The story of the Cadillac V-16 is the saga of not one but two colossal engines. The 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 . . .
Imagine inventing not just a product, but an industry, and then imagine the disappointment of failing to harvest the benefits of your enormous achievement. So, it was with the Duryea brothers, J. Frank and Charles E. The two brothers were, arguably at least, the first Americans to build a successful automobile, and there is less argument that they were the first to incorporate an American industry for the expressed goal of building automobiles for sale to the public. Further, Frank drove a car they planned and built to victory in the first automobile race ever held in America. Yet, when all is said and done, the two brothers are but an vague footnote in the history of the auto industry they created.
Head by ambition
Though, if the Duryeas are a footnote, it is certainly a widely colorful, varied, and, ultimately tragic footnote. The brothers Read more . . .
Hypothetically, the sequel is never as good as the original; and that is definitely true of the Continental Mark II. The 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 . . .
Many distinguished cars have gone out of production simply because they didn’t sell well enough. Check the long list of our “Greatest Cars,” and you will see many that fall into this category. But very few famous cars have gone out of production because they sold too well. One of that very select number, though, is the topic of this profile. The LaSalle marque didn’t cease to exist because it faced year after year of deteriorating sales. No, the death of the LaSalle, strange as it sounds, was caused by its success.
Affordable luxury car: Instant win
As Desi Arnaz would say, Okay, I have some serious “splainin'” to do, so let’s start at the beginning, which for LaSalle was 1927, the same year that Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris. By the mid-Twenties it had become obvious that the General Motors strategy of offering a variety of models from low-priced Chevrolet to premium-priced Cadillac was not just successful but, practically, a stroke of genius that would eventually lead to domination of the American market and make GM the world’s biggest automotive company. In fact, it was in 1927 that the GM onslaught finally influenced Henry Ford that he would have to build something other than the venerable Model T to stay in business. Read more . . .
The common conception is that Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964 to incredible success, and the folks at arch-rival Chevrolet simply copied the concept to make public the Chevrolet Camaro in 1966 for the 1967 model year. Though, fact is, the rumour is not quite as simple as that. Despite commonly held notions, if one takes an indirect look at history, one might stress that Chevrolet, not Ford, actually introduced the small, personal sport coupe or “ponycar” and that Ford was the company that was playing catch-up when it introduced the Mustang.
Ford took a page from Studebaker and the American Motors and designed what was essentially a scaled-down American car, which it named the Falcon. GM’s method was more “reach-out.” Taking a page from the VW book, it entered the Read more . . .