Archive for the ‘Automotive History’ Category

Infamous Autos-3

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Ted Bundy was born on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont. He was born fatherless and lived with his mother and grandmother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania until he was nine years old. The first evidence of his mental instability appeared at the age of four, when he appeared at his aunt’s bedside with several knives.

Bundy and his mother next moved to Tacoma, Washington where she married a man named John Culpepper Bundy. For most of his life, his mother had told him that she was actually his sister, but she finally revealed the truth to Bundy and caused him a great deal of psychological trauma. He continued living a fairly normal life as a student and Boy Scout, but he had trouble getting along with other people.

His first criminal activities began with voyeurism when he would sneak around the neighborhood and peep into people’s windows.

Bundy attempted to lead a normal life and dated a woman named Stephanie Brooks. She dumped him at one point, citing his immaturity and lack of ambition. Many believe that it was this rejection that drove him to attack and murder at least 100 women.

Ted Bundy removed the passenger seat of his beige Volkswagen Beetle to make space for the bodies of the young female college students he lured into the car during his mid-1970s killing spree.

The electrocution of Ted Bundy went as scheduled amid a carnival like atmosphere outside the prison. On January 24, 1989, Theodore Bundy died at around 7:13 a.m. as crowds outside cheered his death.

A few years later, a pair of Utah sheriff’s deputies bought the car at auction for $975, and then in 1997 turned a profit on it. They listed the car for $25,000 in an ad in TheNew York Times classified section, and it was bought by a collector in upstate New York. He then turned around and leased it to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C., where it now resides.

Infamous Autos-2

Saturday, December 4th, 2010


In June of 1994, a series of events occurred that we soon grew to know with familiarity akin to events that befell our own friends and families. Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman were stabbed outside Brown’s apartment in Los Angeles. With Brown’s ex-husband OJ Simpson emerging as the lead suspect, the LAPD called for his arrest. In one of the most bizarre car chases ever televised, the police tailed Simpson’s white Ford Bronco driven by his friend Al Cowlings at a whopping 35 miles per hour.

This single event led to months of legal proceedings, with witnesses emerging from the woodwork to sell their stories for impressive sums to disreputable tabloid publications or cheesy television talk shows. Throughout the course of the trial, it seemed the public had an insatiable appetite for information and live coverage of the case.

After the infamous O.J. Simpson car chase was broadcast on live television in 1994, the white Ford Bronco that carried Simpson took on an identity of its own. The Bronco precipitated an entire new genre of police chase,” Kendall says. Cowlings reportedly unloaded the Bronco at a private sale for $75,000, but not before being involved in more controversy. He was sued in late 1994 for reneging on a contract to sell the car to celebrity memorabilia company Startifacts.

Infamous Autos

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It was during the Great Depression in American history that gangsters like Dillinger thrived. Work was scarce, the stock market had crashed and crop prices were at an all-time low. John Dillinger committed his first major felony in1924 by taking part in an armed robbery and was caught and made an example of.

He  served eight 1/2 years in prison, but it was during his incarceration that his attitude bittered and he truly became a hardened criminal. He met other like minded people in prison and made plans to form a gang and specialize in bank robbery.

In May of 1933 Dillinger was paroled and promptly robbed a bank in Ohio and was caught, jailed, and awaiting trial. While awaiting trial, four of his jailhouse friends escaped from prison and arrived in Ohio and broke Dillinger out of jail, killing a law enforcement officer in the process.

The gang then went on a crime spree, robbing several more banks, and raiding police arsenals in Auburn, and Peru, Indiana. The gang went to Chicago and robbed the First National Bank of East Chicago and during this splurge of crime several police officers were gunned down by the gang.

The gang had attracted much national acclaim and had their pictures plastered all over the nations newspapers.

In January of 1934 Dillinger and gang were hiding out in Arizona and were recognized and captured during a hotel fire.

He was locked up in the Crown Point Jail in Indiana. The jail was reputed to be escape proof, but John Dillinger would soon prove that a boastful claim.

In March of 1934 he planned a daring escape by somehow whittling a block of wood to resemble a gun and painted it black with shoe polish. He made his fast escape in a stolen car and made a fatal mistake by doing so. By crossing state lines in a stolen car he had committed a Federal Offence and his case took the notice of the FBI.

