The Crosley Hotshot

As regular readers
of the Saturday Car post
have probably already
noticed–

I have a thing for
concept cars, rarities, and forgotten automotive brands.

Maybe some of them
deserve to be almost
forgotten, I dunno….

but not this one.

Because this was America’s
first post-war production
sports car —
— the Crosley Hotshot.

Crosley had been building
automobiles since 1938,
selling mostly compact cars
and station wagons —

but after the war,
a market for a domestic
sports car, created by
soldiers returning from
the war in Europe,
was seen as a huge
potential sales window –
– and the Crosley brothers
set out to fill it.

The first Hotshot was unveiled
in 1949 – and was so new and
trend setting it appeared in
Macy’s display window.

It was a two seater, light weight,
nimble, with a low profile and
remarkably inexpensive
price tag- just under $1000.

Of course, options,
like a heater,
radio, and
ashtray were extra —

there weren’t side doors,
— and even the hood
was unhinged
to save on costs-
but for the price,
it was a good buy –

It could hit a top speed of
around 70 MPH, with the
44 c.i. cast iron ‘CIBA’
four cylinder engine.

It proved itself in the
endurance race at Sebring
in 1950 – and again at both
the Swiss and the Tokyo
Grand Prix in 1951.

Many believed the Hotshot
could save the flagging
Crosley Company, but
it was not to be —

and in the end (1952),
only 2500 of the Hotshots
were ever produced.

Still, it had it’s moment
in the sun, and,
as are most
first times,
remembered fondly.

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The Studebaker Champ

An interesting footnote
in automotive history,

(considering that Studebaker
also made several of the
most beautiful full-size
pick-up trucks in the
1940’s and 1950’s
especially the M-5 and 2-E ) –

the Studebaker Champ
was a mid-size pickup
produced from 1960 to 1964.

This was a time period in
which the 110 year old
Studebaker Company’s
profit margin had declined
to a point that it had become
doubtful on whether the
automaker would even survive —
and they were scrambling
to turn the tide.

The mid-size pickup class
was actually pioneered by
the Champ – another would
not be seen until the mid-80’s
and the Dodge Dakota
(which they advertised
as the ‘first’ ).

The profile of the truck
instantly reveals it to have
been an amalgam of several
of Studebaker’s other models –

– the chassis and bed
of a 1950’s era
‘E’ truck —

and the front half of a
new Lark automobile.

Despite this fact, the product
had a smooth, car-like ride,
was ruggedly built, and was
easier to maintain than other
pickups of the same era.

A new innovation offered
on the Champ was the
sliding rear window –
which was quite a
popular feature with buyers.

Another was a less
fortunate one –

a new overhead valve engine
design on the 170 cubic inch
six cylinder offered as
an option in 1961 –

– this engine configuration
ended up having serious issues
with valves and cracked heads –

but there were several
very solid V-8’s offered,
like the 259 c.i.
and 289 c.i. –
with choices of
two or four barrel carbs.

You could order it with the
standard transmission with
a column shifted 3 speed,
a 4 speed or 5 speed manual
with overdrive, or a
Borg Warner-made automatic.

And they certainly
looked different.

A modern car enthusiast
may even think that such
a vehicle would lend itself
to restoration.

But, if that includes you-
beware of the most typical
and irritating problem
that restorers have
with old Studebakers –
– RUST.

Once it takes hold –
you may find the floor
and fenders have acquired
so much of it, that….

— and parts – well,
good luck, man, and I
mean that – cause I hope
to see you driving it one day !

!!! HOY !!!!

.

The 2 Door Cadillac Eldorado

Yes, Virginia,
there was a
4 door version of the
classic Cadillac Eldorado
(made in 1957, 1958,
and 1959) –

but nobody cared
about it –

(well, I don’t, anyway)

simply because the
2 door Eldorado
was one of the most
beautiful full-size
luxury cars of it’s time.

Made by General Motors
Cadillac Division between
1952 and 2002, and it could
be argued that there wasn’t
a prettier car made by any
U.S. auto manufacturer
during the 1970
model year.

It all started with
a concept car,
suggested by a secretary
(Mary-Ann Marini) in the
Cadillac merchandising
department –

and as it was
developed for production,
the designers fell back on
the more luxurious
appointments
that had previously 
appeared
in the 1951 Le Sabre;
and first mass-produced
(in 1953) as a limited edition
convertible-

available in four colors:
Aztec Red, Alpine White,
Azure Blue and Artisan Ochre.

