Glow In The Dark Tires

Now that I’ve got
your attention……

Oh yes, those were
real glow-in-the-dark
tires, made by Goodyear
in the late 1950’s.

Actually, the tires were
made of a translucent
polyurethane (called
‘Neothane’) that could
be made to glow in any
color by replacing the
18 small illuminating
bulbs in the wheel hub –
but they also came in
shades, so you could
just use the stock white
bulbs and order the tires
in blue, yellow, red,
green and orange.

It’s kinda a
cool concept, right?

An Akron engineer
explained it this way:
”Goodyear’s translucent
tire can be produced in
any color to match the car,
… or perhaps the wife’s
new outfit.. ” 

And they could blink
in a pattern or
flash individually.

Goodyear first took them
on public roads on U.S. 1
in downtown Miami,
in 1960, mounted on a
white Dodge Polaris with
bright red glowing wheels.

Agape, Agog, Aghast.

Choose one, and you
have a good description
of the average onlooker’s
reaction.

They also wore better than
the conventional bia-ply tires
of the era, but they just never
caught on —

There were issues, of course.

Like a severe lack of traction
in wet conditions, a wobbly
feeling at speeds over 60 MPH,
other drivers being distracted
by the unexpected flash
by of a dash of color, and
the fact that the new tires
would melt if you hit the
brakes too hard.

And they cost a
lot more, too.

So, in the end ,
the tires ended
up going nowhere.

And once you stop to
think about the idea,
there’s no guarantee
that their raw material
might not have ended
up being marketed in
a whole different way
later, and sold in
mens room vending
machines, for all we
know.

!! HOY !!

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Saturday Car Post: The FACEL Vegas

The French-made
Facel Vegas, particularly
the FV, HK 500,
and Facel II —
are rarely seen items at
most American vintage
car shows–

but were some of the most luxurious and stylish
non-domestic cars made in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Ford Comete

Facel started in the automobile
business after World War II
by manufacturing special
order car bodies for
companies like Simca,
Bentley, Panhard, and
Delahaye – although their
first real mainstream
marketing challenge was
with the Ford Comète.

They started building their
own models in 1954, with
the FV and then the HK500.

These were American style
luxury coupes made for the
European market – and were
equipped with Chrysler built
V-8 Hemi engines like the
DeSoto 276 c.i. in 1954 – 1955,
the Chrysler 331 c.i. in 1956,
and a 354 and 383 available
after 1958.

So, despite their size, these
cars made good off the line
speed and handled extremely
well.

Still, a smaller sportier model
to compete with the Mercedes
Benz SL class , especially the
190 SL, was the goal of their
engineering team in 1959 –
and in 1960, they released the
Facellia – available in three
body styles –  a cabriolet,
a 2+2 coupé and a 4-seat
coupé.

Since their intent was to create
a more ‘European’ sports car,
they replaced the Chrysler made
powerplant with a badly designed
Pont-à-Mousson manufactured
4 cylinder 1.6 liter engine.

That turned out to be a serious
mistake for the company, with
the resulting disastrous warranty
repair costs threatening to
bankrupt them-

Facel switched over to
a practically bullet-proof
Volvo-made B-18 straight
four engine – but the damage
to the company’s image was
already done.

Even a last minute model release, in 1964, of
the Facel-6, with an
Austin-Healey made 2.8 liter
engine failed to revive the
company.

Their main claim to fame these
days is the number of famous
celebrities who were Facel Vega owners –

– Frank Sinatra owned a
Facel II, as did Ringo Starr,
Princess Grace, Pablo Picasso,
the Shah of Iran,
and many others.

Ava Gardner
owned three.

The magazine “Motor”
described the Facel II
in it’s heyday the best :

” One can enjoy the latest
refinements of American brute
force with European standards
of control in an environment
of British luxury and
French elegance. ” 

And it’s hard to argue with
any car that matches THAT
description.

.

!!! HOY !!!

.

Saturday’s Fab Car Post

Today’s Car Post is about
Rock and Roll Cars —

specifically a couple that were
owned by the Fab Four .

We started out by showing
you George Harrison’s
1965 Aston Martin DB-5 –
the same model that appeared
in the James Bond feature film
“Goldfinger “.

As one of the coolest
British cars ever made,
Aston Martin was also
popular with Paul McCartney,
who had a 1966 DB-6.

There were minor differences
between the two models –
the DB-6 had a longer
wheelbase, a Ferrari style
rear-end, and was slightly
faster.

McCartney liked speed –
and he also acquired
a brand new
1967 Lamborghini
400 GT 2+2, which
featured a a 320 hp
4.0-liter V-12 engine
which could hit 150 MPH.

