Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

First rotary-powered Mazda Cosmo zooms past 50th anniversary

The Mazda Cosmo Sport blends design elements both familiar and unique
The Mazda Cosmo Sport blends design elements both familiar and unique | Mazda photos

The name Felix Wankel doesn’t ring too many bells these days, but he’s the German engineer who invented the rotary engine, which later helped rescue Japanese automaker Mazda and, in 1991, became the only non-piston engine to power a car to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In the 1960s, the Wankel engine became an attention-grabbing gambit by a struggling Mazda, which bought the technology from German automaker NSU. While NSU had modest success in production, Mazda engineers improved on the concept, creating a unique twin-rotor design to go into an unconventional sports car that served as a halo for the brand, as well as introducing a new image for Mazda. Continue reading

Driven: 1931 Franklin Series 15 convertible coupe

1931 Franklin provides air-cooled power, and driving experience as well   Nick Kurczewski photos
1931 Franklin provides air-cooled power, and driving experience as well | Nick Kurczewski photos

A dreary and grey morning forecast called for anything but top-down driving in a nearly 86-year-old convertible. Little did we realize this 1931 Franklin was once a champion of foul weather.

According to its previous owner, many decades ago it deftly navigated through rain and deep puddles that literally sunk lesser automobiles. All things considered, however, we weren’t complaining when the skies cleared and the sun broke through the clouds just in time for our test drive. Continue reading

After 100 years, J.D. Rockefeller’s 1917 Crane-Simplex takes a ‘Drive Home’

J.D. Rockefeller's Crane-Simplex goes back to New York 100 years later | Le May museum photos
J.D. Rockefeller’s Crane-Simplex goes back to New York 100 years later | Le May museum photos

The 1917 Crane-Simplex Model 5 formerly owned by John D. Rockefeller Sr. returns after nearly a century to its city of birth as part of the LeMay-America’s Car Museum and the North American International Auto Show’s “The Drive Home: The Heritage Run.”

One of America’s earliest luxury automakers, the Simplex Automobile Company was founded in New York City in 1907. In 1915, it was absorbed by the Crane Motor Car Company. Continue reading

BMW reveals 4 prototypes as it celebrates 30 years of M3

BMW celebrates the 30th anniversary of its high-performance M3 | BMW photos
BMW celebrates the 30th anniversary of its high-performance M3 | BMW photos

In 1986, something called the Internet Engineer Task Force held its first meeting; plans were announced for a tunnel (the “Chunnel”) beneath the English Channel; the National Football League adopted “instant replay;” Microsoft went public; the local Oprah Winfrey Show went coast-to-coast; Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault; “Phantom of the Opera” premiered.

And BMW introduced the M3. Continue reading

World’s fastest electric car leaves us breathless, literally

Potential customers take a look at the Concept_One, world's fastest electric car | Larry Edsall photos
Potential customers take a look at the Concept_One, world’s fastest electric car | Larry Edsall photos

Once we reached a deserted stretch of roadway, Mate Rimac asked if I wanted to feel the full accelerative power of the Concept_One. I responded in the affirmative. Rimac tapped various places on the iPad-like device on the car’s center console, secured his grip on the steering wheel, and I assume he floored the accelerator because I was thrust back against my seat by g forces sufficient to keep me from expanding my lungs to inhale. Continue reading

Classic Profile: Larz Anderson and the 1903 Gardner-Serpollet

The 1903 Gardner-Serpollet utilized a revolutionary steam propulsion system | Larz Anderson Auto Museum
The 1903 Gardner-Serpollet utilized a revolutionary steam propulsion system | Larz Anderson Auto Museum

The majority of people from the two most-recent generations, if faced with the name Larz Anderson, probably don’t know who he was or care to find out. The name “Larz” might sound strange, but doesn’t do it enough for me to want to look him up. Larz Anderson, however, is a name worth looking up.

A wealthy Boston businessman who once served as a U.S. diplomat, Larz and his socialite wife took an interest in the early state of the automobile, and after purchasing cars as early as 1899, their vehicular holdings eventually became known as “America’s Oldest Car Collection.” Among the many motorcars purchased by the family over the years was a 1903 Gardner-Serpollet. Continue reading

Classic Profile: 1935 Datsun Type 14

1935 Datsun 14 goes on display at Beaulieu museum in England | Museum photos
1935 Datsun 14 on display at Beaulieu museum in England | Museum photos

A 1935 Datsun Type 14 has gone on display at Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, even though that model of car never was sold in the UK.

“This example was shipped from Japan to Britain by car manufacturing magnate Sir Herbert Austin to check every detail for possible patent infringement because the car looked similar to the Austin 7 Ruby,” the museum said in a news release. Continue reading

Classic profile: 1925 Pierce-Arrow Series 80 Runabout

A 1925 Pierce-Arrow Series 80 displayed at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo | Courtesy of the author
A 1925 Pierce-Arrow Series 80 displayed at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo | Courtesy of the author

Despite a difficult automotive market after World War I, the president of Buffalo’s Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, G. W. Mixer, announced net earnings of $1.7 million for 1920. With a little money in the bank and the economic climate improving, the company decided to introduce a new, more-affordable line of cars. Continue reading

Classic Profile: 1909 American Gadabout

An Edwardian party out for a drive in a 1909 American Gadabout | Photo courtesy of the author
An Edwardian party out for a drive in a 1909 American Gadabout | Photo courtesy of the author

The distinctive cars of the American Motor Car Company (1906–1914) of Indianapolis, Indiana, have gained a bit of notoriety as of late, achieving some of the highest prices paid for an Edwardian-era vehicle at auction.

These sales are all related to the company’s American Underslung models with their advanced low-profile suspensions. But when the company was established, they hired Indianapolis local Harry C. Stutz, who would design a very handsome large-displacement touring car in the prevailing style with a traditional suspension, such as the 1909 American Gadabout shown in this period photo. Continue reading

Classic Profile: 1928 Packard 443 custom roadster

Hollywood actor Richard Dix poses with the Packard in front of a movie facade | Courtesy of the author
Hollywood actor Richard Dix poses with the rakish Packard in front of a movie facade | Courtesy of the author

From the beginning, the stars born of the Hollywood movie industry have wanted to be seen in the best cars available. Richard Dix, seen here posing with a 1928 Packard 443 custom eight roadster, was just such a leading man.

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