A distinctive wrap-around
windshield, curving custom
sheet metal, low belt-line,
and heavy chrome just about
everywhere made the car
an interesting change for
Cadillac in 1953 —

but it was relatively
expensive to build.

In 1954, the 2nd generation
Eldorado was based on the
sheet metal and bodies of
other Cadillac products,
bringing the price down
and putting more emphasis
on trim, interior and options.
(they quadrupled their
sales in 1954.)

An Eldorado 2 door hardtop
(‘Seville’) was introduced
between 1956 and 1960 –
but the Eldorado 2 door
convertible remains the
most distinctive variation
of the line.

Of course, another variation
of the Eldorado theme is also
very much remembered –
the 1957 Series 70
Eldorado Brougham
a car that had a body
hand-built in Detroit,
and designed to take
on the highest end of
the luxury car market –

it had 44 potential leather
interior color combinations –
and was loaded with features like:
a stainless steel roof,
self leveling suspension,
two-position “memory”
power seats,
a dual four-barrel carb,
cruise control,
polarized sun visors,
electric antenna,
automatic-release
parking brake, electric door locks,
dual heating system, A/C,
silver magnetized glove-box,
all-transistor signal-seeking car radio,
automatic starter with restart function,
drum-type electric clock,
power windows,
forged aluminum wheels,

— as well as some less
automotive-oriented
appointments like:
drink tumblers,
cigarette and tissue dispensers,
lipstick and cologne,
ladies’ compact with powder puff,
mirror and matching leather
notebook, comb and mirror,
Arpège atomizer
with Lanvin perfume.

This car cost twice as much
as any other 1957 Eldorado,
and even a little more than
a Rolls Royce Silver Arrow
of the same year.

It was way over the top –
and the special air ride
suspension system worked
out to be wonky at best,
but they did find their niche
in the market, and in 1959,
production of the hand-made
Broughams were moved to
Turin, Italy.

Production of the regular
2 door Eldorados
(if you can call them that)
remained in Detroit, and
were re-designated from
‘Series 62’ to ‘Series 6400’-
while in 1961, the convertible
Eldorado was — well, let’s just
say, there is still some confusion
over what is and what is not
part of the Cadillac ‘De Ville’ line.

Hoo boy.

Anyway–
my favorite version
of the car was called the
“Sixth Generation”-
and was built between
1967 and 1970.

In the previous 7 or 8 years,
it had faded into
a dressed up De Ville,
but in 1967 – a sleek, crisp redesign by Bill Mitchell
brought the Eldorado
back to life –
with front wheel drive,
and the 429 V-8 coupled with a
smooth shifting Hydramatic
425 automatic transmission.

In 1970, a 500 cubic inch
8.2 litre V-8 engine
was added to the line,
exclusive to Eldorado,
until it was made standard
across full size Cadillacs in 1975.

After the 6th generation,
I’m afraid, the joy had run
out for classic Eldorado fans-
the one special ‘speed bump’
in sales came in 1976 –

with G.M.’s pronouncement
of the
” Last American Convertible ”
— promoting the 1976
Cadillac Eldorado Convertible.

Supposedly, the Big Three
believed (not true) convertibles
were about to be banned
(also not true) because of
impending (not) 50 mph
roll-over safety standards –

– but, it did result in that
years’s model selling
over 12,000, many as
‘investment’ vehicles —
and many of those buyers
seemed more than a little
upset when convertible
Eldorados re-appeared
on the market a scant
8 years later.

Ahhh, marketing.

Yeah, But Can You Glow In The Dark

One of the first really cool
presents I got as a kid at
Christmas was a watch
with a radium face —

I could stuff myself
as deep as I wanted to
under my sheets and
blankets at night to
achieve the ultimate dark

and still be able to see
what time it was.

Not that I needed to know
at 3 in the morning, and
certainly I didn’t want
to know when it was
approaching time
for the school bus —

— but I was still
very impressed
with that watch,
man.

The idea that it could
produce so much light
with no obvious source
of energy was absolutely
fascinating to me.

As I got older,
I learned that
effect was called
“radio-luminescence”–
it’s basically caused
by radiation coming
from the radium in
the paint on the watch dial.

And recently, I noted
that a friend of mine
had a fancy high dollar
watch with ‘tritium’ tubes
that do the same thing.

It looks very cool,
I’ll admit,
but I’m not a guy
who would spend a couple
thousand bucks on
such a thing.

Hey, man –
that’s real money.

Anyway, radio-luminescence
is only one of the ways
to ‘ glow in the dark ‘.

