1951 Pontiac

The last in this short series is the 1951 Pontiac. This was the first of the Indian head mascot cars I ever shot, a hot rodded car in yellow at Syracuse Nationals in 2014.

This ornament is closely related to the 1953 version, in this case featuring only 1 ‘headdress’ shape. Note though the circular detail on the side, and the styled feathers coming off the circle, a more literal suggestion of a headdress. Interesting to me, the silver streaks on the hood are much more like the ones featured on the 1954, a ribbed stainless band that shone nicely in the direct sun that day.

Shot with the Nikon D3200, 18-55mm Nikkor lens at ƒ/10, 1/400 sec exposure and ISO 100. The post-processing is quite apparent. I wanted to give the shot a more ‘illustrated’ look, something in keeping with the old advertising look from the 1950s. This involved pumping the colour saturation and brightening things up, plus a good amount of contrast manipulation using both Photoshop and Topaz Adjust. In this case I also added a wide white border, plus a ‘Pontiac Silver Streak’ art design.

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1954 Pontiac
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1953 Pontiac

I recently posted a series of photos featuring the Dodge Ram hood ornaments of 1931, 1934, 1936 and 1937, showing how a central motif of a brand was modified as automotive design evolved. Also, I recently made a post featuring a 1954 Pontiac, with its Chief Pontiac hood ornament design. Today’s post features a 1953 Pontiac.

I encountered this Pontiac in 2017 at a show presented by VanDusen Chevrolet Buick GMC in Ajax Ontario. Sadly, the show didn’t last long as the clouds rolled in and the rain came down fairly hard. But I managed to grab a couple of shots of a few cars anyway.

As you can see, the 1953 is distinct from the 1954 model in a number of ways. The hood ornament of the ’53 features a stylized double headdress, as opposed to 1954’s design where the Indian head is part of a jet-inspired design. Also, the 1953 design features 6 individual ‘silver streaks’, a more traditional interpretation of the long-used Pontiac motif. The 1954 design turns the silver streak into a broad stainless steel applique. Lastly, the 1953 maintains a circular emblem in the grille, while the 1954 moved the circle logo onto the hood.

I shot this 1953 Pontiac with my Nikon D3200, 18-55mm Nikkor lens, at ƒ/7.1, 1/200 second exposure and ISO 100. Post processing was done in Photoshop and Topaz Adjust, to give a more dramatic interpretation of the subject.

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Hemi Muscle Cars

Hemi Muscle Cars by Darwin Holmstrom, photography by David Newhardt
Published 2011 by Crestline
336 pp., hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-7858-2783-2

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

In the early 2000s, the company then known as DaimlerChrysler revived a muscle car icon: the Hemi. Sure, availability was limited to trucks at first, and it was an all-new generation of engine. But it was a performer, and the catchphrase “that thang got a Hemi?” soon was everywhere.

Hemi Muscle Cars by Darwin Holmstrom presents the story of Chrysler’s three generations of Hemi-headed engines, supported by David Newhardt’s fantastic photography. Large and colourful, the book itself is much like the cars that housed the legendary engines, and details the origin, rise, dominance, demise and eventual rebirth of Chrysler’s celebrated performance engine.

Of course, the origins lie years before the subject ever makes its arrival with post-WWII decision to develop a V8 engine that could compete with the Cadillacs and Oldsmobile OHV engines. A team under management of James Zeder, and including men like William Drinkard, John Platner, Mel Carpentier and Ev Moeller, deviated from Chrysler’s inline engine, designing a V8 that used a combustion configuration that had some success with European carmakers. What was eventually developed was the first generation engine with hemispherical heads, dubbed ‘Firepower’. These early Chrysler Hemis were very successful in racing, and a number of versions were created for production use, called Red Ram for Dodge, PowerDome for trucks and FireDome for Desoto. These ranged from 241 cubic inches up to the famous 392 cubic incher found under Chrysler and Imperial hoods. The 392s were soon rulers of racing, virtually unbeatable. So much so they ran afoul of NASCAR who didn’t relish one make dominating its series for fear patrons would be bored. Drag racing, on the other hand, was more than happy to let Hemis set the pace.

