A Stitch In Time?

Is fabric automotive upholstery finally ready for a triumphant return after decades of leather fetishism? I recently received word that the new BMW 7-Series is available with woven textile upholstery; not just any fabric, but cashmere.

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Jettisoning the By-Products of Combustion, Then and Now

1966 Ford Mustang GT.

It’s hard not to notice how exhaust tips have evolved into fetish items over the past decade-and-a-half. Overly stylized and comically oversized, they have become carbuncles defacing the stern of the majority of mid and upper-range vehicles currently on offer.

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Pearls of Colour: General Motor’s Opalescent 1960s Fire Finishes

1966 Cadillac Eldorado in Cobalt Firemist

Metallic automotive paint finishes, around since the 1920s, became extremely popular in the U.S. during the 1960s. The then-new thermoplastic acrylic lacquers made an ideal showcase for metallic finishes as their low application viscosity allowed time for a majority of the aluminum flakes to align themselves relatively parallel to the surface before the paint began drying. This provided increased reflectivity compared to earlier efforts. The result was metallic paints with nearly the same visual appeal as todays, lacking only the extra sheen and depth of a clear top coat.

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So, Just What is a Stick Shift?

James Kraus

1963 Ford Galaxie 500/XL with 4-speed manual transmission.

Stick (noun). Any of various implements resembling a stick in shape, origin, or use: such as the gearshift lever of an automobile.

Since time immemorial, American enthusiasts have declared their love of, or mastery over, a mysterious object called a “stick shift.” It’s a strange term. The fact is, since the demise of the Ford Model T and its pedal-operated planetary gearbox, the vast majority of cars (until recently) have featured transmissions whose gears or driving ranges are selected by means of a “stick” usually mounted on the floor or steering column.

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The Bygone Luxury of Jet Age First-Class Automotive Travel

James Kraus

Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman.

The president of France was recently issued a rather banal stretched DS 7 Crossback Elysée. Lacking the charm and dignity of the its immediate predecessors, the SM and DS Presidentielles; the Elysée further challenges the dignity of its occupants by sporting utilitarian roof rails, as if members of the Groupe de sécurité de la présidence de la République might occasionally climb aboard step stools in order to secure the president’s luggage and/or shopping bags atop the roof.

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America’s It Brand of the 1960s

1965 Pontiac 2+2 Sports Coupe.
Illustration by Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufmann.

James Kraus

The heyday of Pontiac neatly coincides with the 1960-1967 period most celebrated here at Auto Universum. Their glory days began with the formation of a young new team of executives who were granted control of the division in the late fifties.

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Jock Fearer and the Birth of Chrysler’s High Impact Color Program

James Kraus

Tonka Toy dump truck in Omaha Orange.

In the Spring of 1969, as Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In was dominating the pop charts, Chrysler began officially offering a trio of bright, saturated High Impact Colors. Although designed for their performance lineup of Barracudas, Chargers, Coronets, GTXs and Road Runners, the vivid colours were actually available across the board on all Chryslers, Dodges and Plymouths.

The origin of High Impact Colors goes back to 1968 and a Los Angeles Chrysler-Plymouth Regional Sales Manager by the name of Jock Fearer.

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Last Days of the Flathead

James Kraus

1965 Rambler American.

Flathead engine, with its valves ensconced in the block, was still a competitive design in the low-compression, low-speed engines of the prewar era. That changed and changed quickly with higher-octane fuels allowing for higher compression ratios, and improved metallurgy and shorter-stroke engine designs enabling considerably higher crankshaft speeds.

The large-volume combustion chambers and upside-down valve placement required in a flathead engine conspired to limit the compression ratio to around 8.4:1, after which power and fuel efficiency both decreased.

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The Atmospheric Automotive Illustration of John Killmaster

James Kraus

JK - 1 (7)

1960 Ford Starliner in Corinthian White at Manganese Falls, Copper Harbor Michigan.

A resident artist at LaDriere Studios in Detroit from 1953 through 1963, John Killmaster’s mature style corresponds aptly with the Jet Age aesthetic of Auto Universum.

John often created entire pieces, but his forte was producing lush, painterly backgrounds that flatteringly framed the selected automobiles.  Continue reading

Timeless vs Of Its Time, Part II

James Kraus

First generation Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

In the first chapter of Timeless vs Of Its Time, we examined two American luxury cars, the 1961 Cadillac and Continental. Now we look at two sporting cars from the 1960s, The Corvette Sting Ray and the Porsche 911. The Sting Ray went on sale in the autumn of 1962, while the new Porsche made its public debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show just one year later. Continue reading

1969 and the Psychedelic Artwork of Paul Williams; when Plymouth Told It Like It Was

James Kraus

1969 Plymouth Cuda 340 Fastback.

1969. The turbulent coda of the nineteen-sixties. The Année Érotique.

Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, 400,000 attended the Woodstock Music & Art Fair and the world witnessed the maiden flights of the Concorde and Hugh Hefner’s DC-9 Big Bunny.  Continue reading

Rise of the Boxtop

James Kraus

1962 Ford Galaxie 500 XL.

The term Boxtop is generally applied to 1960s Ford products and describes a roof with broad slab-sided, roughly parallelogram-shaped C-pillars and a rather upright decidedly non-fastback rear window. The ideal Boxtop requires clear visual delineation between the roof and body at both the top of the A-pillars and base of the C-pillars and rear window. Continue reading

A 1960s Classic: The Pontiac 8-Lug Wheel

James Kraus

1961 Pontiac Catalina with the original 8-Lug wheel; introduced mid-1960.

American cars of the 1960s were certainly not renowned for their braking prowess. Except for a handful of exceptions, disc brakes were not widely available until 1967 and the drum brakes provided were generally small in size and nowhere near up to the weight and power of the cars to which they were fitted. Continue reading