Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Packard and Rolls Royce Join Forces in the Arsenal of Democracy

There are times that the context, the back story of something is so unique it almost overshadows the thing itself. Detroit's Packard plant, which turned out its final vehicle in 1958, was in its time a symbol of Detroit's affluence and energy, stretching along a mile long of East Grand Boulevard beginning in 1903. Internationally recognized architect and Detroit's own Albert Kahn was the architect and designed this factory as the first auto production plant built with reinforced concrete. While the structure itself has been gutted, burned, flooded and stripped, the concrete shell has stood largely intact for over 100 years.

The Packards manufactured there could stand with any marque in the world. Stylish, powerful, and classically large, the affluent frequently purchased their car sans bodywork and had it shipped to any number of builders (LeBaron, Fisher, etc.) for finishing as did other fine cars like Cadillac, Rolls Royce and Duesenberg.

By juggling and redesigning its line-up to survive the Great Depression, which exacted a horrific toll on the people of Detroit, top of the line cars could still be procured at a Packard dealership as well as more mundane but still first quality models like the Light Eight and the 120. 

The outbreak of the Second World War brought automobile manufacturing to a halt in America, save for the nimble little Jeep with its production split between Ford Motor Company and Willis Overland Motors.

Other manufacturers were pressed into duty making or assembling all sorts of weaponry.

Making shells at Chevrolet

Between 1942 and 1945 Chevrolet produced, “60,000 Pratt & Whitney bomber and cargo plane engines; 500,000 trucks; 8 million artillery shells; 3,000 90 mm cannon barrels; 1 million tons of aluminum forgings; 1 million tons of grey iron castings; 2,850 tons of magnesium forgings; and 3,800 T-17 Staghound armored scout cars according to the Automotive News.  

Ford built a limited access road to its new factory in Willow Run, Michigan, a 3.5 million square foot building entirely under one roof. It began operation less than a year after breaking ground and eventually honed its manufacturing technique to roll out a B-24 bomber every 60 minutes.

But this story doesn't begin in Detroit or even at the Rouge plant. 

 The Merlin airplane engine was conceived and engineered in England. In the early 1930s Germany began arming itself and substantially growing its armed services. The English Air Ministry (the major buyer of Rolls Royce aero engines) responded by releasing specifications for a new fighter that would be capable of attaining 310 mph.

In 1932 Sir Henry Royce (yes that Royce) realized the Kestrel airplane engine that Rolls Royce was making was getting a bit out-dated. Royce wanted something based on the Kestrel but bigger and especially faster. Work was begun on the PV (for Private Venture) 12, a 27 litre V-12 with a target horsepower of around 900 hp.

In 1934, the first Merlin was tested, but it only produced 790 hp. Rolls Royce knew the potential of the engine and began refining it in the air, powering a Hawker-Hart biplane. It didn't take long to address some of the first 175 Merlin I's demons: cracked heads and leaking coolant needed immediate attention. To take control of the various problems the engine displayed, Rolls began setting aside just completed random engines and running them at full throttle until they broke. The engine's reputation (and horsepower) began to improve immediately. By 1935, a Merlin III was placed in a Royal Air Force Spitfire and reportedly produced 2,160 hp. Rolls eventually built 33 prototype engines culminating in the 1,035 hp Merlin F.

Rolls-Royce Merlin III Specifications
Type: inline liquid-cooled internal combustion engine

 Configuration: 12-cylinder 60-degree upright vee 

Valve train: Overhead camshaft-actuated, two intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder, sodium-cooled exhaust valve stems 

Fuel system: Updraft carburettor with automatic mixture control 

Oil system: Dry sump with one pressure pump and two scavenge pumps. 

Cooling system: Pure ethylene-glycol cooling mixture, unpressurized. 

Supercharger: Single-speed, single stage.
-Bore: 5.4 in (137.3 mm)

 Stroke: 6 in (152.5mm) 

Capacity: 1,648.96 cu in (27.04 l)
Maximum power: 1,030 hp at 3,000 rpm at 5,500 ft (1,680 m) 

Weight: 1,375 lbs (623,6 kg)

Early testing of the Supermarine Spifire and Hawker Hurricane with the 890 hp Merlin C demonstrated the potential of these match-ups but the engine needed more horsepower.

