Category Archive:

For Rent – Nissan Headquarters Complex in LA


Couldn’t help but take this shot of the former Nissan Headquarters Building. The first time I saw it in 1982 it had both Nissan and DATSUN nomenclature on the fascia. So we’ll put this blurb under the “History, Heritage, and Yarns” section.


You remember way last year, Nissan North America moved its headquarters from Gardena, California to Nashville, Tennessee. They moved from a complex at the intersection of 190th Street and Figueroa. Not the best neighborhood, but withing shouting distance of the American headquarters of Toyota and Honda (both in adjacent Torrance). Nissan’s complex included the headquarters tower… a 1960s edifice that really is much smaller than it looks. The tower is visible from the 405 Freeway, 91 Freeway and the 110 Freeway. And as an added bonus, if your office was in right place you could stare the pilot of the Goodyear Blimp in the face as he jockeyed the blimp to its field just blocks away.
The NNA complex included not only the headquarters but also separate buildings for marketing, planning, engineering, vehicle storage and display… all things necessary to have a fully functioning automotive distributorship.

Well, NNA moved to Nashville into temporary digs in the Bell South Building. If you Google “Batman Building Nashville” you can find many images. While the Bell South Building is very distinctive, the Nissan folks are housed in typical cube farms with practically nothing to remind them that they are in the auto business. That comes next year when they finally get their own building in Franklin, Tennessee on the outskirts of Nashville.
NNA HQ exterior1.jpg

No wonder they have been disoriented.

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Edsel Agonistes -Dan Neil in Time Magazine


L.A. Times Dan Neil’s style comes through in a Time Magazine column on the late, not-much-lamented Edsel. One of the most researched cars up to that time, Edsel proved that mis-timing (launched into the 1958 recession as a premium priced car) the market and adopting flamboyance for flamboyance sake was misguided. A business school case study in how not to name a car, Neil gives a tongue-in-cheek assessment of this unfortunate automotive disaster. Long live the AZTEK!