Meanwhile, John Lennon
managed to offend many
in the toffee-nosed set
when he got himself a
luxurious 1965 Rolls Royce
Phantom V and had it
painted in a psychedelic
color scheme.

” You swine – how dare you
do that to a Rolls Royce ? “ ,
he was asked by an angry
pedestrian on a London
street.

Upon hearing the story,
George Harrison had
another iconic Brit classic
– a 1966 Mini Cooper S –
a gift from manager
Brian Epstein, painted in
a similar colorful pattern.

Of course, the Beatles
wouldn’t have had much
rhythm without percussionist
Ringo Starr –

— and he was indeed
marching to the
beat of a different drummer
when he bought a rare
French luxury muscle-car
called a 1964 Facel Vega
Facel II —
described as the “Fastest
4-seater Coupé in the World”.

It recently sold at auction
for about 700,000 dollars.

Of all the Beatles, it might be
said that George was the most
ardent of car collectors —

And this leads us to another
one of those ironic moments
we love around here —

At his death, George owned
a 1994 McLaren F-1 that had
been specially built for him…

Eric Clapton wanted to buy it
from the surviving family ,
but they wouldn’t sell it.

I guess they felt that George
deserved to have something
he wouldn’t have to share
with Eric.

! HOY !

The Packard Predictor

You might think that
development of a
concept car as the
last gasp to save a
failing luxury car
company sounds
like a bit of a long shot –
– and it turns out to have
been just that for the
Packard line.

Actually, it was an
investment that they
could ill afford  —

— losing money left and
right after swallowing up
the larger, but nearly
bankrupt Studebaker
Corporation –

– and is best remembered
as the last of the bad
corporate decisions that
Packard executives were
free to make.

The long history of Packard
(since 1899) and reputation
for quality was quickly being
washed away, especially after
the death of the merger’s
chief architect, George Mason,
(of Nash-Kelvinator fame) who
had envisioned the combination
as the start of creating a
competitive “Big Four” car
maker.

Still, the company’s management was hopeful,
and introduced the
new concept car at the
1956 Chicago Auto Fair.

The one-off car was
originally conceived by chief
designer William Schmidt
and designated the ‘Projector’
in the early 1950’s –

the layout and build of the
car was left to famed Packard
stylist Dick Teague,

and the body was created in
Turin, Italy by Ghia –

— before it was equipped with
a 352 c.i. 260 HP V-8 back
in Detroit.

True to it’s name, the Predictor
integrated many advanced
features, including an almost
bullet proof transmission –
(Packard had previously
been having a lot of quality
issues with their transmissions)
– a pushbutton controlled
Twin-Ultramatic 2-speed
planetary automatic with
torque converter and direct
drive lockup.

Some more goodies were
hidden headlights, an
electrified deck-lid, roof
panels, and windows.

Features of the car ended
up appearing in later
competitors cars
( borrowed – or down-right
swiped from the Predictor )
as wide ranging as the sloped
back-glass on a 1958 Lincoln
Continental, tail-light details
on a 1957 Plymouth, roof line
on a 1959 Mercury, roll-top
panels similar to the T-Tops
on a 1968 Corvette, grill trim
on a 1958 Ford Edsel, etc, etc,
not to mention the road stance
of a 1960’s Pontiac, and the
‘planned platform sharing’
idea that is now employed
by all the major manufacturers
today.

Also, it’s dramatic tail-fins
were styling cues used in many
cars after the Predictor, running
through the early 1960’s.

The car may very well have
saved the company –
but it was too late, and
Packard-built automobiles
disappeared from the
market in 1957- with the
remainder of it’s assets
going back into a revamped
but also ill-fated Studebaker
Corporation.

The fully functional Predictor
concept car can still be seen
as part of the Studebaker
National Museum in South
Bend, Indiana.

HOY !

GM’s 50th Anniversary Cars

In 1958, General Motors
celebrated their fiftieth
anniversary of building
automobiles, and in
commemoration of that
fact, they built an
‘anniversary edition’ of the
top of the line 2 door
model for
each of their brands —
which were:

the Cadillac Eldorado Seville,
Buick Roadmaster Riviera,
Oldsmobile Holiday 88,
Pontiac Bonneville Catalina,
and the Chevrolet Bel-Air Impala.

You might notice that
trim level names like:
“Seville”, “Roadmaster”,
“Catalina”, and “Impala”
(that originally denoted
the apex trim levels) were
later to be used as model
names themselves.

