Tuesday, 16 February 2021


“You get a better, longer lasting return on the dollars you invest in a Chevrolet Advance-Design truck. You get quality, powerful performance, handling ease at their best — and at the lowest list price in the entire truck field. See your Chevrolet dealer. He’s got the right truck for you.”

Trucks aren’t the focus of this blog, but we think this Chevrolet COE, model 5703, is quite interesting, not only because of its unconventional look, but also in its historic context.

During the postwar years, all American car makers sold warmed-up prewar designs. The demand for new cars was huge anyway, and developing an all-new design was a vanity rather than a necessity. GM, back then the undisputed trendsetter in car styling, quite surprisingly choose commercial vehicles to herald its all-new postwar design direction: the “Advance-Design” series of trucks entered production already in May 1947, one full year ahead of the new passenger cars. It’s debatable why GM rushed out the trucks first. One theory suggests that truck production never stopped during wartime, and thus, the body dies were probably worn out by 1946. And reproducing new dies of the old design, or creating entirely new sets would be a similar investment.

Strangely enough it’s pretty well-documented who designed the new Cadillac or Chevrolet, but there’s no mention of the designers of GM commercial vehicles. We guess it simply wasn’t a prestigious job, and these trucks were styled alongside the passenger cars in the GM styling studios, as there was no dedicated commercial design studio either.

Whatever the case, the nameless GM designers applied all modern treats to these new trucks. At the time, their styling and detailing were thoroughly modern. There was a proper onslaught of variations and sizes, too, from pickup truck to lorry, meeting every conceivable demand. Chevrolet’s copywriters counted “109 models on 8 wheelbases” for the 1948 lineup.

Our pictured COE (read: „Cab Over Engine”) was the fruit of creatively dealing with the legislation: as the overall length for trucks was limited, the cab of the standard truck simply was lifted atop the engine to gain a few more inches of load space. Reconnecting the front grille to the higher cowl line required a very bulbous bonnet, and voila, ready was one very peculiar looking truck design.

The „Advance-Design“ COE was built virtually unchanged between 1947 and 1955, but little details narrow down the year in which our pictured truck was produced. The two-piece door glass with separate ventilation pane was introduced in 1951, and push-button door handles came in 1952. The “Chevrolet” bonnet emblems disappeared in 1953, and for 1954, the windshield became an one-piece curved glass. Hence, our pictured truck was produced in 1952. And despite its vintage, it’s still going strong in daily service as a particular (read: privately owned) transport. Because the state-owned bus network is notoriously unreliable, trucks like these remain being the indispensable people hauler in Cuba’s rural areas.

Friday, 22 January 2021

“Nothing without wings climbs like a ‘56 Chevrolet!”

It was a feast for eyes and ears when this Chevy pulled up at the “Servicentro 5a y 112” in Havana’s rather posh Miramar district. The striking combo of Nassau Blue and India Ivory paint, and the deep exhaust note made it stand out from the ordinary mix of cars that refill here.

Cuban motorists love and cherish their Chevrolets, but rarely have we seen one in better shape than this 1956 Two-Ten. Little details like the special number plate sequence tell that the owner must be resourceful or well connected within Cuba’s upper crust. Keeping a car in such a good condition requires proper funds, and probably support from relatives in Florida, too.

Presented with much fanfare for 1955, the striking design of the all-new generation looked unlike any Chevrolet seen before. Surprisingly, initial dealer response and sales numbers didn’t match the high expectations of Chevrolet’s brass. The managers attributed this to Harley Earl’s late call for a Ferrari-inspired egg-crate grille. In fact, photos of earlier design models show a full-width front grille that rather looked like an evolution of the 1954 Chevy. Apparently, Harley Earl got inspired when touring Europe in the fall of 1953, and was adamant to apply the atypical rectangular grille design very late in the development process.

Startled by the slow initial sales of the 1955 lineup, Chevrolet general manager Thomas H. Keating insisted on a crash course for a new full-width front grille, to be applied as an exceptional mid-year replacement. But the public pretty soon embraced the new Chevrolets, and the sales numbers soared. Consequently, the mid-year update was dropped and the revised grille design waited for the 1956 models.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

"Just because Biscayne is our lowest priced, bet you thought it might look a little bit frumpy. Well, look again and ask yourself how we can do it for this kind of money. Or, for that matter, why no one else does it for this kind of money."

In matte blue color, this Chevy Biscayne from Santa Clara might get lost in the shuffle elsewhere, but on the Cuban car market this car holds immense value, just because it is less vintage than any regular cacharro.

When new in 1969, the Chevrolet was good looking, but didn't stand out in any other way. It was plainly a very average car. The shift towards sportiness and flamboyant styling that had characterized GM's budget brand in the 1950s, was long forgotten, and replaced by stuffy characteristics such as reliability, low upkeep and a cushiony ride. Somehow, the roomy, comfortable Chevy was the period equivalent of today's Toyota Camry. Well, in case you’re wondering: we'd still rather take the Chevy...

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

„Any way you look at it, there’s an unmistakable stamp of distinction about the new Pontiac. It’s a beauty from the front and it’s a beauty from the rear — it has a personality all its own. Whether you see the ‚Silver Streak’ in city traffic — notice it ahead of you on the highway — or look at its smart silhouette as it’s parked at the curb — you know immediately that it’s a Pontiac, and that a Pontiac is always something very special among automobiles.“

Since its inception in 1926, Pontiac was essentially an upscale Chevrolet, positioned to bridge the gap between the budget make and GM’s more prestigious brands on Alfred P. Sloan’s fine-tuned hierarchy ladder that promised “A Car For Every Purse And Purpose”. At that it fared pretty well, especially if you consider that apart from bespoke engines the Pontiac shared most of its components with Chevrolet.

Pontiac customers had an easy choice in 1952: the Chieftain was the only trim line offered after the Streamliner fastback models were dropped in 1951. You only had to select your preferred bodystyle and color, and decide between six- or eight cylinder engine options.

All 1952 Pontiac and Chevrolet models were based on the corporate GM “A-body”. But to justify its lusher appearance and higher price tag, the Pontiac was stretched by 5.6 inches (14,2 cm) and had a 5-inch (12,7 cm) longer wheelbase than its plebeian counterpart. The additional length didn’t offer much benefit at all, though, except for bragging rights: between windshield and rear wheels, Pontiac and Chevrolet were identical, sharing the same cabin and interior space. The extra bulk was merely added to trunk and bonnet.

