Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Foreign Collectors at Keenland

The Collector Foreign class at the annual Keenland Concours d'Elegance is exactly that, foreign collector cars manufactured through 1972. A popular example is this 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster which, when it was introduced four years earlier, became an instant success.
While it may look like most other Austin-Martin 100 cars that still exist, this 1956 factory built 100M is based on the models that were raced at LeMans. It possesses 20 percent more power than the standard model. Only about 185 of the 640 that were built remain.
This 1954 Jaguar XK-120 Roadster was actually one of the last of these successful cars to be built. And it is a perfect example of the line. In 2008 it was named National Champion by the Jaguar Club of North America when it received three perfect scores.
Here is a 1938 MGA Tickford Drophead Coupe. Only about half of the 250 of these cars that were built are still around and of those just a handful, such as this one, still have their original MGJP engine.
Perhaps the car that changed the European sports car landscape the most was this 1959 Lotus Elite S-1 Type 14. To keep the car light it was built as a monocoque shell made entirely of fiberglass. While this kept the weight down to just 1350 pounds, it made for a rather fragile car.
Most people are familiar with AC motors mostly as the company that helped Carroll Shelby make and market the Cobra. But the company has been around for a long time as is evidenced by this 1936 AC Coupe. This car is unrestored and has only 16,259 original miles.
Finally here is an example of a 1972 Jaguar XJ 6. This was the last year of this model which also happened to be the last Jaguar designed by company founder Sir William Lyons.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Classic (Car) Education

Here is a link to my current classic car column in Cincinnati Profile Magazine.

Closed American Collectors at Keenland

Like the cars shown yesterday, the Collector American Closed class at the Keenland Concours d'Elegance was made up of cars manufactured between 1950 and 1975. Only these were coupes and sedans with hardtops such as this 1956 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. This car set a record for Cadillac with over 41,000 being built.
This 1955 Lincoln Capri was a car of opportunity. Around this time Packard was in decline and Lincoln saw the chance to move in and cut into the market then dominated by Cadillac. Introduced in 1953 this was, sadly, the last year the car was manufactured.
One of the most recognizable cars from the 1950s is this 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The first of the famed "Tri-5" full sized Chevys, this car was branded "the hot one" by General Motors advertising. The low price, clean fresh looks and full size led this to being a very popular car.
It's the suicide doors that make this 1964 Lincoln Continental stand out. Dubbed suicide doors because of how the back doors open backward, exposing the exiting or entering passenger to the potential of on coming traffic, this styling has since been copied by customizers all over the country.
1961 saw the last year of production for the finned version of the Studebaker Hawk. Fewer than 4000 were made and only a handful of those, such as this one, had an automatic transmission.
The second series of Ford Thunderbird ran from 1958 until this example from 1960. This saw the car moving away from the sports car its previous series was introduced as and more toward a family car. Even though it could still top 120 miles per hour it was beginning to grow into a luxury car.
The 1957 Chevy Bel Air is the most collected car of that decade. With its extended fins that had grown over the past two models, the 1957 is perhaps the perfect example of the quality of American car from that era.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Open American Collectors at Keenland

The Collector American Open class at the Keenland Concours d'Elegance featured roadsters and convertibles that were manufactured from between 1950 and 1975. One beautiful example was this 1959 Ford Sunliner convertible that was part of the Galaxy 500 line.
A gorgeous 1958 DeSoto Firedome convertible was also on display. This car's advertising boasted that it had the "exciting look and feel of the future." Only 519 of this year's model were made and fewer than 10 are known to still exist in the USA.
A 1968 AMC Jeepster Commando C101 was also there. A joint project of American Motors and designer Kaiser, this was the second go-round for the Jeepster concept. The first time was an attempt to put a utility vehicle on the market shortly after World War II but it failed. This time the company had more success and created what could be argued as the first true sport utility vehicle.
Next is a 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Olds and so this car was brand new from the chassis up with the Super model creeping more and more toward the high end luxury of the brand's top of the line Ninety-Eight model.
Here is a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. This car, which sat three inches lower and looked sleeker than other Cadillacs was without a doubt the reigning king of prestige and luxury during the mid-1950s. And it had a price tag to back it up, listing at close to $6,000.
An example of the best selling convertible in America is this 1956 Ford Sunliner. With a base price of under $2500 the Sunliner was an affordable drop top automobile. This year introduced the Lifeguard Safety package which Motor Trend magazine called the industry's most significant advancement.
Chevy's answer to the Ford Sunliner was this 1958 Impala convertible. The Impala of this era was one of the best selling cars in America and the convertible model was no exception.

