Threes And Sevens: 1953

No doubt, this will seem like a manifestation of petulance, but if today’s installment of Threes And Sevens fails to reach a certain number of views, then I will not finish the series. These posts require a lot of research and I will not write to a vacuum.


1953 was, in many ways, a watershed year in US automotive history. So much of significance occurred that it is difficult to pick a starting point.

Automobile production controls were lifted in February, 1953 by new President Dwight Eisenhower. The Korean War was the reason for those regulations and, of course, that war ended in July, 1953.

With controls lifted and with the Korean War not needing the type of domestic rationing seen in World War II, making “post-war” adjustment easier, calendar year production soared by 42 percent compared to 1952 reaching 6.1 million cars. For model year 1953, Chevrolet just topped Ford with production reaching 1.35 million cars while Ford produced 1.25 million. Chevrolet 1953 calendar year sales were 1.48 million. Sorry, but this is one of the rare times that the standard catalog of® American Cars 1946-1975 has let me down; it doesn’t show 1953 calendar year data for Ford and I couldn’t find that figure anywhere else.

This was not just a continuation of the decades-old rivalry between the Bow Tie and the Blue Oval. From 1938 to 1952, inclusive (and granting that no cars were produced from February, 1942 to July, 1945), Ford beat Chevrolet in sales just twice. Henry Ford II was determined to get Ford back to the top. The company launched an all-out production “blitz” in 1953 as the auto industry shifted back into high gear with the end of the Korean War. Forced to sell cars they hadn’t ordered, Ford dealers resorted to heavy discounting. Chevrolet had no choice but to follow, the race was on and the rest of the auto industry suffered.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to state that this battle between Ford and Chevrolet is, ultimately, what doomed the Independents like Studebaker and Packard. Chrysler also suffered, but had the resources to survive and to adjust.

In 1950, the Independents had a market share of more than 10 percent. By the time the “blitz” ended in 1954, their share had been cut almost in half. Of course, it’s no coincidence that 1954 saw Hudson and Nash merge to form American Motors and saw Studebaker and Packard merge. The most significant catalyst for those mergers was the Ford-Chevrolet battle that began in 1953.

Backtracking a bit, below is a photo of Chevrolet’s most popular car for the 1953 model year, the 210/DeLuxe 4-door sedan:


See the source image


Chevrolet produced 332,497 of these that year. Of course, 1953 marked the introduction of another Chevrolet model, one with which you’re familiar:


See the source image


The Corvette was first publicly displayed at the General Motors Motorama event at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York in January, 1953. Production began on June 30. Of course, the Corvette has become an iconic car and brand and is now in its eighth generation with total sales not far from two million. In 1953, Chevrolet sold 300 Corvettes.

The 1953 Motorama also featured other concept cars, called dream vehicles. These were the Pontiac Parisienne, the Olds Starfire, the Buick XP-300 and LeSabre, and the Cadillac LeMans. The Motorama “toured” for six months drawing 1.7 million visitors. Once again, it is sad to me that Buick had two concept cars at the ’53 Motorama and now no longer manufactures cars of any kind, only SUVs. Here is a picture of the Pontiac Parisienne concept car.


See the source image


1953 was the first year that at least half of all new US cars were equipped with automatic transmissions. In that vein, Chrysler began installing its first fully automatic transmission, the PowerFlite, in June. Remember that just 15 calendar years prior, and fewer than 15 production years with the World War II halt to car production, fully automatic transmissions did not exist.

American cars began to adopt 12-volt electrical systems, replacing six-volt systems, in 1953. 12-volt remains the standard to this day although the conversion to electric vehicles will change this paradigm, of course.

Model year 1953 saw the introduction of the “Loewy” coupes by Studebaker. I wrote about these cars in depth almost three years ago. Suffice to say that they were a styling tour de force, but were not enough to save Studebaker.


See the source image


I hope I have been able to convey the significance of 1953 as it relates to the US automobile industry. As always, I welcome thoughtful comments.








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Cars A To Z: C

First…last night must have been the first airing of the first episode of Garage Squad on the Motor Trend channel since Cristy Lee’s departure from the show. The number of blog views and visitors skyrocketed and finished in the top five in daily readers in the 45+ month history of the blog. Where Is Cristy Lee? continues to be The Gift That Keeps On Giving. OK, you say you “have” to see a picture today:



I couldn’t pick any make other than Chevrolet for the “C” post for Cars A To Z. Chevrolet was founded (in 1911) because William Durant, who had created General Motors, had been kicked out of GM just two years after its formation. He figured his only way back to the top at GM was to create another car company. That company was the Little Motor Car Company of Flint, Michigan and Chevrolet was the name Durant chose for his larger car, which became the name of the company in 1914. Louis Chevrolet, the race car driver for whom the company is named, was actually well-known to the American public.

