Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pit & Paddock, a book from Auto-Archives

We are Auto-Archives: Automotive & Motor sport library and research center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, located in Denver, Colorado. Within the depths of our archives we have well over 100,000 images from photographers Peter Darley, Ian Catt, William Taylor, and the Motor Racing collections of Classic Team Lotus and the Polygon Gulf Collection. With our massive collection of never published historic motor racing images, we felt that the best way to share such an impressive array of motor history is by highlighting a special group of Peter Darley images and presenting them in a fantastic 12x12-inch, large format book 'Pit & Paddock.' No point of having a massive archive of motor history if no one gets to see and enjoy it. 

Who is the photographer:
Peter Darley along with his trusty Nikon became hooked on motor racing first by racing a Mini Cooper in the UK back in the 60s, and then by travelling to as many races as he could. Living near so many circuits, he photographed many great races, at many great circuits, and in doing so he visually chronicled an incredible golden period of motor sport in the 60s & 70s. 

What is the book about:
The large format, 256-page hard back book will feature over 200 images from the Auto-Archives library, all taken by Peter Darley in the 1960s and 70s. The selected images give the reader a behind the scenes insight at race meetings found at paddocks and pit areas throughout Europe. These unique never before seen images portray a world that is long gone. 

We felt that by crowd-funding using Kickstarter, was the most effective method to gather funds to publish the book and to spread the presence of Auto-Archives to everyone.

Most important part, YOU:
We only have 15 days and counting to publish never before seen photographs of 60s and 70s motor sports. We need your support! Share Pit & Paddock with as many people as possible. Please share our project with your faithful readers on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter or newsletter. The book is our first undertaking to spread Auto-Archives mission “To be a world leader in the archiving of historic automotive & motor racing research materials." However, If you share our enthusiasm, do give your support in the form of a pledge which depending on the reward level, you will receive some great gifts (books/prints/Dan Gurney & Sir Jackie Stewart autograph prints) to cherish and share. 

From everyone here at Auto-Archives, thank you for reading this email. If you have any questions, comments or would like to further help our Kickstarter project contact us at or call at 303.933.2526. Keep in touch with our progress via Twitter: @auto-archives, Facebook page: Auto-Archives Library. Visit us at


Jo Taylor
Marketing Director (Volunteer)

WWW.AUTO-ARCHIVES.ORG a 501(c)3 not-for-profit
“To be a world leader in the archiving of historic automotive and motor racing research materials.”

A tale of two Jaguars: the cars of Carolyn and Robert Shinkle

Carolyn's father, Erving Beauregard, was a dear friend and colleague of mine at the University of Dayton. Robert has a 1959 XK-150 in the garage that he is working on -- we can't wait to see it at a future cruise-in!

The End of an Endless Summer: a 1953 Ford Woodie Wagon

The last Friday night cruise-in of the summer! Terrific weather here in the Dayton area. I first saw this car at the Dayton Concours on September 12, but did not have a camera with me. Mahogany and Ash, real wood from a time when automobiles weren't built with plastic.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

