While this 1949 Spartanette 24-foot travel trailer listed for sale on Hemmings.com has been thoroughly upgraded, the trailer’s lost none of its vintage charm as a result. Almost all of the upgrades—including new lighting, new electrical, and even a modern bathroom—remain hidden or in keeping with the trailer’s original aesthetics. Additionally, just about everything that one might see or touch while using the trailer still has either an Art Deco or a mid-century jukebox look and feel, largely due to the reuse of the original paneling and fixtures. As a result, it should be reliable and comfortable enough to take on a good long road trip this summer without hesitation. From the seller’s description:
Complete restoration. Trailer, single axle. Looks brand new, new tires, maintained very well, clean title. Approx towing weight: 3,800lbs. Replaced all interior birch paneling. Saved & restored all wood cabinets. Removed all windows, frames – complete rebuild with nickel plating finish. Polished and stored indoors. Original awning steel frame with new sunbrella fabric. New stabilizers. New LED running lights. New SS 50 amp inlet, 50 amp electrical service. New 12V and 100 amp sub panel. New LED puck lighting in cabinets. New 30/40/50/60 amp converter/charger. All new electrical wiring throughout. 50 amp power cord. New LP/CO detector. New A/C – Coleman low profile. Original stove completely restored – re-chromed, re-enameled, new interior parts. New Fantastic vent fan. New 12 gallon electric hot water heater. Restored & repainted original 1949 GM Fridgedaire refrigerator. New LP lines & regulator. New insulation installed throughout. Added a wet shower/toilet room – full stainless steel walls and floor pan. New Marmolium flooring throughout. New upholstery on original Click Clack dining seating. Restored original dining table. New wood venitian blinds
For a vehicle that only lasted a couple years on the market, Gordon Buehrig’s Cord 810 and 812 have sure had an outsize influence on car designers and enthusiasts ever since. David North, Stan Wilen, and Bill Mitchell packed the Oldsmobile Toronado with all sorts of design elements paying homage to the Toronado’s front-wheel-drive predecessor. Multiple customizers through the Fifties tried their hand at making a sports car out of the coffin-nose Cord. And on at least three occasions, entrepreneurs have resurrected or attempted to resurrect the Cord. So Marty Martino’s really just following in a grand tradition by building a modern Cord out of the bones of a fifth-generation Corvette.
“I never thought of this project as a ‘sport custom’ in the traditional way, but being that it’s a one-off Cord-inspired design, I now see it as a continuation of the genre,” Marty said after reading our recent story on Fifties-era sport-custom Cords.
The roots of the project date back to the late Eighties, when Automobile Quarterly ran a design contest asking for its readers to envision the Cord 810, Tucker 48, or Packard Caribbean as they would have appeared in 1990. “What really made the contest exciting to me was that it was to be judged by Alex Tremulis, Frank Hershey, Dick Teague, Bill Mitchell, Chuck Jordan, Jack Telnack, and Dave Holls, many of my automotive heroes!” Marty said.
Marty selected the 810, and while the phone-dial wheels, wraparound indent, and jellybean taillamps all reflect the era in which he re-envisioned the Cord, the coupe managed to blend the original’s subtly stepped fastback, haunches, hidden headlamps in winglike fenders, and speed line grille in with contemporary shape and proportions. The entry made it into print as one of four runner-up designs that the judges chose. Not bad, Marty thought, considering “most of the entrants were accomplished illustrator/designers, students at Art Center, and so on,” he said.
The rendering got filed away until about a decade ago, when Marty’s younger brother, Robert, expressed an interest in building a modern Cord using a Corvette as the donor car. Robert, according to Marty, “had long held 1936 and 1937 Cords as his favorite prewar car design… and considers the Cord Sportsman the Corvette of its day.”
They figured the fifth-generation Corvette would work best for this project given that Marty had already built the PsyClone Motorama tribute car from a C5 and that both the C5 and the Cord had hideaway headlamps. Robert wanted a convertible, so the brothers found a profile shot of a C5 Corvette, laid it on a lightbox, then drafted the CordVette’s design on a blank piece of paper above the profile shot using many of the same elements and lines that Marty had incorporated into his Automobile Quarterly rendering. Marty also did a little Bondo sculpting on a 1/25-scale model of a C5 to see his alterations in three dimensions.
