Janesville, once GM’s oldest operating plant, to be demolished a year short of its centennial

Janesville, once GM’s oldest operating plant, to be demolished a year short of its centennial

Photo by Cliff.

Following a decade of inactivity and a multi-million-dollar sale, the former GM assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, which once employed as many as 7,000 workers, will soon be reduced to rubble to ease the redevelopment of the 300-acre site.

If the plant can owe its existence to any one individual, that would be James A. Craig. In the 1910s, Craig worked for the Janesville Machinery Company, which built farming implements in the southern Wisconsin city. Craig somehow got wind of GM’s plan to enter the farm tractor business to compete against the Fordson and convinced William Durant to allow Janesville Machinery to manage that business for GM. In true Durant fashion, he not only bought Janesville Machinery for $1 million in 1918, he also bought the Stockton, California-based Samson Sieve-Grip Tractor Company, moved the latter to Wisconsin, merged the two companies under the Samson name, and built a grand new factory for the division.

Tractors, a handful of trucks, and the unique Model D Iron Horse followed, but Samson could never come close to Ford’s market share. Lawrence Gustin, in his book “Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors,” also pointed out that a looming recession caused a slump in farm prices and thus spelled doom for Samson; Gustin quoted Pierre du Pont’s estimate that the tractor business cost GM a total of $33 million by the time the company pulled the plug on Samson in 1923.

It wasn’t all for naught, though. Chevrolet, in the middle of a period of massive growth, already had assembly plants in Flint, Tarrytown, St. Louis, Oakland, and Canada, and could use a few more for both its car and truck lines. So as Samson production ended at Janesville, Chevrolet production started. (The division also added factories in Buffalo and Norwood, Ohio, that year.)

A Fisher Body plant accompanied the Janesville plant at about the same time, and aside from a year during the Depression and the World War II years – when Oldsmobile operated the plant and produced artillery shells – production continued into the 21st Century. In about 1981, Janesville switched from full-size cars to J-chassis compacts, and then in the late 1980s the plant switched from building pickups to building full-size SUVs and medium-duty trucks.

Photo courtesy WisconsinHistory.org.

Only the SUVs and a handful of medium-duty Isuzus were rolling down the Janesville assembly lines by 2008, though with rising gas prices curtailing sales of full-size SUVs and GM sliding into bankruptcy, GM CEO Rick Wagoner announced that June that the Janesville plant would close. The SUV assembly line wound down that December and the Isuzu line in April of 2009.

Unlike other former GM plants that were offloaded during the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, the Janesville plant went on standby status and remained GM property, according to The Detroit Bureau. Not until January 2016, when, as part of GM’s renegotiated contract with the United Auto Workers the UAW agreed to allow GM to sell the plant, did the plant go off standby status and on the market. It then remained on the market until December of last year, when Commercial Development Company of St. Louis bought the 4.8-million-square-foot plant and the 265-acre property it sat on for $9.6 million.

As Commercial Development Company CEO Randall Jostes noted in a press conference shortly after the purchase, the new owners intend to raze most or all of the factory to clear the way for redeveloping the site.

“We believe we’ve looked at every possibility of preserving some of the structure, but it doesn’t look like that’s possible. We haven’t ruled it out completely. So it looks like we’re going to have to demolish the 4-million-square-foot facility,” Jostes said.

The Detroit Bureau reported this week that demolition equipment has moved onto the site.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

IMRRC to present “Looking at the World Through a Windshield,” a talk remembering Brock Yates

IMRRC to present “Looking at the World Through a Windshield,” a talk remembering Brock Yates

Brock Yates

Brock Yates, circa 2003. Photo by Jim Donnelly.

Brock Yates was a writer, racer, visionary, and tireless champion of the art of driving. On Saturday, February 24, his widow Pamela and daughter Stacy Bradley will be at the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) in Watkins Glen, New York, presenting Looking at the World Through a Windshield, a talk about Brock Yates’ remarkable life.

Yates, who died in October 2016, led the kind of life that most can only dream about. During his four decades at Car and Driver, he drove the most interesting cars in the world for a living, dared to call out the very automakers that advertised in his magazine, and, in protest of the absurdity of artificially low speed limits, established the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.

The first Cannonball – a proof of concept, really – took place in May 1971. Wanting to prove that U.S. Interstates could be safely traveled at Autobahn-like speeds by trained drivers, Yates, accompanied by his son, Brock Jr., Steve Smith, and Jim Williams, traveled from the Red Ball Garage in New York City to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, covering 2,858 miles in 40 hours and 51 minutes. Their chariot of choice wasn’t a 2+2 grand-tourer or a big-block muscle car; instead, it was a Dodge Custom Sportsman van dubbed the Moon Trash II.

Six months later, the first “real” Cannonball took place, with seven teams vying to cover the NY to CA distance in the shortest time possible, regardless of the chosen route. This time, victory went to Yates and co-driver Dan Gurney, who covered the distance in 35 hours and 54 minutes behind the wheel of a Ferrari Daytona. The following year, 1972, a Cadillac Coupe de Ville, driven by Steve Behr, Bill Canfield and Fred Olds, completed the trip in 37 hours and 16 minutes.

The race was run again in April 1975, at a time when the National Maximum Speed Law reduced Interstate speed limits to 55 MPH or lower. Enacted in 1974 as part of the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, the law was intended to reduce fuel consumption by 2.2-percent, though later research showed the actual savings to be less than one-percent. Faced with steep fines and even the risk of imprisonment, roughly 20 teams signed up to participate in the ’75 Cannonball, with the winners (Rick Cline and Jack May, driving a Ferrari Dino 246 GTS) navigating from East Coast to West in 35 hours and 53 minutes.

Though no one knew it at the time, 1979 would be the last race. Hemmings Motor News even fielded an entry – a 1936 Ford panel van driven by Terry Ehrich, Dave Brownell and Justus Taylor – with the stated goal of “not finishing last,” which our team accomplished. The winning team of Dave Heinz and David Yarborough, driving a Jaguar XJS, made the trip in a record-setting 32 hours and 51 minutes.

Then, the Cannonball fell victim to its own success. With more teams signing up for each running, Yates realized that the event’s near-perfect safety record simply couldn’t be maintained as more drivers, with less training and faster cars, looked to participate. With zero fanfare, the Cannonball ended, though a Yates-envisioned replacement event called One Lap of America – still held today – emerged as a replacement in 1984.

Look for Lady Pamela and Stacy to keep attendees engaged with tales from Cannonballs past, as well as other highlights of Yates’s remarkable career. The talk, part of the IMRRC’s “Center Conversations” series, begins at 1:00 p.m., and is open to all with a requested $5.00 donation. For those unable to attend, it will also be livestreamed on the IMRRC’s YouTube channel or on its webpage.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Reminiscing – Dad’s Old Chevy Truck

Reminiscing – Dad’s Old Chevy Truck

1928 Chevrolet truck on Ridge Road.

[Editor’s note: This “Reminiscing” story, edited by Richard Lentinello, comes to us from Jim Miles, Corona, California.]

In the summer of 1968, I was 12 years old and my father, Bob, was 37. We lived in a rural area of western New York in the town of Lewiston, right on edge of Lake Ontario. As I recall, my dad and I were on one of many old-car excursions. We drove no more than five miles down Ridge Road to look at a 1928 Chevrolet truck that had been converted many years before into a farm truck, and was now in repose. All that was left of the Chevy was its cowl, fenders, radiator shell, frame, and running gear. Basically, a truck frame clad in a wooden flatbed that the farmer would use to haul fruit from the orchards to his roadside stand. We were told that the truck had not moved from its overgrown spot in the field since some time in the mid-1950s.

Dad was up for the challenge of getting the old Chevy running, so after stopping at the farmhouse to pay for the truck, our work began. I was given an old coffee can to dredge water from a nearby creek and told to keep some water in the bullet-holed radiator. We had a can of gasoline usually used for the lawnmower and a bicycle pump to inflate the huge old flat tires. Dad turned the old six-volt starter over with some cables and the 12-volt battery of our late-model Pontiac rescue car. He spun the old four-cylinder engine over checking the truck’s vital signs. Within a few minutes of tinkering, a “grab that wire and see if there’s any spark” shock test for me on the old plug wires–he ‘taught’ both of his sons that trick–the engine fired up and we drove it sputtering and leaking to the front porch of the old farmhouse. The Chevy cost $25! I can still remember the shock on the woman’s face as she watched us drive away in the old wooden rig.

My dad was hooked on old cars from an earlier era when his dad scrapped many cars, trucks, and other metal at his auto-repair shop and scrapyard; much of the scrap was used for the war effort. This yard later became Miles Foundry and Miles Auto Parts in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The foundry building still stands and Miles Auto Parts is still in business today.