An Early History of the Chrysler Corporation

Chrysler at the wheel in a Plymouth plant in 1934

The Last of the Big Three: The Chrysler Corporation
Just as General Motors was best known for organization, Chrysler was known for its engineering and innovation.34 Among early Chrysler innovations were the following:
1924 – advanced design, high compression engine
1929 – down-draft carburetor
1931 – fully automatic spark control
1934 – scientific weight distribution; unitized body; automatic overdrive; one piece curved windshield
1937 – safety padding in back of front seats
1941 – fluid drive (automatic transmission)
1949 – key-operated combination starter and ignition switch; safety cushion dash
1950 – electric window lifts
1951 – hemispherical combustion chamber V-8; power steering
1955 – all-transistorized radio
During the first two decades of its history, the firm was the largely the result of the efforts of Walter Chrysler and a dedicated group of engineers.35 Chrysler, a self-taught mechanic with roots in Kansas, began working for the railroad, and in 1908 bought a $5,000 Locomobile automobile. He promptly took the Locomobile apart piece by piece so that he could learn about it. Chrysler would later seek employment at Billy Durants Buick Motor Car Company, where he would work as a foreman and production manager. While Henry Ford gets credit for mass production, partly due to his relentless campaign for recognition, at Buick similar kinds of manufacturing improvements were being made by Chrysler and associates, but in a slightly different way. Ford had started with ignition components, specifically the magneto, and had worked out the means of assembling it and then in turn other small parts. Ford worked his way forward to the final product, the Model T. In contrast, Chrysler began with the finished Buick and went backwards looking for improvements. Next to Ford, Buick was the most important marque of the WWI era, and its success was in no small measure due to the efforts of Walter Chrysler, the one-time sweeper of a Union Pacific roundhouse, farm hand, silverware salesmen and grocery boy. Ongoing disputes with Billy Durant, however, ultimately led to Chrysler’s departure. After a one-year retirement, he landed the job of saving first a sinking Willys-Overland organization, and then Maxwell-Chalmers.
Chrysler was one of those rare breed of individuals who wanted to put his name on something. To that end, in 1924 he introduced a model named after him that was the most important car of the 1920s. As Walter Chrysler himself said about the 1924 Chrysler, “I gave the public not only quality but beauty, speed, comfort in riding, style, power, quick acceleration, easy steering, all at a low price.” At the heart of the cars development were the efforts of 3 engineers who would contribute in big ways to the successes of the Chrysler Corporation for decades to come – Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton, and Carl Breer.
            As Chrysler biographer Vincent Curcio has stated:
It was a long time coming, but the new Chrysler automobile was made out of whole cloth by men who had no preconceptions of what a car should be, and because they were not burdened with a preexisting corporate culture dictating design and manufacturing traditions, they were free to burst onto the world with a brand new kind of car.”36
            The 1924 Chrysler was the product of scientific and technical research. It was said that it was a $1,500 car that could give $5,000 thrills. It was the first modern car made not for rural farmers, but for the now predominant urban America. And it drove like a modern car:
            On starting the engine, I was struck by the uncanny absence of those sounds so common to others. No clicks from the valve gear; no whine from the camshaft drive. Just a comforting tautness, as though each part was perfectly shaped to fulfill its function. The engine seemed to run with a freedom that suggested the total absence of friction. The controls were light and precise in action. Touch the brake pedal, and the perfectly equalized hydraulic system responded immediately. Touch the throttle, and response was instant . . . Even gear shifting had been transformed from heavy drudgery to an act of swiftness and ease . . . There was also a brand new kind of smoothness, so utterly lacking in effort it reached the senses in dynamic flow, backed by a torrent of power in reserve . . . The modestly priced little Chrysler equaled our most costly machines in silence and smoothness, but added to this a sparkling new ingredient, mechanical effortlessness.37
            While it was Walter Chrysler who had so perceptively recognized that American consumers were rapidly changing in their tastes and expectations, his engineering three musketeers – Zeder, Skelton and Breer – were most responsible for its introduction and subsequent success. With it came profits of more than $4 million in 1924, and in 1925 a transition in the name of the firm from the Maxwell Motor Car Company to the Chrysler Corporation. By 1924 the brief but deep post-WWI recession was over, and America was in the midst of a prosperity decade that witnessed the expansion of urban areas and key industries associated with the automobile, including steel, glass, and rubber manufacturing. Roads were getting better, and thus more Americans had a penchant for speed. New paints were introduced that resulted in more colorful cars, and as fashions became more widespread, so did fashionable cars for the middle classes. Closed cars were now “in,” and cars began to be thought of as extensions of the home, with all its comforts, including the new communications device, the radio. And cash-poor Americans no longer had to wait for what they wanted, as installment plans were introduced so that one could get what one wanted when one wanted it. To be sure, the price to pay was that many American workers had to be subjected to industrial discipline and the pressures of time in this “Machine Age,” but high among the car’s benefits was the freedom to go wherever and whenever one pleased.
            Chrysler’s advanced engineering as expressed in its initial model ensured that the company would sell an excellent product for some years to come. For Walter Chrysler, the next major step in his drive to become a leading manufacturer and indeed take his firm to the level of what would become known as the “Big Three” involved simultaneous expansion and diversification. First, Chrysler established a luxury, top-of-the-line model, named the Imperial, in late 1925. By 1926 the firm sold 162,000 cars, with some 9,000 Imperials manufactured. In 1927, sales topped 192,000.