However, the gleaming opulence of the Pontiac was popular with the customers and looked attractive, as you can still witness on the pictured convertible from Havana. Despite the bonnie looks, this car is a workhorse, used as a sightseeing ride from dawn till dusk, so the tourists can enjoy “authentic” time travel into the 1950s in exchange for much needed hard currency.

Friday, 20 November 2020

“Call it what you will — sound thinking, great engineering, or just plain consideration for your comfort — we think you’ll find that the new ‘53 Plymouth offers you more of it than any other car in the lowest-priced field. But you be the judge! You have a standing invitation from your Plymouth dealer to look, ride, drive, compare. Then we believe you’ll agree: there’s more quality in it — you get more value of it!” 

The 1953 Plymouth is perhaps the most underrated car of the 1950s, shunned by the consumers (and later by the historians) as a design inferior to its competition. In fact, in a time when fancy „longer and lower“ styling was de rigeur, and upsizing was the name of the game, the new Plymouth bucked the industry trend by actually becoming smaller and looking remarkably dowdy. 

Plymouth consolidated its lineup for 1953 down to two trim levels, sharing the same 114-inch (2,90 m) wheelbase. While the entry-level „Cambridge“ benefitted from the new dimensions, the top-level „Cranbrook“ now became 4,75 inches (12 cm) shorter than in the previous years — and lost a whopping 4.5 inches (11 cm) of wheelbase, too. Nonetheless, the cabin became roomier than before because the engine moved forward. Thus, rationally, Chrysler engineers had designed a smarter car with an improved package, shorter overhangs and a roomier cabin, and incidentally anticipated proportions that should become common-sense much later

But the fact of the matter is that most car buying decisions are made on an emotional level. And in 1953, downsizing was completely out of sync with the contemporary taste that favored longer, lower and glitzier designs, and generally wanted a certain visual “bang for the buck”. 

A comparison with the main contenders shows this predicament. While the Plymouth’s 114-inch wheelbase was a mere inch (2,5 cm) shorter than the Chevrolet and Ford (both placed on a 115-inch wheelbase), the competitors were much longer overall, and made the Plymouth seem like a smaller car: the 1953 Chevrolet was six inches (15 cm) longer and the Ford added a whopping nine inches (23 cm) to the Plymouth’s overall length. Hence, the Plymouth rather became a car of choice for the ones that wanted value for money and didn’t care for the looks. Which was already a minority in those times. Incidentally, you rarely see a Plymouth of that generation in Cuba. We reckon that they weren’t exactly compatible with the Latin show-off culture, either. 

Regardless, 650,500 Plymouth found new homes in 1953. It was a new high for the company, but you need to put these numbers into perspective: in the same time, arch-rivals Chevrolet and Ford produced a whopping amount of 1,346,500 and 1,247,500 cars, respectively. And Plymouth’s surprising production record of 1953 was short-lived: already in 1954, sales nosedived by nearly 190,000 units, down to the level of 1952. Again, that wasn’t really the fault of the design, which remained unchanged, save for some minor trim changes, but rather the effect of a fierce “sales war” that Chevrolet and Ford had initiated and that left all other manufacturers in the dust. 

But there was light at the end of the tunnel: behind the curtains, a new generation of Plymouth cars was already waiting to be launched. These new “Forward Look” designs would finally sport proportions that matched their stylish aspirations.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

“The Ford Anglia means real ‘pleasure in motoring’. It is a pleasure to drive, a pleasure to ride in, a pleasure to own.” 

Everything is tiny on this Ford Anglia from Cienfuegos, and it’s apparently only “a pleasure to ride in” if you are of smaller stature. Once inside, you’d probably be happy that the skinny car can’t surpass a top speed of 57 mph (92 km/h) which is impressive, considering that its tiny 933cc (56.9 cu-in) engine only churns out 23 hp. 

The Anglia looked already dated when it was new. The 1949 makeover wore the same body as the previous generation from 1939. Only the front end received a streamlined redesign, but with those “BMW-kidneys”, the car arguably didn’t look much better than the original design. Yet, marketing cars requires some “newness” every once in a while, to keep the customers interested. And despite its old-school look, the Anglia held one coveted selling point: it was one of the cheapest cars you could buy anywhere on the planet. Hence, 108,878 Ford Anglia found happy takers in the 4-year long production run. Even after introducing the all-new third Generation in 1953, Ford kept on selling the outgoing Anglia as a price-cutter until 1959, now rechristened as Ford Popular. 

What looks cartoonish today was a proper motor car in the Great Britain of 1949. Back then everything “European” certainly looked tiny from an American perspective. The huge lifestyle discrepancy on both sides of the pond becomes evident when you compare the quirky British Ford with the modern design that Ford offered at the same time in the U.S..

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

“El Dodge 1500 es como una vuelta en la calesita”

“The Dodge 1500 is like a ride on the merry-go-round”, waxed Argentinian copywriters in 1971. Well, while the car sure wasn’t that exciting, its genesis certainly is: this Argentinian model, despite its American nameplate, actually originates from England, where it was launched as the Hillman Avenger in 1970. Hillman was an established car manufacturer in England, and since 1927 part of the Rootes Group that united various British makes under one big brand umbrella. We covered some of the irrational insanities of the postwar British car industry on previous occasions.

Designed under the lead of Rootes’ Styling Director Roydon Axe, the Avenger project began taking shape already in 1963, but faced long delays because other models of the Rootes portfolio had to be launched before. Meanwhile, Chrysler began to expand its business in Europe by buying shares of the ailing Rootes Group from 1964 on, and fully owned it by 1967. When the Hillman Avenger finally was presented in 1970, the motor press wrote favorably, praising its good road manners and the contemporary styling. With its Coke-bottle hips, the car definitely looked “American” even if it was pretty small. Thus, the Chrysler management saw fit to sell the Hillman Avenger as a compact Mopar worldwide. The Avenger blueprints were adapted for production in various countries, among them in Argentina, where it was produced and marketed by Chrysler-Fevre Argentina S.A.I.C. as Dodge 1500.

The Dodge was an instant hit with Argentinian buyers, and should soon get the reputation of being tough as nails, which resulted in a loyal fan base and a 20-year long production run. Its popularity didn’t even fade when Volkswagen took over Chrysler Argentina in 1980 and kept on selling the Dodge 1500, rebadged as “VW 1500” until 1990.