From Dad’s many years in the scrapyard, he learned every detail, every subtle nuance, and many obscure details of many of the cars that have been rolling down our roads for the last century. Knowledge and experience from cutting up many old cars; classics and regular family transportation cars, with a gas torch. His work helped to support the war effort and to help put food on his family’s table. His friends in the old-car hobby often use his knowledge when restoring their own cars.

We drove the old wooden 1928 Chevrolet truck around our farm, hauling wood trimmings and rocks, and just going for rides. Dad had it listed in Hemmings as a parts car and proceeded to sell it piece by piece until it was not recognizable, but still drivable! By the time he finally sold the remains of the truck he had made close to $1,000 from the $25 initial investment.

In his search for old cars, we made many excursions around the Northeast. A very nice 1932 Packard was bought for $500 from a garage in Auburn, New York; a 1934 Cadillac V-12 Fleetwood Convertible Sedan (body #1) was acquired from a yard in southern New York. This three-ton beast was towed home on a trailer by a 1948 Chevy pickup. I still can’t decide who was driving who through the hills and valleys that night–my dad or the 6,200-pound Cadillac (without the engine!) on the now-fractured and patched old trailer.

1934 Cadillac V-12 Fleetwood Convertible Sedan.

This is just one of many such adventures that my father, brother, and I shared. Going to get cars always involved a cigar, usually burning before dawn. There was always the grease, snow, mud, or rain ground in or smeared all over everything we wore. The homestretch involved being towed home, freezing or sweating in a car full of mice or bees, with the occasional blow out of one of the old cracked and worn tires. Keep in mind, as kids, we were ‘driving’ these old things as the cars pulling them were usually lighter than our ‘new car’. This is how we learned our hand signals.  And, most of our swear words.

My younger brother, John, was a participant in many of our old-car adventures, and we still have some great stories to share when we meet up with Dad and all the boys at the Fall Meet at Hershey every year. Imagine, my dad has been going to Hershey since 1966. Even the old cars were not old yet.

1928 Packard.

1928 Packard, safety first.

Many cars Dad bought, then fixed to running condition, drove by us on the farm roads surrounding our home, and then sold for a profit of a few hundred dollars each. There were Dodges, Packards, Cadillacs, Plymouths, Hupmobiles, Buicks, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, Hudsons, La Salles, Oldsmobiles, Mercurys, and even a Maxwell.

As Dad bought and sold old cars, he developed a desire to keep and restore a few. So he did, even winning a junior award for his Seafoam Green 1942 Buick Roadmaster Sedanette at the 2001 AACA Fall Meet.

Dad is almost 87 now, and the last two trips to Hershey he has sold a car. He once sold nearly all of his cars and said there would be ‘No More’! Then, within a few weeks, he went out and bought a ’48 Plymouth, two Buick convertibles, a very nice 1934 Dodge rumble seat coupe, a 1949 Chrysler, and a Cadillac. Thanks to our dad, my brother and I, and our friends and relatives are carrying on the old-car tradition, and we are all having fun driving our old cars.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1953 Lancia Aprilia Sport by OSA recreation

Hemmings Find of the Day – 1953 Lancia Aprilia Sport by OSA recreation

Hand-built recreation of a 1953 Lancia Aprilia Sport by OSA for sale on Hemmings.com. From the seller’s description:

This Lancia “Sport” by OSA, is a “Mille Miglia type” racecar, an awesome recreation of a racing jewel of Agostino Accadia’s, according to the precious contribute of his son Ernesto, I’ve the honor to be a friend of.

Ernesto and I shared the dream of making the survived original components roaring again in the body of a recreated racing thoroughbred of his father’s.

The project started in 2015 from overhauling all the original Lancia parts then supported by a correct tubular frame and finally wrapped by a body of awesome beauty.

