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DURING THE 1950s, General Mills cereal brand Wheaties—even then “The Breakfast of Champions”—had a neat program of offering car emblems as premiums. Thirty-one of these embossed and painted tin badges were distributed in boxes of Wheaties cereal and also available in three sets, each set for 25¢ (“No stamps please”) and a Wheaties boxtop.
Here is my collection of these badges, with commentary on the marques. Data come from The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars 1895 to the Present, edited by G.N. Georgano. Subsequent name changes, for example, DaimlerChrysler, Chrysler-Fiat, are ignored. Dates indicate the marque’s actual use, not trademark ownership.
Back in the 1950s, Plymouth was the starter-car in the Chrysler lineup, then Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler. Wife Dottie had a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook Club Coupe in 1960. At the same time, friend Duane Polo owned a 1957 Chrysler 300 C convertible—lucky him!
Putting his countrymen on four wheels, Herbert Austin was England’s Henry Ford (www.wp.me/p2ETap-pq). I remember the Hillman Minx convertible as a sporty little car with an even sportier name. The “Austin” trademark is now owned by China’s Nanjing Automotive; Riley, by Germany’s BMW. As its name suggests, Sunbeam Talbot had ties with the French Talbot and English Sunbeam.
Henry J. (what a neat name for another car!) Kaiser was a millionaire U.S. shipbuilder during World War II. In fact, Vanport, Oregon, provided housing for workers at his Portland shipyard; the land is now Portland International Raceway, acquired by the city in 1960. Kaiser cars were always a bit closer to the truly bizarre than competitors of the era.
I thought highly of 1950s’ Nashes because their front seats reclined into beds. But as an enthusiast, I lusted after a Nash-Healey, a joint venture with Donald Healey. Among its competition successes at Le Mans were 4th overall in 1950, 6th in 1951, 3rd in 1952 and 11th in 1953. A Nash-Healey placed 7th overall in the 1952 Mille Miglia.
Packard is one of the Grand Marques; the Warren, Ohio, Packard Electric Co. concentrated on light bulbs before spinning off a car division in 1902.
Studebaker began making wagons in 1852. Its first cars in 1902 were electrics. A merger with Packard in 1954 bought it only ten more years; a Canadian deal, two more beyond that.
Lancia built one of the first cars with a unitary chassis, the Lambda, in 1923. In the mid-1950s, the company’s Formula 1 effort competed with—and later folded into—Ferrari’s. Since 1969, Lancia has been part of the Fiat Group.
Renault is one of the world’s oldest automakers. Today, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is the fourth largest automaker in the world. I almost had a 1957 Renault 4CV as my first car; my dad’s wiser head prevailed.
Willys’ history stretches from the Standard Wheel Co., Terre Haute, Indiana, to today’s Jeep (a Registered Trademark of Chrysler Group LLC, a consolidated subsidiary of Fiat). During World War II, Willys-Overland and Ford built the small military vehicle originating as a 4 x 4 Bantam (Austin op. cit.) and forever revered as the Jeep®. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013