Studebakers: from a $68 investment to the Studebaker National Museum

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Although it’s been a long time since you could purchase a brand new Studebaker, this brand once dominated the country, even before “horseless carriages” were available.

The Studebaker National Museum, located in South Bend, Indiana, contains more than 120 of these vehicles–meaning both cars and wagons–some dating back to the late 1880s. Typically, there are 70 vehicles or so on display at any one time. Vehicles include four presidential carriages, the first and last cars built in South Bend, the last Studebaker ever built, anywhere, and many other iconic vehicles.

But, the history of Studebaker begins more than twenty years before 1880. Here’s more.

History of Studebaker Company

Imagine yourself as a blacksmith in 1852. You decide to partner with your brother to open up a blacksmith shop, say, at the corner of Michigan and Jefferson Streets in South Bend, Indiana of February 16th of that year. You might expect to spend your days in front of an immensely hot forge filled with burning coals, putting bars of metal into the heat and then shaping them into axes or nails, or pots and pans, or door hinges or plow blades.

If you were Henry and Clement Studebaker, though, your business would develop a niche specialty, much like businesses do today, and it didn’t fit the typical blacksmithing mold. By the time their company morphed from H & C Studebaker into the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, they were in fact the world’s largest manufacturer of farm wagons and horse-drawn buggies.

Henry and Clement began making metal parts for freight wagons in 1852, with start-up capital of only $68 (equal to slightly more than $2,000 of today’s dollars). Freight wagons were railway cars, non-powered, that transported cargo.

On their first day of business, they had exactly one customer–a man who needed a shoe changed on his horse. Later that year, though, they were able to charge a customer $175 (comparable to about $5,300 in 2014 dollars and more than twice as much as all of their startup funding) to build a farm wagon. They painted the wagon green and red and boldly added “Studebaker” in yellow lettering, the first time a vehicle boasted their name.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

In 1853, Henry’s and Clement’s younger brother John Mohler decided to head out west to find gold, something countless men of his generation were doing. A wagon train would take him along without charging a fee as long as the brothers donated a wagon to the cause. The family agreed and, with $65 in his pocket, John sought out his fortune. Although he didn’t find the riches he desired, his talents as a wagon maker earned him regular work and allowed him to save up $8,000.

In Indiana, Henry and Clement continued their blacksmithing work, but also built about a dozen wagons per year. To get more into mass production, they needed more funds. Fortunately, John had those funds and, in 1858, he returned home, bought out Henry’s share in the business, and became part of the family business.

The previous year–1857–they’d also expanded their horizons by building and selling a carriage. According to A Century on Wheels: The Story of Studebaker, “Fancy, hand-worked iron trim, the kind of courting buggy any boy and girl would be proud to be seen in.” By 1860, their brother Peter Everst Studebaker was showing the family wares in Goshen, Indiana, the first of the Studebaker showrooms, albeit one that looked more like a shed. A fifth brother, Jacob Franklin, also ended up joining the company.

When the Civil War started, there was a huge need for wagons and so Clement, Peter and John shipped their wagons to the Union Army by train and steamship. In 1868, they formed the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, which ultimately became the “largest vehicle house in the world” despite two massive fires destroying their buildings. By 1877, annual sales exceeded $1 million and Clement traveled to Europe to find more markets for the company. The following year, their wagons won awards at the prestigious Paris Exposition.

They even sold a $20,000 version of their vehicle (figure $445,000 in today’s dollars, comparable to a Lamborghini Aventador), which could seat a dozen passengers. In the late 1880s, the family also bought out companies manufacturing the Lafayette and Lincoln carriages, further increasing their market share.

Era of the Horseless Carriage

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

In 1895, John’s son in law, Frederick Fish, began pushing for a horseless carriage to add to their product line. In 1897, Fred became the chairman of the executive committee and the company began actively working on an electric motor. Meanwhile, their wagon division continued to be strong as, in 1898, the company supplied wagons for the Spanish American War. Plus, the American Red Cross bought six yellow and blue ambulances and sent them to Cuba; each ambulance carried four stretchers, the bottom two hinged to be moved for sitting patients or medical personnel.

And, in 1902 the Studebakers debuted their first electric car. This was a year later than the Oldsmobile’s version and less complex than the Thomas B. Jeffrey Company’s 1902 entry of a gas-powered model, the Rambler. Thomas B. Jeffrey sold 1,500 Ramblers that years, compared to Studebaker’s 20 electric cars. More competition was right around the corner, too, thanks to Henry Ford, as well as the Overland, the precursor of the Jeep. Nevertheless, the purchaser of the second Studebaker electric car carried some real clout: a guy named Thomas Edison.

Although electric cars are certainly a 21st-century buzzword, there was a flaw in them in 1902: too many places simply didn’t have electricity, so where could you recharge your car? You certainly couldn’t lug along a can or two of emergency electricity like you could fuel, so electric car owners often saw their vehicles towed home by horses, which surely seemed a step back in technology.

The future, at least for the next century, was therefore a much smellier, less elegant option. Or as John “Wheelbarrow Johnny” Studebaker called gasoline-based cars, “clumsy, noisy, dangerous brutes [that] stink to high heaven, break down at the worst possible moment and are a public nuisance.”

Birth of the gas-powered Studebaker

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

The company began making gasoline-powered cars in 1904 in partnership with the Garford Company of Elyria, Ohio, located near Cleveland. What a confusing job it must have been to market Studebakers in this era, when they still sold horse-drawn carriages for the traditionalists, electric cars for drivers willing to stick close to home and max out at about 13 miles an hour, and gasoline vehicles “for wide-radius touring.”

By 1908, Studebaker had bought a majority interest in the Garford Company, but their cars were expensive–$2,500 to $4,500, and sometimes even more–and fewer than 2,500 were likely built during the entire 8-year partnership. Moreover, in 1908, Ford introduced Model Ts that sold for only $825-850, manufacturing more than 10,000 in just one year.

The year 1911 saw the end of Studebaker electric vehicle production as well as the demise of the partnership with Garford, although various other collaborations were tried for the gas-powered models. In 1914, Studebaker started supplying Britain, France and Russia with wagons for World War I, the last major war that relied heavily upon wagons. Later, they also supplied the United States in their war effort.

In May 1920, the company stopped production of horse-drawn carriages, liquidating their product line while they could still get reasonable prices for the vehicles. All told, they lost more than $700,000 in this move, but losses surely would have been greater had they waited. Ready to cringe, though? That figure translates into more than an $8 million loss today.

From this point on, the Studebaker company would flourish–or stumble–based on automobiles alone. Highlights of the next couple of decades include:

  • The company struggled during the Great Depression, as many others did, even going into receivership from 1933 through 1935.
  • The 1939 Champion is considered one of Studebaker’s most iconic cars.
  • In 1939, the company began building a small quantity of 6 x 6 military trucks for the French forces in World War II. Later, they provided B-17 Flying Fortress engines and the M29 and M29C amphibious Weasel personnel carrier.
  • After the war, Studebaker emerged with the first new design for a post-war car (production for personal cars halted in 1942 so that more efforts could be given to support the war).
  • The 1947 Starlight Coupe is another of Studebaker’s most well-known vehicles.
  • In 1948, production became multi-national once again with a production facility in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. Studebaker had begun building cars in Canada in 1910, but stopped from 1936-1947.
  • In 1950, the bullet nose design was introduced.
  • The following year, the Studebaker V-8 was unveiled.
  • The 1963 Avanti is considered one of Studebaker’s most iconic cars.

