Sunday, June 29, 2014

The 1950's Concept Car Astra-Gnome


The Astra-Gnome is concept car by industrial designer Richard Arbib using a 1955 Nash Metropolitan chassis. Described as a “Time and Space Car”, it features themes influenced by the space travel forms that were popular during the 1950's. The vehicle represented Arbib's vision of what an automobile would look like in the year 2000.

The vehicle was featured on the September 3, 1956 cover of Newsweek magazine and exhibited at the 1956 New York International Auto Show. About 1,000 questionnaire cards were distributed to viewers at the auto show, with results indicating an 80% favorable response to the prototype. Numerous photos were made of the car with Arbib, most often accompanied by attractive female models, who explained to the media that the concept was never intended for production.

Despite a 25% increase in size over the original Metropolitan body, the total weight remains under 2,000 lb (907 kg). About 400 lb (181 kg) of aluminum castings and extrusions were used, including fluted aluminum side panels that had been anodized in different blending colors. The bubble canopy provides an unobstructed vision all around; this covered the passengers, but could be raised to allow walk-in entry and exit. The Nash Metropolitan features the body work by Andrew Mazzara of New York. Among the its many features is a "celestial time-zone clock permitting actual flight-type navigation." The car is restored and can be seen in a California museum.

It’s not fiberglass – but it should be. 

As you know, fiberglass was the “wonder” material that made prototypes a reality.  Fantastic shapes, contours, and designs that could only be expressed two-dimensionally in terms of cost were now more easily achieved using ‘glass and a talented designer/fabricator.  So it’s interesting that Richard Arbib’s concept car, the Astra-Gnome, was built of aluminum.  Why?  Perhaps the world will never know.

Built in a breath-taking four months time, the “Astra-Gnome” made its debut at the International Automobile Show in New York on April 28th, 1956.  It made headlines world-wide and was featured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine on September 3rd, 1956.  Luckily, the car still exists and a great history can be found via the following 7 minute video:

In doing research on this car, I located a brochure distributed by Arbib back at the time the car was built.

Let’s take a look at what the brochure had to say:

The Astra-Gnome “Time and Space Car” (1956)

Designed by Richard Arbib Company, Inc

Custom Body Work by Andrew Mazzara of New York

To the many people who will naturally ask “why build a ‘time and space car’ of such seemingly futuristic nature,” we present some exceedingly logical reasons for this highly exciting project.  To qualify these reasons it is significant that while the prototype Astra-Gnome was constructed in a record breaking 4 months, its concept is the result of a continuous program of advanced automotive styling development by the Richard Arbib Company.

The “Time” element in the appearance of the Astra-Gnome in the year 1956 can be termed relative.  Its features are timeless as far as basic automotive design improvements are concerned.  Everyone has always wanted a smaller car that has plenty of luggage space!  The Astra-Gnome provides just this through its unique “integra-luggage” system with distributes suitcases into otherwise wasted space areas.  

Everyone has always wanted a full vision top without troubles of a convertible!  The Gnome’s bubble canopy, plus air conditioning, gives this open feeling, but with no wind noise and “walk-in” entrance and exit ease.  Everyone has always wanted futuristic styling, but in a practical form that is functional – not just different!  The Gnome has an “out of this world” look, yet features interchangeable colored aluminum trim panels in place of gaudy paint schemes, functional big car bumpers in place of small car weaknesses, and admirably adapts to unit-body construction.

These, and a host of other features, are here and now in the Astra-Gnome, but it will only be a matter of time until in some form they appear in future production cars.  These features are not concerned with high horsepower or competition car performance, because as product stylists we do not believe the primary task of the appearance designer is a mechanical one.

We believe our job is to create new and exciting shapes, textures and colors in a functional car.  In the Gnome a totally new driving sensation akin to flying has resulted from this kind of esthetic exploration.  The “Space” element in the Astra-Gnome is almost self-explanatory, for the designer of the “personal” car is dealing with a space problem from the very beginning. 

