The Lincoln Futura

Several times over
the years, folks have
asked me about the
original “Batmobile” —

was it based
on a real car,
or was it built
from the ground up ?

But, just one look at the 1955
Lincoln Futura would answer
those questions right away.

The thing is —
– there was only 1 ever built –

but, unlike many prototypes
produced at the time for the
car show circuit, it was fully
operable.

Ford designers Bill Schmidt
and John Najjar came up
with the concept from an
idea Schmidt had in 1945-

and the Italian auto coachmaker
Ghia was finally chosen to
build it in 1954, (for $250,000)
on a modified Lincoln chassis.

Equipped with a large 368
Y-Block OHV V-8, making
about 330 horsepower with
a 4 barrel carb, and a
three speed ‘Turbo-Drive’
automatic transmission,
it was first unveiled at the
Chicago Auto Show in
January, 1955.

High points of the body
included a double,
clear-plastic canopy top,
a dramatic grill and hood
with deep inset headlights,
and large tail fins.

Futura’s high tech looking
design was quite popular
on the mid-1950’s car show
rounds – and it’s advanced
styling influenced designs
for future models like the
Ford Galaxie and Lincoln Capri.

It even appeared in a
Hollywood movie in 1959
with Glenn Ford and
Debbie Reynolds
“It Started With A Kiss”.
(it was repainted red)

Soon enough, though, the
car wasn’t being used much
anymore, and Ford sold the
prototype to auto customizer
George Barris –
(also known for his
“Munster’s” car)
who had it sitting unused
and unloved behind one of
his storage barns for
several years.

Then, in 1965, (20 years after
it was first conceived as the
“Futura”) the producers of
“Batman” approached Barris
for a car for the TV series –
Barris had minor alterations
to the body made, and the legend
of the original “Batmobile” was born.

That car still exists today –
as do copies made at the time
of the TV series and after –
in a collection on the
West Coast.

You won’t see it being
driven on the highways,
however —
it never was titled,
had no VIN number,
and is un-insurable
as a motor vehicle.

But as a generational
culture momento,|
boy howdy is it.

!!! HOY !!!

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Not The DeLorean DMC-12 Again

Okay….

So, every car-oriented blog
eventually talks about the
famous (or infamous)
DeLorean DMC-12 –

– you know, the car that was
used as the time machine
by the mad professor in
“Back To The Future”.

But, there are some
interesting historical
tidbits that are usually
skipped over that we
might have some fun
with on our Saturday car
post- since we’re less of a
car oriented blog and
more of a smart-assed
one, anyway.

Most folks think that the
DeLorean DMC-12 was the
first stainless steel bodied
automobile — it was not —
the 1936 Ford SS Tudor
Deluxe was.

Stainless Steel is an excellent
material from which to make
a car– rust-resistant, durable –
– and John DeLorean definitely
had the right idea.

There are several reasons that
automakers use to explain
why it isn’t used — but the
truth has some to do with
added expense and a lot to
do with planned obsolescence.

Cars that don’t wear out
fast, don’t get replaced fast.

Sales suffer.
Auto executives don’t get
their million dollar bonuses.

So it was, certainly, something
that rankled his competition-

– but, truthfully, the failure
of DeLorean’s company had
very little to do with his choice
of material.

You might know
that the car
was made in a plant in
Northern Ireland, near Belfast.

But, did you know that
originally, DeLorean had
planned his factory to be
located in Puerto Rico,
and that the government
of Northern Ireland gave
him about 170 million bucks
to build it there instead.

DeLorean had several popular
celebrities as large investors
in his company as well —
including Johnny Carson
and Sammy Davis, Jr.

The engines in the DMC-12’s
were descended from the one
in the Renault Model 30 –
– a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo
2.8 liter V-6, and were built
in France.

So were the gearboxes-
the car was available in
automatic and a 5 speed
manual transmissions.
It had a top speed of
about 110 MPH.

DeLorean originally considered
calling his new car the ” Z-Tavio ”
– a conglomeration of his son’s
middle name, and his father’s
first.

But the ” DMC-12 ” designation
was chosen instead, because the
planned retail price for the car
was going to be around
$12,000 U.S. –
– after production began,
it turned out the MSRP was
more than twice that –
and the selling price was
about $15,000 over that –
making the average price
paid, in 1982, about $50,000.