And in the case of the
1958 “Bel-Air Impala”,
the success of the
anniversary edition
actually prompted
Chevrolet to release the
1959 Impala as a nameplate
separate from the Bel-Air.

The 1958 Bel-Air Impala
had some interesting
variations from the other
Chevys in the line –
an elongated rear deck,
shorter ‘greenhouse’ with
curved back-glass,
longer wheelbase,
an available convertible,
and of course, those
very attractive triple
Impala-specific tail-lights.
A 348 c.i. ‘Special Super
Turbo-Thrust’ W-block
engine with a triple two-carb  ‘Tri-Power’ setup and
mechanical lifters that could
make 315 horsepower was
available as an option.

The 1958 Cadillac Eldorado
Seville was available in a
two door hardtop only –
designed by Harley Earl,
it had new roof trim, and
the Cadillac 365 c.i.
Tri-Power V-8- but was
very similar to the other
cars in the Cadillac line
otherwise, and was considered to be a rather
expensive buy – at about
$15,000- – so, only 855
were made.

The 1958 Pontiac Bonneville
Catalina was the first year
that “Bonneville” denoted a
separate hard top model
from any other Pontiac hard
tops, which heretofore had all (since 1950 ) been
designated “Catalina” .

It was selected as the Pace Car
for the Indianapolis 500, and
was offered with an optional
370 c.i. fuel injected ‘Tempest
395’ engine that made about
310 horsepower.

The 1958
Buick Roadmaster Riviera,
was heavily optioned, and
heavily chromed, but was the last year before a major style change for the largest
Buick in the line, which also
came with a name change-
the “Roadmaster” name was
not used again until the 1990’s.

The 1958
Oldsmobile Holiday 88 is
remembered by many car
enthusiasts as the
“ChromeMobile”  –
as the car featured much
more chrome trim than was
typical for an Oldsmobile,
known for rather staid
styling at the time.
( and for much of the future )

The detail on the tail lights
and the removable
“trans-portable” AM radio
were definitely high points,
but generally, the car looked
very much like the other
50th anniversary editions.

Disappointing as it may
seem to car enthusiasts
today, GM didn’t really 
go very overboard with the
‘Anniversary” design
changes in each model –
and they are commonly
described as ‘looking
similar’.

Taken together, though,
they’re an interesting
part of American
automotive history.

.

!!! HOY !!!

.

The 1960 Imperial

Sometimes deciding on a
vintage car project comes
down to figuring out if you
really want to end up
driving a car that every
other car enthusiast else
has/wants, or one that’s
a little more unique,
and downright cool.

After all –
coolness isn’t a virtue
that’s usually found in
mundane or everyday
stuff –
one of the factors that
distinguishes ‘cool’ is
individuality.

Consider the domestic-made
luxury offerings on offer from
1960:  mostly Lincolns, and
Cadillacs.

I certainly wouldn’t argue
with a fully restored 1960
Lincoln Continental,
although it’s a bit stodgy
looking and murder to
get parts for – (the later
1960’s models are better)
or much better yet, a 1960
Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
— BUT –
you’ll see a lot more
of these cars than you will
our chosen 1960 coolest car
– the 1960 Imperial
(made by Chrysler).

The corporate geniuses at
Chrysler, who had marketing
an Imperial since 1926,
decided in 1956 to make
“Imperial” it’s own line –
sorta like Cadillac is to
General Motors, or Lincoln
is to Ford.

This had little to do with
making the car better,
although for a while,
Imperial actually was
built on a different platform
and had other distinctive
qualities –
and it was advertised
“America’s Most Carefully-
Built Car”.

1960 was it’s best year
for styling and quality-
yet, it was outsold by
Cadillacs by a staggering
8 to 1.

Yow.

But that means:
if you have one –
you have one of only
17,500 or so manufactured.

Yes, so,
the makings of cool,
certainly.

Engine-wise, alas, no hemi’s
were available in Imperial
that year.

However, the virtual bulletproof
413 Wedge with a four barrel
carb was the engine of choice –
(the ONLY choice, actually)
making 350 horsepower with
the also mandatory/also
bulletproof three-speed
A-466 Torque-Flight automatic
transmission with push button
control on the left side dash.

( I personally love those
push button automatics )

The torsion bar suspension
doesn’t wear quite as well,
rust between the rear quarter
panels is common, and the
drum brakes weren’t all that
wonderful, of course.

Still, a very pretty car, and
a predictable rebuild for
the most part – remembering
that there are several
year-specific features like
the nose and grill- and the
limited availability of
reproduction parts.

Vrrrrrrrooooooom.