Every now and then, another forlorn dust-covered and inoperable GM EV1 makes the rounds on automotive websites and social media. Typically, it’s heralded as the last of its kind or a major discovery, and some people even make attempts to conceal the cars’ locations as if they were archaeological dig sites that needed to be protected from grave robbers and treasure plunderers. However, the reality is that many of the remaining EV1s not in GM’s hands are on public display, have been well publicized, or have become open secrets among generations of engineering graduates over the last 20 years or so. Amazingly, nobody seems to have made an attempt to run down the current whereabouts of all the GM EV1s still in existence, so let’s do so here.
First, a little background. GM built 1,117 EV1s for public release: 660 in 1997 and another 457 in 1999. None were sold to the general public; all were made available via a lease program to customers in California, Arizona, and Georgia. When those leases came to an end starting in 2003, GM took back every single EV1 and decreed that the cars would be removed from the road permanently. The subsequent crushing of many of the EV1s triggered protests from many of those lessees and others who felt that the car and its advanced technology deserved to remain on the road.
That said, GM didn’t destroy every EV1. Similar to what Chrysler did with the Turbine cars, the company donated some EV1s to museums and some to colleges and universities for their engineering students to pick apart and study. In all but one instance, the donated cars were made inoperable, and as part of the deal, GM mandated that the vehicles not be returned to the road.
But how many exactly escaped GM’s crusher? Sources generally claim 40, but that’s not a hard and fast number, and occasionally somebody will claim less—either 15 or 20. One EV1 fan claims there are as many as 180 EV1s, though some of those may be concept, demonstration, or show cars still owned by GM, and some of that number may have been crushed by GM. According to EV collector Steve Hawkins of the Beata collection, 37 total still exist, with nine of those currently in private hands, though as he noted, owners of the cars still prefer to remain secretive and a tight-knit group. “Just in the last couple of years we discovered another complete original car, but the contacts, trust and relationships to get that information developed over a decade of what we call ‘social engineering,'” Hawkins said. “There is another EV1 we are trying to identify now that will likely take years to verify. Our mission is to help every remaining chassis survive for history and education’s sake.”
Some of the most innovative production vehicle engineering during the Thirties came in one of the unlikeliest vehicle segments: milk trucks. Though designed for such a humble purpose, seemingly every model had some unique attribute designed to maximize a milkman’s efficiency. Take, for instance, this 1935 Twin Coach milk truck listed for sale on Hemmings.com. While the drivetrain’s relatively typical for the time, the interior makes use of every available square inch, and the cab—much like a DIVCO—allows for both sitting and standing driving positions. This one remains true to its origins, with the livery of the dairy company it originally served replicated along its flanks during its restoration and plenty of milk crates, bottles, and other ephemera stacked in the back. From the seller’s description:
This interesting and well-maintained Twin Coach vehicle was configured as a milk truck and is the last known example from the Ferguson Dairy fleet in Columbiana, Ohio. It’s easy to imagine it delivering milk, cottage cheese, eggs and butter when new nearly nine decades ago! Fully restored, this timeless classic is completely hand-painted (no decals here!).
Behind the driver are raised platforms on each side of the truck to hold original stacked Cream Crest wooden milk crates. Metal runners keep the crates in place. Included are original milk bottles, wire bottle carriers and several vintage milk cans. There are also several antique galvanized milk boxes that would have sat on the porch, where customers put their used glass bottles and received full ones from the milkman. Ample windows surround the entire truck, and there are sliding doors on each side. The unique flip-up rear door offers easy access to the dairy goods. The truck’s Hercules 199 cubic inch four-cylinder flathead engine is located in front of the driver and is accessible for servicing through a panel between the driver and the windshield
The longtime holder of the copyright for the modified Ford Mustangs and Shelby G.T.500s that appeared in the various “Gone in 60 Seconds” movies has lost ownership of that copyright after a California court ruled this week that the cars known to film fans as Eleanor don’t count as characters and no longer deserve such copyright protection.
The Eleanor cars first appeared in a string of films by H.B. Halicki—the original 1974 “Gone in 60 Seconds,” 1982’s “The Junkman,” and “Deadline Auto Theft” the following year—before appearing in the blockbuster 2000 Nicolas Cage film “Gone in 60 Seconds.” In the first two, it’s a yellow and black 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof modified to appear like a 1973 Mustang while in the latter film, it’s a highly modified Shelby G.T.500 that has inspired countless clones and tributes in the 20-plus years since. In both cases, the premise behind the car remains the same: Eleanor’s a highly prized car, particularly to one professional auto thief who makes repeated attempts to steal it.