The mid-Fifties weren’t much of a boom time for electric vehicles here in the United States. Gas was cheap, the chrome was thick, and conformity was high. Despite all the advancements in aerospace and pushbutton gizmos, the state of electric drivetrains at the time wasn’t that much more advanced than 25 years prior, when the first wave of electric vehicles sparked their last. Of the half-dozen or so American EVs that one can count from that time, one stood out partly for making the effort in the first place and partly for proposing a novel means of propulsion that has otherwise dwelt only in the realm of myth.
When the Electronic debuted in June 1955, it brought along with it a bevy of dubious claims. F.B. Malouf, president of the Salt Lake City-based Electronic Motor Car Corporation, boasted that it was a multimillion-dollar company with two manufacturing facilities already in operation (in Detroit and in Oxford, Michigan) and a third forthcoming in the Utah capital city with production expected to reach 400 cars per day within the year. The car itself Malouf described in terms bordering on technobabble: It had a “turbo-electric” drivetrain with a “dual-torque” electric motor capable of propelling it to 100 miles per hour. If the press release didn’t come with a photo, it would’ve been simple to write the Electronic off as a pipe dream
The press release did come with a photo, though, and from that photo it’s plain to see that the Electronic was merely a LaSaetta selling under a different name. As an August 1955 Motor Life article reported, the LaSaetta was the fiberglass sports car dream of two brothers, Cesare and Gino Testaguzza, who relocated from Italy to the Detroit area – specifically Oxford, Michigan – and worked for multiple carmakers before setting out to build their own car. Not a kit car, the LaSaetta was instead meant to be tailored to each customer’s specifications. Most had altered Ford chassis with Oldsmobile V-8 engines, though Motor Life reported on one that had a Hudson six-cylinder, and then there was the Electronic.
Only a handful of photographs depicting Leopold Garcia’s El Chicito are known to exist. Even fewer of his other car, known only as the City Car. Garcia himself remains something of an enigma to automotive historians, and the whereabouts of his vehicles were kept so secret that some supposed the cars no longer existed. Yet all of that stands to change later this year when a Route 66 Visitors Center and museum in Albuquerque, not far from where Garcia built his cars, will open with the two cars on display.
“It’s an honor to have these cars showcased at the Route 66 Visitor’s Center,” said Klarissa Peña, an Albuquerque city councilor whose district includes the visitors center. “Leopoldo Garcia lived in New Mexico, so it’s a fitting tribute to honor his innovative work here along Route 66.”
Garcia, according to researcher Robert Cunningham, studied engineering and sculpture at the University of New Mexico before apparently coming to own a salvage yard in El Llanito, a tiny settlement just north of Bernalillo, which in turn is just north of Albuquerque. Cunningham noted that Garcia built a small three-wheeled electric vehicle able to “be operated by a person with only one good limb” before he set out to put his own stamp on contemporary auto design.
According to an April 1957 Motor Life article on his El Chicito, Garcia “looked at the current boxy styles from Detroit and concluded that he would create something not so square.” He started with a 1940 Ford chassis that he cut down to a wheelbase of just 80 inches. (The AMC Gremlin, for comparison’s sake, rode on a 96-inch wheelbase.) The Motor Life article reported that Garcia worked out his design on paper and in clay before roaming his junkyard in search of “curved sections which came closest to approximating the pre-conceived form.” Garcia apparently characterized that form as “fleshy,” Motor Life described it as “organic rather than geometric,” and in that vein Garcia later rechristened El Chicito as Bubbles.
Once he had all his pieces, he then started to weld them together, adding a couple late Thirties Ford taillamps, a Continental-style spare tire cover, headlamps in the shape of eyes, and a homebuilt convertible top. The design essentially precluded doors, so Garcia decided to make entry easier by hinging the windshield to tilt forward.
For power, the Motor Life article claims an unspecified Ford V-8 engine, but Cunningham wrote that Garcia used a 1954 Mercury V-8, which would make it a 161-hp, four-barrel, 256-cu.in., overhead-valve Y-block. No details on the transmission, but Garcia apparently decided that the exhaust pipes could double as rear bumpers. In total, he claimed to have spent just $800 building the 2,200-pound car and displayed it as far afield as Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Indianapolis
Just as the original Ed Cole-design Chevrolet small-block V-8 launched an era of American performance upon its introduction in the mid-Fifties, so did the LS-series third-generation small-block Chevrolet V-8 when it launched a quarter-century ago. And just as the original SBC spawned dozens of variants over its decades-long lifespan, so did the LS – enough to bewilder all but the most dedicated of enginespotters without a comprehensive reference guide to the engine family’s various displacements, codes, and ratings. So let’s dive into it
What Sets The LS V-8 Apart
Every history of the LS calls it a clean-sheet design – that is, a design that carries nothing over from its predecessor, the Generation II LT-1. Indeed, engineers Tom Stephens and Ed Koerner retained only two parts from the LT-1 when designing the LS series: the rod bearings and the lifters. It’s a thoroughly modernized small-block, with deep side skirts, cross-bolted six-bolt main bearing caps, no provision for a distributor, no coolant passages in the composite intake manifold, cathedral-port heads, and perhaps most important, all-aluminum construction.
