Category archives: Vehicle Profiles

Vehicle Profile: Mercedes-Benz 350SL

1980 MercedesBenz 350SL

The Mercedes-Benz SL series began its production run way back in 1954 (actually the series began in 1952, but as a racing version only) and continues through today. The period we are concentrating on here, was produced from April 1971 (1972 introduction in the U.S.) through mid year 1989, which was the longest run in the series to remain basically unchanged throughout the length of its production.

The SL stood for “Sport Leicht” in German, which translated to “Sport Light” in English. Although the original versions were actually, relatively light in weight, that was not necessarily true when they introduced the sporty and luxurious new SL version for 1972. It put on over 300 extra pounds in comparison to it’s predecessor and added many innovations including a new 3.5L, V8 (4.5L for U.S.) powerplant and all the creature comforts of a luxury car.

For 1972, Mercedes-Benz’s SL series would jump from a 2.8L straight, six cylinder engine and into a 4.5L, V8 engine (at least here in the U.S., mainly due to stricter U.S. emissions laws, in order that the car would have enough power to satisfy the American buyers). In fact, from 1972 to 1989 the SLs would have eight different engines (six V8’s, only three of which were used in U.S. models and 2 in-line six’s, none of which were used in U.S. models) available throughout the production run.

The U.S. version of the 350SL actually had a 4.5L, V8 (rated between 180 hp to 190 hp) but was labeled 350SL for 1972 models only and was changed to 450SL badging for 1973 models. This model/engine carried through to 1980 when Mercedes-Benz changed to the 380SL with the 3.8L, V8 (rated at 155 hp) for 1981 through 1985. The final run of the series, 1986 through 1989, had once again, increased displacement to 5.6L, V8 (rated at 227 hp) and a 560SL badge was used. They all came with a three-speed automatic transmission through 1979 and from 1980 through 1989, had a four-speed automatic transmission. All years and models were equipped with a type of Bosch, fuel Injection and all were rear-wheel drive.

While the earliest versions of SL bodies were made of aluminum, all the 1972 through 1989 models were made of sheet metal and were comprised of a unibody construction. They were all a two-seater, soft-top convertible, with removable hardtop and optional rear foldable, “jump” seats. They also had disc brakes all the way around (and in 1980 they introduced the first car with electronic ABS brakes in the USA) and re-circulating ball type steering gears.

In 1982, Mercedes also introduced a driver-side, front airbag system. The front suspension was handled by double wishbone arms, coil springs with added rubber spring buffers and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension was handled by the strange, but effective, diagonal type, trailing-arm, swing-axle, supported by coil springs and a stabilizer bar. Wheelbase was 96.9 inches, front track was 57.2 inches and rear track was 56.7 inches up to 1985 and 57.6 inches (front) and 57.7 inches (rear) after that, through 1989. Overall length was 172.5 inches for 1972 through 1980 models, 182.3 inches for 1981 through 1985 models and 180.3 inches through 1989. Overall width was 70.5 inches and overall height was 50.8 inches for all 1972 through 1989 models. Dry weight was 3,597 pounds for 1972 through 1980 models, 3,460 pounds for 1981 through 1985 models and 3,650 pounds for 1986 through 1989 models.

When it was introduced to the USA in 1972, the Mercedes-Benz SL models were very advanced, luxurious, sportscars directed at a specific upper-class market and they more than filled that niche and some 237,000 units were produced worldwide during the years of 1971 through 1989. It seemed, by the end of it’s run however, that the now 18 year old SL had lost it’s luster and was long overdue for a change. That dramatic change would come in a big way in 1990.

Vehicle Profile: Pontiac GTO

The First true “Muscle Car”? Many will argue it to be the 1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO” (the 2nd generation Tempest, 1964 thru 1967 models)! Even Pontiac itself warned: “To be perfectly honest, the Tempest “GTO” is not everyone’s cup of tea. … It’s suspension is firm, tuned more to the open road than to wafting gently over bumpy city streets. It’s dual exhausts won’t win any prizes for whispering. And, unless you order it with our lazy 3.08 low-ratio rear axle, its gas economy won’t be anything to write home about.” Well, apparently, one man’s warning is another’s ringing endorsement. Pontiac had hoped to sell approximately 5,000 of the 1964 Tempest GTO’s and was overwhelmed when they actually sold 32,450 of them! 18,422 2-Door Hardtops (no pillar), 7,384 Sport Coupes (had a pillar to divide front/rear windows) and 6,644 Convertibles were produced in 1964. The “GOAT”, as it was affectionately referred to, generated a cult following and surprised all of it’s competition!

