The Fabulous Fifties

Of course, on this day in 1953 the first Chevrolet Corvette was produced in Flint, Michigan. The “assembly facility” was actually the back of a customer delivery garage. From reddit a picture of the car and the people who built it.

 

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The Corvette was first shown to the public at the General Motors Motorama exhibit in January of 1953. The 1950s was the height of show/concept cars, in my opinion. In addition, some of these cars were put into production.

The GM Motorama shows were either cause or effect (or both) of the “Dreamcar Fever” that grew rampant in the early 1950s. I am quoting A Century Of Automotive Style by noted automotive author Michael Lamm and the late Dave Holls, former GM Director of Design. The article from which I quoted the phrase “Dreamcar Fever” offered the opinion that Ford concept cars of the period “often went overboard, beyond reason and credibility,” that Chrysler cars mainly conceived by Virgil Exner “tended to be too Italianate for American tastes” and that left Harley Earl as “the guiding apostle of dreamcars.”

Long way ’round, today’s post was actually inspired by a recent telecast of a Bitchin’ Rides re-run where Dave Kindig and Kevin “Kev Dogg” Schiele attend the Woodward Avenue cruise in Detroit. (Sadly, the cruise will not happen this year. Damn virus…) While Ford’s dreamcars may have gone “overboard,” one of their production cars, a car shown on that Bitchin’ RidesĀ episode, is the height of taste to me. From Classic Cars a picture of a 1956 Continental Mark II:

 

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For a car from that era, this Continental is relatively devoid of chrome and stainless steel trim and only has a hint of tail fins. To me, the proportions of this car are almost perfect.

The design was actually the result of a competition. William Clay Ford was in charge of the Continental project, which was spurred on in large part by Lincoln dealers who wanted something to fill the void created when production of the earlier Continental ceased after 1948. He had five designers draw ideas for the car and after the first design was rejected by Henry Ford II in December, 1952, the second iteration of design was turned into a competition between Ford staff and outside designers. The Ford group, led by former Packard design head John Reinhart, won the competition in April 1953. (“Political” note: competition is not inherently evil.)

These cars were sold for $10,000 in 1956-57, an extraordinary amount when the most expensive Buick was $3,700 and even no Cadillac sold for more than $6,800 in 1956. Today, non-concours examples of this car are not as expensive as one might think despite a two-year production total of only 3,000 cars. Alas, maintenance is simply too expensive and too difficult for one of these to be considered for purchase by my wonderful wife and me.

The 1956-57 Mark II has been the subject of previous posts, but I simply had to write about the car again after seeing it on TV. I guess TV can be useful sometimes.

 

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Throwback Thursday

It is Thursday, isn’t it?

First, a question: what do Lon Babby, the late Jerry Coleman, Theo Epstein, Calvin Hill, Mel Kiper, Gary Roenicke and the late Kevin Towers have in common? They all attended my wedding.

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From fastlanecars.com, a picture of this week’s throwback car: the beautiful 1956 Continental Mark II. During the two model years in which this car was produced, Continental was a make separate from Lincoln.

Given the time period, the Mark II was relatively unadorned with chrome and fins, but blessed with splendid dimensions and a classic look. From this Hemmings article comes this information:

“Lincoln dealerships had been inquiring about a replacement for the Continental from the time production stopped [in 1948], so in 1952, the Ford Motor Company conducted research to determine whether a market for such a premium car existed; they decided that although they would probably lose money on such a project, the gains in prestige and publicity from a halo car would more than make up for it. A design contest among Ford stylists and outside contractors resulted in a two-door coupe, designed by staffer John Reinhart, that was both traditional and classic, yet incorporated what he termed Modern Formal design-this was the Mark II.

When it debuted as a 1956 model in October of 1955, the $9,966 Mark II was one of the heaviest American cars extant at 4,825 pounds without air conditioning, 5,190 pounds so equipped. Riding on a 126-inch wheelbase, it stretched 218.4 inches long and sported a low 56.25-inch roofline. The original Lincoln-Continental’s proportions remained, with the Mark II’s hood stretching a massive 70 inches. Under that hood was a standard Lincoln engine and drivetrain; the 368-cu.in. V-8 was overmatched by the car’s weight, offering a 0-60 mph time of just under 16 seconds and an indicated top speed of 118 mph.”

Even though the car was very expensive for its day (almost $10,000, according to smartasset.com that is equivalent to over $92,000 today; of course, many cars today cost substantially more than $92,000), as expected Ford Motor Company lost money on every one produced. According to many sources, exactly 3,000 Mark IIs were produced in total for the 1956 and 1957 model years.

Any regular reader knows I am not a FoMoCo fan, but I like to give credit where credit is due. The Continental Mark II is simply a stunning example of the best of American car design.