Non-Automotive Materials the in Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: Airplane Makes Series

Cover of a company overview published by Blériot, an early French airplane manufacturer, 1911

From reading this blog, one could be forgiven for thinking that the contents of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection consist solely of automotive materials. However I am happy to report that this is definitely not the case. Mr. Vinson had a strong interest in many different forms of transportation. In addition to collecting automotive materials, he also actively collected materials pertaining to various modes of non-automotive transport. This week, I decided to highlight one of the series of non-automotive materials in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: Airplane Makes.

The Airplane Makes series represents a very small portion of the collection, consisting of only 2.5 boxes of materials. However the depth and significance of its contents more than make up for its small size. The materials found in this series cover most of the era of manned powered flight, dating from 1911 to 2009. Seventy-five airplane manufacturers are represented in this series, including present-day firms such as Airbus and Boeing, and defunct companies such as Blériot and Ryan. The firms represented are from a number of different countries, including, but not limited to, the United States, France, Germany, and Russia. Numerous civilian and military airplanes are documented in this series.

Most of the material formats found in the Airplane Makes series are similar to those in the automotive portions of the collection. The series consists mainly of materials published by the airplane manufacturers, including trade catalogs, company overviews, company magazines, and media information. Also found in this series are numerous magazine and newspaper advertisements through which the manufacturers touted their latest creations to the public. The series also contains a significant amount of materials not published by the manufacturers, including, but not limited to, newspaper articles, magazine articles, miscellaneous magazines, and government documents.

Advertisement for the Ford Trimotor which appeared in the October 22, 1927 issue of The Literary Digest

The Airplane Makes series holds more than its share of fascinating items. One such item is a 1911 company overview from the French manufacturer Blériot, published a mere eight years after the Wright Brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk. Also of interest in this series are the magazine advertisements for the Ford Trimotor, a transport plane manufactured by Ford Motor Company during the 1920s and 1930s.

Sources
L. Blériot Recherches Aéronautiques, Airplane Makes – Blériot: General Publication, 1911, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

“Look to the Skies for Dawn, Ford Motor Company,” Airplane Makes – Ford: Clippings, 1927-2009, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Rockne: A Line of Cars Named for a College Football Legend

Within college football circles, Knute Rockne is considered by many to be a truly legendary figure. He is best known for his storied tenure as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. As coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 1918 to 1930, Rockne compiled the highest-ever winning percentage by a Division I football coach (105 wins, 12 losses, and 5 ties) and helped popularize college football in the process. Although best remembered for his exploits at Notre Dame, it is largely forgotten that he also holds the distinction of being the only college football coach to have a line of cars named for him: Rockne.

Rockne cars were built and marketed in 1932 and 1933 by Rockne Motors Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Studebaker Corporation. The Rockne line represented Studebaker’s second attempt to crack the low-priced car market (the first being the unsuccessful Erskine, which was manufactured from 1926 to 1930). From a developmental point of view, the line’s origins can be traced to pair of 1930 prototypes originally designed for Willys-Overland Motor Company by automobile engineers/consultants Ralph Vail and Roy Cole. Willys-Overland turned down the prototypes because it was on the verge of bankruptcy, but granted Vail and Cole permission to offer them to another firm. So Vail and Cole showed the prototypes to Studebaker’s chairman A.R. Erskine, who promptly bought them and started developing them into the firm’s new low-priced challenger.

From a promotional point of view, the Rockne nameplate was the product of a close business relationship between Rockne himself and Studebaker Corporation, whose company headquarters were located in South Bend. Rockne was hired by Studebaker in 1928 while he was still coaching at Notre Dame. A close friend of A.R. Erskine, he served the company as a spokesman and motivational speaker. On March 19, 1931, Rockne was named Studebaker’s Manager of Sales Promotions. Tragically, he was killed in a plane crash only twelve days after this appointment on March 31, 1931. Soon after Rockne’s death, Erskine named the new line “Rockne” and marketed the cars as a tribute to the deceased coach.

The Rockne line was formally introduced to the public in February 1932. Initially, the line consisted of two models: the Rockne Six “65” and the Rockne Six “75.” The “65” was largely based on the Vail and Cole prototypes, and was powered by a 190 cubic inch inline six engine developing 65 horsepower. The larger “75” was based on the already existing Studebaker Six, and was powered by a 205 cubic inch inline six engine developing 72 horsepower. The cars were competitively priced, with the “65” starting at $585.00 and the “75” at $685.00. In 1933, the line was pared back to a single model, the Rockne Six, which was an update of the “65” powered by a 190 cubic inch inline six developing 70 horsepower.

Unfortunately for Studebaker, the Rockne line was not a success. This was mainly due to the fact that the line was introduced during the middle of the Great Depression, which brought severe economic conditions that forced Studebaker Corporation into receivership in March 1933. Rockne cars also had the misfortune of competing against the Ford V-8, which outperformed and undersold the former. Faced with these economic realities, Studebaker ceased production of the Rockne line in July 1933. A total of 30,243 Rocknes were built.