In 1937, the cylinder heads were redesigned. The intake valve had been canted at a 45 degree angle, but it was found that moving the position directly over the cylinder bore provided an instant improvement. The Merlin II was born with over 1,000 hp. More importantly, Sir Stanley Hooker began modifying the Merlin Supercharger. The engine gave up some of its power when flying at 6,000 ft and below, an altitude that German Messerschmidt thrived at.

Merlin Supercharger

The first modifications added 22 mph to the planes and gave up nothing at the lower altitudes. Development continued into and through the war years. Eventually boost would increased 33% and eventually a second supercharger was added.

Another problem was its need for frequent maintenance; the turnaround between rebuilds was just 250 hours of flight. Other airplane power plants could easily go 1,000 hours plus between rebuilds.  

But pilots loved the big brutes and the Merlin's adoption was across a number of platforms:  "The Mark II and Mark III engines generated 1,030 hp. The Mark XII was used in Spitfires Mark II’s and generated 1,150 hp. The Mark II Hurricane used the Merlin XX and generated 1,480 hp. The Spitfire Mark V – the most widely produced variant – used the Merlin 45, which generated 1,515 hp". 

The U.S. also needed an engine for its P-51 Mustang fighters and eventually selected the Merlin. But the three English factories producing the engine were already working around the clock. The search for an American manufacturer began. After first asking for consideration, then recanting, Henry Ford bowed out of the search, although Ford of Great Britain eventually produced 36,000 Merlins.

Rolls Royce then turned to Packard Motors, a manufacturer of very similar automobiles as Rolls Royce. With automobile production halted, Packard moved Merlin production into its North building.

Packard Merlin engine assembly.

But the transformation wasn't an easy one. There were over 14,000 parts that needed to be fitted on each engine. Rolls Royce assembled Merlins in teams that each worked on a single engine through completion. This method was slow and was laborious, filing a bit there, bending a bit here.

Packard needed assembly-line-ready parts and, working with Rolls, reduced the tolerances for nearly every one of those 14,000 parts.

To ensure parts comparability across all of the engines, Packard needed to use imperial sized tools and parts rather than SAE which was the norm stateside. Any modification to the engine had to be submitted and approved by Rolls Royce and Packard found a number of available parts superior to the original Rolls parts, not least of which was crankshaft bearings.  

American aircraft manufacturers had learned that bearings made of a silver/lead alloy and coated with indium were more corrosion resistant and offered superior wear. Captured planes dissected by German engineers who studied these bearings assumed the indium was simply an impurity in the alloy. Not only crankshaft bearings but also American made carburetors, magnetos, spark plugs, etc. were adopted by Rolls, each manufactured to Rolls Royce specifications.

The first Packard built Merlin engine rolled off the line in 1941. The early engines displayed some problems but these were quickly worked out by engineering teams comprised of technicians from both sides of the Atlantic.
RAF P-51-A

Merlin fighters escorting B-29

In total, Packard produced about a third of the total run of Merlins. Most of the American made Merlins went not to Spitfires and Hawkers but into the P-51 Mustang which had been limited above roughly three miles by its Allison V-1710 engine. The Allison was a fantastic engine with fewer than half the parts of the Merlin and even claimed four times the hours flown between rebuilds than the Merlin. Had the Army Air Corps not specified that the Allison needed to be turbo-charged instead of supercharged it may have remained the P-51 engine of choice.

Some of the Packard Merlins were shipped to Great Britain and used in the four engined Lancaster bomber. Early in the war a Lancaster had an engine hit by German fire but returned safely to England with its three remaining Merlins roaring. The Merlin became an instant legend to the RAF pilots.

Lancaster bomber

Packards' dedication to the war effort was unique. In addition to manufacturing over 50,000 Merlins, it also produced 12,700 4M-2500 marine engines used in PT boats and Army and Navy rescue boats. Records are incomplete on the number of Packard staff cars manufactured (including General Eisenhower's staff car) until suspending production even of those in 1943.

At the close of the war Packard had not only sold $455,118,600 in 1944 but had a 1945 backlog of $568,000,000 in military orders.

When Merlin production finally ceased production in 1950, 165,000 had been built.

End of story?

