Tag: American cars

Like the Wind: The Lincoln Zephyr and Continental

The original Lincoln Zephyr is often overshadowed by its glamorous offspring, the Lincoln Continental, but both are milestone cars. The sleek, streamlined Zephyr saved Lincoln from extinction during the Depression and marked Ford’s first tentative step into the middle market. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we look at the origins and evolution of the 1936-1948 Lincoln-Zephyr and 1940-1948 Lincoln Continental.

1939 Lincoln-Zephyr four-door sedan catwalk badge
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Forward Looking: 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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Plutocrat Pony Car: The 1966-1970 Buick Riviera

It occurred to us recently that while we’ve written about the 1963-1965 Riviera and the controversial 1971–1973 “boattail,” we keep skipping over the second generation of Buick’s sporty personal luxury coupe. However, the second-generation Riviera outsold its predecessor and its successor combined — also dispatching its groundbreaking Oldsmobile Toronado cousin for good measure. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a closer look at the 1966 Buick Riviera.

1969 Buick Riviera badge
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Before the Continental: Edsel Ford’s Speedster

Recently, we were invited to an event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles introducing the newly restored 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, an aluminum-bodied one-off originally designed by stylist E.T. (Bob) Gregorie for Edsel Ford’s personal use. This week, we explore the history of the 1934 Edsel Ford speedster and its lesser-known predecessor and take a look at Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie’s role in Ford Motor Company styling.

1934 Ford Special Speedster red tease 2004 Pat McLaughlin per
(Photo © 2004 Pat McLaughlin; used with permission)
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Pillarless Pioneer: The 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera

In mid-1949, GM’s senior divisions introduced a trio of glamorous new models — the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Deluxe Holiday coupe, and the Buick Roadmaster Riviera — that are popularly, if incorrectly, considered the first pillarless hardtops. This week, we consider the origins of this quintessentially (though not uniquely) American body style and examine the development of the the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera and the origins of the hardtop coupe.

1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera roof exterior
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Dressed to Kill: The 1954 Kaiser Darrin

The short-lived, fiberglass-bodied Kaiser Darrin was perhaps the most distinctive product of Henry Kaiser’s decade-long adventure in Detroit — it was also one of the last. This week, we look at the birth and death of the Kaiser Darrin, the short history of the Henry J on which it was based, and the final collaboration between the great industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and dashing automotive designer Howard A. “Dutch” Darrin.

1954 Kaiser Darrin grille Pat McLaughlin 2009 per
(Photo © 2009 Patrick McLaughlin; used with permission)
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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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This Time, It’s Personal: The 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado

The 1967 Cadillac Eldorado is a milestone Cadillac by any standard. Rakish, sophisticated, and surprisingly sporty, it was the division’s first front-wheel-drive car and its first serious entry in the burgeoning personal luxury genre. This week, we explore the story of the first FWD Eldorado.

Author’s note: An earlier version of this article first appeared in August 2009. We’ve completely rewritten and expanded it, clearing up some errors and misconceptions and adding new information and new images.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado fin
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Out in Front: The Front-Wheel-Drive Oldsmobile Toronado, Part 2

Most histories of the Oldsmobile Toronado start and end with the original 1966 models, but that wasn’t the end of the story. The Toronado survived another 25 years and its most commercially successful period was still to come. This week, we look at the history of the 1971-1992 Toronado and examine another vehicle that shared its novel powertrain: the 1973-1978 GMC Motorhome.

1992 Oldsmobile Toronado badge
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Out in Front: The Front-Wheel-Drive Oldsmobile Toronado, Part 1

Both technologically and stylistically, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was a landmark — a striking, sophisticated big GT that was also the first front-wheel-drive American production car in nearly 30 years. This week, we look at the origins of the 1966-1970 Toronado and the evolution and development of its unusual FWD Unitized Power Package.

Note: This article replaces our original 2008 piece on the Toronado. It has been completely rewritten and expanded, adding a great deal of new information and new images.

1971 Oldsmobile Toronado badge
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The Harder They Fall: The Saga of the DeLorean Motor Company

It was the automotive story for almost a decade: former GM superstar John DeLorean had set out to build his own high-tech sports car, only to end up in handcuffs. This week, we present the complete saga of the DeLorean Motor Company and the DeLorean DMC-12, a strange tale of grand ambition, political intrigue, and cocaine.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 badge
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