Holmstrom documents the success of the Firepower and other Hemi emgines, including quotes from legend Don Garlits. But the architecture reached its limits by 1958. Further, with the AMA banning manufacturers from participating in racing, Chrysler could no longer gain advertising boosts at the track. The first generation Hemi was retired from production, and as the chapter closes, we find Holmstrom has filled 149 pages.

But the Hemi hiatus didn’t last long. Holmstrom spends a few pages describing the ‘B’ and ‘RB’, or Wedge engines that replaced the first generation Hemi. And make no mistake, the Wedge was also a wonderful performer on the track and the street. In fact, the B and RB engines would remain in regular production into the late 1970s. But many racers in the early 1960s were still running the old 392 Hemi, and many had switched to other manufacturers. Holmstrom includes a story from Garlits where Chrysler execs asked what it might take to get him and others back to running Chrysler engines. Those types of conversations resulted in the formation of the Ramchargers group. These men, including Tom Hoover, would push development of the Max Wedge engines and eventually develop the new Hemi out of the RB block.

The book describes how the Hemi once again rose to dominance at the tracks, putting Chrysler on the podium time and again. Included is also the birth of some of the famous Hemi packaging, ie. the Charger, GTX, Roadrunner, and Challenger. Again, the Hemi was widely loved in drag racing, while NASCAR was wary of one engine dominating. Holmstrom details the efforts to homologate the engine to meet requirements, and the struggles to make the engine streetable. Holmstrom also discusses the efforts to style the new intermediate cars in ways that would make the looks as appealing as the performance offered.

Of course the pinnacle of the second generation Hemi may be the winged warriors – the Charger Daytona and the Superbird. Chrysler and Ford waged a pitched battle on NASCAR tracks by developing aerodynamically better cars, to a point where NASCAR finally banned any car with extraordinary aerodynamics.

Throughout, Holmstrom is honest in presenting the downside of the story for Chrysler and its Hemi, despite the mythos. The author describes the challenges facing the company as it competed with its rivals. At one time, Chrysler banked on the innovative Airflow design, which never caught on with the public. It was a radical design, and the failure to sell created an ultra-conservative thinking in management.

Despite the development of the Hemi and its success in racing, the early 1950s Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler offerings looked stodgy and dated compared to what GM and Ford were selling. It wasn’t until Tex Colbert took over and brought in Virgil Exner that things changed. Exner’s ‘Forward Look’ were among the most beautiful cars made, and it looked as though fortunes might be on the upswing. Holmstrom points out the mid-1960s B-body cars are indeed handsome, but truthfully styling from Chrysler never really caught up to the competition until the 1968 models.

Holmstrom also explains that the Hemi engines were expensive to build, and expensive to purchase. They required a great deal of skill to maintain and keep in proper tune. The mid-1960s Street Hemi required constant valve adjustment, some cars required removing the brake master cylinder to be able to change spark plugs, and they could be temperamental under daily driving conditions. Holmstrom points out that off the showroom floor, the 440 RB engine could easily hang with the Hemi, had better manners in traffic, and cost $500 less on the option sheet!

Of course, high costs and rising insurance rates eventually killed the musclecar era, and especially the Hemi. And yet, 30 years later, the design saw a rebirth at Chrysler. This book arrived relatively early in the Hemi’s rebirth. But Holmstrom devotes a good chunk of pages to the newest Hemi and the reborn Chrysler 300C, Charger and Challenger. He describes how the new Hemi marries the efficient Hemi head with modern technologies like variable cylinder use to be powerful and offer great gas mileage numbers.

I praised David Newhardt’s work in Mustang Classics, and the photos are no less brilliant here in Hemi Muscle Cars. There’s a great mix of cars presented here, from an early Hemi Chrysler New Yorker through the C-300 and other letter cars, through the 2nd generation 426 Hemi Coronets, Belvederes, Chargers and GTXs. The winged warrior Daytonas and Superbirds are featured, as well as the early 1970s Cudas and Challengers. Finally, the late model Ram truck, 300C, Charger and Challenger make an appearance. The selection of cars is great, with a wide variety of colours. Newhardt captures great angles, interior and engine bay pictures. Supplementing Newhardt’s work are some vintage ads and racing photos of Hemi cars in action. As these pictures show, the images in the book are large and really show off the packaging the Hemi came in.

