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.
Continue Reading Forward Looking: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 2
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.
Continue Reading Forward Looking: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 1
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.
Grille of a late 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight. (Photo © 2007 George Camp; used with permission)
Continue Reading Changing Winds: The 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow
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.
The engine bay of a 1978 XC Cobra, spotted in Florida in 2011. (Photo © 2011 John Cox; used with permission)
Continue Reading Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part Two
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.
A 1960 dealer brochure for the XK Falcon sedan. (Image: Ford Motor Company)
Continue Reading Falcons Down Under: The Australian Ford Falcon, Part One
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.
Continue Reading Wide Track: Bunkie Knudsen, Pete Estes, and the Pontiac Renaissance
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.”
Continue Reading Plymouths Great and Small: The Plymouth VIP and Fury
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.
Continue Reading Born to Lose: The Story of the Edsel
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.
Continue Reading Kaisers Never Retrench: The History of Kaiser-Frazer, Part 2
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.
Continue Reading Kaisers Never Retrench: The History of Kaiser-Frazer, Part 1
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.
Continue Reading The Ford Flathead V8 and the Fall of Henry Ford
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.
Continue Reading Cowboy Cadillacs: The Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero