (4,414 pounds). French Canadians affectionately called their T-Birds "tonne de beurre" (tonne of butter). All this heft wasn’t going to sit nicely on a unitized body. Engineers abandoned unit-body construction and opted for the traditional frame-on-chassis format.

The Thunderbird envelope was elegant and understated with the classic long hood and short rear deck configuration, punctuated with a sweet Coke-bottle swell in the rear quarters. The sculpted hood was raised to emphasize a 1930s radiator look, crowned with a large but tasteful Thunderbird insignia. The narrow grille consisted of heavy, horizontally positioned chrome bars, a theme discretely repeated in the headlight bezels. The elongated radiator-like grille look continued downward, peeking out of the bottom side of an open bumper. The leading edge of the fender was kissed with wrap-around turn signals.

Ever so Lincolnesque in looks, the sides carried gently curved slabs of sheetmetal with subtle swells over the wheel wells to emphasize the openings. A chrome and colour-keyed rub rail ran the length of the car at bumper height. Side markers punctuated the scheme. Wheel covers were colour-coordinated to match body paint.

At the rear, Thunderbird was absolutely unmistakable with a vast bumper, upturned at the centre for the license plate, and then emphasized with a single, majestic taillight panel stretching completely across the car’s backside.  A large thunderbird crest floated at the centre of the red sea that made up the vast taillight panel. The only model available was the two-door, five-passenger hardtop and was sourced from Ford factories in Wixham, Michigan and Los Angeles, California.

Advertising was as understated as the car. “How would you change Thunderbird? The only way. Make it more Thunderbird. And we did for 1972. Welcome to a whole new world of Thunderbird. It is a new world of driving and riding ease. A world of new spaciousness and comfort. Of new luxury and pride of ownership More regal. More personally individual. More Thunderbird than ever.”

At the very heart of the Thunderbird beat the 7-litre (429-cubic inch) four-barrel V-8 engine. It generated an impressive 212 horsepower and was mated to Ford’s Cruise-O-Matic shelf shifting transmission. Fuel consumption was only 23.5 litres per 100 kilometres (10 miles to the US gallon) but gasoline was cheap and plentiful at introduction time. To more finely feather the Bird, a 7.5-litre (460-cubic inch) mill was available at extra cost.

The instrument panel was of faux wood, boasting large, twin, deeply recessed circular dials for clock and speedometer. Between them nestled a smaller, circular gas gauge. Grouped around the trio of gauges were rectangular controls and idiot lights, all housed in a thickly padded, rectangular console.

Interiors were simply sumptuous. Dripping with every appointment possible, all were couched in the finest of upholstery. This year’s choice was Lamont Cloth or genuine leather, both available in seven tasteful colours and 17 differing configurations. Front passengers were treated to individual seats replete with fold-down armrests. 

From the Ford palette one could choose 23 colours: Light Blue, Pastel Lime, Black, Light Grey Metallic, White, Dark Green Metallic, Medium Green Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Maroon, Dark Brown Metallic, Yellow, Light Yellow Gold, Grey Gold Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, Green Gold Metallic.

Ford also offered a Glamour Paint option, one in which the following colours were hand rubbed to perfection: Blue Fire, Green Fire, Walnut Fire, Copper Fire Gold fire, Lime Fire, Cinnamon Fire and Burgundy Fire.

This T-bird wears the silver-tooled landau iron on the C-panel.
 Optional vinyl roofing, in an alligator grain look, topped things off in one’s choice of Black, White, Dark Blue, Dark Green or Dark Brown. To further accent the roofing, the decorative and graceful silver-tooled landau iron was then affixed to the C-pillar. That landau was also available on Birds that did not carry the vinyl roof.

Every Thunderbird was shod with a set of 215xR15 Michelin X Radial black wall tires, guaranteed for 64 000 kilometres (40,000 miles) of road life. The super tires were new this year. Each was mounted on a Ford True Centre wheel, fitted to a precision-mounted hub.

