Things Go Better With Coke

James Kraus

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Vintage scale model Coca-Cola cab-over delivery truck

The Coca-Cola Company adopted Things Go Better With Coke as their new advertising tagline in 1963. It then became a jingle, performed by leading pop acts of the decade including Jan & Dean, Tom Jones, Petula Clark and The Supremes.

At the same time, automotive designers were thinking that maybe things went better with a Coke shapeContinue reading

The Swinging Sixties: A Rainbow of Wheels and Technicolor Tyres

James Kraus

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1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 with Marina Blue metallic body-colour wheels and F70-14 special nylon Red Stripe Firestone Super Sports Wide Oval tyres.

The majority of today’s cars today come equipped with black tyres surrounding wheels (or wheel covers) of silver, grey or black. This was not always the case; brightly coloured wheels were a common automotive styling fillip beginning with the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen.   Continue reading

The Cars of James Bond: Mercedes-Benz 600

James Kraus

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Mercedes-Benz 600 carries Blofeld and Bundt on lethal mission

The Mercedes-Benz 600 represented the pinnacle in automotive luxury and engineering extravagance in its day and was accordingly featured in no less than three James Bond extravaganzas. Its first appearance came in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, driven by Bond’s nemesis, SPECTRE Number 1: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.   Continue reading

That Was The Year That Was: 1965

 James Kraus

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Monaco Grand Prix poster, Michael Turner, 1965

The first year of the latter half of the 1960s was a halcyon time. Most financial markets were still hitting new highs and automotive sales were setting records. Nevertheless, signs were appearing hinting that the good times might be on the wane. Continue reading

In Hindsight: 1960s Cars of the Year

by James Kraus

The first European Car of the Year award

Fifty years ago: the first international European Car of the Year award

First presented in 1964, the European Car of the Year (COTY) prize was the premier attempt at an international automotive award for the best new car launched during the previous year. Nominees could be designed and manufactured anywhere in the world as long as they enjoyed at least limited distribution in Europe. The award is still in existence, the Peugeot 308 being the 2014 recipient.

Globalization in automotive markets was quite limited in the 1960s. Many European models were unavailable in America and little more than a handful of American cars were exported to Europe. Only a few select models of Japanese cars were exported and the models selected for sale in Europe were usually not the same models sold in the U.S. For these reasons, the COTY was the closest thing to a universal international automotive accolade.  Continue reading

A Toast to the 50th Anniversary of 1963

by James Kraus

Salon International de l'Auto, Geneva Switzerland, March 1963

Salon International de l’Auto, Geneva Switzerland, March 1963

1963 saw the Jet Age in full swing as the first Learjet took to the skies and a number of automobiles were launched that would become icons of the 1960s; one of which is still with us today.  Continue reading

The Wankel Motor: 1960’s Engine of the Future

by James Kraus

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World’s first Wankel-powered production car: the NSU Spider, 1964

Automobiles can trace their reciprocating-piston engines back to the early days of steam power. As internal combustion replaced steam as the preferred method of powering transport, the concept of using reciprocating pistons to convert energy into motion was carried over.

As the automobile matured, the efficiency and operating smoothness of the reciprocating piston engine gradually improved through the use of a multiplicity of smaller cylinders, shorter piston strokes, counterbalanced crankshafts and other refinements. By the dawn of the 1960s however; the automobile was seemingly falling behind aviation, which had switched to smooth continuous-combustion jet engines. A number of auto manufacturers experimented with gas turbine engines, but none entered mass production.

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Where Were You In ’62?

by James Kraus

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.

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The Allure of Period Colours

by James Kraus

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Lord Brett Sinclair’s Bahama Yellow Aston Martin DBS in The Persuaders!, 1971

Ancient wisdom once held that in the vintage car market, red, white and black were the best colours for resale. However, as Bob Dylan once declared; The times they are a-changin’.

Early Porsche 911 collectors for example often seek out and pay a premium for the colours that made those cars unique to their time period: Signal Orange, Viper Green, Aubergine, Tangerine; even the more esoteric shades of Olive and Golden Green. Continue reading

Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3: Ride of the Valkyries

by James Kraus

Stuttgart Express: The 300 SEL 6.3 at speed

The legendary and storied Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 was a seminal automotive creation of the 1960’s; a comfortable, quiet, soft-riding, full-featured and meticulously crafted sedan that went like a Ferrari. Nothing quite like it had ever come along before.

The W108/109 S-Klasse Mercedes that served as the basis for the 6.3 was actually the first iteration of the S-Klasse as we know it today. Prior to its debut, The S models of the Ponton and Fintail era were simply mid-range models with longer front-ends, larger engines and superior trim.

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The Advent of Fuel Injection

by James Kraus

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.

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Terroir and Contemporary Automotive Design Trends

by James Kraus Bad Design

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Ominous, malevolent and sinister front ends of the 1950’s. Source: Design Quarterly

Automobiles have become more and more aggressive looking of late. A number of them, with their snarling grilles and squinting headlamps, have in fact crossed the line to surly and repulsive, displaying an unpleasantness last seen in the 1950’s.

This may have something to do with the fact that most of the world’s automobile manufacturers established design studios in Southern California some years ago.

Wine aficionados frequently discuss the effects of terroir on their favourite cuvées. The concept of terroir is that the local environment in which the vines grow (weather, soil, etc.) significantly affects the final product. In the same vein, could it not be that the local environment (architecture, clothing styles, attitudes, etc.) affects designers and their output?

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A Possible Future Direction for Saab

by J Kraus

1947 Saab 92. Form following function

Saab could find a ready market today by becoming what German cars used to be. The upscale German cars of today are more like the American cars of yore rather than the German cars of just a few decades ago. Too often overly styled, overweight and overwrought, they are in many ways the polar opposite of the handsome, understated and functional German machinery of days past.

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A Concise History of the Alloy Wheel

by James Kraus

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.

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Holiday Gift: Mercedes-Benz 220 SE

by James Kraus

Mercedes-Benz 220 SE

One of the gifts under the Christmas tree awaiting me this year was a 1/43 scale 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE sedan. The 220 SE was the forerunner of the current Mercedes S Class. The W111 ‘Heckflosse’ (fin tail) body was distinguished from the 4-cylinder range chiefly by its longer front end, highlighted by the signature bubble lenses covering the vertical headlamp assemblies. These units incorporated high and low beam, fog lamp, parking and turn indicator functions. They were a variant of those introduced a few years earlier on the 300 SL Roadster. Devised in-house by Karl Wilfert, they were the first post-war automotive headlamps to be other than round in shape.

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