Friday, February 28, 2014

An American Ambassador

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.

A second generation Ambassador came out in 1960 with substantially new body work and various standard features that placed it comfortably in the mid-sized luxury car range. Subsequent generations came out ever year or two with new features and skins for each. The car generally sold well but at nowhere near the numbers of its Big Three competitors. Still, the styling and safety features made even the likes of Motor Trend turn its head when the Ambassador was named Car of the Year in 1963.

The Ambassador made it to its eighth generation in 1974 before AMC pulled the plug. By then it had grown to become the company's full sized luxury model and with the trend toward smaller cars beginning, sales had bottomed out. Technically AMC lasted until 1987 when Chrysler bought out Renault and then all of the outstanding shares of the company. While the name disappeared the company lived on as the Jeep-Eagle division of Chrysler.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

For the Business Man To Drive

In 1928 the four year old Chrysler Corporation had skyrocketed to the third largest automobile manufacturer in the United States. Founder and president Walter P. Chrysler saw opportunity for more growth. First he bought up the Dodge brother's company. Then he launched two new marques to compete head to head with its direct competition. First came Plymouth which was designed to enter the ring against Ford and Chevy. Then came the line that was supposed to measure up against such mid-priced lines as Studebaker and Willys-Kinght. This was the DeSoto.

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


Bradford, England is an unlikely place to associate with the largest planet in our solar system. But Bradford is where Jowett Cars Ltd. was headquartered and where, from 1906 until 1954 they manufactured automobiles.

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 success of the Jupiter was short lived. Competition and the fact that Ford moved in and bought up a firm that was being used in Jowett's manufacturing caused the company to close its doors in 1954.

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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Last From the Cavalcade

Here are the last of the pictures I took at this year's KOI Cavalcade of Customs. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed taking them and seeing all of these great rides in person.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Next to Last From the Cavalcade

We are finally at the last 20 pictures I have from this year's KOI Cavalcade of Customs. Keep in mind that I didn't take pictures of every single vehicle that was on display. But I did get a lot of them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

End of the Week

Once again we reach the end of the week and we're still going through the pictures I took at this year's KOI Cavalcade of Customs. Granted we are getting very near the end but we have finished another week and have a couple of more posts to go.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More From the Third Floor

Here are some more of the cars that were on display on the third floor of the Duke Energy Center as part of the annual KOI Cavalcade of Customs.