Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Are there cars you once owned that you do not miss and wish you had never purchased?"

Thanks to Ed for the idea for this post!

"Are there cars you once owned that you miss and wish you had again?" What about cars you do not miss?

Probably most folks have a car in mind that they'd like to have again.  Not me.

In my own case I can safely say that of all the cars I've owned, none of them I really would want to have again (Well, the Audi A5 coupe still appears in my dreams).  But all my cars were part of my life for a brief time and mostly I enjoyed them.  They were artifacts in time, who we were and where we were at the time.  When I had the first generation Mazda MX-5 Miati that was nice, but I don't miss it and don't lay awake at night thinking: "Really wish I still had that car again."  The BMW 3 series I had back in I miss it?  Not really.  And........ 

Why do I NOT miss this Pontiac Solstice that I once owned? (pictured her taken in front of the Richard Grant House down from you).  Terrible sports car, transmission sourced from the Chevy S-10 pickup; terrible convertible roof; uncomfortable to drive more than 100 miles at a time, etc.

For me (John), the car that I do not miss and regret buying was the first new car I bought, a 1974 Mercury Capri V-6. Today there are folks that collect these cars. For me, the Capri fell somewhere between a nightmare and a pain in the ass.  When I saw the light green with tan interior car (with a sunroof), I jumped at it although I am sure that a yellow 1973 V-6 would have been better, if for no reason than its more elegant bumpers. Those days, however, I made many bad decisions and the Capri was undoubtedly one of them. I kept the car 9 or 10 years, but it was agony at every turn.

That was the right color of my car. Note the hideous bumpers. Clutch cables routinely failed, water pumps were a problem, but the map light worked.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Kaleidoscope of Porsche 911 Colors

The 911 simply looks good in everything. Whether pure white, refined black or strident yellow. Cheeky orange or rich green, blazing red or dignified blue. Even coffee brown suits it (my 1971 Porsche was that ugly color for a time!) – the sportscar model is a perfect fashion model, made for the car catwalk. Never does it look embarrassing; nothing seems unsuitable. On the contrary, particularly bold colors make a statement which should always reflect the driver’s self-confidence. Often it is just those paint finishes that generate the most passionate discussion, that later exude a certain charm and are in hot demand with collectors. Which means: If you discover a colorful gem on these pages, there is only thing one for it: buy!
Every time and every generation has its colors. Hardly any other motor vehicle reflects this maxim so enduringly as the 911. In this respect it is a clear trendsetter. Like a first-born child, it has fought for its rights – the freedom to wear unconventional paint colors – and then passed them on to its younger sibling models like the 944 and 928, which now enjoy such colors as a matter of course.

Prototype of the 911 was a clean, simple white

Before the 911, everything seemed to have been grey. If you think back to the 50s and early 60s, the images that come to mind are films and television, pictures and newspapers in black and white. Of course that is our memory playing tricks on us, as it is in no way infallible, instead giving events new colors – or indeed the opposite. One thing, however, is certain: on August 25, 1967 at 10:57 a.m., when German color television made its triumphant d├ębut. Only shortly after the sportscar icon made its own, the 911 had been shooting around as a bright blur through town and country for only two years. So there was hardly any time for it to be immortalised in black and white. And this means memories of the all-time classic Porsche vehicles are almost exclusively in color.
And what color! Slate Grey, Ruby Red, Sky Blue, Light Ivory, Champagne Yellow, Irish Green (the color of my Porsche 911 today) and Signal Red – in addition to seven standard colours, four special paint finishes were also available when the model was introduced, these being Dolphin Grey, Togo Brown, Bali Blue and Black. The first prototype of the 911, the 901/01 of 1962, meanwhile, was a clean, simple white. By 1966, the colour spectrum already encompassed 30 special colors, including for the first time four metallic paints: Dark Red Metallic, Blue Metallic, Silver Metallic and Dark Green Metallic.