After Halicki’s death while on the set of a 1989 reworking of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” his widow, Denice Halicki, assumed ownership of the copyrights to the films and the films’ characters, claiming the Eleanor cars to be characters as well. Retention of her rights to the Eleanor characters were reportedly “a non-negotiable deal point” during her discussions with Hollywood Pictures to make the 2000 film, for which she served as an executive producer. In turn, Halicki licensed the Eleanor copyright to shops selling replicas of the Shelby-based car, to diecast companies, and to other merchandisers.
According to Shelby representatives, that years-long legal battle came to a close this week with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California’s ruling that vacates copyright protections for the Eleanor cars. As noted in the ruling—which the court issued only after “independently scutiniz(ing) the four feature films in which Eleanor appears”—Halicki “assign(ed) anthropomorphic characteristics to the [purported Eleanor] character, such as strength, talent, endurance, and a tendency to always save her leading man. In the Court’s view, these characteristics are an invention of overzealous advocacy.” In addition, the court’s ruling notes that Eleanor is portrayed inconsistently across and within each of the four films, that the application of a human name to a car is not particularly unique, and that “Eleanor’s make and model do not make it especially distinctive. Eleanor is not entitled to standalone copyright protection as a matter of law.”
Detroit might be the Motor City today, but Cleveland made a good run at the title
Earlier this month, to celebrate National Ohio Day, Paul Sakalas at Summit’s OnAllCylinders blog did something that this Buckeye State native should have done a long time ago: run down the top 10 reasons why Ohio—and not Michigan—might be the important state in the history of the American automobile.
It’s a good list, one that we should expect from Summit Racing (named after the Ohio county in which it’s based) and one that includes a few prominent assembly plants (Lordstown, Norwood, Marysville, and Brook Park via the 351 Cleveland), a number of well-known aftermarket companies besides Summit (just what do you think Flaming River was named after?), Art Arfons, and Crosley. While these all contributed in their own ways to automotive history, however, the majority of the list was just things that come to mind when gearheads think of Ohio or trivia. I’d argue that only two items from Summit’s list—Charles Kettering, who was born in Ohio and who established the Dayton Electronics Company (a.k.a. Delco), and the Akron-based rubber industry—significantly impacted the automotive industry in this country.
And that’s a shame, because I know for a fact that Ohio had far more to contribute to U.S. automotive history than those two. After all, as Richard Wager wrote in “Golden Wheels,” a book that enumerates the many automobiles and automotive personalities from Northeast Ohio, including the Firelands, Cleveland really was the first Motor City, well before Detroit took that title. Even after the Model T (along with conservative Cleveland bankers who were risk-averse when it came to the auto industry, as Wager analyzed) helped shift the center of U.S. auto manufacturing northwest, Cleveland remained the second most prolific city in the industry and “still held the distinction of turning out a concentration of high quality, luxurious, expensive cars, which for a decade or so rivaled if not surpassed the output of the Motor City in monetary value.”
All that said, here are my suggestions to improve that list. By no means is this a complete list, either, so let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Any discussion of U.S. automotive firsts should include Duryea (Springfield, Massachusetts), Haynes (Kokomo, Indiana), and Alexander Winton. Winton, who was based in Cleveland and who drove his first automobile in 1896, may not have been the first person in the United States to build a horseless carriage or even the first person in the United States to sell a horseless carriage, but as Wager noted he was the first to sell an automobile built for serial production on the afternoon of March 24, 1898, thus “mark(ing) the beginning of the American automobile industry.”
Winton went on to contribute a number of other firsts to automotive history over his 28-year career as a carmaker, his cars became some of the first to cross the continent, and he reportedly helped coin the term “automobile,” but, as Wager wrote, “possibly more than those of any other car maker, Winton’s efforts made the public want to own a motor car.”
According to Wager, Packard had intended to remain in Ohio, even after it started calling its cars Packards in 1900. The company had looked to build a larger manufacturing plant in Cleveland, but, “as the story goes, the president of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce discouraged Packard, saying the city already had the Winton factory, and anyway, the largest clothespin factory in the country had chosen Cleveland for its location.”
Even after the carmaker headed to Detroit in 1903, however, a bit of Packard remained in Ohio. Packard Electric, which the Packard family started to produce cabling and wiring for its cars, continued to operate out of Warren and eventually became a subsidiary of GM in 1932.