Hemi Muscle Cars is much like Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957, in that there’s a great deal of information here that dives into the reasoning, methods and results of how the thing was developed. Yes, a good number of the cars were covered in The Complete Book of Classic Dodge and Plymouth Muscle: Every Model from 1960 to 1974, but this is a much deeper dive into the Hemi engine specifically, with the added bonus of DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial iron thrown in. The publishing date of 2011 means there’s no coverage of some of the much more recent Hemi stars such as the Hellcat and Demon models. But for the auto enthusiast, and especially the Mopar fan, this book is a must-have.

Pros: A detailed and easy-to-read history of 3 generations of Chrysler’s Hemi engines; wonderful photography presenting an excellent range of Hemi-powered vehicles
Cons: None really, except perhaps a lack of technical images
Where to find it: Amazon, bookstores

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1954 Pontiac

In 1909, General Motors acquired the Oakland Motor Company, named for the county in Michigan in which it was located. In 1926, General Motors decided it needed to cover the automobile market better and offer consumers more choice. To achieve this, the ‘companion make’ program was created, and Oakland’s companion was Pontiac, named for the seat of Oakland County, which had been named in honour of Pontiac, a war-chief of the Ottawa people. GM’s program met with varying success, as 2 of the 4 makes survived but a year or 2, while LaSalle lasted 13 years. Most successful was Pontiac, which replaced its senior make Oakland, and lasted until GM’s bankruptcy restructuring in 2009.

GM did not shy away from using Native American imagery as a dominant symbol for Pontiac. Beginning in the 1940s, model names included Chieftain, Super Chief and Firebird. From the start and into the 1950s, the cars featured hood ornaments that depicted an Indian head motif (eventually replaced by the later familiar arrowhead design found on Pontiacs until the marque’s demise).

When Pontiac faced its demise, Mona Hadler wrote an interesting analysis of the Pontiac Native American motif “Pontiac Hood Ornaments: Chief of the Sixes” (this is a Google link to a PDF download), exploring the context of the motif and General Motors’ use of it to promote its cars. Of interest for this post is how “by the 1950s (the ornaments) had morphed into the memorable configuration of jet plane with the head of Chief Pontiac at the helm.” Not only do the 1950s ornaments captured the jet-age sentiments of the decade, but the use of the orange glass become a recognizable Pontiac motif. Along with the marque’s stainless steel ‘Silver Streak’ hood treatments, Pontiacs were among the flashiest of the early 1950s cars.

As to the subject vehicle… I have encountered this customized 1954 Pontiac numerous times at a variety of shows and cruise nights through southern Ontario. It sports a sparkling custom blue paint job and loads of chrome. These shots in particular were taken at the Fleetwood Country Cruize In.

The first image (from underneath) was taken at the 2015 event. It was shot with the Nikon D3200, 18-55 Nikkor lens, ƒ/9.0, 1/320 second exposure and ISO 100, at about 3:30pm on a day with bright sun. The hood was up, allowing the ornament to catch a great deal of light.

The second (from above) was shot the following year. It was shot with the same camera equipment. at ƒ/8.0, 1/250 second exposure and ISO 100. It was shot mid-morning, about 10:30am.While also a clear sunny day, the hood was obviously down, creating more shadow on the front of the hood.

Both final products were cropped in Photoshop and processed in Topaz Adjust to enhance the tones and sharpness. As can be seen, a piece of vector art representing an old-style emblem has been added to the 2015 shot. Both original images can be seen below.

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By Imperial decree

Walter P. Chrysler formed his corporation in 1925, and by 1926 he decided he needed to create a luxury car to compete in the same arena as Cadillac, Lincoln, Duesenberg, Packard and Pierce-Arrow. That car was called Imperial.

Imperial was originated as a Chrysler. If you look closely, you see the script on the nose of this car does actually read ‘Chrysler Imperial’, which is the correct nomenclature for cars 1926 through 1954 (it would be split out as a separate marque from 1955 through 1974).