During his bank-robbing spree in the Midwest, he used a red Essex Terraplane as his getaway car. A shootout with police in St. Paul, Minn., eventually left a bullet in Dillinger’s left leg and two in a front panel of the car. But he managed to elude J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents for several more months until they finally shot him in a Chicago alley. The car is owned by the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The first Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took place last year at the most beautiful, innovative and luxurious motorsport circuit ever built.

Situated on Yas Island, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit is a short drive from the capital city of the United Arab Emirates and adjacent to the international airport.

Yas Marina Circuit is unique. It is the only circuit in the world where a 500 bedroom, 5-star hotel actually straddles the track! The Yas Hotel guests have access to the Paddock via a purpose-built footbridge and their own entrance to the circuit.

Every single grandstand seat on Yas Marina Circuit is under cover – another world first. It is all a part of a strategy that puts people first, whether spectators, teams, media or corporate guests and partners.

From the Yacht Club to the Media Centre, to the Team Buildings and the Marina, the Yas Drag Racing Centre and Yas Driving Academy, Yas Marina Circuit is built on quality, style and state-of-the-art technology..


The 2010 Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Grand Prix will be the last race of the 2010 Formula 1™ season. The championship will be decided in the final race, between four contenders…

Fernando Alonso has the points lead, the experience of winning two titles, and a fiercely determined, relentless approach that makes him the last person anyone would want to be in a title fight against.

Mark Webber has the fastest car, has overcome incredible adversity, has proved to the F1 world that he can go toe to toe with the fastest drivers on the grid and come out on top.

Sebastian Vettel has the advantage on pure speed and two dominant wins from the last three races.

Lurking in their wake is Lewis Hamilton, realistically out of contention unless something bizarre happens. His McLaren just isn’t as quick as a Red Bull or a Ferrari these days.

If you get chance, be sure to watch this Championship deciding race on Sunday!

The latest buzz? A car made from hemp

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010


Motive Industries Inc. is developing a new electric vehicle (EV), currently named the Kestrel.

The car’s design features bio-composite materials and innovative tooling and part-molding techniques that Motive says will permit profitable manufacture of the Kestrel at smaller initial volumes than traditional stamped-steel or aluminum vehicles. “The cost to tool a traditional vehicle is in the hundreds of millions [of dollars],” explains company president Nathan Armstrong. “The techniques we are using will allow us to scale up the tooling and manufacturing process as demand increases, with ramp-up costs affordable for a new company.” According to several published reports, the company is using hemp fiber mats as the reinforcement in the car’s body.

With a bio-composite body, the Kestrel will weigh in at an estimated 850 kg/1,874 lb. The low curb weight will give the car a maximum range of 160 km/99 miles with a lithium-ion battery (not to mention a top speed of 135 kmh/84 mph). Composites also will increase impact absorption and rust resistance. “Composite materials have been used in advanced applications for many years because of [their] relative light weight and ability to absorb impact loads,” says Armstrong, who points to similar reported results of recent testing conducted by Lotus Cars (Hethel, Norfolk, U.K.) on its Evora sports car.

Just don’t let the car catch fire, or the firemen will be whacked!

Wanted: Buyer for 365 Cadillacs

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

By Dan Wells, Edmonton Journal

In Bruce Springsteen’s song Cadillac Ranch, he sings, “Well, Buddy when I die, throw my body in the back, and drive me to the junkyard in my Cadillac.”

With 335 salvage Cadillacs dated 1947 to 1979, owner Andrew Berfelo declares it “Canada’s largest Cadillac retirement centre.” Within that collection of Cadillac carcasses lies a treasure trove of nearly impossible to find vintage Cadillac parts.

Nobody lived the Cadillac dream more than Berfelo’s brother Randy. In the early 1980s, Randy was restoring a 1962 Cadillac convertible and brought home two more ’62s for spare parts. A few months later, he had 10 Cadillacs of various model years, and the total kept rising as his Cadillac cornucopia grew larger.

He opened C.R. Auto in Hay Lakes in 1983. The business was comprised of storage space for the ever-expanding inventory of cars, a parts warehouse, service bays and a body shop.

Randy was a big man, both in physical stature and as an entrepreneur. His employees would remove parts from the cars and repair, restore and refinish Cadillacs. A customer could even have a Cadillac “built” to spec, just like ordering a new one.

Inevitably, the Caddy congregation required more space, so a nearby farm was bought, and rows of Cadillacs were organized downhill from the house.

