Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman at Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, California, 1965
During the 1960s, Pontiac brochures and advertising were dominated by dramatic illustrations created by the team of Art ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman. These lush images depicted scenes of glamour and sophistication populated by suave, cosmopolitan and well-attired individuals, always accompanied by a larger-than-life Pontiac with shimmering chrome and glistening paintwork.
These were images that the aspirational car buyer could fantasize inserting himself into, and they nourished the idea that maybe he himself could gain access to this beautiful and exotic world if he went out and bought a new Pontiac.
1967 Ford Thunderbird Four-Door Landau in Raven Black with Black Levant Grain vinyl roof
The new car market today is rife with the latest body body configuration; the Four-Door Coupé. The Mercedes-Benz CLS and Volkswagen CC have recently been joined by the BMW Gran Coupé and more examples are likely on the way.
The contemporary four-door coupé first appeared in the form of the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz CLS in 2004. Based on the E-Klasse platform, it was sheathed in more flamboyant sheet metal than the standard four-door models and featured coupé-style unframed door glass with an overall height reduced by about 6 cm (2.5”). This has been the general formula for its later progeny.
The four-door coupé concept is not really new; this body style enjoyed a brief reign of popularity several decades ago.
Pau Grand Prix, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France, 1962
Auto Universum continues its decade-long 50th Anniversary of the Sixties series with a look back at 1962.
If you missed seeing Maurice Trintignant claim the chequered flag at the Grand Prix de Pau on Easter Sunday fifty years ago, you still had the chance to witness plenty of exciting automobile introductions, architectural presentations, product unveilings and cultural events that took place throughout the year.
Don slides behind the wheel of a Newport Blue Coupe de Ville with Olympic White roof and blue Chelsea Cloth interior. He purchases it days later.
The other day I was discussing season two of the television drama Mad Men with a friend and not surprisingly, talk soon turned to Don’s new Cadillac. Prototypical of what a successful New York executive would have purchased in the 1960’s, it was quiet, smooth and comfortable; equipped with a full measure of the latest developments in convenience features and driving aids.
Did Don care about how much power it had? How fast it was? No; these were more the concerns of men further down the totem pole. They amused themselves with lower-cost, larger-engined Fords, Chevrolets and Plymouths. All of which could easily out-power Don’s posh new Cadillac. No matter; Don had no need for mere demonstrations of power; he possessed power.
1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. A masterwork in the annals of badging: cursive lettering, gold-anodised finish, canted 45-degrees, and unique placement flowing over the curved transition from rear deck to rear quarter panel
Free-flowing cursive script is not often seen on automobiles today. It still survives at Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Outside this quartet it is rare indeed. In days past, cursive was common throughout the industry.
Such longhand script was often utilized to enable casting a complete badge out of a single piece of metal. The alternative was to either run block letters together, or connect individual block characters with a bar across the top (à la Ferrari,) a bar at the bottom (typified by BMW and Mercedes-Benz) or through the centre in the style of Alfa Romeo.
Pre-war cars used cursive scripting almost exclusively, although badging itself was generally minimal or nonexistent. In the 1900’s manufacturer nameplates were usually affixed only to the front of the radiator, and model designations were not displayed. In the thirties, even this practice declined, with most vehicles displaying the manufacturer’s name only via a stylized logo atop the radiator shell. After the war, marque and model badging began proliferating and begat its own art form.
The weapons of World War II gave the public their first-ever glimpse of the power and speed of jet and rocket engines. As hostilities drew to a close, engineers labored over their drawing boards to harness these new power sources for peacetime use.
The rocket-powered Bell X-1 aeroplane broke the sound barrier on 14 October 1947, achieving supersonic speed for the first time. BOAC commenced commercial jet travel in May of 1952. In 1958, commercial transatlantic jet service was inaugurated, and construction began on the Pan Am World Airways tower in New York City.
A number of auto manufactures found it desirable to infuse their products with a bit of this jet age glamour and space age allure.
Messerschmitt Me 109 fighter powered by a Mercedes-Benz V12 fed with Bosch fuel injection
World War II, and the events preceding, did much to seed the development of automotive fuel injection. The concept of injecting precise amounts of fuel into the engine, as opposed to relying on vacuum to draw in approximately the right amount always held promise. The potential of overcoming the carburettor drawbacks of sensitivity to g-forces and altitude changes increased the allure. The war sped things along.
By 1940, Italy was suffering from widespread fuel shortages due largely to the vast amounts of gasoline Mussolini sent to Spain in support of Generalísimo Francisco Franco’s Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. Shortages intensified when export of petroleum products to Italy was banned by the League of Nations.
Heading for the biergarten in a new Ford Taunus 17M
Fifty years ago, the decade that epitomized Jet Age glamour and Space Age sophistication officially began. Automotive engineers and designers were adamant not to be left behind. They toiled over their drafting boards and clay models to create products that would appeal to motorists craving designs that projected a clear expression of the exciting possibilities of the new fast-paced decade of jet travel, satellite communications and space exploration. Continue reading →
Prototype Lamborghini V12, with chief designer Giotto Bizzarrini, Ferrucio Lamborghini and chassis designer Gian Paolo Dallara. Sant’Agata, Italy, 1963
Please join me in saluting ten automobile engines that conquered time and defied obsolescence. Engines with staying power. All have all been offered for sale in the world’s most competitive markets for over 40 years. They represent a full range, from inline and opposed twins to V12’s in sizes ranging from 0.4 litre to 6.8 litres. Some were conceived as cost-no-object exercises; others, humble workhorse engines of the people. Still others were robust mainstream powerplants that attained immortality in the crucible of competition. A few are still available.
1968 BMW 2800CS riding on unusually elegant alloy wheels featuring a polished chrome centre cap discreetly concealing the mounting lugs. Visible fasteners on a contemporary automobile are generally considered to represent a lack of refinement, yet seem to be embraced when they appear on otherwise highly stylized wheels. These were produced for BMW in Italy by FPS (Foundry Pedrini Siena).
Today, alloy wheels are all but ubiquitous and are used by automobile manufacturers as a key styling feature, often used to differentiate model ranges and equipment specification. They started becoming popular with the general public in the 1980’s, but were in fact offered sporadically since 1924.
Previous to the development of the alloy wheel, wheels were formed of two pieces of pressed steel, the rim and the disc, either welded or riveted into a single unit. Or, they were fabricated of a steel or aluminium rim, connected to a centre hub by metal spokes. A transitional design was a hybrid utilizing a steel disc for strength and an aluminium rim for weight saving. Such a design was used by Porsche and Jaguar in the 1950’s. Another example was the Borrani Bimetal, used on several Italian sporting models.