Janez M. posted in One Off
5w ago
- Young Rust Heinz, born into Heinz 57 Varieties fortune, dreamt of having his own car. Rust dropped out of Yale in 1934 and announced to his father that he was moving to California to open an industrial design firm.
- His dad wasn't happy, but a sympathetic aunt in Pasadena took him in. Thankfully aunt was nice enough to step in with the financial support (under much protest from the rest of the “Ketchup family”) and so, the conditions were set for the creation.
- Estimated retail price was set to be from 12.500$ to 15.000$ which in the late 30’s was a huge amount of money. Extraordinary Cadillac V16 Imperial Sedan (like the one Al Capone had) was almost 3 times cheaper.
- In 1936, 22-year-old Heinz bought a new Cord 810/812 which served as the foundation. He got in touch with Pasadena coachbuilder Bohman & Schwartz to make his dream come true and then work started based on Heinz’s own sketches.
- The sketches Heinz brought to Bohman & Schwartz amazed both coachbuilders. The drawings showed a long, sleek fastback coupe, and what impressed Maurice Schwartz was that the body shape had no design precedent.
- The Corsair was a wonderful combination of extraordinary design and complete impracticality.
- Bowman & Schwartz used the Cord 810 front-wheel drive chassis and the Lycoming V-8 engine with electric shifting that was modified in Andy Granatelli’s shop.
- With a chrome-moly chassis, no visible handles, no running boards — or really any fenders to speak of — the sleek drawings of Rust were made into aluminum and steel.
- His design was developed with clay models and home-made wind tunnels, and the Corsair was certainly on the leading edge of automobile aerodynamics. It’s heavily-padded and cork-lined passenger compartment was quite futuristic with safety in mind.
- The Corsair had four-across seating in front (one person sat to the left of the driver), and there was bullet-proof glass for safety. The back seats were for two people only, due to the space for cabinets that were for “on board beverages.”
- It is 57 inches (1448mm) tall, which in 1938 was at least seven inches lower than most cars of the period. The Corsair measured 237 inches (6020mm) in length, was 76.5 inches (1943mm) wide.
- It weighs 4,600 pounds (2090kg), riding on a wheelbase of 125 inches (3175mm). It is said it could reach a speed of 115 mph. (185km/h).
- To go along with the smoothness of its design the Corsair had no door handles. In place of door handles there was a push button above the belt line to the rear of the door in the roof that was electrically operated.
- There was also a push button on the dash to open the doors when seated inside. The instrument panel had warning lights to indicate if a door was not completely closed or if the car’s lights were on and also a compass and an altimeter.
- The dashboard was home to a series of buttons and knobs with an aeronautical theme and it was designed in such a way as to diminish the risk of injuries in case of a crash.
- Structurally, the vehicle combined a molybdenum chrome steel floor with electro-welded aviation tubing. Front-wheel drive, four-speed automatic transmission and four independent wheels.
- It has the same 289 ci (4.7-liter) Lycoming V8 engine of the Cord 810/812. However, it was upgraded from the standard 125 hp to 190 horsepower. Drum brakes on all four corners were necessary to slow the vehicle and keep it in the drivers control.
- There were several never-seen-before features in the car such as hydraulic impact bumpers, covered driving lights, climate control system, and interior crash padding.
- Bohman & Schwartz had the A.J. Bayer Co. in Vernon, Calif., fabricate a special chassis to weld to the Cord's front sub frame. The Bayer chassis main section consisting of two parallel side rails with a central X-member.
- The Cord's stock rear axle was suspended on a custom rear sub frame that Bayer bolted to the tops of the main frame rails via steel plates.
- The Corsair was built specifically to impress potential buyers and design clients, and to that end Heinz added all the technology he could think of.
- To publicize the Phantom Corsair nationally, Rust wrangled a part for it in the 1938 film The Young in Heart, starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Paulette Goddard. In the movie, the Corsair was known as the Flying Wombat.
- Seeking more publicity, Rust Heinz displayed the Phantom Corsair at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. The car was featured on the cover of “Motor Age” magazine, ads for it were printed on the famous “Esquire” magazine.
- However, the car was far from being perfect from a mechanical point of view. For example, the small front louvers restricted engine cooling which is why the 4.7-liter had the tendency to overheat quite fast.
- Although it looked very cool, the split windshield did not provide great visibility and it was the same story with the rear window. It is believed Rust Heinz spent more than $24,000 to make his dream come true.
- During a visit to his family in Pittsburgh, Heinz decided to go to a dance with friends. On the way home in an open Buick, the driver's hat flew off.
- To retrieve it, the Buick driver made a U-turn and was immediately hit broadside by a passing car. Rust Heinz died the next morning, July 23, 1939. He was 25 years old.
- The car stayed in the Heinz family until 1942. That's when the family gave to it Lou Maxon, head of the Heinz ad agency. The car subsequently passed through several hands and was owned briefly in 1947 by Joe and Andy Granatelli in Chicago.
- Somewhere along the line, the Phantom was painted gold and ended up being sold to comedian Herb Shriner in 1951. he asked BMW 507 designer Albrecht Goertz to make some changes.
- The front fascia was modified to improve engine cooling, while the windshield was also changed to increase visibility. In addition, the roof received two targa-like panels.
- It was displayed for a time at the Silver Springs (Florida) Museum and also at the 1954 New York Auto show with Herb Shriner and was now painted yellow and red. In 1971, William Harrah's Automobile Collection bought the car.
- Restored to its former glory it is now currently on permanent display at the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

1938 Phantom Corsair

Speed was imperative and streamline was the word of the day. It was during this special time that Mercedes Benz came out with the T80, a masterpiece created to break records…but on the other side of the Atlantic, one American was focusing not just on going fast, but also on providing the most luxurious experience one could possibly have. The astonishing Phantom Corsair was about to be born.

Rust Heinz, born in 1914 (USA) was building power boats as a teenager.

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