W&W 3A – The Heli-bout

As promised, here’s a mini post on another fantastic collaboration between Evinrude and designer Brooks Stevens and it certainly falls into the Weird and Wacky catagory!

helibout-brochure-41Boat manufacturers Evinrude commissioned Brooks Stevens to create something to showcase the 1961 Evinrude 75hp outboard motor which shifted from forward to reverse without having to turn off the engine – the result was the Heli-bout. A working concept, it appeared at the New York and Chicago boat shows. It certainly attracted attention, the blades on the top turned but didn’t lift the boat out of the water, although the company insisted it could be used. After the shows it was initially sold to Brooks Stevens and was exhibited at the Brooks Stevens Museum. It has since been owned by a series of museums and private collectors.

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Weird and Wonderful 3 – the Lonestar Meteor

Weird and Wonderful posts come about because something has popped up somewhere online and sparked our interest…pink-meteor-frontYes, I realise it’s a boat but it looks like a car and is certainly weird and wacky!  The development of fibreglass construction in the mid-late fifties allowed boat constructors to incorporate ‘car-like’ features of the time, such as fins, into their designs, the Meteor went further with Crome trim, headlights and the two-tone paintwork popular on American ‘Jet Age’ cars of the time.

Built by Lone Star Boat Manufacturers, a company founded in Texas in 1945 building traditional boats, a fibreglass facility was added in 1952 and by 1954 it was enlarged to allow 31 different models to be offered for sale.lonestar-adlonestar-brochure

In 1956 the Meteor was designed by Bob Hammond for GM, to be displayed at ‘A boat of the Future’ at the National Boat Show. It was so popular that a limited production run began of the four-seater boat with a 40HP motor and went on sale for $1600.

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Jet age fibreglass boats were originally considered to be ‘ugly’ after the classical elegant beauty of traditional wooden boats but are now very collectable and sort after, very few remain.

The Meteor one of the most popular in it’s time has a possible 60 or so examples still in existence. A 60-horsepower 1957 Mercury Mk 75 outboard powers this beautifully restored and very pink example, which I believe is owned by Kevin Mueller of Rockton. It has been display in the FINS: Form without function exhibition at the Peterson Automotive Museum in LA.

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As always when researching these posts I come across more and more info and my search widens, there were other equally weird and wacky boats designed around the same time including the Evinrude ‘Cadillac’ Sea Lark which was designed by great industrial designer Brooks Stevens. Owners often towed their boats with a matching finned Cadillac, you could even buy ‘mudguards’ for your trailer with fins!sealark-trailertrailer-wheelevinrude-lark-1 evinrude-lark-2I also discovered another collaboration between Brooks Stevens and Evinrude but it’s so weird and wacky I think it deserves a small post of it’s own, so watch this space…

Normal service will soon be resumed…

Mario would like to apologise for his absence, just don’t know where time has gone. We’ve had a very busy few weeks…

Starting off with our favourite weekend of the year at the Goodwood Revival, a great time was had as part of the period taxi rank and ‘brother’ Regie the Renault 4cv got to take part in the Daily ‘Road to Wembley’ Parade.dsc01615regie-at-goodwood-friday-9-sept-2016

The following weekend the Humans went on holiday, taking Regie as he’s a bit more practical and goes up hills, important as they were on a classic tour in Wales.dsc02215Mario was out and about again at the October Breakfast Club meet at Goodwood – Italian Sunday.
img_1393And on duty last weekend for an old school friends wedding.dsc02802Watch this space for more on all these events coming (very) soon!

Weird & Wonderful No 2… The Astra-Gnome “Time and Space Car”

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the “love them or hate them” Nash Metropolitan’sNash-Metropolitan-1954So I was very excited to see some images pop up on the internet of Nash’s only ‘Concept Car’ The 1956 Astra-Gnome “Time and Space Car”, a weird and wacky custom development of the Metropolitan. The ‘Astra-Gnome’ made it’s debut on April 28th at the 1956 International Auto Show in New York. It created headlines all over the world and featured on the front cover of Newsweek on September 3rd 1956.publicity1 Publicity2 Publicity3publicity4Autoshow-1956newsweekNewsweek-cover

The Astra-Gnome is a ‘dream car’ designed by Richard Arbib & Company and manufactured by Andrew Mazzara Custom Body Work (New York) on a Nash Metropolitan chassis. The futuristic space age design was created in 4 months with many aesthetic elements borrowed from science fiction of the time. The almost invisible undercarriage gives it a hovercraft or spaceship effect, with a panoramic view from the bubble top and changeable coloured aluminium panels.1956-Astra-Gnome4astra-gnome-street

American Motors commissioned leading industrial designer Richard Arbib, famous for designing the Hamilton asymmetrical watches and boats as well as cars, to design his vision of the future and the result was a vehicle which represented what an automobile would look like in the year 2000. It was never intended to be a production model but to raise awareness of how cars could look in the future.

Among its many features is a Hamilton “celestial time-zone clock permitting actual flight-type navigation. The acrylic glass bubble canopy also served as a sound chamber for the car’s high fidelity radio and record player. Also included was air conditioning and wrap-around bumper protection to the same height of other car bumpers. The 6-foot (1.83 m) width of the concept car was much greater than comparable cars of the time and allowed for extra interior room, as well as storage and luggage spaces that included six pieces of matched integrated luggage. The company at the time said

“A host of features, are here and now in the Astra-Gnome, but it will only be a matter of time until in some form they appear in future production cars. These features are not concerned with high horsepower or competition car performance, because as product stylists we do not believe the primary task of the appearance designer is a mechanical one.

We believe our job is to create new and exciting shapes, textures and colors in a functional car.  In the Gnome a totally new driving sensation akin to flying has resulted from this kind of esthetic exploration.  The “Space” element in the Astra-Gnome is almost self-explanatory, for the designer of the “personal” car is dealing with a space problem from the very beginning”

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BrochureBrochure2Amazingly the Astra-Gnome was discovered in 1980, sealed up in a New York high-rise office. It has been faithfully restored to perfection and kept and displayed at the Metropolitan Pit Stop in North Hollywood, CA. 1956-Astra-Gnome 1956-astra-gnome2 1956-Astra-Gnome31956-astra-gnome5 Astra-Gnome-badge astra-gnome-badge2There’s a video doing a ‘tour’ of the car, in the museum.

The Astra-Gnome even featured in this fashion feature for Esquire Magazine.
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So here we are in 2016 and unfortunately, that 1950’s ideal of what cars would look like in 2000 never materialised, the roads would certainly look more interesting if they had!

We still have Mario though and he’s busy getting himself and the humans ready for next weeks Goodwood Revival. We will be in attendance as usual with ‘brother’ Regie the Renault 4cv, doing taxi duty all weekend. If you are coming along make sure you say hello. We’ll be reporting all the adventures we have, here in due course.

Weird & Wonderful No 1 – Chevrolet Corvair Futura Concept

The first in what will hopefully be another little series, featuring the weird, wonderful, unique and just a little wacky…

The Chevrolet Corvair Futura Concept

Corvair-concept4Corvair-concept2 Corvair-concept3Corvair-concept5 Corvair-concept6 Corvair-concept-interiorCorvair-concept-interior2When we first saw pictures of this ‘Futura’ concept, I thought it looked a bit like an angular Multipla and certainly had the feel of some of the chopped Multipla Beach Cars. However this isn’t a carefully preserved concept car designed by the factory but is a one off made by an enthusiast.

Not a great deal seems to be known about it. The design, it would appear is based on some drawings produced for Kaiser Aluminum in the late 50’s. To persuade the American Auto Industry to use more aluminium, car designers Frank Hershey and Associates were commissioned to produce a portfolio of aluminium car designs to feature in promotional literature. The designs included a targa-top convertible and a station wagon. The one design that stood out was for The ‘Waimea’ a sort of van cut down to station wagon height. The design was credited to a Rhys Miller.
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So lets jump forward to the mid 90’s when a slightly eccentric gentleman called Harry Larson of Minnesota decided that after restoring 5 cars in wanted to create one. He had a file of the Kaiser Ads from the  60’s, pulled out the Waimea and set about constructing one. He started with a Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon from 1960. Greenbrier

The Waimea was designed to give the driver as much vision as possible and so had the driver sitting in the middle with centre steering and a fully enclosed glass front area and glass sunroof. The car turned up at shows in Minnesota in the 90’s but then disappeared to be put up for sale on eBay a few years ago. In 2013 it was apparently brought by Wayne Carini from the TV programme Chasing Classic Cars, although it hasn’t featured in any of the programmes that I’ve seen. In 2014 Wayne wrote in an article for Hagerty called Buyer’s Remorse…

“Another car I have mixed feelings about is the Kaiser Aluminum Corvair Futura. It started as a Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon, but has center steering and an all-new nose with stacked headlamps. When you’re talking about a one-off concept car, there isn’t much you can do with it. They’re rarely fully developed for driving, there are few eligible show classes and they only attract a special kind of buyer. I’m not thrilled about the purchase, because I don’t know what to do with it now that it’s mine.”