The simple technical layout and sturdiness made the Dodge 1500 an ideal choice for the Cuban officials when they selected the cars that would be part of the huge trade deal with Argentina, and in 1974, thousands of Dodge 1500 were imported to the island. Initially they were used as Taxis, but over the years many tickled down to the private car market. Here it seems to be the dream car of the younger crowd, because many Dodge 1500 we see in Cuba wear striking colors and wild decals.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

„You join America’s smartest car buyers when you switch to Rambler, fastest growing of all in popularity with sales up 73% over last year. Because Rambler is America’s only true economy car. See the new jet-stream-styled Ramblers with all the new features — Air Coil Ride, Airliner Reclining Seats, pushbutton driving. Three wheelbases, four engines — 90 HP ‘6’ to 270 HP V-8. Save money every mile you drive! Choose your Rambler today.” 

The battered Rambler from Havana might not look as flashy as some other American cars of same vintage. But make no mistake: this was one of the hottest deals in 1958!

When the postwar sales-frenzy faded away and the American car market became saturated in the early 1950s, it became increasingly difficult for smaller manufacturers to compete with the market power of the “Big Three”. Hence the demise of many “independent” brands and their urge to merge into bigger corporations. American Motors (AMC), shaped by the merger of Hudson and Nash in 1954 and since then headed by the respectable George Romney, found its niche in sidestepping direct competition with the „Big Three” by offering economic „compact” cars. 

Nash had brought the small Rambler into the marriage. Because this car was popular and sold reasonably well, Romney saw a future in a roomier version, better suited to the needs of the average American family. The all-new 1956 Rambler was inspired by the full-size Nash Ambassador and Statesman models, but with a wheelbase of 108 inches (2,74m) and an overall length of 191 inches (4,85m), the car was considerably shorter. Incidentally, AMC had conceived a new segment, that should soon become popular as the „compact car”. The new Rambler was initially sold under Nash and Hudson nameplates, but became an own brand already in 1957. It was so successful that AMC stopped further development of its full-size cars in favor of the “compact” Rambler, and soon dropped the long-standing brand names as well. With Nash and Hudson gone, AMC could continue with one unburdened nameplate: The Rambler. 

The 1958 Rambler was a fortunate facelift of the 1957 model, looking modern and appealing to the contemporary taste. Potential buyers could easily notice that it was nearly as roomy as an average full-size car inside, but without all the bulk outside. Fuel economy and upkeep were better, too, which made it a striking proposition for anyone on a budget. And when America slipped into a recession in late 1957, many were ready to try that “compact” car.

Rambler sales skyrocketed in 1958, only to double again in 1959, and culminate in 450,000 cars in 1960. This was the highest production number ever tallied by an independent car maker. AMC could make good profits until the „Big Three” launched their own compact car onslaught in the early 1960s, moving the competition to the small car field, too, and thus curtailing AMC’s advantage.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

„Sprinter in a Savile Row suit”

The British ad nicely summarizes the character of the Fiat 125 Special: sports car performance, combined with a refined appearance. The fact that Gianni Agnelli, the flamboyant celebrity and Fiat boss, preferred cutting through the Turin traffic discreetly in a Fiat 125 Special rather than in a Ferrari or another pretentious model out of the Fiat portfolio speaks for the car’s inherent qualities.

When presented in early 1967, the Fiat 125 Special was a genuinely progressive and luxurious sedan — and a pretty fast one, too. A modern 1,608 cc DOHC engine with 100 hp (73,5 kW), 5-speed gearbox and air condition came standard. The design, created by Fiat’s Centro Stile under supervision of Gian Paolo Boano, was closely related to the Fiat 124, the quintessential cubist car of the era. There was a drawback though: visually, the Fiat 125 hardly stood out of the average Fiat lineup, despite its upscale qualities.

Likewise in Cuba, which is full of these Fiat sedans. Usually you see them in shape of its derivatives, such as the ubiquitous Lada from Russia, or the Polski Fiat 125P. But the central ridge on the bonnet and rectangular headlight bezels betray that our pictured car wasn’t produced in an Eastern Bloc country. It is a western Fiat instead, albeit one from South America: between 1972 and 1982, the Fiat 125 was also produced in substantial numbers in Córdoba, Argentina. The Argentinian version was technically identical to the Italian cars, but had a 4-speed transmission.

If you look closer, the Fiat 125 is a little larger than the typical Lada which itself is based on the more humble Fiat 124. Longer wheelbase and a more elaborate rear axle improved the ride substantially. The rear passengers enjoyed more than 3 inches (85 mm) more legroom than in the common Ladas. This comfort and the superior stability at higher speeds make the Fiat 125 very popular with Cuban choferes until today.

But perhaps even more interesting than its specs is the story that surrounds its arrival on the island. In 1973, the newly elected left-wing government under Juan Domingo Perón tried to stimulate the Argentinian economy, and practically obliged the national car industry to increase their exportation quotes year by year in ambitious steps. And Cuba was a happy taker. In February 1974, a vast delegation, including treasury and finance minister José Ber Gelbard and representatives of all major car makers in Argentina, visited Havana and closed the deals on various models to be acquired in large numbers by Cuba. To secure the trade, Argentina would guarantee credits of more than 1.2 billion Dollars over a six-year period and with a 6% interest rate. It looked like a win-win situation: aside from the economic benefits, Cuba could circumvent the U.S. trade embargo, and both countries could boast about their political triumph over the common “enemy” in Washington. Even more so, as the independent subsidiaries of GM, Ford and Chrysler in Argentina had a large part of 44,000 vehicles worth $130-150 million in the trade. It was a slap in the face of the Yankees.

But the party didn’t last long: to reinforce the embargo, the U.S. soon set out to put a foot on these exports, and pressure on Argentina. Vicariously, Brazil complained within the OEA (Organización de Estados Americanos) that its neighbor country violated a commitment to suspend all commercial exchange with Cuba. And this was the end of the large-scale automobile influx in Cuba.

Nonetheless, 6,000 Fiat 125 were shipped to the island in 1974, alongside thousands of Peugeot 404, Dodge 1500 and Ford Falcon of Argentinian origin.

