Tuesday, November 11, 2008

1930 Duesenberg J

Duesenberg surpassed any American made car of its time and was the peer of Europe\'s finest: Mercedes, Hispano-Suiza or the Rolls Phantom II.

The reputation of the Duesenberg was founded on a brilliant racing heritage. In 1921 a Duesenberg was the first American car to win the famous Grand Prix of LeMans, France.The cars were all custom built. Approximately twenty coach builders, including six in Europe, built the various bodies for all 480 Model J chassis that were produced. This body is by Walter J. Murphy of Pasadena, Ca. A chassis cost $8500 in 1930, increasing to $9500 by 1932. Finished car prices depended on body style and appointments: the range was about $15,000 to $20,000, a fortune for that time.

The Model J was introduced at the New York Automobile Salon in 1928. Its straight-eight engine of 265 horsepower could produce speeds over 115 miles per hour. The wheelbase was 142.5 inches; brakes were vacuum assisted (after 1930), oversized and hydraulic. The use of aluminum alloy kept the weight of this huge vehicle to about 5200 pounds By 1932 supercharged engines claiming 320 hp were offered.

1937 was the last model year for the classic Duesenberg. Today the Model J\'s are prized by collectors everywhere who pay well over a million dollars for a good specimen. More than 75% of all Duesenbergs exist today - 55% of them still operable.

1930 Lincoln Brougham Body by Brunn & Co.

The history of Lincoln is long and convoluted. Founded in 1917 by Henry M. Leland, the marque was eventually acquired by Henry Ford in 1922. Ironically, the Lincoln’s chief nemesis, Cadillac, was also the product of Henry Leland. Of all the innovative giants in automotive history, Henry Leland is one of the most influential and yet least known. His name never appeared on a car of his design and the only remembrances of him in the “Motor City,” a moniker he helped create, are one so-named side street and a now shuttered hotel.

Born in 1843 in Vermont, Henry Leland spent the civil war years machining and assembling guns for the Union army, first at the federal arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts then with Colt Arms in Connecticut. His formative experience as a machinist established his lifelong obsession for low-tolerance precision manufacturing (often as tight as 1/2,000th of an inch).

When Leland decided to establish his own business, he went first to Chicago. In an odd twist of fate, he arrived in the “windy city” on May 4, 1886, a day when labor unrest erupted into a full blown riot. Alarmed, Leland packed up and headed for Detroit. There but for the whims of chance, Chicago might have become the center of American auto manufacturing. Somehow, the “Windy, Motor City” just doesn’t have the right ring.

In Detroit, Leland founded a gear, machine tools and gas engine manufacturing firm. The precision of his products attracted a number of top-notch clients, among them, Ransom E. Olds who used LeLand’s gears and engines in his namesake cars. By 1905, Leland had acquired, reorganized and assumed the presidency of Cadillac. The Cadillac name soon became a synonym for high quality and creative engineering. They featured the first use of self-starters an innovation fueled by tragedy when one of Leland’s friends died from injuries sustained while cranking a car.

In 1909, General Motors bought Cadillac for the princely sum of $6 million and Leland, along with his son Wilfred, was asked to stay on at GM and run the division. An eventual disagreement with GM head Walter Durant over whether or not to produce aircraft engines caused Leland to once again, go independent. His new company was “Lincoln,” the year was 1917.

Early success soon gave way to financial difficulty-not the least of which was a bogus $5 million claim filed by the Treasury Department for back taxes. Though the charges were later dropped, Leland’s fate was sealed and Lincoln was purchased by Ford for the “fire-sale” price of $8 million. As had happened earlier with GM, Leland was initially retained only to develop a hostile relationship with the company’s top man, in this case Henry Ford, whom he considered to be truculent and intrusive. Henry Leland left Ford in 1923 and never again worked in the
auto industry. He died in 1932.

1938 Horch 850

The LeMay Museum's 1938 Horch 850 Limousine is something of a celebrity, at least in political circles. Once owned by the city of Stuttgart, it was used to ferry about the likes of Konrad Adenauer the first Chancellor of the then new "West Germany." Adenauer's anti-naz- and anti-communist stance during the war made him the logical choice to take over the reigns of the new German state. He assumed that position in 1949. Because German prestige car manufactureres could not resume fullscale production immediately after the war, most government officials were required to use vehicles of pre-war vintage. Due to its storied history, the LeMay Horch was loaned to the Petersen Automotive Museum in 2006 as part of their "Presidents, Popes and Potentates: Cars of Heads of State" Exhibit - a fitting tribute.

1948 Tucker 48

Horizontally-opposed 6 cylinder, 334 ci, 166 hp @ 3200 rpm

Only 51 of these four door sedans were built in the model year 1948. The design, by Alex Tremulis, incorporates a rear engine and rear wheel drive. The engine was by Franklin Air Cooled Motors and was originally meant for helicopter use. In the Tucker it was fitted with water jackets and plumbed to a radiator. Preston Tucker's enterprise collapsed before large scale production could be realized. This specimen, the seventh one built, is reputed to be one of the most authentically restored of the remaining 47 cars.

1948 Daimler DE36 Hooper Drop Head Coupe

This Daimler is one of only eight built by the oldest British marque and was once part of the famed Harrah car collection. The first Daimler built was called the "Green Goddess", a moniker that was bestowed upon all eight cars, however, each car is actually slightly different from the others. The Lematta’s Daimler has been completely restored and earned a class win at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Daimlers have been known for their association with the British Royal Family. Well into the 1950s, Daimler limousines served as primary transportation for England’s King and Queen, as well as other heads of state throughout the world. The Museum also has a 1913 Daimler – of the German Daimler factory and a 1922 Austro Daimler - in it’s collection.

1953 Packard Caribbean

Derived in part from the Pan American show car of 1952, the Caribbean was a true “halo vehicle,” the celebrity of the company’s line—a fact recognized by a number of celebrities of the human variety. Positioned as a “sports car,” the Caribbean showcased many of the “all the rage” styling cues: massive, chrome laden, horizontal grills, pastel hues, Continental kits and ‘thematic’ applique— nautical in this case as opposed to GM’s fixation with jet aircraft. Caribbean interiors featured premium leather upholstery. The available colors for the 750 Caribbeans produced in 1953—our LeMay Museum Caribbean among them—were confined to Green and Maroon Metallics, Sahara Sand and Polaris Blue.

The 1954 and ‘55 model years saw continued evolution on both the design and engineering fronts. In terms of style, the full rear-wheel cut was eliminated and greater use of chrome trim created zones for two-tone paint schemes. The ‘Senior’ Packard motif of heavier headlight housings were used to distance the Caribbean from its lower priced siblings. 1955 would see even greater use of Senior design cues and yet more chrome, allowing for three-tone paint patterns. 900 Caribbeans rolled out over the two year period.

1956 would be the last for Packard’s sportiest offering. Styling changes were subtle, being limited to grill textures, headlight hoods and minor trim bits. On the inside, reversible—leather to cloth— seat cushions were a novel feature. A hardtop was added to the line for a total production run of 539 units, 263 of which carried the fixed roof.

More than just an interesting styling exercise, the Packard Caribbean featured impressive, era-appropriate technical innovations; “Torsion Level” suspensions, overhead valve V-8s, push-button activated Twin-Ultramatic” transmissions, twin traction, limited slip differentials and, rare for the time, factory installed air conditioning.

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