For 1938 the Imperials came in 2 series. The C-19 was powered by a new, smaller Chrysler straight 8 engine. The series included coupes, touring sedans and convertibles. The C-20 Customs used the older large straight 8 riding on 144-inch wheelbases. This series had coupes, convertibles, town cars and limousines, and included some custom bodied cars from the likes of Derham. For one reason or another, sales of the 1938 Imperial cars were down compared to other years, making this car rare relative even to other Imperials.

This Imperial was shot at the Tottenham (Ontario) Classic Car and Truck Show in 2015. I was drawn to it as it’s not often one finds a pre-WWII Imperial, even at car shows. I especially liked the grille design, with its thick, evenly spaced chrome bars curving around the nose. I was not able to ascertain the exact model, though I believe it was likely a touring sedan from the junior series. As per usual, I used my Nikon D3200 with Nikkor 18-55 lens, set at ƒ/8.0, 1/250 sec exposure and ISO 100. I used Photoshop and Topaz Adjust to process the image, to bring up a little more of the detail and contrast in the grille, headlight and hood ornament.

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Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957

Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957 by Anthony Young – Photography by Mike Mueller
Published 2011 by Crestline
160pp., hardcover

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

About 8 years ago I decided I wanted to amass a small library of automotive books. I already had maybe 5 or 6 titles. I acquired another 8 or 10 when a friend passed away. That’s when I started to seek out books about cars. It wasn’t long before I found Chevy Classics 1955 1956 1957 on the clearance table at my local Chapters store.

Anyone who knows classic American cars knows that the 1955-57 Chevrolets are iconic. They are featured in countless movies, all sorts of car magazines, and you’re almost bound to see one at cruise night or a car show. These cars were not rare — Chevrolet sold over 4 million Bel Airs, 210s and 150s from 1955 to 1957. But, beyond just basic transportation, the Chevrolet introduced for 1955 was all-new, revolutionary by comparison to the 1954 car. The style and power of the new car had the public’s interest. It was known as ‘The Hot One’, and this book tells the story.

Anthony Young’s book offers a fairly deep analysis of the development the new-for-’55 Chevy, and the subsequent improvements for ’56 and ’57. In fact, he begins well before the car hit showrooms, in 1952 describing the hiring of Ed Cole to be Chief Engineer of Chevrolet Division, after a career at Cadillac that began in 1929. Cole then brought Harry F. Barr over to be his assistant. Other notable names Young discusses include Al Kolbe and Don McPherson (on development of the new small block V8), Ellis Premo (coordinating Fisher Body with Chevrolet Styling) and Clare MacKichan (Chevrolet Styling Chief). This gives the background into the team who would transform Chevrolet’s automotive offerings.

Given that the author spends time introducing us to the engineering team, you’d think this book might include a great deal of technical and engineering information. And, that is the case. For example, there’s a few pages about how Chevrolet had been developing a V8 based off the Cadillac V8, later scrapped in favour of a clean sheet design. There’s information about how the engine was nitially figured to be 245 cubic inchesm but development saw benefits of punching it to 265. Also included is information about how the engines were cast and the benfits reaped both in economy and performance. A section deals with cylinder head design, and includes quotes from McPherson who was heavily involved.

Now that may all sound like a lot of heavy info to digest. But truthfully, Young writes it in a way that is interesting and easy to follow. And that’s true of all the tech info, from chassis design tweaks, to body construction processes, to a description of the Turboglide transmission’s construction, to dashboard design. Despite the level of detail, the text doesn’t bog down. One easily comes to understand the almost constant improvement to the car year after year to provide better performance and comfort.

It isn’t all technical and engineering though. Young provides a great deal of information on the differences between the trim levels, including the body adornments. He details each year’s paint and interior colour availability. There’s quite a lot about available options and Chevrolet’s philosophy of offering as much equipment as ‘optional’ as possible. In fact, Young writes scenarios featuring a young couple, husband recently promoted, and how their visit to their local dealer might go as they outfit their new Chevrolet 210 sedan. That is contrasted against another scene were an executive would opt for the Bel Air convertible, almost fully equipped with over $1500 in options! It’s easy to see how Chevy sold buyers on the idea that their good-looking hot new car was a representation of themselves.

