Total Gorgeousity

Last weekend, fiend Reader Mr. Lion jogged my memory about a certain car that I’ve always loved simply because it is so beautiful.  (Forget actually driving one:  they cost well over a million dollars, if  you could find someone willing to part with theirs.  Good luck.)

Anyway, here it is, the Ferrari 250 California Spyder, from 1958. 

Ferrari made several variations of the 250 over the years.  One of my favorites is the rather more conservative GTL Lusso:

Then there’s the (much) racier GTO:

I could go on, but there’s only so much one can stand, really.  Your favorite 250 models in Comments, if you like.

Automotive Turning Point – Part 2

As threatened promised yesterday, here’s a look at 1954’s passenger saloon cars, starting with the Mercedes 300 S:

An astonishing number of 300 models are still running today, because when the chairman of M-B laid out the criteria for the 300 (W188) model, his brief was that the car should be capable of running all day (12 hours, to be specific) at top (not cruising) speed, without ever breaking down.  So that’s how they made them.

Other European countries in 1954 were still making passenger saloons according to the older, pre-war styles, such as the French with their Citroen Traction Avant:

…and  Britain, with their crop of  Rolls-Royce Phantom IV and Silver Dawn models (in order):

By way of contrast, in 1954 the Italians were still making tiny family cars like the Lancia Aurelia B20:

…but to be fair, all the European manufacturers’ offerings outside the limousine-type were just as small.  Here’s BMW’s 502:

And the Mercedes 220a C:

Note too the British offerings in this segment of the market in 1954, like the Vauxhall Velox:

Rover’s P40:

…and the Wolseley 4-44 (4 cylinders, 44 horsepower — I yeah, I know)

But while Alfa Romeo’s 1900 Sprint was small, it was, as the saying goes, outrageously sexy (unlike the blimps above):

…but that’s Alfa Romeo all over, isn’t it?

France’s Renault Fregate was, well, regrettable:

And Renault’s 4CV wasn’t any better.

Which brings us across The Pond to the United States, where our idea of “compact” was, let’s say, a little more generous than that of the Europeans.  Here’s the Hudson Hornet (Hollywood) model, whose style was surprisingly dated in 1954 (and Hudson would disappear from the market soon after this):

…as was the Nash Metropolitan (likewise about to disappear from the scene):

The Oldsmobile 88 was more like the mid-Fifties U.S. ideal:

…and of course there’s the Chevy Bel-Air:

…and the Chrysler New Yorker:

Longtime Readers will of course know that the American Behemoth-style of car leaves me quite cold, and indeed if someone were to offer me a large car from my birth year in decent running order and in good shape, I’d go for this one ahead of all others.  It’s the 1954 Bentley R-model Continental:

For a smaller car, there’s only one option, the Fiat 8v Berlinetta (assuming I could actually fit into one, that is):

Vroom, vroom.  Vroom.

 

 

Automotive Turning Point – Part 1

In the year of my birth (1954), I think the automotive world began to change.  By then, the austerity forced on European countries by WWII had started to wane, and cars began to become more than just a means to get from A to B.  And in the United States, cars started to move away from the dome-shaped creations of the pre-war era, and reflected both the exploding population of the Baby Boom and the chrome-driven manifestation of the exploding economy.

(Please note that what follows is by no means a comprehensive list;  it’s simply a catalog of cars which caught my interest and / or fancy.)

Of course, there were a few cars which were on their last legs — stylistically speaking — and they would be replaced in the following two or three years.  But in 1954, a couple of models appeared on both sides of the Atlantic which I think triggered the sea change in design.  Here’s one example: Fiat.  Note the old-fashioned post-war styling of the 1954 500C Topolino, and the brilliant new design of the 8v Berlinetta, made in the same year:

Shades of the Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia:

And if ever there was a study in lifestyle contrast between Europe and the U.S.A., note the 1954 Fiat 110 and the Chrysler New Yorker, both family saloon cars:


Of course, the Germans caused a distinct ruckus with the 1954 Mercedes 300 Gullwing:

…which was a behemoth, in Euro terms, when compared to the petite Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider:

…but compared favorably to the British Daimler Conquest Drophead:

…and our old friend, the Jaguar XK120:

