Friday, February 28, 2014
It was developed as a small car to compete against the more affordable Chevys and Fords and Dodges of the time. The Nash Rambler first entered the marketplace in 1950. Almost from the beginning it encountered problems that would hinder its progress.
First of all it was the product of the struggling Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, a smaller car maker that was struggling to keep its head above water following World War II. Then, in the early 1950s as the car was starting to be produced it faced steel shortages due to the Korean War.
Still the Rambler pushed ahead. What was first introduced as a two door convertible was expanded in 1954 to include a station wagon and a hard top and then a stretched wheelbase allowed for a four door sedan and wagon. These later models proved to be fairly successful.
Another thing happened in 1954. That was the year Nash-Kelvenator merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company to form the American Motors Corporation. In the two subsequent years the Rambler was badged as a model of both Nash and Hudson. There was no real difference between the cars.
In 1958 the Rambler Ambassador was introduced in a full line of trims for both sedan and station wagon. The car was powered by a 327 cubic inch V 8 which was a step up from the 250 cubic inch four barrel carb version that AMC began making for itself two years prior. This 327, which came out six years prior to Chevy's famed small block 327, featured hydraulic lifters and pumped out 288 horse power.
These Ambassadors, unlike those spartan Ramblers of a few years before, came equipped with a full array of standard features that included an electric clock and twin front and rear ashtrays. The problem was that the general public still perceived Rambler as being a small economy car and not a mid-sized family model.
In 1959 the car got some minor cosmetic changes, including the more dramatic sweeping fins and a new look grill. Owners could also get head rests for the first time and a new Air Coil Ride air suspension which utilized air bags within the rear coil springs.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Of the two new marques, DeSoto had a difficult time finding a true identity. It turned out good quality cars as evidenced by the record number of sales for a first year model set in 1929 of 81,065 cars, a record that would stand until broken by the Ford Falcon in 1960.
DeSoto was plagued early on by external factors. Just as it was getting a place in the public's eye came the Great Depression followed by World War II. DeSoto turned out some fine cars through the 1930s and the early 1940s but the economy prohibited many people from buying.
One of those cars from this period is the model seen here, a 1937 Business Coupe. This was a car that was specifically designed for the business and sales men of the day. It featured such rarities as a fold down front seat and shelving where a rear seat would be where a salesman could carry his samples and literature. This lack of a rear seat also allowed for an extra long, spacious trunk.
In an era when the popular Ford flathead V8 was rated at 65 horse power, DeSoto's six was pushing 93. Add in the features mentioned above and this car was discovered by more than one bootlegger.
The late 1950s saw a substantial drop in sales for DeSoto and the 1958 economic downturn hurt even more. By the time the 1961 cars were introduced rumors were flying that Chrysler was going to close the line. On November 30, 1960, just 37 days after the 61 models were introduced, Chrysler announced that the DeSoto marque was being retired.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Like many early automotive companies, Jowett got its start by manufacturing replacement parts for other cars that were owned by people in the area. But in 1906 they made their own light weight sports car. Using innovative design and borrowing a small 816 cc twin flat water cooled engine, they were able to generate enough power to sufficiently drive the very low weight vehicle. Twelve of the tiller steered cars were manufactured and two are believed to still exist.
Before World War I the company hand crafted 36 autos. After the war the company was bought up and turned public. Their first post war car was the Jowett Seven. They began using larger engines (though still small compared to many other companies) but still maintained a very low curb weight.
Up until 1921 Jowett cars were built for a small regional market but that year they showed at the London Motor Show and began taking orders and selling cars throughout England. Though still a small company they began to grown. During the 20s and 30s more models were rolled out and in just about each one a larger engine was used. By 1936 they were using a 1166cc flat four.
Following World War II the company made a huge departure from what they had been doing by manufacturing a small four door saloon called the Javelin. Using a larger flat four that could push 80 horse power the car, though not built for it, was fast. And with speed came people who wanted to race it.
The folks at Jowett saw a potential with the light weight tubular frame being used by the Javelin and the more powerful mechanicals and decided to make a true sports car. It showed at the 1949 London Motor Show and began rolling off the line in 1950. This was the Jupiter.
A 1486 cc flat four overhead cam engine was highly tuned with a 8.0:1 compression ratio which gave the Jupiter a top speed of 85 miles per hour and a 0-60 time of just over 11 seconds. Pretty heady stuff for a small car in 1950.
Success on the race track quickly followed the car's release. Class and overall wins rolled in at prestigious events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monte Carlo International Rally and the Lisbon International Rally among others.
The Jupiter seen here is a 1951 model. It is one of only 895 Jupiters ever assembled and one of fewer than 450 known to survive. It almost didn't survive as it was in Miami in 2005 when hurricane Wilma came ashore. Luckily the car survived and is being shown across the country.