Hagley Car Show – September 15, 2013

Trade catalog image of the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.

Trade catalog image of the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.

Along with the rest of our colleagues here at Hagley Museum and Library, it is with great enthusiasm that we of the Z. Taylor Vinson Project staff cordially invite you to attend the Hagley Car Show, which will be held on Sunday, September 15th. This year marks the eighteenth year for this annual car show and it promises to be an exciting event. More than 500 examples of classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles will be on display for this year’s show.

The theme for this year’s Hagley Car Show will be American high-performance cars. American high-performance cars, often called “muscle cars,” have long captured the imagination of motorists in the United States and throughout the world. In their most classic form, American high-performance cars are factory-modified versions of base automobiles. Equipped with more powerful engines, light-weight bodies, beefed-up suspensions, and fat tires, these cars are capable of astounding levels of performance. An impressive collection of American high-performance cars, including, but not limited to, a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1965 Pontiac GTO, a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda, are expected to be in attendance. This year’s car show will also feature food, car music, a historic jukebox display, a pedal car course, and NASCAR simulator.

Trade catalog image of the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Trade catalog image of the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Last but not least, you will also be able to get a sneak peak at some items in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection! As we did last year, there will be a Vinson Collection booth in front of the Library. Show patrons will get the opportunity to view reproductions of items preserved in the Vinson Collection. Project staff will also be available to answer questions and provide information about the collection. Most fun of all, we are asking you to help us identify some items in the collection! At the Vinson Collection, will have some photo reproductions of unidentified cars. We invite you to take the share your knowledge and help us identify the cars depicted in the images!

Click here for further information about the upcoming car show

We will look forward to seeing you on Sunday, September 15th!

Sources

Boss 302: Ford: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Mustang, 1969-1974

Chevrolet’s New Corvette – Fun!: Chevrolet: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Corvette, 1954-1967

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

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.

A “Contemporary Classic:” Brooks Stevens’ Excalibur

Z. Taylor Vinson had the opportunity to meet and correspond with a number of automotive designers and manufacturers during his career as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One of these well-known personalities was noted American industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, who created over 3,000 products throughout his career, including home furnishings, cookware, and farm machinery, as well as automobiles and automotive equipment.

Photograph of a Series II Excalibur (1970-1974) from the album given to Z. Taylor Vinson by Brook Stevens.

Photograph of a Series II Excalibur (1970-1974) from the album given to Z. Taylor Vinson by Brook Stevens.

In the early 1960s, Stevens worked as a design consultant for Studebaker. Company executives asked Stevens to design an eye-catching car for an upcoming series of automobile shows. Brooks decided to create what he referred to as a “contemporary classic” for Studebaker. He designed a sports car from contemporary automotive parts and a Studebaker chassis, but his new car had the aesthetics of a classic Mercedes SSK from the 1930s. Stevens named his new car, “Excalibur,” after his sports car racing career in the 1950s.

Although Studebaker was not interested in Stevens’ prototype, the Excalibur attracted the attention of attendees at the 1964 New York Auto Show. Stevens immediately began taking orders for his new sports car, and he sold the Excalibur exclusively through a New York City Chevrolet dealer for $6,795. An advertisement for the Excalibur placed in the December 16, 1964 issue of the New York Times declared, “It has the classic beauty of the original S.S.K. coupled with the power and the reliability of the 1965 Sting Ray.” By marketing the Excalibur as a custom-built, luxury sports car, Stevens and his newly formed company, S.S. Automobiles Incorporated, pioneered the market for reproduction classic cars.

Photograph of a Series III Excalibur (1975-1976) from the album given to Z. Taylor Vinson by Brook Stevens.

Photograph of a Series III Excalibur (1975-1976) from the album given to Z. Taylor Vinson by Brook Stevens.

In 1975, Mr. Vinson met with Brooks Stevens to discuss motor vehicle safety regulations pertaining to the Excalibur. Limited production automobile manufacturers like S.S. Automobiles worked extensively with the Department of Transportation after the passage of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966. Throughout this period, S.S. Automobiles struggled to meet the passive restraint requirements for passenger cars because of the projected expense of having to incorporate air bags and seat belts into their pre-existing design for the Excalibur.

