Category: Model Histories

Overviews of specific models, including the story behind their development, how they performed, and whether they were success or failures (and why!).

Cammer: The Pontiac OHC Six

With all the furor surrounding Ford and Chevrolet’s new 300+ horsepower V6 Mustang and Camaro, you would think hot six-cylinder engines were a new idea, at least in America. Not so — in 1965, about a decade after the demise of the Hudson Hornet and its “Twin H-Power” straight six, Pontiac introduced a sophisticated new overhead cam six-cylinder engine that promised V8 power and six-cylinder economy. This week, we look at the short life of the 1966-1969 Pontiac OHC six, Pontiac Firebird Sprint, and Tempest Le Mans Sprint.

1967 Pontiac Firebird Sprint hood badge
(Photo © 2006 Robert Nichols; used with permission)
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The Once and Future Coupe: The Studebaker Hawk

Some cars are seemingly immortal, but the Studebaker Hawk had more reincarnations than the Dalai Lama. Originally developed by the design firm of Raymond Loewy as a show car, it became a highly acclaimed production model in 1953, and survived for another 11 years in a bewildering number of variations. This week, we take a look at the history of the “Loewy coupe” and its many reinventions, including the Studebaker Hawk, GT Hawk, and Super Hawk.

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk badge
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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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Born to Lose: The Story of the Edsel

Ford’s ill-fated Edsel Division was born in 1957 as part of an ambitious plan to match General Motors division for division. Edsel 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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A Wing and a Prayer: The Dodge Charger and Charger Daytona

The Dodge Charger was born as a fancier Dodge Coronet with a fastback roof; in its later incarnations, it became a facelifted Chrysler Cordoba, a Plymouth Horizon in drag, and even a family sedan. In between, it became an American muscle car icon and one of the most fearsome stock car racers ever built. This week, we look at the history of the 1968-1978 Dodge Charger and Dodge Charger Daytona.

1973 Dodge Charger badge
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The Sporting American: The AMC Javelin

The AMC Javelin was American Motors’ only foray into the popular “pony car” market, and the model that almost single-handedly transformed American from a peddler of Scotsman-like economy to a two-time Trans Am racing champion. This week, we take a look at the 1968-1974 AMC Javelin and AMX, how they came to be, and why they disappeared.

1973 AMC Javelin AMX badge
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George Hurst and the Hurst Olds

In our history of the Oldsmobile 442, we mentioned that it was not exactly the leader of the pack when it came to Supercar performance. To rectify that problem, Oldsmobile joined forces with Hurst Performance Products to create the ultimate high-performance Oldsmobile: the fearsome 1968 Hurst Olds. This week, we look at that car and the subsequent H/Os, a series that ran through 1984.

1969 Hurst Olds badge
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Middle-of-the-Road Muscle: The Oldsmobile Cutlass and 442

The Oldsmobile 442 was Oldsmobile’s entry in the “Supercar” wars of the mid-sixties and early seventies. Although it was never as lauded or as popular as the Pontiac GTO or Dodge Charger, it outlived many of its rivals and helped pave way for Oldsmobile’s ascendancy in the 1970s.

This week, we look at the history of the Oldsmobile Cutlass and 442.

1969 Oldsmobile 442 Holiday coupe
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Cheap and Cheerful: The European Ford Capri

The Ford Capri, launched in 1969, was Europe’s answer to the Ford Mustang and one of the first fruits of Ford’s newly unified European operations. This week, we look at the birth of “the car you always promised yourself” — the 1969-1987 Ford Capri — and consider the origins of Ford of Europe.

1976 Mercury Capri badge
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Status-Seeking Missiles: The BMW E24 6-Series Coupes

When the first E24 BMW 6-Series appeared in 1976, many BMW partisans dismissed it as an overpriced, overweight boulevardier, inferior to the company’s sporty sedans. When production finally ended 13 years later, fans mourned the E24’s passage and derided its successor, the E31 8-Series, as a high-tech pretender. This week, we look at the history of the 1976-1989 BMW E24 6-Series.

1983 BMW 635CSi grille (© 2010 Nathan Phoenix; used with permission)
(Photo © 2010 Nathan Phoenix; used with permission)
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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. Nonetheless, Henry Kaiser and company president Edgar Kaiser decided to stay the course, betting that they could turn things around with a stylish new 1951 Kaiser and a new compact car called the Henry J. This week, we present the second half of our history of Kaiser-Frazer, including the 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 10 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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