            During the late 1920s GM began offering cars makes that were considered to be companion cars to established product lines. Thus, Pontiac was created as a companion to Chevrolet, and LaSalle to Cadillac. These cars served to fill in market gaps. To counter these moves and in response to the introduction of the Ford Model A, Chrysler began to think of adding new makes of his own to the Chrysler lineup. First, Chrysler acquired the Dodge Brothers Company, and then created a new vehicle, the DeSoto.
            Horace and John Dodge were born in the 1860s in Niles, Michigan.38 The brothers, known for demanding perfection on the job and the consumption of liquor when not in the shop, were machinists who had built engines, transmissions, and axles for Henry Ford during the first decade of the twentieth century. They also built a large plant in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1910, and four years later struck out on their own in the manufacture of the Dodge automobile. According to Vincent Curico:
And what a car it was. At $785, it was 50 percent more expensive than a Model T, and worth every nickel. The Dodge Brothers Touring Car boasted a 35-horsepower engine, compared to 20 for the Model T: it had a sliding-gear transmission, rather than Ford’s clunky planetary one, which required a lot of servicing:  its pioneering all-steel welded body, designed by Edward Budd, was sturdy and less subject to vibration than the typical wood-based body; it sported a speedometer and a windshield, a Cadillac-style electric system (which included a self-starter and electric lights powered by a wet battery and generator), and demountable rims (which made possible for a motorist to carry a fully inflated spare.)39
            By the end of 1915, 45,000 Dodges had been sold. It was said that a Ford rattles, a Packard purrs, and a Dodge chugs. And these chugging Dodges quickly became legendary. They were used in Mexico by the U.S. Army to track down Poncho Villa. They were later driven by U.S. troops in Europe during WWI, one driver being none other than air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, who would later produce his own innovative car in 1924.
            Despite the Dodge brothers’ criticisms of Henry Ford’s freezing of the production model once established, they did the same thing, advertising “constant improvements but no yearly models.” At the zenith of their careers in 1920, the Dodge brothers’ lives were cut short suddenly, due to pneumonia (John) and cirrhosis of the liver (Horace).
            Under the guidance of John and Horace’s widows, the Dodge Brothers firm continued to sell cars, with the able management of Frederick Haynes ensuring profitable years. Sold in 1925 to the investment firm of Dillon, Read & Company, Dodge Brothers declined gradually after 1926, as it entered a period of poor management.
            It was then that Walter Chrysler came into the picture. He had recognized that large and well-equipped Dodge facilities would add greatly to his own existing plant capacity, and that the Hamtramck site had the potential of allowing Chrysler to add new product lines and volume that he so desperately needed to keep up with GM.
            In the midst of negotiations to purchase Dodge, Chrysler started with a ploy that turned out to be a new car product line, the DeSoto. The DeSoto was originally conceived as a way to devalue the Dodge so that it would be easier to purchase, but by early 1928 it turned into an operating group within the Chrysler Corporation. The car was named after a sixteenth century adventurer who discovered the Mississippi River, and the group offered Spanish-sounding models like Cupe Business and Roadster Espanol. A total of 1,500 dealers signed up to sell the car, which was introduced first as a 1929 model. The DeSoto was rather attractively styled, and equipped with a 6-cylinder engine, and Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Consumers quickly responded, as more than 80,000 DeSotos were sold during its first year.
            The DeSoto was a 6-cylinder vehicle, and concurrent developments centered on a 4-cylinder vehicle, which would become the Plymouth. The Plymouth was initially envisioned as a parts bin car, essentially a patchwork of existing parts, and therefore inexpensive to build. A closely-guarded secret in 1927, it was named Project Q in early 1928 and began production in June of that year. On one hand, the car was loosely based on the old Maxwell, but it also had numerous features that the Ford and Chevrolet did not have. One of its main features was rubber motor mounts – the precursor to a Chrysler feature called floating power. This innovation isolated the car from the road, and resulted in a far quieter ride. Additionally, the Plymouth had full-pressure lubrication, a waterproof distributor, and aluminum alloy pistons, along with hydraulic brakes. As an ad in the Saturday Evening Post proclaimed: “We have named it the Plymouth because this new product of Chrysler engineering and craftsmanship so accurately typifies the endurance and strength, rugged honesty, the enterprise and determination of achievement and freedom from old limitations of that Pilgrim band who were the first American colonists.”40
            Dillon, now controlling a Dodge Brothers firm that was dropping like a rock in value due to the introduction of these new Chrysler models, became desperate to make a deal. After extended negotiations and a complex stock exchange, the Dodge Brothers became the Dodge division within the Chrysler Corporation. With this merger, the new Chrysler Corporation had a capacity to produce some 750,000 cars, putting it firmly in third place behind GM and Ford with assets and capitalization of about a third of Ford and a quarter of General Motors.
            The Dodge Brothers acquisition was reflective of broader changes taking place in the auto industry during the 1920s. The number of manufacturers gradually declined, and by the end of 1928 Ford, GM, and Chrysler were producing about 80 percent of all cars made in the U.S. Some thirty-four smaller car makers remained in business. With the coming of the Great Depression, a number of these would falter and fold, but Walter Chrysler’s star would continue to rise, reflected in his construction of the Chrysler building in New York City and his overtaking Ford as the number two manufacturer in 1934.