The design of this second generation Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO”, was made possible only by ignoring a General Motors’ mandate that all intermediate-sized cars would not have engines larger than 330 c.i V-8’s. In a grand scheme, which circumvented GM’s “parental approval”, Pontiac’s top-brass made its 389 c.i. V-8, part of a special package only for the new Pontiac Tempest LeMans “GTO”. The name, “GTO” (short for Gran Turismo Omologato) which was begged, borrowed or possibly even stolen from Ferrari, became a special performance model for the new 2nd generation Tempest LeMans line-up.

This new intermediate-sized vehicle from GM was designated the “A” body platform and had a 115″ wheelbase, was 203″ in length, was 73.3″ wide and had a front and rear track of 58″.

To create an engine to power this original “musclecar”, Pontiac built the 389 c.i. V-8 with a special high-lift cam, borrowed the 421 c.i. V-8’s high-output heads and were able to produce 325 hp with the standard Carter four-barrel. The optional “Tri-Power” (three Rochester two-barrel carburetors in a row) with progressive linkage was ordered in 8,250 of the GTO’s (for a small up charge) and were rated at 348 hp. Both versions had 10.75:1 compression ratio and 428 lb-ft of torque. Chrome valve covers, oil filler cap and air cleaners were standard as well as declutching fan, high-capacity radiator and battery. Transmissions offered, were the standard three-speed manual, optional four-speed, both of which used Hurst shift linkages and all came with heavy-duty clutches. A two-speed automatic transmission was also available.

A thicker front sway bar, heavy-duty shocks, stiffer springs all the way around and high-speed 14-inch Red-Line tires were included as standard equipment and 15 body colors were available. An optional “Roadability Group” added sintered-metallic brake linings and a limited-slip differential. All GTO’s came standard with bucket seats and an engine-turned aluminum instrument surround, non-functional hood “scoops” and dual exhaust.

A woodgrain steering wheel, a locking center console and simulated wire wheel covers were among the GTO’s factory options.

Only slight cosmetic changes were made over the next few years (thru 1967), most notably for 1965 and on, the front grille area was changed and “split” to emulate the full-sized Pontiacs and the headlights were changed to an over/under configuration. The rear tail lights also underwent a facelift along with a more slanted rear deck area.

Oh, and the four-barrel GTO’s typically ran from 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds at 92 mph, while the “Tri-Power” GTO’s were consistently quicker and added a ton of mystique to the car’s overall street-cred! What a great time to be alive and grab ahold of that wheel and stuff your foot into that quick lil’ Goat!!! HOOOOOOHAAAAAAA!!!

Vehicle Profile: 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

The 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird is hailed as the “holy grail” of Plymouths and the most sought after of their line of raw-powered Muscle Cars and have sold for several hundred thousand dollars. The Superbird actually exists, largely due to the strong requests (actually demands) of then NASCAR champion, national hero, racing celebrity and multi-talented winning driver/owner, Richard Petty, honorably dubbed “The King”, by his peers.

Petty had always been a staunch Plymouth man, but in 1969, after being denied a Plymouth version of the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona “winged” production race-car, he left Plymouth and defected to Ford’s Racing Team (a move which was devastating to Plymouth’s Racing Team at the time). The Plymouth Racing Team would take this act to heart and scrambled to provide “The King” with what he wanted, and at the time needed, to win in the NASCAR series for 1970. Even though NASCAR changed the rules for competition in 1970, from 500 production units for 1969, to one unit for each manufacturer’s dealership in the U.S.A., this would mean that they would now have to build 1920 units (records show that some 1,935 units were actually produced, give or take). Plymouth wanted Mr. Petty back and pulled out all the stops to make that happen in 1970 . . . they did and it worked.