New blaze of colour on the streets

The new blaze of color on the streets even triggered public debate. England’s police force made an official plea for all vehicles to be white. “Auto, Motor and Sport” magazine suggested prescribing signal colors like yellow, red and orange for fast cars. Black and especially grey, on the other hand, were suddenly considered unsafe. The British magazine “Automobile Engineer” expressed concern that a vehicle painted in such a color could “easily” be developed into a “camouflaged weapon”.
911 Targa 2.4 S in gulf blue, 2016, Porsche AG

The Porsche color spectrum has always had a handle on quiet tones as well

Fortunately, the automotive world was spared from such legally imposed monotony. Still in the 60s, colors as bold and powerful as Canary Yellow, Blood Orange, Iris Green, the light Pastel Blue and the dark Albert Blue set the beat, as if the Porsche designers wanted to take up the rallying cry of the rebellious student movement and chase away the “mustiness of a thousand years” from the streets. However, it also worked the other way round: More muted tones such as Bahama Yellow, the milk chocolate shade of Sepia Brown and the elegant Light Ivory showed off the delicate side of the original 911.

The kaleidoscope of Porsche colors

The rebellion at the universities was followed the psychedelic late 60s and 70s. Rock musicians lost themselves in endless instrumental pieces, the world was astounded by the wild freedom of Woodstock, by flowing batik robes and diverse ways of life in hand-painted VW camper vans. And the kaleidoscope of Porsche colors continued to grow. Even louder shades such as the particularly frog-like Conda Green brought accents that were impossible to miss, while the quieter Gemini Blue Metallic came with a delicate touch. At the same time, there emerged classics such as the charismatic Gulf Blue, derived from the world of racing – colorings which have, time and again, played a special role in the model range of the sportscar brand. Alongside this, a completely new trend was developing, influenced by the epoch-making Carrera RS 2.7 in 1972. While the preferred color for the legendary lightweight 911 was Grand Prix White as it rolled off the forecourt, it had two distinguishing characteristics. In addition to the “ducktail” rear spoiler, the vehicle featured “Carrera” lettering along its flanks – available in Blue, Red, Green and Black as well as colour-matched to the painted wheel centre.
Following the model change from the F to the G model, the colors on offer became somewhat calmer from 1975. Darker, more sedate tones came increasingly to the forefront, with shrill, candy-style paint finishes finding less and less appreciation. Understatement and a cautious view towards resale value supplanted the extrovert appearance, and the color spectrum of the 911 now also needed to suit the four-cylinder 924 and the large Gran Turismo model 928. And yet taste is a fickle friend – the next paradigm shift swept into Europe from the USA in the mid-80s and conquered our screens in the person of “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs: With its garish neon design, “Miami Vice” established a whole new look and made marshmallow pastel tones just as popular as Ray Ban “Wayfarer” sunglasses or jackets worn over T-shirts.

A 911 simply looks good in everything

Soon enough, this also had an effect on the colour palette of the German sportscar specialist. The three main protagonists in this story demonstrate this very clearly: A 944 S2 in Maritime Blue is just as eye-catching as the pink-washed Star Ruby 911 Carrera RS 964, and the powerful 928 GTS wrapped in Amaranth Violet. A legitimate predecessor to the modern GT3 and GT3 RS models, the RS also provided a prime example of the fresh confidence with color that Porsche has displayed time and again ever since. The 997 GT3 RS in Acid Green thus made just as lasting an impression as the model in Orange Met, and the 991 GT3 RS looked even more impressive in Lava Orange and Ultraviolet.
911s of the F series, 2016, Porsche AG

Colourful as a row of sweet jars: The early 911s of the F series

And for anyone who thought they had seen it all, as history supposedly repeats itself, Porsche had a surprise in store in 2009: The 911 special edition Sport Classic was released in a deep grey bearing the name of the model, looking at first glance more like a prime coat. The 250 units produced were sold out within 48 hours, once again proving that a 911 simply looks good in everything. And the same is true across the board for all other Porsche sportscars

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The First Love of an Automotive Enthusiast: the Bicycle