The 6 foot wide Gnome, because it is wider than most cars of its length (13.5 feet), gives abundant interior room and allows for a phenomenal amount of storage and luggage area.  By careful workout, a production version of this car can carry no less than 6 pieces of matched integrated luggage, totaling as many cubic feet as found in the average full size sedan’s trunk compartment.

The proportions of the Astra-Gnome do not designate it as a “sports” car nor is its styling European in origin.  It was deliberately styled to be appealing in a pert, futuristic manner – not to mimic big car slab-sided trends.  It is sculptural and alive in its contours, borrowing heavily from jet aircraft, rocket and space ship forms, yet embodying much of the beautiful tailoring found in ancient steel armor.

Contrary to most cars, the wheels and tires of the Gnome have been de-emphasized.  This was done on purpose to achieve a floating special quality and to avoid the ungainly “over-wheeled” look of most small vehicles.  Thus, the appearance of the Gnome subtly captures the intangible look of the future with shapes that can be found in astronomy and in all of the aspects of form found in nature around us.

This is the kind of advanced thinking that went into the creation of the Astra-Gnome and that prompted the title “Time and Space Car.”  We believe this brief explanation will help you ao appreciate our aims in this fascinating automotive project.

Richard H. Arbib
Richard Arbib Company, Inc.
80 West 40th Street, New York 18, New York
LOngacre 4-1553, 1554


America In The 1950's

Should probably drop this old girl in here...epitome of 50's. 1956 Pontiac chieftain, first four door hardtop for Pontiac. Curb feelers, traffic light guide, non led lights, four wheel manual drum brakes, bias ply white wall tires fresh from Firestone (aka Coker), all the good works that screams 50's automobiles. Still a work in progress but she's not as much a mess as she used to be. Completely rebuilt drive train and brake system. Working on cosmetics interior and a little wiring.

I love to sit in it and listen to old music. takes you back and makes you think how much history this car has really experienced, the people that sat in it, etc.

Source: Americainthe1950s

Monday, June 23, 2014

1946 Ford Cab Over

Pinned Image


Friday, June 13, 2014

1941-1984 Chrysler Town & Country

The roof rack shifted to all chrome and became standard for the T&C sedan in July 1947.

1946 Chrysler Town & Country Product Line

The 1946 Chrysler Town & Country product line expanded due to the "woodies" popularity in the 1940's.
Although T&C's were the strongest wagons ever produced up to that time, thanks mainly to the sturdy all-steel roof without the customary fabric insert, Chrysler product planners decided that utility wasn't really what sold them.

What mattered was their unusual and handsome looks, a beautiful blend of woodwork and metal. Besides, Chrysler was planning its first all-steel station wagons even before the war ended (Plymouth broke the ice in that field in 1949). So, Wallace altered his game plan once car production resumed in 1946.

Now there would be a distinct line of wood-trimmed luxury models bearing the Town & Country name, including a formal-roof brougham sedan, a convertible, a conventional sedan, a two-seat roadster, and even a pillarless two-door coupe.

The last was arguably the most interesting and significant Town & Country. It was the first modern hardtop, three years ahead of GM's pioneering pillarless trio and grandaddy of the body style that would dominate the American auto industry for the next 20 years.

Chrysler built it by grafting the steel roof from its club coupe onto a conventional T&C convertible but had second thoughts about volume production. Only seven were completed, and only one of these survives today.

Also announced for 1946 were the brougham, a roadster with huge blind quarters (which prefigured the later Dodge Wayfarer), and a six-cylinder convertible on the shorter wheelbase.

However, except for a single brougham and short-chassis convertible, both prototypes, none of these saw actual production. "The sales department was just fishing around in the beginning," remembered stylist Buzz Grisinger. "Postwar plans were pretty much a hurry-up thing. There weren't any clay models or production prototypes. We just designed a series of different styles and brushed on wood trim where we thought it looked aesthetically best. Sales took it from there."