Born Berna Eli Oldfield in Wauseon, Ohio, Barney Oldfield became automotive racing’s first superstar. William F. Nolan’s biography of Oldfield calls him “America’s legendary speed king.” More than just a native of the state, Oldfield—who started out in bicycle racing before switching to automobiles—billed himself as “the bicycle champion of Ohio” (despite not actually winning the championship). His automotive racing career, however, started with Henry Ford in 1902 and skyrocketed with his win over a fellow Buckeye, Alexander Winton.
Hundreds of carmakers built battery-electric vehicles during the first few decades of the automobile industry, enough so that it’s fairly difficult to tell who really built the first electric car. Cleveland alone boasted 100 such companies, according to Wager. Among those was perhaps the most well-known and most prolific early EV builder, Baker Electric. Established in 1898, Baker made a name for itself in racing with its Torpedo. The company’s cars also became favorites of Thomas Edison, who wrote that if Baker continued building high-quality cars, the “gasoline buggies” wouldn’t stand a chance on the market.
While that proved not to be the case, Baker—and Rauch & Lang, with which Baker merged in 1916—lasted as a carmaker until the Twenties, before switching to auto body construction, supplying the major Detroit manufacturers, including Ford, with coachwork for their cars
A four-seater ‘Vette would have taken on the bigger Thunderbird
News broke this week that GM’s considering turning the Corvette into a sub-brand rather than just another model in the Chevrolet lineup, with an electric four-door and an SUV. Details are scant at the time, but apparently GM plans to forge ahead with this for the 2025 model year and has been benchmarking Porsche’s Taycan and Cayenne. But, just as the suggestion of the mid-engine Corvette took decades to come to fruition, the idea of expanding the Corvette beyond its two-seater sports car format to keep up with the competition has been around at least since the early Sixties.
Not counting the Waldorf Nomad show car, an early take by Chevrolet on what the Corvette would have looked like as a station wagon, the earliest proposal for something other than a two-seater Corvette came in 1961, when Ed Cole asked Bill Mitchell to design a four-seat version of the pending 1963 Corvette. Mitchell, according to an article that Michael Lamm wrote for the December 1980 issue of Special Interest Autos, then turned to Larry Shinoda to make it work.
“Buick had already designed the 1963 Riviera but was still 18 months away from production,” Lamm wrote. “Design of the standard two-place Corvette for ’63 had also been completed and was being released for tooling.”
Shinoda and the special projects studio thus added six inches to the Corvette’s wheelbase, trying not to alter the car’s shape too much. The doors soaked up much of that length, which makes sense, given the need for rear-seat passengers to get in and out, but Lamm also noted an apparent stretch to the split-window glass and an increase in roof height.
It wasn’t just a clay styling study, either, getting a designation of XP-796. The special projects studio added actual rear seats that folded down as well as lengthened door panels, longer door glass, and stretched internal door hardware, judging by the fact that the doors could still be opened. The longer doors even necessitated slight reworking of the door cuts into the roof. In addition, as Lamm noted, the engineers got involved in the project, strengthening “the pickup area of the 1963 Corvette frame to accept the extra weight of a four-passenger version.”
In hindsight, perhaps Shinoda and the engineers shouldn’t have taken the concept beyond the styling study stage, however. “GM design director Charles M. (Chuck) Jordan reflects that no one at GM Styling, as it was then called, really cared for the four-seater,” Lamm wrote. “Most thought it was ungainly at best.”
Shinoda offered another reason why the four-seater Corvette never went anywhere, according to CorvetteBlogger:
If this 1984 Chevrolet Chevette CS listed for sale on Hemmings.com isn’t the most well-preserved example of the most representative Chevette, I’m not sure what is.
The original owner may have sprung for an option or two—Chevette experts chime in here to note any options you see—but with a manual transmission, crank windows, no power brakes or steering, two doors, and an AM radio, it’s hard to see how the car could have come much cheaper. Typically, this is the kind of car most people buy to run into the ground by commuting over long distances with minimal-to-zero maintenance, but this one was actually treasured by its original owner, who undercoated it, stored it indoors, put vanishingly few miles on it, and generally treated it like a highly optioned Buick rather than an econobox. It’s not perfect after all these years, but it still has a lot more going for it than 99 percent of the Chevettes still out there. From the seller’s description:
All original. Clean green title. My mom bought this Chevette brand new, her “blue jewel,” and put it away in the barn only a few years later all covered with sheets and blankets inside and out. She had it out a few times since to change the oil, start it, wax it, drive it a little, then put it back away “to save it.” It is the CS version with the 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine and manual 4 speed transmission, cloth seats, seats 4, hatchback. Car comes with full history and a story. Comes with all original paperwork and documentation, warranties and receipts. All maintenance records and logs from new. Mom even had a cute blue flowered journal where she recorded the maintenance and every gallon of gas she put in the car. It was dealer undercoated at new, Vesco Ban-Rust “lifetime.” The undercoating did a good job. The interior is near new. Seats and hatch and floors were always completely covered with rugs, blankets, and towels. She never sat on the seat fabric. Never in an accident or painted in any way. Original Firestone P155/80R13 tires and they still hold air. It was never stored or sitting outside so the paint is in really nice, but original, shape. The black moldings are all original, not sundrenched or faded. These cars did not have metallic paint and there are a few storage blemishes, but no stone chips on the front hood like most cars. No power what so ever. Manual steering. Manual brakes. Manual transmission. Manual windows. Manual locks. Manual key to open hatch. Driver side mirror only. AM Radio. Cigarette lighter. All lights work and are original. No pets. No smoking ever. In the past few months, the car had its oil and filter, lube, front brake pads and adjacent lines, and battery replaced. We have driven it a few dozen miles and it has driven fine.