Randy’s dream was to have 500 Cadillacs, but he would only see it through to 225. Sadly, he died in 1989 at age 32.

Andrew, 10 years older, was shattered by the loss of his brother. They had been working together for three years. “He was a real go-getter: The Cadillac King of Alberta,” said Andrew. “I really loved my brother, so I carried on with his dream.”

Though he never reached the 500-car mark, he got up to 365. Parts continued to be pulled and sold and shipped. To the United States, Japan, England, Australia, France, Germany and other countries.

Reproduction parts were also stocked, as were obsolete GM parts. Whenever a certain part was to be stricken from the Cadillac parts department’s inventory, Andrew would secure “the last ones in captivity.”

Facing age and health concerns, Andrew recently decided to wind down the business. The buildings in the village were closed, all parts stock moved to the farm. There’s enough that filled three oceanic shipping containers, a warehouse and a barn. Andrew, 64, cut back on advertising, and C.R. Auto has become a one-man show. He has no family to pass the business to and wants the property cleared by fall 2011. The harsh reality is that the cars may have to be crushed.

“The Cadillac retirement centre is retiring,” said Andrew. “I kept Randy’s dream alive for 20 years, but it’s time for the dream to end.”

Hallmarks of Design-Part 10

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Courtesy Annette McLeod 


Toyota introduces its ’90s model Prius worldwide in 2001, bringing us full circle — what’s inside once again counts as much as how cars look. A hybrid revolution follows with the Ford Escape, Honda Civic and Accord, Lexus RX400h, Saturn Vue Green Line, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and more hitting the road. Design cues are all over the map, with Chrysler’s PT Cruiser sparking a retro craze and Audi’s R8 anticipating a gorgeous future. So-called crossovers are everywhere, in all sorts of guises from Ford’s boxy Flex to Nissan’s swoopy Murano and every manner of in-between. Everything old is new again as BMW brings back the Mini Cooper, Dodge brings back the Challenger, and Chevy brings back the Camaro. 

Hallmark: PT Cruiser 

In the 2010s , it’s looking like small is beautiful and it’s hip to be square, as Toyota brings the Scion, and driving a “Cube” becomes something you’d actually want to do!

Hard as it is to believe, the PT Cruiser is about to go out of production. In fact, the last example of Chrysler’s long-in-the-tooth compact was made on July 9.

Launched in 1999, and based on the 1994 compact Neon platform, the PT Cruiser was originally conceived to be sold under the defunct Plymouth brand, designed to fall in line with the-then retro-styled Prowler hot rod.

Rebadged as a Chrysler, the front-drive PT Cruiser’s popularity during its first few years on the market forced Chrysler to continuously increase production. Hard to believe now, but – at its debut – customers were willing to pay a premium above its asking price.

A turbocharged PT Cruiser debuted in 2002. And a convertible was introduced two years later. But over the years, Chrysler’s refusal to invest in its compact wagon finally caught up with it.

Sales dropped steadily enough that the car was scheduled to go out of production a year ago. But after Italy’s Fiat took over, the lack of new Chrysler product forced the Italian automaker to keep punching it out for another year.

As part of Fiat’s plans, the PT Cruiser’s Mexican plant will be converted to North American production of the Fiat 500 city car, slated to hit Chrysler showrooms early in 2011.

Hallmarks of Design-Part 8

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Courtesy Annette McLeod


Nothing succeeds like excess, as Magnum’s Ferrari 308 GTB, Crockett’s Ferrari Daytona Spyder, Marty McFly’s Delorean and KITT exemplify the decade. Gullwing doors, racing vents, targa tops and spoilers are everywhere, except at the other end of the spectrum, where Chrysler’s K platform underpins the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant and Chrysler LeBaron. Chrysler changes the landscape of suburbia with the release of its 1984 Caravan and Voyager minivans. 

Hallmark: 1984 Dodge Caravan

Introduced in November 1983 for the 1984 model year, the first minivan of all time, the Dodge Caravan was based on the Chrysler S platform, an extended derivative of the Chrysler K platform. For the 1987 model year, a longer wheelbase was introduced, which was called the Grand Caravan. It was still based on the Chrysler S platform.

