Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
The firm was created in 1947 when industrialist Henry J. Kaiser partnered with automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer to purchase the assets of Graham-Paige, a car company that stemmed from 1927 and which Frazer had been running. The ensuing Kaiser-Frazer Corporation became the only car firm formed following World War II; even if it was for a very brief time.
The car was the Henry J., a model Kaiser wanted to represent the company the same way the Model T had done for Ford years before. While it was inexpensive those savings came at the cost of many things Americans didn't really think of as luxuries. For example, there was no trunk lid as people would have to fold down the rear seat to stow items there. The rear windows were fixed, there was no passenger sun visor, nor was there a glove compartment. While the price was right for many Americans they soon learned that Chevy, Ford and Chrysler were making cars that had these creature comforts for just a few dollars more.
For those reasons as well as a poor distribution arm, the Henry J. saw marked declines in its sales numbers each year it was sold. The first year it captured over one and one-third percent of the market. The following year sales dropped to about two-on hundredths of one percent. In 1953 the last of the Henry Js rolled off the line and those that were left over from that year were sold as 1954 models.The Henry J. seen here is a 1951 model.
Kaiser-Frazer bought Willys-Overland in 1953 and changed their name to Kaiser-Willys. By 1970 when American Motors bought them up they were marketing as Kaiser Jeep. By this time the company had long since stopped manufacturing cars bearing the Kaiser name. But for a short, though unsuccessful run, Kaiser put his signature on one specific model, the Henry J.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Not only was Detroit embroiled in violence, they were also facing a number of threats from both the east and the west. Since the end of World War II the big auto makers had been turning out large, powerful machines that ruled the roads. But suddenly smaller cars coming from Europe and Japan were beginning to show up in driveways.
Ford had been rolling out their version of a compact car for much of the decade. The Falcon had seen a steady decline in sales as competition from foreign manufacturers and even another car from Ford's own stable lured potential buyers. The Mustang not only invaded the Falcon's potential buyers but it also showed that people not only wanted a small car but they wanted one that was sporty.
So for 1970 Ford replaced the Falcon with a new hybrid style car. The Maverick was considered a subcompact but had sporty features and the ability to show a little muscle. Most of the Mavericks (and the Mercury equivalent, the Comet) were two door coupes but a four door was also available but, for most people, lacked the sporty look of the two door. Ford never really intended these cars to be long term solutions. Plans were in the works to replace them in 1975. They lived a little longer.
Initially the car had either a 170 cubic inch Thriftpower inline six engine or the 200 cubic inch version of the same power plant. By mid-year, Ford realized the need for speed as the onset of muscle cars was showing high sales. To follow this trend they introduced a 250 cubic inch inline six. But they weren't done. A year later they upped the ante on this small, light car that weighed in at around 3000 pounds by dropping in a 302 V8. Now you were talking Mustang power.
The mix of light weight and power would have normally drawn in a sizable group of potential buyers. Unfortunately for Ford, those folks who favored this marque flocked to the Mustang and the Maverick wasn't able to pull buyers form other manufacturers. The car lasted through 1977 when it was replaced by the Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr.
I actually passed my drivers test in a Ford Maverick and drove it through much of high school (when I wasn't driving a VW Beetle) and into college. Mine came with the 200 cube straight six but I managed to find a used 302 V8 that I dropped into it. Of course that engine was "doctored" with a little bit and quite a few people were surprised by how quick it was off the line. The car had decent handling, not on par with the European sports cars of the day, but it could hug some curves if you were familiar enough with it.
That Maverick took a number of trips around the country. Mostly it went south to North Carolina and Florida but it traveled west to St. Louis and I took it up into Canada and northern Pennsylvania and into New York state. It was a fun car to drive and easy to keep rolling. So when I saw one at a show recently it brought back a lot of good memories. Oh, yes, the back seat was a lot better on a date than the Beetle.