Thursday, November 14, 2019

Some Three-Door Sports Cars

Two-passenger sports cars are impractical when it comes to carrying things besides people.  Most can handle a couple of grocery bags or even a small suitcase or two for short vacations.  But household items can be beyond their capability.  For that reason, if one is determined to buy a sports car, yet can only afford to run one car, then a sports car with extra carrying capacity might make sense.

That might be why during the last third of the last century some sports cars appeared with fixed metal tops and an aft, hatchback type door.  Three such cars are treated here.

The first example is the MGB GT hatchback produced 1965-1980. (The roadster dates from 1962. Wikipedia entry for the MGB is here.)  According to the link, Pininfarina was responsible for the GT styling.

Next is the Volvo P1800 ES, a station wagon version of the coupé sports car (background here).  The sports cars were produced 1961-1973, but the ES version lasted only two model years, 1972-1973.

The most recent of the three is the BMW Z3 M Coupé, produced 1998-2002.  The roadster was produced 1996-2002.  Wikipedia entry here.

Images below are either factory publicity or cars listed for sale, unless noted.


* * * * * MGB * * * * *

A 1963 MGB, a roadster style but with roll-up windows.

A MGB GT with its airy passenger greenhouse.

Side view showing how neatly the Pininfarina firm grafted the coupé ingredients to the basic MGB body.

Rear quarter view showing the hatchback door.  Many years ago a co-worker let me test-drive his GT when I was sports car shopping.  I had no problem with the styling, but the cramped driver area made me veto the MGB and I bought a Porsche 914 instead.

* * * * * Volvo P1800 * * * * *

1961 Volvo P1800 Coupé, Hyman Ltd. photo.  By the time the ES came along,  P1800s had been lightly facelifted.

1973 Volvo P1800 ES.

This side view makes it quite clear that the ES is more a staton wagon than a hatchback.  The aft side window is surprisingly long: I'd be tempted to make it a two-piece affair with a forward-sloping divider aligned above the after edge of the rear wheel.

Volvo advertising clearly stressed the station wagon aspect of the ES.

* * * * * BMW Z3 * * * * *

1996 BMW Z3 sports car.

1999 BMW Z3 M Coupé.  The greenhouse grafted onto the roadster-type body seems awkward from this angle.

The design details are professionally done.  But the problem has to do with the small size of the car and the the proportions of its main elements.  For example, the long, low hoodline and comparatively tall greenhouse extending to the rear of the car do not relate well.  The dipped fenderline inherited from the roadster results in side windows that seem too large.  A rising fenderline could cure some of this, but would have been too expensive to implement: apparently the budget for the Coupé actually was quite tight.

Therefore, the Coupé has to count as a design failure.  Seen on the streets and roads, they never looked right to me.  Not surprising that only 1,112 were built.

Monday, November 11, 2019

1937 Delage Aérosport in the Studebaker Museum

In September I visited the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana where Studebaker cars and trucks were made for much of the firm's existence.

Not all the cars on display were Studebakers. Most surprising to me was a 1937 Delage D8 Aérosport coupé that was on loan from the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  I wrote about Aérosports and related models here, so I thought it would be worthwhile to present a set of photos I took of the one in South Bend.  It is an impressive design.

Let's give it as much of a walkaround as its placement allowed.


The exhaust pipes are only on the car's right side.

The cars pictured in my linked post all had bumpers, but they are lacking here.  Note the sculpting around the headlights.

After World War 2 Delage abandoned the traditional grille seen here.  That's a Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow in the left background.  For a few years Studebaker owned Pierce-Arrow.

Left side, sans exhaust pipes.

Rear quasi-quarter view showing the decorative, semi-faux tail fin.  I think it wasn't necessary, though a windsplit of some kind would have been.

Although this  Aérosport has a solid roof, the windsplit emerges well towards the rear: no carryover to the front, because the windshield is a flat, one-piece affair and not divided and V'd.  Note the sculpting at the rear.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Rover P4's Big Facelift

By the 1949 model year nearly all American cars had received a postwar redesign.  The exception was Packard, which got a major facelift in an attempt to appear "postwar."