Stevens wrote a letter of appreciation to Vinson after their meeting and expressed how happy he was to learn that Mr. Vinson was also an automobile enthusiast and collector. Similar to Z. Taylor Vinson, Stevens had developed a love of automobiles during his childhood, while accompanying his father to various automobile shows. In his thank-you note, Stevens included a photograph album of Excalibur Series I-III automobiles from the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Vinson preserved the photograph album presented to him by Brooks Stevens in his professional papers from the Department of Transportation. This album, as well as the correspondence between the two men, remains available to researchers as part of Z. Taylor Vinson Transportation Collection now housed at the Hagley Library.

Sources

“Brooks Stevens,” Wisconsin Historical Society

“Classified Ad 20,” New York Times (December 13, 1964): S15.

“Excalibur: 1975-1995,” Temporary Exemption Petitions, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Excalibur History

“Excalibur- Photograph Albums,” Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 512-513.

Preston, Alice. “Excalibur: The Story”

Alison Kreitzer is the graduate assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at the Hagley Museum and Library.

The Vinson Pictorials Series: A Window to the Past

Hello, readers! My name is Annalise Berdini and I am the summer intern processing the Pictorials Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. I’d like to give a little overview of what I have been doing since I started and highlight some of the interesting materials I’ve come across while working through the collection.

Postcard of a Baker electric car advertisement.

Postcard of a Baker electric car advertisement.

As a devoted collector of automotive literature and materials, Z. Taylor Vinson spent much of his life corresponding with other like-minded collectors across the globe, sharing tips, materials, and insights. Many of the items in the Pictorials Series, which consists of photographs, prints, postcards, and the like, include letters or notes from the collectors who sent them along to Vinson. This gives unique insight into the way Vinson was able to develop his collection, making global contacts, and often close friends, who sought out and shared the same items for which Vinson searched.

My job so far has been to process the Pictorials Series. This involves surveying the series’ contents, arranging the materials, and placing the materials in acid-free folders and protective sleeves. The images in the Pictorials Series depict the development and growth of the automobile, even including images of mockups, prototypes, or one-of-a-kind vehicles that never made it to the production line. Some of the images, especially the postcards, are as much an example of the automobiles of the period as the social and economic climate of that time period.

Henry J advertising postcard.

Henry J advertising postcard.

The Pictorials Series provides a fascinating look at how these early cars were marketed, and how those strategies evolved during each change that affected the countries in which they were made. For example, a Baker postcard of a reproduction of an ad from the early 1900s shows the car being marketed to “high society.” A set of Henry J. postcards from the 1950s includes images of the nuclear family ideal that was prevalent at the time. One item in the Chevrolet file is a photo of assorted ads depicting changes in attitudes towards women and the need for an economic car. Vinson’s pictorial materials also provide a unique window into the past, giving a taste of how automobiles developed and changed, along with the world itself.

Photograph of three Chevrolet advertisements.

Photograph of three Chevrolet advertisements.

Sometimes, the materials do not quite fit into the car make hierarchy, simply because they are not about cars! Vinson was a true collector, and as such, did not limit his acquisitions entirely to autos. The Pictorials Series contains materials depicting airplanes and airships, buses, trains, and ships. It also holds stamps depicting the royal families of some of the countries Vinson visited (he was extremely well-traveled) and postcards depicting scenes from various locales. An assortment of personal items that show Vinson and his family, and a few photos that capture the construction of his “Autotorium” are found in this series as well.

It is fascinating to have a collection of images that expand beyond automobiles into general transportation and travel, as well as to have a record of Vinson’s life and interests in images. Researchers and car enthusiasts alike will find the Pictorials Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson collection to be a valuable and exciting resource.

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

Introducing the Z. Taylor Vinson Manuscripts Series!