“The King” and his new winged-warrior, the Plymouth Road Runner Superbird, were a force to be reckoned with on the circuit for 1970 winning 8 races during the season and placing highly all year. Unfortunately, due to excessively high speeds achieved and for safety reasons, the powers-that-be at NASCAR were forced to make a decision and this would be the first and last year that these winged vehicles would be allowed to race (with the large displacement engines) in the series. Even though the cars were still eligible and even legal to race body-wise, they were forced to reduce engine displacement to no more than 305 c.i. This rule change, pretty much rendered them non-competitive due to poor power-to-weight ratios that were, well, sickly at best.

But, for that one glorious season, the engineers at Plymouth put their heads together and came up with a design utilizing the front-end of their Coronet models with a huge, yet aerodynamic sheet-metal “beak” attached to it and grafted to the “B-body” of a Road Runner chassis. Also, after redesigning the rear-window and body area (note: all Superbirds came with a vinyl roof to cover the metal-working “scars” left from the installation of the flush-mounted rear glass) and by adding over 40% more surface area (than the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona) to the stabilizer portion of the aluminum wing and tilting it farther to the rear of the trunk area, they were able to achieve the desired aerodynamic results. The wing was also made a bit taller to aid in clearance of the trunk lid, when opened. However, the huge, rear wing was basically useless at speeds under 90 mph, and other than the love-it or hate-it relationship that the general public had with the winged look, it was rarely ever functional at legally posted speed limits.

The 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird (all were 2-Door Coupes) was very similar to their line of high-end GTXs and its drivetrains were similar in offerings.  The standard package included the 375 hp, 440-cid Super Commando V8 with a single 4-barrel Carter carburetor (approximately 1,084 units were made).  Upgrades were either the 390 hp, 440-cid Plus-Six Super Commando Six-Pack V8 with three 2-barrel Holley carburetors (approximately 716 units were made) or the amazing 425 hp, 426-cid “Hemi” V8 with dual-quads, two 4-barrel Carter carburetors (of which only 135 some-odd units were made, again, record keeping in those days was a bit sketchy at best).

That’s a lot of power for a production vehicle, which could be bought right off the lot at your local Plymouth Dealership. These powerhouses were coupled to either a four-speed manual transmission complete with a super-cool pistol-grip shift knob or a TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission with either column mounted or floor-console shifter. (note: the above production totals are per Chrysler Historical records of street vehicles produced, but are again, sketchy at best and in constant debate as to their validity).

The Superbird used the Road Runner’s “Rallye” style dashboard with full instrumentation, a 150 MPH speedometer, a tachometer and even a clock. However, no air-conditioning, rear window defogger or Ram-Air hood option was available. They did come standard with power-assisted front disc-brakes, rear-facing front fender scoops (which were mounted on the top of the fenders and were there to evacuate air that may get trapped in the wheel wells, as well as, to aid in cooling of the brakes), split over/under tail lights and of course all those cool “Road Runner” cartoon-character decals. They showed the famous bird holding a racing helmet within a circular “Road Runner Superbird” lettering surrounding it (one small decal on the left front headlamp door and a substantial sized one on each side of the rear wing) and a huge “PLYMOUTH” decal on each of the rear 1/4 panels. The car weighed 3700+/- pounds and was 221 inches in length (over 18 feet), 76.4 inches wide, 61.4 inches high and had a 115.8-inch wheelbase.

The Superbird’s winged styling seemed to be a bit much for the general public, not to mention their $4,298 base price tag.  As awesome as the car was on the track or to the people who absolutely loved them, they did not sell well and many dealers were left holding onto them for as long as two years later. It is rumored that some of them were even changed back into standard looking Road Runners and sold sans beak and winged tail-section.

Vehicle Profile: 1965 Ford Mustang

The year of 1965 was a great one for the Ford Motor Company, with the introduction of a totally new vehicle in their lineup called the Ford Mustang! This beautiful, yet economically minded car, created a new class of vehicle which was dubbed the “Pony Car” (a sporty, 2-door coupe design which incorporated a long hood and a short, rear deck area). The car was introduced unusually early in the model year (on April 17, 1964 at the New York Worlds’ Fair and to rave reviews!) as a 1965 production model, with room to seat 4 people and was based on the affordable Ford Falcon chassis. Many purist’s still refer to these early production models (April thru September 1964) as 1964-1/2, but all were actually produced, titled and coded as 1965 models!