Conditions were different in England.  The war had drained its economy, shortages were rampant, and the Labour government had the automobile industry focus on exports if they wished to enhance their steel quotas.  Even there, postwar designs began to appear, but more slowly than in the USA.  One such, the Rover P4, was announced on 28 September 1949 at the Earls Court car show.

The Wikipedia entry on the P4 is here.  It notes that the new styling was influenced by the sensational (at the time) 1947 Studebaker.  In particular, the trunk (boot) sloped distinctly downwards toward the rear.

There was a minor 1952 facelift involving a new grille.  A more extensive facelift, actually a "tail lift" marked the 1955 model year.  This was made under the direction of Rover's new (in every sense) stylist David Bache.  The trunk was raised, somewhat squaring off the rear end, and a three-piece curved backlight was added.  Thereafter, styling changes to the P4 line were minimal.


A rusty 1947 Studebaker up for sale.

And here is a 1950-vintage Rover P4 seen from the same angle.  The details of the two cars' aft ends differ, but the theme/spirit is the same.

Side view showing the angle of the slope.

Early P4s' grilles featured horizontal bars and a central fog light, creating the nickname "Cyclops."  This was a design mistake because input of cooling air to the radiator was insufficient.

To fix the cooling problem 1952 P4s lost the central fog light and grille bars were made vertical, as on the earlier P2 and P3 Rovers,

This photo shows the raised trunk profile of the 1955 facelift.

Here is a view of the enlarged rear window.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Auto Union's Prewar Wanderer W23 and W24 Models

World War 2 put an end to Germany's Wanderer automobile brand.  It was based in Chemnitz, renamed Karl Marx Stadt during the East German regime.  Its facilities were bombed out during the war, and the remains of the automobile industry in the postwar Russian occupation zone (the later DDR) were concentrated elsewhere.

Wanderer, as explained here, was an old company whose automobile assets became part of Auto Union in 1932.

The first Auto Union based Wanderers appeared  around 1937.  The main models were the four-cylinder W24 and the six-cylinder W23.  Their respective German Wikipedia entries are here and here.  I'm linking to German language sources here and below because they provide more information than do entries in English.  In at least one case, no English link is available, but you can link from the German to the English where possible.

As best I can tell, Wanderers were mid-range cars in Auto Union's lineup.  DKWs were more entry-level while the Audi and Horch brands were for affluent buyers during the 1930s.  In the images below I tried to pair those Wanderers with their likely competition.  However, my information base is pretty thin in that regard, so comments by knowledgeable readers offering better information are welcome.

Late-1930s Wanderer styling was similar to 1935-36 American designs, but with a slight Deutscher accent.


Wanderer W23 Cabiolet by Gläser

Wanderer W23 sedan

Wanderer W24 2-door sedan
W24s were shorter than W23s and had flat, rather than V'd windshields.

Wanderer W24 2-door sedan, high rear view
Trunk access was from the inside.

Wanderer W24 4-door sedan
Windows were larger than the norm of those days.

Wanderer 4-door sedan publicity photo
Was this factory advertising or a pose from during a movie shoot?  Pretty dramatic.

Mercedes-Benz Type 230 W143
Wikipedia entry here.  Designed a few years before the Wanderers.  Longer wheelbase, but in a market segment not far from the W23.

Opel Super Six
Wikipedia entry here.  Somewhat competitive with the W24.  Styling details are of the same vintage, but the appearance is slightly less modern overall.

Opel Kapitän
Wikipedia entry here.  In roughly the same range as the W23, this 1938 design had input by General Motors stylists seconded to Germany.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Stout Scarab in South Bend

Sources such as this hold that nine Stout Scarabs were built, five of which survive.  Its creator, William B. Stout (1880-1956), was an engineer active in both the automotive and aviation fields.  Perhaps his best known work was an airplane that evolved into the famous Ford Trimotor transport.

By the mid-1930s Stout was back into automobile work, creating the Scarab -- what some consider the precursor of the minivan.  Sources on the Internet mention that the Scarabs were essentially custom-built, no two being identical.  They might be regarded as a more practical form of Buckminster Fuller's three-wheel Dymaxion car of 1933.