Captions
Catalog showing images of the Rockne Six “65,” 1932

Sources
Here’s the full story of the Rockne Six, Rockne: Trade Catalog: Fleet Vehicle and Trade Catalogs: Specific Models, 1931-1933, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile Volume 2: M-Z; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 1348.

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr., Third Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1996, p. 1304.

“Knute Rockne” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knute_Rockne

Notre Dame Department of Athletics, “Rockne: The Coach and the Car” http://www.und.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/111105aak.html

“Rockne” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockne

Rockne Six, Sponsored and Guaranteed by Studebaker, Rockne: Trade Catalog: Fleet Vehicle and Trade Catalogs: Specific Models, 1931-1933, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Studebaker Museum http://www.studebakermuseum.org/

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

The Mini: The Economy Car That Became a British Icon

Catalog showing exterior view of the Austin Se7en version of the Mini, ca. 1959-1960

In the automobile industry, necessity has repeatedly been the mother of invention.  Such was the case in 1956, when Britain was hit by a fuel shortage brought on by the closure of the Suez Canal, through which most of the country’s oil imports passed.  In direct response to this energy crisis and realizing that such an event could easily happen again, British Motor Corporation’s chairman Leonard Lord ordered the development of a small and fuel efficient economy car.  After a remarkably short development period, BMC’s efforts were brought to fruition in 1959 when the company introduced a car that would become a British automotive icon: the Mini.

The Mini (initially marketed as the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini Minor) was the brainchild of BMC’s famed automotive engineer Alec Issigonis.  He designed it as an economy car that made the maximum use of a minimum amount of space.  The Mini’s exterior was designed to fit within a box measuring 10 x 4 x 4 feet.  Its interior space was maximized by mounting the engine transversely, equipping the car with front-wheel drive, and placing its four-speed manual transmission in the oil sump.  Interior space was further increased by placing wheels on the corners and giving the car four-wheel independent suspension, which utilized rubber cone springs.  To save on development and construction costs, the Mini was fitted with an already existing power plant, an 848 cc version of BMC’s A Series inline four engine.

Catalog showing interior design of the Austin Se7en version of the Mini, ca. 1959-1960

In terms of performance, the Mini had a number of characteristics that were very desirable for its time. BMC claimed it to be capable of a top speed of over 70 miles per hour and fuel economy of up to 50 miles per gallon of gasoline. In addition to being lively and economical, drivers also discovered that the Mini was blessed with outstanding road holding abilities. Before long, Minis were being used in racing and rallying. This led BMC to develop two performance variants of the car in collaboration with Cooper Car Company, then the reigning Formula 1 World Constructors Champion: the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S. The Mini Coopers went on to become legends in their own right, winning numerous races and rallies, including the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally (1964, 1965, 1967).

In the course of its extraordinarily long production life (1959-2000), the Mini became an enormously popular and influential car. Sold under the Austin, Morris, and Mini nameplates, more than 5 million examples were built by BMC and its successors British Motor Holdings, British Leyland Motor Corporation, and Rover Group. It also left a long-lasting impact upon automobile design. The transverse engine and front-wheel drive layout pioneered by the Mini was widely copied by other automobile manufacturers and still used on most small economy cars to this day.

Along the way, the Mini also became a British automotive icon. In its home country, the Mini was a fashion statement of sorts and became a symbol of “Swinging London” during the 1960s. A number of British pop culture luminaries were proud owners of Minis, including actor Peter Sellers and several members of the Beatles. Minis also featured prominently in a number of British movies and television programs, including The Italian Job (1969) and Mr. Bean (1990-1995).

The last “classic” Mini rolled off the assembly line on October 4, 2000. It was replaced by the MINI, built by BMW, which is a common sight on American roads today.

Sources

850 is your lucky number, Austin: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models, Seven, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library

“Cooper Car Company”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooper_Car_Company

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 107-108.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile Volume 2: M-Z. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 1073.

“Mini”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hollywood Cars: The Bluesmobile

The Blues Brothers is a musical comedy that has achieved cult status with movie fans. Directed by John Landis and released in 1980, it did well at the box office and to this day remains a regular staple for cable television and late night movie showings. The movie starred the late John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues of The Blue Brothers, a real life blues and soul band that first appeared on the television program Saturday Night Live in 1978. Set in the Chicago area, the plot of the movie centered on Jake and Elwood’s efforts to re-unite their old band and raise $5,000 to prevent the foreclosure of the orphanage in which they were raised. They sought to do this while being pursued by a motley collection of assorted law enforcement officials and enemies.

Although The Blues Brothers was billed as a musical comedy, it also featured plenty of action. The movie was renowned for its automotive mayhem, which appeared in the form of spectacular car chases and stunts. In this film, Jake and Elwood spent much of their time driving around Chicagoland and wreaking havoc in a seemingly indestructible ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois police car that became legendary in Hollywood lore: The Bluesmobile.

