Aston Martin DB5

The Aston Martin DB5 is one of the most recognizable cars in the world. Used in multiple James Bond films, the attractive DB5 has been established as one of the seminal vehicles of the series and has maintained popularity ever since its production. It made its debut in 1964’s Goldfinger, standing in for the Aston Martin DB Mark III Ian Fleming had written into the original novel. It continued to appear throughout the series, up to “and including” the most recent installation, Skyfall, in which it was outfitted with its traditional ejection seat and front machine guns.

Trade catalog image of Aston Martin DB5 Coupe.

Trade catalog image of Aston Martin DB5 Coupe.

The Aston Martin DB5 was only produced from October 1963 to November 1965, a fairly short run by most standards of the time. Although the look and shape of the car did not change much from the previous model, the Aston Martin DB4, there were some important changes under the hood that made the model unique and deserving of the change to a new name. The DB5’s engine, for example, was enlarged from the DB4’s 3670 cc version to 3995 cc. This engine produced 282 horsepower, which made the DB5 one of the fastest models in the Aston Martin lineup. Initially, the car was also equipped with a David Brown 4-Speed gearbox, with the option of adding overdrive at extra cost. However, by mid-1964, the gear was standardized to a ZF 5 speed gearbox, which essentially added an overdrive feature without having to select it from the list of available options.

The DB5 was offered as both a Coupe and a Volante Convertible. 1,021 Coupes were produced over the 2 years it was built, with an additional 120 Volantes created. Additionally, because of the lack of space available in the original model, there were also 12 “shooting brake” conversions created by Harold Radford, which are considered high in value due to their rarity today.

Trade catalog image of Aston Martin DB5 Volante Convertible.

Trade catalog image of Aston Martin DB5 Volante Convertible.

One of the interesting notes about the DB5, which came with an assortment of gadgets during its stint as a Bond car, was that it lacked some of the finer accoutrements that many would find surprising today. The DB5 had no air conditioning, for example, and it lacked power steering, which meant that drivers had to use a more arm strength for best steering performance. These were not even offered as options for the DB5, so buyers could not add them in at extra cost. These details were not initially a problem, but as time went on it meant the car had lesser staying power than other models. Therefore, these were some of the issues addressed by the DB6 when it was released two years later, adding them as optional features.

Despite some of these flaws, as well as the fact that the DB5 was not a huge shift in design, nor a highly demanded and produced model, its appearance as James Bond’s car has cemented its place in history as one of the most popular, or at least most recognizable cars. It is still considered highly collectable, and a replica of the Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger is even on display in the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.

Sources

Aston Martin DB5 Trade Catalog: Aston Martin: Trade Catalogs: Specific Model: DB5 and DB6, 1963-1971, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Aston Martin Webpage

Aston Martin Webpage

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 86.

How Stuff Works – Aston Martin Sports Cars

International Spy Museum

Annalise Berdini is a Summer Intern for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler Corporation (officially known today as Chrysler Group LLC) has long been noted for its engineering and design prowess.  Over the course of its history, the company has repeatedly made its mark through its automotive engineering and design innovations.  But over the years, Chrysler has also learned the hard way that innovation does not always translate into sales.  During the 1930s, Chrysler introduced an advanced car that left a lasting influence upon automotive engineering and design, but failed to find acceptance with the American motoring public: the 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow.

Trade catalog image of 1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial Sedan.

Trade catalog image of 1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial Sedan.

Designed by a trio of famed automotive engineers known as “Chrysler’s Three Musketeers:” Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton, the Airflow was the first American car to feature a streamlined body and the very first car to be designed in a wind tunnel.  These innovations resulted in the Airflow being fitted with a sleek body shell that looked completely unlike anything else on the road at the time.  The Airflow’s body was given a rounded front end, which featured a “waterfall” grille and flush headlamps.  Chrysler also smoothed out the car’s sides by integrating the fenders into the body panels.  The Airflow’s aerodynamics was further improved by giving the body a tapered rear end.  The performance gains realized from this attention to aerodynamics were striking.  Chrysler discovered that the Airflow’s streamlined body gave it a higher top speed and made it significantly more fuel efficient than other comparable cars of the time.

Trade catalog image of 1935 Chrysler Airflow Eight Sedan.

Trade catalog image of 1935 Chrysler Airflow Eight Sedan.

Underneath its skin, the Airflow’s design was equally innovative.  The Airflow was one of the first American cars to feature all-steel construction.  In what was a precursor to unit construction, the Airflow’s body was built on a cage-like steel frame, which was enormously rigid and strong.  To achieve a more even distribution of weight, the Airflow’s engine was mounted over its front axle.  To give the car’s occupants a smoother and more comfortable ride, the Airflow’s passenger compartment was placed between the front and rear axles and the car was fitted with larger leaf springs.  The Airflows were powered by well-proven Chrysler straight-8 engines, which were mated to a manual transmission equipped with automatic overdrive, another industry first.