CariniIt isn’t known if Wayne still owns the car or if he has sold it where it has gone. Despite quite a bit of research this was all the info I could find and the only pictures, which appear to come from the original eBay posting.

Cars we love but can’t have… No 3

As Promised in the Soft Top Sunday post we’ve done a bit of research into the ‘Heinz 57′ Wolseley Hornet Convertible.DSC08601

We spotted this great little car at the recent Soft Top Sunday Breakfast Club at Goodwood and were rather intrigued by the fact that it had been made as a competition prize.

Food manufacturers Heinz had run lots of competitions over the years with cars as prizes but in 1966 they run their “Greatest Glow on Earth” soup competition and commissioned Crayford Engineering to produce 57 bespoke Wolseley Hornet Mini Convertibles for prizes. Crawford had already received great acclaim for their new Mini Convertible and it was decided to base the ‘competition special’ on the booted Mini or Wolseley Hornet so that they would be totally unique to the promotion. The competition was judged by Heinz, Crayford and TV personality and food critic Sir Clement Freud.

wolseley_heinzCompetition FormThe 57 prize cars were produced in two colours, Birch Grey or Toga White with red trim. They were fitted out with special accessories including a built-in insulated food cabinet, electric kettle, tartan rug, picnic hamper, radio and an under-dash make up tray, complete with Max Factor cosmetics. All 57 vehicles had consecutive registrations.

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There were over a million entries to the competition. Today 41 of the original 57 survive around the world with it is believed, around half of them on the road.

One of the survivors was on display at the Goodwood Breakfast Club, Soft Top Sunday and still appeared to have most of it’s accessories. It’s a lovely little car and the story makes it so special. Unfortunately we never got to meet the owner and hear it’s personal story.

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DSC08602 DSC08604 DSC08605 DSC08606 DSC08607 DSC08608 DSC08609 DSC08610 DSC08611 DSC08612So, another rare car that we like although this one is a little more affordable. One example sold at Auction in 2013 having been in the original winners family until 2004. It sold for only £17,500.

A busy May Day Holiday…

We’ve had a good but busy May Day Bank Holiday weekend. Saturday was ‘work’ day, Mario and Regie were taken to the Workshop to be fettled and polished. Mario’s brakes were sorted although they are going to need a major overhaul soon. He was also given a good polish in preparation for an special event in a couple of weeks. Regie the Renault had his newly painted wheels fitted, the cream or ‘Landrover Limestone’ as the paint is known, looks very smart and is much better than the silver they were. Unfortunately there are some balancing issues with them so they will have to be professionally balanced to stop the wheel wobble at speed.IMG_1116Regie-wheels

Sunday morning was the first Goodwood Breakfast Club of the season and as it was ‘Soft Top Sunday’ Sunday Regie was the one to go. After all the dismal weather we’ve had recently, it was a glorious if a little chilly morning. We aren’t very good at getting up on Sundays – the rest of the week is so busy – so we didn’t arrive until just after nine and some soft tops were already leaving, wish they did Goodwood afternoon tea and gin club!IMG_1119IMG_1118IMG_1117

An early leaver played into our hands and we were able to sneak into a spot close to the main grid display and closer to the action, there were cars parked all the way between  Madgwick to beyond Woodcote corners plus in the paddocks. Regie was a great display and helped to advertise the Haslemere Classic Car Show we organise at the end of the month. Convertible’s old and new were on display – let the pictures tell the story…
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DSC08617The most interesting thing on display in our opinion was the fantastic little Heinz 57 Wolsley Hornet, it’s story is so good it deserves it’s own post so watch this space…DSC08599

We were one of the last to leave the circuit and took a lovely cross country route to Southsea. Regie misbehaved slightly and we had to have an impromptu stop for a new set of points. We had the points with us but no tools, so luckily we had stopped right by a tool shop. It was a lovely day and great to finally be ‘topless in the sunshine’.DSC08615

On Monday’s bank holiday  it was our local Charter Fair. Haslemere was granted a Charter to hold a weekly market by Elizabeth I in 1596 and still celebrates with a bi-annual Fair. We took Regie and Mario along to promote the car show and had a great afternoon meeting lots of car enthusiasts.Charter FairDSC08619

Cars we love but can’t have… No 2

The second in our new series of wonderful vehicles we’ve spotted on the internet, would love to own but probably never will…1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-3

1949 Georges Irat convertible by Labourdette
This lovely car turned up recently at the Artcurial Auction at this years Retromobile. It’s a prototype and so a one off and very unlikely to join our collection. It fetched €57,216 in the February sale.Irat-auction

