In general, no pun intended, General Motors lead the automobile industry in the 1930s. What GM did, other firms soon followed. That’s why this car, the V16 powered 1936 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe, was so significant. Based on a show car created for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, the Aerodynamic Coupe would not only influence the look of GM cars going forward until the postwar period, it also influenced the look of cars in the mid to late 1930s from other manufacturers as well. It’s sleek lines were one reason why Cadillac was able to move past Packard as the most successful luxury car brand in America.
In a post over at TTAC, I look into the profitability of the Corvette program, which will probably earn more than $200 million in gross profits for GM this year. With the ‘Vette program’s increased profitability that means that a ZR1 model will likely join the 650 horsepower Z06. Considering that Chrysler just announced the 707 horsepower Hellcat Challenger, my guess is that any new ZR1 Corvette will likely have 750 hp or more.
For your 3D viewing pleasure, even Chevy had a cutaway Z06 made for display at this year’s auto shows.
There’s a special place in automotive heaven for Nate Altman, a South Bend, Indiana Studebaker dealer. It was Altman, his brother Arnold, and their partner Leo Newman that bought the rights and tooling and part of the Studebaker factory in South Bend so they could keep the Avanti in production after Studebaker killed the car in late 1963, when it stopped building cars in their hometown. Studebaker would continue to lose money building Larks in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and eventually completely folded in 1966. Unlike Studebaker, however, Altman’s Avanti Motor Corporation, was profitable, building up to 200 Avanti IIs a year, each of them custom ordered. Nate Altman died in 1976 and his brother sold the company in 1982. While the number of cars they produced is statistically insignificant, what the Altmans and Newman did to keep a landmark car in production (and the memory of Studebaker, a historic automobile company, alive) will be a part of automotive history forever.
We’ve featured William Stout’s Scarab before. During World War II, the father of the Ford Trimotor worked with the War Production Board and consulted with Consolidated Aircraft. After the war, Stout returned to the Scarab concept, this time constructing what he called the Stout Scarab Experimental, also called the Project Y or Y-46. The styling was much more conventional than the original Scarabs, with normal sedan styling and two conventional doors but the construction was even more radical. Not only was the Project Y likely to have been the first car built with a fiberglass composite body, Stout predated the Lotus Elite by using the material to use monocoque frame-in-body construction. It was also one of the first cars to feature air suspension. Harvey Firestone was one of the investors in the Stout car company and owned one of the few Scarabs that were built. In the 1930s, the Firestone tire company started working on air springs for automobiles and in addition to fitting those to his personal Scarab and to Mr. Firestone’s own Scarab, Stout had them fitted to the Y-46.
After his success with the Ford Trimotor helped get commercial passenger aviation going as an industry, Henry Ford turned to general aviation, private planes, hoping to make a “Model T of the Air”, with a target price of just $500. After William Stout and William Mayo, the two men in charge of Ford’s airplane division told their boss they wanted nothing to do with the project, Ford turned to Otto Koppen. Koppen was a young MIT trained aeronautical engineer who had hired into Stout Metal Airplane Company, which produced the Trimotor. Henry Ford was unhappy the way the Trimotor’s tail-dragging skid tore up the sod at Ford Airport in Dearborn and he was pleased with Koppen’s design for a tail wheel. Ford told him that he wanted a plane that fit in his own office, and the first Ford Flivver was 15 feet long with a 22 foot wingspan. There were between 3 and 5 prototypes made, but only two pilots took them up, Harry Brooks, who was the Trimotor’s test pilot, and Charles Lindbergh, who flew it as a publicity stunt after his transatlantic flight. Brooks loved the little plane but Lindbergh said it was one of the worst planes he ever flew. The fact that Brooks crashed and died while flying the Flivver to Miami after setting a non-stop record, causing Ford to abandon the project, didn’t do much for the Flivver’s reputation. That crash, though, was the result of Brooks forgetting to remove some wooden plugs he’d inserted in the fuel cap vents to prevent condensation of water in the fuel system when the plane sat overnight.
To honor American Independence Day, here are some more photos of the former Liberty Motors headquarters at Conner and Charlevoix, just north of Chrysler’s Jefferson North assembly plant on Detroit’s east side. Liberty founder Percy Owens was a very patriotic man. He named his car Liberty, it had a red, white and blue logo and he built the company headquarters building as an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The building has been empty since ThyssenKrupp-Budd sold off their North American body stamping operations and unfortunately it’s now starting to deteriorate due to neglect.
To celebrate Honda’s first successful test flight of a production HondaJet, here are some photos and video of an earlier attempt by an automaker to get into the aircraft business, the Ford Trimotor. This particular plane was the first to fly over the South Pole as part of Admiral Richard Byrd’s Antarctic expedition and it’s only display at the Henry Ford Museum.
Last January, Volkwagen showed the Beetle Dune Concept, a New Beetle with a jacked up suspension, intended to evoke warm fuzzies about dune buggies. In a promotional vehicle for the concept, VW released the news that the Dune will be produced and go on sale in Europe in 2016. No word on drivetrains or if it will offer all wheel drive.
To promote Torsion Level Suspension, the Twin Ultramatic transmission (with push button control) and the available limited slip differential, Packard assembled a number of mechanically complete chassis to use as displays in dealer showrooms. This surviving example is on display at the Packard Proving Grounds, on loan from Charles and Peggy Blackman of Madison, Indiana.
For 1956, the Clippers got rear taillights that were a bit more like the “cathedral” tail lamps on the Packard branded cars. My guess is that was to save money.