            Key to Chrysler’s success during the 1930s was a number of changes in the design of the Plymouth. In 1931, an all-new Plymouth was introduced, the PA, which was longer and more powerful than the Ford Model A at a price that was sure to be attractive to Depression-era buyers:  $535 to $645. It was said that Walter Chrysler took the third Plymouth PA off the line, drove it to Henry and Edsel Ford’s Dearborn offices, sat for an hour with the two, then gave them the car and took a taxi home. By the end of the year some 94,000 units were sold, and Plymouth became the number three seller in America. With the success of minor improvements over the next two years, the one out of every four cars sold in America were Plymouths.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

General Motors and "Dynamic Dayton" prior to WWII

The City of the Future and Dynamic Dayton of the 1930s
            Just as the Buick “Y Job “ was a final stylistic statement before the interruptions of a global war, so too the GM Futurama exhibit at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 was of similar significance in terms of the highways that would carry these new forms of vehicles. Expressing rather na├»ve notions about what lay ahead and the role of technology in underdeveloped nations, GM exhibited the model of a road-building machine, a “factory on wheels,” that was to cut through jungle forest and lay one foot of concrete road per minute, with service people installing lighting and other appurtenances shortly thereafter. Its models – some 1 million small scale structures -- and mechanisms expressed the visionary ideas of designer Norman Bel Geddes, previously expressed in his Magic Motorways.32 Bel Geddes envisioned a world connected by automated and elevated highways that reached into the far suburbs of large American cities, a futuristic environment of elevated broad expressways reaching out like ribbons into the hinterlands. More than a million visitors were transported in sound-equipped lounge chairs through the exhibit, and while developments that would turn this vision into reality were interrupted by World War II, it would be prophetic in terms of how American life would develop during the last half of the twentieth century.

The Futurama exhibit represented a vision of the future GM-shaped city, but at the same time GM had already had a profound influence on a number of urban areas. Next to Flint, Michigan and perhaps Russelheim, Germany, no city in America had been influenced by GM’s success more than Dayton, Ohio.33 With a history in agricultural implement manufacture and the home of the National Cash Register Company, Dayton was home to a large number of skilled machinists who subsequently found employment in the rapidly-growing automobile-related firms established by Boss Kettering and his associates. According to Fortune, in 1938 approximately 100,000 of the 200,000 residents of Dayton owed their economic livelihoods directly to General Motors. And not all of these activities were strictly involved automobile manufacturing, for Frigidaire employed 12,000 workers making refrigerators, beer coolers, air conditioners, electric ranges and water heaters. Nearby, in central Dayton, Delco Products made electric motors not only for Frigidaires, but also for Maytag washers, Globe meat slicers, and DuPont rayon spinners. It was estimated that some 10 million motors worldwide could be traced back to Dayton. Additionally Delco made coil springs and shock absorbers for GM, Nash, Hudson, Graham and Packard automobiles. Finally, Delco had a brake operation, making hydraulic brake assemblies and brake fluid while housed in perhaps the only flop to bear GM’s corporate name, General Motors Radio. Often overlooked, GM’s Inland Manufacturing in Dayton had its origins in WWI and the Dayton-Wright Airplane Co. After the war, its woodworking department formed the basis of an enterprise to make wooden steering wheels and later rubber-based ones. Product diversification followed, so that the firm made everything from rubber cement to running boards, motor mounts, and weather strips. To borrow a phrase from a book boosting the city during the 1950s, truly GM’s Dayton operations were at the heart of was “dynamic Dayton.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Harley Earl and "Keeping the Customer Dissatisfied"

