Monthly Archives: October 2015

From my bookshelf-Fall 2015 Edition

If you’re like me, you’re continually looking for interesting auto related books. Here are some picks from my bookshelf for fall 2015.

Custom Built by McFarlan
Custom Built by McFarlan

As some of you know, I have a keen interest in Indiana-built automobiles. One book in this genre about a lesser-known make is Custom Built by McFarlan: A History of the Carriage and Automobile Manufacturer, 1856-1928, by Richard A. Stanley. The author documents McFarlan’s early specialization in high-grade, light-duty carriages, spring wagons and buggies and then branching into “carriage trade” automobiles, providing a quality product at a reasonable price.

Celebrities of the day such as Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Dorothy Farley, Wallace “Wally” Reid, Alma Simpson, Jack Dempsey, and Paul Whiteman drove McFarlans. Stanley’s extensive research and writing thoroughly document the McFarlan carriage and automobile manufacturing saga. He shares the story of this automotive gem from Connersville, Indiana.

Peruse Custom Built by McFarlan at Amazon.com

Carroll Shelby
Carroll Shelby

One book that I eagerly anticipated this summer was Carroll Shelby: The Authorized Biography by Rinsey Mills. He documents Carroll Shelby’s early exploits as an Army aviator, his 1950’s racing activities, and the quest to develop his own sports car. This book reflects Mills’ fascination with motorsports history and covers Shelby American operations with an in-depth perspective.

I especially enjoyed Mills’ coverage of the development of the first Shelby Cobra roadster. This took place at the beginning of my auto enthusiasm. It was great to read about the development of this automotive icon.

In 1962, Shelby conceived of an aluminum bodied AC sports car with leather interior fitted with the new 260-cubic-inch Ford V8-engine. “Cobras Rout Sting Rays,” reported Motoracing newspaper about the spring 1963 Riverside SCCA races. “In their outing the beefed-up Ford-Powered AC Cobras finished 1-2 today, decimating the Corvette Sting Rays.”

His research and writing thoroughly document Shelby’s auto racing and manufacturing saga.

Peruse Carroll Shelby: The Authorized Biography at Amazon.com

Engines of Change
Engines of Change

A new book celebrating American car culture is Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars by Paul Ingrassia. He documents American vehicular history through 15 automobiles that were at the forefront of their particular eras. The book reflects his fascination with cars and car culture starting in the 1950’s and in covering the auto industry for the Wall Street Journal in later years.

One car symbolizes the start of the mid-1960’s muscle car era – the Pontiac GTO. In early 1963, Pontiac’s engineers debuted a compact Pontiac Tempest coupe fitted with a 389 cubic-inch engine, producing 325 horsepower from a full-sized Bonneville. The GTO was born. This was their concept of a car to enhance the division’s high-performance image. GTO production for 1964 of over 32,000 far surpassed initial projections to sell 5,000 cars. GTO sales for 1966 hit a high of nearly 100,000 cars. The Pontiac GTO still resides at the top of the muscle car collector universe.

Ingrassia also provides insights about the individual creators of these mechanical icons from his time covering the industry.

Peruse Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars at Amazon.com

So, order your own copy of these books, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and discover the tale of some automotive wonders. See you the next time from my bookshelf.

What draws you to an automobile?

What is one of the first things that draws you to an automobile? For me the answer is styling. My first car was a stylish 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop. Boy, do I wish I had that cool auto today. With that being said, I would like to share some additional thoughts on auto design and styling.

Recently, I became reacquainted with the story about how Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie brought styling to the Ford Motor Company. Edsel possessed artistic abilities and a natural talent for design from an early age. Yes, like many of us, his early drawings were of motor cars. In 1922, Edsel persuaded Henry Ford to purchase Lincoln Motor Company. Edsel believed that styling was one of the keys to revitalize Lincoln. Under his direction, the Lincoln became a beautiful car, with series production of designs from numerous custom coachbuilders.

Model A
Edsel Ford in a Model A
Copyright The Henry Ford

By the late 1920’s, Henry Ford realized that it was time to work on an entirely new automobile to replace the aging Model T. He gave Edsel a free hand in implementing the body styling of the new car. Production of the new Model A began on October 20, 1927, and instantly boosted the prestige of the company. This introduction was concurrent with General Motors introduction of styling on their new LaSalle. The Model A saw styling updates through 1931.

E.T. Gregorie began working at Lincoln in early 1931. Soon, Edsel enlisted him to design a new small car for Ford’s European operations. Gregorie used this design to style the domestic 1933-1934 Fords. In 1934, Edsel started a separate Ford design department with Gregorie working directly for him. Gregorie revamped an outside supplier’s design for the new Lincoln-Zephyr in 1935. In 1939, the design department introduced the new Mercury line slotted between the Ford and the Zephyr. The 1939 Ford lineup consisted of Lincoln, Lincoln-Zephyr, Mercury, Ford Deluxe, and Ford Standard.

1939 Continental
1939 Lincoln Continental prototype
Copyright The Henry Ford

Probably the most well know product of their design collaboration efforts is the 1940 Lincoln Continental. For a number of years this pair wanted to build a Ford sports car, but no suitable chassis was available. In the fall of 1938, Gregorie surmised that the Zephyr’s low-slung chassis might be useful. He immediately sketched his new sports car design on a piece of vellum over a Zephyr profile drawing. In less than an hour, his new longer and lower concept car appeared. Edsel commissioned a prototype built in time for his spring vacation in Florida. During this trip, he received such acclaim for the concept that he telephoned Gregorie to set up arrangements for the 1940 production run of Lincoln Continentals.

Under Gregorie’s supervision, the design department was responsible for all of the 1941-1948 Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns. The popularity of some of these designs continued over the years.

Edsel Ford died an untimely death in March 1943. In August 1943, Henry Ford II assumed control of Ford operations. Full-size clay models of Gregorie’s new car lines were shown to company officials by June 1945.

In 1946, Henry Ford II began instituting corporate management changes that caused some friction with the design department. E.T. Gregorie left Ford while he was in the company’s goodwill.

The design team of Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie brought many styling innovations to the Ford Motor Company. The next time I think of Ford auto styling, I’ll immediately think of these two individuals. How about you?

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Automotive Literature Vendors

I frequently get requests from persons wanting to sell automotive literature. They usually want to know if there is any market for something they found in a relative’s collection. This article is my attempt to assist with disposing of or acquiring automotive literature.

Fisher Letterhead
Fisher Automobile Company Letterhead
Copyright ©1909 Carl G. Fisher
The automotive literature dealer I am most familiar with is PJ’s Autolit. I have purchased and sold many items with Paul Strohbehn over the years at swap meets. I find him to be a great resource for advertisements, dealer literature, and color chip charts.

Paul lists the most popular makes on his Web site. If you have a specific request like a Studebaker or Stutz ad, you can e-mail him your request and receive a reply shortly.

Another dealer I know of is Walter Miller’s Automobile Literature. When he started in 1974, there were about six automotive literature dealers across the country. He has an incredible collection, including advertisements, dealer literature, postcards, drawings, posters, and billboards.

Today, with over 2 million items in stock, his operation fills orders from around the world.

A third vendor is McLellan’s Automotive History. Robert McLellan started selling automotive literature in the 1960’s. He has over 150,000 items available, including sales literature, dealer literature, photographs, owner’s manuals, service manuals, technical books, and racing and auto show catalogs.

His inventory is updated daily, and he claims to have on-line photographs for all items.

I hope this helps you find or dispose of that automotive literature in your garage.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.