Options included the SelectAire air conditioning, tinted glass electric window defroster, tilt wheel, sunroof, Traction-Lok differential, deluxe seat belts with a warning light, bumper guards all around, rocker panel mouldings, door lock group, six-way power seats for driver and/or the passenger. Dual accent striping, power antenna, power windows, power trunk release, high bucket seats, reclining passenger seat, dual speakers, AM/FM stereo radio with or without tape system and intermittent wipers to name but a few.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Convenience Group option included a door ajar light and buzzer, overhead map lights, an engine compartment light. One could buy a Heavy-duty Trailer Towing package for travelling with one’s home on wheels or a Turnpike package that included fingertip speed control, a manually reclining passenger seat, an odometer and whitewall Michelin tires.

The restyle paid off handsomely. Production of new Thunderbirds in model year 1972 reached 57,800 units for the world market. That was up substantially from the 46,055 units delivered in 1971, a figure that looked sad next to the 50,364 units built in 1970. Crystal ball gazing would reveal that Thunderbird was on a  good luck streak; workers would build 87,269 Birds during the 1973 model year.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2007
All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

1957 Meteor

The 1957 Meteor was "all dressed up and everywhere to go." This is the Country Sedan.
Ford of Canada had introduced the Meteor for the 1949 season through its Lincoln-Mercury dealers. 

The upscale Meteor was an instant success, taking a whopping ten percent of all sales in its first year.

Badge-engineered from a Ford shell, the Meteor was intended to fill the gap between Ford and Mercury.

The company introduced its 1957 lineup in the fall of 1956 and hundreds of thousands made the annual fall pilgrimage to their neighbourhood Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealer to ogle the latest offerings. The all-new Meteor was advertised as being “all dressed up and everywhere to go.” Meteors were sharp looking for sure. Longer, lower and wider than their 1956 counterparts, ad copy declared that Meteor was “bold evidence of daring design.” 

The 1957 Meteor.

 A lush wraparound bumper with a lower lip started things off. It was jazzed up with a pair of bumper guards. The grille was a swanky wraparound affair, replete with five horizontal bars. At the centre, the chrome quintet yielded to a massive “V” in which the familiar Meteor symbol floated. Rectangular turn signals graced the corners, positioned directly under heavily browed, single headlamps. Meteor was spelled out across the face and a medallion in the standup hood ornament let everyone know that Meteor was indeed a rising star. 

The 1957 Meteor Rideau 500 wears a tri-tone colour combination.

From the flank, Meteor rode lower than ever before in a “cow belly” frame. Pronounced body creases accented front and rear wheel wells. Stylists added a smart fin to the envelope. Dogleg wrap-around windshields were “de rigeur” in 1957 and Meteor was not to be left out. V8 models carried identifying insignia on the wraparound grille, ahead of the front wheel well.

The most modestly trimmed Niagara four-door models wore a single chrome strip that started at the front fender and dipped down across the body to a smart check at the rear wheel, well before straightening out and running to the trailing edge of the body. Niagara two-door sedans carried a chrome strip that began at the leading edge of the tail fin and streaked rearward to the taillight housing. Dog dish hubcaps were standard but dressy “deep-disc wheel covers” could be had at extra cost.

The 1957 Meteor offered 24 models spread over five series.

The Niagara 300s were graced with an additional gold-colour strip set in brightwork. The Rideau’s trim started at the trailing edge of the front wheel well and ran mid-flank to the centre of the back door --or the rear quarter panel in the case of two-door models-- where it kicked upward and flowed to the taillight. The upswing was kissed with a Meteor medallion.

Ford and Meteor were kissin' cousins.

From behind, Meteor strongly resembled its Ford cousin, though a medallion on the rear deck lid was distinctive. The word Meteor was spelled out in the slightly recessed centre cove of the rear bumper.

Under the hood one had the choice of four engines. There were variations on the 4.5-litre (272 cubic-inch) mill or the 5-litre (312-cubic inch) monster. Thrifty Canadians looked long and hard at the miserly corporate six-banger.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used Meteors.

Tucked into the corporate stable between Ford and Mercury, Meteor fielded 24 models in five series. The car was “priced as low as its silhouette,” crowed advertising. The base Niagara model came as a two-door and four door sedan costing $2,434 and $2,449 respectively. The Niagara 300 models were better trimmed and listed at $2,583 for the two-door and $2,647 for the four-door version. 

Meteor and Ford shared engines in 1957 but only four were available to Canadians.