Also in 1963: more than 110 years after Henry and Clement first set up shop, the US production of Studebaker vehicles stopped. On March 17, 1966, the final Studebaker produced anywhere in the world rolled out in Canada.

Studebaker National Museum

Fortunately, the Studebaker National Museum has preserved a significant amount of the company’s history. “The museum,” says archivist Andrew Beckman, “began with 37 vehicles. We are one of only three car museums with the American Alliance of Museum accreditation, which is sort of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for museums.” The other two, he says, are the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg in Auburn, Indiana.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

He points out that the 1950 and 1951 Bullet Nose vehicles are among the car museum’s most popular for visitors. Other vehicles of interest include the presidential ones, which include:

  • Ulysses S. Grant’s vehicle used during his presidential term from 1873 until 1877, which he continued to use until his death in 1885. Visitors who rode in this landau-style carriage included:
    • President Rutherford B. Hayes
    • President Chester A. Arthur
    • Civil War General William T. Sherman
    • Civil War General Phil Sheridan
    • King Kalakua of the Hawaiian Islands
    • Viceroy Li Hung Chang from the Chinese Empire
    • One of Benjamin Harrison’s five carriages used during his presidential term; altogether, these carriages cost $7,075 and were considered less pretentious than other choices (in keeping with Harrison’s personality) because they were “simple in design with silver and ebony trimmings rather than fancier gilt, and they bore no formal insignias.” Harrison continued to buy Studebaker carriages until his death in 1901.
    • Abraham Lincoln’s carriage that transported him (and his wife) to Ford Theater on the night of his assassination on April 15, 1865. This carriage has six springs, along with solid silver lamps, door handles and hubcaps. Because the steps connect to the doors, they lowered and rose as the doors opened and closed.
    • William McKinley’s carriage, one that boasted rubber tires for summer use and a removable extension top, along with springs and cushions in the seats. Like Lincoln, McKinley traveled in this carriage on the day of his assassination in September 1901.
Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

Photo credit: Studebaker National Museum.

When asked why there is still such interest in Studebakers, nearly 50 years after production stopped, Beckman points out the longevity of the company. “This was the only company,” he says, “that successfully transitioned from the wagon business to the car business.” And, as author Patrick Foster points out in his book, Studebaker: The Complete History, “For many years, Studebaker held the proud claim as the vehicle owned by more Americans than any other brand. No mere local or regional phenomenon, Studebaker vehicles were known and respected around the world. An argument could be made that Studebaker was the first truly global vehicle brand. Studebaker was the natural choice of princes, kings and presidents.”

As proof of the continuing fascination with the Studebaker, Beckman shares that, even on the date of this interview, the blizzard of March 12, 2014, people figured out a way to get to the museum to see a presentation about the vehicle. Overall, approximately 40,000 people visit the museum each year, although the number increases once every five years when the international Studebaker meet takes place in South Bend. The museum has also witnessed an increase in moms with strollers, ever since they added an interactive children’s exhibit area about one and a half years ago. People also actively participate in Studebaker car clubs. In fact, Beckman says, “it’s the largest single mark auto club in existence.”

Editor’s note: Have you been to this car museum? If so, what did you think? If not, which car museums would you like to visit? And, be sure to let us know what your favorite vintage cars are.

Rock Legends The Moody Blues to Raffle Custom “Moody Cooper”

Moody Cooper carOne of the hottest tickets in entertainment these days is the “Concert Cruise,” where bands and fans set sail for a few days of rock ‘n’ roll bliss on the high seas.

The Moody Blues Cruise II–-the second annual fan cruise from The Moody Blues (“Nights in White Satin”), sailing the Caribbean April 2-7, 2014 aboard the MSC Divina–-have collaborated with The Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund (DioCancerFund.org), a non-profit charitable fund formed in honor of the legendary rock singer Ronnie James Dio, who lost his life to stomach cancer in 2010.

Moody Cooper 2In support of the charity, the cruise will raffle a 2013 Mini Cooper, featuring customized cruise graphics, plus a permanent plaque and certificate of authenticity signed by The Moody Blues. Hoisted aboard the MSC Divina with a 20-story crane, the Moody Cooper will be displayed on the pool deck throughout the cruise.

Readers of our blog will remember that the Mini Cooper’s close sibling, the Mini Cooper Coupe, made our list of top 5 cars with underrated styling in 2013.

To find out more about the cruise, the charity and this ultra-cool car, visit Moodies Cruise.

 

5 Automotive Oddballs

Future classics or manufacturing mishaps? You be the judge!

There have been several cars released in recent memory that many have looked at and thought … why?

They in this case could refer to either the manufacturer (for making such a thing) or the owner (for willingly forking over the cash to buy such a thing).

Oddballs of the automotive world often end up unloved and offered for sale cheap on used car lots and automotive forums. Their current owners sing their praises using descriptors such as “unique” and “rare” but to most prospective buyers they are “strange” and “quirky.”

Here are 5 “unique” examples of “quirky” autos that could turn out to be future classic cars.

Subaru XT (1985 – 1991)

subaru-xt6

At its time of release in 1985, the wedge-shaped Subaru XT was the most aerodynamic production car available for sale in the United States. With flat door handles, an air suspension that lowered at speed and a single windshield wiper that tucked beneath the hood when not in use, the XT made slicing through the air its top priority.

The combination of a 2 door coupe body style, available four wheel drive and a boxer-style turbocharged engine made it even more unusual, as this configuration was extremely uncommon in any car not hailing from Stuttgart or Modena. It wasn’t until a few years later that Japanese competitors caught up with Subaru when the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo and Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX made similar four wheel drive / turbo configurations available to U.S. buyers.

Volkswagen EOS (2006 – Present)

volkswagen-eos

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

As Volkswagen’s first production non-Golf 2 door coupe since the already classic Corrado, the EOS had very big shoes to fill.

Like the outgoing Cabrio, the EOS is considered both outside and inside the United States to be a hairdresser’s car, but the addition of the 2.0L turbocharged engine and dual-clutch DSG transmission (both borrowed from hot hatch sibling GTI) make the EOS a fun car to drive quickly. The turbo power combined with a “unique” power-retracting 5 piece glass top convertible roof has put smiles on the faces on more than a few skeptical drivers and unsuspecting passengers.

 

 

BMW M Coupe (1998 – 2002)

bmw-m-coupe

The M division is well known throughout the enthusiast world as being the in-house tuning arm of Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). As such, its existence is dependent upon buyers’ continued willingness to shell out a premium for faster, lower and wider vehicles.

Occasionally, the M division diverts its attention away from performance and towards styling. The M Coupe’s shooting brake design takes cues from classic British and Italian cars, which sounds like a good thing. But in reality, this car has adopted the nickname clown shoe due to its resemblance of, well, a clown’s shoe.

Aside from the love-it-or-hate-it styling (which actually resulted from the engineering team’s attempt to make the car handle better) the BMW M Coupe is a competent sports car with massive rear tires and howling engine that draws crowds at local meets all over the world.

 

Merkur XR4Ti (1985-1989)

merkur-xr4ti

The XR4Ti was assembled by hand in Germany and sold domestically by Ford dealerships who agreed to operate a Merkur franchise. Essentially a reworked European Ford Sierra XR4i, the XR4Ti received a Brazilian built 2.3L four cylinder turbocharged engine instead of the V6 found in the XR4i. U.S. safety laws accounted for several slight visual differences, including the distinctive bi-plane spoiler, which was unique to the U.S. market.

