There is a lovably oddball character to the British motor industry that is epitomized by Aston Martin. Aston Martin DB4While their American cousins quickly produced automobiles in mass manufacture, starting with Ransom E. Olds before the turn of the last century, the British seemed perfectly satisfied to approach car building as a cottage industry. Hammer out a few here, put together a few there, and perhaps build a little bit of earnings into the enterprise. This was the ourlin for many British car builders, from Morgan to Jaguar to MG to Triumph to Aston Martin.

Marking its name

The original Aston Martin partners,  Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, completed the first car in 1914, didn’t register it with the British government until 1915 and didn’t assemble a second car until 1920. Bamford was an engineer and Martin was a driving enthusiast, and both men competed fairly triumphantly in hill climbs, including a famous event at Aston Clinton, which would ultimately give the marque half its name. After campaigning Singers, Bamford & Martin Ltd, as their leisurely automotive enterprise was called, decided to 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 . . .

Hypothetically, the sequel is never as good as the original; and that is definitely true of the Continental Mark II. Continental Mark IIThe original Lincoln Continental, produced as a one-off by Bob Gregorie and his design staff for the personal use of Edsel Ford, was, with little argument, the best American auto design of the 1940’s. Mildly production-ized and sold as a series into the late Forties, it was a masterpiece. Ford Motor Company attempted  to re-create the same magic some 15 years later with the Mark II, but to re-create magic is a tougher task than the first time.Though the Mark II lacked the essential rightness of the original’s proportions, still,  it was a car to be reckoned with. By sheer presence, sheer mass, sheer price,  it was a vehicle that epitomized 1950’s America.

Simply like Lincoln, but not quite

If you are known by the company you keep, then the Mark II warrants high marks. A wide swath of the rich and famous in the 1950’s owned one, including Elvis Presley, Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater,  Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Spike Jones,  Henry J. Kaiser, Howard Johnson and the Shah of Iran. Read more . . .

Enzo Ferrari was expert at using the cachet gained by his racing machines to sell cars meant for the street. Duesenberg J/SJBut long before Signore Ferrari started his racing career, two brothers from Lippe, Germany, were doing the same thing.

It all began with bicycles

Frederic Duesenberg was born in Lippe in 1878, and his brother August arrived the year after. It wasn’t long before their family embarked on the journey of their lives — emigrating to America. Soon they settled in the Midwest, and that’s where Augie and Fred  got into racing.  Though, not motor racing,  bicycle racing. The two brothers weren’t just good at riding bicycles either; they also assembled them, and Duesenberg-built bicycles became sought-after on the famous American bike racing circuit.

Fred confirmed the quality of their machines in 1898 by establishing a world record for Read more . . .

Success has many fathers, whereas failure is an orphan.Ford Mustang

So true with the Ford Mustang.

Learning from faults

In the decade before the Mustang was launched in 1964, Ford Motor Company was no stranger to success and to failure. For the 1955 model year, Ford had introduced the Thunderbird as a competitor to Chevrolet’s Corvette sports car, and soon the Thunderbird was out-selling the Corvette. It was a success all of Ford could be proud of.

When Ford management decided to turn the Thunderbird into a four-seater model for the 1958 model year, the company again had a winner on its hands. In fact, the modified Thunderbird invented its own market segment, the personal luxury class. Read more . . .