Citroen is  commonly acclaimed for introducing the first front-wheel-drive production automobile. That would be quite a difference, but the fact is it’s not true. Citroen Traction Avant BerlineCord, Ruxton and Gardner all  proposed production front-wheel-drive automobiles several years before Citroen joined the party. The importance of Citroen’s involvement  is not that it was first with front-wheel-drive, but that it was the first company to make front-wheel-drive a true success. Unfortunately, that victory came almost simultaneously with Andre Citroen’s death, so the legendary French auto magnate never got to enjoy the fruits of his gamble.

Henry Ford of France

By the way, there is no doubt,  that Andre Citroen was a gambling man. The son of a Dutch diamond broker, Citroen was born in 1878 and by the time he reached the age of 25, he was a force to be taken seriously in French industry. After graduating from technical college, he obtained a license for a Russian process of machining gear teeth and, license in hand, set up a machine works. The gears rapidly gained a reputation for silence and strength, and Citroen’s business, which he manage with great vigor, became very profitable. Soon the prominent French automobile producer Mors asked him for technical assistance, his first foray into the car industry. Read more . . .

Sometimes great cars achieve significant commercial victory. Witness the Volkswagen Beetle and Model T Ford  as obvious examples.BMW 507 RoadsterOther times, great cars make virtually no impression on the market, save to point the way for others to follow. The Chrysler Airflow and Cord 810 are prominent examples of this phenomenon. Sadly, the BMW 507 roadster also belongs into this significant but ill-fated category. Born in the glory days of the true sports car, raised with a distinguished pedigree and built to the highest of standards, the 507 failed miserably at achieving commercial accomplishment, which is a great shame considering its many good features.

Picking off after the battle

To set the stage for the entrance of the 507, let us travel back in time to the immediate repercussions of World War II. Like most of the war-ravaged German auto industry, BMW was in scraps. Its auto manufacturing services, what were left of them after Allied bombing and occupation, were in Eisenach, behind the quickly closing Iron Curtain of Russian-occupied East Germany. Read more . . .

Some cars have to age like fine wine to be appreciated. Ferrari 360 SpiderOthers offer virtues so obvious that they deserve top ranking from the moment they are introduced. So it is with the Ferrari 360 Spider, which happens to be the marque’s twentieth road-going convertible and a car about which Ferrari says, “without question,  it is the best Spider Maranello has ever produced in terms of looks, engineering, and performance.”

Satisfaction of modern perfection

While some of that might be recent marketing hype — after all the 360 Spider is still available for purchase at your local Ferrari dealer — you can perhaps pardon them for the hyperbole. We still think the Ferrari Daytona Spider is a prettier car with classic sports car proportions, but there is no doubt the 360 Spider is strikingly attractive in the modern mold. Further, because Ferrari is presently on an incredible roll in the world of Formula One racing, it is the most technologically advanced convertible of all time. Read more . . .

Like Henry Ford, Ferruccio Lamborghini was an expert mechanic. Lamborghini MiuraAnd like Henry Ford, Lamborghini left a career of prominence to take a chance on an entirely new venture when he was well past 40 years old. In the end, like Henry Ford, Lamborghini was far more interested in producing cars for the street than for the race track.

However, at that point, the parallels between the two automotive legends begin to fold, because the cars Lamborghini brought to market under the sign of the bull were about as distinct from a Model T Ford as an F-16 is from a Piper Cub. Sure, they both fly but… Read more . . .

The story of the Cadillac V-16 is the saga of not one but two colossal engines. Cadillac V-16The irony of the story is that these two luxury car powerplants, among the most remarkable the world has ever produced, were spawned during the world’s most far-reaching and destructive economic collapse.

Of course, during the heady days of the Twenties, when speculators in the stock market gave no thought to “how high is up,” the concept of a 16-cylinder engine for the ultimate in luxury machines seemed quite rational. The millionaires of the bathtub gin decade seemed more than willing to exhibit their wealth, and there were lots of car companies, in the United States and abroad, that were perfectly willing to help them in the endeavor.

So it seemed just another step in the advancement of the luxury car to assemble a 16-cylinder engine. After all, if eight cylinders were good, then 16 cylinders must be twice as good. It was as effortless as adding eight plus eight.

Mammoth multi-cylinder engines were nothing new in the aircraft business. Spurred on by the momentum of the Great War, Ettore Bugatti designed a 16-cylinder engine for aircraft use in 1917.   Before the war’s end, Read more . . .