The XR4Ti was both expensive (about $40k in today’s money) and quick, but failed to sell in significant numbers. Last year, Top Gear referred to a group of cars that included the XR4Ti as misunderestimated. We couldn’t agree more.

 

Shelby GLHS (1986-1987)

shelby_glhs

Ok, so you’ll probably be able to find an EOS without much trouble. An M Coupe or XR4Ti will take some doing, but far from impossible. Most XTs, though, have long since succumbed to rust. That brings us to the above–a Shelby GLHS. We doubt if you’ll ever find (much less ever see) one. Only 500 were ever made.

Fun was at the heart of this car. Based on the Dodge Omni GLH (GLH standing for Goes Like Hell) it’s easy to see why the Shelby GLHS (standing for Goes Like Hell S’more) made our list. Like the XR4Ti, even its name is “quirky.”

The GLHS was powered by a 2.2L turbocharged engine, which produced 175HP. This was a big number in those days, especially for a hatchback. By comparison, the turbocharged boxer in the XT managed only 112HP.

The Shelby tuned motor was enough to propel the car to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, which is roughly the equivalent of a modern day non-DSG Volkswagen GTI. For owners that wanted even more power, MOPAR offered a Performance Stage II computer upgrade that pushed engine output to 205HP. The Super 60 Kit was good for 300HP.

Editor’s note: What are some of your ideas for future classic cars? What used car lot rescues are parked in your driveway? Please share in the comments below.

 

Cars of the future: personalized ambulances

Approximately ninety-six years ago, on January 5, 1918, Scientific American made the following prediction about future car technology:

The car of the future won’t leave anything to be done by man power. In two or three years foot brakes will be things of the past except on cheap cars. Why should a man exert muscle to stop a car any more than to start it? What’s that great brute of an engine idling under the hood for? Now, jump three jumps more. If the engine starts and lights and pumps and stops itself, why shouldn’t it steer the car? Revolutionary? Nonsense!…The car of the future will have no such thing as a “driver’s seat.” All the seats in the car save the rear one will be moveable. Driving will be done from a small control board, which can be held in the lap. It will be connected to the mechanism by a flexible electric cable. A small finger lever, not a wheel, will guide the car.

Although the writer of this piece was a bit overenthusiastic about the timetable, he was not far off in his predictions about future car technology. But, here’s one feature that even he didn’t imagine: your car helping you to manage your health.

Why do I need that?

It may seem as though only older people worry about their health–or need to. But, year after year, health-related New Year’s resolutions top the list. You can look at virtually any article listing popular resolutions and find ones that read like this:

  • Lose weight
  • East a healthier diet
  • Get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink less

What’s the common denominator in each of these? An underlying concern about health! Now that we’ve settled that matter . . . let’s move on to news about cars and health.

Technology available today

If you’re willing to pay $95,000 for a Mercedes-Benz, your car’s computer can note–via changes in your body and driving–if you’re getting tired. If that happens, a “big red coffee cup” appears on the dashboard; you’ll hear a chime and you’ll be asked to pull over to get some coffee to fight your drowsiness.

 

Cars Health MonitoringSome cars can act like personalized ambulances, monitoring changes in your body … but should they?

Nissan has the technology to stop you from driving if you’ve had too much alcohol to drink and technology already exists to take the driver’s temperature. But this is, as you’ve probably already guessed, just the tip of the iceberg.

Ford S-Max Concept Car and More

Cars and health are in the news right now largely because of the announcement of the S-Max, a concept car that can monitor the driver’s heart rate through an electrocardiogram (ECG) and detect unusual rates or acute problems. If a heart attack is being detected, the car can contact medical help and put into place safety systems to help prevent an accident. The S-Max can also monitor blood sugar (glucose), helpful for people with diabetes. There are approximately 26 million people with diabetes in the United States alone, of all ages, so this is a potential benefit for a significant segment of the population.

In 2012, David Melcher, a Ford research engineer, discussed how people can manage their allergies and chronic medical conditions through features in their car.

Other car manufacturers, according to TechRadar, are planning medical additions to their cars’ features. Examples include:

  • Pulse monitoring via the steering wheel
  • The car notifying the driver’s family if his/her vital signs look shaky
  • The car automatically driving you to a doctor or hospital, if necessary

So, what do you think? Sound good?

Not so fast

There are some down sides to this added technology, including the additional cost. Plus, what happens if there is a false alarm? If so, a non-drinker could miss an important meeting because of an incorrect breathalyzer reading, while a family may get a scary call about a loved one’s health for no good reason.

Then there is what Cheryl Dancey Balough and Richard C. Balough call “cyberterrorism on wheels.” Cheryl is the communications co-director of the American Bar Association’s Cyberspace Law Committee and adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Richard is the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Mobile Commerce of the Cyberspace Law Committee–and both are founding members of Balough Law Offices, LLC. In short, these two are experts.

In November 2013, they published an article on the American Bar Association site titled, “Cyberterrorism on Wheels: Are Today’s Cars Vulnerable to Attack?” in which they succinctly sum up the problem at hand.

Modern cars, they point out, are controlled by “complex computer systems that include millions of lines of code connected by internal networks. Cars have become computers on wheels . . . Cars have dozens of electronic control units (ECUs) embedded in the body, doors, dash, roof, trunk, seats, wheels, navigation equipment, and entertainment centers. Common wired networks interconnect these ECUs, which also can connect to the Internet.” And, the reality is that any computer can be hacked.

Richard and Cheryl share more useful information, as summed up below:

If that isn’t scary enough, entertainment systems, hands-free cellphones and satellite radio also provide entry points for malware. So can tire pressure monitoring systems and those such as OnStar that provide instant access to emergency services.

 

PrintCars Health MalwareWhat if malware entered your car’s computer?

To add to the picture, in 2014, General Motors will offer wireless services in their vehicles for phone and laptop use. And, as Cheryl and Richard point out, all of a car’s ECUs are connected so, once malware finds its way into one entry point, it can flow throughout the vehicle. As self-driving features  and vehicle-to-vehicle communication (which allows vehicles to share information about location, speed, direction of travel and more with one another) become more common, the opportunities for hacking will become even more frequent.

By 2040 (just 26 years from now!), estimates suggest that 75% of cars will be self-driving. So, with that in mind, is it any surprise that your car can–and perhaps will someday–be hacked? To add to the problem, it’s estimated that the average auto maker is approximately 20 years behind software companies in fighting off cyber-attacks.

Mind your own business

What about privacy issues? The Wall Street Journal takes on the issue of privacy concerns with biometric cars–meaning cars that take in data (your heart rate, your breathing rate, and the sweatiness of your palms, for example) via sensors; these cars then respond in certain ways to certain data to help prevent accidents.

Joe Smith, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, acknowledges that people will want to be able to control the monitoring. He expects that manufacturers will honor that, building biometric cars that come complete with opt-in technologies; this should allow people to decide whether they want to be monitored and where the info does or doesn’t go. Joe notes that Ford says they won’t store any info without consent.

Brian Reimer, an MIT researcher, chimes in, sharing how people today need to juggle increasing amounts of information and make increasing amounts of strategic decisions just to drive–and so the biometric car would add automated features to help the driver when he or she needs the assistance. Brian does not foresee significant privacy issues with biometric driving, comparing monitored driving with online shopping with credit cards. The convenience, he points out, can override the risk.

Brainstorming with Attorney Richard Balough

Will your privacy really be well protected, though? Will the promises being made today–as people are being persuaded to accept the technology–really be kept when drivers become more blasé about increasing encroachments upon privacy?