Ironically, the Perón government never saw a peso for all these cars. The credits fell into default and were never paid back by the Castro regime. To this day, all subsequent efforts to recover the Argentinian money failed. Which seems like a common pattern and a reason why all later efforts of large-scale car imports to Cuba, be it with Korea or China, terminate after a short time, because the vendors never see their money.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

„IT’S TWO CARS IN ONE! Along with top economy, Willys gives you double usefulness — a smooth, comfortable passenger car and, with seats removed, a big capacity cargo carrier. Come in and road-test this thrifty, dual-purpose car! WILLYS makes sense.“

The rugged Jeep Station Wagon is a great drive not only in Cuba’s countryside, but also in the dense traffic of Havana. Here, the high seating position helps keeping the overview, a trait that many fans of modern SUVs appreciate, too.

The Jeep Station Wagon was conceived around 1944, when it became foreseeable that the wartime production of the Jeep 4x4 would soon begin to slow down. With a typical Scandinavian approach to practicality, freshly appointed Willys-Overland president Charles E. Sorensen, a descendant of Danish immigrants, looked for a second mainstay for the company and commissioned industrial designer Brooks Stevens to create a new vehicle based on the military Jeep, to be launched in 1946.

Stevens proposed a closed station wagon, based on a lengthened Jeep 4x4 chassis. To save costs, the new vehicle should have an all-steel body and omit the rather expensive all-wheel drive. As Willys-Overland didn’t have in-house steel stamping, Stevens created “flat” body panels that could be cheaply produced by makers of household appliances, without the need for expensive automotive body tools.

The practical all-steel body of the 1946 Jeep was quite revolutionary, as it was much easier to produce and to maintain than the prevailing wooden construction. Thus, the Jeep influenced a new breed of station wagons that should emerge in the passenger car segment, starting with the 1949 Plymouth Suburban. In order to avoid scaring off the customers with the new construction principle, early Willys Station Wagons even received a three-tone paint job that resembled a traditional “Woodie.” 

To keep the Jeep ahead of the competition when all-steel wagons increasingly became common, all-wheel drive returned for 1950, together with a “facelift” that introduced the V-shaped front grille pictured here. This was the only visual modernization during the 19-year-long production run from 1946 through 1965. Otherwise, the Jeep Station Wagon remained looking virtually the same. Only the number and position of the horizontal bars in the Jeep's front grille changed with each model year. To know the year of production, you’ll need to count. This one is from 1953.

Its unparalleled combination of ultimate sturdiness and off-road capabilities in a rather economic vehicle made the Jeep Station Wagon a long-standing mainstay in the Jeep portfolio, and incidentally anticipated the modern SUV formula, decades before this car segment became widely popular.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

„More miles per gallon than anybody. And more.“

Here’s one of those cars that you would least expect to find in Cuba: a Japanese car from a time when the Iron Curtain was in full effect and Cuba was firmly embedded into the socialist camp? Unlikely. Yet, there are other surprising examples of the implausible. Considering that the Honda Civic was a smash hit around the world, and especially on the American market, it was only a matter of time until one of these little cars would find its way to the island, too.

Honda, since 1946 an established motorcycle manufacturer, had built cars before the Civic, but with little success. Outside Japan they weren’t well received, due to being expensive, having lackluster styling and being allegedly prone to defects. Honda even considered pulling the plug on automobile manufacturing, but decided to make one last effort to save the brand. The result, called Civic, should propel Honda to international fame, and made it the number one importer in the U.S..

The Civic certainly wasn’t the best car overall, but it did crucial things right. Above all, it arrived at the right moment: the oil crisis of 1973 made people run for economic cars and the Civic was among the thriftiest. It could achieve an EPA rating of 47mpg (5,0 l/100km) on the highway and 37mpg (6,4 l/100km) in the city. These are numbers that today, almost five decades later, can only be beaten by the thriftiest cars on the market. Such was the progress of the little Honda.

The key to this impressive fuel economy was utter austerity combined with intelligent engineering. The Civic was very light, tipping the scales at a mere 1,500lb (680kg). But there was a downside of lightweight construction and ultra-thin sheet metal. Soon, notorious rust problems severely threatened Honda’s good standing and lead to a massive recall in the U.S.: nearly 936,000 Civic got body panels and corroded suspension parts replaced. Dealers even bought many Civic back from their owners, because these repairs would not be economical. By handling the issue generously, the newcomer brand could ultimately restore the trust of its customers without damaging its reputation.

Ingenious engineering also helped Honda to ride the shockwaves of the increasing environmental consciousness, manifested by the Clean Air Act of 1970. The strict EPA standards for 1975 called for a 90% reduction in smog-boosting exhaust fumes, making catalytic converters a standard necessity on virtually every car in the U.S. henceforth, with the inevitable downsides: less power and higher list prices. To everyone’s surprise, Honda presented a new CVCC („Compound Vortex Combustion Chamber“) engine in 1974 that could meet the new standards without any catalyst device. This CVCC engine could also run on cheap leaded gas, increasing the Civic’s economic edge —and Honda‘s progressive image— even further. Considering the precarious fuel supply situation for Cuba’s private motorists today, these economic virtues of the little Honda sure are highly appreciated by its current chofer, too.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

„Big beauty in everything but price is this highly popular six-passenger Sedan with true de luxe finish throughout. As spirited in action as it is in appearance, this luxury traveler is also a budget-pleasing buy.”

In 1952, you could order your Buick in no less than 45 color combinations out of 21 body- and 6 roof colors. Quite a lot of hues, but probably not as many as the motley mix of shades that adorn our pictured Buick.

Since 1951, Buick’s entry level model was based on GM’s updated corporate „B-body“, sharing most of its sheet metal with Oldsmobile. The slab-sided „ponton“ body and the high shoulder line, interrupted only by a little dip to accentuate the rear fenders, made the Buick Special look in tune with the latest industry trend, and distinctive from the more prestigious Buicks that shared their larger „C-body“ with Cadillac, and had much more dramatic looking bodysides.

The 1952 Buick Special differed merely in cosmetic details from the previous year. Most notable outside was a different “sweep spear” trim design and the addition of small metal “tail fins” at the rear fenders.