We put it back in good shape with the following characteristics and specifications:

Reconstruction of GILCO type tubular frame, 235 cm (92.5 in) wheelbase (40 cm shorter than the sedan one)

Correct Lancia front axle complete with inner coil springs and shocks, steering box, steering linkages, double cylinders drum brakes

Correct Lancia rear axle complete with differential,leaf springs, hydraulic shocks, drum brakes

Correct Lancia Aprilia 1500 close V4 engine, feeded by a custom built billet aluminum intake manifold matched to a 35 mm double barrel Solex carburetor (projected and finely tuned by Ernesto Accadia), on fender dynamic air scoop

Special 4 into 1 header matched to a low restriction muffler, lh side exit

Correct Lancia clutch and manual 4spd transmission

Custom made drive shaft with u-joints replacing the rubber “donuts”

Custom made aluminum fuel tank with “Monza type” inlet and cap, electric pump

Hand crafted 1.2 mm aluminum body, aluminum inner fenders, firewall and trunk, 4 mm aluminum floors, aluminum sport seats frame with beige vinyl (nobody really used leather in racing …)

Chrome 16” wire wheels with spinners, 185R16 sport tires

Owen curved Lexan windshield and side screens

Totally restored gauges, state of the art new electric harnesses

Every single component, even not in this list, has been totally overhauled, brought to like new conditions

This stock 1500 engine revs about 4,000 rpm reaching about 140 kmh (87 mph) but, switching to a revving 6,000 rpm modified unit (available separately) this car can approach 200 kmh (124 mph)

I’m proud of this result and again thank Ernesto for his professional and passionate support.

Ernesto Accadia, in the ‘70s moved from Naples to north of Lombardy in Busto Arsizio, town located 20 miles north of Milan were has been a well appreciated Weber and Solex carburetors technician and now, as retired, loves preparing FIAT 500 racing prototypes to make his son Gianluca a winning participant to the Championato Italiano Bicilindriche Storiche (Italian Historic Battle of the Twins).

Here some history notes about the Aprilia “Sport” racecars in their era:

Lancia’s standard production for the Aprilia model was limited to 4 door sedan type only, plus some rolling chassis dedicated to external coach builders (Stabilimenti Farina, Carrozzeria Touring, etc.) , consequently sports and racing cars were built by private Companies and racecar builders like Zagato, Conrero, Morelli, Motto, Pagani, Paganelli, and many others.

The Lancia supplied rolling chassis were frameless due to their boxed sheet metal structure, resulting flexible so the 274 cm (110 inches) wheelbase made the behavior even worse and the excessive length affected handling.

So, many builders used the common and inexpensive FIAT 1100 classic rail frames for installing Lancia engines as well as Alfa Romeo 6C engines and even Bugatti engines. That frame had structure to perform decently even though still some flexible and too high from the ground.

But, healthier gentlemen could afford costly tubular frames among which the most celebrated supplier was GILCO by Gilberto Colombo (chosen by Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Zagato and Ghia plus for FIAT 750, 1100 and 2000 8V).



Location Marker


Magnifying Glass


See more Lancias for sale on Hemmings.com.

Editor’s note: The purpose of the “Find of the Day” is to highlight interesting cars from our classifieds. These are not the actual ads, so to view more images or contact the seller with questions, click on the hyperlink (underlined green text), which will take you to the classified ad itself.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

The last period-built chassis GT40 Mk IV heads to auction

The last period-built chassis GT40 Mk IV heads to auction

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV, chassis J-12. Photos by Mathieu Heurtault, copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company.

Originally dubbed the J-Car, in reference to the FIA’s Appendix J regulations under which it competed, Ford’s GT40 Mk IV was built to be an all-American assault on the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, further rubbing salt in Ferrari’s endurance-racing wounds. A Mk IV won the race in 1967, but rule changes made the model obsolete by year-end. Just 12 chassis were ever built in-period, and on Friday, March 9, the final example, GT 40 Mk IV chassis J-12, crosses the auction stage at the Gooding & Company sale in Amelia Island, Florida.

In 1966, Ford swept the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a trio of GT40 Mk IIs, but this achievement wasn’t enough to satisfy Henry Ford II. Originally based upon the British Lola Mk 6 GT, much of the GT40’s early development work had taken place in England, at Ford Advanced Vehicles, under the direction of John Wyer. Though the GT40 program had been shipped stateside in late 1964 (when it was handed off to Carroll Shelby and Holman & Moody), the GT40 Mk I and Mk II had been built in England, not America. Even the drivers that delivered the win for Ford in 1966 were foreign, with Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon both hailing from New Zealand.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

Ford wanted to win the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans on his own terms, with an American-developed, American-built GT40, piloted by American drivers. The J-Car, which would share almost no parts with the Mk II aside from the 427-cu.in. Ford V-8, would be the answer. Designed in-house, production was handed off to Kar Kraft in Michigan, which received help from an unlikely source: airplane manufacturer Brunswick Aircraft Corporation.