Richard talked to Advance Auto Parts about the possibilities. “A car,” Richard says to set the context, “is nothing more than a giant computer on wheels. Therefore, any time that monitoring occurs with a car, so can hacking.” So, it would seem that any bulletproof promises of privacy should be looked upon with a jaded eye.

Features on a car that monitor health have, Richard continues, “good sounding purposes” so the main question to ask yourself is “What am I giving up in exchange?” He equates this tradeoff to using one of those plastic cards at grocery stores that, once scanned by the cashier, give you a few cents more off of certain items. “In exchange, they know exactly what I’m buying and how often I’m buying it,” Richard says. “So in effect, I’ve sold them that information very cheaply–for maybe $2 a week.”

He also warns about how much companies can learn about a person with seemingly small bits of data. To that end, he refers to when Target got so good at predictive behavior through the data they collected from shoppers that they could predict when some were in the early stages of pregnancy. Once these women were identified, Target would send those shoppers mailers with relevant coupons. About a year after this program started, a man angrily entered a Target near Minneapolis, wanting to know why the store would send his daughter, still in high school, coupons for baby clothes and cribs.

The store manager was apologetic but, a few days later, the man told the manager that he’d talked to his daughter and she was, indeed, pregnant. To prevent a similar scenario from happening again, Target now mixes maternity-type ads in with ads for unrelated products, such as lawn care products, and sends those mailers to women believed to be pregnant.

Back to brainstorming: clearly, data is already easily and painlessly collected from people in everyday situations. So, we started to speculate about what a store could, theoretically speaking, do with the information they have about a particular person. “Could they sell it to my health insurance provider?” Richard wonders. “What if it shows that I buy two cases of beer every single week–and yet, on my health insurance application, I say that I never drink alcohol?”

Here’s another way that health insurance companies might gather information about you, in a way related to the main topic of this post. Let’s say that your health insurance company will offer you a discount if you agree to health monitoring in your car (which is similar, really, to getting a discount for a good driving record, which is monitored, albeit in a different way). You want the discount, so you go along with the plan, whether willingly or reluctantly.

“The car is gathering and offloading data,” Richard says. “Let’s say that this process is compromised through hacking.  Is your health insurer in violation of HIPAA (which gives people certain rights to privacy as to their health conditions) because of the breach? And, what about the car manufacturers? If they create health monitoring systems that are breached, are they in violation of HIPAA?”

Or, let’s say that your car needs fixed and so the repair personnel hook up your car to a port. Will they have access to your health information? Are you okay with that? Does it seem reasonable that at least some of those workers might share what they learned?

Here’s another thought. Let’s say that you have a car accident and it appears to be the other driver’s fault. After all, he had the stop sign at the intersection and you did not. But then the police access your health data that was collected and stored by your car, and they notice that your sugar was pretty low (maybe you shouldn’t have been driving in the first place?) or that you didn’t seem to brake very quickly (maybe you could have prevented the accident?). Or breathalyzer technology shows that, even though your car started today, many times in the past it didn’t because of your alcohol consumption (maybe you’re pretty hung over right now). How will any of those facts change who gets cited?

On another subject: let’s say that a car automatically slows down because the driver appears sleepy or otherwise not in prime condition. What if that slowing down happens on a busy highway and that causes an accident? Who is liable?

Making your decision

No one has all of the answers right now, of course, and it’s likely that this debate will continue in the upcoming years. But, the bottom line is this: if you have the option of participating in health monitoring while you drive and you feel it might benefit you, think about these questions, offered up by Richard Balough, before making your decision:

  • What information is being gathered?
  • How is it stored?
  • How is it encrypted–if it even is?
  • Who has access to that data?
  • Will I know who reviews it and when?
  • What happens when there is a breach?
  • Will I be made aware of that?
  • Who is liable for that breach?
  • If I had already agreed to be monitoring, did I in effect sign a waiver?
  • Would that relieve the car manufacturer of any liability?
  • Or would the court system decide that a typical driver wouldn’t have enough information to legally relieve manufacturers of liability?

“There is always a trade off,” Richard says. “You can get good services and/or perhaps save money if you agree to health monitoring, but in exchange you might be giving up more of your privacy.”

Ah. The head spins.

Editor’s note: What do you think? We really need to you to weigh in on this controversial issue!

 

Original illustrations by John Sisler.

Apple unveils CarPlay

CarPlay_Honda_Homescreen-PRINTAt The DIY Garage, we love technology solutions almost as much as our beloved torque wrenches. That’s why we’re excited about Apple’s latest announcement for CarPlay, which should go a long way in increasing safety on the road.

Read Apple’s official press release below.

 

Apple Rolls Out CarPlay Giving Drivers a Smarter,

Safer & More Fun Way to Use iPhone in the Car

CarPlay Premieres with Leading Auto Manufacturers at the Geneva

International Motor Show

GENEVA―March 3, 2014―Apple® today announced that leading auto manufacturers are rolling out CarPlay, the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone® in the car. CarPlay gives iPhone users an incredibly intuitive way to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages with just a word or a touch. Users can easily control CarPlay from the car’s native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri® without distraction. Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will premiere CarPlay to their drivers this week, while additional auto manufacturers bringing CarPlay to their drivers down the road include BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.

“CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing. “iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction. We have an amazing lineup of auto partners rolling out CarPlay, and we’re thrilled it will make its debut this week in Geneva.”

Apple has led consumer technology integration in the car for more than a decade. CarPlay brings your car and iPhone together for a thoughtful experience that lets drivers focus on driving, while also tapping into everything they want to do with their iPhone.

Once iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri helps you easily access your contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails. When incoming messages or notifications arrive, Siri provides an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call.

CarPlay makes driving directions more intuitive by working with Maps to anticipate destinations based on recent trips via contacts, emails or texts, and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and ETA. You can also simply ask Siri and receive spoken turn-by-turn directions, along with Maps, which will appear on your car’s built-in display.

CarPlay gives drivers access to all of their music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio℠ with easy navigation through listening choices from the car’s built-in controls or simply by asking Siri to pull up what you’d like to hear. CarPlay also supports select third-party audio apps including Spotify and iHeartRadio, so you can listen to your favorite radio services or sports broadcast apps while driving.

Pricing & Availability
Apple CarPlay is available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lightning-enabled iPhones, including iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5. CarPlay will be available in select cars shipping in 2014.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

 

For more information, visit Apple.

Advance Exclusive: Zephyrhills Winter Auto Fest

Zephyrhills Winter AutofestIf you weren’t able to make it to the Zephyrhills Winter AutoFest in Florida this past weekend, no worries. Advance Auto Parts was there!

Zephyrhills—powered by Carlisle Events—is a collector’s and classic car swap meet and auction, taking place annually at Festival Park.

This time out, the show featured the introduction of an amazing new line of appearance products by DUB from Meguiar’s. We were also able to catch a few clips of some of the happenings at this mainstay auto show.

 

One of the vehicles that caught our eye right away was this pop-culture beauty:

Mystery Machine Van

Scooby Do, anyone?

 

Then, we stumbled upon this mystery vehicle. Does the license plate give anything away?

Can you guess which famous car this is?

Can you guess which famous car this is?

 

Here’s what we found under wraps…a DeLorean:

It's time to go back...to the future!

It’s time to go back…to the future!

 

DUB products make their debut:

Meguiars DUB debut

 Why not wash and wax your ride this weekend? After all, washing and waxing did make our top 5 list for DIY projects.