Buick customers looking for a 4-door sedan could choose between two versions: a base version, Model 41, and the better appointed Deluxe Sedan, Model 41D, pictured here. A modest 46$ markup for the higher version made it an extremely popular upgrade with the affluent Buick clientele: 63,346 Deluxe Sedans left the factory in 1952, but only 137 base models. Which incidentally makes the cheaper „Plain Jane“ far more collectible today.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

“Chevy does beautifully by your budget! Take that Biscayne 2-Door up above. It’s fresh and fashionable, a full size family car with wide, soft-cushioned seats and wonderful visibility. With remarkable handling ease and road steadiness. A new kind of finish that’ll go years without waxing. With all power teams available, too, including a new 6 that saves and saves on gas. Yet, it’s Chevy’s lowest priced sedan!”

Chevrolet customers had to digest a lot in the late 1950s: three completely different designs in as many years meant constant surprise — and certainly didn’t help the resale values. Yet, they weren’t alone: in response to the stunningForward Look Chryslers of 1957, all GM styling went bonkers. 

At the dawn of the 1960s, Harley Earl’s three-decade long tenure as GM design chief climaxed in dramatic styling excess: no idea seemed too bizarre to warrant serious consideration, and each GM division seemingly tried to outpace their sister brands in flamboyance and uniqueness. This internal competition extended beyond the glossy surfaces. Suddenly you could get fuel injection, performance parts and big block V-8 engines even in a low-end Chevrolet. The concept of the divisions offering “A Car For Every Purse And Purpose” within a fine-spaced status ladder, conceived by GM president Alfred P. Sloan in the 1920s, had considerably blurred. And Chevrolet certainly profited from the mess. 

Chevrolet could sell more than 1.4 million full-size cars in all body styles, even if these models grew bigger in a time when “compactcars had become massively popular. Compared to the previous model year, the 1959 Chevrolet gained roughly two inches (50mm) in length, width and wheelbase, but was an inch lower, true to Harley Earls mantra of designing longer, lower and wider looking cars. The “X-frame” backbone and axles of the short-lived 1958 generation were carried over with unchanged track width, which makes the wheels look a little lost under the bloated body. Obviously, Pontiac didn’t permit Chevrolet the use of their “Wide-Track” chassis. Well, co-operativeness is limited when the competition is fierce...

Saturday, 23 May 2020

“Authentic. Absolutely. For decades, ARO 24 has thrived on what others would call abuse. Originally designed as a military vehicle for the Romanian army, this SUV has been through just about every rough terrain and weather condition on Earth. Pretty pictures, flowery words and silly selling statements are what you hear from the other guys. ARO says Get Down To Earth.”

It’s neither a Jeep nor a Land Rover, but it’s equally tough as nails — meet the ARO 243. ARO, short for “Auto Romania”, began its existence as a repair shop for army vehicles. In 1957, the state owned enterprise began producing licensed copies of the Russian Jeep GAZ-69. The first series of hand-assembled Jeeps soon was “upgraded” with better engines and transferred into mass production. By 1975, nearly 80,000 GAZ-69 copies had left the factory.

In 1972, after six years of development, ARO finally launched their own model, called Series 24, which spawned numerous body styles, identified by the last digit: the pictured 243 three-door vehicle, for instance, was accompanied by the 242 pickup and the 244 four-door version.

The design followed a general dogma that was common for most socialist products, sporting very simple shapes that were easy to produce and an utterly rational character rather than emotional aesthetics. Unnecessary embellishment? Njet, comrade! On the other hand, this simplicity makes the car look timeless in hindsight, and renders it an interesting counterpart to the Land Rover or Toyota 4x4 vehicles of similar vintage.

The ARO proved to be a success. Before 1989, around 90 percent of the production was exported to 110 countries, providing the Romanian government with desperately needed hard currency. The ARO’s toughness didn’t pass unnoticed abroad, and soon foreign companies began to license-build ARO vehicles. In Portugal the “Portaro” became the second-most popular vehicle of domestic production, while Italians drove the “Enduro X4”, produced by ACM. ARO Series 24 vehicles were also assembled in Manaus, Brazil. Common to these versions was the immense technical improvement over the original, mainly by providing modern engines.

The end of the communist era also was the downfall of ARO, which slowly dwindled into bankruptcy in 2006. Incidentally, the final nail in the coffin came from a Cuban-born businessman, John Perez, who already had failed to establish a franchise ARO dealership network in the U.S. in 1998. The Romanian government sold a major share of ARO to John Perez in 2003. But instead of investing in the venture, El Cubano and the authorities got invested in mutual accusations and court action, which resulted in the end of the company.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

" '56 FORD . . . the fine car at half the fine-car price."

The color-matching pedestrian nicely complements the two-tone colors of this 1956 Ford from Santa Clara in central Cuba. Being the entrance ticket to Ford's premium lineup for 1956, the Fairlane Club Sedan, stylistically, was merely a glossed-over base model and nowhere near as daring as its 2-door sibling Crown Victoria, higher up the pricing ladder.

Down to its fender skirts, the Ford looks quite original at first glance, but car buffs will notice that the “Sweep Spear” side trim is taken from a 1955 Ford, and less elaborate than the 1956 version. While the brightwork details changed yearly, the tooling for the sheet metal underneath remained identical, which makes it easy to interchange these trim pieces.

Exterior changes for 1956 were limited to a reworked front grille, slightly bigger taillight lenses and other trim detail alterations. The notable news that year, however, was a restyled interior. Ford offered a “Lifeguard Design” package: novel safety features such as seatbelts and a padded instrument panel were now available at extra cost, but remained a slow seller.

Friday, 1 May 2020

„Only rarely does a new car appear on the scene so brilliantly designed that it has no counterpart. The Swept-Wing 58 by Dodge is such a car. It is a car of noble proportions — clean of line, daring in sweep, low in silhouette — beautifully simple in every detail. You can see this simplicity in the smart new grille, handsomely-styled and in perfect taste. In the flat, taut hood. In the vast Sweep-View windshield. The smooth, unbroken line from bold Twin-Set Headlights to soaring Swept-Wings. Expect to see a great many people step out in a low-slung Swept-Wing Dodge in the months ahead. Wouldn’t it be fun to be one of them?“

Coming at you full steam ahead, the 1958 Dodge really looks impressive. The fender badge and trim details indicate that this is a Custom Royal, the flagship model of Dodge’s 1958 lineup. All Dodges shared the same body, and differed merely in trim and engine choice.