The Mustang also happened to be Ford Motor Company’s most successful new model launch since the Model “A” way back in 1927! The Mustang would become Ford’s third oldest nameplate to date, being surpassed only by the F-Series pickup models and the Falcon which is still in production in Australia. To date, there have been five generations of the Ford Mustang and it is also the longest running, uninterrupted production run of the original “Pony Car” in existence. Other Pony Cars that followed the Mustang have come and gone and some are even seeing a revival today, as new, current models being produced by General Motors and Chrysler.

Ford Motor Company originally estimated that less than 100,000 units would be produced for the 1965 year model, but due to huge sales and consumer demand, over 1 million were actually produced in the first 18 months of production. The car was well built and stylish, not to mention a great car to drive! It also didn’t hurt, that its 1st movie debut was in the hugely popular James Bond film, “Goldfinger”, released in September of 1964!

It’s funny, that there seems to be some confusion as to who actually chose the name for the Mustang but at least two arguments exist:

1.) That Ford’s Executive Stylist at the time, Pres Harris, who was a huge fan of the infamously successful WWII Mustangs of the North American Aviation Company not only chose the name but was instrumental in the design of the body.

2.) That Ford’s Division Market Research Manager of the time, Robert J. Eggert, due to his love of American Quarterhorse breeds, and after receiving a book, as a birthday gift from his wife back in 1960, named “the Mustangs” (by J. Frank Dobie) was responsible for using his influence to name the new car.

Either way, Lee Iacocca is still considered the “Father” of the Mustang project and his team of designers, stylists and all who were involved can be very proud of the little Pony Car that could and DID!

Vehicle Profile: 1955-1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

In 1950, Chevrolet introduced its first Bel Air models, but in 1955,56 and 57 (commonly referred to as the Tri-Five Chevys) they made some awe inspiring design upgrades to these full-sized beauties each and every year. The kinds of changes that created true legends, not only of their time but those that will carry on forever. The result of these individually unique, designer’s dreams, was an automobile that would change the way we Americans, and the world for that matter, would love to just jump into our vehicles and go for a ride for no reason at all but pure joy of ownership.

All the 1955 Chevrolet full-sized models received new styling details (including a Ferrari-like grille) that the media could not help but praise and even earned the “Hot-One” designation by enthusiasts as well. Unlike many other manufacturers of the day, Chevrolet’s styling was crisp, clean and new. The top-of-the-line Bel Air models came with all the features found on cars in the lower model ranges but also included: interior carpet, chrome headliner strips on hardtops, large chrome spears on the front fenders, chrome window surround moldings, fully styled wheel covers and of course, the Bel Air script in gold lettering.

They had a 265-cid V-8 engine option, which featured a modernized OHV (over-head valve), high compression design that was so well designed, it remained in production in various forms, for many decades to come and became known as the beloved Chevrolet Small-Block. The base 265-cid V-8 came standard with a two-barrel carburetor and was rated at 162 hp, but later in the year, a Super-Power-Pack option was added, including a 4 barrel carburetor, a higher compression ratio and was rated at approximately 195 hp.

The 1956 Chevrolet full-sized models even received a few styling upgrades, including a full-width grille which encompassed even the front turn indicators and reached from fender to fender. A distinctive two-tone bodyside treatment and graceful wheel openings, front and rear, complimented the restyling touches. At the rear, single housings held the taillamp, stoplamp, and backup lamp (the left taillamp housing even held the hidden gas filler opening and gas cap). Among the now, seven different Bel Air models, was a new Sport Sedan, a pillarless 4-door hardtop (no divider between the front and rear door windows from the beltline to the roof).  From the various 4-door models, the 2-door hardtops and sedans, to the awesome and rare 2-door Nomad wagons many options including seatbelts, shoulder harnesses, and even a padded dashboard were available, and you could even get the hot Corvette based, 225 hp engine.

The 1957 Chevrolet full-sized models were the cream-of-the-crop in the Tri-Five family and usually have been the most desirable of the three years run of designs. The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is among the most recognizable American cars of all time and are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts to this day. They are stylish, roomy, fun, enjoyable and even came with tastefully subdued tail fins of the period and all that chrome. Oh, and did I mention, the 265 c.i. displacement engine was increased to 283 c.i., and when you added the Super Turbo-Fire V-8 option, you had 283 hp at your feet with the help of a continuous, closed-loop mechanical fuel-injection system. These babies were dubbed “fuelie” cars and are quite rare and bring all the money in today’s market.