the 1938 Buick Y Job and Harley Earl

What was left to be done, in the words of Kettering, was to “keep the customer dissatisfied,” and that largely would be the work of GM stylist Harley Earl, hired by Alfred Sloan in 1927 as head of the Art and Colour group. As a result of Earl’s efforts, cars would become longer, lower, and light reflective due ever-increasing amounts of chrome trim. Technological changes related to suspension, the engine, and drive train was incremental during the 1930s, but the looks of the vehicle became increasingly critical to the annual model change, in advertising copy, and consequently in attracting consumers.
            Few television viewers could have understood the significance of the General Motors commercial made a few years ago that portrayed a flashy man in a broad hat who stated that he was Harley Earl. The commercial assumed too much, and gave more credit to the American consuming public for historical knowledge concerning their automobiles than they possessed. That said, perhaps no other single individual did so much to turn America into a consumer-driven society, one characterized by status, style, color, and planned obsolescence, as Harley Earl. From 1927 to 1958, Earl dominated design in Detroit, and by 1958 his legacy in the auto industry was one in which the stylist, and not the engineer, was supreme.26 Excesses of flash over substance became the keynote of an American industry by the late 1950s that marked the beginnings of American auto industry decline that became only evident during the post oil-shock 1970s.
            Earl was a big and burly Californian, who cut his teeth in the auto coach trade while working for a family firm during the 1920s.27 He caught the eye of Alfred Sloan, and in 1927 made his first contribution to style at GM with a redesign of the LaSalle. Earl’s cars were colorful, attractive to the ladies (who often made the family decision concerning which car to buy), longer and lower. GM cars of the 1930s continued along this line of evolution, with chrome trim increasingly employed in strategic positions and with beveling so that “reflective value” had its greatest impact. The culmination of Earl’s efforts during the pre-WWII period was his 1938 Buick Y Job, a stunning styling tour de force that presaged developments that were introduced into production cars after the war. Looking back on the pre-WWII era, Harley Earl was to jibe that “I have watched them spend upwards of $50 million since I have been here to drop cars three inches.”28
            While Earl exploited changing shapes and styles at GM, others within the organization did the same with color. Regina Lee Blaszczyk’s important preliminary studies of the “Color Revolution” of the late 1920s highlighted the importance of the automobile and particularly GM’s collaborative efforts with DuPont in introducing a host new colorful finishes.29 Prior to the early 1920s, automobile finishes could be classified as either the black, high-temperature hard enamel paint that was baked on to Henry Ford’s Model T, or various coatings that required numerous applications followed by laborious sanding or rubbing down between coats. In 1922 DuPont chemists, working with GM, developed a lacquer named Duco that was tough and durable, chip- and fade-resistant, and easily applied to automobiles with a spray gun. This paint was first tried on GM’s 1924 Oakland, where each vehicle would be painted two shades of blue. The “True-Blue” Oakland had been the idea of Alfred Sloan, who thought that customers might like a different colored car, and it turned out to be a big hit with customers, who subsequently demanded it. Accordingly, beginning in 1925 all GM vehicles were painted with Duco, and color, like style, became critical to GM employees who were charged with reading the market. In 1928 DuPont colorist H. Ledyard Towle was enticed to work for GM, and the same year automobile color codes and a system of standard colors were adopted. And while Towle’s tenure at GM was short, his successor, Howard Ketcham, created the Automobile Color Index, which was a monthly analysis of consumer color preferences. Most significantly, during the late 1920s and early 1930s everyday cars became very colorful, with shades that included Bambalina Blue, Irish Green, Bantam Rose, Silver, and Lemon Yellow. And while black would remain a popular color, especially during the Great Depression, the car became a colorful object that reflected the desires and personality of its owner.

            With the development and introduction of Duco, car color – and especially blue – quickly became embedded in American literary culture. For example, in 1926 Natalie Sumner Lincoln published The Blue Car Mystery, a tale about the murder of a prominent Washingtonian, two Blue cars, a car thief, and a pretty young socialite.30 More significantly, however, in 1930 the Nancy Drew mystery series began with The Secret of the Old Clock, and young Nancy drove a blue roadster in the first few titles as she unraveled puzzling crimes by following clues.31 Scholars have interpreted Nancy’s blue car as a symbol of her independence, a message that would be conveyed to millions of young women readers in the decades that followed.