Porsche is back once again with yet another interesting short video about another test mule/prototype/concept car that they have nestled away in their factory warehouse. This time they take a look at a slippery 911 with a drag coefficient of 0.27 (down from 0.40) that their engineers and designers created in 1984 as a study on aerodynamics that could be used in future designs:
Imagine you are a car guy. And you have, oh, on a good day, 1000 designers working for you. And a workshop to make whatever the hell your little heart desires. The only trouble was Bill Mitchell was VP in charge of styling at GM where he had to supervise the design of station wagons and all the boring stuff. He couldn’t just do performance cars. But he would do these little back door projects. You could usually tell when it was one of those because it would be candy apple red instead of the usual silver of an approved factory prototype. And it would have gold trim, maybe not real gold but it looked gold. Yards of it. And gold pin striping. It was boy-racer all the way on toys for himself. Such a car was the Pontiac Firebird he had redone. The Firebird, on a design by Jerry Palmer for the Camaro, was already very European looking, on a par with some Ferraris. The Pontiac engine wasn’t so good, though. In fact when they went Trans Am racing, they used Chevy engines. Mitchell had the nose made into an oval with foglamps in the edges, the grille reminiscent of OSCA, an obscure brand made by the Maserati brothers after WWII (they had sold the Maserati brand before the war). It was called the Pontiac Pegasus, maybe in a nod to the Texaco insignia of a winged horse that was common in racing in the Fifties. But the cool thing about the car is when it starts up, it not only sounds like a lusty 4 cam V12 six carburetor Ferrari but damn, you lift the hood and there she be—a Daytona 365GTB/4 engine. Who woulda thunk—seeing the candy-apple-red paint and gold-tone pinstriping and gold-colored chrome? This is kind of like a hip-hop break dancer singing Verdi…
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I ran across this low-rider Radio Flyer wagon build that I thought would make an interesting feature to mix it up a bit and keep the content eclectic. Plus, if you have kids it’s never too early to get them interested from a young age. There’s some impressive and imaginative skill involved with this project, we’d like to see this guy’s cars! Check out the pictures on the following page and find the link to the full build after…
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Now we are amid a lot of Porsche purists—folks that want to bring their old Porsche back to the way it was originally built and shipped by Porsche. There are, of course, the outlaws that insist on putting in newer engines, some with double the horsepower of the original, but there seems to be a strong feeling of “originality is holiness,” with periodic announcements by the high priestesses of Porschedom on cars that are so anointed as “correct” according to their Kardex (a factory record of how the car was equipped when built).
A 1964 PORSCHE 911
So let me tell you about the 1964 Porsche 911 that’s been showing up at concours. OK, smarty pants, I know, straight off, your gut reaction is that there ain’t no such animal. But there is and there isn’t. They exist but you have to get into early Porsche 911 history to figure out how Porsche sewed confusion into keeping track of their cars right at the beginning… Continue reading →
We are grateful to have been bestowed with a reader submission from none other than Peter Gruich, the legendary vehicle design engineer who has done some memorable work with the big 3, but is here today to talk more specifically about “Project Gemini.” He tells us about working on the advanced Pontiac Fiero successor project in detail on the following page and gives an insightful first hand experience of what it was like working with creative minds in a team environment… Continue reading →
Going to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Revival is like going to a concours where, periodically a horn sounds, and pristine cars roll out of the pits and onto the track where they are thrashed to the nth degree.
This is a different crowd than the ones who “trailer queen” their car to a concours and faint dead away if a bird poops on their car. They are willing to run neck and neck against the very same cars that competed against their car when their car was new.
There’s increasing support from automakers-this year Ford helped by sponsoring the honoring of the Shelby GT350 Mustang, a car that they spawned when they feared back in’64 the Mustang had too much of the image of a “secretary’s car” so they sent some Mustangs over to Cobra creator Carroll Shelby to “map up” the cars.
But there were many more marques at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion than Shelbys… Continue reading →
A 2016 Ford GT test mule has been spotted in the wild in Detroit, looking pretty amazing in its super stealth raw carbon fiber mode. There’s just something about seeing sports car prototypes like this that is so much more appealing than with paint and all shined up…probably because you know that the car is being driven as intended to its full potential and beat on rather than polished for posturing purposes only…
“It was a dark and stormy night.” Sorry for the cliché but seems like the best adventure stories always start out that way. Well, this is an adventure story involving an American automaker who was taking great pains to look “oh-so-European,” an Italian coachbuilder aiming to help them fulfill that ambition and a wee mistake in navigation in two ships at sea, a mistake that led to death and disaster, and maybe the destruction of our barn find target.
First a little background on the American auto industry, such as it was in the Fifties. There was, at the time, a certain glamor, an exhalted status, to having a prototype bodied in Italy. Chrysler could tell you about that. In the Fifties, they had nearly 40 prototypes, then called “dream cars,” bodied by Ghia in Italy. Ford, too, had the occasional dream car built in Italy such as the Lincoln Indianapolis show car (Carrozzeria Boano) and the Lincoln Futura show car, bodied by Carrozzzeria Ghia (later to become the Batmobile). Though Chrysler never put an all-Italian design into production, they did put in an order with Ghia in the ‘60s for 55 turbine cars for a special program to raise public awareness on the turbine. But mostly the Italian connection existed merely gave them something exotic to show at auto shows, something to lord over the total domestically-designed and built fare from other Detroit automakers.
Still, there was one potential problem with having cars designed in America built in Italy—you had to ship them them. And best not to forget the old saying: “There’s many a slip ‘tween the cup and the lip.” You get a thousand-plus miles of open ocean and bad stuff can happen. Like the ship sinks. That is exactly what happened to Chrysler in ‘56… Continue reading →
When I was a snot-nosed little kid, I would go to shows like the Detroit Auto Show and say to myself “I want one of those dream cars.” (Later on I wanted the female model standing next to it, to hell with the car…)
The phrase “dream car” was the magic words back then, not “concept car.” And the undisputed King of the Dream Cars was Harley Earl, running GM’s styling department back in the Fifties. You could say about the 6-foot plus Earl that he was pretty much Lord of all he surveyed. He had begun at GM back in 1927 when they didn’t even have a head stylist. He was given a VP slot in 1940.
He quaintly called his section the “Art and Color Section” when he arrived in Detroit. GM had hired him because the man had pizazz. After earning a degree in Engineering from Stanford, he had worked in his father’s carriage modification shop in Hollywood, which segued into doing custom cars for movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle and cowboy star Tom Mix.
The cars he designed were more flamboyant than anything made in Detroit, which was why GM hired him and gave him almost anything he wanted as he built an empire that other top designers in Detroit were intensely jealous of. He spawned many a show car, almost 40 during his reign.
Some of the cars were generic GM like the “LeSabre.” Others would carry the name of GM’s Divisions. When Chevrolet had the Corvette in production in 1953, a car he had promoted from day one, he got in mind, why stop there, why not market two-seaters in all the Divisions? Hence the building of two-seater prototypes for all the Divisions, including Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac and Oldsmobile… Continue reading →
Enzo Ferrari had a son, Alfredino (“Dino”) who was a frail youth who died in his ‘20s. But not before designing a V6 racing engine with the legendary Vittorio Jano. When Enzo thought to have another line of Ferraris, perhaps with a different name, he thought of the name “Dino.”
At first the engines were used in race cars as GP engines and Dino V-6s earned Ferrari their first Grand Prix Manufacturer’s Championship in 1958, followed by the 1961 World Championship-winning 156 F1 Sharknose and the 1961 Targa Florio-winning 246 SP.
A sports car was made with the same basic engine, the Dino 166 P – the first Ferrari to carry “Dino” badges instead of prancing horse badges on its nose. It was intended to be their entry in the 2.0-liter sports class. But, alas, Enzo had stepped on the toes of labor long enough (I was in Italy in the ‘40s once and remembered running across the Communist Party demonstrating here and there..) so strikes prevented him from making the required minimum of 50 cars to be eligible for FIA homologation
So you have broken eggs, you make omelettes so the 206 S was redesignated “206 SP” (Sports Prototype) and only 18 were built in all. Coachwork duties were assigned to Piero Drogo’s Carrozzeria Sports Cars in Modena…
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Now longtime activist Ralph Nader made his name by attacking the rear engine Corvair in print, so I don’t think he has dreams about Corvairs.
