Category archives: Eye Candy

Eye candy: Horseless Carriage Club Tour

Photos by Jim Resnick

Editor’s note: Earlier in this week, we presented Jim Resnick’s report on the Horseless Carriage Club of America, which held its 2014 national convention in southern Arizona. In addition to meetings, the group did daily drives, visiting sites such as the Fairbank ghost town, Kartchner caverns, the historic mining center of Bisbee, the Mexican border, the old settlement (now an artist community) of Tubac, and Tombstone and the OK Corral. This ‘Eye candy’ focuses on the drive and visit to Tombstone.

Eye candy: Headlamps

In Cars: 1886-1930, the first book in the encyclopedic three-volume Cars of the Century collection,  G.N. Georgano, automotive historian (and former schoolmaster and from 1976-81 the head librarian at the National Motor Museum of Britain), writes, “The only form of lighting available on the earliest cars was the candle lamp, inherited from the horse-drawn carriage.

“It was barely adequate to render the car or carriage visible by others,” he continues, adding in wonderful understatement, “but was quite useless as illumination to show the driver where he was going.”

By 1900, Georgano notes, acetylene headlamps were available. The gas to be  burned to produce illumination to light the way was produced by dripping water  onto calcium carbide, sometimes within the lamps, which by necessity became quite large, or, preferably, within a device mounted on one of the car’s running boards.

Though homes began to benefit from electric lights in the 1880s, they proved difficult to use on carriage or car, in part because of the problem of generating sufficient electricity and in part because early light bulbs couldn’t tolerate the vibrations of rough road surfaces.

General Motors engineer Charles Kettering’s invention of the self-starter (based on the electric motor he had used to power office adding machines in his previous job) has been well documented. But Georgano notes that not only did Cadillac replace the crank with self-starting technology for the 1912 model year, it coupled that innovation with electrical lighting systems for its cars.

Not only do headlamps light the way for a driver to travel at night, they serve as the eyes of what designers call the “face” of car.

In this latest edition of “Eye candy,” we take a close look at the eyes of some classic cars.



Eye candy: Motoring Thru Time

Photos by Larry Edsall

Does your city recognize the role the automobile has played in its history?

Mine does.

Since 2007, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department has hosted an annual classic car show. “Motoring Thru Time: Where the transportation past meets the future,” is held in Heritage Square, which itself if sort of a past-meets-present (and beyond) square block of downtown Phoenix.

Heritage Square includes some of Phoenix’s oldest homes, among them the  Rosson House (now Rosson House Museum), a 10-room, 1895 Victorian home on what used to be known as Block 14 during the days when Arizona was a territory, not a state. The house sits at one corner of Heritage Square, which includes other historic homes and buildings but also much more modern structures with futuristic architecture, including the Arizona Science Center and Phoenix Museum of History and Science.

On a Saturday early each February, architecture old and new provides the backdrop for a gathering of more than 110 vehicles — cars, a few motorcycles and bicycles, historic fire engines and even classic travel trailers and their vintage tow vehicles.

This year the oldest car was a 1903 Olivera Horseless Carriage — sort of a knockoff of the Curved Dash Olds, though the Olivera was built in Mexico, not Michigan.

The newest vehicle on display was a 2011 Mario Andretti Edition Chevrolet Camaro. The Camaro was parked next to what is believed to be the last 1905 Mitchell D4 runabout in existence.

The cars were parked together for a display of Fast Cars: Then and Now. You know an Andretti-badged Camaro is fast, but the Mitchell set speed records in its day, winning 50- and 100-mile races and averaging more than 55 miles per hour around a dirt-surface horse-racing track. The Mitchell not only was fast, but strong — the first car to summit Inspiration Point in Yosemite National Park.

Fast and strong, perhaps, but not quick. The 627-horsepower Camaro sprints to 60 mph in four seconds. The Mitchell needs 26 ticks of the second hand to reach that same speed.

Eye candy: Steering wheels

Photos by Larry Edsall

The first motorcars were steered by means of a tiller, just like motorboats. The driver held the end of a bar that, through a series of joints and gears, was attached to the front wheel — remember, the first car was a three-wheeler — and later to the front wheels, which  changed direction when the driver pulled or pushed the tiller.

It is believed that it was in 1894 that one Alfred Vacheron first outfitted his car, a Panhard he was driving in the Paris-Rouen rally, with a steering wheel instead of a tiller atop the driver’s end of the steering column. We also know that by 1898 French automakers Panhard and Bollee were installing steering wheels rather than tillers on the cars they were producing.

Today, steering wheels are covered — even cluttered — with all sorts of switchgear designed to make it easy for the driver to adjust everything from a vehicle’s audio system to its HVAC, with paddles to change gears and buttons to make telephone calls.

But such things really are nothing new. Once upon a time, not only the direction in which a car traveled but such things as gear selection and fuel supply (and you thought cruise control was a new-fangled invention) were controlled from the steering wheel, or at least by levers or switches attached to the wheel or steering column rather than by pedals mounted on the vehicle’s floorboard.

Today’s Eye candy presents some vintage — and in some cases quite colorful — steering wheels we’ve seen in recent weeks.


Eye candy: Patina at the Arizona auctions

Photos by Larry Edsall

Usually, the cars offered for sale at auctions are polished to if not beyond perfection. But sometimes they are presented while showing varying amounts of patina.