Perhaps more than any other vehicle, the Ford Model T’s ubiquity and versatility meant that its owners put it to a wide variety of uses. For collectors, that means it’s still entirely possible to either restore one to the exact same specifications as a million other restored Model Ts out there or, alternatively, to find some historically accurate way to stand out from those million other restored Model Ts.
The seller of this 1914 Ford Model T listed on Hemmings.com chose the latter by re-creating one of the first motorized ambulances employed by the hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. We’re sure there’s a story behind that very specific decision, and we can also appreciate the research that went into the ambulances and the effort that went into applying that research to a Model T that, based on the photos alone, would likely do well in points judging at an MTFCA gathering. From the seller’s description:
This 1914 Model T-Touring was built as a historically accurate replica of the two ambulances used by Yale New Haven Hospital in 1914. It has the original 1914 frame, period-correct headlights, cowl lights, tail lights and running boards. The fenders are from a 1915 T. The car was painted around 2016 and shows in great condition. Since restoration, it has always been kept in climate controlled storage. Under the hood is the later 2.9L inline 4-cylinder engine equipped with a 6 volt generator and electric starter. Making roughly 20HP this is a great touring car and runs like a sewing machine.
Yes, steamers (sometimes) run on gas. And kerosene, and naphtha, and many other combustibles
As we’ve all learned this week, following Jay Leno’s widely reported incident with a steam car that left part of his face burned, steam cars often use gasoline to fire the boilers that produce the motivating steam. However, that wasn’t always the case, with gasoline coming and going out of fashion for steam car operators over the years and with some steam cars even fitted for burning multiple types of fuel.
Multiple outlets reported early this week that Leno, the former “The Tonight Show” host who currently showcases his and others’ cars via his CNBC show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” suffered burns to his face on Saturday while clearing a clogged fuel line on a White steam car, one of several steamers in Leno’s collection. Leno has told Variety that he is fine and “just need a week or two to get back on my feet.”
The reports raised a number of questions among enthusiasts about the fuels used in steam cars. Even though steam cars are considered external combustion, do they still require gasoline? Weren’t kerosene and other fuels also used to fire the boilers?
Yes and yes, according to Stanley Museum Archivist Jim Merrick, who noted that prior to 1910, Stanley cars used gasoline as both main fuel and fuel for the pilot burner. The Stanley twins, in fact, had pioneered not only the commercially viable steam car but also the use of liquid fuel – in their case, gasoline, at the time a byproduct of kerosene distillation that was widely available at drugstores for use in lighting lamps – in a steam car’s operation. Prior to the Stanleys, steam automobiles used wood, as seen in the operation of the 1769 Cugnot fardier a vapeurfardier a vapeur, or more commonly coal, as was the case with Sylvester Roper’s Boston-based experiments in steam power.
That’s not to say the Stanleys’ decision to use gasoline was universally adopted thereafter. Leon Serpollet, the French steam-car pioneer, discarded coal for a fuel source in favor of kerosene – also known in many parts of the world as paraffin. While gasoline remained relatively inexpensive at the turn of the twentieth century and was known to vaporize easily, making it suitable for use in a steam car, kerosene was even cheaper and perhaps more widely available and offered higher BTU output, though it was known for an unpleasant odor and for incomplete burning, leading to sooty deposits that could clog the burner’s jets.
That said, as Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Anthony Build wrote in their 1971 book on steam cars, gasoline had one major drawback over kerosene as a fuel for steam cars: the potential for blow-backs and flare-ups.
