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.

Heyday of the aft-mounted motor: VW 1300, VW Type 34 Karmann Ghia and Porsche 2.0 911S Tagra. Düsseldorf, 1969.

NSU and Mazda began selling rotary-engined vehicles, and Chrysler produced fifty turbine-powered automobiles.

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Chrysler Turbine Car

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.

Fiat 600D

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.

Palace of the Dawn (President’s Residence) by Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, 1960

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.)

Ribbon Chair by Pierre Paulin for Artifort, 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.

Series I E-Type Jaguar enters the underground lair of Diabolik in the 1968 film “Danger: Diabolik.” Art Direction by Flavio Mogherini

Even people were stylish. The 1960s was the last decade people put an effort, no matter the occasion, into appearing polished and dignified.

Style of the times: Ferrari Technical Department Chief Mauro Forghieri and Commendatore Enzo Ferrari at the Gran Premio d’Italia, Monza, 1967

Auto Universum is published by financier, cookbook author, raconteur, sixtiesologist and Jet Age Media founder James Kraus.

Having a go at the ADAC Eifel Historic Rallye; Daun, Germany, 2002

Yours truly readying for the premier stage of the ADAC Eifel Historic Rallye; Daun, Germany

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