Car Evolution: (Part 2) From Vintage to Now

 

bmw-158703_1280The Evolution:

radiator-emblem-3248652_1920Soon after the Brass Car Era, (pre 1930) when any bicycle maker could try his hand at creating a horseless carriage, the US entered what we commonly call, the Vintage Car Era. What spurred the vintage car era in a more serious direction was the relatively short period between 1919 and 1930, which coincides with the First World War when the true potential of motorized vehicles and improved roadways became clear to citizens and government alike.

Thus began the vintage car era, 1930ish to 1948, which coincides with the Second World War. So when you are looking at what appears to be a vintage car it might be a Pre-War, War or Post-War car—in reference to World War II.

Visually Distinct Features:

When you think of a vintage car you think of a well-defined automobile, its headlamps stick out, it has quite a small radiator and beaded wheels. What most people don’t realize is that many vintage cars had radios. But with a few exceptions, it was all about being as comfortable as possible.

Some vintage cars evolved into brands we’d recognize today and others died out with time.

One example of Design that Stood the Test of Time:

oldtimer-3398320_1920In 1921 Citroen created the B2, which had a top speed of 45mph. This 3-speed car had a spring suspension and shock absorbers.

Fast forward to the 1955 2CV there is something familiar in the shape, in the headlights for instance, (though it seems to be taking inspiration from the Mini a bit, as well as the VW Beetle). The 55 2CV has four-wheel drive and a fourth gear. It is even suitable for off-road traveling. The main difference, though it would be hard to pick a specific feature, is that it no longer looks like a “boneshaker.”

But the Deux Chevaux (2CV) remained stripped down compared to other cars of its era. Citroen was ahead of its time in predicting what the average car buyer would value, and while the seats were barely more than metal and canvas, the car could carry 2 farmers and a basket of eggs across a plowed field without breaking anything. Sure the windows didn’t roll down, but it went 100 km on 3 liters of fuel, and that kept it popular for over 55 years.

A Vintage Car that Went the Way of the Dinosaur:

5ec518a39eaf726e41a7be0e3d7361c5A vintage car design that wouldn’t survive, the 1927 Pedroso. It might seem like a car from the future with ignition timing straight from the dash, the seats close to the ground and so on.

The trouble is that when you create a car for racing, parts become expensive very quickly. You also want something unique, not something that can be easily manufactured. Ultimately, the reason for Pedroso’s failure is that it remained a shed-built car; it didn’t go into mass production, so it’s vintage but actually so rare as to not be popular with collectors.

Other Differences between Vintage and Now:

It seems that as cars evolved they have become much more structural and possibly less defined. Terminology has also changed; in the U.K. we speak of “bodywork” rather than “chassis.” (In the US we call it a “frame” & “body” if it’s a truck or old car, or unibody as the case may be.) For more on car-component terms see our post from Monday.

Headlamps and wheel-wells moved from distinct items affixed to the body/frame closer and closer to the body itself and then incorporated completely inside the main body of the vehicle.

The partial convertible, or Coupe DeVille, with its open-top front seat and enclosed rear has given way to cars being only convertible (hard or soft top) or not convertible at all.

mercedes-benz-3204364_1920The regal “Estate Car,” gave way to the station wagon, which lost it’s spot to the much-maligned minivan, which lost it’s market to the citified version of an SUV.

What might surprise us the most when viewing old photos is the clothes drivers and passengers wore in different eras. Brass era drivers wore what might be thought of as “flying suits.” Vintage era drivers wore their Sunday best. Nowadays they just wear their usual clothes.

Cars as a category have become less special as they became integrated with our everyday life, even though we actually became more dependent on them.

What period of car development are we in now? Well since the 1980s all cars have just been described as modern. But you can divide modern cars up into 20th Century modern and early 21st modern if you so wished.

This doesn’t mean that a 20th Century modern car is fundamentally different from an early 21st Century car. Some things may have changed; the transmission, for instance, the number of speeds and so on. But we are no longer in the time of strong evolution as far the automobile is concerned.

Car Evolution: (Part 1) Clearing Up Clunker Terminology

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Car Era Overview:

Confused about the proper term for that cool old car you saw/bought/wish to own? Well don’t be embarrassed, it’s not straightforward. Some states have official designations since they’re doling out license plates. There’s a number a car clubs and organizations who’ve categorized and labeled cars for judging. At the end of the day, it’s still open to interpretation.

Still, it’s a good idea to get some sort of conformity of definition, so we at the Kicker Blog are happy to add our two cents. We’ll give some reasoning for our groupings in the post that follows, but our chief concern was the simplest, time-based distinctions we could find. (We used style and technological comparisons as a second factor and we acknowledge that there will be inevitable overlap.)

Let’s start with a quick recap of common terms and their real definitions:

auto-3154173_1920Antique – Somewhere between 30 and 50 years of age things begin to be considered antique. (BTW: Most of our writers fall into this category.) With vehicles, it starts between 30 and 45, because in the grand scheme of old things, cars haven’t been around that long. This classification is extremely age driven, though if a car is not in good condition it doesn’t qualify for special plates in most municipalities. If a car is heavily modified or updated it is no longer considered antique.

vehicle-2132360_1920Classic – this is the most abused term we’ll discuss. Consider the oxymoron—instant classic. We all know what it means, but come on. The opposite side of the spectrum is organizations like the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA), who have a list of cars they deem to be classic (most of which are older than 1948). If it’s not on their list it’s not classic as far as they’re concerned and in the world of classic cars that carries weight.

For now, just notice that the category of “classic cars” isn’t synonymous with “antique cars” but they overlap. As with the term antique, making a lot of changes or upgrades to a car erodes its status as a classic.

antique-1868726_1920Vintage – is a term that largely applies to items originally manufactured (roughly the time of WII) before 1948, so this also overlaps the term antique. However, when applied to cars not all vintage cars are considered antiques, and not all antique cars manufactured before 1930 are considered vintage. Sorry! At least you can make some updates to your vintage car without destroying the value.

Milestone – As you might guess, this is a handy term applied to cars that changed how designers and/or consumers thought about cars, so they’re important, and collectible, despite not fitting in with other cars of their exact era. (e.g. ’55 Chevy or early Mustangs).

ifa-1665443_1920Collector – This term applies to cars purely because they are desirable to collectors, not necessarily because they are old. Rarity can be a much bigger factor. Typically cars that were the bread-and-butter seller for their manufacturer will never be collectible. There’s just too many of them out there. Think limited edition like the 2006 Ford GT, which was designed in homage to earlier GT’s and allowed collectors to pick up a modern version of an unattainable classic.

Brass Cars – Not unlike the term Milestone earlier, this handy term can be applied to early “horseless carriages” that don’t qualify as “Vintage.”

Modern (“20th Century” or “21st Century”) – Starting about 1980 when car mass-production refined to a point that nearly all design uniqueness disappeared. Cars are designed to attract specific, well established market-place groups.

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Here’s OUR best classification of Car Eras:

Brass Era – 1919 to 1930

Pre 1919 cars, often hand-made, small number manufacturing runs (by modern standards), featuring prominent brass fittings and radiators, and remarkable lack of a formal braking system. Definitely a Luxury Item. Powered by Pioneer Gas, Steam, or Electricity. (Brass Car is a US term, within the British Empire cars made during between 1896 to 1915 would be known as Edwardian cars.) These cars were used by world leaders, dignitaries, and military generals as well as wealthy business magnets. (e.g. 1905 Jackson Model C, 1903 Stanley “Steamer” Rocket)

Vintage Era – 1930 to 1948

Can be further divided into Pre-War, War, and Post War in relation to WWII. Distinguished by separate headlamps, small radiators, and beaded wheels. (e.g. 1919 Ford Model T, 1921 Hudson Super Six phaeton.) This era car is built to be accessible to the masses, but the focus is pure transportation. It’s assumed that consumers desires are fairly uniform—luxury, mobility, and novelty.

Classic Era – 1948 to 1980

This era began a wide variety of features to focus on the interests of population groups. Some brands focused on luxury, while others on ease of repair and durability, and still others focusing on load capacity. The true sports car was born and soon evolved into many varieties from two-door coups to muscle cars.

What sets these cars apart from the era before is that manufacturers no longer assume what one car buyer wants will work for the next. What sets it apart from the next era of the automobile is a devotion to car design and style as an expression of its owner, as long as certain basic needs are met.

20th Century Modern – 1980 to 1999

As with other modern era items ‘function over form’ is the litmus test of design quality. This era is also set apart by massive improvements in safety features, which also increase the price tag of cars even as automation and cheaper components have reduced the manufacturing cost. Safety and fuel economy are now key features. Toward the end of this era, the dominance of uni-body construction and cab-forward design will cause nearly all cars to look like every other car of the same class (All sedans will look like a Ford Taurus/Toyota Camry, etc.)

21st Century Modern – 2000 to current

In reaction to the homogeneity of the early modern era, cars made in this era incorporate some classic car stylings. The cost of vehicles has continued to climb, and car ownership per capita has begun to fall. It’s likely that new forms of rideshare and transportation will continue the decline of cars. Cars continue to be owned by the general consumer and marketed to defined groups of people based upon needs, like family size or the fuel economy.

Sources Include:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/commuting/is-my-car-vintage-classic—or-just-old/article11938943/

https://www.carsdirect.com/classic-cars/classic-car-classifications-antique-vintage-and-classic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_frame

 

Naming Cars

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Op-Ed by Staff

So, imagine you have created a car, what more do you need? Well, the first thing you need is a name. Perhaps the only thing harder to name is a new drug. It’s quite hard to come up something which doesn’t sound rude in a different language and of course, you always want something which sells the car and the brand. It’s a hard slog and it doesn’t always work.

The idea of looking to future might seem a given, but a car called the Futurama bombed terribly. It may not have just been the name, the design was awful too.

nash-835986_1920When it comes to naming your car company it tends to be mostly surnames such as Cadillac and Honda, but having said that it needs to be the right kind of surname. Fortunately, Emil Jellinik didn’t try this, preferring to name a car after his daughter Mercedes. There was a car designer called Benz though; Carl Benz. I hope Mercedes didn’t have to marry one of Benz’s relatives to keep the company; things would become difficult for her.

In some ways it is similar to naming an individual, you want something with a bit of tradition but you want something that suggests that you’ve thought about your decision too. In the end, you might have to see it before you know what you want to call it.

Many cars are named after concepts like Honda Accord, Chevrolet Agile and Caprice and so on. It’s a bit of moot point whether people want to be capricious, but people tend to want to show accord or show agility, at least in their car driving.sunbeam-835969_1920.jpg

An original way to come up with a car is to shorten a word or phrase. The Versa, for example, which apparently is short for versatile space (though there is a river and a pop band too, as well as a Roman word). You could come up with a car called Techni or Revo, couldn’t you?

Each make of car creates a specific brand and so the names might be quite similar. Lamborghini uses Spanish terms, many of which are used in bullfighting, such as Aventador (a fighting bull) and Estoque, a matador’s sword. Obviously, terms like matador and toreador are too obvious. Vauxhall, however, have used the Picador, which is a bullfighter on horseback, so Lamborghini can’t take that.

Peugeot has numbers like 3008 and 107. Why do the numbers always have zeros though? I think it’s due to small numbers feeling less stressful, hence too why the number always starts with 1,2 or 3. It’s just a theory though.

renault-1671405_1920A popular theme might be to look at mythology. Clio is the muse of history, there is both a Honda Clio (sold in Japan) and a Renault Clio. The Honda Phateon may be named after the son of the God of fire or an old name for a carriage, it’s difficult to tell. There’s a great deal of mythology about but it might be wise to look at a successful mythological figure, look at Zeus rather than Icarus. And they tend to look at Greek mythology rather than anything too obscure.

Another thing you might want to stay away from is excessively long names. Ford left the minivan market entirely in 2008, then came back with a series of cargo vans called Transit Connect. They doubled down on the chaos by offering a dozen different sizes, packages, and designs without tweaking the name at all. Is this a Transit Connect XT? LT? XLT? No, I want the big one? Oh, the titanium? No the big one…

Yep, try not to confuse your customers. That’s a no-no.

So to sum up:

  1. Give it a human name if it works as a car.
  2. Or try naming it after a concept.
  3. A shorter word hasn’t been tried much.
  4. Come up with a group of names so you came more than one car.
  5. Try plundering mythology.

Now all you need is a new type of car…

 

Surprising Glove Compartments

We wanted to name this “Past, Present, and Future of Glove Compartments” but it was a bit long and some of what we ran into was surprising. For example, the future of glove compartments is not a sure thing.

We take the idea of a glove compartment for granted, most people knowing it as an area to the left of the dashboard in front of the passenger’s chair. It is not known as the glove compartment in all areas of the US though, the other names being a cubby hole and around the Rocky Mountains the jockey box. The strangest name must be the torpedo compartment, maybe due to being an ideal spot for a villain to hide a torpedo release button? Brits call it a cubby box by the way.

 

But where does the whole thing of a glove compartment come from? Well it should be obvious that it dates back to when gloves were a prime piece of equipment for the driver. With a rough steering wheel which got oily or hot, gloves were seen as useful to keep the hands cool and clean.

The first use of the term is thanks to a racing driver, Dorothy Levitt who is believed to have used a glove compartment, but it was in a different position than we find it today. The location of the glove compartment was to be found under the driver’s chair and was a just a set of drawers, presumably used for storing more than one set of gloves. The driver’s chair was raised higher than today’s chairs and there was no passenger’s chair next to the driver’s chair. There were no trunks in early cars; the storage was in hampers or baskets. The term “trunk” may have come from a huge box used to store certain equipment in the car.

The alterations to what was stored in the glove compartment came as early as the 1930s. No one would use them to store gloves at this stage.  It has been more often used as an area to store valuables or just to show you had valuables that you could afford to keep in a car.  In modern days these luxuries have included laptops and mobiles as well as Sat-Navs. Or you may keep documents associated with your vehicle.

And it seemed like a no-brainer to keep the glove compartment near the dashboard so you wouldn’t need to go under your seat to find anything and could also make the seat lower.  The weirdest thing that has been kept in the glove compartment would seem to be tiny dogs, though personally, I would worry about how much room they would have.

So why do we think the humble glove compartment might actually be dwindling in popularity. Many cars, even luxury cars do not come with glove compartments. It seems that a sizeable amount of the vehicle owning public don’t use the space at all, 25% prefer to keep the space empty.

If you don’t have a glove box you will likely need alternate solutions to your storage needs. Kelly on Hative.com has loads of creative ways to store things in your car if that’s your challenge.

Of course, another reason you might need more storage in your car is that you have too much CRAP in there. In that case, we bring you Aby of Simplify101.com with ideas about the best way to clean out your glove box. Starting with this quote:

First, clear everything out of the glove compartment and load it into a portable storage container. Take your bucket of stuff inside to a flat surface (I used the kitchen table) and sort like with like. Toss out the things you don’t need (like old ketchup packets) and find a new home for items you need but not in your car.

Which should leave you with the bare essentials and a few extras. Nationwide insurance suggests the following list of must-haves:

  • Medical information.
  • Emergency contact numbers.
  • Pen and paper.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Owner’s manual and maintenance schedule.