The second generation of Virgil Exner’s „Forward Look“ design direction featured cars with even more dramatic proportions than their predecessors. These Mopars easily won the unofficial industry-wide contest for designing the longest, lowest and widest looking cars. But the obsession with a low silhouette required some compromises. As large as these cars were outside, you can notice, with passengers inside, that headroom and an airy cabin certainly were not their forte.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

"New styling that stays new. Fresh, new 1954 styling outside and in makes Chevrolet even more of a stand-out. And there's an exciting choice of rich new colors that harmonize with the new and more colorful interiors."

Somehow, the advertisement claim fits well to this colorful Chevy from Havana. The chrome moldings around the windows and the holes for the missing chrome decor in the front fender indicate that it's a "Two-Ten" Sedan, the intermediate trim-level of Chevrolet's lineup for 1954. The new models, introduced in 1953 and face-lifted for 1954, sported a slightly boxier design than their predecessors, with improvements in packaging, such as larger trunk openings and greater shoulder room for the passengers. The tried-and-trusted "Blue Flame" 6-cylinder engines still had to serve, which gave Chevrolet a disadvantage to Ford, who just had introduced a popular V-8 option. Anyway, Chevrolets engineers were already working on a V-8 engine for 1955, which would become a smash hit with the customers.

Monday, 30 March 2020

„Proud symbol of integrity is the three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz. It is the hallmark of excellence on any road in the world. You are assured that when you motor behind this distinguished insignia, you drive an automobile incorporating the most advanced engineering possible to modern technology, the most skilled craftsmanship possible to human hands, and design that is always commensurate with the best taste. You are driving the car of connoisseurs.“

Incredible but true: this Mercedes 220 already whisked through the busy traffic of Havana’s Vedado district when Fidel Castro and his posse began to nationalize the Cuban economy in 1960, thus causing trouble with the northern neighbor and effectively ending the import of foreign cars to the island.

Sealed beam headlights show that this Mercedes was an export model for the American market which was distributed in Cuba by one of the local Studebaker-Packard dealers: C. Cisnero & CIA S.A., located in Havana’s Edificio Studebaker, and Galmar Motors S.A., at Vedado’s seafront, between calle Principe and calle Marina.

When presented in summer 1959, the new Mercedes instantly made its competitors look dated, and finally gave Mercedes a car that matched the prestige of the successful Opel models on the German Autobahn.

Although it looked very different to its predecessor, many components of the so-called „Baureihe W 111“ were carried over from the earlier models. 6-cylinder engines came standard, and gave the car the smoothness and zest that matched its prestige ambitions.

The clean „Ponton“ body and the well-balanced proportions made the Mercedes 220 look truly modern, and in hindsight pretty timeless, too. Only the subdued tailfins were an obvious concession to the automotive fashion of the time. Accordingly, being proud of their rational, engineering-driven mindset, the company only referred to them as being „parking aids“.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

„Many Significant Changes are found throughout the new B-58 Buick, since a great many projects long under development suddenly came to full flower this year, in this car: the Dynastar Grille, the clean, fresh styling, the ‚velvet wall‘ sound silencing, the new Quadrajet Carburetor, the Air-Cooled Aluminum Brakes,* and many others. Best thing any knowing car buyer can do is drop in on his Buick dealer at the first opportunity to take a good look at these B-58’s, then drive one and let it speak for itself.“

The "Airborn '58 Buick" is waiting for its driver in the early morning sun. It's quite a rare sight to see a vintage American car registered to a state owned enterprise. This car belongs to the "Empresa La Vega" in Sancti Spiritus, and while the typical socialist company cars are Ladas or other models of Russian origin, the honored driver of this vintage Buick can do his business in style.

The Cuban government uses to seize the cars (and all other properties) of cuban citizens that leave the country, and put it in the hands of the "pueblo" Well, hardly ever the "pueblo" receives the donations... We guess in this was way the Buick Special found its new, public owner.

1958 was a difficult year for Buick: launched amidst the first post-war recession, the new lineup was miles away from the customer's expectations, as „compact cars“ became all the rage. The Buick's dimensions and design, instead, were a typical excess at the climax of the "chrome-and-tailfins" era, and while the catalog promised: "the first big car that is light on it's feet", in reality these cars were heavy-handed and drove accordingly. Less than 250,000 Buicks found new owners in 1958, down from 405,000 cars in 1957, and a massive drop from the 740,000 cars that were sold in the record-breaking year of 1955.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

„From the luxurious ‚jewel-case’ interiors to the gem-like precision of its fine engineering, quality stands out everywhere in this great Plymouth! Now, more than ever, it’s the low-priced car most like the high-priced cars. It offers you a long list of ‚exclusives‘ in the low-priced field, and many features not available even in cars costing hundreds of dollars more!“

The „big“ Plymouth for 1951 had a lot to offer: a solid and durable construction, plenty of headroom and loads of value for the money. One thing that it hadn’t, though, was fashionable styling. Unfortunately, this was precisely what car buyers longed for in the early 1950s. Others delivered, but Plymouth not.

Not that the redesign for 1951 wasn’t a significant improvement: the Plymouth designers, directed by studio head Henry King, had worked miracles to let the angular “Keller boxes” look sleeker and rather modern. The cars received a completely new front end, but the stodgy silhouette of the previous generation remained. Compared to the Plymouth’s more fashionable competitors, it becomes obvious why these cars weren’t so popular.

But, like all Chrysler Corp. models of this era, the Plymouth excelled in sound engineering, and was a great choice for sensible motorists that turned the penny twice before buying. Which might be a reason why so many are still roaming Cuban roads today.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

„Opel‘s trim 5-passenger Rekord sedan makes good motoring sense from every point of view. The styling is smooth and pleasant — nothing faddish about it. Performance is smart with especially good response at low speed as well as effortless cruising at higher speeds. The Rekord is rugged. Its unitized body construction can take a pounding from rough terrain and never let out a squeak. It’s a ‚tight‘ car, snugly put together by people who take pride in their work.“

If restored with proper funds, Cuban vintage cars actually can look quite amazing. Rarely have we seen one in such nice condition as this Opel Rekord from Ciego de Avila. Only the Lada engine under the bonnet would be something to gripe about.

When presented in August 1957, the new Opel Rekord P (P as in „Panorama“) sure tuned heads, introducing flamboyant American flair to the rather austere German automotive landscape. Opel was a subsidiary of GM, and naturally the cars were developed in close connection with the Detroit mothership, which meant sharing similar design themes, too. In Germany, wraparound windows and optional two-tone paint were ultra-fancy features, and previously unseen in that segment. In a country dominated by VW Beetle and spartan micro cars, Opel ownership was definitely an achievement, and became a symbol of social rise, which proved to be very popular: more than 500,000 copies were produced in the three-year production run of this generation.