The Bluesmobile was a 1974 Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit sedan. The car was powered by Dodge’s Magnum 440 V-8 engine, which was mated to a Torqueflite automatic transmission. It was equipped with components from Dodge’s Police Duty package, which included heavy duty brakes, shocks, and steering. The Monaco Police Pursuit was a very popular patrol car in its day and was used by numerous law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, including the Los Angeles Police Department and California Highway Patrol. It was also noted for its high performance and durability. According to Dan Akyroyd (who co-wrote the screenplay of The Blues Brothers), the Monaco Police Pursuit was chosen for the movie because he considered it to be “the hottest car used by police during the 1970s.”

A total of thirteen Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit sedans portrayed The Bluesmobile in The Blues Brothers. These cars were obtained from the California Highway Patrol and mocked up to look like ex-Mount Prospect, Illinois police cruisers. In the course of the film’s production, they performed a number of spectacular stunts, including, but not limited to, jumping over an opening drawbridge, driving through a crowded indoor shopping mall, and driving down the streets of downtown Chicago at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Individual cars were specifically set up to perform different kinds of stunts, depending upon the scene. The film’s producers maintained a twenty-four hour repair shop to keep the cars serviceable during shooting.

Due to the abuse heaped on them, few of the Bluesmobiles survived the shooting of the movie. It is believed that one to three of the original thirteen Bluemobiles remain in existence.

Sources
“The Blues Brothers”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blues_Brothers_(film)

“Bluesmobile”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluesmobile

“The Bluesmobiles”

http://www.allpar.com/history/dodge/bluesmobile.html

“The Dodge Monaco Police Cars”

http://www.allpar.com/squads/dodge-monaco.html

Dodge Police Cars for 1974, Dodge: Trade Catalogs: Fleet Vehicles, Police Cars, 1970-2009, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hollywood Cars: A piston pumpin’ steel belted cavalry

In the song The General Lee, Johnny Cash sings the praises of the iconic second generation Dodge Charger. A Hollywood car beloved by fans of The Dukes of Hazzard, as well as the many films in which it appears, the second-generation Charger (1968, 1969, and 1970 models) has found a place in the hearts of countless automotive enthusiasts.

First introduced in 1966, the Dodge Charger was designed to capture a share of the growing fastback market. The sleek ’66 model proved popular, but less than half as many of the similar ’67 Chargers were sold. This drop in sales led Dodge to consider a redesign for the following year.

The ’68 Charger is lauded as being “one of the best looking Dodge models ever built” in the Standard Catalog of American Cars. With its sculpted ‘Coke-bottle’ shape, buttressed back roof, decorative gas cap, and optional R/T package that included the 440 Magnum V8, the ’68 was a runaway success. It was such a hit that Dodge changed little on the ’69 and ’70 models.

The Charger’s reputation was augmented by the success of two Charger racing models that came out during this period. The Charger 500 was introduced for 1969 and the Charger Daytona, an aero car fitted with a rear wing, came out later that year. While the 500 was reasonably successful, the Daytona was a force to be reckoned with, winning 45 out of the next 59 NASCAR races it ran.

The second generation Charger’s popularity extended to the silver screen and the small screen. Perhaps one of its most famous appearances in film is in Bullitt, in which Steve McQueen, driving a ’68 Mustang, is chased by bad guys driving a ’68 Charger. The Charger can also be seen in Blade, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and The Fast and the Furious, among other films.

On the small screen, the second generation Charger is arguably best known for its role as the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard. An orange ’69 Charger outfitted with a “Dixie” horn and emblazoned with a Confederate flag and the number ’01,’ the General Lee was driven by Bo and Luke Duke, two “good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm,” as Waylon Jennings sings in the theme song.

On the show, the Duke boys foil the weekly schemes of corrupt Boss Hogg and Hazzard sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. This “trouble with the law” leads to many car chases, jumps, and hood slides. Some suggest that the series went through more than 300 second-generation Chargers over the course of six seasons. The Dukes of Hazzard went on to inspire an animated cartoon, several films, video games, two museums in Tennessee, and festivals including Dukesfest, which ran from 2001-2008, and for the last few years, Hazzard Homecoming, which will be held this August in Sperryville, Virginia.

Check out Dodge Charger materials available in the Digital Archives or in the Library Catalog (just search “Dodge Charger”).

Sources:

Bouwkamp, Burton “The Birth and Death of the (Original) Dodge Charger,” http://www.allpar.com/cars/dodge/charger-history.html

Cash, Johnny, “The General Lee,” The Dukes of Hazzard, 1981

Cooter’s Place – The Dukes of Hazzard, www.cootersplace.com

Kowalke, Ron, ed. Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc., 1997.


Laura Muskavitch is a Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.