Yet, it’s no cutting-edge engine. Even at its introduction, critics derided its overhead-valve design – complete with the single camshaft located in the block, just two valves per cylinder, and pushrods and rocker arms in between – as antiquated. Overhead-camshaft and dual-overhead-camshaft designs had long become the standard for performance engines, after all.
As Will Handzel related in his book, How to Build High-Performance Chevy LS1/LS6 V-8s, GM engineers did have the option to continue development of the Lotus-derived LT5 dual overhead-camshaft derivative of the Generation II small-block. However, consensus at the time – and Koerner’s long and successful background in NHRA drag racing – led them to choose the pushrod design for its simplicity, its dependability, its inexpensive construction, and its compactness. Those attributes not only set the new LS engine apart from its competition, they also (in conjunction with the standard SBC bell housing pattern) led to its widespread adoption by hot-rodders in the ensuing years.
Despite those criticisms of the LS engine’s design, it has proven adaptable to use in high-performance cars (developing as much as 638 hp from the factory), front-wheel-drive cars, police cars, trucks, and SUVs. With a mid-2000s refresh – which GM dubbed Generation IV – the LS was also able to incorporate more advanced technologies such as cylinder shutdown (in GM’s nomenclature, either Displacement on Demand or Active Fuel Management) and variable valve timing and operate as a flex-fuel engine or even in mild hybrid applications.
The LS story starts with the 1997 model year C5 Corvette, in which the LS1 debuted. Like the outgoing small-block (which remained in production through 2003 in full-size vans and which GM still builds for aftermarket sales), the LS1 displaced 5.7 liters, though a smaller bore and longer stroke meant the engine now displaced 345.7 cubic inches. In the one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch tradition, it surpassed both the previous generation’s LT1 and LT4 with 345 horsepower.
As the standard-bearer for the Generation III small-block family, the LS1 provided power for the entire C5 Corvette run, made its way under the hood of the Camaro and Pontiac Firebird from 1998 through 2002, and came back for a curtain call in the 2004 Pontiac GTO. It also provided the basis for the hairier LS6.
Another 5.7-liter V-8, the LS6 came along in the 2001 Corvette Z06, boasting 385 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. A year later, GM cranked that up to 405 horsepower and 400 pound-feet. The added power in the LS6 largely came from old-fashioned hot-rodding know-how – a higher compression ratio, more camshaft duration and lift, freer-flowing D-shaped exhaust port heads (stamped 243 next to the rocker cover, replacing the 241 oval-shaped exhaust port heads on the LS1) and a higher-flow mass-airflow sensor – though the LS6 also benefited from sodium-filled valves and engine block and oil system improvements. After wrapping up the C5 run, the LS6 went on to power the 2004-2005 Cadillac CTS-V.
Just as the C5 Corvette ushered in a new engine, so did the C6 with the LS2 – the first of the Generation IV small-blocks – in 2005. For the LS2, GM enlarged the engine to the 6.0-liter displacement previously used by the Generation III LS truck engines (see below), bumped the compression ratio to 10.9:1, and added the LS6’s 243 heads (albeit without the sodium-filled valves) to crank output to 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet. Compared to the LS1 and LS6, the LS2 powered a much wider variety of vehicles: It remained in the Corvette through 2007, it finished out the Pontiac GTO’s run in 2005 and 2006, it went under the hood of the 2006-2007 CTS-V, and it served in the 2005-2006 SSR, the 2006-2009 TrailBlazer SS, and the 2008-2009 Saab 9-7x Aero.
Ell-oh-hell. Nobody likes a curmudgeon, especially on April Fools Day. It’s a day to laugh at yourself, join in on friendly jokes, and try to take things a little less seriously. On the other hand, jokes can be taken too far, and there is such a thing as too much merriment. As of late, the automakers and their advertising agencies’ approach to April Fools Day is akin to that class clown who needs approval from his peers so much, he keeps trotting out lamer and lamer jokes until it becomes annoying.