Vehicle Profile: Jaguar XK150

1959 Jaguar XK150

The Jaguar XK150 sports car was an upgraded version of Jaguar’s infamous, post-war, XK120/140 models and a very desirable vehicle in the XK model bloodline. The beautifully sweeping, yet bulbous body lines were very appealing to the eye, but the hierarchy at Jaguar was not convinced that the car would be as vigorously accepted by the general public due to its more pudgy looks, as compared to the earlier XK120 and XK140 models . . . but it proved them wrong.

Today, it remains one of the most desirable, and I think beautiful, of all the early XK models. The Jaguar XK150 was introduced in 1957 and ran through the 1961 model year with various mechanical, evolutionary and technological upgrades over the 5 years of production, resulting in just fewer than 9,000 units (including some 888 units of the more powerful “S” models) being made. The Jaguar XK150 started out with only two models, the “FHC”, or Fixed-Head Coupe, and the “DHC” or Drop-Head Coupe (and all XK150’s were 2-door vehicles of course). As the Jaguar management felt the XK150 was going to be a success after its launch, they soon got to work adding a true “Roadster” to the lineup in 1958.

The Jaguar XK150 was actually the first production automobile in the world to come with four-wheel, “Dunlop” designed, disc brakes, which helped make it a great performer not only on the street, but also at the racetrack. The two-seater (the FHC and DHC models did have a very small jump-seat behind the front seats) sports cars were steel bodied on a boxed, sectioned steel frame and came with an aluminum hood (or bonnet). The Jaguar XK150 models were front-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles with the standard engine being an in-line, six-cylinder, DOHC (double over-head camshafts) with 3.4L/210 c.i. displacement producing some 180 hp.  A “performance-tuned” or “S” engine option was made available, starting in 1958, boasting three, 51mm (2″) bore, “SU” brand HD8 model carburetors, pushing out 220 to 250hp.

In 1959, a larger displacement engine was also available on the “SE” (“Special Equipment”) and the now, most rare, XK150 “S” models, which displaced 3.8L/231 c.i. and could be tuned to produce at least 265hp. This latest version was capable of an impressive 0 to 60 mph time of just under 7 seconds (out of a straight six) and top speed of 135+ mph, while maintaining an 18 to 20 mpg fuel efficiency.

The new Jaguar XK150 came with a one piece, curved windshield glass, thinner doors, which made for a more spacious interior and a more comfy, leather-wrapped dashboard. The new, top-of-the-fender, front parking lamps had a small, red pilot light, which reminded the driver that the lights were on and steering was handled by a rack-n-pinion gear. The wheelbase of the Jaguar XK150 was 102 inches, overall width of 62.2 inches and overall length of 177 inches, while the car weighed in at around 3,000 pounds. Over its entire production run, the Jaguar XK150 was available in over a dozen different colors including my favorite . . . British Racing Green.

Vehicle Profile: 1950s Nash Ambassador

460106_16046093_1956_Nash_Ambassador

Just how do you suppose the historically famous Italian company, Pininfarina, ever became involved in the styling designs of the 1950’s Nash automobiles? It would have been enjoyable to be around in the days of the late forties and early fifties when these sometimes garish and over-the-top designs were created. The designs were often borrowed from furniture and appliance manufacturers. They were slathered onto the artsy designs of some of the heaviest, yet most stylish, “gunboats” to ever grace the pavements of the world.

The Italian design and coachbuilding company Pininfarina was famous for their work with the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and many other prestigious companies. They were commissioned by the Nash Motor Company to design these special edition Ambassador “bathtub styled” beauties aptly named the Nash Ambassador “Pininfarina” Country Club Coupe.

Vehicle Profile: 1969-1976 Triumph TR6

371006_14131008_1975_Triumph_TR6

The 1969 through 1976 Triumph TR6 was known as the quick, nimble, what-a-blast-to-drive and totally British sports cars of the day.  The Triumph TR6 was mostly unchanged throughout the 8 year production run. (unfortunately the end of a great era for Triumph and all true British sports cars, as we knew them).  The Triumph TR6 was only produced as a front engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-door convertible sports car.

