Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

MOVIN’ THE METAL, SIXTY YEARS AGO

PART OF the charm of leafing through old R&Ts is car advertising. Here’s a sample from the 1950s, with a caveat that addresses and phone numbers are likely no longer relevant. Nor are any prices.

The Morgan was, and remains today, the “last of the traditional sports cars.” This Two Seater Drop Head Coupe had rollup windows in lieu of the Roadster’s side curtains and a top that could be folded completely aft or with only its forward portion rolled up.

My first car, a 1958 English Ford Consul convertible, had similar options for its top. With side windows up, the fore portion rolled, and the aft portion left in place, this gave what seemed like the world’s best sunroof.

There was also a Morgan Four-Passenger Drophead Coupe, produced in such limited numbers that it acquired the nickname Snob Mog among Morganists. The Four-Passenger Family Tourer in our family until a few years ago had, through vagaries of its maintenance/restoration, a Snob Mog interior. (One giveaway is a gearbox tunnel that’s carpeted, not just rubber-mat-covered.)

The Arnolt-Bristol has already made appearances here at SimanaitisSays. I’ve always admired its Bertone styling and Bristol engine, a powerplant flinched fair and square from BMW after World War II.

I’ve had the pleasure of driving a few Arnolt-Bristols, one in a vintage racing setting. This was at a Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, sanctioned by the Vintage Sports Car Club of America. In my first visit there, VSCCA’s John Schieffelin let me drive a few practice laps around the Schenley Park circuit in his Arnolt-Bristol, appropriately painted white with a green racing stripe.

Briggs Cunningham was a sportsman extraordinaire, a successful America’s Cup yachtsman and renowned among sports car people for building and racing American cars successfully in international competition.

A “Continuation Series” Cunningham C4R. Image by Dottie Clendenin.

I’ve driven a couple original Cunninghams ever so briefly, and had rather more experience in a latter-day museum-quality recreation of the 1952 C4R Le Mans roadster. The C4R was honored with primo parking at Tutti’s Montecito, next to our borrowed Jaguar convertible when Wife Dottie and I were delivering the Cunningham to a Monterey Historic weekend.

Ferrari and Phil Hill were familiar to R&T readers. Phil was selling this 1951 212 Barchetta with particularly impressive documentation: It had been tested in the November 1952 R&T, got from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and yet was “perfectly behaved in city traffic.”

I’m the fellow sticking out of the Barchetta’s cockpit; my navigator is its trusting owner, Sherman Wolf.

I had a wonderful drive of this very car in the 1996 Colorado Grand, thanks to its owner and Ferrari expert Sherman Wolf, rest his soul. The Barchetta had run at Le Mans in 1951; Phil was its second owner and placed first in the car at Torrey Pines in 1952.

The Studillac was Long Island auto dealer Bill Frick’s idea of combining high style with high performance. Designer Raymond Loewy’s Studebaker Starliner was stunning. A Cadillac V-8 of the mid-1950s could produce 210 hp (compared with a 1954 Studebaker inline-six’s 85 hp or V-8’s 127).

An automotive tidbit: James Bond’s pal Felix Leiter drove a Studillac in Diamonds Are Forever.

I’ve lusted for a Bristol 405 as the perfect gentleman’s four-door sports sedan. The 405, built between 1955 and 1958, offered the warmth of English coachwork combined with technical ken of the Bristol Aeroplane Company—what a sweet combination.

Bristol 450 Le Mans car. Illustration by Richard Corson.

I’ve never driven a Bristol 405. However, I once saw one fleetingly on a classic car tour and, recently, Vicar Sidney Chambers got a lift in one in TV’s Grantchester. Last, I have a Richard Corson original of the Bristol 450 Le Mans sibling. Yet another way to savor the charm of favorite automobiles. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

5 comments on “MOVIN’ THE METAL, SIXTY YEARS AGO

  1. carmacarcounselor
    August 9, 2017

    Dennis:
    Great memories! I think I mentioned that when I first came to California after discharge from the Army in 1971 I briefly lived with my folks a few houses down from Dottie on Lido Island in Newport Beach. I’ll be doing my usual thing at Monterey next week. I hope to see you there.
    BTW, how did Bristol get away with all those car names with a zero in the middle? I’ve been telling everyone in The Vault at the Petersen that the 911 Porsche was changed from 901 because Peugeot had all those numbers Trademarked.

    • simanaitissays
      August 9, 2017

      I too recall the Peugeot squabble with Porsche using a middle 0. Could it be that Peugeot had lingering feelings about Les Boches?

  2. carmacarcounselor
    August 9, 2017

    Okay. Wiki’d it. “Krauts” we’d have called them. Hoping those pejoratives are fading.

    • simanaitissays
      August 9, 2017

      Agreed about fading pejoratives. In France in the 50s and 60s, they were still alive.

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