Have any of you heard of this one-off car? My friends who are Ravens fans will think I’m being a traitor by writing about anything having to do with the Heinz family, but so be it. (The name of the stadium of the Baltimore Ravens’ arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, is Heinz Field.)
The Phantom Corsair, built in 1938 (the same year as the Buick Y-Job), was a car conceived and designed by Rust Heinz of the famous H.J. Heinz family. Rust Heinz was the grandson of the founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, which is based in Pittsburgh. He owned a 1936 Cord 810, but wanted something even more daring in design. Take a look at this video and I doubt you will think the Phantom Corsair is anything but daring. For those of you who eschew YouTube because of its connection to the Evil Empire, here is a photo from supercars.net:
From The Beaulieu Encyclopedia Of The Automobile: “It was powered by a Lycoming V-8 engine as used in the Cord 810 mounted in a special chassis with an ultra-streamlined body designed by Heinz and built for him by Maurice Schwartz of the coachbuilders Bohman & Schwartz. The bench-type front seat could accommodate four passengers with two almost uninhabitable seats behind it. [My note: the driver sat second from the left in the front, not first.] Door opening was by electrically-operated push buttons. Heinz planned to market the car at about $14,000, but his death in a car crash (not in the Phantom Corsair) in 1939 put an end to the project.”
This is an even more detailed article about the Phantom Corsair from classicandsportscar.com. Here is an excerpt that reveals more features of the car:
“Details included flush electric push-button door operation, green-tinted triple-layer safety glass, hydraulic impact bumpers, foglights that could be seen from the side and a broad front bench seat that could seat four. Provision for two extra passengers in the back proved claustrophobic. The inside of the body was extensively insulated with cork and a layer of rubber for further refinement.
Heinz must have had an instrument fixation because the dash was flush with a dozen instruments including compass and altimeter to match the stylish original Cord dials. The aviation theme continued with a switch box mounted above the central windscreen pillar. Even a warning light signalled ‘door ajar’. Other developments included a multi-wave radio with twin speakers plus a thermostatically controlled air-conditioning and heating system.”
This car still exists and is displayed at the National Automobile Museum (aka The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada. Once again, I will write that I lament the homogenized sameness (yes, that’s redundant, but for a reason) of today’s automotive offerings. The initial costs to get into the business of building cars are an enormous barrier to entry and really inhibit imagination and daring. The costs of re-tooling to create a new model(s) are also significant. When a lot of money is at stake, people—don’t forget that companies are run by people—are usually cautious.
What would a 21st century version of the Phantom Corsair look like? What kind of drivetrain and features would it have?