 

Spin the wheel—win some DUB!

IMG_3172

 

Hope you enjoyed this quick trip through Zephyrhills. Stay tuned for more auto show coverage to come! And, let us know what auto shows you’ll be hitting up this year in the comments below!

Learn more about DUB products at Advance Auto Parts.

 

 

Lane Motor Museum: Visit an Alphabet of European Cars

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

Attention, all people who own a European car that starts with the letter “E” or “Q,” and who are looking to donate or sell that vehicle to a museum! You are in demand.

Here’s the story. The Lane Motor Museum has more than 400 European-made cars and advertises that they have cars from A to Z. The problem, though, is that they don’t really have one beginning with “E” or “Q.” Here is what they do have:

  • Amphicar
  • Berkeley
  • Citroën
  • DKW
  • Fiat
  • Georges Irat
  • Honda
  • Ifa
  • Jensen
  • Kawasaki
  • Lotus
  • MG
  • NSU
  • OTAS
  • Porsche
  • Renault
  • Scootacar
  • Tatra
  • Ultra Van
  • Voisin
  • Weidner
  • Xtreme Motor Co.
  • Yamaha
  • Zündapp

In fact, for most letters, they have more than one vehicle – often many more. But, no “E” or “Q.” Yet.

Backing up a Bit

1932 Helicron. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

1932 Helicron. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

The Lane Motor Museum is the brainchild of Jeff Lane, who established this non-profit museum in 2002 to “share in the mission of collection and preserving automotive history for future generations.” This car museum is one of the few in the United States to focus on European cars. These aren’t just display pieces, either; the goal is to keep all cars running and, typically, about 90% of the cars at any one time are in fact operational.

Advance Auto Parts sat down to talk with Jeff Lane, who grew up in Romeo, Michigan, only a 45-minute trip from the Motor City. His grandfather, Wilbur C. Lane, owned a Ford dealership from 1936 to 1954, while his father, Gene, owned an auto supply store. So, it’s not surprising that Jeff admits to being a “car guy from way back when.” When asked about his earliest car memory, the answer is simple: “riding my Big Wheel.”

By the time he was seven or eight, he was already working on mini bikes. When he was ten, his father – who had been overseas in the army – bought an MG and Jeff worked on that vehicle while at his dad’s shop. When not fixing cars, he and his father other traveled around the country to car meets. And, when Jeff turned twelve, his father asked him what he wanted for Christmas – and he, of course, said his own MG. His father delivered . . . providing him with a pickup truck full of MG parts. “It took me four years to put them all together,” Jeff says, “and then I took my driver’s ed test in that car.”

Jeff then began collecting cars. “I am very interested in cars for what they represent and wasn’t focused on the number. But, as I got more and more cars, I needed more and more space. At one point, I thought I had 30 to 40 vehicles but it ends up that I actually had 70. At that point, I needed to put all of my cars in one place.”

The place chosen was a former bakery in Nashville, Tennessee with 132,000 square feet of space featuring a “high ceiling, natural light, and hand-crafted brick and maple wood flooring.” The problem was that it was also filled with junk left over from the bread-making years, ranging from machine parts to old fan motors and pumps to empty boxes to fruitcake labels. The detritus was stacked almost to the ceiling. Because the building had been empty for nearly a decade, parts of the roof were caving in and areas of the floor had buckled.

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

The renovation took about a year, with the goal being to maintain the architectural flavor of the building while bringing everything up to code. Much of the demo work was done by Lane, his staff and their families while they were also interviewing architects to find just the right one for the project. They clearly succeeded in their quest because, in 2007, they received a prestigious architectural preservation award.

Although Jeff did not begin collecting cars with the idea of a museum in mind, the space evolved into quite an impressive one, opened to the public in October 2003. The main floor (approximately 40,000 square feet) contains the vehicles. Jeff continues to expand the collection, with some vehicles in showroom condition; others are not, but attempts are made to restore each vehicle as closely as possible to original specifications. The car museum also has a children’s playroom on a raised platform where kids can ride cars, build toy towns and color pictures.

Self-described as “weird, wacky and wonderful,” the Lane Motor Museum had more than eighty vehicles at the time of the grand opening and current has 150 vehicles, both cars and motorcycles, on display at any one time. Exhibits do rotate.

Although a small percentage of this collection is not European, this is the largest museum of European vehicles in the United States, and David Yando, manager of the museum, compares it to “walking through a sculpture gallery.”

Wide range of fans

Flags hanging from the ceiling identify country of origin of cars. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

Flags hanging from the ceiling identify country of origin of cars. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

“Hardcore car people,” Jeff says, “those who think they’ve seen everything, discover that they haven’t seen half of what’s in this museum. Maybe they’ve seen pictures of the cars, but not in real life. So enthusiasts love to visit. We’ve also discovered that you don’t have to be an enthusiast to enjoy the vehicles. Other people are simply fascinated by the shapes, coloring and styles of the cars. As just one example, a group of women from California were in the area, attending a conference. Their husbands were car enthusiasts and recommended that they visit. The women were surprised to discover that they loved the museum – and not because they were necessarily interested in the cars; instead, they were interested in the technology.”

Another group of people who frequently visit the car museum: Europeans. “They come to Nashville,” Jeff says, “not necessarily for the museum, then they visit us. We get plenty of visitors from Asia, too. We’ve put up a couple of maps of the United States and the world and we ask visitors to pin where they live. Every five years, we’ve had to change the maps because they’ve gotten so full.”

Fun facts about the Lane Motor Museum

  • Smallest vehicle: Peel P50 at 53” long, 39” wide and 53” high; listed by Guinness World Records as the “Smallest Street-Legal Car” and can achieve speeds of up to 40 mph
  • Largest vehicle: the amphibious LARC-LX, with the width, length and height of three semis parked side by side – with 9 foot tall tires
  • Oldest cars: the 1924 Citroën CV “Trefle” and the 1924 Sima-Violet
  • Newest car: 2003 Smart Car by Mercedes, which gets 60+ miles per gallon
  • One-of-a-kind car: the 1932 Helicron with a wooden body, and four-foot propeller and wooden guard on its front
  • Fastest car: the Caterham Blackbird can go 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph
  • Most desired cars to someday be added to the collection (other than ones beginning with ”E” or “Q”): Leyat Saloon with a huge airplane propeller in front, and a Mathis 333 with its three wheels and three seats
  • Car with the most sentimental back story: the MG that took young Jeff four years to assemble
  • How most vehicles are organized: by country with identifying flags hanging from the ceiling and nearby signs describing specs and history
  • The exceptions to the rule in the above bullet point: competition vehicles, motorcycles and micro cars each have their own sections
  • What’s in the parking garage: oversized and military vehicles
  • What remains outside: the 100-ton amphibious LARC-LX, which can be viewed from the motorcycle exhibit area

Important note: Only 150 vehicles are on display at any one time, so you will not see all of these vehicles on any one visit.

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

Lane Motor Museum showroom. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

More about Jeff and the Lane Motor Museum

“I drive cars home from the museum frequently,” Jeff says. “Not every day, but certainly when the weather isn’t extreme and when it isn’t rainy. The micro car can’t be driven on the interstate, so I use it when I go out to lunch. I enjoy each of the cars and what they represent. I try to drive each one at least once a year and, when I drive a particular car, I remember why I bought it: maybe because of the instruments, or the seats, or the handling. It’s like renewing a relationship once a year.”