Perhaps they are barn finds only recently discovered under years of dust and droppings. Or perhaps an owner wasn’t just too busy or too lazy to clean things up but liked the idea of selling a classic as is to underscore the fact that this is no mere trailer queen.

Sure, some people fight the signs of aging. But isn’t there something elegant about some silver hair and even a few wrinkles?

Whatever the reason, we kept an eye out at the Arizona auctions for cars that showed less than pristine surfaces inside and out, and we share them here with you.

Oh, cars that have been preserved rather than restored are becoming highly valued historic time capsules and are increasingly cherished by the collector car community. For example, the 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL (tattered red-interior gullwing) shown here had been parked in a garage for more than 30 years until it was displayed at the Gooding & Company auction, where it sold for just shy of $1.9 million.


Eye candy: Arizona’s concours creates memories

Photos by Larry Edsall

The inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance was a stunning success, with 78 remarkable classic vehicles arrayed around the lawns within the famed Arizona Biltmore resort.

Some 180 cars were nominated by their owners for the event.

Some 20 committee members and numerous others helping out — all of them volunteers — put the concours together.

More than 2000 people attended.

Three “wishes” — and a good start on a fourth — will be granted by Make-A-Wish Arizona as the result of money raised at the event.

But those are just numbers. Meaningful numbers. In the case of Make-A-Wish, very meaningful numbers. But just numbers.

What everyone will remember is the beauty they experienced that day: The beauty of the setting, the beauty of the cars, the beauty of the efforts of the volunteers and all the contributors to the lives of beautiful children, and theirs to ours.


Eye candy: Automotive artifacts by Brenda Priddy


poster sample 1

Turns out that famed automotive spy photographer Brenda Priddy also has an eye for shooting cars that aren’t wearing camouflage. A collection of more than 40 of her photographs of classic car badges, hood ornaments and mascots, junkyard photos, photos of cars in Cuba, and one of “the ghost cars of Death Valley” will be on exhibition January 31-March 8 at the Chandler Center for the Arts in suburban Phoenix.

The secretive spy shooter even promises to emerge from her hiding places behind bushes and roadside billboards long enough to take part in the grand opening of “Automotive Artifacts: The Fine Art Photography of Brenda Priddy” for an open reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on opening night, January 31.

“These images recall a day long past when the automobile stood as an iconic figurehead in the American live,” Priddy said of the photographs she selected for the exhibition.

That phrase also applies to the Cuban cars, which are 1950s American classics that have been kept on the roads of the island nation for so many years by their devoted owners.

The exhibition includes framed prints and prints on canvas in sizes to 20 x 30 inches. (Shown here are two posters she prepared for the exhibition.)

Gallery hours as 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

poster sample 2


Eye candy: Emblems of an automaker’s self-image

The prancing horse. The triton. The bow tie. The double chevrons. The three-pointed star. Four interlocked circles. One circle but divided into four pie-shaped sections, two blue, two white, to create the illusion of a spinning airplane propeller. Henry Ford’s signature, or at least his last name, enclosed within a blue oval.

No doubt, each of those simple descriptions triggers an image in your mind, an image of an automaker’s badge, the emblem it puts on each of its vehicles. In many ways, a company’s self-image placed proudly for all to see. Through the years, automotive badges evolve, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. And sometimes they simply seem to fade away as an automaker or one of its brands ceases production. Just as there are classic cars, so too there are classic badges. We like to collect them, at least photographs of them, which we’ll be sharing with you from time to time.

All photos by Larry Edsall


Eye candy: Hood ornaments from an elegant era

Photos by Larry Edsall

Once upon a time, radiators that provided coolant to a car’s engine sat proudly out front in the open air. Often, that radiator was topped not merely by a cap, but by a decorative piece that included a temperature indicator to warn the driver of approaching the boiling point.

Along came engineers with wind-cheating aerodynamics and designers who added style to the automotive equation and instead of exposed parts cars had sleek bodywork that enclosed the radiator behind a sometimes decorative grille and beneath a hood.

But how would the driver know the temperature of the coolant? Now there was a gauge on the vehicle’s dashboard.

And what of the ornate radiator cap? Well, that space now could be used for any sort of  decorative ornament, usually designed by the car company to portray its mascot, but sometimes car owners would find, commission or create their own hood ornaments.

For your nostalgic viewing pleasure, these are some of the hood ornaments we’ve seen as we’ve visited classic car shows and auctions in the past few months.


Eye candy: A gallery of tail lights from the 1950s and ’60s

Photos by Larry Edsall

They don’t make them like that anymore may be a cliche, but it also rings very true when it comes to the design of automotive tail lamps.

Remember how, if you are of a certain age, back when you were a kid and you could identify every car on the road just by the glowing shape of its tail lights at night?

Try that today as you cruise down the freeway, and it doesn’t really matter if it is day or night, because safety regulations and other factors have pushed the styling of tail lamps from exciting toward generic.

But not back in the day, especially in the later 1950s and early ‘60s when entire auto bodies and seemingly every detail of each visible component was fresh and new — O.K., and sometimes downright bizarre — each year.

Here are just a few from that era that we’ve seen in the past few months as we’ve visited classic car auctions, shows and concours.