Early Automotive Milestones

1900 – Delco invents the first electrical distributor for automobile engines.

1901 – Olds begins production of the famous Oldsmobile Curved Dash runabout. Speedometers used for the first time. Ettore Bugatti designed his first car.

1902 – Henry Leland replaces Henry Ford as chief engineer at the Detroit Automobile Company, which is renamed the Cadillac Automobile Co.

1903 – Bathtub maker David Dunbar Buick starts a Buick plant in Flint, Michigan, and sells it to William Durant the next year. Glass windshields are used on autos for the first time. First cross country trip by automobile. Henry Ford founds the company bearing his name.

1904 – Studebaker introduces a gasoline auto. Cadillac is among the first to use a steering wheel instead of a tiller. First production Maxwells roll off the line in NY. Rolls-Royce Limited founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce in Britain.

1905 – First transcontinental auto race sponsored by Oldsmobile.
Cars could be purchased on an installment plan.

1906 – Ford uses vanadium on the Model N-a heat-treated steel that is lighter and stronger than conventional steel.

1907 – A four-cylinder engine with sliding transmission introduced by Buick.

1908 – Steering wheels moved to the left-hand side on most autos. First grooved automobile tire appears. Buick owner William C. Durant forms General Motors. Ford Model T goes on sale for $850: with 20 horsepower, top speed of 45 mph, & 30 mpg. It sold 10,600 units the first year.

1909 – Automobile storage battery invented by Thomas A. Edison.

Infamous Lemons: 1938 Phantom Corsair

1938 Phantom CorsairThe Corsair, based on a Cord automobile chassis, was more an out-right failure of styling than of design. The Cord Company had been responsible for some very good-looking automobiles. This was party because Cord chassis, with their high-performance engines and exotic front-wheel-drive configuration, were naturals for any designer with a yen for sleekness and and exclusivity. Among the designers Cord cooperated with were Gordon Buehrig and Carl Van Ranst, who turned out notable designs for the L-29, the 810 and 812 Berline.

There were, however, those designers who had dreams of beauty and elegance but were unable to realize them – either through their own love of idiosyncrasy, or through lack of talent. Perhaps the worst designs were those perpetrated by the designer with zeal but unclear purpose

The design was supposed to be a sleek, futurist bombshell of a car, powered by a high-performance Lycoming straight-eight engine. In a way it was ahead of its time with completely faired-in fenders, and a low silhouette. Its proportions, however, were all wrong, and the fender sides dropped straight down from the windows like the sand guards on British Crusader tanks of the period – an effect that was only emphasized by the full skirts on the front and rear wheels.

The headlights were like cat’s eyes, vertical slit units set in sockets that were molded bulbs of metal. They strongly resembled the eyes of a semi-submerged hippopotamus and evoked a sense of bemused loneliness. As a whole the car looked fat and behind the strange front end, the sides ran back in unbroken plainness, without even door handles in the seamless panels.

A limited production run was planned but never realized. This may be due to the car’s reception in its big chance at a public-relations coup… the car was featured in the 1938 Selznick International Films motion picture “Young at Heart” staring Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Janet Gaynor. The Corsair emerged from this venture with a new, popular moniker – “The Flying Wombat”.

Increase VTC Scholarship Donation

Vermont Life Magazine is partnering with the VAE to raise money for the Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund. Vermont Life is offering VAE members a discounted price for a one-year subscription, just $13.95. That’s $2.00 off the regular $15.95 subscription price.

And with every new paid subscription, renewal or gift subscription from this offer received by January 1, 2004 – Vermont Life Magazine will donate $5.00 to the VAE’S Vermont Technical College Scholarship Fund!

Call 1-800-284-3243 by January 1, 2004 and give the operator code “VAE03” to subscribe, renew or to give gift subscriptions. Gift donors will receive gift announcement cards.

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Where Is Your Gasoline Coming From?

Are you buying gasoline from the Middle East? The Saudis are boycotting American goods right now so perhaps we should return the favor.

Every time you fill up the car, you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. Just buy from gas companies that don’t import their oil from the Saudis.

Major companies that DO import Middle Eastern oil:

Shell, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon / Mobil, Marathon / Speedway, Amoco

Major companies that DO NOT import Middle Eastern oil:

Citgo, Sunoco, Conoco, Sinclair, BP/Phillips, Hess

A Brief Ford History

Henry Ford started his working life as an engineer with the Edison Lighting Company Detroit, in 1884. Ford by chance, came across a science journal written by Nicholas Otto, a German engineer who was developing the internal combustion engine. Ford became very interested, some say infatuated, and he decided to build his own.

He soon got to work, building and developing a car in his spare time in a small shed in his garden. His car, the “Thin Lizzie” was completed in 1896. Ford was now desperate to start his own motor company; by 1899 he had secured enough investors to begin a production run. Initially his first attempts were unsuccessful, he failed to produce a car that could be sold.

Eventually however, Ford produced the Model A, sales were good, by 1908 profits soared to over one million dollars. In 1909 Ford decided to concentrate production on the Model T, he wanted to mass produce this car, and build each unit in the shortest time possible, and as inexpensively as could be achieved. By improving his production methods he went on to build each car in just 90 minutes, and at a price of less than four hundred dollars his competitors were left floundering.

His famous “you can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black” arose because black paint, was the only color available in America that was quick drying. By 1926 Ford had sold over fourteen million Model T cars. On April 21, 1931 they reached twenty million.

The Ford GT40 was a product of the merged interest of Ford USA and Lola Cars, for one aim – to win the Le Mans 24 hr race. Ford after having their bid for Ferrari turned down, set to work on the GT40. Unsuccessful at first, Ford then handed over control to Carroll Shelby. Eventually, Ford in 1966 gained their greatest ambition and won Le Mans. Ford then went on to dominate the race for the next few years, with four successive victories in total.

The Ford Mustang is one of the great American success stories, a sporty design which appealed to all and caught the spirit of the times perfectly when it was launched in 1964.

The Mustang went on to become one of the fastest selling car of all time, over 400,000 in the first year of production and one-million units sold by 1966. In all 2.2 million Mustangs would be sold during the production run, 1964-73. A range of options were a great selling point, from a straight 6 to a V-eight – 2790cc to a monster 6997cc giving 395bhp, and 135mph.