In fact, let’s spend the rest of this post looking at convertibles — why not? — so here we go, first with the 1954 Aston Martin DB2-4 Spider Bertone:

I think the iconic E-type was a direct copy of Bertone’s design, myself;  but I’ll let others argue about it.  The Bertone was accompanied by its stablemate, the 1954 Aston Martin DB2-4 Drophead Coupe:

…and the equally-lovely 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 Sport Spider:

On a more modest scale, we have the 1954 Austin Healey 100-4:

…and the French 1954 Simca “Weekend” DV:

But when it came to open-top cars, the Brits and the French still sold more of the Citroën 2CV and the Morris Minor:

(I should point out that as a youngin, I was driven around in a Minor, my Mom’s car.)

Of course, there were the flashy numbers like the 1954 Morgan Plus 4 (which hadn’t changed since the 1930s, and has yet to change from this style to the present day):

…and the rather plain BMW 502 Cabriolet:

But no study of automotive styling of the 1954 model year would be complete without comparing the above to the American contingent, a sample of which appears below:

1954 Ford Crestliner:

1954 Packhard Caribbean (as I recall, one of the last of the Packhards before the company was bought out):

And of course, no study of this kind would be complete without the sine qua non of Murkin ’50s engineering, the Cadillac Eldorado:

The best (largest) that the Europeans could come up with was the admittedly fine Mercedes 300S Cabriolet:

And speaking of Cadillacs and Mercedes, I’ll be looking at family saloon cars in Part 2, tomorrow.

 

When Technology Sucks

I have frequently railed against modern technology on these here pages, and just as often been called a Luddite or Old Fart etc. for doing so. Here’s the latest little fad, and its downside, which came under my baleful gaze:

BMW has claimed it is powerless to prevent criminals hacking into its cars.
In emails to a customer seen by the Daily Mail, the German giant acknowledged its latest keyless models were vulnerable to thieves using gadgets widely available online.
However, it insisted it cannot accept any responsibility for this.
The Mail has highlighted a surge in thefts using ‘relay boxes’ to extend the signal from owners’ key fobs to steal vehicles outside their homes.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but isn’t this “remote / keyless start” thing basically for those who are just too lazy to insert a key into a lock and turning it? (And spare me the “soccer moms with armfuls of groceries” spiel, please.) If I’ve missed some lifesaving feature that this technology brings, let me know about it — but be warned that I’m going to be a tough sell. The way I see it, it’s a little frippery invented to “improve” a product that doesn’t need much improvement (see: electronic seat setting “memory”) and simply adds yet another cost / opportunity to break and incur horrendous repair costs.

Also, as the above article reveals, it makes it easier for car thieves to steal your car, all while BMW et al. shrug their corporate shoulders and ask Pontius to hand over the basin when he’s done.

My VW Tiguan does have an electronic unlocking fob, and I use it simply because the actual keyhole is buried beneath a plastic shield in the door handle; but if the little battery inside goes phut, I doubt I’ll ever replace it. I’ll just take off the shield and go back to using the car key to unlock the door, as invented by God Henry Ford.

As for this remote-starting gizmo, I’ll only ever buy a car with one if you can permanently disable the wretched thing without voiding your warranty; otherwise, it’s on to the next model, or if all of them include that little thieves’ helper in the future, something a little more to my taste; something (duh) older:

You see, back in 1968 Mercedes didn’t screw around with unnecessary crap; they just made simple, gorgeous sports cars like this 230 SL. Sure, an enterprising car thief could probably nick it, too; but he’d have to work a little harder than just by buying a $5 relay box from Amazon.

Drop Dead Gorgeous

From Reader Gloria S. comes this little bit of mischief: “The Alvis was class, so’s this one. ’54 Jaguar XK 120 M, Drop Head Coupe.”

I saw several of these last year over in Britishland, and each one was as beautiful as the other. This one, however (to quote The Englishman) makes parts of me stir that haven’t stirred for a long, long time.

Additional Delights

From Comments in yesterday’s post explaining my brief abstinence:

“Maybe toss in a extra-ration of zoom-zoom, bang-bang and a bit of tasteful hoochie-coochie.”

I live to please. First, some zoom-zoom (Alvis Speed 25, 1939):

Next, a little bang-bang (Browning BAR in .243 Win):

…and finally, some hoochie-cootchie, of unknown provenance: