From its length, one might expect more than 8 cylinders under the Bugatti’s hood. But each of those cylinders displaces more than the whole of a Volkswagen Beetle’s power plant. Four air cleaners stand over the engine, fitted to the four carburetors installed by Charles Chayne after World War II. Two spark plugs protrude from each cylinder. The steering box sits just behind the right fender, in keeping with the car’s right-hand drive layout.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
How does a curator of communication and information technology who doesn’t drive experience her first North American International Auto Show? First, I took advantage of the convenient shuttle bus running into downtown Detroit from Dearborn. And when I arrived for press day at Cobo Hall, catching up with my colleagues after weaving through the maze of exhibits and crowds, they said I arrived looking a little… shell-shocked. My apparently palpable sense of wonder wasn’t directed towards the cars or the crowds, however—I was in awe with the technological cocoons in which they were displayed, and the surreal screen-world that I had stepped into.
Enormous and pristinely crisp LCD screens provided backdrops for automobiles. Touchscreen kiosks were everywhere. Each company seemed to be offering its own branded wireless hotspot. The usual standby of the printed brochure with specs had been replaced by download hubs for smartphone apps and kiosks to email yourself information from. The crowds of press were using cameras to share content through traditional broadcast and social media sites alike. Also, drones were buzzing around overhead at the Ford exhibit, tracking and delivering small models of the Raptor pickup truck to attendees who texted a special code. As the day went on, I kept thinking: what would a guest from 1907 (the year the Detroit Auto Show was founded) think of this spectacle?
They didn’t call the Chrysler 300 letter series luxury cars “bankers’ hot rods” for nothing. The 1956 300-B’s big V-8 achieved that holy grail of one horsepower per cubic inch. The cars dominated NASCAR, where rules still restricted teams to stock power. Note the cutout in the right wheel well and the nearby spotlight. These modifications allowed the driver to check tire wear through a hole in the firewall.
Matt Anderson is the Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford. See this engine and many others during Engines Exposed at Henry Ford Museum.
The compact Corvair reimagined the American automobile. Not least among its peculiarities was its rear-mounted, air-cooled aluminum engine. The air cleaner is prominent, with two hoses leading to carburetors mounted on each cylinder bank. Much of the engine is hidden by a metal shroud that directed the air flow around the unit. With its light weight and air cooling, the Corvair power plant proved popular with home airplane builders.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has rolled into Detroit to give us our annual look at the technologies and trends shaping the automotive industry. The two words that might sum up the 2015 show best are “power” and “performance.” On the former, nearly every manufacturer features some form of alternative fuel vehicle, while some – I’m looking at you, Tesla – offer nothing but. To the latter point, hot new cars from Cadillac, Ford and others promise old fashioned excitement behind the wheel.
Toyota wasn’t the first automaker to market with a hybrid car, but its Prius went on to define the type. The company hopes to do the same for fuel cell vehicles with its remarkable Mirai sedan. The car is powered by an electric motor, but the electricity itself is generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen that takes place in a fuel cell. The only emission from the car is water vapor. The Mirai is about as green as it gets but, while gas pumps and electrical outlets are a dime a dozen, hydrogen fueling stations are harder to come by outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Clearly, Toyota is betting on that to change. Interestingly, one of Toyota’s NAIAS displays includes a pair of faux hydrogen pumps. Visitors will be surprised and, Toyota must hope, reassured to see that they’re not much different from gasoline pumps.
Many of us know that Noah Webster was the creator of An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. But did you know that Mr. Webster was a teacher as well, and the author of the American Spelling Book? The early version was first published in 1783 and our copy is a 1845 edition called the Elementary Spelling Book, being an improvement on the American Spelling Book.
During this time, the English language was changing fast, and many new words were being added that were uniquely American. Mr. Webster wanted to create a spelling book that could help people understand and spell words that were actively used by the American public. Always published with a blue cover, the “Blue BackedSpeller,” as it came to be known, was popular across the nation.Continue Reading
This year, many transformative things have been set into motion at The Henry Ford. One of the most rewarding projects has been all of the hard work that has culminated with the first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, an educational television show produced by Litton Entertainment. Perhaps you’ve been watching the episodes on CBS, Saturday mornings? If not, you can view them here.
When we entered into a partnership with Litton, we also took the opportunity to turn our gaze inwards, to research the history of our own involvement with broadcast media. A dive into the archives of the Edison Institute revealed some gems—photographic collections that captured the visual history of media events on our campus spanning 60 years. Previous blogs detail how in 1955, Marion Corwell began hosting Window to the Past, our first live television show. That same year, NBC filmed an all-day live event using the then-new medium of color broadcasting; episodes of The Howdy Doody Show were captured that day. Other discoveries revealed Gladys Knight and the Pips on the Phil Donahue Show in 1973.