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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The Ford Flathead V8 and the Fall of Henry Ford

The 1930s were full of fascinating experiments and exotic multicylinder Classics, but few cars of that era were more important or more influential than the humble Ford flathead V8. Cheap, pretty, and fast, it launched the American fascination with inexpensive V8 engines and spawned countless hot rods and customs. This week, we look at the 1932 Ford, its 1933–1940 successors, and the history of Ford’s famous flathead V8 — Henry Ford’s final triumph and the beginning of his downfall.

1936 Ford DeLuxe roadster hood ornament
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The Perilous Success of the 1976 Cadillac Seville

The 1976 Cadillac Seville was Detroit’s first serious response to the growing popularity of luxury imports like Mercedes. Although it was an immediate hit, earning a handsome profit and inspiring numerous imitators, the Seville marked the beginning of the end of Cadillac’s credibility as a leading luxury car brand. This week, we look at the history of the 1976-1985 Cadillac Seville and the reasons for Cadillac’s subsequent decline.

1984 Cadillac Seville mirror
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What’s a Matador? The AMC Matador, Rebel, and Classic

With its smooth curves and clean lines, this week’s subject could easily have been a prop on Space: 1999. Car and Driver called it the best-styled car of 1974, but some critics still consider it one of the ugliest designs of the seventies and it remains one of the most divisive. It was a bold move for struggling American Motors and ultimately became a financial disaster. This week, we look at the history of the AMC Matador and its midsize predecessors, the Rambler Classic and Rambler/AMC Rebel.

1974 AMC Matador coupe badge
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Yuppie Sports, Part 2: The Porsche 944 and 968

Designed as a Volkswagen and powered by an Audi engine, Porsche’s entry-level 924 rubbed many purists the wrong way. In 1982, a new look and a new engine transformed the 924 into an eighties icon, a favorite toy of affluent Yuppies on both sides of the Atlantic: the Porsche 944. This week, the history of the 944, the 944 Turbo, and its often-forgotten successor, the Porsche 968.

1987 Porsche 944 badge
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A Weighty Issue: Shipping Weight and Curb Weight

A car’s weight has a dramatic effect on its performance, ride, handling, and fuel economy. Figuring out how much a car weighs should be simple, but the weights listed in brochures, road tests, and other sources can be contradictory and confusing. A vehicle’s specifications may list shipping weight, manufacturer’s curb weight, and gross vehicle weight ratings, all of which are quite different. To sort out this confusion, let’s look at what each of these terms means.

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Yuppie Sports, Part 1: The Porsche 924

Although Porsche and Volkswagen hadn’t exactly set the world on fire with their first joint-venture sports car, the 914, the two companies decided to try again in the early seventies with the Porsche 924. Developed by Porsche as a Volkswagen, the new model ended up becoming Porsche’s first front-engine, water-cooled production car and launched a new line of “volks Porsches” that lasted into the nineties. Here’s the tangled history of the 924.

1978 Porsche 924 badge
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Cowboy Cadillacs: The Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero

Ford and Chevrolet prosaically described these curious hybrids of coupe and pickup truck as sedan pickups, while our Australian readers would call them coupe utilities, utilities, or simply “utes.” Never overwhelmingly popular in the U.S. market when they were new, they have become curiously iconic, presaging America’s infatuation with trucks. This week, we examine the history of the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino.

1964 Chevrolet El Camino badge
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