This is not my story. I read a lot of it in Peter Drucker’s book, Adventures of a Bystander. It’s the story of Nicholas Dreystadt, and I consider Dreystadt’s life interesting and inspiring enough to pass along. But I’ll do it in my own words, because I think Mr. Drucker might be upset if I plagiarized him directly.
I should explain that Peter Drucker, who passed away in 2005, studied and wrote about business management. Business Week called him “the founding father” of that discipline. Before Drucker formalized management, business managers didn’t think much about the subject. And in the course of his 95-year life, Drucker advised international leaders, including three of our presidents. He studied the workings of major industry leaders, taught at Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, Claremont, and NYU. He wrote 81 books and received 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
What caught my eye in Adventures of a Bystander was the chapter in which he talked about General Motors. Mr. Drucker wanted to study GM to discover how it was organized and how it ran itself. In doing so, he contrasted the management styles of two divisional “presidents,” what we now call general managers: Marvin Coyle of Chevrolet and Nicholas Dreystadt of Cadillac. Both names were familiar to me, but I hadn’t known much about either man.
According to Drucker, Marvin Coyle ran Chevrolet with a heavy hand. His people were generally afraid of him, and he was very much the off-putting autocrat. Dreystadt represented the opposite: easygoing, friendly, good-natured, casual, with a good sense of humor. Coyle, though, had built Chevrolet into GM’s powerhouse—the corporation’s main source of income—and despite being dictatorial, Marvin Coyle earned the respect of his peers.
These days, it is a common practice for automotive companies to sell the same car under many names. Take, for example, Volkswagen Golf. If you want a more premium version, you can buy Audi A3, and if you don’t have enough money to afford a Golf, the Skoda Octavia is the way to go.
From the outside, these cars are completely different but from the technical point of view, the three cars are almost identical. Globalization, as they call it, leads to the situation when bigger and more successful car companies get over the small ones, which in turn has its effect on production. Smaller companies get access to new technology, and the bigger ones increase their profits and market share.
However, it was completely different 85 years ago. To use someone’s successful products, you’d have to purchase their technology. And so it was for the USSR in 1929 when the Soviet government decided that it was time for the country to start mass production of its own cars. The government signed a contract with Ford Motor Company, and a factory was built near modern Nizhny Novgorod, called Gorky back then. The plant was named GAZ, short for Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (Russian for ‘plant’ or ‘factory’).
The car you see here is GAZ Model A, the first Soviet mass-produced passenger car. And yes, it does look like a clone of 1930-31 Ford Model A Standard Phaeton…because it is one.
This impressive Gulf Oil Company service station located in an unknown area of Philadelphia, PA, was designed in the manner of the then-popular Streamline Moderne architecture. This form of building construction was fashionable from the mid-1930s to the ’50s, both here in the US and around the world. The “Good Gulf Nonox” neon sign out…
Before there was NASCAR, before twisting race tracks were known for their road-racing antics, and almost before the Indianapolis 500, there was Elgin, Illinois. Located roughly 35 miles from Chicago, Elgin was the place where speed came of age, and terms such as “stock cars” were used in their truest sense.
We often think of hot rodding as a post-WWII phenomenon, but if one traveled the streets of Elgin, even before the first World War, you might have a different reality. Starting in 1910, the streets of Elgin, Illinois would once a year, turn from the typical commuter route to a roaring race track featuring some of the biggest names in racing. Noted drivers such as Eddie Rickenbacker, Cliff Durant, the son of GM founder, Billy Durant; Ralph DePalma, and Fred Frame all competed with others on this early version of automotive competition.
The Elgin Road Races were held in 1910-1915, 1919, and 1920. They were halted during World War I and were only brought back after the 1920 race as part of the World’s Fair that was being held in Chicago in 1933. In 1933, there were actually two races held. There was an “open” class, which was won by Phil “Red” Shafer, and a “stock car” race, comprised of production vehicles powered by engines less than 231 cubic-inches. It was during this race that this particular car came into prominence. One year after Henry Ford introduced the all-new flathead Ford V8, several automobiles powered by this new engine were dominating the twisting course at Elgin. The video below shows antics from both classes of cars during that race.
Walter P. Chrsyer with his first car in 1924 and with Straight 8 in 1930. Then see Chrysler factory building cars and coming off the line. The Straight 8 and other Flathead 6s and 8s gave way to more powerful engines in the 50s for cars but survived as reliable powerplants for industrial and other applications. The film also shows manufacturing and a new DeSoto.
This film shows the achievements of Ford in Britain during the 1930s. It includes hill climbs and other reliability tests featuring the Model A, the 8hp and the 14.9hp (“Popular” and “Fourteen”). We also see the building of the Dagenham plant, with the first turf cut by Edsel Ford. NB. This film is silent
I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to pester Ford’s archive department for interesting bits of weirdness that may be lurking in their voluminous stacks of records. One of the things I asked the dedicated archivists to look out for would be any rear-engined Ford experiments, and they came up with something really interesting and strange for me to share with all of you, fellow lovers of strange things. Even better, this one has some pretty unexpected Volkswagen Beetle overtones, too, but with a much, much weirder layout.
Of the big three American automakers, Ford may have shown the least interest in rear-engine designs. GM had their Corvairs, Chrysler had all those Simcas they made overseas, but Ford didn’t really mess with back porch engines, even in their European divisions.
But that doesn’t mean they didn’t do some interesting experiments! In the 1930s, streamlined, rear-engine designs were something like electric cars are today—the general consensus was that rear-engined streamliners represented the future, somehow, and lots of people and companies were developing them, or at least experimenting, Ford included.
There are automotive artists that I find fascinating for their futuristic vision of what might be or in their stylings and designs which capture speed, motion, color and seemingly more than I can see and appreciate with my normal eyes. We’ve covered Howard “Dutch” Darrin quite a bit on our website and another of my favorites – Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. But one I’ve not shared before is Arthur Radebaugh. In passing conversation with friend and automotive historian this week, Bob Cunningham, I learned that he’s a great admirer of Radebaugh’s work too.
Bob was kind enough to put together an article for us which showcases some of Radebaugh’s artistic skill and his history and background. He’s also shared quite a few images, and I’ve placed all of these images in a new area of our website which contains historical archives. I’ll share a link to this area at the end of today’s story. Thanks to Bob for sharing today so without delay, take it away Mr. Cunningham 🙂
Capable of traveling on road or rail, the Evans Auto-Railer offered one possible solution to America’s transportation needs in the Thirties.
With headquarters in the elegant Union Guardian Building in downtown Detroit and factories in Plymouth, Michigan and elsewhere, the Evans Products Company was a diverse enterprise that manufactured everything from railroad cars to tricycles. In that regard the company was much like its founder and chief executive Edward S. Evans, a Motor City inventor and businessman whose interests were equally diverse, from aviation to wood processing. (Evans Products manufactured the famed Eames molded plywood chairs.) His son, Robert B. Evans, would later become a major shareholder and chairman of American Motors.