Friday, October 5, 2012

Vintage Automobiles

*  All photos and art for this article courtesy of "Google Images".
Above the logos of the last remaining US auto manufactures.
THE  20th.  CENTURY  1950 - 2000

 by Felicity Blaze Noodleman
"Paint them red, blue or green" – a General Motors executive once said – "and people will buy them".  History and nostalgia seem to go hand in hand.  This week I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the American auto industry greats, or at least those cars which so impressed us all those years ago.  This is an area where almost every one has their own opinions and almost no one can agree on any one vehicle because there are so many different choices.  I’ve tried to stick to vintage advertising because restorations are not always true to the original.  

Our journey begins, as I remember it shortly after the end of the Second World War During the war. People were unable to purchase new cars during the war for a number of reasons.  Most all of the nations resources were being diverted to the war effort.  If you wanted a new car in those days either you refurbished the car you had or traded up to a newer used car.  The following two paragraphs form Wikipedia explains the country and the auto industry during the war years:

When the U.S. entered World War II, all domestic passenger automobile production ceased by February 1942. The industry received $10 billion in war-related orders by that month, compared to $4 billion before the attack on Pearl Harbor. All factories were enlarged and converted, many new ones such as Ford's Willow Run and Chrysler's Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant were built, and hundreds of thousands more workers were hired to produce war materiel such as armaments, aircraft, and military vehicles. Experts anticipated that Detroit would learn advanced engineering methods from the aviation industry that would result in great improvements for postwar civilian automobiles.  These factories produced an astonishing amount of materiel, including 5.9 million weapons, 2.8 million tanks and trucks, and 27,000 aircraft. This production was a major factor in the victory of the allies.

Initial auto production after the war was slowed by the retooling process, shortages of materials and labor unrest. However, the American auto industry reflected the post-war prosperity of the late-1940s and the 1950s. Cars grew in overall size, as well as engine size during the 1950s. The Overhead valve V-8 engine developed by GM in the late-1940s proved to be very successful and helped ignite the horsepower race, the second salvo of which was Chrysler's 1951 Hemi engine. Longer, lower and wider tended to be the general trend. Exterior styling was influenced by jets and rockets as the space-age dawned. Rear fins were popular and continued to grow larger, and front bumpers and taillights were sometimes designed in the shape of rockets. Chrome plating was very popular, as was two-tone paint.

After the war years automobile production resumed in Detroit and the American public had a voracious appetite for a new set of wheels.  We’ll look at cars from the 1950’s to the present although I have to tell you from about the mid 1980’s up until just recently cars have been very boring and unappealing to me.  Only just recently have American automakers begun to “wake up” and are once again designing cars which I would like to have.  I also have to tell you that I just don’t care for most foreign imported autos, they really hurt my eyes and are very bland.

I’m not going to include a lengthy description in most cases.  Just the basics – year and model.  Today the article will be mostly pictorial!


This is the first car I remember.  It was even in this color.  My family's car!
Notice the white wall tires - you don't see those any more.

The 1959 Buick Eight Roadmaster.

1956.  The Corvette is considered to be the first true American sports car. 

The 57' Chevy Bel Air was an instant classic and legend.

The ultimate in tail fins, bumper bullets and chrome, the 1959 Cadillac.
Pictured here as restored.

By the 1960's tail fins were the style.  1960 Dodge Polara.
These cars were rolling art exhibitions!

The first American compact automobile, the Chevy Corvair. The Corvair's legacy
was affected by controversy surrounding its handling, which led to its inclusion in
Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed. Nonetheless a subsequent National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluded that the car's handling was as
safe as that of its contemporaries. The country continued to import the VW from Germany
which had a much worse safety record and went unaffected. I thought it was a really great
little fun car. Corvair also made several different models and also built a small truck.

Restored Corvair just because I think it looks so nice!

Another instant classic and legend, the '64 Ford Mustang.  I've heard it
referred to as the "secretary's automobile".

A great American luxury car, the 1966 Lincoln continental Coupe.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado front wheel drive production model with
Gen IV 1,000 HP small block engine inset in upper right.  There was no
transmission "hump" in the passenger compartment because of the front
wheel drive feature of this automobile.  This car was so ahead of it's
time, even for today!

A restored 1967 Pontiac GTO, father of the "mussel cars".  Several songs
were written about this car!

The 1968 Dodge Charger.  Chrysler Co. had a secession of sports hits in the
late '60's which included the Dodge Challenger and and the Plymouth Duster. 
The 1969 Charger would be featured in the television show, "The Dukes of Hazard"
and be known as "The General Lee".  
The Dodge Dayton would come much later in the 1980's

1969 Pontiac Catalina.  I only include this model because I owned one and I still
have dreams about this car.  It was a great long distance cruising car and I
loved the styling.  I drove mine from Michigan to Texas in a little over 24 HR.'s!


