Auto Universum is written for the intellectually curious connoisseur with an appreciation for mid-20th Century automotive design and engineering. The Jet Age Motoring appellation reflects a concentration on the decade of the 1960s, with forays into the 1950s and early 1970s.
The 1960s were the halcyon days of diverse design and unfettered motoring. There was a wide variety of powerplants: four-stroke, two-stroke, water-cooled and air-cooled. Engines could be found in the front or in the rear, and for the first time since the dawn of motoring; in the middle, just forward of the rear axle.
NSU and Mazda began selling rotary-engined vehicles, and Chrysler produced fifty turbine-powered automobiles.
The last significant improvements in basic vehicle dynamics, the disc brake and radial tyre, both earlier developments, became widespread in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, fuel injection was becoming fairly commonplace. Traffic density (at least through the middle of the decade) was low enough to make driving and parking much more enjoyable than in later periods.
Auto Universum focuses on the brilliant, the intriguing and occasionally idiosyncratic designs of this period. Here, a Fiat 600 and Lamborghini Miura are equally fascinating: both bold, creative designs for their time; brilliantly conceived for a specific purpose by masters of their craft.
The 1960s, besides being a high point of automotive design, was a high-water mark of design in general.
While not as fertile as the 1950s, the ‘60s still produced some classical furniture designs timeless enough to remain in production until this day, including the Castiglione Brother’s Toio, Taccia and Arco lamps (1962), Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair (1965,) and Pierre Paulin’s Ribbon Chair (1966.)
In cinema, it is hard to top the futuristic allure expressed in the lairs of James Bond’s many villains created by set designer Ken Adam, Piero Poletto’s sets in The 10th Victim or Flavio Mogherini’s hideaway of Diabolik.
Even people were stylish. The 1960s was the last decade people put an effort, no matter the occasion, into appearing polished and dignified.
Finally, it would be the last decade that women were still constructed of all natural material.
Auto Universum is published by automotive aficionado, financier, cookbook author, raconteur and sixtiesologist James M. Kraus.