A 1935 Scarab can be found in the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana where I recently took the color photos shown below.


A poor-quality image of the first Scarab from 1934.

Interior view of that car.

Probably the 1935 Scarab shown in the museum.

Stout, at left, discussing a 1936 Scarab at a filling station.

There was a 1946 Scarab, shown here with Stout.

1935 Stout Scarab as seen in the museum, September, 2019.  This unrestored car was owned by Wrigley chewing gum family of Chicago.

Front quarter view.  The license plate letters refer to Philip K. Wrigley.  Note the strongly raked (in plan view) windshield.

Rear quarter view.  This Scarab was covered with fashionable 1930s parallel "speed lines."  I find this aspect of the car the most interesting and best looking -- though not beautiful.  The talon shape in white on the 1934 car is echoed here via sculpting.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Morris 1948 Badge Engineering -- And More!

What follows is not "badge engineering" (different brands of cars with minor appearance differences) in the narrow sense.  It is definitely the use of major body components by two brands and various models.  And in one instance regarding appearance, there is true badge engineering.

The subject matter is variations on Morris Motors' first postwar design.  The primary model was the best-selling Morris Minor that I wrote about here.

The postwar Minor began as a two-door saloon (sedan), and it wasn't until around the end of 1950s that a four-door version appeared.  That version used the body shown below.  However, abaft of the forward edge of the C-pillar, two-door and four-door Minors used the same 1948-vintage stamping.

Using the body discussed above, from the cowling aft, front ends and wheelbases varied depending upon the motors used.  Those cars were the Morris Oxford MO (97 inch, 2646 mm wheelbase), the Morris Six MS (110 inch, 2794 mm wheelbase), and two Wolseley models, the 4 cylinder 4/50 and six cylinder 6/80 (respective wheelbases 102 inches, 2591 mm, and 110 inches, 2794 mm).  Note that the Morris MS and Wolseley 6/90 have the same wheelbase: these are the badge-engineered models.


1948c. Morris Oxford MO
The smallest of this set.  Note the stubby front end and the shaping of the fender extension over the front door.  This fender design is that of the Morris Minor.

1948c. Wolseley 4/50
The 4-cylinder Wolseley carries a high hood and grille that visually define the brand.  The section of the fender overlapping the front door is shaped differently from the Oxford's.

1948c. Morris Six MS
Two views of the Morris Six.  It's hard to see here, but the grille's design differs from the Wolseley's, being more curved, less severe. The fender line here is the same as the Wolseley's, not the Oxford's.

1948c. Morris Six MS
Aft ends of all these cars were essentially the same.

1948c. Wolseley 6/80
The top of the line shown here is this six-cylinder Wolseley.  These were popular police cars in England.

1954 Wolseley 6/80 for sale photo

Thursday, October 24, 2019

1934 Bendix SWC Experimental Car

I first learned of the experimental 1934 Bendix SWC in the late, lamented Special-Interest Autos magazine when it was edited by Michael Lamm.  It was contemporaneous to the Chrysler and DeSoto Airflow streamliners of the same year, and looked similar in many respects -- slightly better, perhaps, due to its longer hood.  The link credits its styling to William F. Ortwig who had done work for Fisher Body.

Due to Bendix's South Bend Indiana heritage, the car was eventually donated to the Studebaker National Museum in the same city, where it currently can be seen positioned next to the 1956 Packard Predictor concept car..

The color photos below were taken by me in September 2019.  Click on images to enlarge.


This is a 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow sedan.

And here is an outdoors photo of the 1934 Bendix SWC (I don't have the photo's source).

I do not know if the SWC body form was wind tunnel tested.  The Airflow design was, and as mentioned, their shapes are similar.

Frontal view.  It seems that the right rear wheel opening lacks a spat, though the left rear opening has one.  When displayed at the Portland Oregon art museum a few years ago, the spat was present.  The link above notes that the grille came from the 1934 DeSoto Airflow due to time pressure preventing an original design.  I suspect that the original grille concept was not much different,  provided that little new front end metal shaping was done to accommodate the DeSoto grille.

The SWC featured a smoother, more graceful fastback than four-door Airflows.

Showing the metal sculpting around the windshield.