In my book The Automobile and American Life, I make a big deal in chapter 1 about the bicycle as a precursor of the automobile, in terms of technology, production methods, the need for good roads, and freedom.
But what I never thought about is how today, many of us who call ourselves auto enthusiasts started out as young people who loved their bicycles.  Ed Garten pointed this out to me recently, and I copy his email below:

John, found this photo of me taken at what I believe to be age 6 and a couple of years prior to my parents divorce.  This is the bicycle, with training wheels attached, that I was given for Christmas circa 1954.  Note at how much pride in my new ride is on my face and how well I'm dressed (creases in my pants), and the shine on the shoes.

Each year as a child my parents had a professional photographer take a photo of me and my sister.  Typically the photos were taken around or shortly after Christmas each year.  The photographer -- the only one in Hinton -- was a Black man with the most curious name of Saint Elmo Conway.  He was hugely obese and would bring his cameras and lights to people's homes to take photos.

But just like my cars today, it would have pained me to get even a little scratch on this new bicycle.  I have no idea what may have happened to the bike (although I know the trainer wheels were taken off quickly), I still can remember using a rag to clean every part of the bike each and every time I would ride it.

How many of today's old car guys love of cars started with the love of their first bicycle?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018




In order to encourage research and writing effort among university students in the area of automotive history, the Society confers its annual award for the best student paper in the auto history field.  The award is named for Richard Scharchburg, the late Professor of History at Kettering University, eminent automotive historian, and past vice president of the Society of Automotive Historians. Persons submitting papers must be enrolled at educational institutions (upper-class undergraduate or graduate level) at the time of submission.  This competition is international in scope, but papers must be in the English language.  Papers already published or scheduled for publication will not be accepted.

Manuscripts should not exceed 10,000 words, and should be double-spaced.  An abstract is requested.  Judging criteria include clear statement of purpose and testable hypothesis, accuracy and thoroughness of research, originality of the research, documentation, quality and extent of bibliographic resources, and writing style.  Diagrams, graphs, or photographs may be included.  Submissions are to be electronic, in Word format or pdf files only, to the e-mail address below.

Possible subjects include but are not limited to historical aspects of automobile companies and their leaders, regulation of the auto industry, financial and economic aspects of the industry, the social effects of the automobile, highway development, environmental matters, and automotive marketing, design, engineering and safety.

A cover letter should be included stating the student’s address, school, program, advisor, and stage in studies.  The student should indicate how the paper submitted will relate to his or her professional future.  Submissions must e-mail dated by June 10, 2018.  All papers submitted will be acknowledged.

Recent Previous Award Winners:
2017 – No award
2016 – Alison Kreitzer, University of Delaware
2015 – Patrick Nicolello, University of Dayton
2014 – Sarah Seo, Princeton University
2013 -- John Emerson Mohr, Auburn University
2012—Samuel Kling, Northwestern  University
2011 – Andrew Mabon, James Madison University
2010 – No award
2009 – Peter Cajka, Marquette University

Upon recommendation of the judges, the winning paper will considered for publication in the Society’s Automotive History Review.   The award consists of a plaque and a cash prize of $500.00.

Submissions should be sent to:      John Heitmann, Chair, Student Awards Committee
                                                Department of History
                                                University of Dayton                    Tel: 937-229-2803
                                                300 College Park                        Fax: 937-229-2816

                                                Dayton, OH 45469-1540                e-mail:

Monday, January 15, 2018

An early VW Beetle Cabriolet Parade: Note Post-WWII Reconstruction on Adjacent Building

Kaefer Parade
Hi folks -- does anyone know where this photo was taken?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A VW Beetle Drive-In Gathering, Mid-1960s

Thanks to Ed Garten for finding this photo!

Back in the mid-60's when "Herbie the Love Bug" came out at the movies there was a drive-in theater in California that mounted a publicity stunt and offered a special showing of "The Love Bug" to only those who showed up driving Volkswagen Bugs.  See the attached photo which is for real.