Friday, July 26, 2013

From Bicycles to Luxury Cars

The oldest bicycle manufacturer in the world that is still in existence is Bianchi Bicycles. Founded in 1885 it was a pioneer in using equal sized wheels and pneumatic tires.The company was created by a 21-year-old medical tool manufacturer named Edoardo Bianchi and by the turn of the century this forward thinking was looking toward expanding into the manufacture of automobiles.

In 1899 the firm built its first passenger car. The leap from bikes to automobiles at the time wasn't as large as it would be today. The frames were both wood and steel. Each used pneumatic tires which were powered with a chain drive. The one thing Bianchi had to develop from scratch was an engine. The first and most successful was a four cylinder model that would be enhanced over the years.
From the start all Bianchis were high end luxury cars designed for the owners to be chauffeured around. In this way the driver's compartments were rather sparse since this was to be where the "help" rode. The back, though, was another story. There were many luxury appointments including the ability to be fully enclosed if the car was an open model like the 1910 Model G Open Driver shown here. There was also a speaking tube which allowed the passengers in the rear to speak to the driver.
Two World Wars and a depression made the task of manufacturing luxury cars very difficult. At times Bianchi paid more attention to the bicycle side of the company. When founder Edoardo died in a car accident in 1946, his son Giuseppe took over the firm. The post WW II economics forced Bianchi to stop manufacturing cars all together.

Cars were still in the blood of many top Bianchi employees. When research showed that there was still a market for Bianchi cars, albeit not as luxury sedans, the firm turned to Fiat who, along with Pirelli formed the Autobianchi company in 1955. In 1968 Bianchi faced economic problems in its motorcycle division and sold out completely to Fiat and Autobianchi was gradually merged into the newly acquired Lancia line.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Coach Built Classics at Keenland

The Coach Built Classics class at the Keenland Concours d'Elegance refers to the practice of automobiles actually being manufactured by two different companies. The company of record, the one on the nameplate would manufacture the frame and all of the mechanical and electrical parts of the car and then either they or the person buying it would hire out a separate firm to build the body or coach. The first car is a 1938 Steyer 220 Special Roadster with a custom body by the German firm Glasser. This car won this year's Ault Park Concours.
Next is a very rare 1931 Stutz Model M Coupe. This car featured a unique front lighting system that turned along with the steering wheel. Of the 249 Model Ms that were built only two are known to survive.
Here is a beautiful 1932 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton with a custom body by the Murphy company. This long, 153 1/2 inch chassis car recently won the top honors in its class from the American Antique Car Association.
This 1930 Bugatti Type 50 S Roadster looks a lot different than the super car versions coming from this marque today. The S referred to a short wheel base. This is the fifth of these cars to be hand built and the second one ever sold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pre-War Classics at Keenland

The Pre-War Classics class of cars at the recent Keenland Concours d'Elegance was just that, beautiful classic cars that were built and sold prior to the USA getting involved in World War II. Among the ones on display were this 1939 Cadillac 7519 F five passenger divided masterpiece. Only 53 of this version of the car were built.
A 1932 Packard 905 Roadster was also on display. This car featured the famed Packard Twin Six 12 cylinder engine and had such luxury touches as headlights that would turn with the steering wheel and a compartment for carrying your golf clubs. Only 311 of these were ever made.
This is an example of a 1929 Cadillac Closed Couple Sedan. This was the first year that Cadillac utilized the Synchromesh Transmission, a device that eliminated the need to double clutch when changing gears. It also featured security plate safety glass in the windows and electronic windshield wipers.
Next is a 1925 Cadillac V-63 Phaeton that featured the famous Cadillac V-8 flathead engine. This particular model has had three owners and was in storage for over 30 years until it was rescued by the current owners and shown at event across the country.
Finally we have a 1929 Stutz Blackhawk 2 Place Speedster. The 24 valve dual overhead cam straight six cylinder engine is one of the last of this iconic Stutz engines known to exist. Only 1000 of this model car was ever produced.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vintage Cars at Keenland

Like other Concours events, the Keenland Concours d'Elegance brings in some of the rarest, most beautiful automobiles from the past. Strewn across a beautiful grass paddock area were representatives of those great Vintage cars from 1925 through 1949. This includes the car above, a 1932 Chevrolet 2 Door Coach which was their answer to the popular Ford Model A.