Never intended as an
economical car, three
gold-plated DeLoreans
existed as of 1983-
2 were manufactured for the
American Express Company,
and one —

well, that’s part of another
interesting DMC-12 story…

It seems that there were
several hundred cars left in
some state of assembly when
the DeLorean company went
belly up.

Those cars, along with spare
parts, licenses, stock,
everything – got sold after
receivership to a company
which finished as many of
them as they could.

One of them was the
third gold DMC-12.

And the company?

Consolidated International.

Otherwise known as Big Lots.

Funny how stuff turns out
sometimes, ain’t it?

!! HOY !!

The 1961-1963 Lincoln Continental

Another of my all-time
favorite cars is starring
on today’s car post —

the stunning early
1960’s Lincolns —

Continental of course,
because Continentals
were the only cars Lincoln
produced during a 16 year
span, between 1961 and 1976.

The 1961, 1962 and 1963
Lincoln Continentals were
part of the brand’s fourth
generation, and their classic
good looks are so refined
that they might make one
forget that they have been
also described as ” the finest
mass-produced domestic
automobile of it’s time “.

Lincoln Motor Division
had been struggling
in the late 1950’s –
in order to survive,
the new fourth generation
model, due in 1961, would
have to deliver on distinctive
looks, durable build quality,
and better handling and performance.

Elwood Engel, Vice President of Ford Development, had been working on a cutting edge design for the third generation Thunderbird, and the plans were soon brought to fruition –
— not on the 2 door T-Bird,
but on the new 4 door
Continental instead –
the T-Bird uni-body was
stretched to accommodate
a 123 inch wheelbase that was
still shorter than the previous
model’s 131 inches.

It was available in four door sedan and convertible
versions only –
and equipped with a 430 c.i
big block V-8 making over
300 horsepower –
and a 3 speed
automatic transmission
was standard.

One thing most folks
remember about the
fourth generation Lincolns
were the suicide doors-

Continental’s rear doors
were hinged at the back
for looks, ease of access
and maintenance:

they were called ‘suicide doors’
because “…a reverse-hinged
door, if accidentally opened
in a moving car, would be
flung wide by the road wind,
making it easier for a
passenger to fall <or jump> out.”

Lincoln’s Continental line during this period also included the first and
only post WW-II
American-made four
door convertible –
made until 1967.

My personal passion for
these cars began in the
late 1970’s –

I owned a 1962 Continental that had well over 100,000 miles on it — and I still went
cross country with it —

– it was gorgeous,
drove like a cloud,
had room to spare,
and was mechanically
bullet proof.

Best of all, the girls loved it.

Of course, it only got about
13 miles to a gallon of gas –
but dependability was much
more important to me then,
and it still is today.

A friend of mine owns a ’62 just like my old black beauty,
and he has kept it
very original —

other than replacing the old
rear drum brakes with disks —

and it does my heart good to
hear him talk about how
dependable the car still is,
and how many looks
the car still gets.

A man could do a lot
worse, let me tell you.

!! HOY !!

The Stout Scarab

Say what you want
about this beast —

It was the world’s first
production-made mini-van,
and inspired by the
engineering genius of
Buckminster Fuller
and his Dymaxion Car.

And interestingly enough,
the Stout Scarab’s design
motto was :
“Simplicate.
Add Lightness”

Developed in 1932 by SAE
President William B. Stout,
the car went into limited
production in 1935 on a tiny
factory line in Dearborn,
Michigan.

Those rear-wheel drive
Scarabs were equipped
with a rear-mounted
Ford flathead V-8
engine producing 90
horsepower — driving
a three speed manual
transaxle that could
get the thing moving
up to about 75 MPH.

No fenders,
no running boards,
cab-forward design,
6 passenger capacity
(but with only two
access doors, one driver
side, and one mid-body
on the passenger side )
and an aerodynamic
Deco-inspired look
and form made the Stout
Scarab more than the
average novelty car
in the mid-1930’s —
but it’s expense
(about $85,000
in today’s money)
put it out of reach
for most consumers.

There were perks to
those who could afford one –
the interior included a
folding table and seats
that could be re-arranged
at will, with plenty
of space even allowing
for a portable office or
a sleeping area if required.

Stout stopped producing
the Scarab as World War II
approached, but made
one more after the war
with the help of the
Owens-Corning Company –
– The Scarab “Experimental” –
which was the first car
with a fiberglass
body and a pneumatic suspension.

And no matter how ugly you
might think the Scarab was ,
you do have to admit,
it was aptly named.

