The US automotive industry was so large that manufacturers not only had a plethora of models from which to choose, but also divisions. Research had revealed Ford's Lincoln was not competing with Cadillac as intended, but consumers were instead comparing it to the Oldsmobile of the day. Ford was committed to ensuring the Lincoln stayed as the flagship make, and so a decision was made to introduce a suitable competitor for the Oldsmobile. Dubbed the “E Car” (experimental car), the new division set about creating an advanced and highly desirable car that would be readily identifiable and individualistic
Given that Mercury were already sharing the bodies and many components from the Lincoln range, it was important that the E-Car be new from the ground up, rather than be a concoction of parts cobbled together from existing Ford models. The hype surrounding the launch of the Edsel was unprecedented for the time, the four models including both 2 and four door hardtops, while the Pacer was available as a convertible.
Sales never reached anywhere near expectation, and for many years the word Edsel conjured negative images of the automotive industry much like Titanic had done for the shipping industry. The reasons for the spectacular failure of the new division were many and varied. The marketing campaign had led consumers to believe the Edsel was new from the ground up, but it was anything but new and borrowed heavily from the parts bin of other Ford divisions.
The original decision to market the car via its own dealer network didn’t help, nor did a pricing structure that would see it compete with others from the Ford stable rather than competitive manufacturers. But there is a more simple explanation that many believe to be more accurate, that the Edsel was simply too big for the time – as other manufacturers made their cars more compact the Edsel harked back to the early 1950’s era of bigger is best. It wasn’t.
Founded by Enzo Ferrari who, from an early age, became entranced with the idea of car racing. After World War 1 he managed to get a job with a small car maker converting war surplus, enough to fund his first foray onto the racetrack at the 1919 Targa Florio. Ferrari would land a job with Alfa Romeo the following year, once again competing in the Targa Florio driving a modified production car, and finishing a very creditable second. Severing all ties with Alfa in 1940, Ferrari established his new company Auto-Avio Costruzioni Ferrari.
During World War 2 the Ferrari workshop moved from Modena to Maranello, but this did little to protect if from allied bombing and the new factory was almost entirely leveled in 1944. The factory would not be re-built until 1946, and upon its completion work would begin on the construction of the first ever Ferrari sports-car.
In 1948 a Ferrari would take out the 1948 Mille Miglia, but the best would come in 1951 with the release of the really big-engined Ferraris, the 4101cc Type 340 America. Fitted with a completely new V12 engine, the car had an awesome top speed of 137mph, which naturally enough soon saw them racing with great success. In 1969 Enzo would sell a 50% stake to Fiat to obtain some much needed funds, that figure eventually growing to 90% in 1988. Fortunately the buy-out did not hinder the manufacturers production, and they remain arguably the ultimate in desirable automotive sheet metal.
Founded as the Societa Anonima Fabrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, the management were quick to decide that Fiat should join other marques on the race track, knowing that success would result in car sales. Success came quickly when, in 1907, Felice Nazzaro won the Targa Florio, the Kaiserpreis and the French GP! Fiat’s first sports-car was the Balilla, a car derived from the small saloon design of the same name. Fitted with a four-cylinder 995cc OHV engine good for 36bhp, the car featured many innovations for the time, including hydraulic brakes.
The Mille Miglia model was a further evolution of the original, and not only featured a more powerful engine but a lovely “torpedo” body style. After the war followed the short-lived 1100S and ES models, born out of the very specialized 508CMM coupes of 1937, however the first true post-war sporting Fiat was the 8V, powered by a 2 litre 70-degree V8 pushrod engine good for between 105 and 115bhp. Never considered a technological leader, Fiat nonetheless was quick to adapt to the new technologies of the day, particularly when the engineers saw merit; and so the 8V used a tubular chassis with coil sprung/wishbone independent suspension.
Fiat then switched to the use of a basic under-pan, the resultant 1100’s, 1200’s and 1500’s all featuring coil sprung suspension and rigid rear axles. Most unusual, and least successful, was the “Trasformabile” of 1955-1959, although cabriolets built between 1959 and 1966 sold in large numbers.
The Fiat Coupe and Spyder versions of the rear-engined 850 models built between 1965 to 1973 were solid performers, while the 1966 derivatives based on the 124 saloon, the Sport Spyder and Sport Coupe proved Fiat capable of making truly great cars. That Pininfarina styled and built the Spyder also made them amoungst the worlds most beautiful.
Few know today that the cars Louis Chevrolet built for racing were not Chevrolets, but Frontenacs, and were never in any way connected with the cars that bore his name. It was after William Durant lost control of General Motors for the second time that he started Durant Motors, and a Canadian branch was established in the Toronto suburb of Leaside. This branch was so profitable, despite serious problems at the parent firm, that it went independent, founding Dominion Motors Ltd in 1931.
Its cars were named after the comte de Frontenac, a governor of New France. The first Frontenac was like the Durant Six, featuring automatic starting (when the ignition was turned on) and freewheeling (engine compression not slowing the car while coasting). Frontenac later added the small, 4-cylinder, US DeVaux and the larger Continental to its range. Eventually, the Great Depression had its effect and production ended in December 1933, nearly 2 years after Durant Motors had succumbed.
Founded by Hans Glas of Dingolfing, Germany in 1883 to produce farm machinery, it was not until well after World War 2 that the company would commence automobile manufacture. Following the war cheap and cheerful cars were borne through necessity rather than desire, and Glas turned their hand to the manufacture of a scooter that proved very successful.
Few could afford fully fledged automobiles, and with a burgeoning micro car market it made sense that taking the next step up the ladder would involve manufacturing something that had more than 2 wheels, and less than 4 cylinders. Sales of three-wheelers were going through the roof, and once powerful manufacturers such as Messerschmitt and Heinkel were busy manufacturing their own unique iterations.
The Goggomobil’s would hit the market in 1955, and were in many ways vastly superior to much of the competition, whose vehicles resembled more a covered over scooter than an automobile. The Goggomobil would soon be outselling practically all other micro-cars from the era – right up until BMW took control (their survival being in no small part due to the 3 wheeled Iso Isetta). Sydney company Buckle Motors would begin the import of Glas chassis and mechanical components in 1958, fashioning fibreglass replacements for the original steel Goggomobil bodies – and in doing so avoiding Australian import taxes. The All-Aussie bodies looked the same, but were marginally disproportionate and, more importantly, were lighter.
The weight advantage gave the Australian iterations a performance and handling edge over their German stable-mates, and despite Australia not suffering the economic hardship as was being experienced in Europe, the little “Goggo” proved very popular, with approximately 5,000 being assembled until 1962.