There were three trim levels on the first generation Caravan: base, mainstream SE and upscale LE. The Caravan was on Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 1985. Both a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission and a five-speed manual were available with the four-cylinder engines, including the turbocharged 2.5 L (this was a rare combination). A cargo version of the Caravan, called the Mini Ram Van, was also introduced in 1984. It was renamed as the Caravan C/V for 1989, and was discontinued after 1995. 1989-1990 turbocharged models are highly sought after by collectors.

Hallmarks of Design-Part 7

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Courtesy Annette McLeod


The Ford Pinto explodes — ahem — onto the scene to compete with the AMC Gremlin and Chevy Vega, as well as imports from VW, Datsun and Toyota. The AMC Pacer — later voted the worst car design of all time by 2,500 respondents to a Hagerty Insurance (classic-car insurers) poll — begs the question, “Where’s the rest of it?” Increasingly severe emissions regulations and fuel economy mandates bring a temporary end to enormous performance. Honda introduces the mammoth-selling Civic in 1972. 

Hallmark: 1970 AMC Gremlin

The AMC Gremlin was introduced on April 1, 1970 as a 1970-1/2 model. It was the result of a fast track program to bring the first modern, U.S.-built subcompact car to market. AMC was successful in beating both GM and Ford to the punch with this program, since neither the Chevrolet Vega nor the  Pinto were introduced until September, 1970 (as 1971 models).

By 1970, AMC had become a manufacturer that was trying to be all things to all people, instead of concentrating on the economy end of the market as had been done successfully under George Romney during the late 1950s and early ’60s. The trouble was, AMC was the smallest of the U.S. auto companies and could least afford the tremendous costs associated with developing new vehicles. Resources were spread quite thin in an attempt to develop a line of cars which (hopefully) would please almost everybody

Fans of AMC’s distinctively-styled subcompact may not be too quick to admit that the Gremlin’s basic design was penned on the back of a Northwest Orient air sickness bag about 18 months before the car was introduced. The designer using such a resourceful medium for his sketches was of course none other than the late Richard Teague.

Mr. Teague was able to combine many of the rear-end styling features of the 1967 AMX/GT show car with the more mundane front end hardware of the production Hornet. The result of this merging of seemingly disparate design elements was successful in many people’s eyes, though the “kamm-back” tail treatment proved to be a bit controversial for some and became the basis for the inevitable “what happened to the rest ?” wisecracks. It’s interesting to note that several of today’s hatchback models from Honda, Toyota, et. al. bear more than a passing resemblance to the original Gremlin design. 


Hallmarks of Design-Part 5

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Courtesy Annette McLeod


Cars become lower, longer and wider as post-war giddiness grip North America. Chrome is everywhere and tailfins get higher and higher. The 1955 Thunderbird has a wraparound windshield. Chevy unleashes the Corvette. Cadillac unleashes tailfins more than a foot high. Engine displacement gets larger and larger, and numerous domestic manufacturers bite the dust — Studebaker, Nash, Kaiser-Frazer, Hudson, Packard, Willys and Crosley — leaving only the Big Three standing. Clean, round shapes abound in Europe alongside the Porsche 356 B, BMW 507 and gullwing Mercedes 300. Toyota exports the  Toyopet. BMW builds the diminutive Isetta. GM chairman Alfred P. Sloan establishes yearly styling changes and president Harlow Curtice perfects planned obsolescence.

Hallmark: 1959 Cadillac Series 62

The ’59 Caddy had it all — looks, performance, and comfort. It stood as the ultimate symbol of success, impressive and — yes — controversial. The outrageous tail fins and jet pod taillights evoked either a love it or leave it attitude with the public.

The new grille was a glittering cliff of chrome. And as if one toothy grille wasn’t enough there was even a dummy grille across the lower rear deck of most models. A thin, horizontal blade divided the jewelled front grille into upper and lower sections. Parking and turn signal lights were paired in pods at the outer ends of the massive new front bumper. The new rear bumper had huge, chrome outer pods with backup lights recessed in their centers.

Of course, just about everybody knows about the monster fins on the ’59 Cadillac. But how many have ever heard about the Cadillac designed around a Buick door? The 1959 Cadillac was. General Motors had gone through three expensive years of tooling up for new models and the head honchos wanted to trim costs. They decided to make the basic Buick front door a common interchangeable element throughout the GM C-body line. This was a tough directive because the door tapered rearward, but an order was an order and the Cadillac design team worked around it, turning out an unforgettable product in the process.