And where the sales department took it was to convertibles and four-door sedans. More than half of the 16,000 T&C's built through 1950 were the 1946, 1947, and 1948 convertibles.

Dave Wallace's personal T&C hardtop was retrofitted with a padded roof.

All employed the holdover 127.5-inch-wheelbase chassis, designated C-39, and were powered by the New Yorker's familiar 135-horsepower L-head straight eight. Priced $600 above the standard New Yorker soft-top, these were the cars prized by many Hollywood heavies.

For example, Leo Carillo, perhaps best remembered now for his television role as the Cisco Kid's sidekick Pancho, liked his T&C convertible so much that he fitted it with the head of a longhorn steer -- its eyes wired to blink along with the turn signals -- and monogrammed hubcaps. This car later became part of the Harrah Collection in Reno, Nevada.


This 1948 T&C convertible featured Di-Noc decal inserts instead of wood and white ash framing.

Building the 1946, 1947, and 1948 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible

Although Chrysler had plenty of experience building its prewar Town & Country wagons, it had to learn anew about building the 1946, 1947, and 1948 T&C convertibles.

The rag top's structure was entirely different from that of other Chrysler models, of course, and there was the added problem of no steel top to provide the desired torsional strength.

After considerable trial and error, engineers devised a conventional cowl and floor section for the woody convertible, with a surrounding steel beltline and the rear fenders tied together by a steel shelf.
The B-pillars were wood, supported at their bases by tunnels that stretched across the floorpan to meet upright angle iron supports. Sheetmetal carried the winding mechanisms for the rear side windows, which helped remove stress from the wood rear-quarter body areas.

The doors were mainly solid wood, too, and because of their weight, a sheet metal leading edge was attached to support their hinges. As in the rear quarters, sheet metal housed the window regulators.

This complex construction did not lend itself to conveyor-type assembly methods, and extensive use of welding machines was out of the question. Accordingly, the metal components were filed and welded by hand, and wood sub-assemblies were each put together by one or two workers using crafts more appropriate for a boatyard than a car plant.
Construction of the Town & Country convertible involved a lot of time-consuming hand labor.

Ply-metal panels were installed in the ash framing by means of a hammer, wedges, glue, and rope caulk. Teams moved from one body to the next, each handling a specific task.

To say the Town & Country involved a lot of time-consuming hand labor is an understatement. For example, it took 12 workers just to install each convertible top. Once the body was completed, it was mated to its chassis in the usual manner. Assembly then proceeded from station to station, much like that of the conventional models.

Compared to the normal production-line cars, T&C's moved at a snail's pace, which accounts for both their low volume and high price. Production from 1946 through 1948 averaged only 10 units per day, and it took fully three eight-hour shifts to achieve that.

But the slow going produced amazing results, and materials were the very best. The white ash, for example, was not only more durable than most woods but was also unequaled for the beauty of its grain, which contrasted perfectly with the mahogany insert panels.

Also, the framework was not made of a single piece of wood, so it was possible to match grain patterns exactly. The individual pieces were carefully selected and matched and were then laminated into the larger sections that made up the entire framework. It all added to the cost, but you couldn't find a more carefully or better built car for the money than the classic Town & Country.
The eight-cylinder convertible accounted for the bulk of Town & Country production through 1950.

1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1950 Chrysler Town & Country

Except for some minor changes, the 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1950 Town & Country models didn't change much in style, while other automobile manufacturers rolled out new styles.

The 1946, 1947, and 1948 Town & Country convertibles, however, were so all-fired glamorous that they tended to eclipse the 121.5-inch-wheelbase four-door sedans, which in their own way were just as stunning. Their interiors were richly finished with wood paneling set off by leather, Bedford cord, Saran plastic, or vinyl upholstery, plus color-keyed carpeting.

A lovely wood luggage rack was optional (its roof runners were changed to chrome-plated metal in mid-1947, when it was made standard). To many collectors, the sedans are the real sleepers among the early postwar T&C's because they're a lot scarcer than the rag tops.
The Chrysler Town & Country convertible was a glamorous, popular model.