The Rideau series moved upscale. It came only with V8 engines and rode on a longer 2997-millimetre (118-inch) wheelbase. It offered a two-door and four—door sedan and then added a sparkling pair of two-door and four-door Victoria hardtops. The two-door sedan cost $2,882 and only 347 were built. The four-door Victoria hardtop set one back by $3,038 and was the most rare Meteor of the season—only 214 were built.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The Rideau 500 was Meteor’s top of the line series, all sass and flash. It also made use of the longer wheelbase and offered only V8 engine choices. In this series one found very smartly dressed two- and four-door sedans, two- and four-door Victoria hardtops and a glittering Rideau 500 Sunliner convertible. The ragtop listed for $3,253 and there were orders for only 646 of them.

A most unusual  member of the Meteor family was the  Ranchero pickup truck.
To serve everyone from tradesmen to large families, there was a two- and four-door Ranch wagon listing for $2,831 and $2,959 respectively and a six- or nine-passenger Country Sedan at $3,065 and $4,325. The latter was the most expensive Meteor that money could buy. Although classified as trucks, exactly 300 beautiful Meteor Ranchero pickups were built, too.

Concerned with safety as much as comfort, Meteors were equipped with a “deep centre safety steering wheel” and double-grip safety door latches at no extra cost. The hood hinged from the front for safety.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

The options list included such comforting mid-line niceties as air conditioning, antennae, Arctic wiper blades, automatic transmission, back-up lights, car care chemicals, cigar lighter, clock, curb signals, engine heater, exhaust deflectors, floor saver mats, frost shields, grille-wing guards, handbrake warning signal, license trim frames, locking gas cap power brakes, power seats, power steering, power windows, radio, spare wheel cover, a fixed or portable spotlight, a tissue dispense, undercoating, windshield washer and a vanity mirror.

Parliament relaxed credit restrictions in 1957 and permitted the chartered banks to loan money on automobiles.

The federal government of Canada allowed banks to loan money for cars for the first time ever in 1957. Six out of ten Canadians still preferred to save and pay cash for their cars in 1957. Of the 376,084 new automobiles sold from St. John’s to Victoria, only 84,055 Canadians made use of credit. Folks in Quebec and Ontario were the most likely to borrow money to purchase a new automobile, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

A milestone was marked on July 10th, 1957 as the 250,000th Meteor was built in Oakville, Ontario.
 It was an exciting year for Meteor. There was plenty of hoop-la as the 250,000th one rolled out the factory doors. Not a half bad accomplishment for a brand that was only nine years old. Folks bought a total of 34,165 Meteors during the model year. Meteor owned a comfortable 8.69 percent of the domestic market, making it Number Six in sales behind Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Dodge and Plymouth.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2007
All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: History's Greatest Automotive Mysteries, Myths and Rumours Revealed

In Canada, $29-- order from 800.665.2665

Written by Preston Lerner and Matt Stone and published by Motorbooks, this book rates Number One for everything that's wild, wacky, wonderful, wonky and just plain weird in the world of the automobile. Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, here are 256 pages of breakneck speed, non-stop nuttiness--a kind of Trivial Pursuit for the car-crazed among us. The book contains 68 colour and 80 black & white  unbelievable photos. Every tale is true and every story more astonishing than the last. Be stunned by the tale of a transvestite scam artist who promoted the Dale automobile. Did you know that American Motors had a Hornet that could fly? Oh, wait! Look out, air traffic controllers! Ford had a flying Pinto! Gangsters, actors, criminals, and race car drivers have all put their personal touches on their beloved vehicles and added to the wealth of folklore gathered together in this wild romp through automotive history. Highly recommended as the ultimate washroom reader, it makes a terrific companion for long trips on VIA Rail, too.

Copyright James C. Mays 2013
All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1963-1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

After a 29-year long run, the last Jeep Grand Wagoneer rolled off the Toledo, Ohio assembly line on June 21st. 1991.

Independent automaker Willys-Overland made quiet ripples in automotive history with the introduction of its all-steel station wagons in 1946. The unpretentious vehicles sold well for years. 

The 1946 Willys-Overland Jeep Station Wagon.
 When product planners began casting about for a replacement to its sturdy but rapidly aging line of Willys station wagons in the late 1950s, the manufacturer turned to industrial designer Brooks Stevens.
Brooks Stevens was the father of industrial design.