Trade catalog image of 1936 Chrysler Airflow Eight Six Passenger Coupe.

Trade catalog image of 1936 Chrysler Airflow Eight Six Passenger Coupe.

The Chrysler Airflow debuted at the New York Auto Show in January 1934, where it was initially well received.  But in terms of sales, the Airflow proved to be an expensive failure, which is attributable to several factors.  To start with, the Airflow was introduced during the Great Depression, which shrunk the market for new cars.  Chrysler also experienced delays in bringing Airflow into production, which caused many customers to cancel their orders.  When production finally started in April 1934, the first Airflows were plagued by quality control issues, which further discouraged potential buyers.  Most importantly of all, the motoring public did not like the Airflow’s looks, finding its streamlined body too unconventional for their tastes.  In subsequent model years, Chrysler revised the Airflow’s body to give it a more conventional appearance, most notably by giving it a V-shaped grille, but to no avail.

Recognizing it as a financial failure, Chrysler pulled the plug on the Airflow after the 1937 model year.  Although it flopped in the marketplace, it left a positive lasting impact upon the automobile industry for many years to come.  A number of its innovations, most notably streamlining and wind tunnel testing, were subsequently adopted by other automakers and remain standard practice in the industry to this day.  Around 29,000 Chrysler Airflows were built.  Surviving examples have a devoted following today.

Sources
Allpar.com

Chrysler Airflow 1936: Chrysler: Trade Catalogs: Specific Model: Airflow, 1934-1935, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Chrysler: The First Motor Car Since the Invention of the Automobile: Chrysler: Trade Catalogs: Specific Model: Airflow, 1934-1935, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Chrysler Website

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 285-287.

The Great New Airflow Chryslers for 1935: Chrysler: Trade Catalogs: Specific Model: Airflow, 1934-1935, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

How Stuff Works – 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr., Third Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1996, p. 306, 319-325.

Walter P. Chrysler Museum

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

The 1949 Mercury: How a Family Car Became the First “Lead Sled”

Mercury was launched in 1938 as a result of Edsel Ford’s determination to fill the large gap between the economic Ford V8 offering and their higher-priced Lincoln-Zephyr.  Ford had stylists led by E.T. Gregorie create a model to fill that gap and to prevent customers from looking at other car makes like Dodge.   The first prewar Mercury 8 did not share paneling with the existing Fords or Lincolns, but in essence was similar to the existing Ford models, although it had a more powerful engine and extra space in the passenger area.  Most of the differences were in style, but it still looked like a Ford.

Postcard for 1949 Mercury Sport Sedan.

Postcard for 1949 Mercury Sport Sedan.

The Mercury 8 did not change drastically from year to year until 1949, when suddenly, the Mercury 8 became a brand new car, unlike many ever seen before.  Ford had set up the now separate Lincoln-Mercury Division in 1947, most likely accounting for some of the changes that set the 1949 Mercury 8 apart, and in a sense even predicting the shift in design.  The 1949 Mercury 8 was the make’s first new post-war model. The styling looked far more like a Lincoln, with a long sleek body that completely stood apart from the boxier Fords and other American models available at that point.  In fact, it actually shared a few body panels with some of the smaller Lincoln models.  It was released unusually early, in April of 1948. The car featured a 118-inch wheelbase and was powered by Ford’s Flathead V8 engine, which developed 110 hp.

Trade catalog image of 1949 Mercury.

Trade catalog image of 1949 Mercury.

This change had a marked effect on the Ford and Mercury lineup.  The Mercury 8 exploded into popularity, and sales that year broke records for both Ford and Mercury, although this might be partially because of the much longer sales year.  Production reached 301,307, and as a result, the model did not change much between 1949 and 1951.  The car filled the gap for those looking for an “entry-level” luxury vehicle, and was meant to appeal to anyone who was not quite able to reach for the high-priced Lincoln models.  This potentially accounts for some of the popularity of the vehicle, as well as the longer- than-normal sales year.

Trade catalog image of 1949 Mercury 6-Passenger Coupe.

Trade catalog image of 1949 Mercury 6-Passenger Coupe.

However, there is possibly another reason for the 1949 Mercury’s popularity.  Almost immediately, the car became an eagerly sought-after model for customization.  One of the more famous examples was the 1949 Mercury chopped by Sam Barris.  It became the first of the “lead sleds,” customized mid-size American cars focusing on style rather than speed, as opposed to the hot rods that were very often made from Ford’s V8.  The Mercury 8 became the signature model to chop into a “lead sled.”

