Old Classic Cars
When I think of old classic cars, I think of cars that were truly unique. These are cars that for one reason or another separated themselves from the pack.
The three classic cars below, the Tucker 48, the Ford Skyliner and Ford Edsel definitely did that and all for different reasons.
A dream of innovator and designer, Preston Tucker, only 51 Tuckers were ever built, yet with their advanced safety features and incredible design, they were in many ways, years ahead of everything else.
The Ford Skyliner brought the first mass-produced retractable hardtop to the buying public and the Ford Edsel brought something else. All, however, are unique and all are in great demand. Proving in some cases that a car can be a disappointment at one point in its life and still turn out to be a fantastic success.
Read on to see some info and great photos of these three terrific cars!
The Tucker car was conceived and built by Preston Tucker for a short period of time in Chicago in 1948. The car was way ahead of its time and had many innovations that are found on today's cars.
At the end of the second World War, a poll showed that the thing Americans most wanted was a new car. Tucker decided to build a car that not only had a completely new look compared to cars being built by the big 3 Detroit automakers, but also included many modern innovations and safety features. Included in the original design were specifications for a water-cooled rear engine, disc brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, fuel injection, a padded dashboard and seat belts. Some of these items didn't make it to the final prototype due to cost, engineering complexity and/or lack of time to develop.
One of the most recognizable features on the Tucker 48 was a directional third headlight that was built into the hood in the center of the car. It would turn on at steering angles of greater than 10 degrees to light the car's path around corners. The Tucker was a rear-engined and rear wheel drive car.
Tucker's car became known as the "Tucker Torpedo" from the first publicized sketches, but because Tucker did not want to remind the public of the horrors of World War II, he decided to change the name to the "Tucker "48".
Other safety features included a roll bar that was integrated into the roof to protect the passengers, the windshield was designed to pop-out in a collision and an item that was a first at the time, seat belts. With the final design in place, Preston Tucker took the pre-production cars on the road to show them in towns across the country. The cars were an instant success with the public.
To prove the road-worthiness of his cars, Tucker and his engineers ran several cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in several endurance tests. During this testing, one car was rolled at high speed while driven by mechanic Eddie Offut. The car's safety features were proven when Offut walked away from the severe crash. During the crash, the windshield popped out as designed, and afterward the car started up and was driven off the track.
Original Tucker Paint Codes
Only 51 Tucker cars were made before the company folded on March 3, 1949, due to negative publicity, an SEC investigation and a stock fraud trial (allegations of which were proven false). Jeff Bridges starred in a terrific move about Preston Tucker's spirit and the saga surrounding the car's production in the 1988 movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
The Ford Skyliner was an innovative full-size Ford that came with a retractable hardtop and was built for only three years, 1957, 1958 and 1959. Based on the Ford Fairlane, the Skyliner had a very complex mechanism, which folded a section on the front part of the roof and then retracted it under the rear deck lid. It was the first retractable hardtop to be mass-produced.
It was really cool but not really practical, mostly because the mechanism was prone to failure and the large top took up most, if not all of the trunk space. This dramatically limited the car's sales. The top, operated with one switch located at the left side of the steering column, would go up and down through motion controlled by solenoids, micro-switches, motors and over 600 feet of wiring.
Ford built 20,766 Skyliners in 1957, 14,713 in 1958 and 12,915 in its final model year of 1959. The standard engine was a 292 cu. in. Thunderbird V8, or an optional 312 cu. in. with different horsepower options depending on carburetion and/or supercharging. There were two manual transmissions, a three-speed and three speed with overdrive as well as a 3-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission available on the Skyliner.
Today, the Ford Skyliner has become a very valuable collectible car. The International Ford Retractable Club was founded in 1971 to promote the preservation and restoration of the 1957, 1958, and 1959 Skyliner Retractable Hardtop cars that were as produced by the Ford Motor Company. The club also publishes SKYLINER Magazine and holds an annual convention.
The Edsel was a car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company during the 1958, 1959, and 1960 model years. The Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly, causing the "Edsel" name to become synonymous with failure.
Research and development had begun in 1955 under the name "E-car", which stood for "experimental car" however, Ford Motor Company eventually decided on the name "Edsel", in honor of Edsel B. Ford, son of Henry Ford, the company's founder.
The Edsel premiered on September 4, 1957 offering some new and innovative features, such as a "rolling dome" speedometer and push-button transmission shifting system with the buttons located in the center of the steering wheel. This proved problematic partly because consumers were used to the horn being where the transmission buttons were now located. Drivers often ended up shifting gears instead of honking the horn and remembering where the horn was in an emergency also added to the confusion.
For the 1958 model year, Edsel produced four models, the larger Mercury-based Citation and Corsair and the smaller Ford-based Pacer and Ranger. During this first year, 63,110 Edsels were sold in the United States, which was below expectation.
The 1959 model sold 44,891 units in the U.S., but the 1960 model year, which was to be Edsel's last, sold only 2,846 vehicles. Ford announced the end of the Edsel program in November of 1959. Total sales were less than half of the company's projected break-even point and Ford lost millions on the car. (which would translate to billions of dollars in today's values)
Theories as to why the car failed have ranged from the car’s styling, to alleged poor workmanship, to corporate America's failure in understanding its consumers, to the name Edsel, itself. Another problem was the fact that Edsel also had to compete with well-established nameplates from the other big automakers such as, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge and DeSoto.
The Edsel is best remembered for its trademark "horse collar" or toilet seat grille, which was quite distinct from other cars of that time. Ironically, the grille design that the Edsel became known for was not the original idea. Roy Brown, the original chief designer on the Edsel project, designed a slender, delicate opening, but when Ford engineers thought it would create engine cooling problems, it was changed to the now-infamous "horse collar" design. Some have speculated that the name "horse collar" is being charitable as the grille also resembles something else, and that alone could have led to the car's downfall.
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