Jet Age Mobile Telephony

James Kraus

JK - 1 (19)

Automatic Electric Mobiltel car phone brochure, 1960

In the early decades of motoring; if you wanted to make a phone call while on the road, you pulled over, parked and fed coins into a public telephone.

Civilian in-car mobile telephones were first introduced in the 1940s. By the 1960s new models were developed incorporating significant improvements. Chief among these was the general rollout of full duplex operation allowing both parties to speak simultaneously. Full duplex phones obviated the need for a push-to-talk button in the handset and over and out-style communication. Another major advance, direct dialling, became available by mid-decade in selected markets.   Continue reading

1966: A Year of Transition

James Kraus

JK - 1 (61)

Porsche poster celebrating success at the 50th Targa Florio, their sixth overall victory at the storied venue. A few months later Porsche introduced the open-top 911 Targa.

By 1966, the Suave Sixties were slowly morphing into the Swinging Sixties. Currents of change were coursing through the worlds of design, fashion, music and entertainment. It was to be the last full year of the classic sixties before profound mutations would transform the closing years of the decade.

1966 was a particularly fertile year for the Italian auto industry. The colourful and stylish Gianni Agnelli assumed control of the Fiat empire, commuting to corporate headquarters in his Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale.   Continue reading

A Gem from the Vault: The Young Racers

James Kraus

JK - 1

Vincent Vega walks by a vintage poster of The Young Racers at Jack Rabbit Slim’s diner in Pulp Fiction, 1994

Four years before John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, Roger Corman shot The Young Racers. Unfortunately, the latter film remains all but unknown among most enthusiasts. I believe it is time to give the movie its due.

As soon as the opening credits end, you are transported directly to Monte-Carlo to observe the running of the 20ème Grand Prix de Monaco.  Continue reading

The People’s Car. Then and now.

James Kraus

JK - 1 (49)

Wolfsburg Crest, 1962 Volkswagen

On Sunday, the Auto Universum Board of Governors attended the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills. This grand affair entailed a $120 admittance fee and boasted a splendid field including a Ferrari 250 SWB, a pair of 300 SLs, a Porsche 356 America Roadster, Alfa 6C 2500, Bugatti Type 57, 1930 V16 Cadillac and many other pedigreed swells.   Continue reading

Six Strings and Four Wheels

James Kraus

JK - 1 (4)

The Rivieras surround a Claret Red 1964 Buick Riviera

A new sound hit the airwaves in early 1960s America: Hot Rod music. An offshoot of the Surf sound, the new genre was indeed often similar to surf music, but the lyrics involved automotive themes, often centered around drag race culture. The first big hot rod hit was 409 by The Beach Boys, a paean to Chevrolet’s recently-introduced 409 cubic inch (6.7 litre) Turbo-Fire V8.   Continue reading

1960s: The Ascent of Black

James Kraus

JK - 1 (49)

1965 Chevrolet Impala with black Super Sport rear deco trim

The latter half of the 1950s was a jubilant, optimistic era when life was comfortable and the future looked bright. In Britain, post-war food rationing was gone, France was enjoying the height of Les Trente Glorieuses and Germany was celebrating its Wirtschaftswunder. In the U.S., Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Abstract Expressionism, Modernist architecture and Cool Jazz catapulted New York to the global epicentre of the intersecting worlds of art and commerce.   Continue reading