April 26th, 1948
Production began on the 1949-model Ford, the first all-new automobile design introduced by the Big Three after World War II, civilian production having been suspended during the war, and the 1946-1948 models from Ford, GM, and Chrysler being updates of their pre-war models. Popularly called the “Shoebox Ford” for its slab-sided, “ponton” design, the 1949 Ford is credited both with saving Ford and ushering in modern streamlined car design with changes such as integrated fenders and more . The design would continue through the 1951 model year. After sticking with its well-received previous model through model year 1948, Ford completely redesigned its namesake car for the year 1949. Save for its drive-train, this was an all-new car in every way, with a modern ladder frame now supporting a coil spring suspension in front and longitudinal semi-elliptical springs in back. The engine was moved forward to make more room in the passenger compartment and the antiquated “torque tube” was replaced by a modern drive shaft. Ford’s popular 226 CID (3.7 L) L-head straight-6 and 239 CID (3.9 L) Flathead V8 remained, now rated at 90 hp (67 kW) and 100 hp (75 kW), respectively.
April 27th, 1984
The first SEAT Ibiza rolled off the assembly line in the Zone Franca plant, the first entirely Spanish car of the new SEAT generation. Ibiza’s sales success gave the SEAT marque a platform to build on, as it looked to increase sales in the following years. This version, while it established the now-classic Ibiza shape, was advertised as having “Italian styling and German engines”: having its bodywork been designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign, and being prepared for industrialization by the German manufacturer Karmann. It was based on the SEAT Ronda, a small family car, which in turn was based on the Fiat Ritmo.
April 28th, 1939
Powell Crosley, who in his own words had 50 jobs in 50 years, produced America’s first miniature or “bantam” car. Mass production of the car was stalled until after World War II, but, in 1948, he produced 28,000 cars. The Crosley was a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the pre-war Volkswagen Beetle and far smaller than anything offered by American manufacturers. Unfortunately, Crosley was never able to lower the price of his cars to his intended sticker of $500. His $800 price tag wasn’t low enough to convince consumers when they could buy a full-size car for a few hundred dollars more. The Crosley Car Company failed badly and Crossley sold his interest in the venture.
April 29th, 1915
The $490 Chevrolet Model 490 was introduced. It was an immediate success and established the brand as a big player. The name would not denote the price for long (in 1921, the average price was $820), but it would stay low enough to take a chunk out of the Model T market. The Model T started at $495 at the time. Chevrolet was soon so profitable that Billy Durant began buying shares of GM stock with his Chevrolet stock. Electric horns were standard And by 1921, standard equipment included a speedometer, and ammeter, dome lights (closed-body cars only), and headlight dimmers. All 490s were only offered with the Overhead Valve 171-cubic-inch (2.8 L) four-cylinder, producing 24 hp (18 kW). This would be Chevrolet’s main engine until the “Stovebolt” straight six replaced it for 1929.
April 29th, 2004
The last Oldsmobile came off the assembly line at the Lansing Car Assembly plant in Michigan, signaling the end of the 106-year-old automotive brand, America’s oldest (and the third oldest in the world, after Daimler and Peugeot). Workers signed the last Oldsmobile, an Alero sedan before the vehicle was moved to Lansing’s R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, where it went on display. The last 500 Aleros ever manufactured featured “Final 500″ emblems and were painted dark metallic cherry red. In 1897, Ransom E. Olds (1864-1950), an Ohio-born engine maker, founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing. In 1901, the company, then known as Olds Motor Works, debuted the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, a gas-powered, open-carriage vehicle named for its curved front footboard. More than 400 of these vehicles were sold during the first year, at a price of $650 each (around $17,000 in today’s dollars). In subsequent years, sales reached the thousands. Olds’ invention inspired a 1905 song, “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” whose chorus includes the lines: “Come away with me, Lucille/In my merry Oldsmobile/Down the road of life we’ll fly/Automobubbling, you and I.” However, by 1904, clashes between Olds and his investors caused him to sell the bulk of his stock and leave the company. He soon went on to found the REO (based on his initials) Motor Car Company, which built cars until 1936 and produced trucks until 1975. In 1908, Oldsmobile was the second brand, after Buick, to become part of the newly established General Motors (GM). Oldsmobile became a top brand for GM and pioneered such features as chrome-plating in 1926 and, in 1940, the first fully automatic transmission for a mass-market vehicle. Oldsmobile concentrated on cars for middle-income consumers and from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was America’s best-selling auto. However, in the decades that followed, sales began to decline, prompting GM to announce in 2000 that it would discontinue the Oldsmobile line with the 2004 models. When the last Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line in April 2004, more than 35 million Oldsmobiles had been built during the brand’s lifetime. Along with Daimler and Peugeot, Oldsmobile was among the world’s oldest auto brands.
April 30th, 1948
The Land Rover was officially launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show. Brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks developed the vehicle as a result of a conversation about Maurice’s American 4×4. Realizing the gap in the British market for such a vehicle, they quickly produced a prototype out of aluminum and steel, metals that were still rationed in England at the time. They used interior components from their Rover saloon cars. Featuring a four-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter engine from the Rover P3 60 saloon, it was shown with a canvas top and optional doors. Doors eventually became standard, as did a system where two and four-wheel drive could be selected in the high range with permanent four-wheel drive in the low range. The original 1948 Land Rover was ingeniously designed and engineered for extreme capability and strength. With extremely robust construction and characteristics such as short front and rear overhangs, it drove off the production line ready to take on some of the world’s toughest terrain. Today these qualities are as significant a part of what makes a Land Rover vehicle unique as they were 60 years ago. The Land Rover was the product of continuous evolution and refinement throughout the 1950s and 1960s with improved stability and a tighter turning circle. It was a period in which Land Rover took the lead in the emerging market for four-wheel-drive vehicles. As a tough, reliable mobility platform, countless organizations came to depend on Land Rover vehicles to get personnel and equipment into the most challenging situations…and then safely out again. From organizations such as Born Free Foundation to The Royal Geographical Society and Biosphere Expeditions – we enter the second decade of the 21st century with them still relying on Land Rover In keeping with the forward-thinking philosophy that founded Land Rover, a radical, an entirely new product was introduced in 1970 and created its very own vehicle category. This overnight sensation was the original Range Rover. It had all the capability of a Land Rover with the comfort and performance of an on-road car. This culture of innovation has developed ever since with both Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles: new models, more refinement, more innovative technology, more efficiency, and fewer emissions. And it continues with initiatives such as e_Terrain Technologies (which improves the environmental performance of vehicles by reducing CO2 emissions), Sustainable Manufacturing, and CO2 Offsetting. Land Rover will remain at the forefront of advanced design – the new small Range Rover is a testament to the vision that takes the company forward and keeps it at the cutting edge of technology and engineering.
This week in Automotive History is produced by Branding Roar