The Milwaukee designer possessed the uncanny gift of being able to bring beauty and intrigue to the most mundane and everyday household items.  He streamlined the lowly iron in the 1930s and made it into an instant glamour queen. Upon being shown prototypes of electric clothes dryers, Stevens exclaimed, “You can’t sell that. Nobody will know what it is!” He added a window and an interior light bulb to the unit and sales took off like a Vanguard rocket.

Stevens already had a long and successful working association with the Toledo, Ohio-based automobile manufacturer.

The Willys 6/66 was ultimately nixed. The numbers stood for the price tag.

 He was responsible for the creation of the Willys Victory Car a.k.a. the 6/66 that was shelved after World War Two. Stevens designed the first post-war generation of trucks, wagons and panel deliveries for Willys as well as the sporty Jeepster phaeton. 

The 1957 Jeep FC was popular.

His truck renderings resulted in the fetching Jeep FC series that debuted in 1957. He was already hard at work on the FC’s replacement, a stylish design that would become the J-Series trucks.

Management was keen to mass-market a four-wheel drive vehicle.  In the dying days of Willys passenger cars, schemes were drawn up to fit 1955 Willys Aeros with four-wheel drive. The plans came to nothing and the dies were shipped to Willys’ Brazilian subsidiary.

Willys invested $20 million in the creation of the Wagoneer, an unprecedented amount of cash for the tiny independent. By 1959, Stevens’ drawings had been turned into a sleek, full-sized prototype that carried the name Malibu. The designer wisely maintained a strong visual tie between the new vehicle and existing Jeep products. 

The 1963 Jeep Wagoneer pioneered a whole new segment in the automotive market.

When Wagoneer made its debut on November 14, 1962 it created a worldwide sensation. It featured an all-new overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, optional automatic transmission (an industry first when mated to four-wheel drive) and offered independent front suspension. Almost always ordered with every option possible, Wagoneer quickly became the “official” signature of the gentrified and genteel weekend farmer, referred to quietly within the company as ‘the horsey set.’

Advertising was brazen and bold. “Meet a history maker” shouted the headline. It bragged that the new Wagoneer was “the first station wagon ever built to offer the comfort, silence, speed and smoothness of a passenger car—plus the safety and traction of 4-wheel drive.”   It offered independent front suspension and optional automatic transmission, both industry firsts as coupled to the four-wheel drive concept. 

The 1966 Jeep Wagoneer received an atractive new grille.

The classic design required only minor changes in years to come. Wagoneer got a new grille in 1966. American Motors purchased Jeep Corporation when it was spun off from Kaiser Industries late in 1969. The deal was good for both companies. 

Nash and later American Motors built Thrift-Haul two-tonne trucks primarily for export.

Sharing components reduced costs and AMC finally acquired a truck line, something it had lacked since the last Nash truck was built in 1955. 

Jeep was part of AMC from 1969 to 1987.

Jeep’s new guardians wisely kept changes to a minimum. The availability of AMC’s rugged, 4.2-litre (258-cubic inch) Typhoon six-cylinder engine was good, so were richly upgraded interiors. Wagoneer became more refined than ever before. Bucket seats became optional in 1972. By 1974, wise and farsighted AMC product planners had carefully groomed Wagoneer into a full-fledged prestige vehicle. The range was broadened all the more with the introduction of the lesser-priced Cherokee.

Literature for the 1974 Jeep Cherokee describes the vehicle as a 'sport utility'.

In 1979, Renault invested in AMC by purchasing 5 percent of the company. Its passenger car division might not be doing so well but Jeeps sizzled.  Wagoneers received a new ribbed grille and rectangular halogen headlamps. A ritzy new Limited edition was offered and despite the steep price tag the factory couldn’t turn them out fast enough! 

Wagoneers now boasted leather seats, a Jensen sound system, Trac-Lok limited slip differential, power everything-including six-way seats, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt wheel, just to name a few upscale goodies on the exhaustive list of standard equipment, every one guaranteed to delight any owner. The vehicle lived up to the grand name and few batted an eye at the price tag that was now spiraling into the stratosphere. It was common knowledge in marketing that the average income of purchasers was above $100,000 a year.  Jeep sales hit an all time high for the second year in a row.

Chrysler Corporation purchased American Motors in 1987 and, like AMC and Renault, was extremely careful not to make radical changes to the hot selling Jeep line.  Jeep became part of the newly formed Jeep-Eagle Division, which included the Premier, built in Canada; the Medallion from France and the badged Vista imported from Asia.    