This not infrequently happened when running downhill using no steam with the main fire shut off so that when the diaphragm valve re-opened, the fire did not re-light and the vapor liquefied in the cooled burner and flooded the fire-box with petrol, which then flared up when the driver tried to relight the burner. Paraffin burners were prime to similar misbehaviour, it is true, but the risk of a serious blaze was less great.
Experienced Stanley owners soon became accustomed to the routine of shutting off the fuel lines to main and pilot burners, throwing open the bonnet and just waiting for the flames to die down; but there is no denying that the spectacle was thoroughly disconcerting to the ordinary bystander.
In fact, as they later expanded, the gasoline-fired type of steam car “did not sell in France where there was official objection to it because of the fire risk (which was probably exaggerated) and where, in some departments, it was illegal to operate.” Similarly, “this propensity to flare up in public… led many ferries and most public garages to insist that steam cars must be manhandled with their fires extinguished.”
For as much of an annoyance as rust represents to the average car collector—especially those of us north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi—we sure don’t spend much time talking about the actual mechanics or chemistry of it. Sure, it seems simple on the surface; it’s just a chemical reaction that any high-schooler could understand, after all. However, as I discovered when explaining the process by which salt on winter roads makes rust so much worse, rust is a topic that can get complicated fast. In fact, it’s a topic that some engineers, chemists, and scientists devote their entire careers to, meaning there’s a wealth of information out there about how to prevent, mitigate, and ultimately live with rust.
Though Practical Engineering’s recent video series on corrosion doesn’t really address rust in the terms we gearheads typically do, it does lean on that wealth of information to explore just how much damage corrosion really does and the value of a good coating (along with correct application of that coating) to prevent rust. None of this will stop municipalities and states from salting the roads with the vigor of a man who’s angling for a heart attack salting his steak, but at least it gives us a better understanding of rust, its processes, and what we can do about it.
No hard proof exists to say that Chrysler intended to build a four-door E-body in the early Seventies. For that matter, no hard proof exists to say that Chrysler didn’t, either. Dave Walden, however, believed in the idea so much that he decided to build a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda with two extra doors more or less from scratch. The resulting car, the only known four-door Barracuda in the world, will soon come up for auction.
According to the blog that Walden kept to document the car’s build, he had already finished a few factory-correct restorations of other muscle-era Mopars and pony cars and was looking to do something different for his next project. In September 2010, he came across a rendering of a bluish-gray four-door Barracuda—Walden didn’t specify whether it was a factory rendering, so it very well may have been one of Aaron Beck’s E-body photochops, which Beck had posted in March of that year—and subsequently decided that the rendering needed to become reality.
Fleshing out the idea
Beck’s vision specified a Barracuda—not a ‘Cuda, which would have been a bridge too far, even for a photochopper accustomed to altering reality—powered by a 383 under a flat hood and fitted with redline tires on steelies with pie-pan caps. (For what it’s worth, he also included a four-door Barracuda woodie station wagon and even a two-door Challenger hearse in his collection of renderings.) More significantly, Beck also decided his what-if four-door Barracuda deserved a pillarless hardtop treatment. Walden decided to take the build in a slightly different direction, envisioning a pillared sedan with a rally hood, Gator Grain vinyl top, and Lemon Twist Yellow paint.
To determine just how the four-door Barracuda could be built, Walden consulted with metal shaper Steve Been. The two determined that, rather than start with an existing E-body shell, they needed to base the car on a four-door car, specifically a 1971-1974 B-body Dodge Coronet or Plymouth Satellite. They found a stripped 1972 Coronet four-door in Clay Kossuth’s Mopar salvage yard and decided to build upon that car’s roof, A-pillars, B-pillars, and partial rockers.
In researching what they’d need to build the car, Walden said they came across a tantalizing bit of hearsay. “[Steve] stumbled across an article written by Roger Johnson,” Walden wrote. “We didn’t know who Roger was and had never spoken with him at that time. In the article, Roger described a red four-door Barracuda parked on a loading dock behind the Highland Park Chrysler Headquarters. This occurred sometime in early fall of 1969.” Johnson, a mailroom employee for Chrysler, couldn’t provide photos, documentation, or any further context for his sighting, but the report boldened Walden, who decided to alter his plans for his four-door Barracuda to reflect Johnson’s recollection as much as possible.
(A brief article in the October 1969 issue of Mechanix Illustrated mistakenly—or perhaps not—reported that the upcoming 1970 Plymouth Barracuda would be available in convertible, two-door hardtop, and four-door hardtop body styles. Walden also pointed to proposed four-door Camaros and Mustangs to defend the idea as not so outlandish.)