Our Saturday Car Post

Our question this week
comes from one of our
readers in Nebraska.

He asks:

I have a farm tractor
that runs on LP propane
gas, and it’s very low
maintenance and
dependable; it originally
belonged to my grand-dad. 
Why can’t they build
cars that run on it ?

It might surprise you
to find that LP Gas-
or “Autogas” is the
third most popular car
fuel in the world and is
used by over 16 million
automobiles.

Autogas (LPG) is actually a
combination of propane
and butane – not to
be confused with CNG –
which is compressed methane
and is stored at a higher
pressure.

While the infrastructure
for Autogas is still quite
under-developed in the
United States, countries
like Turkey, South Korea,
Poland, Australia,
and Italy have been
concentrating on much
wider availability to drivers,
which is key to making it
a more user friendly choice.

Obviously, where there is
better availability, the costs
come down, and probably
a good reason why, at one
time, LP tractors were
popular in the American
Midwest – during WW II,
gas and diesel were rationed
and in much shorter supply
than LP in many areas.

Now, of course, with the
emphasis being put on
electric cars, it’s not clear
where the future of autogas
is headed in the United
States – but nearly 3% of
vehicles use it, at present.

It is possible to convert a
gasoline or diesel powered
car to autogas –
and there
are several major auto
manufacturers who have
invested heavily in LPG
vehicle development —
Ford, VW and Toyota,
for instance.

The main benefits seem
to be cleaner emissions
and a potential for fuel
cost savings if and when
wider availability becomes
a reality. Also, over 90%
of demand for Autogas
can be met by domestic
sources.

The negatives, aside from
the distribution issues,
have to do with power
and efficiency – a gallon
of gas has about 1/3
higher BTU capacity,
which translates directly
into horsepower.
It also means that a tank
of autogas will get you
less miles before you
have to refill.

On the post today,
our pictures are all
cars that use autogas
as their primary fuel.

!!! HOY !!!

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Saturday Car Post

My longtime friend
Carolyn suggested
that we talk about
her two favorite
cars today….

……. VW’s
and Corvettes.

So,
let’s do dat:

The first Chevy Corvette
was introduced in 1953,
at the GM
Motorama –
a sort of annual
travelling
car show….

Motorama also
featured other
new vehicles that
year, like the:
Buick ‘Wildcat’,
Pontiac ‘La Parisienne’,
Oldsmobile ‘Starfire’,
and two new Cadillac
models ‘Orleans’,
and ‘Le Mans’.

( I did a post on the
original C-1 Corvette,
and that can be
found here. )

There have been 7
generations of
Corvette made
since then –

it was originally built
in Flint, Michigan and
St. Louis, Missouri,
but in 1981, production
was moved to a
dedicated Corvette
plant in Bowling Green,
Kentucky, where they’ve
been manufactured
ever since.

Not surprisingly,
the Corvette was
selected as the official
sports car of the
Commonwealth of
Kentucky.

Only one year has
the line not had
some kind of update –
and that was in 1983,
when the introduction
of the 4th Generation
Vette was stalled with
quality and production
set backs.

Only 1 car bearing a
1983 VIN still exists,
a prototype, displayed
at the Bowling Green
Museum.

But there have been
over 1.5 million Vettes
produced over 65
years — a pretty strong
record !

The Corvette has also
been the pace car for
the Indianapolis 500
a number of times —
14, to be exact.

Now,
you might think
that Corvettes
and VW’s
have little
in common,
until you realize
that Ferdinand
Porsche , famous
German race
car builder,
was involved
in the original
“VolksAuto”
design –
that car evolved
in the “Volkswagen”,
or people’s car.

Although most
of their line
is completely familiar
to Americans,
especially the “Beetle” ,
— one of their
best cars is virtually
forgotten —
the Type 14
Karmann Ghia. 

And of course,
we’ll have to
do a post
on those cars
in the very
near future —

because they strongly
influenced automotive
design well into
the late 1960’s.

.

PS: I know there’s precious little Beetle coverage, here, but I’d look pretty crazy driving one, anyway. 😀

!! HOY !!!

Vintage Automotive Gadgets

A hearty
beep-beep
to you,
my
fellow
automotive
enthusiasts.

Thanks for
stopping by
our Saturday
car post.

We have a collection
of interesting vintage
gadgets today…

I’m not sure how
useful they ended up
being, but they do
show a good bit of
resourcefulness and
ingenuity, if not
good judgement.

The first one was a
dog-powered tractor,
which the inventor
claimed could be
a boon to mid-century
farmers and ranchers
without the worries
about fuel and ….

Who would do this
to a dog ?

Well, he would.

Now,
if you weren’t willing
to put Fido into a
giant hamster wheel,
you might consider
turning your car into
a farm implement
instead …..

The “PullFord” device
‘easily’ converted a
Model-A Ford into
a combination tractor,
plow, grader, feeders,
hay bailer,
and all kinds
of other stuff.

You just popped the
rear end off and …….

Wait…

That don’t
sound too
‘easy’ to me.

Next. 

How practical does an
in-car coffee percolator
sound?

Brew fresh java while
you drive.

Ahhh….

Even comes
with it’s
own open mug,
so you can
spill nice
hot coffee
all over you,
your nice new
jalopy, and that
pretty lady who
used to be your
girlfriend.

Wow-

that’s shocking it
didn’t catch on.

.

!!! HOY !!!

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 !!

What’s A Whizzer?

So,
what is a “Whizzer” ??

I’m so glad
you asked me that…..

The average Whizzer
you might come
across at a vintage
motorcycle show actually
started life as a men’s full
size bicycle.

Starting back before
World War II, (1939)
a Los Angeles based
aviation parts company
called Breene-Taylor
Engineering developed
a conversion kit that would
turn a consumer bike into
a motorized vehicle.

It was called the
“Model-D”,
and used a one-cylinder
motor that made about
1 3/8 horsepower.

The kit would fit a variety of
men’s bicycle frames and sizes,
(but no ladies bikes) including:
Higgins, Schwinn,
and Clevelands.

During the war, sales flagged,
probably due to serious quality
issues, like a crankshaft made
out of pot-metal, and a split
crankcase.

Only about 6,000 of
these were sold –
running through the
Model-F.

They were reputed to
be only good for about
a 1000 miles before they
failed.

Interestingly enough,
though – “Whizzers” and
similarly made “Cushman”
scooters were the only
new domestic made
‘vehicles’ that could be
purchased by civilians
after 1941, until the
end of the war.

The company survived
the war (barely) and moved
their production facilities to
Pontiac, Michigan .

The kits “Model-H” were
re-engineered with an
improved crank design,
better seals, bearings,
tappets, and generally
better performance.

And by 1948, the company,
now called “Whizzer Motors”,
were in a position to offer
consumer-ready Whizzers –
with no assembly required.

Their first pre-assembled
model was the ” Pacemaker “,
followed by the “Sportsman ”
and the Schwinn “Special ”
and “WZ” .

There was also a
‘top of the line’
model called the
‘Ambassador”.

But the majority
of “Whizzers”
started life as kits.

Horsepower was upped
to 3 HP on their motors
in 1952:

And the company then
switched over to a numeric
model-naming system —
i.e: the 300 series,
up through the 700 series,
which was the last one –
made in 1965.

All told, there were probably
250,000 “Whizzers” produced
in either kit form or
pre-assembled models,
and there were a staggering
variety of bike styles that
bore the name.

All that was left of the company
after 1965 was a back-stock of
parts and about 175 kits,
which were sold for about
$5000 in the early 1970’s.

!! 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 !