!! HOY !!

What Wasn’t New In 1946

” Packard —
Brand New For 1946 “.

That’s what a brochure
for the first post-war Packard automobiles
said.

But,
as everybody knows –
civilian motor car production
was cut off in early 1942 ,
subsequent to the U.S. entry
into World War II, and new
car development and design
hadn’t yet restarted in time
for the 1946 models.

So,
which was it?

Simply put,
they lied, like
any ‘good’ advertising
agency did back then.

Put in their parlance,
they made lemonade
out of already squeezed
lemons.

I’m usually shocked when
it’s so obvious, but these
examples from the 1946
Packard advertising brochure
really take the cake.

Packard officials later
admitted there was
little or no ‘new’ content
in the 1946 models- and in
the “Standard Catalog of
American Cars, 1946-1975,”
G. Marshall Naul noted:
“The 1946 Packards were
an extension of the 1942 Clipper line with practically no changes.”

And of course, plenty of
automotively-savvy folks
caught on right quick —

Which caused Packard to
take a different tack —

In a later ad , they explained
their reasons for all the
non-changes in the ‘all-new’
Packard ‘strategy’ :

1. “By continuing to build this superlatively fine motor car over into 1947, we do not have to stop production to ‘tool up’ for changes. This means more cars sooner for people who are so eager to become Packard owners.”

2. “By continuing the present styling,
Packard fully protects the motorist
who buys today’s new Packard.
He
knows that the stunning new Packard he buys today
will not become ‘dated’

in appearance tomorrow.”

3. “The stacks of orders now on hand are gratifying evidence that today’s new Packard is the car America wants.”

4. “Because of its advanced Clipper
styling, today’s new Packard is not
only conceded to be the best-looking
car on the road, but is actually
ahead of its time.”

5. “No car we have ever built, in all our 46-year history, ever won such spontaneous, enthusiastic, nationwide acclaim as today’s beautiful new Packard Clipper.”

Still, with all these non-reasons,
they managed to convince
over 30,000 folks to buy a
‘brand-new’ Packard in 1946.

But one wonders if this
kind of overtly-false advertising destroyed the car-maker’s credibility with buyers in the end —

— which came for Packard in 1957.

!! HOY !!

Buying A Car At Sears

First of all —
A Happy St Patty’s Day!

Today’s
Saturday Car
post
installment
is called :

Buying A Car At Sears ” –

– and as unlikely as that
might seem to modern
readers, it was possible
during two specific time
periods in U.S. history,
to do just that.

In the first era,
between 1908 and 1912,
you could actually order
your “Sears Motor Buggy”
from the Sears catalog,
and have it delivered to
your nearest railroad
station.

Made by Lincoln Motor
Car Works, 9 models
were available,
ranging in price
from $350 to $500 —
with two-cylinder air
cooled engines making
between 10 and 15
horsepower, and was
propelled by a
chain-based
friction-drive
transmission.

They were considered
very durable, and came
with a ten day money
back guarantee.

The models on offer
included :

the upper-level “Model L”,

and economy “Model G” –

but the differences seem
to have been in extras
like:

a fabric top,
running boards,
and pneumatic tires.

Sure, those ‘extras’
probably sound
pretty necessary to
you and I,
but back then,
it was simply
a “motor buggy” ,
after all.

The second coming
of the Sears automobile
was in 1950- –

For three years, they
marketed a car through
their retail outlets,
which although already
on the market and sold
as the Kaiser-Frazer
“Henry J” , was rebadged
and rebranded as the
Sears “Allstate”.

Advertised as “the
lowest-priced full-sized
sedan on the U.S. market ”
– it caused considerable
consternation among
Kaiser Frazer dealerships,
many of whom refused
to service the Sears sold
cars, despite being almost
identical to the Henry J’s.

It had been, for all
practical purposes,
just a marketing scheme
invented by Henry J. Kaiser
to unload surplus new cars –
and it broke down before it
ever had a chance to really
come together.

Two lines of Allstates
were offered –
– both two
door fastback sedans –

called the “Series 4″
with a 134 c.i. 4-cylinder engine making about
70 horsepower,

and the ” Series 6″, with a
L-head 6 cylinder making
around 80 H.P.

The engines were
made for
Kaiser (and thus, Sears )
by Willys-Overland –

the 4 cylinder engine in
the “Series 4” was an only
-slightly modified Jeep
CJ-3A motor.

After two model years
(that varied little
from each other)
only about 2400 of
the “Allstate ” cars in total
were sold, the lines were
discontinued, and Sears
got out of the car business
for good.

Still, they continued
to rebrand and sell
many lines of
motorcycles,
scooters
and mopeds,
made by Vespa,
Puch and
Cushman,
bearing the
” Allstate ” logo
until the late 1960’s.

.

!!! HOY !!!

The Triumph TR Series

One of my favorite cars
from the early 1970’s
was the
Triumph TR-6
with the British racing
green exterior, and rich
brown leather interior
with walnut veneer dashboard –

— it was hard to
beat the car
for looks and
outright style.

A (posh) friend of mine
owned one, and I was
constantly trying to
borrow it,
despite not having a
drivers license yet,
or having anything
to trade with him.

I did get one or two short
drives, anyway –
– his sister liked me –
but the car made a permanent
impression on me; and I still
love that car – despite not
being able to fit in it
comfortably anymore –
they were, after all,
very small roadsters.

They moved out pretty good,
were built reasonably well,
– but –
the series all began with a car –
the TR-1 – that was described
by a test engineer as :
” … the most bloody awful
car
I’ve ever driven. “

Hmmm… not exactly an
auspicious beginning,
I’ll grant you – but the
1952 TR-1, alternately
called the 20TS, started
the ball rolling toward
Triumph’s much better
designed cars to come.

The TR-2 – introduced
in 1953, really represented
the basis for the TR’s from
that point on – compared
to the 20TS, it had upgraded
suspension, brakes,
and handling characteristics.

It also featured
a slightly more powerful
twin-carbed 121 CID in-line
4 cylinder engine, which could
make about 90 horsepower.
It was said to be the least
expensive British car of it’s era
to exceed 100 MPH top speed.

The TR-3, which came
quickly upon the
TR-2’s heels, was built
for 7 years – and was
an important
part of the TR evolution —
sold as a open two-seater with
an optional hard-top and even
a third seat available, it also had
a more powerful engine setup
making just over 100 horsepower,
and front disc brakes.

Some issues were notable –
handling was still pretty rough,
with wheel lifting on corners
at speed a real possibility,
and the optional heater was
a lost cause in winter.

A very popular car in the world
of road racing, the TR-3
underwent several face-lifts
during it’s manufacture…

TR-3A was basically a grill re-do,
new windshield fittings, and such.

The TR-3B upgraded
the horsepower
ratings up to around
110 miles per hour using
a 2 liter engine that was
also used in the TR-4.

The TR-4 was another huge leap
forward – designed by the
famous sports car engineer
Giovanni Michelotti, it featured
full size doors with roll up
windows which replaced the
cut-ways in the previous models,
a wider, more secure handling
package and stance, an angular
rear that made the trunk
much more accommodating,
and an optional ‘Targa’ style top
was even available.

It was built between
1961 and 1965.

There was also a TR-4A made-
which were equipped with
either a live axle or independent
rear suspension, in 1965.

The first British production
sports car with fuel injection,
the TR-5 and it’s U.S. market
bound cousin, the TR-250,
were released in 1967 —
these had a well known defect
in the fuel system that caused
the cars to cut out when the
fuel tank was down to a 1/3,
and were replaced by the TR-6
a year later.

Ahhhh — the TR-6 –
now, there was a motor car.

Built between 1968 and 1976-
with design elements from
Karmann – it featured the
2.5 liter straight six engine
with a 4 speed manual tranny
and optional overdrive, making
around 150 horsepower.

Quick, nimble, stylish.

Then, they backpedaled –
releasing the wedge-shaped
and grossly underpowered
TR-7 in 1975- it’s four cylinder
Dolomite 1850 couldn’t really
take the car anywhere very fast,
making a mere 95 horses.

Oh sure, they realized what
they’d done to American Triumph
fans , but by the time the TR-8
was ready in 1979, featuring a
Rover built 140-HP 8 cylinder
engine, the mystique was gone.

Now, in fairness –
other considerations
also killed the TR series —

— the majority of imported cars
on American roads
in the 1960’s were
British made
(Triumphs, MGs,
Austin-Healeys) —

but by 1977-
that was no longer true.

Toyotas, Hondas, Datsuns, etc
were now the preferred imports.

Still,
it doesn’t make the absence
of a good, reasonably priced
British sports car in our
market any less painful.

!! HOY !!

.