WardsAuto Flashback – April 2015

Graham Launches Hollywood; CIO Wins GM; AMC, S-P Battle; T'bird Leads; Lincoln, Mercury Separate; Gladiator gets Vigilante; AMA Asks Smog Research; 8-Track Intro; Impact Lauded; Minivans Drive Sales

Al Binder, Senior Editor

April 28, 2015

7 Min Read
WardsAuto Flashback – April 2015

WardsAuto Flashback – April 2015

75 Years Ago (April 1940): Graham-Paige Launch; CIO Wins GM; Model Year Sales Race

Mid-April finds Graham-Paige Motors in the throes of launching its new line of cars derived from body components originally designed for the now defunct Cord 810/812 models. Response to the Graham Hollywood series has been strong, the company says, and it expects the upcoming Clipper series will be equally well received. The automaker had been closed for several months as it put its financial house in order and tooled up for the new cars. Although the origins of the new Graham cars is evident, they have not adopted Cord’s more expensive front-drive and feature exposed, rather than concealed, headlamps. Still, less than 300 Hollywoods have been built in the two weeks the plant has been back in operation.

The UAW-CIO faction has won bargaining rights in a preponderance of GM plants, according to the results of the recent National Labor Relations Board elections, WAR says in its Apr. 20 issue. Some “friction” is to be expected from CIO efforts to lump all of its GM plants into one collective agreement, but no serious stumbling blocks are likely to be encountered, the publication notes.

The tabulation of sales results in the first five months of the ’40 model year (Oct. 1, 1939-Feb. 28, 1940) holds no surprises among the leaders, Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth, Ward’s Automotive Reports points out. However, it appears likely Buick and, possibly, Oldsmobile will pull ahead of Dodge by the end of year, the publication says. A major strike at Dodge plants in fall 1939 is citied as the reason for the brand’s declining position, loss of sales it is not likely to make up.

60 Years Ago (April 1955): AMC, S-P Vie for 4th; T’bird Leads; Lincoln, Mercury Separate

American Motors and Studebaker-Packard are locked in a battle for fourth place among U.S. automakers, according to WAR. Citing first-car car output schedules of 121,000 units at AMC and 144,000 at S-P, 41.5% and 31.9% above like-1954, respectively, the publication says showroom traffic has been well above expectations. With 3,900 franchised dealers, including 500 selling both brands, Studebaker-Packard has more outlets than its rival’s approximately 3,000-dealer retail network that is divided between Nash and Hudson outlets. Sales at cars made by both manufacturers have benefitted from lower prices on ’55 models. Still, despite the intense sales competition, S-P continues to supply Packard V-8 engines for AMC’s top-line models and is trying to increase shipments while providing enough engines for its own needs.

Thunderbird is the clear leader in a burgeoning U.S. “sports” car market that is likely to be consolidated to just two models, Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette.  Although some 16,000 “sports” cars have been built since February 1952, current prospects are that figure will be exceeded in 1955 alone. But that is “no monument to the segment, one that, save for the Thunderbird, has largely been misjudged and fizzled in a profusion of promotional advertising copy.” T’bird output is forecast to top 15,000 in the ’55 model run. After introducing an optional V-8 earlier this year, Corvette is reportedly set to introduce a raft of updates that could make it a more serious contender, Ward’s says. Models that already have come and gone, according to the publication, include the Buick Skylark at 2,400 units, Kaiser Darrin with 425 completions and Hudson Italia, a venture that ended after just 25 cars were built.

Lincoln and Mercury will now operate separately, according to Ford, as soon as a unique sales and marketing group is established for Lincoln. Included in the announcement is the formation of a new Special Projects Div. that is widely expected to be the precursor of a new line of cars to be marketed against GM in a price range between Ford and Mercury.

50 Years Ago (April 1965): First Jeep V-8; Smog Research Needed; Tape Player Introduced

Jeep’s fullsize Wagoneer SUV and Gladiator pickup soon will offer an optional V-8 for the first time in Jeep history. The 250-hp, 327 cid (5.4L) “Vigilante” engine, supplied by American Motors, will cost $188. The V-8, will be offered with an optional GM Turbo HydraMatic automatic transmission. Other changes for ’65 include an improved steering mechanism and simplified 4-wheel-drive system.

The managing director of the Automobile Manufacturers Assn. tells panel of the U. S. Senate subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution that automakers are ready to begin installing emission controls if they are mandated. However, the AMA official, at a special hearing in Detroit, calls for more research before establishing federal standards. He say the smog problem in Los Angeles is a “special case,” that is much more severe than in other major cities.

A “revolutionary” new tape player has been introduced by Orrtronics of Apelika, AL, that plays music, either stereo or monaural, from a closed-loop tape. In 8-track format, the tape contains enough music for up to two hours of playback. Sound is routed through the radio. Cited as one of its unique features, the tape crosses the playback head horizontally, making it less susceptible to distortion from road shocks and players that route the tape vertically. And, “the cartridges can be inserted and withdrawn as easily as operating a cigarette lighter.” The manufacturer, seeking to interest automakers in offering the device as an OEM option, says it would retail for under $100.

25 Years Ago (April 1990): GM Electric Cars; Vans Drive Trucks; Windshields Advance

In an announcement widely criticized by environmentalists, General Motors discloses plans to build and sell electric cars. The catch? It declines to say when the cars will be introduced, where they will be built and in what volume. GM’s chairman cites the highly regarded Impact prototype as proof the automaker intends to live up to its promise of mass-produced electric cars. Reports surface citing the GM plant in Van Nuys, CA, where F-body Camaro and Firebird currently are assembled, although union officials there say they know nothing of such a move. Meanwhile, as the California Air Resources Board ponders new regulations to promote the market for electrics, an official praises the Impact, saying “I have no doubt GM could sell 100,000 Impacts in California, even at $20,000” each.

​Minivans are playing a key role in robust light-truck sales growth, WAR opines in its April 16 issue. While first-quarter light-vehicle sales fall marginally compared with like-1989, a 23% increase in compact vans, to 211,964 units from 172,373 a year ago, propels light-truck deliveries to 404,536, a 4.9% gain from 385,706 units a year earlier. Despite competition from GM’s range of APVs, Chevy Lumina, Pontiac Trans Sport and Olds Silhouette, Chrysler still dominates the segment at 51.7% as against 54.7% in first-quarter 1989. Chrysler’s 3-month 1990 volume for the Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan and newly introduced Chrysler Town & Country rose 16.1%, while sales of the Ford Aerostar fell to 40,431 units from 42,777, a 5.5% decline.

 Windshields soon may turn on the wipers when it starts to rain, contain the radio antenna (one that really works, say glass makers, unlike those used by GM in the early 1970s), automatically defrost and display information heretofore shown only on the instrument panel. According to PPG Industries its new Weather Master windshield filters out the sun’s harmful rays and electrically de-ices the glass. The use of several layers of silver to conduct electricity provides a more neutral look than the salmon-color appearance of electrically defrosted windshields now optional on a few luxury cars. Other innovations in the pipeline include electrochromic glass that will allow windows to be “turned off,” becoming opaque when the vehicle is parked.  

About the Author(s)

Al Binder

Senior Editor, WardsAuto

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