Only 224 sedans were designated 1946 models, 2,651 were 1947's, and 1,175 were 1948's. A mere 100 of the 1946's were eight-cylinder models on the longer New Yorker wheelbase, the rarest production Town & Country of all.

When most Detroit manufacturers launched their first all-new designs for 1949, the Town & Country began to wane. It had, after all, been only a stop-gap item with little sales significance.
The 1949 convertible is the scarcest of the volume ragtops and an eminently collectible automobile.

Its greatest benefit in the immediate postwar period was to entice people back into Chrysler showrooms -- people who would, it was hoped, be inspired to order one of the more conventional, less costly models. Like the contemporary Ford and Mercury Sportsman convertibles and the Nash Suburban sedan, the T&C was a marketing concept designed to add needed glamour to a line of 1946-1948 cars that were little more than warmed-over 1942's.

The 1950 Town & Country Newport hardtop coupe was the last of the glamorous wood-body models.

Thus, it was no surprise that when Chrysler trotted out its all-new body design for 1949, T&C offerings were trimmed. Only an eight-cylinder convertible with considerably less woodwork was available, and sales for the model totaled exactly 1,000.

The model returned with the same basic body for 1950 but as a Newport hardtop (a convertible was considered but scratched). Like the 1949, it was mounted on the 131.5-inch New Yorker chassis and was powered by the familiar 135-horsepower 323.5-cubic inch straight eight. Unique to the 1950 T&C (and the long-wheelbase Imperial) were disc brakes, one of the first applications on a U.S. production automobile.
The name was too good to lose, of course, and Chrysler never gave it up. Along with the T&C Newport for 1950 appeared two Town & Country station wagons, either wood or steel, in the bottom-line Royal series.
The 1950 Town & Country Newport offered vast interior space front and rear.


1968 and 1984 Revivals of the Town & Country Concept

The 1968 and 1984 revivals of the Town & Country concept stirred up excitement. During model year 1968 the original Town & Country concept, in spirit at least, made a temporary return.

In time for the mid-year selling season there arrived a new option called "Sportsgrain." It was available for convertibles and two-door hardtops in the Newport series, then Chrysler's bread-and-butter line, priced in the competitive $3,300-$4,500 range and available in six body styles including two Town & Country wagons.

To avoid confusion, cars so equipped did not wear the Town & Country badge, and some enthusiasts were undoubtedly thankful for that. Indeed, the Sportsgrain Newport can be accurately summed up as the standard car with $126 worth of simulated-wood paneling plastered to the bodysides as on the wagon.

It didn't look bad, but it didn't knock your eyes out either. And as a successor to the real Town & Country it was a non-starter. Sales were 965 hardtops and 175 convertibles -- which explains why Sportsgrain disappeared for good after this one year.

Then in 1984, the Town & Country came back, this time for real. It arrived in the LeBaron series, another long-standing Chrysler nameplate that originated in the coachbuilding days of Ray Dietrich and Tom Hibbard.
LeBaron and Town & Country were a plush combination. Though there was no real tree wood in it, this newest T&C was nevertheless a first-rate reincarnation of the spirit and style of the original.

Actually, there were two LeBaron T&C's, a five-door wagon and a convertible. The rag top naturally received the most attention from both the press and buyers. And why not? It was not only one of the few domestic convertibles you could buy new in those days, but it was also one of the best.
And, as the first open-air Town & Country in almost two generations, it was the model that most strongly evokes memories of the great late-1940's classics.

The front-drive LeBaron convertible featured a spacious rear seat area.

1984 LeBaron Town & Country Convertible

The Town & Country name was revived at mid-model year with the introduction of the 1984 LeBaron Town & Country Convertible.