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“Edsel was a first name before it was ever a car name. But it was never a very popular thing to call a child: according to the Social Security Administration–which has time for this sort of thing–the name Edsel has ranked only as high as 400th on the top 1,000 names for boys, and that was in 1927. More popular names that year included the soaring Kermit, Buford and Elvin.
After Sept. 4, 1957–“E-day,” the day 50 years ago when Ford Motor Co. unveiled its taco-faced disaster, the Edsel–the name dropped off the list altogether, never to return. A quick check of demographic records suggests that a convention of Americans first-named Edsel could be held in a hotel linen closet.
Of course, you never hear anyone say, “This is our son Hindenburg,” either.
The Edsel was one of the cruelest tributes ever paid a man. Named after Henry Ford’s son and the longtime company president–who died at age 49 in 1943–the Edsel was not just a car but a whole division within Ford, created to compete head-to-head with General Motors’ Oldsmobile. It was a sales disaster. Two years later, future Ford president Robert McNamara persuaded the board to pull the plug on the Edsel. That’s the same McNamara who became President Johnson’s Secretary of Defense and refused to recommend withdrawing from Vietnam, even though he knew a lemon when he saw one.
The Edsel fiasco has been autopsied many times–it is the stuff of books and business-school case studies–and yet I can’t help reaching for the rib spreader one more time. Here was an early and definitive illustration of message revenge, the kind of fierce consumer blowback that can occur in markets when a product or service (or military occupation) fails to live up to its hype. Consumers, it turns out, regard their passive absorption of mass advertising as an investment of psychic space; to the extent that they allow themselves to become aroused with anticipation, they consider their credulity as something like a down payment.
The Edsel had been frantically ballyhooed for months ahead of its arrival with a new kind of highly scientific marketing, an alchemical blend of psychology, mass media and old-fashioned hucksterism. Call it the iEdsel. By the time the silk was pulled off the Edsel in hundreds of showrooms around the country, people were panting to see their automotive deliverance, the plutonium-powered, pancake-making supercar they’d been promised. What they saw was a large, relatively expensive, curiously styled Mercury–curious insofar as the vertical grille looked like a midwife’s view of labor and delivery.
And they were not happy.
The same hype that made the Edsel a breathless, everywhere-at-once cultural phenomenon turned it into a national punch line. It was such an easy target that even the widely unloved Richard Nixon could get off a zinger. The Vice President was riding in a convertible Edsel in Lima, Peru, in 1958 when his motorcade was pelted with eggs. “They were throwing eggs at the car, not me,” Nixon later quipped.
Fifty years on, the name Edsel remains shorthand for hubris and collapse, a mal mot of capitalism, right up there with New Coke, Betamax and Except that Edsel was a real person and a pretty good one at that. On this, the anniversary of his maligning, it feels like somebody ought to say so.
Edsel Ford was a cultured man, a collector and an arts benefactor, in a town and time where culture equaled “pie-eating contest.” He supported expeditions to the polar ice caps. His philanthropic legacy lives on in the Ford Foundation.
The Ford family opposed calling the new car Edsel. This was only a few years after Edsel had died, and his son, Henry Ford II–also known as the Deuce–thought it was undignified to have his dad’s name spinning around on hubcaps. Ford execs commissioned extensive semantic studies to find a name for the project, even going so far as to solicit suggestions from the poet Marianne Moore, who offered, among others, Mongoose Civique, Intelligent Whale and Utopian Turtletop. Clearly, naming a car wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
In the end, Ford execs decided to trash all the highfalutin marketing research, overrule the family and honor their fallen president. Quel dommage.
“The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers,” wrote Marshall McLuhan, and in Edsel Ford’s case, never really means never. As soon as it became clear that the car wasn’t selling, company researchers fanned out to discover why. One theory blamed the name itself, with its unpleasant homophonic associations with diesel and dead cell (as in batteries). It just wasn’t a pretty word, though it seems to have served Mr. Ford well enough.
I propose we rehabilitate the name. Fifty years from now, Edsel–derived from the Old German Adal, meaning “noble”–should bring to mind not the failed car but the decent man whose legacy fell under the huge chrome wheels of consumer culture on its first reckless laps.”

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Ford Carrousel Story Continues – Dick Nesbitt, Designer


This story is actually a comment to one of the earliest stories written by VehicleVoice – “Nobody Ever Talks About the Carrousel”. The story can be found in “History, Heritage and Yarns”. The subject was the Ford Carrousel concept vehicle which was conceived, designed and fabricated in 1973/4. Dick Nesbitt, who wrote this long comment, was the Carrousel designer. He refers to the vehicle as the Carousel (one “r”), but the official code name was with two “r”s – Carrousel. But that’s academic. Dick’s comments are truly insightful from someone else who was there.

Carrousel Door Open.jpg

Dick Nesbitt’s Comments Concerning the Development of the Carrousel
The Carousel significantly influenced the Chrysler Minivan success story.
–Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca have often referred to the MiniMax as being the inspiration for the Voyager/Caravan–Although it was a very small urban vehicle created as a possible solution to overcrowded city traffic problems.
The MiniMax was a four passenger front wheel drive commuter concept with almost no storage capacity and no real future.
The significance of the Carousel proposal was that it offered a dramatically improved alternative to the interior-space-restricted station wagons of the 1970’s.
Carrousel Drama.jpg