Greetings!  My name is Alison Kreitzer, and I am the Z. Taylor Vinson Graduate Assistant.  I am currently processing the Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, which will be available to researchers in 2014.  The Manuscripts Series document Mr. Vinson’s career as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1967-2003.  These materials provide insight into the development of Federal motor vehicle safety standards in the decades following the passage of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.  Throughout his career, Mr. Vinson was instrumental in implementing safety regulations for passenger and commercial vehicles that we continue to benefit from today.  The Manuscripts Series of his collection is a notable resource for researchers interested in automobile design, automotive safety, and the history of consumer advocacy in the United States.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

As an attorney-advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mr. Vinson corresponded extensively with automobile manufacturers, congressmen, citizens, and fellow NHTSA staff members to interpret and enforce Federal regulations for automobile safety.  His correspondence files make up the bulk of the Manuscripts Series.  These files predominately focus on issues of manufacturer compliance with Federal policies regarding the production, importation, and sale of automobiles and automotive equipment within the United States.  Mr. Vinson and his fellow legal staff members worked extensively to provide manufacturers and citizens with interpretations of the various safety standards that regulated everything from windshield wipers to braking systems.  The NHTSA’s litigation team also drafted and reviewed proposed amendments to these regulations before they were passed into law.  Unpublished and published copies of these Federal Register dockets pertaining to specific safety standard rule-making decisions are included within these correspondence folders.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

A second substantive section within the Manuscripts Series documents petitions made by both foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers for exemption of their vehicle models from specific aspects of the Federal motor vehicle safety regulations.  Manufacturers requested exemptions due to financial hardship, limited production runs, and made arguments that elements of their automobile designs were inconsequential to the overall safety of their vehicles.

This section of the Manuscripts Series is predominately arranged by automotive manufacturer and will be of particular interest to scholars and enthusiasts of renowned automotive manufacturers.  For example, Lamborghini petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1975 for certification of their Countach LP 400, which influenced the shape and design of sports cars throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  The applications for exemption and certification includes over 90 pages of information, diagrams, and photographs documenting the various internal and external components of the Countach LP 400!

The Manuscripts Series also contains correspondence documenting Mr. Vinson’s involvement with the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) in the 1990s.  He held various positions on the Society’s executive committee during this period.  The files in this section document Mr. Vinson’s involvement in several administrative tasks for the organization, including planning of yearly meetings, organizing membership materials, and overseeing SAH finances.

Mr. Vinson was very successful at combining his personal interests in collecting automobile ephemera with his professional career working to implement vehicle safety standards as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Not only did he leave Hagley a wonderful collection of automobile memorabilia, he also left behind a comprehensive record of his contributions to automobile safety.  The Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection promises to be a fascinating resource for years to come.

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

1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA – Displaced the Model T

Trade catalog for the 1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA Capitol, featuring an image of the 2-Door Sport Cabriolet.

Trade catalog for the 1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA Capitol, featuring an image of the 2-Door Sport Cabriolet.

At the beginning of the 1920s, the Ford Model T reigned supreme in the American automobile market. Cheap, mechanically simple, and easy to repair, the “Tin Lizzie” was much beloved by the American driving public. But Ford changed the Model T very little and by the middle of the decade, a combination of stiffer competition, advancing technology, and changing customer tastes rendered the Model T obsolete. Faced with such realities, in May 1927, Ford shut down its production lines for 6 months to retool for production for of the Model T’s successor, the Model A. When Ford temporarily went offline, other manufacturers sought to fill the gap in the market. One car succeeded in displacing the Model T as America’s best-selling car: the 1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA.

The 1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA was the end result of some very shrewd product planning and development. Starting in 1923, at the instigation of General Motors Corporation’s president Alfred S. Sloan, Chevrolet adopted a strategy of offering cars that were low-priced, but a little more expensive than the Model T. In return for a little more money, Chevrolet offered its customers much more in the way of updated technology, modern styling, and creature comforts. Built and marketed in accordance with this strategy, Chevrolet cars proved quite competitive with the Model T and the company dramatically increased its market share between 1924 and 1926. When the Capitol AA was formally introduced in January 1927, it helped drive the Model T out of the market. When Ford temporarily ceased production, the Capitol AA became the top-selling American car for the 1927 model year.

Trade catalog images of 3 of the 8 available body styles for the Chevrolet Capitol AA: Landau, Sedan, and Coupe.

Trade catalog images of 3 of the 8 available body styles for the Chevrolet Capitol AA: Landau, Sedan, and Coupe.