1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

In 1989, one automotive writer observed wryly that Grand Wagoneer was the “favourite of gentlemen, farmers, car armorers, political security forces and body guards.”  Grand Wagoneer now commanded $26,395 f.o.b. Toledo and 17,057 of the truly posh vehicles were produced.

Advertising promised to add the dimension of luxury to Jeep ruggedness and durability. It certainly did deliver with its long list of creature comforts, all of them in the standard equipment column. Grand Wagoneer rolled off the line for the last time in 1991. Chrysler laid the great name to rest.  Brooks Stevens’ timeless design had endured for 28 selling seasons, pioneered an entire new market segment and redefined the American driving experience.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays
 2002 All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: Rockin' Garages

In Canada, $39-- order from 800.665.2665

 Rockin' Garages is a terrific romp through the highly eclectic auto collections belonging to 20 of the world's greatest rock and pop stars. Authors Tom Cotter and Ken Gross showcase the stars' stories and shine the spotlight on their collectable cars with the help of photographer Michael Alan Ross.  The 192-page hardbound book is published by Motorbooks. This a real treat, packed with 217 colour images and three in black and white. This book brings new meaning to rock-n-roll, definitely not to be missed!

Copyright James C. Mays 2013 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1948 Studebaker in the US Market

"First in style--first in vision--first by far with a postwar car" was Studebaker's catchy advertising for the 1948 models.
 Bombs were dropping day and night on the Axis-held territories and our soldiers were laying down their lives for freedom when the folks at Studebaker began to plan their post-war automobiles. President Roosevelt had asked the manufacturers to suspend design in the early, dark days of the war. Now, early in 1943 he and his advisors knew the tide had turned in favour of the Allies Forces. Victory was coming and FDR gave the automakers a “thumbs up” to begin designing cars again. Millions would be needed when victory came.

            Strikes at suppliers’ factories severely crippled production in South Bend, Indiana until December 1945. When workers did have the material to build cars, they dribbled off the line, far and few between. Even then, vehicles were often missing parts. Studebakers with wood in place of the bumpers were commonly shipped because chromium and hardened steel were in such short supply. 

Father and son teams were common at Studebaker a company in the transportation business for 94 years in 1947.

There might be few cars but there was advertising by the bushel basket and that focused almost exclusively on the father and son heritage of Studebaker employees. The actual cars and trucks were downplayed. The reason was that the company would announce an all-new 1947 passenger car line in April of 1946. 

The 1947 Studebaker Commander.

            As the largest of the independent North American automakers, Studebaker’s officials wanted a car that would be the absolute latest word in modern styling. They intended to startle the world with a vehicle that was long, lithe, low and lovely. To that end one of the most famous teams of designers ever assembled in one place created this car. Every name is a automotive legend, and all had a hand in giving birth to the 1947 Studebaker: Raymond Loewy, Virgil Exner, Gordon Beuhrig, Holden Koto, Robert Bourke and John Reinhart.

The resulting automobile was stunning. There was nothing like it on the road. Jokes abounded about the radical departure from tradition; Comedian Bob Hope told millions of listeners tuned into his popular radio show that one couldn’t tell the front of a Studebaker from the back, that it was impossible to determine if the Studebaker was coming or going. The humour was priceless publicity.

            It wasn’t easy to get a new car of any kind with shortages of materials and strikes everywhere. Studebaker finally got production up to 1,000 cars a month in October and declared a total of 161,498 units built when the long model year ended.

Interior of the 1947 Studebaker Land Cruiser offered comfort for six passengers.

            After quick changeover, the new 1948 Studes began rolling down the assembly line on November 27, 1948. Little changed from last year, Champions boasted now a Strat-O-Line hood ornament with a gun sight added to it and a larger Studebaker emblem on the hood. There were only four grille bars this year. The instrument panel was tweaked to make it more functional and interiors were much the same as previously.

            The larger, more luxurious Commander line was kissed an extra chrome strip atop the grille and given an interior upgrade; otherwise they were very similar to the 1947 cars.

Only the 1948 Studebaker Commander Regal DeLuxe Coupe could be ordered in any of five metallic colours.