1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass "442" broke into the sports market.  Oldsmobile, the oldest
American auto brand, was known for it's luxury full and mid sized cars.

Ford's entry into the small car market, the 1970 "Pinto".

The 1974 Chevy Vega GT.  This car had an aluminum cast engine and all
of the sports appointments of it's big brother, the Chevy Camaro.

The AMC (American Motors) 1975 Pacer.

1976 Pontiac Firebird "Trans AM" was featured in two Bert Reynolds
films, "Smokey and The Bandit" 1, 2 & 3.  The 1975 Firebird "Esprit" was featured
in the "Rockford Files" television show (1974 - '80) and stared as "Kitt", A heavily
customized Trans AM costing $100,000., in "The Night Rider" television
program (1982 - '86).  Need less to say, the Trans Am is a legend! 

Promotion for "The Rockford Files" television program with actor James Garner
as P.I. Jim Rockford.


 Cadillac has always been a popular American luxury brand pictured here
with their 1980 Seville.  The styling was reminiscent of the 1930's trunk.

 1987 Corvette

Saturn was a new GM automotive brand manufactured in Spring Hill,TN.
Pictured here, the first Saturn to roll of the assembly line in 1990. 

 1995 Hummer h1.  This company established in 1992 designed and built the vehicles which were previously known as the Humvee for the US military by AM General of South Bend, IN and was sold to GM in 1998 and closed in 2010.

1990 Ford Explorer.

 1990 Chrysler 5th. Avenue New Yorker.

Trucks and Vans have always been an American staple for the auto manufactures but have begun to creep in to the passenger car market with their SUV entries and have led foreign manufactures to follow suit with their entries to the American auto market.  Even Cadillac and Lincoln have jumped into the market with their behemoth "Suburbans". I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know very much about or keep up with them, but here goes!  Below are illustrations for the fore runners of the family vehicle to replace the traditional family passenger car.
Truck and Van's

 1978 Dodge Trucks and Van.

Circa 1974 -'83 American Motors Jeep Cherokee.  Jeep is the American brand
which refuses to die.  The original "Bantam Recon Car" was submitted to auto
manufactures for bid and production to replace the army's ageing model "T" Ford's
in 1941 prior to WWII.  The Willys-Overland won the contract to build their version
of the GP or "Gov. Purpose" vehicle which was spelled out as "JEEP".  Since that time
Jeep brand has been owned by American Motors and is now a part of the
Chrysler Group.

1984 Ford Custom Van conversion.

Sadly; some of these American brands are no longer with us. Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Plymouth and American Motors brands have all closed their factories primarily due to the bad economy and exposure by auto makers, GM mainly, with their home mortgage and financing businesses.  I have put together a rough estimate of job losses world wide of about 98,000 but most have been in the US.  I would add another 27,000 to that number because Chevrolet and Buick have moved production of those brands to China giving us a grand total of 125,000 +.  This estimate is not including dealerships and so forth.  I've put this number together based on numbers retrieved from numbers obtained by closing the Oldsmobile Division of GM described in the CNN article below from December, 2000. 
End of the road for Olds
December 12, 2000: 6:58 p.m. ET

General Motors cuts jobs, Oldsmobile brand in restructuring; issues warning
By Staff Writer Chris Isidore
NEW YORK (CNNfn) - General Motors Corp. announced a broad restructuring plan Tuesday that calls for the company to phase out its Oldsmobile division, America's oldest car brand, cut thousands of jobs and take a one-time charge of up to $2.5 billion. The world's largest automaker also issued a warning about its profits for the fourth quarter.

The changes mark the biggest steps yet by newly installed GM Chief Executive Richard Wagoner to shake up GM as the auto industry braces for a rough period of slowing sales and intensifying global competition.

Oldsmobile was founded in 1897 and became part of GM in 1908. Long known for its innovative products such as the V8 engine, automatic transmission and front wheel drive, Oldsmobile's doom may have been sealed when it was late coming to the light-truck segment of the market, where automobile buyers have flocked in recent years.
Lack of light trucks

It does not have any pickup trucks and did not start selling a minivan until its 1990 model year and a sport/utility vehicle a year later. Those two models only accounted for less than a quarter of its sales so far this year, while in the industry as a whole truck sales now account for 49 percent of sales.

Wagoner said it was a difficult decision to cut the Oldsmobile brand, but the move was necessary to concentrate engineering and other resources on more profitable products. The brand will continue to the end of the product cycle of different Oldsmobile vehicles now on the market, probably about three years.

"Our teams worked hard to find profitable ways to further strengthen the Oldsmobile product line, including consideration of products developed with our global alliance partners," Wagoner said. "But in the current environment, we simply couldn't find an approach that would ensure Oldsmobile's future success."
Steady decline in Oldsmobile sales, share

The industry sales trend meant that Oldsmobile's sales and market share plunged steadily for well over a decade, dropping to only 265,878 vehicles sold in the first 11 months of this year, representing only 1.6 percent of the U.S. market. By comparison, in 1985 the brand sold 1.1 million U.S. vehicles, or 7 percent of that market.