The interior plans for the Carousel included everything from conventional front facing bench seats or captain’s chair variations to some very unusual layouts.
One of the most interesting versions incorporated a combined rear and side facing “U” shaped rear seat proposal.
The instrument panel was all-new and specific to the Carousel to further enhance it’s unique character and the proposed upholstery trim levels were all very high grade materials similar to Ford’s LTD Brougham in quality.
The key “Nantucket” variation design and marketing directive was to create a lower “garagable” overall height compared to the Econoline van range from which it was derived, combined with more automotive-like styling.
The non-garagable height and truck-like styling of the Econoline Club Wagon series were seen as major obstacles to realize any kind of high volume sales typical of contemporary station wagons–but the interior room available in a van had obvious advantages.
–The Carousel was intended to represent the best of both worlds, and was seen by Ford as a major marketing breakthrough opportunity.
Chrysler’s Minivans were and are not really “mini” at all–and achieved monumental success as a more space efficient alternative to contemporary station wagons combined with “garagable” height and automotive-like styling as a direct extension of the original Carousel idea from 1972.
–It was an honor and a privilege to have been selected as the designer responsible for the Carousel styling effort.
During the time of it’s creation and development, HF II (Henry Ford II, The Deuce) himself thought the Carousel was going to be as significant and as successful as the Mustang was in 1964. It was a top prioity at the Ford Boca Raton,Florida New Product Strategy Review Meeting in 1973.
The OPEC oil restrictions beginning in late 1973 brought about drastic changes dramatically effecting Ford’s future product planning.
Henry Ford II was most enthusiastic about the modest development costs and the market share increases the Carousel would have achieved, but he pulled the plug on anything that wasn’t a direct replacement for an existing product line during the deep recession of 1974.
The launch was intended for 1975–and no doubt would have been a spectacular success for 1976-1977-1978.
Carrousel Kid.jpg

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DeLorean in Covent Garden

VehicleVoice’s George Peterson was floored when he found this pristine DeLorean parked next to the “kerb” leading into Covent Garden in London on June 16, 2007 shortly following a rainstorm. Clearly, the DeLorean – a car practically unknown today – attracted a crowd. Most couldn’t pronounce the name, but knew it was something special.

Delorean Crowd.jpg

Delorean Covent Garden.jpg

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General Motors Heritage Center – USA Auto History


GM Heritage Concept Logo.jpg

General Motors Heritage Center in Warren, Michigan has 180 historic GM vehicles on display at any one time. From a collection of around 800 vehicles stored in four large warehouses in Warren, GM rotates cars and trucks from yesterday in and out of the Heritage Center. In fact General Motors actively manages its collection buying, selling and trading several cars a week.
GM Heritage Panorama.jpg

GM Heritage 59 Cadillac.jpg

First walking into the Heritage Center is a stunning experience. Wall-to-wall cars and trucks all in excellent condition. Some have been completely restored. Some still have vacation stickers in the rear quarter windows. A few have window stickers.
GM Heritage GM Truck.jpg

180 vehicles under the roof… the only problem is that they each can’t get enough display space. I’d like to see the 1957 Chevrolet Nomad from every angle. I’d like to see the 1959 Buick Electra in all of its “beauty”. Unfortunately, there is barely enough space between the cars to walk between them.
GM Heritage Silver Cadillac.jpg

There are separate areas for Chevrolets, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Cadilacs, trucks. A display of hood ornaments shows how ornamental cars of the fifties and sixties were. With today’s pedestrian safety standards, hood ornaments probably will never return – they probably shouldn’t because we worked hard to get rid of them. But some are beauties.
GM Heritage 59 Electra.jpg

Hats off to General Motors for preserving its heritage in such a spectacular way. You might wonder how a company in financial difficulty can afford to maintain something like this? Heritage is important and GM has tons of it. That is reinforced by its Heritage Center.
GM Heritage Buick Skyhawk Interior.jpg

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1958 International Harvester Receives A Technology Transplant (PART III)- Extracurricular Projects


Out With The Old and In With The New


Finally! We have taken delivery of the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD drivetrain and components. Some of you may remember PART 1, back in December (To read PART 1 click HERE), when we mentioned one of the most important issues concerning automotive restorations (aside from patience) is staying focused. Over the past few months it has not been easy. All attention and energy is currently being concentrated on the drivetrain and there have been a few setbacks. The drivetrain is what everything else (driveshafts, axles, radiator, exhaust, steering column, etc.) will be looking to for guidance. It is almost as though the engine, transmission and transfer case are the central nervous system. This drivetrain will be in charge of controlling and/or monitoring almost every system throughout the truck. From food intake to forward mobility and in order to know where we can install the digestive system or plug in the arteries we need to make sure the drivetrain is just right. So, it seemed like a natural place to start.

Performing an engine transplant can be easy and interesting (even fun) especially when it’s the same block and head configuration. But this time things were a little different. We were not swapping out a 289 for a 302, we were replacing a 1958 IH Black Diamond straight-6 with a 2006 GM small block V8 … and yes, I was nervous (probably out of my league… and my mind). In performing the operation the idea was pretty basic; pull the old drivetrain out and bolt in the new drivetrain (Sounds easy enough… right?). Well, positioning the new drivetrain as low and as far back towards the firewall as possible, while keeping between four and six degrees of downward angle sounded a little bit more complicated. This scenario, aside from the fact that the new V8 is much lighter and shorter than the original inline-6, would ensure much better handling characteristics than the stock 1958 set-up. So that’s what we set out to do…

EDITOR’s Note: AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers are all waiting to ride in Keagan’s IH. Based on his pristine 1976 Chevrolet 1500 pickup (that he won’t let anyone touch) the outcome of this restoration and modification will be outstanding. In its present condition, Keagan’s IH resembles Mater the tow truck in Pixar’s Cars.

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Ford's Way Forward Song


As Ford Motor Company’s Way Forward program “progresses” more hourly and salaried workers leave the Company. One enterprising minstrel has recorded the Way Forward Song. It is worth a listen.
Click on the link above to listen in.
As a reminder, the January 2006 Ford press release detailing their Way Forward Program is shown below the fold:

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Dating Your Car? Car Buying is Like Searching for Your Significant Other


Many of us have dated, some of us have married, and there are those who have gone through divorce. There has long been a correlation drawn between who you are as a human being and what automobile you drive (kind of like dogs look like their owners). But can a parallel really be drawn between what automobile you drive and how you’re wired biologically?
Good Looks
First, let’s lay our cards on the table. Anyone who tells you that looks aren’t important is probably lying to you (or they themselves aren’t that good looking?). I can remember an automotive executive once saying that automotive manufacturers are really part of the fashion industry (or the entertainment industry), it just so happens that they sell vehicles… and I think he was right.

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1958 International Harvester Receives A Technology Transplant (PART II)- Extracurricular Projects


Today International Harvester lives on as Navistar International Corporation building heavy-duty, segment leading, Class 4 through 8 trucks but back in 1957 the Motor Truck Division of International Harvester was just celebrating their 50th anniversary as a truck builder and followed their S-Series trucks with the A-Series models (A stood for Anniversary).


1957 International Travelall

The mid-to-late 1950s were a big time in automotive history, especially in terms of styling. When GM restyled their cars and trucks in 1955 the industry followed the fashion trend. Wraparound windshields became essential and being bold was definitely in vogue. International Harvester was still producing light-duty trucks at the time and although they knew that they would not lead the industry in terms of volume, they intended to make sure that their styling cues would qualify for some strong competition. In 1957 International Harvester copied GM’s wraparound windshields and secured greater visibility than their GM counterparts through greater glass surface area. IH dealer salesmen were also able to point out the segment leading three doors in 1957 and fourth in 1961. GM would lag behind, having only 2 doors in the full-size truck based wagon segment until 1966.

1955 Chevrolet Suburban

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1958 International Harvester Receives A Technology Transplant – Extracurricular Projects


As we focus on the future of personal use transportation at AutoPacific we find that history really does repeat itself. When it comes to cars and trucks, many people really enjoy the styling of yesteryear but generally prefer today’s technology. The aftermarket was first to pick up on the public’s obsession with this fusion of ‘old school’ styling and modern technology by stuffing new drivelines and HVAC systems into show vehicles. These types of vehicles could be seen strutting their stuff at SEMA or events like your local car show. But in the last decade manufacturers have answered the call with a myriad of retro-styled NEW vehicles. Some suspects are (or have been) the VW Beetle, Mini Cooper, Ford Mustang, Ford Thunderbird, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Chevrolet SSR and the Toyota FJ Cruiser.


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