            This year’s offerings could be had in Alleghany Gray, Iroquois Blue, Peacock Green, Rodeo Tan, Shenandoah Green, Tulip Cream, Velvet Black and Winetone Maroon. Five metallic paint jobs were available, but only for the trend-setting ragtops: Balsam Green, Cumberland Blue, Gala Brown, Silver Gray and Varsity Maroon Metallic.

            Under the hood loafed the faithful, gas-sipping 2.8-litre (170-cubic inch), six-cylinder mill first introduced in 1939. This economy-minded engine generated a good 80 horsepower while delivering 9.4 litres/100 kilometres  (25 miles to the US gallon).

There were enough options to fill a corncrib and enough left over to fill up a silo. Owners could order the famed Hill Holder and electric turn signals.  Wheels could be dressed up with whitewall tires and plastic or stainless steel wheel trim rings. Front fenders could be gussied up with some slick chrome ornaments. Bumper extensions, bumper guards and a trunk guard were on the list. For a formal look, there were fender skirts for the rear, an external sun visor and side window “awnings.”

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Entertainment, news and weather could be had with the Skyway eight-tube push button radio or the Starline six-tube version. There was a cowl-mounted radio antenna that could be controlled from inside the cabin. One could ride out the winter months all toasty warm with the Climatizer heater and defroster or the less expensive Quad-Duty heater. There were two types of rear view mirrors.  Ashtrays, three kinds of seat covers, arm rest covers, the Auto-Serv tissue dispenser, fancy steering wheels and horn rings were all extra cost goodies.

Them there were fog lights, back-up lights, an under-the-hood light and a trunk light to boot. With the trunk light, one could easily spot the factory optional Studebaker luggage. An automatic windshield washer, a windshield wiper booster, a hydraulic jack, undercoating, tire chains and overdrive and more were on the list.

            Studebaker’s roots were Midwestern and they went down deep, almost a hundred years. Marketing wisely reflected that heritage. Large advertisements showcasing farms, farmers and their Studebakers were taken out in agricultural magazines, like the Farm Journal.

            Advertising painted the 1948 Studebaker with a rich brush, claiming that the cars were amazing in performance, comfort and handling, that they were engineered to give exceptional mileage and that the brakes are automatically adjusting.  There was much talk about the aircraft-inspired black light dash dials and how they contributed to safer night driving along with the oversized windows that enormously expanded the range of vision.

The 1949 Studebaker truck lineup was handsome, indeed.

            The advert ended with an inducement to see Studebaker’s far-advanced new postwar Champion and Commander cars—and to see the sensational new 1949 super line of Studebaker trucks already in dealerships.

            Despite a substantial price hike, sales for the model year hit a record: 166,069 units built. Studebaker was riding high; it was the ninth most popular selling car in America.


 Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2007
 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1930 Chrysler

The 1930 Chrysler 66 Roadster with Rumble Seat was the least expensive of the Chrysler clan.
Walter Chrysler was a railroad man who cut his teeth in the auto industry when he started to work for Charles Nash at General Motors. When Nash left GM in 1915 Chrysler stayed on at the Buick Division but he butted heads so often with Billy Durant--Nash's replacement--that he quit. His new job would be to rescue Maxwell and Chalmers from bankruptcy. Astonishingly, the two automakers were in the middle of a lawsuit brought about in a stalled merger.

The 1923 Maxwell was billed as 'the good Maxwell."

Maxwell recovered magnificently from Chrysler's magic touch, making a profit of more then $2 million in 1923. The Chalmers name was retired at the end of the season.

Working with Zeder, Skelton and Breer--three brilliant engineers--they created a new car, one that would bear Chrysler's name on the radiator. It would be a more expensive companion to Maxwell. Chrysler borrowed $5 million to launch the Chrysler marque at the New York Auto Show in January of 1924.

Walter P. Chrysler and the first automobile to bear his name.

The Chrysler brand did well as did the revamped Maxwell line. Chrysler was designed to compete with higher-end nameplates: Buick, Nash, Studebaker and Hudson. Within a year the $5 million debt was retired. On June 6th, 1925 the Chrysler Corporation was formed with $40 million behind it.

A week later Chrysler Canada Limited was established, taking over the Maxwell plant in Windsor, Ontario. With 181 employees on the payroll, Chrysler Canada workers turned out 7,857 vehicles that first year.
The 1926 Chrysler Imperial Four-Passenger Coupe was as fast as it was beautiful.