Though the wagon was expected, a convertible was not -- let alone one cast in the image of one of Chrysler's most memorable cars. But it was all part of the plan to put more pizazz and competitiveness into the company's offerings, and Chrysler's miracle worker, Lee A. Iacocca, was never one for doing the predictable.

Ordinarily, the simple addition of wood-like appliqu├ęs to an otherwise standard production car wouldn't be enough to garner more than a stifled yawn from enthusiasts. But there was something different about the LeBaron Town & Country convertible.

Call it character, call it nostalgia, this car was noticed, attracting as much interest as some performance machines and far more than its non-woody linemates.

Like all LeBarons, the new convertible rode a 100.3-inch wheelbase and was just shy of 15 feet in overall length, making it the shortest T&C in history as well as the lightest.

It was also obviously the first with front-wheel drive. But it was not unlike its massive forbearers when it came to smooth performance, fine ride, and quietness at cruising speeds. And it offered something no T&C has ever had before: roadability.

Standard equipment included the 2.6-liter (156-cubic inch) Mitsubishi-built four-cylinder engine that was optional for other models, teamed with Chrysler's still-excellent three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.

A more exciting prospect -- and an item definitely suited to the convertible's sporty nature -- was the newly optional turbocharged version of Chrysler's 2.2-liter (135-cubic inch) overhead-cam "Trans-4" engine with electronic port fuel injection. Scheduled for mid-year introduction, it made this the first T&C that could truthfully be described as "fun to drive."

Other features of the 1984 included more rear seat room than in the initial 1983 convertible; roll-down rear quarter windows, another improvement; a backlight made of glass instead of plastic; and more convenient roof and latch mechanisms.

Preserving its luxury link with the past, the new T&C was offered with an optional Mark Cross interior package featuring genuine leather upholstery. And despite all this talk of tradition, this was a very modern car, with such high-technology attractions as computer-aided body design and a fascinating, extra-cost electronic instrument cluster.

The LeBaron T&C convertible was available in three pearlescent shades -- Mink brown, Gunmetal blue, and Garnet red, which was in keeping with traditional T&C convertible colors.

Is the 1984 as collectible an automobile as its classic predecessors? Probably not, at least not for a good many years yet, but we wouldn't discourage you from considering one on that basis.

A replica of the original? No, nothing like that. But the 1984 Town & Country was also more than mere transportation. Like the original, it was a handsome convertible with a difference: stylish and plush, indefinably yet unmistakably classy.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Miniature American Classic Cars

Ernie’s Dwarf Cars – Miniature American Classic Cars

Ernie Adams 1949 Mercury Dwarf Car
Here’s an awesome character who I could talk to for days, Ernie Adams from Maricopa, Arizona.  You see, Ernie is one of those people that would rather spend the time to build something with their own hands than go to a store and pick it up off the shelf.  Some of his most incredible creations are his famous Dwarf Cars.
Ernie lived close to the city dump and collected lots of scrap materials like steel, aluminum, zinc, tires and wheels, furniture, and everything else you can think of and find at the dump.  He used all that material to build these beautiful Dwarf Cars, all by hand and from scrap materials.
Ernie Adams 1942 Ford Convertible Dwarf Car
Ernie’s Dwarf Cars, as the name suggest, are smaller versions of some of the classic American cars from the 1940’s.  These cars are real, working machines and are street legal, complete with lights, signals, gauges, and everything a “real” car has.  The cars are powered by motorcycles engines, again, found at the city dump and re-purposed.
Ernie has built 7 of these dwarf cars, by hand; he even made the tools to make these cars.  The cars are now displayed at the Dwarf Car Museum in Arizona.  His collection of cars include: 1949 Mercury, 1934 Ford Sedan, 1942 Ford Convertible, 1929 Ford Hillbilly, 1939 Chevy Sedan, 1928 Grandpa Dwarf, and a Dwarf race car.
…and did I mention he built all of these cars from scratch?  Pretty amazing, we need more people like Bernie Adams in this world!  Check out the official Dwarf Car website for more information and pictures.