Jeff isn’t especially enthusiastic or optimistic about the development of cars in the future. “Because of today’s regulations, from safety to emissions, you have many more rules. In the 20s, 30s and 40s, you could experiment with car design. Some worked. Others didn’t. Today, though, cars are too much like one another and that takes out some of the fun, and much of the diversity. Sure, it was crazy to drive the 1956 BMW where the car bubble opens in front, but now the freedom to innovate has been taken away.”

The car museum employs a small maintenance and repair staff for vehicle upkeep and restoration. If a car is rare and not available for museum acquisition – usually because of small runs – the Lane team will occasionally create a replica, first trying to contact the original manufacturer for blueprints and permission to recreate. If no blueprints exist, the mechanics rely on photographs and drawings to craft the vehicle.

100-ton amphibious LARC-LX, with nine-foot tires. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

100-ton amphibious LARC-LX, with nine-foot tires. Photo credit: Lane Motor Museum.

When asked how difficult that process can be, Jeff says, “The way we look at it, a car is a car, so we can figure it out.”

The museum is largely barrier free, but staff asks that visitors not touch the cars. Approximately 100 posters and advertisements hang in the art gallery, and special events are often planned, including the 2014 microcar meet.

And what might be the most amazing feature of this museum? “It shows that there are about 130 ways,” Jeff says, “to do just one thing: move people around.”

Editor’s note: Whether you drive a museum piece or a beater, Advance Auto Parts has quality auto parts to keep your ride running right. Buy online, pick up in store.

Five automotive legends making a comeback

We know that our readers are nostalgic about cars. There’s probably not one among you that doesn’t remember the new car your dad or uncle brought home that one summer day. You remember how it smelled, how the engine and exhaust sounded and how cool it felt to get picked up or dropped off from school in it.

For many of us, that make and model is no longer being produced. And if it is, it’s probably nothing like it was in those days … but maybe that’s a good thing! Here are five automotive legends that we can’t wait to make it back onto showroom floors.

 UrQuattro1980

 

 

 

Audi Quattro

Original production run: 1980 – 1991
Estimated re-release: 2015

The original Audi Quattro was a road going rally car designed for trips to the shoppes rather than backwoods hooning.

As a Group B rally racer, the Quattro was a formidable foe. The name Quattro was derived from the Italian word for four, which indicated the presence of all wheel drive. The advantage of all four wheels driven (vs. two wheels on competing racers) meant more power could be put down to the ground. During the final year of Group B, the inline five cylinder turbocharged engine was making nearly 600 horsepower.

The production Quattro may have shared its rally cousin’s engine configuration and styling, but not it’s insanely high engine output. Power hovered around the 200 horsepower mark during its entire production run.

In the last few years, Audi has teased us (twice!) with concept versions of a new Quattro. The latest Audio Quattro teaser came in 2013 with a spectacular hybrid powertrain promising 700 horsepower delivered to all four wheels.

We’re sure we could make room for either version of this Group B legend in our garage.

 Lotus_Esprit_03

 

 

 

 

 

Lotus Esprit

Original production run: 1976 – 2004
Estimated re-release: Uncertain

Vivian: Man, this baby must corner like it’s on rails!
Edward: Beg your pardon?
Vivian: Well, doesn’t it blow your mind? This is only four cylinders!

Maybe Julia Roberts (Vivian) didn’t actually drive the Esprit in Pretty Woman (driving scenes with dialouge are often shot through the front glass of a car towed behind a camera truck) but her delivery of the lines above accurately describe two of the Esprit’s many charms.

The first charm – handling. The Esprit was low, wide and light. Weighing just under 2,700 lbs., the Esprit shed weight via exotic material use, including hand (and later vacuum formed) fiberglass and Kevlar (used to strengthen the roof and sides).

The second charm – power. Contributing to the Esprit’s lightness was its diminutive 4 cylinder engine, displacing 2.0 to 2.2L for much of its production run. In turbocharged engine form, the 2.2L engine produced enough power for sub-five second sprints to 60 mph. An all aluminum V8 was offered in 1996.

At the 2010 Paris Auto show, Lotus showed a concept Esprit and rumors of a 2014 production release swirled. Sadly, the Esprit project has been placed on hold for financial reasons.

Our favorite of the run? The Giugiaro designed S3. What’s yours?

Acura_NSX

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acura NSX

Original production run: 1990 – 2005
Estimated re-release: 2015

With the Ferrari 328 set squarely in its sights, Japanese automaker Acura (who was best known for their luxury cars at the time) set out to do the unthinkable – to beat Ferrari at their own game.

With a mid engine layout and an all aluminum monocoque body, Acura created a well balanced car with neutral handling and just enough power (270 to 320 horsepower depending on model and year) to force Ferrari into a response: the more powerful 348.

Unlike Ferrari whose quest to create more and more powerful cars continues to this day, Acura’s NSX changed little throughout production. Any why should it? Formula 1 legend Aryton Senna helped develop it.

The NSX concept debuted in 2012 with production scheduled to start in Marysville, OH during 2014.

 Cosmos3

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen Scirocco

Original production run: 1974 – 1988 (United States)
Estimated re-release: Uncertain (United States)

Like the Esprit, the Scirocco was designed by Guigiaro in the 1970s. Volkswagen needed a sporty coupe to round out their product line. As a replacement for the Karmann Ghia, the Scriocco ditched convertible fun in favor of (what Volkswagen would later refer to as) Fahrvergnügen

Unlike the other cars described here, the Scirocco was no speed demon. The most powerful U.S. version (MkII) produced only 123 horsepower from a normally aspirated 1.8L 4 cylinder engine.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which side of the pond you live on) there is a MkIII version of the Scirocco. Sold only in Europe, this version was named Top Gear’s Car of the Year upon its release.

Will the MkIII Scirocco be brought to the United States? It’s not looking good. U.S. safety requirements prevent its registration here. But there are a few track-only cars we’ve seen stateside that makes us want one even more.

 1994_Supra_Red_Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

Toyota Supra

Original production run: 1978 – 2002
Estimated re-release: Uncertain

As the longest running production model here (24 years) the Supra has a long and revered history, albeit not one that is based on a factory-backed racing pedigree.

For its entire run, the Supra was powered by an inline 6 cylinder engine. Power output ranged from a modest 110 horsepower in 1978 to a tire shredding 300 horsepower produced by the twin sequential turbocharged engine (2JZ) found in the mid-90s (and beyond) models.

Unlike other twin-turbo competitors of the time, such as the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, the Supra drove only the rear wheels. It was also lighter than rear wheel drive competitors such as the Nissan 300ZX.

Today, finding an unmodified twin-turbo 2JZ-powered Supra might be more difficult than finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn chasing a chupacabra. But thankfully, a 2015 Supra concept is rumored to debut in Detroit.

 

Editor’s note: Remember those old cars your dad and uncles brought home when you were a kid? Which automotive legends do you wish could be re-imagined using today’s technology? Let us know in the comments below!

You never forget your first kiss…or your first car

Naeem Kahn Pontiac Flame Dresses. Photo credit: Production Plus - The Talent Shop

Naeem Kahn Pontiac Flame Dresses.
Photo credit: Production Plus – The Talent Shop

“Just like you never forget your first kiss,” says Margery Krevsky, “you will never forget your first car. Ask people about their first cars and watch their faces light up. There is such a psychological connection between cars and people. They just go together, enhancing our lives and representing our lifestyles.”