We have a couple luxury items to add to that list, of course, but it’s enough of a topic to rate it’s own post soon. If you’re a traditionalist and actually want to store gloves in there, here’s a set that come well recommended.

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Autodromo Slingback Driving Gloves

The glove compartment could be an area ripe for innovation though, with car space being at a premium.

As we’ve recommended before, if you have an old cell phone on pay as you go, you could keep it in the glove box so you can use the GPS location to find your car if it’s every stollen.

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According to Thrillist, the 1957 Eldorado Baughm by Cadillac came with a cocktail set for the glove compartment. Perhaps a better concept would be an area to keep drinks cool.

If you have any ideas about what the glove compartment could be used for or maybe what a replacement for this cubicle could be please comment below. All innovations have to begin somewhere, after all.

 

Badges – Truths and Fictions

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A car emblem is more formally called a badge, and it’s the tip of the spear when trying to communicate your brand to the auto-buying public. Car makers have used taglines and sometimes even the distinctive design of the car itself to help brand their cars. Long ago they could rely on that small figure on the hood to help, but those were deemed hazardous. Still, the badge is consistently the first insight members of the public get with a brand. Like all attempts at branding, it can be entirely misleading.

background-3276749_1920A number of people believe the BMW logo is based around a propeller. In actual fact, it was based on the Bavarian flag, which is also blue and white. Having looked at the Bavarian flag though I would say that the propeller theme is more obvious which might explain why so many sources on the internet continue this myth.

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BMW isn’t alone in this type of confusion. Look at Chevrolet’s badge for instance. It may have been based around the Swiss cross (but then again a “+” is such a common symbol) or it may have been inspired by a specific design of wallpaper.

Chrysler, however, has an obvious theme. The 1930’s gave birth to the age of the jet engine and Chrysler wanted to draw subtle connections.

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Audi’s four rings are based on the link of four companies, one of them being Audi, the other three being audi-1721126_1920DKW, Horch, and Wanderer.

If you are like me you haven’t heard of any of these companies but DKW or Dampf-Kraft Wagen was into creating steam-powered cars, so understandably was a thing of its time. Horch created a number of cars in Germany including the Cabriolet.

Wanderer made automobiles, but also vans, bikes, and even trucks. This is a four-ring emblem with lots of history.

ferrari-2151244_1920.jpgFerrari is based on one of the enduring Italian symbols of the prancing horse. Apparently, a fighter pilot had a horse emblazoned on his plane. It isn’t linked to Ferrari family though, they just happened to like the design. The idea that Ferraris have horsepower and so are represented by a horse doesn’t quite work; Italians don’t use the word horsepower to describe the force of a car.

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Mercedes had the idea of a three-pointed star to represent success in land, sea, and air, though nowadays most people have forgotten that they made boats and planes and just remember the manufacturer of cars.

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Despite seeming to be only three rotated diamonds the badge of Mitsubishi, in reality, relate to two Japanese families, namely the crest of Iwasaki and the crest of Yamanouchi, the former holds a shipping business, the latter the head of a great clan. Since both represent three objects; Iwasaki was chestnut leaves and Yamanouchi was oak leaves the symbol relates to them both.

car-3258541_1920The origin of Subaru’s stars is a bit obscure. There are five stars on the logo and there are six stars in the Pleiades which is a kind of sub-constellation found in the constellation of Taurus, which is what Subaru means in Japanese. It would make more sense to have the logo have nineteen the same number as Taurus, but maybe that would be too obvious? Also, nineteen stars wouldn’t make a good badge.

When Ferdinand Porsche broke away from VW, he chose the Coat of Arms of Stuttgart (where his company headquarters was located) and the flag of the Free Peoples of State of Wurttemberg to create one of the more interesting badges.

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Still, they help to sell quality brands of cars and that’s the main reason they are there. The histories are just an added bonus.