Durant’s plan succeeded, then failed. Using Chevrolet stock as a way to acquire General Motors stock, Durant regained control of GM in 1916, only to be kicked out for the second and final time in 1920. He was a visionary in terms of seeing the overall automobile market, but organization was not his strength nor was prudence when it came to spending money.

Chevrolet was the top dog among American car makes for many years. It and Ford dominated the US automobile market. For example, for the 50 years after World War II (1946-1995), they finished in the top two positions in sales 48 times. Ford dropped to fourth in 1983 and third in 1985, which means, of course, that Chevrolet finished either first or second in all 50 years.

Chevrolet sold almost 78 million cars from 1946-1995, finishing ahead of Ford’s nearly 69 million and outselling Ford in 36 of those 50 years. Chevrolet was the first US car company to reach the two million level in a single year (in 1962) and surpassed that mark a total of 15 times with the last year being 1980.

Some production trivia and lamentation: Oldsmobile finished third to Chevrolet and Ford for three years from 1977 to 1979, inclusive, with annual sales exceeding one million each year. The company reached the one million level in sales as late as 1986, but of course, was defunct less than two decades later.

Pontiac squeezed into the number two position in US sales as late as 1996, edging out Chevrolet. Fifteen years later, Pontiac was no more.

Anyway…before I show my current Chevrolet connection, I want to show a car of note: the 1965 Chevrolet Impala. Including 243,114 SS models, Chevrolet sold 1,046,514 Impalas that year, the only US model to reach a million in annual sales since the end of World War II. (c.f. Mustang sales for its elongated debut year of 1965 were 680,989.) From Vintage Car Brochures, a page in the 1965 Chevrolet sales brochure:


See the source image


In my opinion, like the Mustang the Impala was a success because it was a stylish car–especially in coupe form–that was versatile. I wish I had a picture of the 1961 Impala that got me back and forth between home and college in my first semester. My first car, a 1967 Pontiac GTO, had been wrecked in an accident two weeks before I started college and it took months to fix.

Now, to my current Chevrolet connection:



In case you don’t know, [everyone join in] or even if you do, these are the three Corvettes I have owned. At the top is my 2002 Corvette in Electron Blue Metallic I bought used in 2004. The middle picture is my 2007 Corvette in Machine Silver that I purchased new in 2007. Of course, the bottom is my 2016 Z06 in Long Beach Red Metallic with its recently purchased ZR1 wheels. I bought the Z06 used in 2019.

I doubt many readers are surprised by my choice of Chevrolet as the “C” car for Cars A To Z. I ask for your indulgence.







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16 Tacos

Originally I was going to title today’s post “40 Days and 40 Nights” because, counting today, that’s how much is left of the year 2020. I decided that was too much “on the nose.”

My wonderful wife and I have been in Arizona for about three weeks. In that time I have eaten 16 tacos from Jack In The Box. If any of them are reading I can imagine the reaction of the food fascists, “Ew, those aren’t real tacos. How can you eat that stuff?” Uh, being smug, self-righteous and arrogant is no way to go through life. (Yes, an Animal House reference, sort of.)

I love Jack In The Box tacos. The only concession I’ve made to age is that I order them without the sauce. From the time we left Texas almost 13 years ago until our move here my access to Jack In The Box had been extremely limited. I am making up for lost time.

I doubt I will continue to average almost a taco a day, but I will have them whenever I want. From a site called Serious Eats, a picture of those tacos:


See the source image


I have a long history with Jack In The Box. I have always been an avid reader. When I was young, a Jack In The Box store was next door to the library where I would borrow books and I would usually get whoever drove me to the library to stop there.

Around the time I began college that store closed as did most others in the eastern half of the country. From about 1980 until I moved to California in 1995 I did not eat at Jack In The Box.

When I moved west I remember waiting at least ten days before I went to one, perhaps in an effort to heighten the anticipation. Of course, I ordered tacos, two at first, but I think I ate at least two more. When I pulled the first one out of its envelope I couldn’t believe it. It looked and smelled exactly the same as I had remembered it and when I took my first bite it tasted exactly the same. I was euphoric.

If you don’t like their tacos, then don’t eat them. Don’t you dare tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat. My life doesn’t belong to you. When you can run three 11-minute miles three times a week (despite painful bunions and arthritis in my feet), then maybe you can have a say. Then again, maybe not.