The flamboyant styling, in return, helped to make the Opel easily digestible for the American taste, when GM began importing cars from Germany and England in the late 1950s, in riposte to the sudden popularity of “compact” cars.

Friday, 17 January 2020

“Years Ahead in Engineering Means Miles Ahead on The Road”

There’s not much left of the original beauty of this Porsche 356 from Havana. A makeshift windshield and upright headlights make the car look like a caricature. It’s a far cry from the elegant lines that characterize one of the most intriguing designs of the 1950s. „Re-creation“ quickly comes to mind, but this is a genuine Porsche, with correct dimensions, door handles and shutlines of doors and bonnet. Amazing how small changes can make a massive difference in automotive aesthetics.

This Porsche was once a 356 Speedster, as the odd step at the bottom of the crafted-on windshield indicates: while the sheet metal of all other 356 versions had a soft blend to the glass in that area, only the Speedster metal ran straight under the (once detachable) windshield frame.

As odd as it seems for being the most collectable 356 version today, back then the Speedster was actually the cheapest Porsche you could buy. Max Hoffmann, the U.S. American Porsche importer, advertised a net price of 2,999$ in 1958, 450$ less than the coupe and 700$ less than the regular convertible.

The Porsche’s owner, who arrived a moment after we took out the camera, told us that it in fact is a 1958 Speedster. “Unfortunately my car has had accidents before“, he said, „It has lost many of its details over time, and spare parts are all but unobtainable here.” Well, “inspired by memory” would probably be the appropriate term for their crude recreation.

His claim „¡Hay solo tres en Cuba!“ there are only three, however, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Particulars come from Orlando Morales, regarded as Cuba’s automotive archivist: he keeps account of 30 Porsches that were legally imported to the island. How many have survived is unclear. Some sources cite up to eight survivors, but no matter how many there are, every Porsche 356 definitely belongs to the unicorns on Cuban roads today.

When new, the agile Porsches were universally popular among motorsport connoisseurs. Wealthy Cubans sure could afford the pricey little German sports cars, and the Grand Prix races of 1957, 1958 and 1960 certainly fueled the fanatic admiration of motorsports on the island. The last international road race, held in June 1962, even saw a one-two finish of Porsche 356 GT Speedsters — a triumph of Porsche’s lightweight approach over the powerful but heavy elite of Motor Racing, but never to be repeated in Cuba.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

„You see the new personality of the 1957 Pontiac Laurentian with the first thrilling look at the graceful, longer, lower silhouette. From bumper to road-hugging bumper there is a new dash — a new sensational feeling of vitality and color that makes Laurentian the car with the most sweeping change of all.“

„Laurentian“ is a badge that only sounds familiar to Canadian motorists, and makes our pictured Pontiac an international affair: an American car that was built in Canada to be sold in Cuba. Before 1959, the wealthy island was the biggest export market for the American manufacturers. But many cars that were sold here actually arrived from Canada.

Canada was a tough market for the protagonists from Detroit since the early days of the automobile. The Canadian government applied tariffs up to 35% on imported cars and parts, which forced the car makers to set up their own factories within the territory of the northern neighbor. Chrysler and Ford produced in Windsor, just across the Detroit river, while Henry Durant had established its Canadian business together with the Laughlin Motor Company of Oshawa near Toronto, and since 1915 all Canadian Chevrolet models were produced there.

Economic pressure spawns creativity, and soon the manufacturers began offering their pricier mid-level lines based on their budget models: Canadian Dodges and DeSotos were merely Plymouths with distinctive front ends, while Pontiacs became Chevrolets in disguise. The advantage of that practice were lower production costs, which made the Canadian cars great for price-sensitive export markets. New entry-level cars sold in Cuba generally came from Canada, hence today you can find DeSoto, Dodge or Pontiac badges that didn’t exist in the U.S., driving alongside their „original“ peers from Detroit.

Back to the „Laurentian“: aside from the sheet metal, this Pontiac is essentially a Chevrolet, as engine, drivetrain, chassis and most body parts are 100% Chevy. While they certainly looked like Pontiacs, these Canadian cars were 5 inches shorter than their Detroit-built counterparts. And you could still order a 6-cylinder engine (from Chevrolet, of course), that was missing from the American Pontiac catalogue since 1955.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

"Take the wheel! That's the only way to get acquainted with the big new 1946 Ford and the many improvements which make it, in our opinion, the finest car in the low–priced field.“

Right after World War II, only few motorists could “take the wheel”, as America‘s civil car production still needed to ramp up after nearly three years of agony by government decree. The car market faced an incredible demand and acquiring a new car was extremely difficult even if you had all the money. Who got in possession of the newest Ford, though, got a fine and well-engineered automobile. A matured one, too, because it was based on a design for 1941.

Under the direction of Ford’s styling chief Bob Gregorie, the redesign for 1946 was principally carried out by Willis P. Wagner, who had a key role in trim and detail design of all Ford models though 1948. The modifications were merely meant to make the aging prewar construction look “new”. The cars now featured a bold front grille with massive horizontal bars, while everything else was similar to their prewar predecessors. Early 1946 Fords were even assembled with leftover parts from 1942.

The heavy-handed front grille design made the new Fords arguably look wider, but a bit ungainly, too. Accordingly soon nicknamed “Fat Fendered Fords”, these cars certainly weren't the latest fancy in automotive styling. But they excelled in dependability and a super-solid build quality — virtues that mattered in 1946. And of course in today’s Cuba, too, where many of these Fords keep on driving in a magnificent shape, as this fully trimmed example from Sancti Spiritus nicely demonstrates.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

„We dare you to find its peer . . . because this one simply has no competitors. There isn’t another vehicle on the road that can match its historic lineage, classic open air design or lively spirit!”

The Jeep; famous and ubiquitous around the world, and of course in Cuba as well. While the majority of Jeeps on Cuban roads is of pre-revolutionary vintage, there are quite a few newer models around. Most of them are registered to state-owned enterprises and serve alongside other classic 4x4 vehicles. Despite the embargo and the Jeep’s US-american provenience, the Cuban government got ahold of Jeeps wherever and whenever they could, because the sturdy 4x4 so perfectly fitted to the needs of rural Cuba. This example from Trinidad was the export model CJ-8, built between 1981 and 1986 in 27,792 copies, and is in private hands.