As for Margery, she has changed the face of how cars are presented at industry shows and events in a dramatic way, when she began the transformation of car models – those women who appeared next to vehicles at car shows to capture the attention of prospective customers – into product specialists who could also intelligently discuss the cars in question.

How it all got started

Detroit auto show in 1910 Photo credit: Production Plus - The Talent Shop

Detroit auto show in 1910 Photo credit: Production Plus – The Talent Shop

Let’s take a step back to the beginning of car shows which, not surprisingly, started up shortly after people could buy cars. “The earliest documented show,” Margery says, “was the Automobile Club of America’s show held in 1900 in Madison Square Garden in New York City. They had a doctor pose by a Stanhope along with his wife and little boy, sharing how much easier it was to have a car versus a horse and buggy. So, since the beginning of car shows, companies have had credible people endorsing the vehicles.”

It made sense to use a doctor in early advertising for a couple of reasons. First, doctors were “early adopters” of cars because they needed to make house calls. Plus, they could afford to buy a vehicle.

Over time, manufacturers began using attractive women in eye-catching costumes to draw the attention of car show attendees. Typically, these women simply stood by a vehicle. If they spoke at all, it was from a carefully memorized script. Why? “The answer,” Margery writes in her book, Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models, “is obvious. Sex sells. Just ask any model who’s stood before a sea of bedazzled onlookers and fielded the hackneyed question: ‘Do you come with the car?’”

Toyota dresses. Photo credit: Production Plus - The Talent Shop

Toyota dresses.
Photo credit: Production Plus – The Talent Shop

A closer look at car show models

Margery’s book is fascinating, as she provides succinct information about the people who historically stood or performed next to cars at shows, and as she shares anecdotes and highlights about them on a year-by-year basis. Each topic is accompanied by an excellent photo.

Because her book provides glimpses of information about intriguing historical women (both individual women and groups of them), we took the liberty of reading more about some of them. Here’s what we found out, partly from Margery’s book and partly from additional sources:

Sirens

In early car advertising, mythological creatures – such as Sirens – often appeared in print, promoting car events. In Greek mythology, Sirens were sleekly seductive water-winged creatures, ones that could sing so sweetly that they could also lure sailors to follow them wherever they went. In these myths, the sailors became so distracted by the shimmering beauty of the Sirens and their songs that they crashed their ships into rocks and died. Then, the Sirens benefited from the bounty found on the ships.

In car advertising, of course, the crashes and the resultant pirating were never mentioned. A photo of an attractive Siren in print advertising was used simply to lure men to car shows. As an FYI, the first Siren appearing in a car-advertising poster promoted the Importers’ Automobile Salon, held at Madison Square Garden in December 1907.

Miss Hazel Jewell

In addition to print advertising, car manufacturers hired people to stand by cars at shows to garner attention. Until 1909, though, only men had been used for this purpose. That changed in 1909 when Miss Hazel Jewell joined 150 men at the Grand Central Palace in New York to show off vehicles from Ford Motor Company. As a real life Siren, Hazel’s job was basically to look so beautiful that potential shoppers were tempted into approaching the vehicles available for sale.

Print advertisements in this era showed women driving and enjoying new freedom while wearing big hats tied with scarves; still the reality was that most women were being chauffeured by men, if they rode in cars at all.

Eleanor Velasco Thornton

By this time, a symbol of status was the hood ornament – and its creation is closely tied to that of a beautiful woman with a tragic story. By 1910, Rolls Royce was being pressured to create an official hood ornament to prevent owners from putting their own, often less than stellar, pieces on their Rolls. So, Claude Johnson, managing director of Rolls Royce, asked sculptor Charles Sykes to create an ornament that captured “the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…”

Sykes submitted a modified version of one that he had already created for Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s Silver Ghost. Most sources say that the model for this emblem was Eleanor Velasco Thornton, who happened to be Lord Montagu’s lover. Montague had hired Eleanor in 1902 as his secretary and they fell in love. Because Lord Montagu was already married, and because Eleanor was so far below him in social status, marriage between the two of them was not a credible option. However, they purportedly had a child and they did continue to work together.

1920s flapper dress. Photo credit: Production Plus - The Talent Shop

1920s flapper dress. Photo credit: Production Plus -
The Talent Shop

Back to the Rolls Royce story: it is said that Eleanor modeled for sculptor Sykes and, from that, he created an ornament of a woman in loosely flowing robes and a finger to her lips, symbolizing the secrecy of her relationship with Lord Montagu.

This story, though, does not have a happy ending. In Agony and the Ecstasy: The Great Rolls Royce Love Story, you can read about how a grief-stricken Lord Montagu wrote, “I should have got a stronger grip on her.” But he didn’t. Because, when the SS Persia, on which both the lord and Eleanor were traveling, was hit by a German Torpedo in 1916, his grasp on his beloved was not strong enough to prevent her from being washed away in the waves. According to Lord Montagu’s son, “Theirs was a great love affair. Although when he came back home he was badly injured, he spent days looking for Thorn.”

Their story is captured, even today, in the emblem of the Rolls Royce, which became a standard fitting in the early 1920s.

Alice Snitzer Burke

Alice Snitzer was born around 1876 and, at the age of 18, she married Charles Armstrong, a college graduate who enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War alongside Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Charles fought in key battles, but contracted typhoid fever; on August 25, 1898, he died.

After his death, Alice married a man identified as Dr. Burke. On April 6, 1916, she began traveling the country in a donated Saxon Roadster to promote the suffragist (voting for women) movement, motoring along with fellow suffragist Nell Richardson and a kitten. They traveled from New York to San Francisco, arriving in June.

Alice was photographed changing tires, repairing engines and replacing spark plugs. Her hemlines even rose to make it easier to operate the floor pedals on her car. She and Nell were also featured in a magazine advertisement titled “Two Noted Suffragists Travel 10,000 Miles in a Saxon Roadster.”

Silent and Sultry

Although Alice Snitzer Burke and Nell Richardson became well known for their beliefs and accomplishments, most women in this era who were associated with cars were not much more than mere window dressing. In 1919, for example, women were hired as “motor girls,” which meant that they stood by new cars and handed out literature about headlights, horns, windshields and other amenities. In 1927, a member of the Morgan Dancers literally posed as a hood ornament in a photo of a 1927 Packard 343 Series Eight.

Celebrities and Performances

In 1934, Hazel Forbes posed by a new Packard Super Eight Convertible Victoria wearing a swim suit. Although not well known today, Hazel was an American dancer and actress who served as Miss United States at the Paris International Beauty Pageant of 1926; danced with the famous Ziegfeld Follies; and acted in two Hollywood films: Bachelor Bait and Down to Their Last Yacht, both in 1934.

In 1936, Sonja Henie, world famous ice skater, Winter Olympics gold medalist and Hollywood star, posed by a Cord 810. That same year, nearly $1 million in furs were worn by the women posing by cars at the Chicago Auto Show.

In 1938, a car show featured a comedy skit that explored whether or not women could teach people about the Chevy engine. In 1953, Dinah Shore sang “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” on her talk show.

Margery’s book continues to provide information, year by year, about the state of the car modelling industry. But now, we’re going to fast forward to 1981.

Change is in the air

Naeem Kahn 1990s Pontiac Flame Dress. Photo credit: Len Katz

Naeem Kahn 1990s Pontiac Flame Dress. Photo credit: Len Katz

Yes, women still stand by cars at auto shows, even in 2014. But, their role has changed significantly and one woman owns the lion’s share of the credit: Margery Krevsky. Here is how all of the pieces came together.

