22 artifacts in this set
The Imperial Model E-80 was Chrysler's top-of-the-line car for 1926 and 1927. This Sportif's design by Lawrence Pomeroy suggested speed, and the car's 112-horsepower, six-cylinder engine was capable of 80 miles per hour. The dual-cowl layout provided separate windshields for front and back passengers. The car was, in Chrysler's words, "as fine as money can build."
When Ford Motor Company bought Lincoln Motor Company in 1922, the luxury automaker's cars were well engineered but not particularly attractive. Lincoln styling flourished under Edsel Ford's leadership. He worked with some of the industry's best coachbuilders to produce appealing designs that improved Lincoln's sales and stature. This 1929 Model L convertible, with a body by Dietrich, is a fine example.
The Auburn Automobile Company, based in namesake Auburn, Indiana, built its first car in 1900. The firm was a moderate success until Errett Lobban Cord took the helm in 1924. He gave the Auburn modern styling and advanced engineering, and he turned the mid-priced car into a genuine hit. The Great Depression reversed Cord's sales gains and Auburn folded in 1937.
Longer than a Duesenberg. Twice the horsepower of a Rolls-Royce. More costly than both put together. The Bugatti Royale was the ultimate automobile, making its owners feel like kings. Not only did it do everything on a grander scale than the world's other great luxury cars, it was also rare. Bugatti built only six Royales, whereas there were 481 Model J Duesenbergs and 1,767 Phantom II Rolls-Royces.
Fred Duesenberg set out to build an automotive masterpiece. Its superlative engineering included a 265-horsepower engine that could push the car to a 116 mph top speed. Duesenberg built only 472 Model Js between 1928 and 1935. No two are identical because independent coachbuilders crafted each body to the buyer's specifications.
The classic proportions of the 1932 Ford roadster make it a hot rod favorite. Rodders modified these inexpensive vehicles with more modern and powerful engines and parts. Dick Smith of Arizona purchased this hot rod in 1949. From 1954 to 1963, Smith dropped in a 1951 Chrysler V-8 engine and other non-Ford parts making this home-built hot rod his own.
The 1937 Cord's swooping fenders, sweeping horizontal radiator grille, and hidden headlights were unlike anything else on American highways. And although it wasn't the first, Cord was the only front-wheel-drive production car available in America for the next three decades.
This Lincoln Model K is one of ten 1937 cabriolets with a body built by Brunn & Company of Buffalo, New York. It is distinguished by the tinted glass skylights above the windshield, and by the convertible rear roof section that folds down to expose the rear passengers to the sun. Inside, a hand-cranked divider window separates driver from passengers.
Americans sped through the 1930s in a variety of vehicles. This 1939 Ford convertible coupe provided drivers with a V-8 engine, 1930s styling, and something new for a Ford -- hydraulic brakes. This was the last year however Ford equipped its vehicles with a rumble seat.
Packard's 12-cylinder cars, introduced in 1932, were some of the finest luxury automobiles ever built in the United States. The new V-12 was Packard's counterpunch to V-16 and V-12 engines from Cadillac and Lincoln, as competition was fierce among high-end carmakers during the Great Depression. The magnificent Packard Twelves were everything but profitable, and the company canceled the line in 1939.
Inspired by a 1938 trip to Europe, Edsel Ford collaborated with designer E.T. "Bob" Gregorie on a custom car with a sophisticated "continental" look. Reaction was so positive that Lincoln put the car into production. The beautiful 1940-1948 Lincoln Continentals that followed represent one of Edsel Ford's most significant achievements. This 1941 convertible was Mr. Ford's personal car.
Long, low, and well rounded, stock 1949-51 Mercurys became the favorite cars of 1950s customizers. When lowered even more and smoothed out by filling body seams with lead, these Mercs were called "lead sleds." This car shows many early customizing techniques. It was updated in the 1960s with sparkly Metalflake paint and blue "scallops."
This 1950 Nash Rambler convertible was an attempt to market a small automobile to the American public. Other independent automobile manufacturers had produced small vehicles, but none to the success of the Rambler. The compact Rambler was attractive, well equipped, and sensibly priced. But in the 1950s, big cars ruled. Only by 1960 did the larger "Big Three" auto companies produce an "in-between-sized" car.
The Indianapolis 500 features a "rolling start" in which entrants follow a pace car into the green flag. Various automobile manufactures provide pace cars on an irregular rotating basis. For its 50th anniversary in 1953, Ford Motor Company supplied a Sunliner convertible to pace that year's race. Ford built 2,000 replicas for public sale, but this is the actual race-used car.
Corvettes became the iconic American sports car -- but not right away. Sports cars are automobiles reduced to their essence -- a motor, two seats, a simple body, and a powerful emotional appeal. The first Corvettes, with six-cylinder engines and automatic transmissions, promised more than they delivered. But when a 195-horsepower V-8 arrived in 1955, the Corvette's go finally matched its show.
Drop the top, and cruise like a movie star! It sounds like fun. But movie stars live in sunny California -- most of us don't. Convertibles may draw people into showrooms, but sedans take them home. In 1956, only about 2.6 percent of Chevy customers drove home in ragtops. Despite that fact, the carefree appeal of 1950s convertibles has made them a symbol of that era.
The Thunderbird recalled the early days of automobiling, when cars were more fun than functional. Thunderbirds and other small two-seaters were sold as "personal cars" -- often second cars -- in which motorists could enjoy driving for its own sake. This Thunderbird's owner, Ford engineer William Burnett, had a uniquely personal relationship with it -- he supervised the development of the first Thunderbird.
To customers, Thunderbird was a "personal car" that combined a sporty feel with the comfortable appointments of a prestige model. To Ford, Thunderbird was a "halo car" that attracted customers to showrooms. It sold well with buyers who enjoyed the pure fun of driving. Some of that fun was traded for practicality when Thunderbird grew to four seats for 1958.
This car symbolizes 1950s America: a time of exuberance, self-confidence, excess, and self-indulgence. Cadillac designers drew on jet aircraft for ideas, from the sharp, swept-back tailfins to the front parking lights that resemble B-52 bomber air intakes. Under that jet-inspired skin is a 345 horsepower engine, air suspension, and a host of luxury options, including an automatic headlight dimmer. We are unlikely to ever see such cars again.
It's an old auto industry cliche -- "you can't sell a young man an old man's car, but you can sell an old man a young man's car." It's also true. The sporty Mustang was a young man's -- and woman's -- car. The under-30 crowd loved it. But older people also bought them, often as a second car. The Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market, appealing to a wide range of buyers.
The 1965 Ford Mustang is one of the most significant vehicles built at Ford Motor Company's Rouge complex. With its sporty look, reasonable price and endless number of options, the car appealed to a wide cross-section of buyers. More than a million Mustangs were sold within two years of the car's April 1964 introduction.
After discontinuing the Thunderbird in 1997, Ford Motor Company revived the storied brand for 2002. The new Thunderbird's retro design went back to the two-seat layout and porthole windows of the mid-1950s. But the rebirth was short lived. Initial strong sales trailed off, and the Thunderbird disappeared again in 2005.