The sales are even weaker than those numbers suggest, said David Healy, analyst with Burnham Securities. He said about half the sales are lower-profit fleet sales to companies or to GM employees at a discount. He said the elimination of the Oldsmobile brand was inevitable.

"My initial reaction was, 'What took them so long?'" said Healy. "They had too many brands, too many fiefdoms, and they had to simplify it. Even after they phase out Oldsmobile, they'll have too many, but I don't see them making another move for the foreseeable future."

The death of a name that was once as honored as Oldsmobile is proof that owners of premium brands must continue to update their product to survive, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group and an expert on brand identity.

"Oldsmobile demand and sales did not collapse overnight. GM sat back and watched it happen," said Beemer. "Your father's car ultimately became a hearse. You've got to have product categories that are growing categories. The four-door sedan is not the growing category."

This is not the first elimination of a long-time U.S. car brand. DaimlerChrysler announced a year ago it would be
dropping its Plymouth brand.

There are about 2,800 Oldsmobile dealerships in North America, and the overwhelming majority also sell another GM brand. Only 63 are standalone Oldsmobile dealers.

Kevin Campbell, owner and operator of Glen Campbell Chevrolet Oldsmobile, which was established in 1946 in Williamsville, N.Y., said he was concerned about the announcement but said he wanted to see more details before he knew what it meant for him.

"Certainly losing a franchise has a big impact but it's hard to say," Campbell said, who was about to attend the 11 a.m. satellite conference call being piped into dealerships across the country. "What is pertinent is how they plan to phase out the brand and what they do, if anything, to compensate."
GM warns on earnings

Still, it was not Oldsmobile's weak performance that prompted Tuesday's earnings warning -- it was continued problems in Europe. The company warned Tuesday that losses in Europe would be "significantly" worse than the $181 million it lost there in the third quarter. Wagoner blamed weak sales and prices in Europe for the problem.

GM said it now expects to earn $1.10 to $1.20 a share for the fourth quarter, compared with $1.70 a share forecast by analysts on Wall Street.

That forecast
was lowered from $2.42 a share by analysts after it posted record third-quarter results but warned of coming softness in sales. The company earned $1.86 a share in the fourth quarter of 1999.

The earnings figure would be before a $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion charge to account for the phase out of the Oldsmobile brand as well as the job cuts, GM said in a statement. The company will also take a $1.2 billion gain in the quarter on its previously announced sale of
its Hughes Electronics (GMH: Research, Estimates) satellite business to Boeing Co. (BA: Research, Estimates)
The company said job cuts would equal about 10 percent of salaried work forces in North America and Europe as well as about 10 percent of North American contract employees. The cuts will mean about 5,000 salaried employees and 1,100 contract employees will lose their jobs in North America, along with about 1,600 salaried employees in Europe.
Plant closings

Hourly employee job cuts will come to about 4,000 in North America and 2,000 in Europe, although the company said that U.S. hourly workers should be able to find new positions with the company filling in for other retiring employees.

Production will be about 15 percent lower early next year compared with the start of this year, as GM works to adjust production in the face of weakening sales. While Wagoner stressed sales are still strong on a historical basis, he said the increasing global competition means that GM must respond more quickly to adjust production.

"I'm not sure these are responses to outlooks for weakening markets. It's trying to structure so we can be successful in the future," he said.

As for plant closings, the engine plant in Lansing, Mich., will be closed next September, and production will continue to be curtailed at Saturn plants in Wilmington, Del., and Spring Hill, Tenn. The car plant in Oklahoma City will also be converted to truck production.

In Europe, the Luton, England, car plant will cease production in 2002. That combined with previously announced plant closings will cut annual vehicle capacity by 400,000 by 2004.

"This is strictly a resource allocation decision," said Ron Zarrella, the president of GM North America, said about the overall restructuring. "We want to strengthen our other brands and use our resources to strengthen those brands. Will bring vehicles forward to the production line faster than they otherwise might be able to do."

of GM (GM: Research, Estimates) closed up 19 cents at $51.75 Tuesday, but that was well off its high of the day of $54.13.
Today some of the classic brands have introduced newer versions of older models to stimulate a new generation of buyers and I have to say WOW, Detroit is back!  There is no way I could cover of write about all of the great models and years many cars were in production but I think I've high lighted some of the "best of the best".  If it feels like you've been reading "Motor Trend" or watching "Motor Week" then I've done a good job because it's only me, Felicity at the Noodleman group! 

*  Special thanks to Wikipedia and CNN for their information contained in this article.  Also, we would like to thank the auto manufactures and their hard working employees for all those years of great cars and memories.  Here's to another great 50 years!

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1 comment:

  1. Great post!Thank you for this is usefull information aboutAutomobilesits really awesome keep it up