The problem, in part, comes down to self-styled comedians somehow getting the green light to play jester by auto execs who wouldn’t know fun if it magically appeared before them in a spreadsheet. In part, it arises from PR firms’ need to fill ever-demanding social media calendars. It also stems from corporations trying to make themselves seem relatable. In a 2019 Vox article criticizing major brands for their “feebler and more exhausting” April Fools Day pranks, Kaitlyn Tiffany argued that the trend is just another attempt to separate consumers from their money:
“Asked why April Fool’s Day is important to brands, (Vice creative director and advertising expert Alex Holder) said, “It’s a chance for them to prove to their customers that they can be funny and human.” (Note: Brands are not funny and human, they are attempting to stand out and capture human attention in order to capture your dollars.) “It’s also the only time of a year some brands feel safe telling a joke,” she added. “How sad is that? Waiting all year to be funny? It’s like only telling your husband you love him on Valentine’s Day.” (Note: It’s not sad. No matter how smart and funny the person hired to tweet in the first person from a brand’s Twitter account, a brand is not a person.)”
So, as the photochops-that-pass-for-pranks from carmakers and others in the auto industry start flooding your inbox and news feed this morning (and at the risk of being seen as curmudgeons ourselves), let’s run down some of the worst April Fools Day jokes that automakers have tried to pass off as fun.
“Is it real?” David Paynter heard the question often enough when showing off the custom front-wheel-drive sports car known as the Cord Comet, and he was never quite sure how to answer it. “Compared to what?” he’d usually respond.
So much of the story of the Comet does seem unreal, from its origins to the minimal attention it’s received since the one time it appeared on the cover of a magazine 70 years ago. In fact, it takes on the elements of a fever dream with colorful characters, implausible situations, and the element of fire. But it is indeed real, as current and past owners can attest.
According to its serial number, 310046S, the Cord came from the factory as a 1937 812 long-wheelbase Custom Beverly sedan. According to the February 1951 issue of Motorsport, it eventually wound up in the hands of Martin De Alzaga Unzue, who believed that by slicing off the Beverly’s back half – chassis and all – then combining it with the front half from another Cord chassis mounted in the rear, he’d not only have a vehicle with front and rear independent suspensions, he’d also be able to make a sports car out of the supercharged Cord. He only got as far as stitching the chassis together before selling the project to Long Island advertising manager Stanley Kramer. Kramer, in turn, had a custom roadster body built for the chassis and completed it sometime before its feature in the magazine, then turned right around and listed it for sale later that year.
The Comet next turned up in an Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg publication in June 1959, looking much like it did in 1951, though with a soft top. ACD Club founder Harry Denhard supplied the picture, noting that it belonged to a neighbor of his in upstate Greenville, New York, and that “it is in excellent condition.” Denhard wrote that the “paint is fair, but chrome is starting to go. The present owner plans to fix it up and install doors and side curtains, etc.” As we see in later photos below, doors did make it on to the car, though it’s uncertain whether the side curtains did as well.
According to Paynter, by the spring of 1978 the Comet had traveled much farther north, to Canton, New York, where a Cord collector and dealer had listed it in Hemmings Motor News. “He told me the story that it had been built for racing, but abandoned in 1949 when the Jag 120 came out,” Paynter said, noting that it had a 1949 New York tax sticker still on the windscreen. “It then went to rod and Cord people. The dealer had two other Cords for sale, but the supercharged convert was the one for me.”
Paynter, a California-based lawyer, was then on sabbatical from his law firm and living on a farm in northern Vermont, so he bought it and towed it there as his sabbatical project. “Cleaned up, it got to the point of cranking, catching, and going silent. I then discovered that the distributor was not wired to the supercharged configuration and once done she fired on the second crank,” he wrote. “The transmission took another month and then we were on the road, sorta.
“While he tried to register the Cord in Vermont, he said the state’s DMV refused to accept the bill of sale “because no one can buy a supercharged 812 for that amount of money,” Paynter recalled. So he waited until he returned to California, the Comet in tow “in various house furniture moving vans,” rebuilt the car, and continued working on it, to some degree of success.
The car’s springs had been lowered by removing leaves, and she was always too close to the ground. I tried to fit a factory spring in the back, but couldn’t attach it. It was too scary to try and fit it in front. Accordingly she nose dived and then lifted when she hit a bump. It was a blast!
I always loved the line and style as did anyone who saw it. The Comet was a sleek, unique auto of rare Art Deco styling sort of as if Cord had hired Darrin for a showcar.