Nightmares, maybe. This is a story of when the Italians picked the wrong car to restyle… You got to hand it to the Italian coachbuilders. Always building prototypes on one automaker’s chassis or another. Always hoping that public acclaim for their design at the next auto show will result in the automaker hastening to their shop, checkbook in hand and saying: “Make more of this car.” So it was that, back in 1963, Carrozzeria Pininfarina in Italy made the one-off Pininfarina Corvair Coupe Speciale on a Chevrolet Corvair chassis. The car features Pininfarina’s first introduction of a head light design that they called “Oriental eyes”, (Bentley owners use the nickname “Chinese eyes” for the Wilhelm Koren-designed Bentley Continental S3) which other manufacturers copied. Nowadays those terms might be considered offensive, so I apologize in advance if anybody finds them derogatory as that is not my intention. I use the phrase “one off” for “one off the assembly line” loosely as this car was redesigned halfway through its show career which is why some think there were two…
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This is a story of true love. Sort of. First of all, why the car was created. When Alejandro DeTomaso (it’s actually spelled De Tomaso but I’ll do the American thing where we run it all together and capitalize it) had Giugiaro design his mid-engined V8 powered coupe, he was pretty well thinking the coupe was all he needed.
But then for a succeeding Salon, they wanted something different and an open version was budgeted for show purposes only…
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I used to know a guy in Detroit who was a top drawer exec for GM; head of styling, in fact, and when he stepped into the boots of Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell had to fill some pretty big boots. Like his predecessor, Harley Earl, Mitchell was a snappy dresser (that’s what they called it back then, “snappy”) and in the summer wore white suits and panama hats, and two tone shoes. He was rotund but a well-dressed rotund. He also liked to have his own dream cars built. Earl started that out with the LeSabre dream car, a car that reportedly cost more than a million to build and he’d even loan it out, at one time loaning it to Dwight D. Eisenhower after the war when Eisenhower was working out of Europe. At any rate, for that first “dream car” of Bill Mitchell, I kind of think he did it on his own nickel; it’s a red Corvette with some Euro styling, a grille that looks like it’s from an OSCA, but some parts of it are amateur, like he thought “I’ll show the old man that he too can originate dream cars.” Hey, his ploy worked. The car was taken in house by Earl and given a much fancier re-do, repainted silver, chrome surrounds added here and there, the upholstery became silver leather, the roof got a double bubble canopy (with a tank periscope between the two bubbles to see rearward). The car was also called the XP-700, XP for “Experimental Project” or some such other mumbo-jumbo. I suspect these guys in Styling liked to pretend they were doing secret stuff like developing future flying craft, and actually some of them were in the military during the war and did shape some Allied weapons so even after the war they liked to be mysterious about their secret stuff, not to mention the enemy had big ears and Ford and Chrysler wanted to know what they were up to…
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History does repeat itself. Way back in the early ‘50s, executives from A.C. Cars Ltd., in England, went to a car show, saw a one-off special that looked Ferrari-ish and bought the design, hiring the owner to work in developing a mass produced version. That became the A.C. Ace. A few years later along comes a Texan cowpoke, Carroll Shelby, suggesting they put a Ford V8 in there. Since they had lost their supplier of the Bristol six, and weren’t having the same success with the Ford Zephyr six under the hood of the A.C., they swallowed Shelby’s bait. The Cobra was born. and you could argue that “his” version of the A.C. was far better known in American than A.C.’s previous versions….
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I gotta hand it to AMC’s one time chief designer, Richard Teague, he had a good sense of humor. I remember visiting him at his rustic home in the tiny village of Franklin, Michigan, where it was so damned rustic you would swear you were in the back country of Vermont. (I used to go to Franklin to the cider mill, but I digress…) He had a baby Bugatti in his garage and other assorted antique cars and I got the idea that, at work, he worked hard, but at home–with his hobby cars– he just had fun.
Now, looking back, I am not sure if he was pulling everyone’s leg by building up the unreasonable-on-the-face-of-it expectation that American Motors, a tiny company, was really going to put a mid-engined car into production. That was akin to say, Cessna saying they were going to build a plane that could outrun the SR-71 Blackbird…
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(Raymond Loewy seen with prototype)
Feature story by Wallace Wyss
When I was a teenager I remember Al Doherty, the neighborhood playboy, buying a Studebaker Avanti. He bought it as a symbol of success and I was quite impressed with the light turqoise car. Lately though, so many designs are similar that I can’t rank it as one of my Ten Favorites 50 some years later, but, for its time, it was the cat’s pajamas.
I recently found out that the Studebaker National Museum of South Bend, Indiana has added two Avanti prototypes to their collection. These two vehicles were designed by Raymond Loewy Associates in 1961 as proposals for future Studebaker cars. They, says the Museum “illustrate the story of what new Studebakers may have looked like had the company remained in business.”
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