Georges Irat was a French car producer from 1921-1953. They weren’t very successful and had financial difficulties. The companies biggest success was a small roadster produced in the 30’s with a Ruby engine although less than 400 were produced.Irat-other-1938-roadster
irat-otherposterDuring the war the company experimented with electric vehicles while making industrial motors. It was during this time that the revolutionary prototype, mounted on a magnesium frame was developed and first appeared at the 1946 Paris Motor Show with a 1100cc flat-four engine, possibly a Ruby from their earlier roadster.1946It was shown again in 1947 with a revised front, new wheels and revised styling.Georges-Irat-1946original6A third prototype appeared in 1949 with a 2 Litre engine, no bumpers and a fixed glass cover over the center-mounted headlamps but the design never made it into production, partly due to lack of materials after the war and the government not approving it. Years later the body coach built by Labourdette was found in the old Georges Irat factory and a Simca Eight chassis was used to underpin the car so it could be used. It is now powered by a 2L Simca engine and is reported to have a top speed of 150kph.original-2originaloriginal-3The model sold looks immaculate and has been beautifully restored. There is some wonderful detail in the car and it’s small size and streamlined shape make it very desirable.1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-1 1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-2 1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-4 1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-5 1949-georges-irat-cabriolet-par-labourdette-6 detail-button detail-chasisplate detail-dash detail-engine detail-interior detail-interior2Georges Irat did go on to produce a few other cars including this 1950 Barquette which I cannot find any information about. In the early 50’s Georges Irat moved the company to Morocco and ended up building small Jeep like vehicles conceived by Emile Petit, these were known as La Voiture du Bled.

Irat-other-Barquette1950-2 Irat-other-Barquette1950 irat-other-LaVoiture du Bled1953
irat-other-Voiture_du_Bled Irat-other-Voiture-du-Bled2While researching this blog this handful of pics turned up, taken in 2007, the car is obviously red, not the white of the original or the restored version but it has the bumpers of the earlier prototype. So I don’t know if it’s an earlier prototype or has just been restored to the version that was auctioned – if anyone knows, please let us know…Original-72007-1 2007-2 2007-3 2007-4

GM Aerotrain – The train that didn’t save the railroad…

Happy 2016. I’m afraid we have been very lapse and haven’t posted for a long time. We had lots of good intentions of posting at the very least a festive greeting but long to do lists left blogging at the bottom of the queue!

Anyhow we are here now and while we were researching the Parade of Progress story we also came across this rather stylish GM train…

The General Motors Aerotrain was designed by Chuck Jordan, GM styling department Designer of Special Projects in the mid 50’s. It utilised an experimental locomotive coupled to modified bus bodies.

At the time the railways were in trouble with the public preferring cars and subsidised buses and planes and the idea was to introduce super fast trains to try and win the customers back. General Motors’ vice president of styling, Harley Earl, began to discuss the possibility of marketing a new streamlined train that would wow rail travelers and be cheap for railroads to operate. Two demonstrators were made and toured the country in an attempt to sell the concept to various railroad companies but not enough research and development had been done and they weren’t successful.

Modelled on an intercity bus, the train was designed to be very lightweight and capable of speeds of over 100mph. They looked sleek and modern with great styling but were so underpowered that they required a diesel locomotive to help them climb high passes on the track. The innovative air suspension system was supposed to give a smooth ride but it was the opposite and very uncomfortable. The Aerotrain made it’s debut on the Pennsylvania Railroad in February of 1956. The Union Pacific also tried it with a service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Fares were low – $17.99 round trip including free food onboard. The new service was much hyped – Liberace was in the engineer’s seat when the inagural run arrived at the Las Vegas station in December 1956.

By 1957 both prototypes were sold on for use as a commuter service where slower operating speeds would hopefully produce a better ride. Both Aerotrains were retired from service in 1966 – worn-out and unloved after only 10 years of service.
Aerotrain-brochure aerotrain-bwMuch of the design reflected car styling of the day. The rear end looked like the back of a 1955 Chevy Station WagonAerotrain-rear Aerotrain-bw2Aerotrain2 Aerotrain-driverAerotrain-snow Aerotrain-interior-bw Aerotrain-interiorAerotrain-leaflet1Aerotrain-leaflet2Aerotrain-leaflet3Aerotrain-leaflet4Aerotrain-Ad Aerotrain-museum2
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aerotrain3Today the Aerotrains are in The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the Museum Of Transportation in St. Louis. A scale replica of the Aerotrain – the Zooliner – is in use in the Washington Park and Zoo railway in Portland, Oregon.zooliner4a