As a result of the new image created by these customized versions, the car made its most notable appearance in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.  James Dean drove a customized 1949 Mercury in his role as Jim Stark, cementing the image of the Mercury as a “cool” car, optimal for those looking for  something to chop.  This was quite different from the idea that Ford had in mind when it created the Mercury to be an affordable family car, but it helped preserve the popularity of the 1949 Mercury, and in fact it is still a model sought after by car collectors today.

Sources

The 1949 Mercury! – New…All New!: Mercury: Trade Catalogs: Various Models: Mercury Range, 1946-1951, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Auto Museum Online  

Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 2: M-Z; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 1010-1011.

Legendary Collector Cars 

Postcard for 1949 Mercury Sport Sedan, Pictorials Series: Mercury: Postcards, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Vance, Bill. “Family Car Became a Hollywood Hit.” National Post. October 6, 2000

Annalise Berdini is a Summer Intern for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

“To Build Soundly Whatever Their Generation May Require:” The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, 1930-1968

Ever wonder why the Fisher Body Corporation, makers of automobile bodies, used an early 19th century carriage as their logo?

Image of the Body by Fisher logo. Saturday Evening Post, September 2, 1922, page 35.

Image of the Body by Fisher logo. Saturday Evening Post, September 2, 1922, page 35.

The Fisher emblem was modeled after a carriage belonging to Napoleon I of France. This carriage symbolized the luxury and elegance that the Fisher Body Company hoped to bring to American consumers. Napoleon’s coach also evoked a strong tradition of craftsmanship. The company began as a family-operated carriage-making shop in Ohio during the late 1800s. This carriage logo was prominently displayed in “Body by Fisher” advertising campaigns. The emblem also appeared on the Fisher Body Company’s automobile frames produced throughout the 20th century for manufacturers, such as Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Studebaker, and General Motors.

In an effort to preserve their craft tradition while simultaneously grooming a new generation of automobile innovators, the Fisher Body Company organized the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild in 1930. The Craftsman’s Guild worked to encourage American and Canadian boys between the ages of twelve and nineteen to become interested in automobile technology and design. Organizers created a yearly model-making contest for members who competed to build the miniature Napoleonic carriage of the Body by Fisher logo until the contest switched to producing model cars after World War II.

This image shows a young boy working to carve his model Napoleonic carriage for the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Contest. Saturday Evening Post, April 2, 1932, page 46.

This image shows a young boy working to carve his model Napoleonic carriage for the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Contest. Saturday Evening Post, April 2, 1932, page 46.

The Fisher Body Company distributed information about the Craftsman’s Guild through organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the YMCA. Young men also learned about the carriage-building contest from periodical advertisements. The July 14, 1946 issue of American Weekly featured a “Body by Fisher” advertisement stating that the company offered, “Thousands of dollars in university scholarships and cash awards for best miniature Napoleonic coaches or model cars submitted by boys of 12-19 years inclusive.” Boys who saw these advertisements could visit their local car dealer or they could write directly to the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild to receive more information about the contest.

The Craftman’s Guild granted university scholarships of $5,000 each to the top four model builders at their annual convention. Historian Ruth Oldenziel notes that, “When the guild was founded in 1930, $5,000 was an average worker’s income for three years and would buy eight Chevrolets or Fords; in 1940 Americans could buy a house at that price” (Oldenziel, 143). Therefore, young men highly coveted these scholarships, especially by those teenagers who dreamed of being the first members of their families to attend college during the years of the Depression.

An early 1960s advertising campaign for Body by Fisher featured a model carriage like those created by Craftsman’s Guild members. This advertisement declared, “The tailored trunk tells the tale…Built-In Quality of Body by Fisher.” Saturday Evening Post, Februrary 13, 1960, page 119.

An early 1960s advertising campaign for Body by Fisher featured a model carriage like those created by Craftsman’s Guild members. This advertisement declared, “The tailored trunk tells the tale…Built-In Quality of Body by Fisher.” Saturday Evening Post, Februrary 13, 1960, page 119.

In an undated magazine advertisement, Fisher Body Company executives explained that their goal in establishing the Craftsman’s Guild was to “see this country peopled by men to whom honor can be given for their ability to design well and to build soundly whatever their generation may require.” Participants worked towards this goal by spending long hours working to complete their replica carriages or model cars. The rules of the contest required that all the parts of the Napoleonic coach be made by hand and have functional moving parts. While working with a variety of mediums including wood, metal, and fabric to construct their models, young men gained patience and cultivated an attention to detail, which were skill sets necessary to become successful engineers and automobile designers. Fisher Body’s coach building contest was successful in grooming a future generation of male technophiles, and over half of the General Motors design staff by the late 1960s had been members of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild as teenagers.

