Archive for June, 2010

The Pierce Silver Arrow

June 25, 2010

In the early days of American automobile manufacturing, there was no car that commanded more respect than the Pierce-Arrow. The company was based in Buffalo, New York, and it was founded by George Pierce. He was originally involved in a partnership that started out in 1865 that sold housewares, and they were specifically noted for their ornate golden bird cages. Pierce bought out his partners and started to sell bicycles around 1896, and they offered their first car, the Arrow, a two-cylinder model, in 1904.

Pierce sold the company in 1907 and it was subsequently named The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. The Pierce-Arrow became the luxury car of choice for people of means, from entertainers to politicians to industrialists. President Taft acquired a pair of Pierce-Arrows as official presidential vehicles in 1909, and when Warren Harding was elected president in 1921, he and Woodrow Wilson traveled to the inauguration in a Pierce-Arrow.

Prior to 1920, the Pierce-Arrow was available in dozens of different chassis/body combinations, so the leader of the company at the time, General George Mixter, decided to streamline the company’s offerings, paring things down to one chassis and ten possible bodies. In the earlier part of the decade the Series 33 was the company’s top model, and it was replaced by the Series 36 toward the end of the Roaring Twenties.

The company was acquired by Studebaker in 1928, and in spite of the advent of the Great Depression, Pierce-Arrow introduced a totally new lineup for 1929 and they broke a company sales record, moving almost 10,000 vehicles that ranged in price from $2,875 for the 133 Roadster all the way up to the $8,200 it cost to drive the French Brougham.

Of course, as the Depression persisted many people were less inclined to spend a lot of money on a high priced car (and many no longer had the means of doing so). And so it was that the economic climate severely impacted the success of the stunning 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow. This futuristic vehicle was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in 1933, and it was extremely well received by all concerned, boasting a V12 engine capable of speeds of an incredible (for 1933) 115 miles per hour. The price tag of $10,000, however, was an obstacle for just about everyone. A mere five of these were produced, and though Studebaker could mass produce similar models that were less expensive, they did not offer the same level of luxury. Just three examples of the 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow are still extant today.

Pierce-Arrow remained in business for a few more years, but its insistence on offering only high-priced vehicles slowed sales to a trickle. The last few Pierce-Arrows were auctioned off in 1938, and the company closed its doors for good, having made its mark on the history of automobile manufacturing in the United States.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer


The Chrysler Cordoba

June 22, 2010

When you look at the way the automobile industry was trending during the 1970s you can see that Chrysler was heading for trouble. We talk about the “Big Three” of American automaking, but the fact is that Chrysler sales were really nowhere near that of General Motors and Ford during this era. In the middle of the decade, Ford and GM were setting all-time sales records while Chrysler was sputtering along.

Chrysler refused to adjust to the times that demanded smaller and more economical cars, and they did nothing to respond to the changing landscape while their competitors continually made adjustments. Their Dodge and Plymouth divisions did seem to notice that the 50s and sixties were over, but the parent brand kept the blinders on. Year after year it was the Newport, the New Yorker, the Town and Country wagons, and the Imperial, and though they were well built cars, few buyers were interested.

Sales were dismal, but Chrysler made no significant changes. Things reached rock bottom in 1974 when Chrysler sold just over 117,000 cars. If you combined sales of Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler you were looking at just over 1.3 million vehicles; Chevrolet alone sold over 2.3 million units, and Ford topped 2.1, and this is without factoring in their other divisions.

But in 1975, Chrysler finally did something different. They recognized the growing demand for personal luxury cars, and to that end they introduced the Cordoba. The Chrysler Cordoba was more fuel efficient than the rest of the line, and it was also somewhat smaller than the typical personal luxury car of that era. It was heavily marketed, with the actor Ricardo Montalban as the pitchman touting the vehicle’s “soft Corinthian leather” interior, and the ad campaign was effective. It became a part of popular culture at that time. It was somewhat amusing, but it also seemed stick in your mind.

The Cordoba was very successful when it was initially introduced, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Chrysler. There were more orders for the car than the company could produce for the 1975 model year. They were able to churn out and sell more than 150,000 of them, and remember, they sold just 117,000 cars in all in 1974.

Cordoba production peaked at 183,000 in 1977, but it was not enough to stave off Chrysler’s financial trouble that led to the government bailout of 1979. The Cordoba underwent a stylistic change for the 1980 model year, with sharper lines and less of a smooth and sweeping, elegant appearance. The public was not resonant with these changes, and the Cordoba was discontinued after the 1983 model year after selling less than 100,000 units between 1980 and 1984.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

James Bond Aston Martin DB5 Up For Grabs

June 17, 2010

There are many cars that have played a major role in popular culture over the years, but the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 that appeared in the classic James Bond movies may be the most recognizable. It was driven by Sean Connery in a number of the films, including Thunderball and Goldfinger, and this particular specimen has reached iconic status via motion picture notoriety.