GM ‘Parade of Progress’, looking at the Futurliner…

Having discovered the GM Futurliner while researching for an earlier post, we were very excited to see one ‘in the flesh’ at this years Goodwood Revival. Unfortunately it was only a static exhibit and in it’s location it wasn’t really possible to get the full effect but it was still pretty awesome. It’s main feature being, it’s so tall!  Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to look inside.IMG_6674DSC04472 DSC04475 DSC04477 DSC04521 IMG_6675

Actually seeing a Futurliner spurred us on to do a bit of research and find out a bit more about them…

streamliner streamliner2Streamliner3In the 30’s GM wanted to take their latest car models to the people and show what was happening in the industry and in research, technology was developing at a pace and they wanted the American people to know about it. This evolved into the ‘Parade of Progress’ – a travelling exhibition across the country, promoting technology. For the first event held in the 1936, GM used a group of customised Streamliners (as above). They were such a success that for the 1939 New York World Fair, the GM Futurliner was custom built and then they went on the second ‘Parade of Progress’ tour which travelled to more than 150 locations across the USA and Canada. The ‘e’ in the ‘Future Liner’ name was dropped so that GM could copyright/trademark it easily.early-parade Early2 early4

Styled by Harley Earl, the first Head of Design and later President of General Motors in the 40’s and 50’s, each Futurliner had a self contained stage, a light tower and each vehicle featured a unique subject such as jet engine technology, agriculture, microwaves, stereophonic sound and televisions.

display1 display2 sound display4They featured heavily stylised Art Deco Streamlined bodywork with the driver centrally located in a high command position with a panoramic view. Twelve were produced and it is believed that nine are still in existence.The Parade was mothballed after Pearl Harbour  but later the vehicles were refurbished and the event resumed in 1953 before being discontinued in 1956 – ironically as televisions, which they had promoted, became more popular and the parade became obsolete.cockpit-view cockpit2parade-logoParade1 parade2 parade4 parade6 parade7 parade8 parade9

The Futurliners were constructed by the Yellow Coach Bus division in Pontiac, Michigan and were 30 feet long, 8 feet wide and nearly 12 feet to the top of the high level cockpit and were powered by a 6 cylinder OHV GMC diesel engine with a 4-speed automatic transmission and 2-speed gearbox. With dual wheels front and rear they stretched bus technology of the time to the limit. Weighing 13 tonnes it would appear that the brakes weren’t very efficient, as after an incident where one run into another, the drivers were told to keep them 300 feet apart! Despite their size they could only take the driver and two passengers on a pair of upright jump seats that flank the ‘captains’ chair.

Once in situ at the exhibition site, the light bar ascended vertically above the roof and the massive clam shell side doors opened to display the futuristic exhibits. The Futurliners were accompanied by support vehicles which made the parade 50 strong and took along a huge 1500 capacity ‘Areodrome’ tent.showground showground2display5aero2 aero3 aero4 aero5

In the 50’s when the Futurliners went on the road for the final parade they were slightly modified with larger GMC straight six petrol engines and the original glass bubble canopy was replaced with a panoramic windscreen with a metal roof to shield the driver from the intense sun and added air conditioning.1941-magazine 1953-magazine

The last parade was seen by 13 million people in 300 cities. Recently the Futurliner has been added to the National Historic Vehicle Register which documents important vehicles in American History.

The twelve vehicles were sold and two of the original twelve were donated to the Michigan State Police for safety displays, one became a portable stage for the televangelist Oral Roberts who used it for his crusades in the 60’s, it was known as the Cathedral Cruiser. One bus sold for US$4 million in 2006 and again in January this year when it’s owner liquidated his entire collection. It fetched the same amount and the money went to an Armed Forces Charity. Several have been restored, one converted to a motorhome and another which was too badly damaged for a full restoration has been covered into a flat bed transporter! Reportedly more are under restoration, including one in Sweden.safetylinerOral Robertsmotorhomemotorhome-interiorPeterpan1

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Futurliner No 10 is owned by the National Auto and Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana, between 1999 and 2006 is was restored by a group of volunteers, led by a retired GM plant manager. It’s 23,000 hour restoration is detailed online. The bus now appears at events in the States.no10-before restoration

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Although at Goodwood we didn’t see the inside, following our research I believe that it was the number 9 bus which was converted to a motorhome by Bob Valdez in California and is now thought to be owned by a collector in Germany. It was great to see it, just a shame we couldn’t get a ‘selfie’ with Mario!