Some animals do it naturally —
like fireflies and glowworms,
various fish and fungi, too.

If a living organism can do it,
it’s called “bio-luminescence ”

Pretty good trick
if you ask me.

When chemical reactions do it,
like those break and shake
‘glow sticks’ you see
around Halloween –
it’s called “chemi-luminescence”
( I guess it stands to reason ) .

And if you’ve ever read the
Sherlock Holmes mysteries –
you might remember the
‘Hound of the Baskervilles’
had been coated with a glowing
substance (phosphorus)
to give it a creepy appearance –

— that one is called
‘phosphorescence’.

These type of materials
tend to store light energy
and release it slowly –
– zinc sulfide and
strontium aluminate
are examples.

The face of the pocket
chronometer at right
is made from zinc sulfide,
and was used during World
War II on German Naval vessels.

And in case you might
be wondering what all
the science class stuff
is about….

I simply found some
cool, goofy and
otherwise weird vintage
glow-in-the-dark stuff I
thought y’all might like !

And I hope you do.

( Order Now )

!!! HOY !!!!

The AMC Gremlin

Cars can be a
very funny thing —

they create an
emotional connection
with people, that
sometimes
is quite surprising.

For instance,
I have a friend
who owns what
has to be one of the
unconventional production
cars ever —

A 1971 AMC Gremlin.

I love the damned thing.

He loves the damned thing.

But his wife hates it
with a passion that is
usually reserved for
‘other’-women
and obnoxious guys
with comb-overs.

And everybody in his family
agrees with her-

— that the thing should
be donated to
some charity like :
oh, I dunno…..
rusty-crappy-cars-dot-com.

Hell, she’d probably happily
pay to have it hauled away.

But as long as my buddy can
keep pumping up the leaky
tires – it’ll stay right where it
is- covered up in his backyard .

(Cause, of course,
it doesn’t RUN anymore,
and repair/restore
parts are almost
impossible to find.)

The Gremlin was a
very unique car,
and there’s no doubt
about all that –

– seeing one intact (nearly)
50 years later ( ok, 48, but
a guy’s gotta be optimistic,
ya know )  is for many folks
a cause for all sorts of
reminiscing, good or bad.

It was billed as a
‘sub-compact’ car…
in an era where there
weren’t a lot of cars in
that class.

As a matter of fact,
American Motors called it
“America’s first subcompact” –

(it wasn’t-
think Nash Metro
)

and it was meant to
compete with the
Chevy Vega,
the Ford Pinto,
the VW Beetle and the
Toyota Corolla —

Sure, I guess it had
compact o-plenty.

It was also surprisingly
affordable — you could get
a brand-new and
very nicely equipped Gremlin
in 1972 for around $2200.

And Gremlin was special
in another way –
it looked very different
than anything else
on the market. 

Actually, the car was
a AMC Hornet
with a dramatically lopped-off
rear end, and a strange little
cartoon character as a
mascot/namesake – but the
end result was dramatic.

So,
people either loved it
or hated it.

Gremlin also offered
the largest range
of options and engine packages
of any compact car to date.

Depending on the year, you
could have your Gremlin
in an array of bright colors,
in a two door or four door,
automatic, 3 speed, 4 speed,
4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, even
an 8 cylinder engine:

The performance on the 8
cylinder version was
so good that a popular
magazine at the time
called it :
the poor man’s Corvette ‘.

(Yep- believe it or not ! )

Special editions, like
the 380 horsepower
‘Randall-401XR’
with a 401 V-8,
the ‘X Gremlin’
with the trendy
‘Levis Jeans’ trim,
and Gremlin ‘GT’
abounded.

And the car was especially
popular with car customizers,
circuit track and road racers
because of it’s potential
weight-to-power ratio and
relative durability.

It’s a shame there’s
not a lot of them
left around —

( AMC is long gone,
and they stopped making
Gremlin in 1978 )

— ’cause they really were
fun to drive, too.

!!! HOY !!!

.

 

The Saturday Car Post: 1954 Plymouth Explorer

In the early 1950’s,
Chrysler’s head stylist
Virgil Exner was looking
for a way of updating
Chrysler’s rather
old-fashioned image,
by introducing some
new concept cars ,
developed and built
by Italian automotive
designers at Carrozzeria
Ghia in Turin.

The six or seven years 1954PlymouthExplorer
immediately after the war
hadn’t really seen a
lot of important styling innovations
among the big car
makers of the time,
and Chrysler–

— which included:
Desoto, Dodge, and
Plymouth lines as well — 

especially certainly
needed a boost.

These cars were designed by
Exner and Ghia’s Luigi Segre,
and were built on existing
Chrysler, Dodge, Desoto
and Plymouth chassis.

They included the Chrysler K-310,
and C-200, the Dodge Firearrow,
Desoto Adventurer I,
and this car–
the Plymouth Explorer.

Despite being only 54 inches high,
the Explorer was built upon a
standard 114 inch wheelbase
Plymouth chassis…

… and it’s sleek hand-formed
looks belied the fact that it
was sorely underpowered
by a 230 cubic inch straight-six
that only made about a
104 horsepower, with the
semi-automatic gearbox  .

(There was a ‘Red-Ram’
‘Hemi’ V8 engine made
available for the Dodge
Fire-Arrow III, later in 1954 )

Underpowered, certainly,
and not good gas mileage
to speak of, even for the time.

Still, for early 50’s styling,
it certainly was a beauty.

!!! HOY !!!

rear

.

The Difference In Decades 1940-1959

Yes, when it comes
to choosing a car to
start that restoration
project the difference
really is in the decades.

I’ll show you what I mean.

Is it about style for you?

The general shape,
the aerodynamic
characteristics,
and the amount
of chrome and trim
on a piece is largely
related to the decade
in which it was created.

Looking at a 1940’s car,
you’ll probably note
the long hood, a vertically
pointed front grill ,
extremely roomy interiors,
and the heavy chrome trims.

‘Clunky’ is a word
that comes to mind.

However, there were some
very stylish pieces–
although mostly in the
post-war years,
around 1948, and 1949.

A beautiful example
of this pre/post war
contrast in styling
can be seen by comparing
the 1940 Ford Deluxe
(above ) and the 1949
Buick Roadmaster.
(at right )

In the 1950’s,
automakers
went for a more
aerodynamic feel,
– despite still being boxey –

– they wanted their cars to
be seen as cutting-edge,
and not ‘stodgy’ or
old fashioned.

The trim could be quite
over the top,
with massive fins,
or it could be very understated,
like in the early Corvettes.

You can definitely see the
impact of war-time
technologies
coming to the automotive
marketplace by
the early 1950’s –
– and ‘streamlining’ was
the watchword for styling.

And of course,
there were a lot of aviation
references – ‘jet’ this
and ‘rocket’ that.

Styling, of course,
is one thing –

So, you ask:
what about the
drive-trains, engines, etc ?

No matter how great a car looks,
if it drives like a rock, who needs it?

Right.

Suspension systems:
king-pin front suspensions
still dominated in the 1940’s
replaced in the 1950’s by
systems more oriented toward
comfortable ride and control.

Power Steering-
Chrysler came out with optional
power steering on their 1951 Imperial,
followed by Cadillac the following
year — then, as standard equipment
in 1954.

Brakes- almost all cars
in the American market
used unassisted hydraulic
drum brakes after 1939 –

– and while 4 wheel discs
didn’t become a standard
until the 1980’s,
(front disc brakes were
first introduced as standard
equipment in the 1962
Studebaker Avanti )
power assisted brakes were
optional on many 1950’s
vehicles…. and on
Cadillac and Buicks
it was standard after 1954.

Automatic Transmission:
Available on most cars in the
1940’s as an option, it wasn’t
a common feature until the
mid-1950’s.

Engines:
Engines improved vastly
by the 1960’s —
V-8 technologies like
over-head cam (‘OHC’),
Y-Block and hemispherical
combustion chambers “Hemi”
came into their own in
1950’s models like:

the 1951 Studebaker Commander,
1955 Chrysler C-300,
1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, etc.

Tires: All domestic cars were sold
with Bias-Ply tires standard
until the 1970’s, with the
exception of the 1967 GTO.

Take all together, this might indicate
to the novice car enthusiast that the 1950’s automobile would be a better bet for a starter restoration job than an earlier one –
and I think
that’s a logical assumption.

Some of the most highly
thought-of domestic cars
are from that decade —

the 1953 Chevy Corvette,
the 1955 Ford Thunderbird,
1953 Studebaker Starliner,
1953 Buick Skylark,
1955 Packard Caribbean,
1951 Chrysler New Yorker,

and as for internationally
made models:
( if you insist ), there’s the :
1959 Austin-Healey 3000,
1957 BMW 507,
1955 Jaguar XK140,
1958 Aston-Martin DB-4,
and 1954 Mercedes Benz 300-SL.

Whatever you choose,
remember —
you’ll only finish it,
and then drive it,
if you love it.

!!! HOY !!!!

.