Family Cars

Bread-and-butter motoring, from the mass-market land yachts of the sixties to today’s Camry and Accord.

Forward Look: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 2

By 1954, Chrysler was on the ropes, losing money and market share at an alarming rate. Behind the scenes, however, the company was preparing for the first stage of a phoenix-like transformation. In the second part of our story, we discuss the 1955-1956 Chrysler Forward Look models and the company’s new high-performance flagship: the ferocious and formidable Chrysler 300.

1955 Chrysler 300 grillebadge
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Forward Looking: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 1

The U.S. auto industry has seen few transformations as dramatic as the one Chrysler underwent between 1949 and 1955. In 1949, Chrysler’s cars were sensible, conservative, and dull, with sleepy performance and stolid styling. Six years later, the corporation offered some of Detroit’s sleekest designs and strongest engines, culminating in the launch of America’s most powerful car, the 300.

In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a look at the 1949-1954 Chryslers, the Exner/Ghia idea cars, and the birth of the FirePower Hemi.

1952 Chrysler New Yorker hood ornament
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Changing Winds: The 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

The streamlined Airflow remains the best known (and most infamous) of all prewar Chryslers, a bold and ambitious engineering achievement that became a notorious commercial flop. This week, we look at the origins and fate of the 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow and its 1934-1936 DeSoto sibling.

1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight grille bars © 2007 George Camp per
Grille of a late 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight. (Photo © 2007 George Camp; used with permission)
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Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part Two

By 1971, the American Ford Falcon was dead, but the Australian Falcon was still going strong. This week, the second part of our history of the Falcon down under, including the birth of the first all-Australian Falcon, a classic one-two finish on Mount Panorama, and a shot at international movie stardom as we look at the Ford XA Falcon and the subsequent XB, XC, XC Cobra, XD, and XE.

1978 Ford XC Falcon Cobra engine John Cox
The engine bay of a 1978 XC Cobra, spotted in Florida in 2011. (Photo © 2011 John Cox; used with permission)
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Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part One

While the North American Ford Falcon quietly disappeared in 1970, its Australian counterpart went on to a long and eventful career that continues to this day. This week, we take a look at the birth of the Australian Ford Falcon, including the 1960-1972 XK, XL, XM, XP, XR, XT, XW, and XY Falcon, the Falcon GT, and the beginnings of a storied racing career.

1960 Ford XK Falcon brochure Ford
A 1960 dealer brochure for the XK Falcon sedan. (Image: Ford Motor Company)
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Wide Track: Bunkie Knudsen, Pete Estes, and the Pontiac Renaissance

In 1956, GM’s Pontiac Motor Division was close to death, its sales down, its market share declining, and its image at a low ebb. That summer, however, help arrived in the form of Bunkie Knudsen, Pete Estes, and John DeLorean. Together, they lifted Pontiac out of its mid-fifties doldrums and put it on track for its unprecedented success in the 1960s. This week, we look back at the reign of Bunkie Knudsen and the birth of the legendary Wide Track Pontiacs.

1957 Pontiac Star Chief wheelcover
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Plymouths Great and Small: The Plymouth VIP and Fury

Originally a flashy, limited-edition image leader, by 1961, the Plymouth Fury had become a bread-and-butter big car, the mainstay of the line. Starting in 1962, it began a bizarre odyssey, going from small to large and back to small again.

This week, we take a look at the strange incarnations of Plymouth’s big cars in the sixties and seventies, including the Plymouth VIP, a short-lived luxury version that the ads once dubbed the “Very Important Plymouth.”

1966 Plymouth VIP badge
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Can’t Win with a Losing Hand: The Story of the Edsel

Ford’s ill-fated Edsel Division was born in 1957, part of an ambitious plan to match General Motors division for division. It died only two years later, but it remained the butt of jokes for decades and its name became virtually synonymous with failure. This week, we look at the history of Edsel and the reasons it flopped.

1959 Edsel Ranger grille
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Kaisers Never Retrench: The History of Kaiser-Frazer, Part 2

As we saw in our first installment, Kaiser-Frazer’s initial success in the postwar automotive boom came to an abrupt end in 1949. The debacle that followed ended the partnership of Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph Frazer and left the company more than $43 million in the red. Things were bad enough that Henry Kaiser and company president Edgar Kaiser seriously discussed liquidation, but they decided to stay the course, betting that they could turn things around with a stylish new ’51 Kaiser and a new compact car called the Henry J. This week, the second half of our history of Kaiser-Frazer, including the stylish 1951 Kaiser, the Henry J, and the ultimate fate of Kaiser’s automotive venture.

1951 Kaiser Deluxe sedan hood ornament
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Kaisers Never Retrench: The History of Kaiser-Frazer, Part 1

It seemed like a sure thing: an alliance between the auto industry’s most dynamic and respected salesman and one of the 20th century’s most visionary industrialists. It was a partnership that promised to transform America’s wartime production might into a new automotive colossus, but by the time the end came, less than ten years later, it had become a cautionary tale of the perils of challenging Detroit on its own ground. This week, we present part one of our history of the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, including the company’s foundation and the 1947-1950 Kaiser and Frazer cars.

1951 Kaiser Deluxe sedan badge
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Except as otherwise noted, all text and images are copyright © Aaron Severson dba Ate Up With Motor