Here is a 1935 Buick Model 46C convertible. This was the last year for the wood body and mechanical brakes for Buick. Of the 933 Model 46Cs produced only five are know to still exist. And yes, this is the original color.

Easily recognizable is this 1929 Ford Model A Roadsters. This car was so popular among drivers that two million were manufactured by the time this one was bought. Keep in mind, too, that the car had only been released 19 months prior to this one hitting the show room floor.

A lot changed in car styling and design in 20 years as is evident by this 1949 Buick Roadmaster Sedanet Model 70. This car was purchased new by Helen Gerber of Gerber Baby Foods fame. She owned it until 1986.

The next car is a 1932 Plymouth PA Sport Roadster. Plymouth was introduced in 1928 as a competitor of the wildly popular Ford Model A and while its sales never approached that of Ford this car propelled parent Chrysler solidly into third place as most popular car brand in America.

Finally here is a 1928 Dodge Victory Six Touring 4 Door Phaeton. The car was released in honor of the 10th anniversary of World War I. It was Dodge's first six cylinder car and the first car manufactured by any company to have an all steel body.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Keenland Concours d'Elegance

For the 10th year historic Keenland Race Track was taken over by another type of thoroughbred as amazing cars from all over the country rolled into the Blue Grass State for the 10th Annual Keenland Concours d'Elegance. Benefiting the Kentucky Children's Hospital, the Keenland Concours is gaining a reputation as one of the better, more varied events in that part of the country. As I do with other Concours events I'm going to spend some time with the cars that were on display, starting with the Antique class.

The car at the top is a 1920 HCS Series 2 Roadster. The HCS stood for the car's builder, Harry Clayton Stutz who, more often, simply put his last name on his cars. Next is a 1912 Cadillac Phaeton, the first car to use an electronic starter.
A 1908 Mercedes Grand Prix racer that sports a massive 828 cubic inch four cylinder engine.
Also on display was this beautiful 1910 Maxwell Q2 Surrey that featured the company's largest, most powerful engine of its time, a four cylinder 22 horse power motor that could move the car up to 36 miles per hour.
Finally there was a 1909 Buick Model 10 that was an actual barn find in the 1950s. From there it was literally boxed up for nearly 20 years before it was discovered and completely restored. It has received the American Antique Car Association's highest possible rating.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Who's Your Caddy?

            Even when it was first begun in 1902, Cadillac was a car line known for luxury. Even though the earliest model was nearly identical to the Ford Model T, the brand soon garnered a reputation of having some of the most well-built and luxurious cars on the market. After it was purchased by General Motors in 1909, it was steered toward being that company’s top of the line automobile offering.
            For much of its first seven decades Cadillac was always at or near the top of all luxury cars, especially those made in the United States. While the 1950s, 60s and into the early 70s saw a staggering growth in the size of this car as wheelbases stretched to ridiculous lengths, the power plants that accompanied them didn’t evolve as well. Add to that the numerous new regulations that swamped the auto industry on the heels of the 70s oil crisis and Cadillac saw its performance, and its sales, drop.
            Through the 1970s and 80s these cars were big, bulky and slow. Seeing themselves as the luxury line in the GM stable they couldn’t easily downsize the way a Chevrolet or Pontiac could; though to a slight degree they tried.
            The cars of this era were still large and heavy but bore the added burden of new clean air emissions regulations that, for a while at least, all but killed the American muscle car. Still, Cadillac’s reputation and name recognition managed to draw in more than a few buyers. Among them was my father who, during this time, had become a true blue Cadillac man. This would change in the 1990s when he began driving Mercedes but during this time when I was first getting my driver’s license (which came in 1972), he was a Caddy man.
            Yes, I had my own cars during this time: a VW Beetle and a Ford Maverick. But when it came time to take a girl to homecoming or prom guess which car I got to drive. That’s right, the Caddy. For that reason (no, nothing ever happened in the back seat or even front seat of my dad’s car) I still harbor a fondness in my heart for these series of Cadillacs.
            The cars pictured here were plucked from some car shows from last summer and reflect the trend that many of this era Caddy is becoming a collector car. So keep your eyes out and hopefully you’ll see a few at shows near you.