To shed pounds, the J-Car would be built like an airplane, its tub consisting of aluminum honeycomb reinforced with L-shaped aluminum ribs. The skin would be bonded and riveted to this structure, with the entire assembly cured in an a high-temperature autoclave. This construction method shaved nearly 300 pounds off the weight of a GT40 Mk II, though some questioned the J-Car’s overall strength compared to earlier GT40 variants.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

The J-Car body was designed by stylists, with a long, flat roof ending in a Kamm tail and a narrower cockpit for improved high-speed aerodynamics. On paper, anyway: When testing began on the first J-car chassis at Le Mans in April 1966, its body produced too much drag, so the decision was made to run the GT40 Mk IIs at Le Mans in 1966, giving Ford the additional time it needed to develop the J-Car into something competitive.

Under Carroll Shelby’s direction, testing on the J-Cars resumed in July 1966, with work carried out in a wind tunnel and on track. In August 1966, Ken Miles was behind the wheel of chassis J-2 at California’s Riverside International Raceway when something went horribly wrong at the end of the back straight. For no apparent reason, the car veered off track, and its wheels dug in the sandy soil at the pavement’s edge. The GT40 launched into the air, disintegrating as it rolled and tumbled, and Miles was thrown clear of the burning wreckage. By the time corner workers arrived, the driver – who many believe was robbed of a win at Le Mans in 1966 – was already dead.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

Despite a massive investigation into the accident, a clear cause was never found. The original J-Car chassis were strengthened to avoid such tragedy in the future, and the J-Car’s original “breadvan” shape was replaced by a body that sloped gracefully to the rear, reducing lift at speed. This refined variant became known as the GT40 Mk IV, and it made its racing debut at Sebring in 1967.

In-period, a total of 12 J-Car chassis were built. J-1, J-2 (the car driven by Miles at Riverside), and J-3 were used for development, while J-4 became the first GT40 Mk IV raced, and in the hands of Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren, delivering a victory at Sebring in April 1967. Chassis J-5 through J-8 were dedicated to Ford’s 1967 Le Mans efforts, with J-5 – the 1967 Le Mans winner, driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt – and J-6 prepared by Shelby American and the remaining cars, J-7 and J-8, prepared by Holman & Moody. Chassis J-9 and J-10 were converted into open-cockpit Can-Am cars, while two chassis – unnumbered at the time – were built as spares.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

The chassis that would later become J-12 was sold by Ford to Harry T. Heinl of Miami Lakes, Florida, circa 1970, part of a lot that also included J-4, J-7, and P/1015. Heinl’s reported intention was to rebuild chassis J-7, the Holman & Moody car driven at Le Mans in 1967 by Mario Andretti and Lucien Bianchi, using the other cars as parts donors. This never progressed much beyond the planning stage, and in 1977, Brian Angliss, owner of Autokraft Ltd. in England (and later, owner of AC Cars Ltd.) purchased the still-unnumbered chassis from Heinl.

Roughly a year later, Angliss sold the bare chassis, along with most of the spare parts necessary to build a complete car, to Rod Leach of Hertforshire, England. Leach contracted with Angliss to complete the build, and in the process, chassis numbers were assigned to J-11 and the later-built J-12. One replacement body existed for the two spare chassis, however, so the owners agreed that J-12 would receive an original nose with a fabricated tail, while J-11 would receive the original tail and a fabricated nose.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

Recreating a GT40, even in the late 1970s, was no simple affair. A period-correct Ford 427-cu.in. V-8 was easy enough to find, though the T-44 transmission proved slightly more challenging. A still-crated NOS unit was located in 1984, six years after work on the build began, and in 1987, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the GT40 MK IV’s win at Le Mans, chassis J-12 completed its shakedown testing in the hands of model expert Brian Wingfield. Fittingly, the car was driven on demonstration laps at Le Mans in 1987 as part of the model’s anniversary celebration.

Chassis J-12’s last-built status was confirmed in 1989 by Nick Hartman, owner of Kar Kraft, and acknowledged by the Shelby American Automobile Club. The GT40 Mk IV remained with Leach until August of 1994, when it sold to the consignor, a passionate collector of sports and racing cars. In 2015, J-12 was issued an FIA Historic Technical Passport, verifying that it meets proper period technical specifications and ensuring its eligibility for FIA-sanctioned vintage racing events.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV Chassis J12

Ford GT40s don’t appear at auction all that often, and even without a period competition record, chassis J-12 remains a part of Ford’s racing history. Gooding & Company is predicting a selling price between $2 million and $2.5 million when the last of the period-built chassis GT40 Mk IV’s crosses the auction stage next month.