The new-for-1969 body was only slightly redesigned by the famous Karmann group of Germany (while maintaining many components, both body and chassis wise, from the previous TR4/A and TR5/TR250 models). The front-end was widened and modernized, while the rear-end was given an angular, “Kamm-back” styling (which was becoming popular at the time). The only engine available was the 2,498cc (152.4-cid or 2.5L), in-line, 6-cylinder with twin “SU” (or later Stromberg) carburetors, producing around 105hp (the European market, and “British” only versions were available with P.I., or “petrol-injection” and produced in the area of 150hp). This torquey little, OHV, pushrod design, 6-cylinder, was coupled to a fully synchromesh, four-speed, manual transmission (and an optional, electrically switched, “overdrive” transmission was also available).

The wheelbase was a mere 88 inches, the overall length was only 155.5 inches, the total width was 61 inches and it was only a short 50 inches high.  It weighed a paltry 2,300 lbs (+/-). The Triumph TR6 was a great little “Sports car” package, that could reach 0-60 in approximately 8.2 seconds, run through the 1/4-mile traps at around 16.3 seconds and attain a top speed of around 120 mph. Nothing earth shattering, but a lot of fun, none-the-less!

The interior of the Triumph TR6 was typically “British” in styling and appointments. It had plenty of odd switches and levers, full instrumentation and comfy, sporty seats. It was cozy, yet, actually roomy enough for a person over 6-ft tall. It had the typical wood veneer dash board of the day, plush carpeting all over the place and a nice-feeling steering wheel. With the redesigned rear-body area by the aforementioned Karmann group, there was a lot more room for luggage and/or groceries than in most previous sports cars of this size.

For mid-1973, and again, due to U.S. Government safety mandates, a huge pair of (and most people agree ugly) black rubber bumper “over-riders” were added to both front and rear bumpers (to meet the 5 mph impact ratings). The Triumph TR6 was of steel frame/steel body design for its entire production run and had a semi-trailing arm rear, independent suspension with coil springs and knee-action, lever-style shocks. The front disc brakes and rear drum brakes were more than adequate, with the power assisted booster system. The steering was handled nicely by a rack and pinion style system, with huge 15-inch wheels/tires (Redlines were the cats-ass) all the way around.

Sketchy records indicated that some 96,000+ Triumph TR6 cars were produced from 1969 through 1976 and over 83,000 of those ended up in North America. That made the TR6 the most popular and most produced Triumph in the TR series history (the TR series ran from 1953 through 1980).  The Triumph TR6 is a very desirable and somewhat valuable and unique collectible vehicle in today’s market. Many of these cars have rusted away to nothing, leaving very few original units out there in good condition.

Vehicle Profile: 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

410167_14999116_1937_Cord_812

In 1929, Mr. Errett Lobban Cord (or E.L. Cord to most people) founded the Cord Corporation as a holding company for the many companies (over 150 total) which were under his control at the time. These companies included the likes of the Auburn Automobile Company (which also produced the Cord line of automobiles), Duesenberg Inc., Lycoming Engines, Checker Motors Corp. (makers of the famous “Checker Cab”), the Stinson Aircraft Co., New York Shipbuilding Corp. and American Airways (which would become American Airlines).

The 1937 Cord model 812 was a medium-priced but high-end vehicle (even in its day). It was the first American automobile to have front-wheel drive along with independent front suspension. Lacking the usual transmission hump and driveshaft tunnel (running lengthwise through the center of the vehicle), meant that the new Cord model 810’s (1936 models without supercharger) and 812’s (1937 models with or without optional supercharger) were low enough to eliminate the need for running boards, which were commonly used to aid in entry to the vehicle. The use of a unitized body construction for strength and rigidity was innovative and aided overall in reducing weight and increasing performance.

The unique design of the 1937 Cord model 812, which is iconic to this day, was the brainchild of Gordon M. Buehrig. He is also famous for his work at Auburn Automobile Company and was heavily involved in the design/production of the famous 1935 model 851 Boattail Speedster (some of which, may have been influenced by the brilliant, but short-lived designer, Alan Leamy).

Mr. Buehrig and his team of designers and engineers went to work on designing a vehicle that was different than the norm-of-the-day in many ways. Some examples of these differences are the hidden door hinges, front opening hood (hinged at the rear) for easier access, hide-away headlamps operated by dash-mounted hand cranks and a concealed fuel-access cover on the right rear body panel. The “coffin-nosed” front end and “louvered”, wrap-around grille design were exclusive touches which, without a doubt, informed you it was a Cord automobile coming your way.