It doesn’t end there. The author also details the company’s efforts in racing, and how that was to be translated into advertising to sell The Hot Ones. Not only that, Young offers comparisons to point out just how economically priced the Chevy was compared even to its predecessors in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I’ve mentioned the work of Mike Mueller before. Over 30 years, he has contributed countless photos and articles about cars, and authored 30 books of his own. For Chevy Classics, Mueller photographed a number of Tri-Five Chevys owned by enthusiasts. The photos are really great, typical beauty shots of exteriors, interiors and engine bays, as well as specific detail shots of options. These are supplemented by period advertising, technical drawings and assembly line photos, many of which help highlight the engineering aspects of these cars.

Now, most of the pictures do feature Bel Airs as opposed to 210s and 150s. In a way, that is a real shame. The Bel Air did tend to be the ‘prettier’ car, but 150s and 210s were by far the cars that sold most often. It would be nice to see more of what the average guy drove everyday. Unfortunately as the captions point out, Bel Airs tended to survive more often. As happens with so many daily drivers, people rack up the miles and eventually the old car gets replaced and sent to the scrapper. One treat however is that there is a number of shots of a famous fuel injected 150 utility coupe that made its name in racing as One of the cars known as The Black Widow.

I’ll note that this edition is identical in terms of dimension to another Crestline publication I have, Fifties Flashback: The American Car, even down to the same page count. It would make sense that maybe these books were run through production at or around the same time, which would be financially prudent for the publisher.

The 1955-57 Chevy cars are revered classics. But they were also the best-selling cars of their model years. These cars were in driveways all over every neighbourhood in North America. Anthony Young and Mike Mueller put together a book that helps us understand the popularity of these cars and gives us a peek at what was driving the auto industry in the mid to late 1950s.

Pros: Filled with information direct from GM archives as well as interviews with people who were part of the development. Includes technical illustration and factory photography, as well as advertising. Technical but still easy to read.
Cons: Almost all the new photography is of Bel Air models, and none features wagons other than Nomads.
Where to get it: May still be in some new retail bookstores, otherwise Amazon, eBay, or used resale.

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Recently I featured a detail shot from the front of a rough 1957 Chevy Bel Air, an icon of American motoring. Today the feature is on the tail end of the 1956 Bel Air in much better shape.

The 1956 edition of Chevrolet cars is sometimes overlooked – classic ‘middle child’ syndrome. The 1955 was a complete departure from previous Chevs. The 1957 was more ornate in design, and many argue it’s the prettiest of the 3 years. The 1956… well, some see it as less special, a warmed over 55 holding place until the 57 arrived.

That’s really not true, as we’ll see in an upcoming book review. The 1956 actually incorporated a number of upgrades and revisions over the 1955 car. Styling-wise the 1956 is distinct from its siblings, longer and some say cleaner. On distinctive feature was these one-year-only taillights, a bullet style that resembled those from Oldsmobile and predates the exaggerated 1959 Cadillac bullets.

This car was shot in Syracuse at the Nationals in 2014. I used my Nikon D3200, 18-55 Nikkor zoom lens, set at ƒ/9.0, shutter speed of 1/250 second and ISO 100. Compareed to the original (below) it can be seen there was a good amount of processing the image, which was done in Topaz Adjust, to warm up the colour as well as reveal the details of the image.

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Motoring: The Golden Years: A Pictorial Anthology

Motoring: The Golden Years: A Pictorial Anthology, compiled by Rupert Prior
Published in 1991 by H. C. Blossom Ltd.
144pp., hardcover

ISBN: 1 872532 14 4

Purchased from a used book store.

Motoring: The Golden Years: A Pictorial Anthology presents a collection of images and articles from the earliest days of motoring, spanning from about 1895 through 1939. The source for the items is the Khachadourian Gallery, a collection of automotive art. The subject matter is predominantly British in origin, and favours British and European events, though there are a number of references to happenings in America.

I have to admit, I had a hard time reading and reviewing Motoring: The Golden Years: A Pictorial Anthology. There were things I didn’t love about this book. The title threw me off a bit as it leans heavily toward racing, though some vignettes about motoring in general are found. An anthology? Yes, with a great number of items collected. But fair to say it’s 50/50 pictures to text, so to call it a pictorial anthology seems a little misleading. There are indeed a good amount images, and most of them are wonderfully colourful and interesting to look at. The images are not necessarily directly related to nearby text – that is to say that the images don’t really illustrate what they text is about specifically.

The text is dense. A number of the articles stretch over 6-7 pages, longer than a vignette or simple story. More than that though, the style of writing is obviously ‘of the time’. At times it’s overwritten, overly descriptive, and I found it tedious to chew through some of the longer pieces. That said, being contemporary to the subject matter, one does get a sense of how the general public would consume stories of motoring and racing then. There are some passages that today (and I suspect even in 1991 when this book was published) would be considered ‘unacceptable’. There’s a few pages devoted to the German auto exhibition of the 1930s, and the nationalism of the time is apparent in the writing. There’s also a passage about American racing in the 1930s which specifically refers to Joie Chitwood (of Cherokee ancestry) as ‘redskin’. There’s a 1907 article that marvels at the temerity of a letter written by a woman who was seeking employment as a chauffeur. These articles certainly reflect the era they come from.

I was pleased with other parts, as some familiar names cropped up. I reviewed an issue of Automobile Quarterly, which featured a number of articles about Rudi Caracciola. In Motoring, I found an article written by Caracciola himself. There are also articles about his contemporaries, like Hans Stuck, Tazio Nuvolari and Dick Seaman, all of whom had been referenced in AQ. Further, AQ had featured Bob Burman’s Buick Bug. Well, Motoring contains an overview of Burman’s racing career, providing more info into this driver’s life. I’ve mentioned before I do enjoy when I find a book that relates to other books I have in my collection.

I found ‘Racing Improves the Breed’ – the final section of the book – the most interesting. Here the articles focus on some of the great racing venues – Le Mans, Montlhèry, the AVUS, Bonneville, Brooklands. These seemed less of a chore to read, possibly I was simply more interested. Oddly, despite the section title, a few articles had little to do with racing. One suggested how motorists could beat police speed traps by simply retreating back up the road and awaiting the next car, passing along a warning before proceeding on their journey (the subsequent motorist remaining in place to warn the next driver, and so on). In another, a writer explains how California provided a much superior motoring experience compared to Europe, due to easier rail crossings, numerous service stations, and wonderful scenery. These were interesting anecdotes, and I had hoped there’d be a lot more of this ‘every day driver’ type of story.

The writing itself is scarce on details as to where the writings originated. None have any kind of note as to where the piece was first published. Some have dates attached, some have a name given as a by-line, but many are simply titles. That said, some are written by famous racers and people involved in the sport, such as Roland King-Farlow who (after some digging) I discovered had been the Chief Timekeeper at Brooklands track before World War II.

As expected, I found the imagery to be the best thing about the book. This a wonderful collection of racing posters, advertisements, magazine covers, paintings, even mascots and automobilia from a long ago era. Some well-known automotive artists are found, including Géo Ham and René Vincent, and glass mascots by Lalique. In contrast to the text, which seemed too dense and detailed, the posters and automobilia easily conveyed the speed, elegance and romance of motoring in those early years. Like the writing, the art is also ‘of the time’. That means Art Nouveau pieces with their organic lines, as well as the clean, bold style of Art Deco.

I thought many of the pieces were stunning and very interesting. There’s a number of Shell Oil ads, instantly recognized by the yellow and red that dominate the picture. There’s also a number of pieces featuring Bibendum, otherwise called The Michelin Man. There are models and small sculptures of race cars. One of the most interesting to me was what seems to be a 9-piece solid silver desk set, a Christmas gift “presented to principal Rolls-Royce distributors”. Each piece features the Spirit of Ecstasy and is very impressive.

Ultimately, Motoring: The Golden Years is an interesting book. Admittedly, my collection doesn’t include much in the way of pre WWII content, or much British and European content, or much racing-related content. As such I can’t say that I’m familiar with books that would present the information found here in a more palatable way. Then again, as much as I might not have enjoyed the style, I do appreciate the fact these accounts were made in real time, contemporary to the events and environment of the era.