Not really. Turns out Merlins are still being tuned and raced in airplanes. If you have a cool $180,000 laying around, a modified 3,500 hp Merlin can be yours,

Monday, July 18, 2016

6,000 HP at 80 RPM: Henry Ford's Gasteam Powerplant

I know you've felt them. Standing on a concrete railroad station platform with 7,000 hp diesel locomotive gently idling while mumbling the ground under your feet. Or standing over a steamship's engine, watching the long connecting rods flow easily back and forth in rhythm to a soft thump, thump, thump in the room. If you've walked down the sidewalk on the other side of the retaining fence as a six car NASCAR draft blows by, you know your heart pounded as if to match the beat of 5,000 hp screaming by in a thirty foot long game of follow the leader.

Engines charged with moving large objects across great distances, or smaller objects at great speed have a tendency to disrupt the air with enormous sound waves that we feel as much as we hear. They pound like the hammers of hell.
Then there are also engines that go nowhere, simply producing enormous amounts of power while sitting leisurely in place. Stationery engines can muster unbelievable power with only a hiss or a tiny whine. But stationary engines get no respect. They do their jobs steadily, dependably, year after year without notice or fanfare. They pump liquids, push air, exhaust air, make electricity and power just about anything that has rotating, revolving or reciprocating movement. 
The Ford Museum in Dearborn displays some stationary engines that were used to generate electricity. Standing on a catwalk overlooking a larfe engine I found the powerplant from the Highland Park plant fascinating. The old Model T plant, made obsolete by its replacement, the Ford Rouge plant, employed 36,000 people on a 305 acre plot smack in the middle of the city, cranking out over 3,000 of the black beauties each day.

Each of these engines cranked out 6,000 hp at just 80 RPM, producing roughly 4,500 kw. There were nine of them scattered throughout the plant; that's roughly 54,000 horsepower generating 40,500 kw.

They were large: 82' long and 46' wide. They had matched (square) bore and stroke at 72” each. The technical details are furnished by the Ford Museum here and additional pictures courtesy of the Ford are here.

The brass plate on each engines carry the following credits:
Courtesy of The Ford:
Brass (Alloy)

Diameter: 18 ft  (Flywheel)
Height: 21.5 ft
Diameter: 36 in  (Bore)
Diameter: 42 in  (Bore)
Width: 45.625 ft
Diameter: 72 in  (Bore)
Length: 72 in  (Stroke)
Speed: 80 rpm  (1.33 Hz)
Depth: 82.083 ft
Horsepower: 6000 hp  (4474.20 kW)
Builder's plate on generator: CROCKER WHEELER COMPANY / AMPERE, N.J. / (plate is too high to read more data from the floor, but other data on the plate should include an engine serial number of 196948 [according to the vertical file]
Builder's plates on seven data plates with distinct serial numbers that are difficult to see from the platform: RICHARDSON / AUTOMATIC SIGHT FEED OIL PUMP / MODEL M (serial number) 4 FEEDS / THE RICHARDSON-PHENIX CO. / MILWAUKEE
Builder's plate on Edwards triplet air pump: WHEELER CONDENSER / AND / ENGINEERING CO. / NEW YORK / No. / 04665 / SIZE 18x12
Builder's plate on Edwards triplet air pump: WHEELER / CONDENSER & / ENGINEERING CO. / NEW YORK / No. 04665 / DATE 1918
Builder's plate on drive motor for Edwards triplet air pump: CROCKER-WHEELER COMPANY AMPERE, N.J. / No. / 261941 / SIZE 149DA TYPE CCM / 30 HP AT 90125 RPM / ARM. No. [SEE END / OF SHAFT OR HUB] / PATENTED Serial number on end of triplet pump/drive motor shaft, at motor end: 261942
Builder's plate on oil separator: COCHRANE / VACUUM OIL SEPARATOR / PATENTED OCT. 11, 1892. / MAR. 31, 1896. / HARRISON SAFETY BOILER WORKS / MANUFACTURERS / PHILADELPHIA, PA Admin. serial[?] number plate on circulating pump oval tag: 50072
Builder's plate on circulating pump triangular plate: NO. / 2997 / MANISTEE IRON WORKS CO. / REES / RoTURBo / TRADE / MARK / MANISTEE, MICH U.S.A. / FEET HEAD / 100 / OR LESS AT / REVS. 1150
Builder's plate on drive motor for circulating pump: WESTINGHOUSE / ELECTRIC & MFG. CO. / PITTSBURGH, PA., U.S.A. / DIRECT CURRENT MOTOR No. 180L TYPE SK / CONSTANT SPEED SHUNT WOUND / 150 H.P. 230 VOLTS 525 AMPERES 1100 R.P.M. / STYLE No. 154450B SERIAL No. 2270786 / (patent dates. . .) / 1662 (3-11-15)


But there were larger, more powerful engines from this era, so why were these nine powerhouses unique? Because they're hybrids, running on a combination of gas internal combustion and steam...Ford invented the Gasteam engine. The gasoline engine on one side of the generator offered efficiency while the steam engine (coupled to the other side of the generator) exhaust from the gas engine to build its head of steam providing “regulation and reliability”. Ironically, the power of the steam engine was used to spin and start the gas engine. And with an 18' flywheel, the reciprocating engines delivered smooth, even power.

The Journal Electrical World described this novel creation in a journal written in 1914, two years before the first power plant was installed:
It is claimed that this combination "gasteam" en
gine, as it is called, will give the economy of a gas en
gine and the reliability of a steam engine. As a gas
engine operates most efficiently when fully loaded, the
set will be so designed that the gas side will always be
working at full load. Except for overspeeding, there
will be no governing on the gas side, all governing
otherwise being done on the steam side. In case of
trouble on the gas side, the steam side, it is declared,
will be able to pull the entire load with a late steam
The two gas cylinders of the engine will be of the
four-cycle, double-acting type and will be water-cooled.
Each cylinder will be 42 in. in diameter and will have a
stroke of 72 in. The tandem compound condensing unit
will have a high-pressure cylinder 36 in. in diameter and
a low-pressure cylinder 68 in. in diameter and will oper
ate with a stroke of 72 in. The low-pressure cylinder
will be connected to a surface condenser, which in turn
will be placed in a closed heater. The vacuum will be
regulated to correspond to atmospheric temperatures.
During the winter months the vacuum will be reduced
to about 18 in. The entire amount of circulating water
will be pumped through all the factory buildings, which
are heated by hot water.
Superheated steam will be used with a pressure of
175 lb., and the high-pressure cylinder will be equipped
with poppet valves, while Corliss valves will be em
ployed on the low-pressure cylinder. The exhaust from
the gas engine will be conducted into a steam superheater
placed in the steam line between the high-pressure and
the low-pressure steam cylinders, thus utilizing waste
gases for reheating the high-pressure exhaust steam.
Part of the exhaust gases will be shunted through the
jacket of the high-pressure steam cylinder, which ac
cordingly will eliminate any steam-heat loss in that
cylinder. The exhaust gases will then be conducted to
the boiler-feed water heater and will heat all the feed
water required for the steam boilers. Feed water for
the heater will be secured from the water used for cool
ing purposes in the gas-cylinder jackets, where it will
be brought up to temperatures of from 150 deg. Fahr. to
180 deg. Fahr. This water will finally be raised to a
temperature of about 250 deg. by means of the exhaust
gases as previously mentioned.

I can't link to only the article but the bound edition is available to read here courtesy of Google Books. Look for PDF page number 550. It will be page 528 as numbered in the journal.
The one thing I couldn't do while visiting the Ford was to watch the power plant run, but this video with Henry Ford beside a running power plant is amazing. No pounding here, just 6,000 horsepower running smooth and quiet at a whole 80 RPM.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nashes Sink on Black Tuesday


450 feet under Lake Michigan, classic car cache rests in frigid silence

The Senator, which sank during the final days of the Roaring Twenties as the country was plunging into the Great Depression, sits upright nearly 450 feet down; so deep that few, if any, divers will ever see her in person. Her collection of vintage autos once bound for Detroit join the pantheon of ships, airplanes, submarines, train cars and other vehicles of yesteryear that populate the bottom of Lake Michigan.
"Those cars on the inside are in pretty good condition," said Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archeologist and shipwreck diver with the Wisconsin Historical Society who surveyed the Senator wreck in November.
In April, the wreck was added to the National Register of Historic Places; one of nearly 150 U.S. shipwrecks on the historic list. Coincidentally, the Senator sits within the boundary of a pending National Marine Sanctuary that will become the second such protected area of shipwrecks within the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes leading National Marine Sanctuary development
Every lake might eventually feature one.
The ship sank on Halloween, Oct. 31, 1929; mere days after the infamous Black Thursday stock market crash that threw the country into an economic spiral.
She is the lesser known among a trio of Lake Michigan shipwrecks that week. On Oct. 22, the SS Milwaukee train car ferry sank off Milwaukee with all 52 hands. On Oct. 29, the SS Wisconsin steamer sank off Kenosha with about 18 lost.
The Senator left Kenosha two days later, laden with $251,000 worth of brand new cars from Nash Motors, a Wisconsin-based automaker founded by former General Motors president Charles W. Nash. The company had just begun offering a new 8-cylinder engine model that month and the 1930 models incorporated a 133-inch wheelbase — the longest Nashes built to date.
The cars were bound for dealerships across Michigan and the Midwest. Nash filled a niche between luxury cars like a Packard and economy models like a Ford. The cars would likely have sold for $1,000 to $2,000 to professionals like a doctor, lawyer or bank manager looking for a practical, higher-end ride.
"You kind of had to want a Nash," said Jay Follis, marketing director at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich. "Other companies sold similar vehicles for less, but Nash had a great reputation."
It was foggy the night the Senator steamed northward. About 10:20 p.m., the ship's crew heard the fog signal of another steel bulk carrier, the 420-foot Marquette, bound for Indiana Harbor with 7,000 tons of iron ore from Escanaba.
ss senator shipwreck21.JPGA late 1920s Nash Motors automobile on display at the Rambler Ranch classic car museum in Elizabeth, Colorado.
Despite visibility about 100 feet, Captain George H. Kinch sailed the Senator at full speed, sounding fog signals as the 33-year-old ship cut through the pea soup. According to period news accounts, the Senator sounded a passing signal of one short blast — indicating a port-to-port passage — and the Marquette acknowledged this signal by returning one short blast of her own.
Suddenly, the Marquette appeared out of the fog only a few hundred feet from the Senator's port side. Despite Captain Kinch's frantic attempt to avoid the inevitable collision by throwing over the rudder, the Marquette struck the Senator just aft of amidships on her port side. As the Marquette pulled free, water began rushing into the stricken ship, causing an immediate port side list.
"SOS; collided with SS Marquette 20 miles east of Port Washington; sinking fast," was the first distress message over the radio at 10:30 a.m.
The ship settled quickly at the stern, the bow lifting high into the air. The Senator slipped beneath the waves just 8 minutes after the impact. Several of the 28 crew members leapt onto the Marquette immediately after impact. A nearby tugboat that heard the crash plucked another 15 from the icy waters. Ten men died.
William Dorsch, 19, was the youngest survivor.
"I was down in the stoke hole when the warning came," Dorsch told the Milwaukee Journal. "I ran up the stairs, found a life preserver and then jumped off. Man, there wasn't much time to do anything else. It's a big thing for us that tug came along when it did or we wouldn't have lasted much longer."
Although the Marquette was badly damaged, the ore boat limped to Port Washington, where its captain met jeers for not doing more to help the Senator's crew. No life rings were thrown, ladders lowered or lifeboats launched.
An investigation report later found both captains equally at fault for steaming at high speed in dense fog. Ship owner Nicholson Universal Steamship Company of Delaware later honored Captain Earl Godersky of the tug Delos H. Smith and his three-man crew for their fog-enveloped rescue.
In 2005, Paul Ehorn and Rob Polich claimed to have discovered the wreck of the Senator, but it wasn't until November that Thomsen was able to wrangle together an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) from Duluth, Minn. and survey the wreck using coordinates from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The team found the Senator's pilothouse and bow cabins in great shape, not blasted off by the force of air escaping the ship during its death throes. The cars stored on deck lay in a crumpled pile off the starboard stern. Inside, the ROV found autos lined in neat rows of three in one of the holds.
Historical records available don't say whether the Senator carried 1929 or 1930 model Nash coupes or sedans. Thomsen and researchers hope to answer that and other questions about early Wisconsin automobile manufacturing as well as gain insights into Great Lakes historical vessel construction and shipboard life.
As for Nash Motors, the company went on to make the popular Nash-Healey sports car and Rambler compact. Nash merged with Kelvinator Corp. in 1937 before restructuring into the American Motors Corporation in 1954 with George W. Romney, who later was elected governor of Michigan, as chairman. Chrysler acquired the company in 1987 and rebranded its models as Jeep-Eagle.
"I think a lot of other companies, had they lost 260 cars and had the stock market crash in the same month, they would have locked the doors," said Follis. "It was only through the reputation of management Nash was able to keep going."
"I doubt, if you looked at their books, they made much of anything that year," he said. "I think a lesser company would have been done."
Garret Ellison covers government, environment & the Great Lakes for MLive Media Group. Email him at gellison@mlive.com or follow on Twitter & Instagram

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Failed Pizza Delivery Experiment

Are you following your "career plan"? You know, the one all your school counselors insisted you needed by the time you walked out of their doors for the final time? Me either, although my "career plan" was as ephemeral as the wispy steam off your cars hood after a good washing in the bright sun. It went something like this; "I want to get a job that pays enough money so I don't have to move back home."  So in a sense I continue to follow my plan.
I knew my B.S. (how appropriate!) in English wouldn't open a lot of doors, but without a paycheck I was headed home.
So I got work cleaning the assembly line chains that carried frozen hamburgers through a tunnel of flames at the Ypsilanti Burger King. Sorry to say that doesn't even make the top ten list for my worst jobs ever. However, I vigilantly scoured the help wanted columns hoping for anything that didn't involve fries. Then my girlfriend's roommate mentioned her Uncle George was a New Car Sales Manager at a car dealership and needed salespeople. 
George was a very nice, down to earth gentleman in a suit and tie wearing a big, gold Masonic ring. 
We kind of hit it off and he hired me on the spot. I learned a lot from Uncle George besides how to sell Gremlins.He was a Southern gentleman you didn't want to cross. He'd spent years at different dealerships and understood how they worked from the front door to the bump shop.
I thought of him recently when I read this article in the Sunday paper.
George taught me that  when a dealer takes delivery of a new car, two invoices are sent from the factory: one to the dealership, the other to the financial institution that carried the dealership's "floor plan". The financial institution would pay the factory and the dealership would pay the institution interest payments every month until the day the car sold, at which point they would pay off the original invoice.
Usually the financial company also handled loans for the new and used cars we sold but we weren't under any obligation to  push their financing over any other bank or loan company.
It's a good thing too. An unusual feature that our
financial institution, Commercial Credit, saddled us with was that if our customer financed their new car through them and the loan went bad, the car would be repossessed and our dealership would get it back to sell again for the balance owed.
And trust me, repossessed cars are not cream puffs ready to be put on the lot for sale. Most often the cost of repairs exceeded the amount owed to Commercial Credit.
A couple of years before I started selling there, Tom Monaghan , the founder of Domino's Pizza, was trying to build up his business with fast, free delivery. Someone convinced him that the red, white, and blue Javelins AMC was making were just the eye catching type of car that would make Domino's "fast" delivery memorable, patterned as they were after Javelin's Trans-Am racers.
So he bought a whole slew of them. They were seen all over Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor racing around with vinyl bags on the seat packed with boxes of steaming pizza.
But the Javelins didn't hold up well with the fleet of barely post pubescent drivers and as the cars ran out of warranty, Monaghan ran out of patience and quit paying for them.
One by one the Javelins disappeared from the streets until finally there were none.
Fortunately for our dealership, Monaghan had used Dominos' bank for the car loans so our dealership wasn't strapped with a couple of dozen pooped out, dented up Javelins.
Reading about Domino's "new" delivery car made me smile...and wonder who's financing them.
In other countries Domino's uses less expensive delivery vehicles. That's probably best for everyone.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Selling the Cadillac Image

Ever since I saw a Chevrolet ad in the mid 1960s of a Chevy Impala driving slowly on the waterways of Venice I thought automobile advertising was the most original in the world. These Cadillac ads don't sell a car, they sell an image.
Posted: 10.26.2015
Cadillac: Standard of world advertising from 1930s-1970s
By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's collection
The Cadillac name plate belongs to a distinguished and honorable luxury car brand that many automotive historians and consumers have enjoyed for a very long time.
Cadillac enthusiasts have always highlighted a proud history of great and popular automobile designs. Over many years, Cadillac has compiled a unique and interesting history of engineering and styling innovations that have created a loyal consumer base.
During the early days when the Cadillac Motor Car company was getting started in Detroit in 1903, this automotive journey would start Cadillac's great success and heritage for the history books and for the future.
This story is about the legendary advertisements that Cadillac had introduced from the 1930s to 1970s and later how the Cadillac automobile was promoted for the consumer market.

During the fall, magazines are a showcase for new and exciting vehicles. They show images and descriptions of your new vehicle into nearly every American household to be looked and studied, reviewed and talked about and compared.
Shortly after the Cadillac Motor Car Co. was founded, the decade following (1920 to 1930) witnessed some of the the greatest developments in Cadillac’s Motor Car history with its great eye catching automotive designs.
During World War II, Cadillac did not focus on needed advertising but did feature great artistic work from the great Thomas Cleland, who illustrated some of the most beautiful automotive prints in the world. It was also during this time period, that the 1927 Cadillac La Salle became the first automobile designed completely by the late Harley Earl.
Cadillac advertising in the early half of the 1930s continued in the pattern of simplicity and elegance. The 1938 Cadillac model was introduced as a practical motor car that featured advanced styling.
After the war had ended, Cadillac continued to focus their advertising campaign on the consumers highlighting style and elegance. In 1948, Cadillac introduced the first fin, which the advertising community highlighted within their great advertising campaigns, “Cadillac presents the new standard of the world.”
Another important factor in advertising after the war was television. This would change the playing field for marketing and selling automobiles.
1950s bring changes to Cadillac marketing, relationship with Boulevard Photographic
The 1950s brought more glamour, fashion and women buyers into purchasing new Cadillac vehicles. In 1956, Cadillac offered new colors that attracted more women buyers to the dealerships such as Princess Green, Duchess Green and Mountain Laurel, which was a very soft pink color along with Taupe. These were all popular colors manufactured for Cadillac in 1956.

The years, 1953 to 1962, Cadillac advertised more female designers and fashion trends than any other car manufacturer in the United States. The year 1959, was also the year that the Cadillac tailfin rose to new heights in design.
The advertising featured many beautiful women along with the slogan “Take a lovely lady, place her at the wheel of a new Cadillac car and you have a delightful picture indeed.”
The 1960s to 1970s was a decade of change. Cadillac still held on to its great symbol of design, the 1963 and 1964 models were great looking automobiles and the advertising theme was “Sometimes when a man steps away from his Cadillac, he'll steal a glance back at the car in his life.”

One of the most recognized Cadillac advertising images popular among historians and collectors would be the print for the 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado (see image below). The headline stated, “Only one car can make a Cadillac owner look twice.” The advertising featured a man looking outside of his car window observing a 1967 Eldorado, and this became the most talked about and classic Cadillac advertising among historians even today.

During the 1950s to 1970s, Cadillac automobiles were photographed by one of the best advertising agencies in the world in Boulevard Photographic.
In the mid-1950s, talented photographers Jimmy Northmore and Mickey MeGuire launched Boulevard Photographic to service Detroit's auto industry. They set about proving the power of automotive photography that was used to bring consumers into the showrooms to purchase new Cadillac automobiles. Boulevard Photographic was considered the best in the automotive industry.
In conclusion, Cadillac has always had a rich heritage along with many great milestones throughout its history. Cadillac advertising will always be a great part of our automotive history and heritage for generations to come.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of Robert Tate's personal collection. (Bibliography: Mc Call M.P Walter. “80 Years Of Cadillac La Salle,” Crestline Publishing 1988; Hendry D. Maurice/Editors of Automobile Quarterly “Cadillac standard of the world The Complete history,” 1979; Williams, Jim. “Boulevard Photographic The art of automobile advertising,” 1997 )
For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Working the Line at Pontiac

I worked in the Engine Plant (Plant 9) the summer of 1967. We built the 326 c.i. engine until July when they changed the line over to the 350 c.i. engine. I was in the inspection department and did a lot of jobs on a lot of shifts. More on that later. This is a brief overview of that industrial complex which has vanished from the landscape.

The Early Days of Pontiac Labor/Assembly Lines

 By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images: Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection

The Oakland Motor Car Company was organized in 1907. Later, they began manufacturing Pontiac automobiles for the consumer market.
In January, 1926, the first Pontiac vehicle was manufactured for the auto industry. It was created to fill the gap between the Chevrolet and the Oldsmobile production vehicles. The company name was changed to Pontiac Motor Company in 1931-32 when Pontiac took over all production facilities. 

Final Inspection on 1939 Pontiac
At a cost of $15 million, the Pontiac manufacturing facility was located on 135 acres. The plant was known as the daylight plant because of the amount of glass used in the construction. This facility in Michigan was one of the homes for Pontiac until it was closed in later years.  It was a modern production facility where many of the men and women were highly trained and skilled craftsmen that always accomplished great quality results as they assembled Pontiac automobiles.
For example, the men and women would work within the factory at Pontiac with over 150 powerful Pontiac engines from aluminum pistons to crankshafts along with connecting rod and pistons that could be produced in one single hour.
Other Pontiac assembly line responsibilities included giant presses that were capable of exerting pressures up to 2,500 tons which were used in stamping out fenders, hoods, bumpers and other manufactured parts for the assembly line workers. Pontiac workers also had to work with small parts for assembly line production. The small parts sometimes were supplied by outside firms that had to be constantly checked to insure an adequate stock at all times. The lack of one tiny part could cause the entire assembly operation to be suspended until the part was restocked. 

1958 Pontica Body Drop
Pontiac factory workers also participated during the war time efforts as well. After the last vehicle rolled off the Pontiac assembly line, the Pontiac factory workers began to take a part mile after mile of overhead conveyors. Huge machines were then torn from concrete areas by Pontiac factory workers and placed into storage yards.
Workers with drills would cut gaping holes in the floors to set a foundation for heavier machinery that was needed for Tank and plane production manufacturing. Word had come from Washington that all existing war plants were to be enlarged. One of the Pontiac Motors war production assignments was the manufacture of the Bofors 40 mm field gun along with parts for tanks for the U.S. Army and high-volume production of aircraft-launched naval torpedoes along with other parts as well.
After the war had ended, post-war Pontiac models began their manufacturing process on Sept. 13, 1945. However, the full line of 1946 Pontiac models did not appear until June 10, 1946, due in part to the United Auto Workers Union striking General Motors on Nov. 21, 1945. 

1965 Factory Worker Striping the GTO
One of the first factory workers that started with the Oakland Motor Car Company was Charles J. Long, who had been with Oakland/Pontiac assembly since 1919. He worked as a foreman, tool trouble-shooter and on special assignments and was considered a great factory worker and was very much a part of Pontiac manufacturing assembly line operations for many years.
To all the men and women, including Charles Long, who were a part of our great automotive heritage and its great labor movement, who helped to build and shape Pontiac automobiles on the assembly line; honor is given.

1966 GTO on Production Line
Pontiac sales continued to increase during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, Pontiac Motor Division had to hire over 3,000 factory line workers along with adding an extra factory shifts just to keep up with factory sales for the consumer market demanding over 217,303 Pontiac models. On March 14, 1962, General Motors celebrated its 75 millionth vehicle. This special milestone in Pontiac’s history was a joyful occasion for many Pontiac workers.
As the 1960's moved forward Pontiac began manufacturing the popular G.T.O models along with the first generation Fire-birds, and the popular Grand Prix models as well. The assembly line workers became very busy manufacturing Pontiac's for the high demand throughout the 1960's and the early 1970’s.

1970 Pontiac Grand Prix Assembly Line
By the time General Motors celebrated its 75th Anniversary, technology, robots and lasers were a part of the Pontiac assembly line process featuring scanners that could verify dimensions of openings in car bodies or even check dimensions of a windshield. It was the beginning of the new age technology and computers being featured within the work place at Pontiac Motor assembly. Today many of the Pontiac manufacturing plants and processes are no longer with us. However, the great men and women and their families who contributed to the legacy of assembly line workmanship will always have a special place in automotive history.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Gunnell John. “75 Years Of Pontiac Oakland” Crestline Publishing 1982. GM Folkes No. 2 February 1940. Published by Public Relations General Motors News.)

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area.

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