Studebaker’s 1963 Westinghouse Truck Prototype

Originally published 1/19/15 at Amazon’s Car Lust blog.

Form follows function. That pithy little slogan, coined by architect Louis Henry Sullivan over a century ago, sums up the hard core modernist approach to architecture and industrial design: the shape of a thing should be determined solely by what it is intended to do, with little or no allowance for ornamentation.


“Form follows function!”

Sullivan’s buildings were not nearly as austere as the slogan suggests, but other modernists took the concept all the way to its logical extreme. Adolf Loos, one of Sullivan’s contemporaries, declared that all ornamentation–any ornamentation–is “immoral” and “degenerate,” and when it came time to design buildings, he practiced what he preached. Had he lived to see it–he died in 1933–Herr Loos would certainly have approved of the squarish Studebaker prototype compact pickup truck which is our topic for today.

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1955-57 Chevrolet Nomad

I’m generally not a big fan of station wagons. This may be familial in origin, since my family never owned one, so I have no warm, fuzzy memories of riding in one as a child. Nor do I recall any of our circle of friends and family having one or ever even riding in one; such is the impression this type of vehicle made on me.

Nevertheless, in recent years a few of them– starting with the Dodge Magnum — have made me take a second look. One that got my motor going (pun gleefully intended) was the Chevy Nomad, specifically the 1955-57 version. Not only is it an incredibly handsome piece of machinery, but it was generally, if not spectacularly, unsuccessful. Thus, combined with its relative anonymity these days, the Nomad is a fantastic example of a beautiful and gloriously dysfunctional automobile

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The Thing (aka The VW 181)

Ugliness in a Wheeled Breadbox” is how a 1974 issue of Popular Mechanics described The Thing. “I saw the Thing and it was so ugly it was cute,” one owner said, describing his first encounter with his Thing.

Perhaps no other car has so perfectly typified its nameplate than the Volkswagen Type 181, known in the US as The Thing. Though I was just a wee lad when it was first introduced to the North American market in 1973 I recall that it was billed as the quirky, fun successor to the original Type 1 Beetle. It certainly was quirky.volkswagen_thing_orange

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“Harley and the Davidsons” (a review)

fullscreen-capture-982016-91050-pm-bmpFor each of the three nights of September 5th, 6th, and 7th, 2016, the Discovery Channel presented two-hour installments based on fact of the early days of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and company.  The story of the union of Milwaukee’s Bill Harley (Robert Aramayo) and brothers Arthur (Bug Hall) and Walter (Michiel Huisman) Davidson, all childhood neighbors and friends, transformed bicycles with engines into a legend and the company that survives today. Continue reading

1956-57 Continental Mark II

When I first laid eyes on a picture of this car, my jaw literally dropped. I had been perusing a book on cars of the 1950s, enjoying the various design excesses of that era, when I turned the page and … there it was, long, sleek, and cool, like a little black dress at a hoe-down. There was just something about the simplicity of the design that immediately1956_continental_mark_ii_-_midnight_blue_-_fvr caught my
fancy. While made in the 1950s it definitely does not seem of the 1950s. While other cars were swimming with enormous fins, acres of chrome and bulbous styling full of sweeping sheet metal, the Continental Mark II was clean and spare in its look.

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