However, the Aston Martin DB5 in general is a rare and collectible automobile that was produced by the company for just three model years, 1963-1965. The “DB” in the name came about because those were the initials of the head of Aston Martin at the time, David Brown. The standard Aston Martin DB5 models were offered as either a two-door coupe or a two-door convertible, and in all, it is estimated that 983 of them were produced, so every existing DB5 is rare. However, the convertible is more scarce than the coupe; just 123 of them were produced, and only nineteen of them had the steering wheel on the left side.

There were also a couple of specialty models built in even smaller quantities. The company unveiled the Aston Martin DB5 Vantage in 1964, which was a high performance version with three carburetors rated at 314 horsepower. Aston Martin built 63 of these, and then there was the rarest DB5 of all, the shooting break estate car that was specially designed for David Brown. Aside from the original prototype earmarked for Brown, twelve additional DB5 shooting break models were created by customizing the coupe.

The reason why we saw fit to highlight the famed 1964 James Bond Aston Martin DB5 around now is because it is going up for auction in October. It is presently owned by a fellow named Jerry Lee who acquired it back in 1969. Lee paid $12,000 for the car; it is expected to fetch upward of $5,000,000 at auction. So if you have have 5 million bucks laying around and you’re a big fan of James Bond, you may want to visit RM Auctions and mark October 27th on your calendar.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

Six Decades Of Corvette

June 15, 2010

The Chevy Corvette is very possibly the most sought after American car of all time, and like a visit to certain destinations, owning a Corvette is something that just about everyone would like to do at least once in their lives. As a testament to the long term popularity of the ‘Vette, is was first introduced for the 1953 model year, and as of this writing the Corvette is still going strong and turning heads.

It is interesting to take a look at the way that prices have changed over the years and consider what type of return you might have gotten on your investment if you bought a Corvette back in the day and kept it. The 1954 Corvettes went for a base price of $2,774. The 1965 Corvette would set you back $4,106. The 1976 Corvette cost about $7,600. By 1988 the price tag had skyrocketed to $29,480. As Y2K hit the price of the Corvette had reached over $40,000. Today, the lowest priced Corvette goes for about $50,000 and the top end models get into the six figures.

The allure of the Corvette is in a very real sense inexplicable, so we have assembled a visual sampling of the Corvette spanning several decades for your enjoyment and inspiration. There’s a very good chance that your “dream car” is in here somewhere.

1958 Corvette

1967 Corvette

1970 Corvette

1982 Corvette

1998 Corvette

2010 Corvette

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

Saratoga Automobile Museum

June 10, 2010

Saratoga, New York is a beautiful place to visit during the warmer months (it’s beautiful in the winter too, but you can’t see it under all the snow), and there is a good reason for car fans to consider making a trip there: the Saratoga Automobile Museum.

The museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the automobile as it has impacted the state of New York as well as the rest of the country and the world as a whole. The Saratoga Automobile Museum features a number of truly fascinating exhibits on an ongoing basis. One of them is called “East of Detroit,” and it is a celebration of automobile manufacturing in the Empire State. Seminal automakers such as Pierce-Arrow were based in New York, and in fact, the state was home to more than a hundred different automobile manufacturers at one time, though most of them were rather small. The “East of Detroit” exhibit houses some very interesting specimens, including a 1931 Pierce-Arrow, a 1903 Weebermobile, a 1947 Playboy, a 1928 Franklin Airman that was owned by famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, and a 1915 Brewster Town Landaulet.

Other exhibits that are regularly on display at the Saratoga Automobile Museum include Racing in New York, The Syracuse Mile, American Motorcycle, a tribute to John Fitch, The New York Stock Car Association Hall of Fame, some automotive art by Al DiMaurro, and an exhibited devoted to Woodies, classic wood-bodied vehicles.

The museum also hosts a number of special events throughout the year, including the Saratoga Wine, Food and Fall Ferrari Festival, the Spring Invitational Auto Show, the Lawn Show Series, and the annual Summer Gala. They are also featuring a Sports & Exotic Car Show on August 7th of this year that includes Norton motorcycles.

There is a lot to see at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and planning your visit around one of these special events is the icing on the cake. Plus, the show that is coming up on August 7th coincides with the world renown horse racing meeting that takes place in Saratoga during part of the summer, so a visit to the area on that weekend would provide some very exciting activities to participate in.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum is open daily from 10:00 to 5:00 during the spring and summer, and on Tuesday through Sunday in the fall and winter during the same hours of the day. Their address is 110 Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga, and their phone number is 518-587-1935.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer