Category Archives: Out Of The Box
An unpublished photo was found in The Los Angeles Times archives recently of the Arrowhead Teardrop car, designed by W. Everett Miller and constructed by the Advance Body Company in Los Angeles. Dan Strohl reported about the find at the LA times last week and has previously covered the Arrowhead Teardrop car in a post on the Hemmings Blog a couple of years ago.
A story, by Richard Kelley (above), that appeared in SIA #107, October 1988 issue courtesy of Hemmings Motor News.
You can also find an interesting post on the Hemmings Blog about a feature article Terry Shea wrote for Hemmings Motor News. In it Shea tells about the promotional car and it’s history. The first part of Shea’s description of the car in his post sums up the how and why of it:
“In 1936, The Arrowhead Water Company of San Bernardino, California, commissioned noted car designer W. E. Miller, formerly of the Walter M. Murphy Company, to create a rolling advertisement for their spring water. Miller designed a teardrop shape, calling to mind a drop of water, that was round and wide in the front and that tapered to a point in the rear, making a very strong visual connection to Arrowhead’s product.”
Read the rest of Shea’s post at Hemmings and see photos of the interior, dash, framework and construction features. Photo (below) showing W. Everett Miller from another post by Dan Strohl covering the car at HMN.
Bibendum, the Michelin Man mascot, apparently first came into being in 1899, when Edouard Michelin observed a stack of tires forming the now famous tapered silhouette. The first ads appeared with the slogan “Nunc est Bibendum”, Latin for “to your health”. At about the same time, the slogan “The Michelin tire drinks the obstacle” was first used.
Bibendum seen at a French agency, photo via Manufacture de la Mémoire
According to Michelin : “In 1889 two brothers, André and Edouard Michelin, embarked on a great human and industrial odyssey to develop modern transport solutions – the key to freedom and economic development – through ceaseless innovation.” If you would like to learn more, visit the Michelin website history page where you can learn the complete story of the tire company over the last 124 years.
L to R (above) : An ad from the August, 1907 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal announcing the new American factory, a period French poster and an October, 1907 ad in the Horseless Age stating that America’s highest-priced cars would be equipped with Michelin tires in 1908 and seen at motor shows during the 1908 season.
This from Michelin, U.S.A. : “Michelin has been a part of the tire industry in the United States since 1907 when it purchased the International Rubber Company in Milltown, New Jersey. Tires and tubes were manufactured there up until 1930 when the Great Depression took its toll on what had become the fourth largest tire manufacturer in the country with 2,000 employees.” The rest of the company’s U.S. history can be found at Michelin North America.
C.L. & Theo. Bering Jr. Inc., located at 609-11 Main St. in Houston, Texas.
This photo via the History Blog shows an early promotion by the Bering brothers on the streets of Houston. Note the scaled up size of the seat that the mascots are sitting on in a very characteristic pose.
We found the following information about the German immigrant Bering brothers in the Houston Business Journal: “C.L. and Theo Bering Jr., operated a business which offered departments for mantels and tile, house furnishings, crockery and hardware. Many grand homes in Houston boasted elaborate mantels made elsewhere and shipped to the Bering store. It’s crockery department stocked fine china, including French porcelain made and decorated by Haviland and marked expressly for C.L. and Theo Bering Jr., Inc., Houston, Texas. The store also sold tires, tubes and spark plugs, no doubt due to the fact that C.L. Bering was an avid motorist, having made the first cross-country auto trip from Houston to Rockport in 1903.” You can read more of the interesting story about the Bering Family here.
And just below is a very interesting and well done video titled “The History of The Tire Part I”. We think that it is well worth watching as it shows the complete story of the tire around the world up until 1920, complete with much period film footage. We’ll show part II in the near future.
The 1922 Austin Seven prototype
By Robert D. Cunningham
Between 1908 and 1926, Henry Ford’s simple and affordable Model T had attracted nearly 15 million buyers. But Americans began tossing their Ts like old tin cans, lured by the color and chrome of Chevrolet, Essex and Whippet. So on May 26, 1927, Ford closed up shop in order to invent and prepare for the all-new 1928 Model A.
Meanwhile, The New York Times predicted the next great fortune would be made by the man who would produce the best new type of small car. The Austin Motor Company, of Longbridge, England, seemed the most likely contender. Since its introduction in 1922, the Austin Seven baby car had been embraced in Europe where its builder, Herbert Austin, was considered equal to Henry Ford.
1925 GM Mosquito prototype
Austin entered negotiations with General Motors for licensed manufacture of his Seven in the United States. In 1925, GM had developed a stillborn competitor, dubbed the “Mosquito,” but decided against production. Instead, GM planned to acquire controlling interest in the English firm. However, when the news reached Austin stockholders, they revolted and the American colossus quickly withdrew.
Nevertheless, Herbert Austin remained convinced that he could expand into America, and he displayed four Sevens at the 1929 New York Auto Show. The public was enthralled by his well-built little cars, and financiers stepped forward from the hills of Butler, Pennsylvania.
Left to right (above); 1929 American Austin Proposal by Murray, 1930 American Austin chassis inspection and the 1929 American Austin Proposal by Hayes
The American Austin Car Company was incorporated on February 28, 1929. By September, American Austin had commissioned design proposals from two leading firms – Murray Body Company, of Detroit, and Hayes Body Corporation, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both design proposals featured solid disc wheels, horizontal hood louvers, notched doors to allow room for the rear fenders, and a rear-mounted spare tire. But there were notable differences, too.
Murray’s designer, Amos Northup, presented a rendering with lines that brought a classic town car to mind. The belt line arched below the door windows, over the cowl and across the hood to join behind the radiator cap—a treatment borrowed from large Auburn cars. Luggage was accommodated by a detachable steel trunk at the rear. Although the trunk offered obvious benefits, it also caused the body to be lopped off immediately behind the seat, thereby creating a car that looked even shorter and boxier than necessary. The trunk also would have increased manufacturing costs, which were projected to be higher than the new Ford Model A.
1930 American Austin coupe from unknown Hollywood movie
The Hayes proposal was developed by art director Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, the son of Count Wladimir de Sakhnoffsky, counselor to Russian Czar Nicholas II. The de Sakhnoffsky illustrations featured Austin cars of fuller outlines when compared to Northup’s versions. His cabin coupe looked like a miniature sedan, since the cabin was long enough to enclose a luggage area behind the seat. He also proposed a roadster with unexpected details for the country’s lowest priced automobiles, including a Duesenberg-style painted cove across the doors. The Hayes designs captured the hearts and emotions of people who loved puppies, kittens and babies. They also captured American Austin’s board of directors.
1930 American Austin roadster complete with top and side curtains
Hayes was instructed to tool up. But just nineteen days after the American Austin Car Company issued its stock prospectus, the market collapsed. “Black Tuesday”—October 29, 1929—marked the official start of the Great Depression.
It was the worst possible time to launch a new car company.
The Old Motor is pleased to announce this first part in a monthly series on the small car by author Robert D. Cunningham. He has “studied automotive history since my childhood in the 1960s with a keen interest in America’s pioneer “orphan babies”, a term I coined to describe the very small cars built by independent domestic manufacturers who are no longer in business”.
Cunningham has written two books; Too Little Too Soon: America’s Early Economy Cars and Orphan Babies – America’s Forgotten Economy Cars. He also writes the American Austin Bantam Club news magazine and runs the clubs website.
You can also see many other interesting American Austin Bantam photos here on The Old Motor (scroll down).