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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Continue Reading Yuppie Sports, Part 2: The Porsche 944 and 968
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.
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.
Continue Reading Yuppie Sports, Part 1: The Porsche 924
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.
Launched in 1983, the Pontiac Fiero promised to be a good-looking, affordable mid-engine sports car introducing exciting new techniques in production and design. Alas, it became one of GM’s great disasters: overweight and underpowered, tarnished by alarming reports of reliability problems and engine fires. By 1988, more power, better looks, and a $30 million new suspension brought the Fiero closer to its original promise — just in time for the corporation to bring down the ax. This week, we look at the origins and history of the Fiero and the reasons for its sad fate.
Sophisticated, glamorous, gorgeous, and fast, this car is on everybody’s short list of the greatest cars of all time. Its flaws are well documented, but there are few automobiles that still command more loyalty or more all-out lust. This week, we examine the history of that favorite sixties icon: the 1961-1975 Jaguar E-type.
Certain cars become emblematic of a time and a place, perfectly encapsulating the values, priorities, and obsessions of their eras. For America of the fifties, it’s the 1955–57 Chevrolets and the 1959 Cadillac; for the sixties, the Mini, the Beetle, and the Mustang. For the seventies, we’d make a strong case for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Generally reviled by critics, staggeringly popular with the public, and much imitated, the Monte Carlo remains as powerful a symbol of the period as disco balls, platform shoes, and The Brady Bunch. This week, we explore the history of the Monte Carlo and consider the reasons for its immense — and ultimately ephemeral — popularity.
Continue Reading Disco-Era Darling: The Chevrolet Monte Carlo
For most people, the words “Ford Mustang” evoke one of two things: the original 1964–1966 icon of sixties Americana or the boxy 1979–1993 Fox Mustangs so beloved of amateur hot–rodders. This week, we consider how one evolved into the other, examine the history of Ford’s ubiquitous Fox platform, and take a look at the most unusual of all Mustangs: the high-tech, turbocharged, four-cylinder 1984-1986 Ford Mustang SVO.
Continue Reading Outfoxing the Fox: The Fox Mustangs and Mustang SVO