Several advertisements from Fisher Body, including information about the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, are currently being processed as part of Hagley Museum and Library’s Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. Share your memories of the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild on the Vinson Blog!

Sources

Body by Fisher advertisements, Fisher Body: Tear Sheets, ca. 1920-1970, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

“Fisher Body Company” .

Oldenziel, Ruth, “Boys and Their Toys: The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, 1930-1968, and the Making of the Male Technical Domain,” in Boys and Their Toys?: Masculinity, Class, and Technology in America edited by Roger Horowitz (New York: Routledge, 2001): 139-169.

“Our Heritage” .

“Styled for Smartness, Steeled for Strength,” The American Weekly (July 14, 1946), Fisher Body: Tear Sheets, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Alison Kreitzer is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at the Hagley Museum and Library.

Porsche 356 – From Humble Origins to Sports Car Legend

In the years immediately following World War II, the German automobile design firm of Dr. Ing. h.c.f. Porsche AG was struggling to get back on its feet. The firm was operating out of a temporary shop in Gmünd, Austria, having been driven from its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany by Allied bombing raids. The war’s devastation upon the firm was further compounded by the imprisonment of the company’s founder, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (the designer of the Volkswagen Beetle), and several key personnel in a French prison. In order to survive, the Porsche concern had been reduced to building and repairing farm implements, and renovating cars.

Postcard of an early Porsche 356 Closed Coupe.

Postcard of an early Porsche 356 Closed Coupe.

In the midst of these difficulties, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Dr. Ferry Porsche, set out to get the family firm back on its feet. To accomplish this end, he started work on a sports car based mainly on Volkswagen Beetle components. The end result of this endeavor is largely responsible for making Porsche the thriving automaker that it is today and became a legendary sports car in the process: the Porsche 356.

First built in 1948 and introduced to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in 1949, the Porsche 356 was originally a decidedly humble machine. Built on a steel platform chassis, the 356 used the same rear engine, rear-wheel drive layout as the Beetle. In its initial form, the 356 was powered by a tuned version of Volkswagen’s air-cooled flat-four engine. Displacing 1086 cc (66.3 cubic inches) and equipped with dual carburetors and larger valves, this power plant was good for a rather modest 40 horsepower. The car was equipped with a Volkswagen suspension system, which employed torsion bars with trailing arms on the front and torsion bars with swing axles on the rear. Outwardly, the 356 was clothed with a highly aerodynamic, closed-coupe body. Because steel was scarce in early post-war years, the very first 356s used aluminum body panels, but these were soon replaced by steel body panels.

Trade catalog image of Porsche 356B Speedster, ca. 1959-1963.

Trade catalog image of Porsche 356B Speedster, ca. 1959-1963.

Even though it was modestly powered and cobbled together from Volkswagen parts, the Porsche 356 was blessed with truly sporty performance characteristics. Due to their light weight and excellent aerodynamics, the earliest 356s were capable of a surprisingly-fast claimed top speed of 85 miles per hour. They also possessed excellent road-holding characteristics for their time. The 356 soon acquired a reputation for high performance with sports car enthusiasts and it became a brisk seller. So much so that 356’s sales enabled Porsche to return to its original headquarters in Stuttgart in 1950. By 1955, Porsche had grown into a prosperous small automaker.

Trade catalog image of 1960 Porsche 356B Cabriolet.

Trade catalog image of 1960 Porsche 356B Cabriolet.

The Porsche 356 went on to have a remarkably long production life (1948-1966). Beginning a pattern that it would repeat with later cars, Porsche continuously developed and improved the 356 over the course of its production run. Originally a closed coupe, the 356 later became available with Cabriolet and Speedster bodies. Exterior changes eventually included a single-sheet windshield, a larger rear window, and raised headlights. Technical improvements included larger and more powerful engines and an improved suspension system. Most significantly of all, Volkswagen components were gradually replaced by those designed by Porsche.

Superseded by the Porsche 911, the last Porsche 356 (a 1965 model) rolled off the assembly line in 1966. Approximately 78,000 Porsche 356s were built. Happily, it is believed that around half of these cars remain in existence and surviving examples are highly prized collector’s items today.

Sources

All It Shares with Other Cars – Is the Road: Porsche: Trade Catalogs: 356, ca. 1950-1964, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Covello, Mike, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, 1946-2002; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2002, p. 650-656.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 2: M-Z; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p.1254-1255.

How Stuff Works – Porsche 356 History

Porsche: Porsche: Trade Catalogs: 356, ca. 1950-1964, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Porsche 356 Registry

Porsche 356B: Porsche: Trade Catalogs: 356, ca. 1950-1964, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Postcard of an Early Porsche 356 Closed Coupe: Porsche: Postcards, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Type 356 Porsche: Porsche: Trade Catalogs: 356, ca. 1950-1964, 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.