Chrysler's market was broadened considerably in 1926. Although the Maxwell name was dropped, the identical car was continued as Chrysler Model 58. Simultaneously the luxurious Chrysler Imperial was launched to compete with Cadillac, Franklin, Kissel, Packard and Pierce-Arrow. 

The company expanded quickly with a factory opening in Belgium that year and another in the UK in 1927.

Entering the low-price field, Chrysler brought Plymouth to market on June 11th, 1928. Designed to do battle with Ford and Chevrolet, Walter was so proud of his four-cylinder baby that he commandeered the third one off the line and drove to Fairlane, Henry Ford's estate. He spent a pleasant afternoon with Henry and Edsel. Chrysler gave Henry the Plymouth and went home in a cab.

DeSotos roll off the assembly line.

DeSoto was the next part of Chrysler's master plan, bowing to the public in 1929. The name was in honour of Hernando DeSoto, the 16th Century explorer who sailed up the Mississippi River and claimed much of North America for Spain. 

Planned as a lower-priced companion car in the corporate lineup, DeSoto fit neatly between Plymouth and Chrysler. It was intended to compete with Oldsmobile, Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, Durant and Dodge Brothers.

Dodge Brothers was especially targeted because it was the third largest automaker. Only Ford and the General Motors combine were bigger. 

The Dodge Brothers Six was offered to Canadians in eight body styles. Prices ranged from $1,220 to $1,365.

Though the Dodge brothers had died of Spanish Flu in 1920, their widows shrewdly kept their shares in the company. Skillful managers from powerful Dillon Reed, the investment banker,  continued to keep the concern in the black. Suddenly Dodge Brothers came up for sale. Chrysler snapped it up but DeSoto no longer had its intended spot. It was finally decided to market DeSoto between the low-buck Plymouth and the mid-range Dodge Brothers.

When the stock market crashed in 1929 management at Chrysler quickly moved to weather the storm by cutting prices on Plymouth and assigning it to all DeSoto and Dodge showrooms. Suddenly Plymouth was available in more than 7,000 dealerships. The change-up was a wise move, one that ensured sales and profits during the worldwide business depression that would linger for nearly a decade.

There was plenty of work to be done in-house aside from flogging Plymouth. Engine sizes were rationalized, some were weeded out. A new medium-sized straight-eight motor was introduced but to make it a volume seller, there were variations for Dodge and DeSoto. 

Models were carried over from 1929 with new ones inserted into the mix in the spring of 1930. Prices ranged from USD$835 for a Plymouth to the seven-passenger Chrysler Imperial Sedan Limousine that sold for USD$3,575.
The 1930 Chrysler Imperial Sedan was the corporate flagship.

All 1930 Chryslers made use of "Architonic" design. Steel was in vogue but the sales catalogue said that the finest hardwoods had been selected to reinforce the body, to give the greatest strength. The big news was the slim-shell radiator that was phared into the hood. Styling was done in-house and completed bodies were shipped from the Budd Company.

In 1930 Chryslers could be ordered with the latest technology--the radio. One could drive and tune in serials, news, soap operas, dramas, sporting events and live concerts. Radio sets came with distinct parts: an amplifier, speakers and a dash-mounted receiver. Batteries were stored in a galvanized compartment under the driver's seat while the aerial was hidden in the top of the body--a lead-in wire ran through the passenger-side windshield post.The cost was more than $100 and it took two days to install a radio in a vehicle.

Introduced in January of 1929, the Chrysler 66 was sold for two seasons, through to the end of November 1930. The "66" stood for the rate of speed the car was capable of. The seven-main bearing six-cylinder Silver Dome engine developed 65 horsepower while the Redhead was a higher-compression version.  Wheelbase was 112.75 inches and boasted an 11-gallon gas tank. Fuel flow was guaranteed by use of a fuel pump rather than relying on a vacuum unit. All Chryslers were equipped with Lockheed hydraulic brakes to stop those 18-inch tires. 

Available as a roadster with a rumble seat, Royal Coupe, Business Coupe, Phaeton, Brougham or Royal Sedan, the 66 Series ranged in price in the US  from $995 to $1095. Here at home the price jumped up to $1,345. A respectable 22,606 units were built and sold in North America.

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