Margery had earned a fashion degree from Tobe Coburn in New York City (now a part of the Fashion Institute of Technology) and had experience working as a Glamour magazine assistant editor and as a buyer for New York retail stores, including Macy’s and JL Hudson. She sometimes interacted with models and through that connection learned about how some of them posed by vehicles at auto shows.

“In 1981,” Margery says, giving context, “the women’s movement was really big. And, what I saw was that many women who were working at car shows were very smart. They had a fine education and credentials – and they were bored just standing by a car, eight hours a day. So, I brought up the radical idea that these people can talk. They can talk car, they can share their deep knowledge of a brand, they are a fine source to sell vehicles.”

Car manufacturers did not instantly warm up to Margery’s idea, but then Nissan let her try out her theory – that these women standing by cars were more than models; that they were, instead, product specialists – at an auto show. Soon, it became standard practice for the entire industry to have the people who were standing by cars at a show be experts on their topics. As Margery writes in her book, this change allowed the industry to “evolve out of T & A to a place of professional respect.”

“People come to auto shows to see the exhibits,” Margery says. “The cars clearly are the stars. But, product specialists play an important second banana role now that they’ve become a mouthpiece. These professionals can talk horsepower, how a particular car handles and performs and so forth.”

What about the clothing?

“They were a familiar sight at auto shows not that long ago, models clad in tight miniskirts or uncomfortable heels and gowns, smiling and posing fetchingly. They recited from scripts, if they spoke at all. Beginning with the earliest shows, the models were eye candy, there to accentuate the cars and trucks on display. Not much else was required.” (New York Times, “Car-Show Models Have Come a Long Way, Baby”)

Margery scrapped the stereotypical clothing and formulated a new approach. “Each car manufacturer,” she says, “has its own brand identity. And, when I look at someone to hire, I look at his or her lifestyle and persona to see if there is a good match for a Lexus – or a Jeep. As just one example, if someone is going to be a product specialist for a Lexus or a Cadillac, people in that demographic want the person standing next to a car to look how they see themselves. So I’d think glamor, upscale, sleek.”

Because Margery works with more than 15 brands, each with a different look, she calls choosing the right wardrobes an “interesting and challenging element. With Scion, for example, you need a hip vibe, something edgy. So I’d hire someone with visible body piercing and tattoos. I’d want that person to appeal to a younger age group – and I might dress that person in black jeans, a shirt with silk screened sayings, an asymmetrical jacket and cool body piercings.”

Before any of these decisions are made, though, Margery and her team sit in a room with auto executive and ask for words that describe a particular brand. Then these adjectives are written and hung on a wall. Beside each word, Margery and her team paste pictures from a magazine that fit each adjective. From that process, they begin envisioning the appropriate wardrobe for a particular brand.

Margery hires both men and women as product specialists. “Diversity is also important,” she says, “so I look for bilingual and even trilingual people. At least ten percent of my product specialists can speak both English and Spanish. Others can also speak Japanese. Or Chinese.”

A Few More Questions

We’d seen that a documentary was being made, based on Margery’s book, and asked her for an update. She told us that the book was well

received and stands alone as an historical piece. “The documentary,” she says, “also includes interviews with people in the automotive industry and so forth, in the style of Ken Burns.” The documentary is being created by filmmaker John Laurie and is still in progress.

And, what about famous people who were once product specialists for car shows? The list includes actor and comedian Tim Allen; Marilyn Barnett, who is now the CEO of Mars Advertising; Kathleen DuRoss, who went on to marry the chairman of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford II; actor Pam Dauber; Brian “Kato” Kaelin, who once lived on the O.J. Simpson estate; and news anchor Rhonda Walker.

As a final question: what would the Margery of, say, 35 years ago think about where life has taken her? “In college,” she says with a laugh, “I had a VW bug and, during the winter, I would always pray that it would start. Now cars are much more reliable. And, maps? Whatever would I do now without a GPS?”

Editor’s note: Margery’s car specialists will be working at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show (February 8-17), the country’s largest and longest-running car show, with more than one million square feet of exhibit space. 

 

 

Where the cars are: Advance visits the Mecum automotive auction in Kissimmee

Some of our readers may be familiar with Dana Mecum’s spectacular car auctions held around the United States and broadcast live on television.

For those watching at home, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of possibilities causing many to wonder what if I was there? What would I bid on?

You mean I can own a low mileage C5 Corvette convertible for less than the cost of a used Honda Accord?

Advance Auto Parts decided to visit the Mecum automotive auction in Kissimmee with bidding card in hand to not only find an automotive bargain, but also to stand next to an automotive legend.

A car auction in Kissimmee? What’s Kissimmee?

If you’ve never loaded the family truckster and headed south to see Mickey, Donald and Goofy, you probably don’t know where Kissimmee, Florida is.

Kissimmee is the town closest to Walt Disney World. It’s also the home of the Silver Spurs Rodeo, a Kissimmee tradition since 1944.

The Silver Spurs Rodeo is held each year at the Osceola Heritage Park, a 120-acre entertainment complex, which includes the 10,500-seat Silver Spurs Arena and 60,000-square foot exhibition building.

120 acres for an automotive auction? That seems like overkill. But, not for a Mecum auction.

The Mecum auction in Kissimmee is one of the largest collector car auctions in the world. This year, more than 3,000 vehicles will be auctioned off to the highest bidder over the course of 10 days.

Each day has a tent (or group of tents, depending on the day) where both registered and non-registered bidders can closely examine nearly everything offered during the 10-day auction.

Even supercars?

Yep, even supercars are available for view and, in some cases, the owners allow any tire kicker who comes along to start the vehicle, pop the hood and check for leaks.

You said supercars. Now you’ve got my attention.

Supercar might be an understatement. How about automotive legend.

Our readers will remember our post covering The Lingenfelter Collection, which contained excerpts from our interview with collection owner, Ken Lingenfelter.

In that post, we said:

One car in particular that has his eye, at the time of writing this post, is the 1988 Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette that his cousin John drove to set a world record in speed for a street driven, street legal car: 254.76 miles per hour. “John put his life on the line to set that record,” Ken says, “so I’d really like it. But it may go for more at auction than I’m willing to pay. We’ll see.”

mecum-sledgehammer

It was a privilege to see this car in person. Especially considering that the next owner could potentially hide it away in his garage for a decade or more.

Something for everyone

If one-off, record-setting, blazingly-fast cars aren’t your thing, the Mecum auction has much more to offer.

In addition to collector cars, thousands of pieces of road art are also up for sale. Everything from classic license plates (from just about every state and from every year) to neon clocks are available to the highest bidder.

mecum-road-art

What if 80s mid-engine domestic 2-doors with Ferrari-esque body kits and John Deere tractors are your thing? Go to the Mecum car auction in Kissimmee.

mecum-tractor-fiero

What if supercharged rat rods are your thing?  This low-slung beast has a custom air ride suspension setup with the air tank mounted between the seats.

mecum-rat-rod

What if ’84 Nissan Datsuns are your thing? This survivor has 42,000 original miles and looks showroom fresh.

mecum-datsun

Still haven’t found what you are looking for? Here are a few more to choose from:

Hurry! There’s still time.

The 2014 Mecum car auction in Kissimmee concludes January 26. Can’t make it down to sunny Florida? Go to www.mecum.com and click the watch online link or tune in to Esquire and NBC’s television coverage (check local listings for time and channel).

Editor’s note: What’s your favorite item up for auction in Kissimmee? Let us know in the comments below.