Ernie Adams Dwarf Cars

1949 Mercury Dwarf CarErnie Adams 1939 Chevy Sedan Dwarf CarErnie Adams 1929 Ford Hillbilly Dwarf Car

A Rare Volvo Convertible Turns 60 Years: The Volvo Sport

A Rare Volvo Convertible Turns 60 Years: The Volvo Sport
On 2 June 1954 the two-seater roadster, the Volvo Sport, and the company's first sports car, made its debut. But a low weight and reliable Volvo technology were not enough - production was shut down after just 67 had been built. Or was it 68?

The name of the new car was short and sweet - Sport - and it had a short and plump body with a big grille that looked like a turbine. The wheelbase was 20 centimetres shorter than that of the Volvo PV 444, whose mechanics it otherwise shared. Under the hood there was a 1.4 litre tuned version of the PV 444 engine, with twin carburettors and 70 horsepower. The top speed was specified as 155 km/h.

The Volvo Sport was the direct result of the many reconnaissance trips made to the USA by the company's founder and MD Assar Gabrielsson in the early 1950s. In his quest to learn as much as possible about the market before launching Volvo on the other side of the Atlantic, he met a lot of people in the car world. One company that he came into contact with was Glasspar in Montecito, California. Since 1951 they had been building hulls for boats and bodies for sports cars using the new material fibreglass.
Gabrielsson was very interested in the manufacturing process and wanted to find out how the material worked in Sweden. Furthermore, he had also noted in the USA that there was a huge interest in small, European sports cars - so Volvo ought to build one!In 1953, Glasspar was tasked with designing a body, producing moulds, building the first prototype, and training Volvo's staff in how to design and manufacture fibreglass bodies. Back home in Gothenburg, Volvo's engineers were ordered to develop a suitable frame chassis that would fit the body.A RARE VOLVO CONVERTIBLE TURNS 60 YEARS: THE VOLVO SPORT
Short development timeThe project progressed at a rapid pace. By the beginning of 1954 Glasspar had delivered the first drivable prototype to Volvo, although it was still far from fully developed. For example, it lacked a canopy top and side windows that could be wound down. The prototypes faced tough criticism during internal testing. The chassis was too weak, the plastic cracked, the doors fitted poorly, and the three-speed gearbox was far from sporty.By the time of the presentation at Torslanda Airport another two prototypes had been completed and Volvo was able to show it was serious about its sports car project. Those present were told the car would reach the market in 1955, and that a first series of 300 cars would be produced, all for export.A RARE VOLVO CONVERTIBLE TURNS 60 YEARS: THE VOLVO SPORT
Straight after the first showing, Volvo undertook a demonstration tour with the three cars, visiting all Volvo dealers in Sweden.The beginning of something newA RARE VOLVO CONVERTIBLE TURNS 60 YEARS: THE VOLVO SPORT
In the spring of 1956 the first cars were delivered to customers in countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, and the USA. However, cars were also delivered to Swedish customers - the original policy that the Volvo Sport would be for export only had been reassessed. By that stage the car had been redesigned in several respects and now had a canopy top roof and windows that wound down. But the gearbox was still only three-speed.Production and sales were slow and during the first year only 44 were built. In 1957 another 23 were built, but after the newly appointed MD Gunnar Engellau got to drive a Volvo Sport for a weekend he decided that production should cease immediately. The car did not live up to Volvo's quality requirements and the company was losing money on every car it sold.The total number produced was 67, but later research shows that two cars were, probably accidentally, given chassis number 20. That would mean that 68 Volvo Sports were built. Surprisingly, many of the cars are still in existence - the whereabouts of around 50 are known.

Despite the failure of P1900 - as the car was known internally - Volvo still gained useful experience from the project. Shortly after the stop in production of the Volvo Sport, MD Gunnar Engellau commissioned a new sports car - made from steel. Four years later the Volvo P1800 was ready - and a significantly greater success for Volvo.

Images courtesy of Volvo Source: