MotorCities National Heritage Area
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2022

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 5.18.2022

1924 Lincoln Ad Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 11924 Lincoln advertising art (Ford Motor Company Archives)

During the early days of the automobile when traveling across our country was beginning to take place, the Lincoln Motor car started to make its mark on our automotive culture.

At the behest of son Edsel, Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company purchased the Lincoln Motor Company for $8 million on February 4, 1922 from Henry Leland. In June 1922, both Henry Leland and his son Wilfred left Lincoln, and Edsel Ford became the company’s president. The new company was now called the “Lincoln Motor Company Division of Ford Motor Company.” The Lincoln Motor Company became an independent operation whose stock was 100 percent owned by the Ford Motor Company. Henry and Edsel Ford, the father and son combination, then guided Lincoln from near financial ruin to a strong luxury brand featuring some of the greatest automotive design of the era.

1925 Lincoln Touring Ford Motor Company Archives CROPPED 21925 Lincoln Touring ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The 1922 Lincoln models offered minor changes reflective of Ford’s recent purchase of the brand. For example, the Lincoln badge featured the Ford name and the “Leland Built” logos were removed. The models also offered improved cylinder heads for better engine cooling on automobiles with serial numbers after 7820.

1925 Lincoln ad Ford Motor Company Archives 31925 Lincoln ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In 1924, as the Lincoln line was becoming increasing popular, it was necessary to expand their factory by an additional 311,000 square feet to facilitate higher production output. Ray Dietrich left Le Baron and set up Dietrich Inc in Detroit, Michigan as a custom body division of the Murray Body Company. This firm would in latter years produce many great looking custom and semi-custom bodies for Lincoln automobiles.

1925 Lincoln ad with dogs Ford Motor Company Archives 4Another 1925 Lincoln ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In 1925, Silversmith Gorham was retained at Ford Motor Company to create and design a new emblem for Lincoln automobile. Because of its speed and fleetness, the greyhound symbol was chosen, and the famous Lincoln greyhound radiator ornament was planned for late in the model year. The greyhound radiator ornament remained the great symbol for Lincoln vehicles from 1927 until the final series K shipped from the factory in 1941.

1928 Lincoln 4 Passenger Coupe Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 51928 Lincoln Four- Passenger Coupe ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

As the 1920s Lincoln models continued their strong sales, the Detroit Police Department conducted extensive tests on their vehicles, placing their stamp of approval on Lincoln as the best in automotive performance.

1927 was the year that body builder Locke introduced its Dual Cowl Phaeton automobile design to the public. It was a vehicle widely considered to be one of Lincoln’s most attractive automotive designs.1928 Lincoln Semi Collapsible Cabriolet Ford Motor Company Archives 61928 Lincoln Semi Collapsible Cabriolet ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

There is no question that Edsel Ford brought a level of class to the Lincoln brand. The 1920s Lincoln models reflected that in their designs and custom bodies that so many consumers thoroughly enjoyed.

In 1929, Lincoln offered a new body style, including the side-mounted spare tires on the majority of its models.

1928 Lincoln ad Ford Motor Company Archives 71928 Lincoln ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

From 1923 to 1929, Lincoln offered some of the most beautifully illustrated automotive advertising ever. Some of the illustrations were developed by artist Haddon Hubbard Sundblom (1899-1976) and automotive illustrator Fred Cole (1893-1983). Sundblom became one of the most prominent American illustrators of the early 20th century and dominated the field from Chicago. Cole’s work from the Grauman studios in Chicago was featured by many automotive companies in their advertising as well.

1928 Lincoln ad Ford Motor Company Archives 8Another 1928 Lincoln ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In conclusion, the 1920s Lincoln models left their design and engineering mark on the automotive world, and their advertising by great illustrators like Cole and Sundblom also made an impact for many generations to see for many years to come.

Bibliography 

Dammann, George H. “Fifty Years of Lincoln Mercury.” Crestline Publishing, 1971.

Kimes, Beverly Rae & Clark, Henry Austin. “Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1808-1942.” Krause Publications, 1991.

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of SpicerCollectorCars, Dean Jeffries Kustomrama
Published 5.10.2022

Dean Jeffries early 1950s Kustomrama 3Dean Jeffries, early 1950s (Kustomrama)

This story is about Dean Jeffries (February 25, 1933 - May 5, 2013), who made a creative impact on the design and entertainment community when it came to custom car projects. One of his most popular custom car designs was the iconic 1966 Monkeemobile, a modified Pontiac GTO made for the popular singing group the Monkees and their weekly TV show.

Dean Jeffries 1966 Monkeemobile RESIZED 6Dean Jeffries' 1966 Monkeemobile

Jeffries’ automotive interests and inspirations began with his father, who was a mechanic and truck driver. In his early days, Dean liked building and racing midget race cars during his spare time for fun. He started pinstriping automobiles with the legendary Von Dutch in Lynwood, California during the early 1950s.

1949 Mercury by Dean Jeffries Kustomrama 11949 Mercury by Dean Jeffries (Kustomrama)

Jeffries’ great automotive talent and passion would take him to automotive custom painting, and later into custom fabrication. In the beginning, he designed custom cars for many legendary movie stars, like James Dean and Steve McQueen. Jeffries always considered himself a hot rodder and racer.

1952 Buick Blue Danube Kustomrama 21952 Buick Blue Danube (Kustomrama)

Jeffries also had the privilege to live around the corner from the popular Barris Kustom automotive shop. Some automotive historians have said that, after school, he would hang around the Barris shop admiring all the custom models on display there.

At the age of 17, Jeffries left high school and went directly into the U.S. Army. After his service, he returned to California and began to apply his talents as a pinstriper for custom automobiles. George Barris later approached Jeffries on a number of occasions to see if he wanted to do some pinstriping for him at his shop. Jeffries countered by asking if he could rent space from Barris instead. An agreement was reached, and in 1956, Jeffries became the Barris Kustom house striper.

Dean Jeffries working on the Mantaray sports model Kustomrama RESIZED 4Dean Jeffries working on the Mantaray sports model (Kustomrama)

Jeffries career shifted into high gear, working on highly visible cars like the Little Deuce Coupe and many others. Many of his works began appearing in Custom Car and Hot Rod magazines as well.

Dean Jeffries 1963 Mantaray sports model Mike Spicer RESIZED 5Dean Jeffries 1963 Mantaray sports model (Mike Spicer)

In 1963, while in his Sunset Boulevard shop, Jefferies built his most famous car called the Mantaray. Hot rod aficionado and writer Mike Spicer said ”The Mantaray turned the hot rod car world upside-down. The car was inspired by marine life he observed while visiting an aquarium, specifically the manta ray.”

Book published by Tom Cotter 7Dean Jeffries book by Tom Cotter

Jeffries continued to dazzle the custom car community with his designs. He also worked with Carroll Shelby, who provided the Shelby racing Ford small block engine for the Mantaray custom car. Some automotive historians have said that the Mantaray brought Jeffries a great deal of fame. In later years, Jeffries would continue to leave his creative mark on the automotive world. He also worked as a stunt driver, stuntman and vehicle stunt coordinator in many films and television shows.

Article RESIZED 8Jeffries in later years

In conclusion, Jeffries worked on various automotive projects in his semi-retirement years before his death in 2013. His achievements in paint and fabrication will always be a part of our custom car community.   

Bibliography 

Spicer, Mike. “Dean Jeffries’ Mantaray, the Ultimate Hot Rod.” Spicer Collects Cars, February 4, 2019.

Cummings, Curtis. “Custom Legends: Classic Cars.” April 27, 2015.

Jeffries, Dean. “Kustomrama.” Traditional Rod and Kustom Encyclopedia.

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian & Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Chrysler Archives
Publsihed 5.4.2022

Bob Nixon working in the design studio Chrysler Archives 4 

One of the most influential individuals in the automotive industry during the 1960s and 1970s was Bob Nixon. He was responsible for many popular and iconic automobile designs.

Before making his mark at American Motors, Nixon started at Chrysler Corporation as a great technical illustrator, which he really enjoyed. He moved to American Motors in 1959, where he began implementing new automotive design ideas. Nixon was very much influenced by Elwood Engel, who designed the popular 1963 Chrysler Turbine car.

1964 AMC Rambler 440H model Chrysler Archives 11964 AMC Rambler 440H model (Chrysler Archives)

At American Motors, Nixon was responsible for the popular 1964 Rambler American front-end design, which was well-liked by the US consumer. The 1964 Rambler American models were referred to as the glamor cars of the American Motors nameplate. A convertible 440 series was one of the most popular AMC models among consumers that year.

1964 AMC Rambler Tarpon Show Car Chrysler Archives CROPPED and RESIZED 21964 AMC Rambler Tarpon Show Car (Chrysler Archives)

During the 1960s, Nixon was named the head of AMC’s small car studio. Some automotive historians reported that Nixon’s designs helped increase the company’s sales significantly.

AMX 3 Show Car with Bob Nixon Chrysler Archives CROPPED and RESIZED 3AMX 3 Show Car with Bob Nixon (Chrysler Archives)

In 1968, it was reported that he was the designer of the great looking AMX/K-AMX/3 show cars, which were admired by many automotive enthusiasts. Nixon also collaborated with another great AMC designer of the era, Richard Teague.

Nixon was also involved with an AMC show car called the Tarpon, which could have been manufactured as a competitive response to the popular Ford Mustang introduced for the 1965 model year. However, AMC at the time decided to introduce the Marlin, which turned out to be a sales flop.

The first production 1970 AMC Gremlin model Chrysler Archives 5The first production 1970 AMC Gremlin model (Chrysler Archives)

Nixon’s next project was a new design idea called the Gremlin. He also credited AMC colleagues Vince Gercci and Dick Jones with help creating the popular Gremlin designs. The Gremlin was a subcompact model introduced in 1970, using a shortened Hornet platform. A total of 671,475 units of the Gremlin were made between 1970 and 1978, despite some American car buyers thinking that it was one of the ugliest designed cars of the era.

Bob Nixon and Richard Teague with the 1974 Gremlin models Chrysler Archives RESIZED 6Bob Nixon and Richard Teague with the 1974 Gremlin models (Chrysler Archives)

After the Gremlin project wrapped, Nixon went on to oversee the design proposals for new versions of the Matador coupe, along with the Pacer and Concord models.

The AMC Pacer took America by storm when it was introduced on February 28, 1975. I remember when I first saw it as a student in high school. I thought it was an unusual and different design. All of my fellow students were talking about this uncommon automobile.

AMC Pacer advertising photo Chrysler Archives RESIZED 7AMC Pacer advertising photo (Chrysler Archives)

During the development of the Pacer, Teague was vice president of styling and Nixon was director of exterior design at AMC. Nixon once noted that “the Pacer was not a corporate priority. The initial hatchback body style cost $60 million dollars to develop for a strapped company” at the time. Some automotive historians have said that the Pacer design was one of the most expensive redesigns of the 1970s. This Pacer design featured an all-new body, chassis and included technology new at that time to AMC, such as a rack-and pinion steering and a front subframe.

In conclusion, when AMC formed a partnership with Renault in 1979, the Jeep platform became its primary concern. Nixon remained as part of the design team that developed the Jeep ZJ Grand Cherokee model. His design work continued through Chrysler’s purchase of AMC in 1987.

In 1992, Nixon retired from the design community and died in February 2022 at the age of 86. His designs will always be remembered as part of our automotive history. 

Bibliography    

Strohl, Daniel. “AMC Designer who penned the Gremlin and Pacer Dies at 86.” Hemmings Daily, February 14, 2019.

Phillips, David. “AMC’s Pacer, one of Detroit’s more polarizing designs debuts in 1975.” Automotive News, March 2, 2021.

Strohl, Daniel. “From A to X -- all the different cars that could have, and did become the AMX.” Hemmings Daily, June 23, 2015.

 

by A. Wayne Ferens
Images from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Wayne Ferens Collection
Published 4.27.2022

EDITOR'S NOTE: April is Arab-American Heritage Month, so we're sharing a recent interview done by our Director of Programs Brian Yopp with Ismael Ahmed.

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives, Hemmings, Ray Barton/Cars Online
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Images courtesy of General Motors Media Archives, Richard Quinn Collection, Mechanix Illustrated
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Images Courtesy of Nellie Goins, Ebony magazine, NHRA
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Images courtesy of Ford Motor Company and Superformance
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Images Courtesy of Multiple Sources
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Images Courtesy of Lewis Hamilton
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Images Courtesy of Camilo Pardo, Yoshiharu Miyakawa, Elaine Pesser, Cedric Gachet and Joe Williams
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy Mary Ellen Green Dohrs, GM Media Archives
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by Bob Sadler, MotorCities Communications Manager
Images Courtesy of Detroit Electric, Car and Driver, and Coachbuilt.com
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images Courtesy of the GM Media Archives/Chevrolet SS Concept 2003 Brochure
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A STORY OF THE WEEK EXTRA

by Bob Sadler, MotorCities Communications Manager
Images from Walter Reuther Library, Motown Records
Published 1.14.2022

EDITOR”S NOTE: In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, MotorCities is sharing this story of the 1963 March to Freedom event in Detroit and the role played by UAW President Walter Reuther and area auto workers.

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives and Mecum Auctions
Published 1.12.2022

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 1.5.2022