The Jeep CJ (as in „Civilian Jeep“) commenced as a continuation of the military versions, merely adapted for civilian use. Since 1945, Willys Overland introduced various civil “successors” of the war-born Jeep, but the most popular formula remained the tough original Jeep, and therefore the CJ series was kept in production until 1986. From the first CJ-2A, which was almost identical to the wartime military version, to the final evolution CJ-8, pictured here, the Jeep changed significantly and became more “luxurious”, but always kept its rugged go-anywhere formula.

Friday, 22 November 2019

„On the facts alone a Morris Oxford stands out as a world-beater, with more of everything you want most in motoring: more space, more power, greater fuel economy. Get to know this brilliant car — soon!“

Tiny by American standards, but a full-fledged family saloon in postwar Britain, this Morris Oxford Series III from Havana nicely illustrates the different standard of postwar motoring across the Atlantic. Yet, looks can be deceiving: the little Morris was in many aspects more modern than its American counterparts. Case in point: unibody construction rather than the American body-on-frame layout meant package advantages that made the tiny car surprisingly roomy inside.

Morris Motors, a company with excellent image as a manufacturer of reliable and economic cars, fell victim to the consolidation of the British car industry in postwar years. In 1952, Morris merged with its biggest rival, Austin Motors, to form the British Motor Group (BMC), and henceforth produce badge-engineered cars under the various BMC brand names.

Being part of BMC meant for Morris to share parts with its companion brands. The Oxford’s 1.5-litre engine and drivetrain, for instance, came from Austin, where it powered the „sister model“, Austin Cambridge. Because the styling of the Morris Oxford was done before the merger with Austin, both cars thankfully didn’t look alike, even if they shared their underpinnings.

The little Morris finally was launched as Oxford Series II in 1954. The facelift of 1956, called Series III, featured a new bonnet and sharper sculpted rear fenders, while a bigger 1,5L (90.9 cu-in) Austin engine with 52 hp under the bonnet gave the car much needed grunt. Yet, a top speed of 125km/h (78 mph) and 26 seconds from 0 to 60 miles were not exactly breathtaking on either side of the pond.

After two years and around 60,000 copies produced, the Oxford Series III was replaced by the new Pininfarina-styled successor in 1958. Now, the badge-engineering truly showed, as now all BMC models looked alike. However, the outgoing Oxford Series III still had a surprisingly long life ahead: the rights of the little Morris were sold to India, where the car stayed in production for the next 56 years as Hindustan Ambassador.

Watch the Morris Oxford along with a fleet of BMC cars testing on the German Autobahn in this nice period video, here.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

"Proved and approved around the world."

Ford's marketing went literally international in 1958, selling the cars in advertisements as "the first car ever to use the whole world as a test track". We reckon that in terms of long-term qualities, this 1958 Ford has passed the test. Used for many years as a daily commuter between Sancti Spiritus and the small town of Jatibonico, it might have lost a lot of it's beauty but still is a reliable transport. Ford's lineup for 1958 certainly featured heavy proportions and loads of chrome, just like most cars in this year. But compared to the increasingly gaudy looking competition from Chevrolet, Buick or Chrysler, the Ford Custom 300 still looks fairly rational.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

"It's shaped to the new American taste with a lean, clean silhouette, crisp new contours, beautifully restrained accents. It has a bright new sheen — a new kind of finish that keeps its luster without waxing for up to three years. In fact, Chevy's new right down to its tires!"

Even with plastic hubcaps and aftermarket mirrors this Chevrolet Impala from Cienfuegos is still a dandy looking car. "Impala", introduced in 1958 as a special trim option, replaced the "Bel Air" at the top end of Chevrolet's lineup in 1959, and introducing the unique "floating" hardtop roof with its technically demanding wraparound rear window was perhaps the smartest way to flaunt the news. Conservative buyers could still spec their Impala with a conventional roof, however.

Chevrolet shared this novel roof design with the other GM divisions, just as they all shared the front doors which originated from the 1959 Buick. Because GM's bean counters demanded cost saving measures, all 1959 GM models should feature the same, strangely dropping shoulder line right behind the A-post.

Chevrolet's copywriters weren't shy on superlatives to make the new models tempting for the customers: "The 1959 Chevrolet is more than new — it's your kind of car. Shaped to reward your new taste in style. Designed to anticipate your desire for greater roominess and comfort. Engineered to bring you greater safety, economy, ease of handling and smoothness of ride. Chevrolet's new Slimline design brings entirely new poise and proportion to automobile styling. Inside the new and roomier Body by Fisher you'll find truly tasteful elegance. And you'll see more through the big new Vista-Panoramic windshield that curves overhead."

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

"Meet the sit-up-and-notice car of the year! Big! Beautiful! Packed with power and loaded with value from its 280-h.p. Rocket Engine to its 17-cubic-foot trunk storage area. Everywhere you'll find that extra measure of Oldsmobile quality: handsomely appointed interiors with deep-cushioned seats; Magic-Mirror Finishes; four-coil spring suspension on a road-leveling 123-inch wheelbase. Drive a '64 Dynamic 88 soon. You'll love it! It's that kind of car!"

This Oldsmobile from Havana's lovely Miramar district is one of those American automobiles that seem out of place in Cuba, as they are from a time when the U.S. trade embargo against the island was already in full effect. The words of owner Olvidio make the provenance of his car all the more interesting: "Fidel, el comandante en jefe, bought twelve of these Oldsmobiles for the bodyguards of his guardia de espalda. Mine is the only hardtop of the bunch, while the others were regular sedans." It needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but Fidel Castro's affinity to Oldsmobiles is well documented, and makes this scenario imaginable. The potent yet understated looking Oldsmobiles would be a perfect choice for service in Castro's escort.

The Oldsmobile for 1964 was a typical design of the Bill Mitchell era at General Motors. Mitchell preferred a look that he called „London Tailoring“: clean, simple volumes, juxtaposed with crisp edges and an emphasis on horizontal lines to stretch the car optically. Yet, their rather understated styling didn't show that the Oldsmobiles were among the most potent cars in the GM portfolio. When new, the pictured 1964 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 came standard with a 280hp "Rocket V-8" engine, which years ago had to make way for the Ssangyong Diesel that powers it today.