The 1927 Chevrolet Capitol AA was a reasonably modern low-priced car for its time. Riding on a 103-inch wheelbase, the car was powered by a 171 cubic-inch inline-4 engine, which was good for 26 horsepower and featured air and oil filters as standard equipment. The car’s engine was mated to a modern 3-speed sliding gear manual transmission. The Capitol AA was fitted with a handsome contemporary body shell, which featured full crown fenders and bullet-shaped headlights. Customers had a choice of 8 different body styles, ranging from a 2-Door Roadster to a 4-Door Landau Sedan. Of particular interest was the 2-Door Sport Cabriolet, which came equipped with rumble seat, a Chevrolet first.

Selling in the $525-$745 range, the Chevrolet Capitol AA typically cost $160-$200 more than the Ford Model T. Nevertheless, it was more than a match for the Model T and was well-received by the motoring public. American drivers liked the Capitol AA’s modern appearance and were pleased to discover that it was a more comfortable and better performing car than the Model T. The Capitol AA also earned a reputation for being a high-quality car over the course of its production life and was found to be quite durable. Such qualities made it a worthy top-seller.

The Chevrolet Capitol AA was superseded by the Chevrolet National Model AB for the 1928 model year. More than 678,000 Capitol AA’s were built. Largely due to the events of 1927, Ford and Chevrolet became archrivals in the American automobile market and remain so to this day.

Sources

83 Quality Features – Chevrolet for Economical Transportation: Chevrolet: Trade Catalogs: Various Models: Chevrolet Range, 1925-1927, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

How Stuff Works – 1927 Chevrolet Series AA Capitol

How Stuff Works – 1908-1927 Ford Model T

How Stuff Works – 1923-1927 Ford Model T

Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr., Third Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1996, p. 283, 292, 571, 586-587.

The Most Beautiful Chevrolet in Chevrolet History – World’s Lowest Modern Quality Cars: Chevrolet: Trade Catalogs: Various Models: Chevrolet Range, 1925-1927, 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.

Three New Faces Join the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project Staff

I am pleased to announce that some new faces have just joined the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project staff at the Hagley Museum and Library. Without further ado, I would like to use this week’s blog to introduce three new staff members who will be helping us process the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection this summer: Alison Kreitzer, Annalise Berdini, and Cassia Balogh.

Alison Kreitzer is the Z. Taylor Vinson Graduate Assistant. This summer, she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s manuscript materials, which document Mr. Vinson’s professional career with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ms. Kreitzer is a graduate student at the University of Delaware, where she is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History’s American Civilization Program. Her research interests include twentieth century cultural history, material culture, and the history of technology. She is currently working on her dissertation, which explores the history of American dirt track automobile racing in the mid-Atlantic region during the twentieth century. Ms. Kreitzer also has previous processing experience. In the summer of 2010, she processed the Collins J. Seitz Papers at the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington, Delaware.

Annalise Berdini is one of two Z. Taylor Vinson Summer Interns. This summer, she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s visual materials, which consist of a wide variety of visual formats, including, but not limited to, photographs, photo negatives, slides, and postcards. Ms. Berdini is a graduate student at Drexel University, where she is working towards an MLIS with concentrations in digital libraries and archives. Previous to joining the Vinson Collection staff, she worked in public libraries and volunteered at Hagley in the Library’s Digital Collections. Ms. Berdini is also the President-elect of the Special Libraries Association’s Drexel Student Chapter.

Cassia Balogh is the other Z. Taylor Vinson Summer Intern. This summer she will be responsible for processing the Vinson Collection’s artifacts, which consist of a wide variety of three-dimensional objects, including, but not limited to, toy cars, model cars, numerous other types of automobile memorabilia, and award plaques. Ms. Balogh is a recent graduate of Marist University in Poughkeepsie, New York and Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy, where she studied Conservation and Art History. Previous to joining the Vinson Collect staff, she gained experience working with artifacts at the Penn Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In her spare time, she enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts.

Please join me in welcoming Alison, Annalise, and Cassia to the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Project. I will look forward to seeing them contribute to the project in a big way as the summer progresses!

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