The Gooding & Company Amelia Island Auction takes place at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation on Amelia Island, Florida. For additional details, visit GoodingCo.com.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Morgan Milestone: Plus 8 50th Anniversary limited-edition model to debut at Geneva

Morgan Milestone: Plus 8 50th Anniversary limited-edition model to debut at Geneva

Photography by Richard Lentinello, and courtesy of the Morgan Motor Company.

2018 marks the half-century mark for British automaker Morgan’s traditionally most-powerful model, the eight-cylinder Plus 8. The first generation of this coveted flagship sports car was powered by the aluminum Rover 3.5-liter — née Buick 215-cu.in. — V-8, the GM-developed engine that was Anglicized a few years prior, following its tooling being purchased by the Rover Company.

The Morgan Motor Company recently announced its plan to build 50 examples of a ’50th Anniversary Special Edition’ Plus 8, the first of which will debut on March 3 at the Geneva Motor Show. These cars, like all Plus 8s built since 2012, will be powered by a BMW-sourced 4.8-liter V-8, and they will be the very last ones to use that engine.

The traditional coachwork of today’s Plus 8 cloaks a bonded-and-riveted aluminum chassis, as well as that German powerplant, which makes 367 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque, and can be mated to either a BMW six-speed manual or (gasp!) ZF eight-speed automatic. With a power-to-weight ratio of 315 hp/ton, a modern Plus 8 can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and reach a governed 155-mph top speed.

And while the first Plus 8 (0-60 in 6.7 seconds, 124 mph) couldn’t match those specifications, it, too, was a brilliant performer, thanks to the ash-framed aluminum and steel body that contributed to its 1,900-pound curb weight, working in alliance with the twin-SU-carbureted 3,528-cc V-8 that would make 184 hp and 226 lb-ft in U.S. tune.

Eight cylinders first took the place of Four in 1967, when the first prototype was built under Peter Morgan‘s direction; the Morgan Motor Company debuted the production Plus 8 during the 1968 Earls Court Motor Show in London. As Richard Lentinello explained in his Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car feature on the unrestored 1971 Plus Eight shown in these photos,

Because the factory was too busy trying to meet the ever-growing demand for its sought-after Plus 4s and 4/4s, Morgan contracted out the prototype work for the Plus 8 to a racing engineer named Maurice Owen, who was also a Morgan enthusiast. Working out of a small research building on the grounds of the factory, Owen oversaw the construction of several mock-ups made to ensure that the fairly compact, and lightweight, V-8 would fit properly. The engine’s greater width meant a new steering column had to be employed, so they adopted a new collapsible column that was manufactured by A.C. Delco-Saginaw. A thermostatically controlled electric fan also had to be used, due to insufficient room for the stock engine-mounted fan. The only major alteration that had to be made from the standard Morgan body and chassis was that both had to be increased in width by two inches.

In his book Morgan: First and Last of the Real Sports Cars, Gregory Houston Bowden states: “In order to carry out the work as simply and as quickly as possible, Maurice used the traditional Morgan principle of ‘make first and draw later.’ This principle is not entirely peculiar to Morgans for, as Maurice points out, Sydney Camm of Hawker Aircraft built three aeroplanes before doing any serious drawing!” No doubt it was an interesting method of engineering and producing a car, yet, in the end, it all worked out quite well for the Plus 8.

Dr. Tony McLaughlin, the first and only owner of this bumblebee-hued beauty seen here, learned directly from company chairman Peter Morgan that the Plus 8 had passed muster with U.S. safety and emissions regulating groups, but due to a delay in getting U.S.-spec components, the first such examples wouldn’t be built until late 1970. Dr. McLaughlin was able to secure his order for a 1971 Plus 8 in November 1970, with the car being delivered in August 1971.

This example was one of a handful to arrive in original form. While V-8-loving America would seem a most natural market for the Plus 8, our ever-tightening emissions and safety regulations would curtail opportunities to buy this car. Those examples that were imported by Bill Fink’s Isis Imports, Ltd. between 1974 and 1992 would feature engines altered to run on propane, for emissions compliance, along with coachwork specially reinforced to meet our stricter bumper and side-impact guidelines. The work that went into making these Morgans road-legal was staggering, and included the aforementioned fuel conversion, 5-mph bumpers, steel reinforcement body and cowl hoops, inertia-reel seatbelts, flame-retardent interior materials, and more. Isis-sorted, LPG-fueled Plus 8s could even be turbocharged to the tune of about 225 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, as Road & Track revealed in 1980. Various exemptions allowed a handful of new models to be imported through the late 1990s, with our 1998 models using Land Rover-spec, OBD II-compliant 4.0-liter engines and circa-1994 Jaguar airbag-equipped steering wheels.

Morgan offered a run of 35th anniversary Plus 8 models in 2003, while the last Plus 8s built with the venerable Rover V-8 emerged from Malvern Link in 2004, total production having encompassed some 6,000 examples. We’d guess that current BMW-powered examples could be made to comply with U.S. emissions regulations fairly easily, although the safety standards represent a very different topic, considering ‘smart’ airbag, electronic stability control, back-up cameras, and other current requirements. Could a few of the forthcoming Plus 8 50th Anniversary Special Edition models be imported under the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act? Time will tell.

While you wait for that March 3 debut, you can entertain yourself by building your own Plus 8 using Morgan’s online Car Creator software. Would you park a Plus 8 in your garage?

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog

Automobilia: Gow Paint Your Flivver!

Automobilia: Gow Paint Your Flivver!

You can’t beat the old Sears catalogs as reference material. Photos by the author.

One of the neatest references for everyday-material culture of the past is a Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalog. Sears in its catalog days was to many folks what Amazon is today. You perused pages and pages of everything from workwear to Sunday suits to firearms to tools to camping gear to auto parts, then you placed your order and the post office brought it to your home. If you want to know how something was done in the past, the Sears catalog from your era of choice probably has clues.

One of the things I was curious about was paint application for my 1923 Ford project, Tilly. Period photos indicate that after only a year or two on the streets, the factory Japan Black finish on most Tin Lizzies had decayed into something resembling a chalkboard. Duco-finished products from General Motors fared somewhat better, but worn-out paint was a problem that all auto owners eventually faced.

To see what the average do-it-yourselfer might have done back in the time period I’m emulating, I pulled my trusty Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog No. 149 (Fall and Winter 1924-1925) off the shelf and turned to the index, seeing “Automotive Enamel” listed on page 965. That revealed Sears carrying a whole line of Seroco Auto Paints to “Make your car look like new.” It also revealed two complete kits for refinishing an aged car: A “Special Painting Outfit for Ford Cars” and a “Complete Automobile Refinishing Outfit.”

The Ford kit came with one quart of black auto enamel, one quart of black auto top and seat dressing, a half pint of black engine and radiator enamel, a large package of steel wool, a pint of lamp and fender lacquer, a quart of “turpentine substitute” (mineral spirits), and two 2-inch varnish brushes. It sold for $3.35.

By contrast, the Complete Automobile Refinishing Outfit, on the same page, retailed for $4.95 and included a whole gallon of paint in the customer’s choice of Black, Dark Blue, Brewster Green, Dark Wine, Mouse Gray, or Auto Gray. It also contained a quart of turpentine substitute, a package of steel wool No. 1 (noted elsewhere as “Grade Fine, Equal to Nos. 0 and ½ Sandpaper”—approximately 60 to 80 grade), a package of steel wool No. 3 (“Grade Medium, Equal to No. 1½ Sandpaper”—approximately 40 grade), a quart of auto top dressing, a half pint of black engine and radiator enamel, a 2-inch flat varnish brush, a 3-inch flat varnish brush (“bristles secured in vulcanized rubber”), and a pound of cotton waste.

All those items are still an excellent bill of goods for someone with a lot of metal to repaint and not much money or equipment with which to do it. Paint sprayers attached to high-end vacuums came along in the 1930s, but in the ’20s, it seems the brush method (still used by many yacht builders in conjunction with a roller) was the preferred way to refinish a car at home.

The Sears How to Paint guide illustrated in the catalog does warn “you must not expect to obtain quite as good a finish as the original, which was built up by skilled workmen and hardened in special baking rooms, etc., but for all practical purposes you can refinish a car and do a good job.” In many ways that’s analogous to the current situation, where advancing technology has once again left the driveway painter with a minimum of options.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some enamel, brushes, mineral spirits, and sandpaper. I’ll let you know how it works out!

The target date for period plausibility on my car is 1933-’34, and this 1933 ad proves the materials were still around.

Source: www.hemmings.com/blog