For me, this is the kind of book that, should you find it at an inexpensive price, pick it up and you’re likely to find a couple of items that will entertain or impress you.

Pros: some really great pre-WWII items shown; some interesting accounts from the time the events occurred
Cons: I found some passages difficult; hard to understand how or why items were selected, or arranged
Where to find it: used bookstores, Amazon

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Reflection II

Buick has always been among the more luxurious car marques, second only to Cadillac in terms of prestige in GM’s hierarchy, and some would say the equal of other makes such as Lincoln and Chrysler.

But there was also a performance bent to Buick, and in the mid-1960s, the tri-shield brand created the Skylark Gran Sport, equipped with the famous 401 Nailhead. The Skylark GS was the equivalent of Pontiac’s GTO and Chevy’s Chevelle SS, an intermediate coupe with a big motor under the hood. But, being a Buick, the GS was more upscale, better equipped, and of course, more costly. It became known to some as ‘The Banker’s Hot Rod‘.

By the late 1960s, the musclecar wars had really heated up. Buick offered the GS as a separate model, with a 340 (later 350), a new (non-Nailhead) 400, and eventually a 455. In 1970, they went full-tilt with the ultimate GS – the GSX, complete with a rear wing, chin spoiler, Rally wheels, Positraction, sport mirrors and hood-mounted tach, and available in Apollo White or Saturn Yellow with wide black stripes. Also available, was the Stage 1 engine package – including re-worked heads, a more aggressive cam, and some other goodies which boosted horsepower from a 350 rating to 360. Hemmings Muscle Machines noted that ‘the contemporary motoring press, specifically Motor Trend, which tested a Stage 1 to a 13.38-second ET at 105.50 MPH (January 1970), was quick to quip that the factory rating was “some kind of understatement of the year.” ‘

I found this GS Stage 1 car at the Syracuse Nationals in 2014. The glossy black paint on this car was great for not only helping the simple, somewhat elegant GS badge stand out, but also for catching the reflection of the surrounding at the show. I shot it with my Nikon D3200, Nikkor 18-55 lens, at ƒ/5.0, 1/100 second exposure and an ISO of 100. As usual, the file was cropped in Photoshop and Topaz Adjust was used to help bring up some of the colour. The original shot is below.

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Rotten and Forgotten

Not long after I’d shot 7:16, a good friend tipped me off to a derelict old car near his house, not far from where I’d lived about 5 years earlier. He said it has been there pretty much when he’d bought his house, and hadn’t moved in probably 35 years. It was in an industrial area — actually on Industry Street — just parked in front of a building. Sure enough, I grabbed a camera one sunny day and headed to my old neighbourhood and there it was… a late 1970s Ford LTD Landau.

The LTD nameplate debuted as the top trim level for the full-size Galaxie line in 1965, touted as quieter than a Rolls-Royce. In 1974, the Galaxie name was retired, and LTD remained with 3 trim levels — LTD, LTD Brougham and LTD Landau, the latter added in 1975. As the top Ford, the Landau offered the buyer many luxury appointments, and was powered by a choice of Ford’s 351, 400 or 460 cubic inch engines, all backed by the smooth Cruise-O-Matic transmission. This LTD Landau is from model years 1975-78, the final years before the downsized Panther platform debuted.

The decay on this car was obvious. Certainly it seemed my friend was right, the car had been sitting a long time. The Ontario license plate would seem to be correct for a mid-1970s issue date. I took quite a few shots, and decided I liked the detail of the front end best. The combination of the rusted bumper, the rusted hole through the hood, and the way the plastic grille no longer had any hint of its chrome plating, all spoke to how neglected this old boat was.

The featured image was shot with the Nikon D3200, 18-55mm Nikkor zoom, at ƒ/9.0, 1/640 second exposure using ISO 100, and processed using Topaz Adjust, and then a border added in Photoshop. The original shot is included below. Also included is a full 3/4 front shot of the car as it sat then. It’s a while since I’ve been by Industry St., but it may still be there today.

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