The story behind Ford’s mid-engine Mach 2 sports car project might not be as fully documented and fleshed out as, say, the story of the Mustang or any other enthusiast car that actually made it to production, but it’s less shrouded in mystery than many people would suspect. We know who was involved in it, we know much of the car’s timeline, and we know for what purposes Ford intended to build the car. It’s a rather complete story up until the very end when the one remaining prototype vanished without a trace.
“Nothing,” said Jim Kreuz, who writes about Shelby and (in this case) Shelby-adjacent vehicles and who is searching for the missing prototype Mach 2. “I quizzed Howard Pardee, who located all the Shelby paperwork in the Ford files in Detroit in 1970’s, and his words of advice were, ‘good luck.'”
Still, Kreuz believes it may still be out there
The Mach 2, as Charlie Henry wrote for Ford Performance, was not necessarily intended to be a mid-engine Mustang, more an in-house Shelby Cobra positioned to compete head-on with the Chevrolet Corvette, both in showrooms (retailing for no more than $7,500, with a well-equipped small-block Corvette going for about $5,500 at the time) and on the track (designed with SCCA A-Production and FIA Group III GT specifications in mind). The program kicked off in the spring of 1966 with Roy Lunn at the helm and with an eye toward involving Shelby American in the production process somehow. Ford plucked a 1966 Mustang convertible off the assembly line and shipped it to Kar Kraft to have it converted to mid-engine layout for initial feasibility studies
Two more followed, one red and one white, both full fiberglass-bodied prototypes that Kar Kraft built on 1967 Mustang chassis. According to Henry, Ford designated the white one for further development for racing but finished the red one as a street-trim car and sent it out to the media for road tests. By the fall of 1967, however, Ford’s designers had shifted their focus to what has since been dubbed the Mach 2A, leaving all three of the Mach 2 prototypes with Kar Kraft for disposal.
The year: 1986. The place: America. The problem: Bad guys drove fast cars, faster than anything the Federal Bureau of Investigation had in its motor pools, and they were getting away with murder. The solution: …call Buick?
The notion of FBI-ordered Buick Grand Nationals (especially when reading the above in a Don LaFontaine/Redd Pepper voice) certainly sounds like an Eighties action flick come to life. Throw in an agent who bristles at authority and doesn’t play by the rules, a straight-laced family man partner, and plenty of explosions and you’re halfway to a Hollywood script. But it may actually have some basis in the truth, even though the details are hard to confirm and sketchy at best.
We jumped down this rabbit hole after a recent Regal T Turbo Hemmings Find of the Day elicited a couple of comments on the topic of federal turbocharged Eighties Buicks, starting with one from Joe MM with a rather elaborate backstory to the mythical beasts
he U.S. government ordered Regal T-Types with V rated tires and the PROM chip that raised the top speed limit on the cars. T-Types and GN’s came with H rated tires so GM governed them. All GM law enforcement vehicles had top speed limiters unless you ordered the optional V rated tires. Then the respective agency could order the PROM that would raise the limit. This was a popular upgrade if you could find a dealer that was able to order the chip. GM used these chips in the 1994-96 Impala SS since they had 17″ rims; since most tires that would fit had a V rating. They were afraid that they would be accountable if owners installed inferior tires and have accidents as a result. The full size trucks today are governed to the same top speed whether they have the base V6 or the 420 hp V8’s for this reason.
All those old film reels the automakers used to put out, showing the process of carving perfect mahogany patterns then pouring molten metals into massive sand molds to cast engine blocks and the like, make the process seem like something only somebody with billions of dollars in capital could ever take on. Do-it-yourselfers, however, know that’s far from the case, especially when it comes to casting parts in aluminum and using a process called lost-foam casting. Sure, anybody with programming experience could chuck a hunk of billet into a CNC machine, press a button, and see the end result a few hours later, but lost-foam casting uses an entirely different set of skills, as we see in this series of videos that Kelly Coffield made showing how he cast a custom intake manifold for a Ford V-8 engine. Designed to accept a pair of Autolite inline-four-barrel carburetors and mount atop a 351 Cleveland, the manifold looks rather straightforward but took a good deal of work with routers and jigs – along with one big oops that caused Kelly to start all over from scratch – to create a professional-looking and usable piece. Still, there’s little he used in the process – except perhaps the pouring setup – that an average home tinkerer doesn’t have access to, and Kelly explains in painstaking detail every aspect of his patterns and every step he took along the way. It’s enough to lead us to start thinking what other rare or custom parts we could start casting