The 1937 Cord model 812 came with an optional Schwitzer-Cummings centrifugal “Supercharger” (with 6 psi of “boost”) mounted to a Lycoming V-8 of 288.6-cid. It produced somewhere in the range of 170-195hp (depending on tuning) and sported the large, tell-tale, highly polished and corrugated exhaust tubing exiting from the engine compartment and into the top of the voluptuous, front, pontoon styled fenders. This powerful engine was connected to the forward-mounted, four-speed transmission, which was activated by an electronically controlled vacuum-servo. This was operated by a gear-selector lever mounted on the steering column. Leaving the floor of the vehicle uncluttered, hydraulically actuated drum brakes all around and a pistol grip handbrake lever under the left side of the dashboard actuated the parking brake.

The 1937 Cord model 812 sported some pretty cool creature comforts for the era including variable speed windshield wipers (most vehicles still had hand operated wipers, if any at all) and an AM radio (which would not be available, as standard, on most vehicles until the 1950’s). It also had a horn button located in the center of the steering wheel (which was also a first in the industry and most other manufacturers would later adopt this style) and a beautiful, engine turned dashboard with full instrumentation including a tachometer, an “oil-level” gauge and switches galore.

The convertible top could be collapsed and completely hidden from view inside the rear deck area.  This added to the increased interior compartment size which easily seated five people. The new Cord model 810/812 prototype made its debut at the New York Auto show in 1935 to rave reviews due to the sleek styling and ravishing great looks alone. People were climbing on top of each other and anything else they could find (other vehicles, for instance) just to get a glimpse of it. Unfortunately, the Great Depression would signal the end of Mr. Cord’s “automotive empire” in 1937.  What he contributed to the automotive industry, in a few short years, was pure genius and his ideas and designs were of legendary proportion!

Vehicle Profile: 1955 Cadillac Series 62

The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible was a beautiful, behemoth of a boulevard cruiser that enjoyed quite a reputation for not only great looks and elegant luxury, but was no slouch in the performance category for such a large, heavy (weighing in at approx. 5,000 lbs.) vehicle. This was the fourth generation, 1954 to 1956, in the long run of the Series 62 models from Cadillac (fourth out of seven total generations of the Series 62, beginning in 1940 and running through 1964). This was a lower, more streamlined version of the third generation Cadillac Series 62 models and came with many refinements and updates. Cadillac was at the top of its game, globally, in the luxury car segment and you knew you had “arrived” if you were “well-heeled” enough to be the proud owner of one of these babies!

The hood (and entire body for that matter) was lower and smoother and the grille was styled with an “egg crate” design that was further enhanced by a pair of large torpedo or “Dagmar” protrusions which were attached to the left and right, inverted gull wing bumper extensions. Chrome was used heavily throughout the vehicle to add to the flashy looks, but was tastefully done, not overdone. The headlamps were surrounded by stylish, chromed visors and the parking lamps were moved directly below the headlamps. A chromed ventilation “grille” stretched across the base of the “Eldorado” style, curved or “wrap around” windshield. Touches of the famed automotive designer, Mr. Harley Earl, were evident throughout the vehicle including the larger rear tail light “fins”. The gas filler was still located (or hidden) behind a door, just below the left rear tail light. The rear bumper was updated and the large, vertical ends housed a port for each of the dual exhaust pipes to exit. The rear of the vehicle loomed very large to anyone who pulled up from behind and below the trunk-lid were six chromed, vertical molding “fins” which complimented the two vertical bumperettes on either side of the license plate mount.

Under the hood of the 1955 Cadillac Series 62 was a 331 c.i. V8 pushing 250 (stated) hp attached to a three-speed, Hydra-Matic, automatic transmission and reaching a zero to sixty mph speed in, comparable to size and weight, a very comfy 11 seconds. The wheelbase was stretched to 129 inches and the overall length of the monster was about 223 inches, the overall width was about 80 inches and the overall height was about 62 inches. A 12-volt electrical system was now standard, as well as power steering, automatic windshield washers, tubeless tires and aluminum alloy pistons. Very large drum brakes (12″ x 2.5″) were on all four wheels to help bring this lead sled to a halt (that and a prayer) and the turning radius was around 24 feet or about three full lanes of pavement!

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