Subtle Sport: The 1963-1971 Mercedes W113 Roadsters

Some cars can be understood only in the context of their time; others were puzzling in their day, but now make perfect sense. When the six-cylinder 230SL debuted 50 years ago this past March, it was a considerable departure from previous Mercedes sports cars and some observers weren’t quite sure what to make of it. However, it established a very successful niche that’s still going strong today.

In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the origins and development of the Mercedes-Benz W113 series: the 1963–1971 Mercedes-Benz 230SL, 250SL, and 280SL.

1970 Mercedes 280SL (W113) badge
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A Historical Note: Ford General Managers

As I’ve said before, one of the things you notice when you do a lot of research in a particular field is that certain pieces of information are repeated over and over again even though they’re wrong. I’ve made those mistakes myself — some times that I know about and probably others I have yet to discover — so I can’t claim any particular moral high ground here, but when I recognize one of these errors, I try to rectify it as best I can.

One common misconception I’ve noticed recently regards Ford in the late fifties and early sixties and the careers of Robert McNamara and Lee Iacocca. Let’s see if we can set it straight:

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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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Special Announcement: Petersen Automotive Museum Needs You

If you live in the Los Angeles area, the Petersen Automotive Museum is looking for volunteers. For more information, see their volunteer page http://www.petersen.org/membership-and-support/volunteer.

I’m not affiliated with the museum in any way and have no business relationship with them (although I did a bit of temp work for them back in 2008 or thereabouts), but I’ve been there many times and they’ve been kind enough to invite me to some of their special events. If you are in or visiting L.A. and you’ve never been, it’s well worth checking out.

Grandfather’s Ax: The Many Evolutions of the Triumph TR4, Part 2: TR5, TR250, and TR6

With the debut of the TR4A in 1965, Triumph finally had a sports car with a modern fully independent suspension to match its crisp Italian styling, but the company soon decided the TR needed more power and a fresh suit of clothes. The results were two familiar-looking cars with completely new engines, followed less than two years later by a fresh-looking model whose specifications were pure déjà vu. In the second part of our history of the TR4, we look at the 1968-1976 Triumph TR5 PI, TR250, and TR6.

1968 Triumph TR250 badge
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Grandfather’s Ax: The Many Evolutions of the Triumph TR4, Part 1: TR4 and TR4A

If you replace a car’s body, a few years later replace its chassis, a few years after that replace the engine, and finally replace the body again, is it still the same car? That is the question posed by the Triumph TR4 and its immediate successors. Introduced in 1961 to replace Standard-Triumph’s popular TR3 sports car, the Michelotti-styled TR4 was less new than its appearance would suggest; it would not be until almost eight years and three name changes later that it would truly become an all-new car. In this installment, we begin our look at the curious evolution of the TR line, starting with the 1961-1967 Triumph TR4 and TR4A.

1967 Triumph TR4A badge
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Rotary Revolutionary: The NSU Ro80

In 1967, the small German automaker NSU introduced what would be its final and most ambitious product: the remarkable Ro80. It was NSU’s first and last luxury car, a sophisticated, highly aerodynamic sedan powered by a Wankel rotary engine. The Ro80 survived for 10 years, generating critical acclaim and controversy in roughly equal measure. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a closer look at the turbulent and sometimes troubled history of the 1967-1977 NSU Ro80.

1970 NSU Ro80 badge © 2012 Andrew Buc (used with permission)
Photo © 2012 Andrew Buc; used with permission
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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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Son of Stingray: The 1969-1973 Opel GT

The 1969 Opel GT was Opel’s first show car and the German company’s first two-seat sports car since before World War II. Based on the humble Kadett B and often considered a miniature Corvette, the GT also owed a great deal to Chevrolet’s compact Corvair and a concept car once intended to replace the ‘Vette. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a look at the origins, history, and fate of the 1969–1973 Opel GT and its various planned successors.

1971 Opel GT badge
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A Big Healey History: The Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000

In October 1952, Donald Healey introduced what was to be the most famous car bearing his name: the Austin-Healey 100. It would survive for 15 years in three distinct incarnations, along the way gaining a six-cylinder engine and a formidable competition record. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the origins and evolution of the “big Healeys”: the 1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000.

1960 Austin-Healey 3000 badge
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