Not “remembering” the shooting death of John F. Kennedy today is not an effort at demeaning the significance of the incident. I will say, though, that based on the limited amount of reading I have done, my “theory” is that while Lee Harvey Oswald did intend to kill JFK, he was actually killed by a bullet accidentally fired by a Secret Service agent.

This theory is outlined in the book Mortal Error (published in 1992) by Bonar Menninger. The book is based on the work of Howard Donahue, a gunsmith, sharpshooter and ballistics expert. In 2013, Australian journalist and former police detective Colin McLaren published a book and documentary both titled JFK: The Smoking Gun, examining and supporting Donahue’s theory.


See the source image

See the source image


On this day in 1893, legendary automobile stylist Harley Earl was born. The top picture (from Car Type) is the Buick Y-Job, Earl’s creation and the first “concept car.” The bottom photo (from Classic Cars) is, of course, a 1953 Corvette.

On January 1, 1928, Art and Colour, the automobile industry’s first dedicated styling department, was created by General Motors. Harley Earl was named its head and this department was, essentially, created for Earl by Alfred Sloan, President/CEO/Chairman of GM.

After seeing many cars like the Jaguar XK 120 at an event in Watkins Glen, Earl was inspired to create an American two-seat sports car. On June 2, 1952 he gave Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole (who eventually became President of GM) a sneak preview of an Art and Color mockup of the “secret” two-seat sports car, code named Opel. Cole loved the idea and pushed for permission to put the car into production. With no offense intended to the memory of Zora Arkus-Duntov, Harley Earl was the real father of the Corvette and Ed Cole also deserves much credit for its creation.









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Monday Musings 43

It’s amazing how much more often you have to run the dishwasher when you’re cooking and eating all of your meals at home…


On this day 50 years ago the great Secretariat was born at the Meadow in Doswell, Virginia. You see, not all great racehorses come from Kentucky. Technically, all thoroughbreds have the same birthday, January 1, but that’s just a contrivance to classify horses.

In case you don’t know, [everyone] or even if you do, Secretariat won the Triple Crown—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes—in 1973. He is recognized as the holder of the fastest time in each of those races although his Preakness time is the subject of controversy. His time in the Belmont Stakes remains the American record for 1 1/2 miles on dirt. Andrew Beyer developed a metric, now called the Beyer number and which is included for every horse in the Daily Racing Form, that combines the “raw” time of a horse in a race with the track variant, a number that represents the inherent fastness and slowness of the track on a given day. I’ll let Beyer take it from here: “[For the Belmont Stakes] I came up with a figure of 139, which is by far the best of any horse I’ve seen…Secretariat was in a different dimension than any other horse we’ve seen in modern times.”

He was also the first horse to be named American Horse of the Year as a two-year old. The Triple Crown is for three-year olds only, meaning that Secretariat was Horse of the Year the only two years he raced. (As part of his syndication sale it was stipulated that he would not race after his three-year old season.) I am not an expert on horse racing history, but to me he was easily the greatest thoroughbred racer of all time.

From Horse Racing Nation a picture of Secretariat during the 1973 Preakness:


Secretariat 615 X 400


Speaking of thoroughbreds of a sort…on this day in 2000 the 1999 Chevrolet Corvette was named “Best Engineered Car of the 1990’s and Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century” by The Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International. According to SAE, “The 1999 Corvette was selected as the ‘Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century’ for having the highest marks for successfully introducing a new engineering system, longevity in the marketplace and achieving better performance than its contemporaries by virtue of the excellence of its engineering.”

Um, that’s quite an honor. I believe that a percentage of Corvette fans do see the car as a “diamond in the pigsty,” the only bright light in a field of dark sameness. However, I don’t think an honor like that is something that a company can merely stumble upon like the proverbial blind squirrel that stumbles onto an acorn. To me, that’s why the many failings of General Motors are so frustrating. Historically, the company has been capable of greatness. Currently, the C8 Corvette is an example that GM can still produce greatness. Why it does not do so on a regular basis could be, and has been, the subject of a book and is too big a topic for a 500-word blog post. From Bring A Trailer a picture of a 1999 Corvette, in Red, of course:


See the source image


My first Corvette was of the same generation, a C5, although I didn’t like red cars when I bought it in 2004:



That’s my 2002 Corvette in Electron Blue Metallic. I would like to read the thoughts of the Corvette owners out there about their cars and how they see the Vette’s role in the automobile universe.






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