5 Missed Automotive Opportunities

How could they miss out on that?

27w ago
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There are times in life when fate literally knocks on your door and yells "Now's your chance!" Some people take that opportunity at shoot to greatness. Others snooze in and wonder later "How could I miss that?"

This is the automotive version.

Ford - Bonnie and Clyde Endorsement

Henry Ford probably got thousands of letters each year. However, this one, received onApril 13, 1934 stood out from the rest:

“Dear Sir,” read this handwritten letter addressed to Henry Ford. “While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one.”

However, this letter was signed "Yours truly Clyde Champion Barrow.”

This was Clyde Barrow of the Bonnie and Clyde duo. In case you don't know, they were probably the most famous criminals in American history. During the mid-1930s, they committed robberies, kidnappings, car thefts and killings across the midwestern US, stretching from their native Texas to as far north as Minnesota.

The letter, which is in possession of the The Henry Ford in Dearborn, went on to say: “For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 —" (They were obviously not the best spellers.) A few weeks after this letter was received, they were ambushed and killed in Louisiana.

Instead of capitalizing on this letter and boasting in their advertisements that their few-years-old V-8 car was endorsed by Bonnie and Clyde (who were celebrities in their own right), Ford just let it slide, and this letter now resides on the Henry Ford Museum. It would have been literally "gangster", and probably would've gone straight into the history books.

Ford - Utopian Turtletop

Hagetry

Hagetry

As you probably know, Ford's 1958 Edsel was a spectacular failure. It was too expensive and it guzzled gas, and above all it looked pretty ugly. It was also probably a disgrace to Henry Ford's late son Edsel, who died in 1943. However, the name could've been much more interesting.

Ford's designers and marketers began working on what would become the Edsel in 1955. While designers dreamed up all the different versions of the car that was supposed to take the country by storm, marketers struggled with an adequate name. So, they hired Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Marianne Moore. Tasked with coming up with a name for this new product, including some bizarre back-and forth letters (which included phrases like, "the baguette lapidary glamor you have achieved certainly spurs the imagination," and "Our office philodendron has just benefitted from an extra measure of water" ), she came up with multiple rather intriguing names, like:

The Intelligent Whale , Mongoose Civique , Pluma Piluma , Anticipator , Regna Racer , The Silver Sword , Dearborn , Pastelogram , Magigravure , Utopian Turtletop , Turcotinga , Varsity Stroke , Fée Rapide , Bullett Lavolta , FABERGÉ, ARCENCIEL, MONGOOSE CIVIQUE, and more...

After a while, Ford stopped replying to her letters but she kept them coming. She did, however, receive a bouquet of flowers on Dec. 23 with the message, "Merry Christmas to our favorite Turtletopper."

Chevrolet - Mid-Engine Corvette... In 1970

GM Heritage Center

GM Heritage Center

Starting in the late 1960s, the world was going mid-engine crazy. Lamborghini jump-started the trend with the 1966 Miura, and others followed. Ferrari followed suit with the 206 Dino and 365 GT4 BB, Lancia with the Stratos, Maserati with the Bora, and even BMW with the M1.

Of course, General Motors wanted a piece of the action. After showing off the CERV II concept in 1961, the General put some serious thought into making a mid-engine Corvette a reality. In 1968, Chevrolet unveiled the 1968 Chevrolet XP-880, or Astro II concept. What was significant about this particular concept was that tremendous effort had been put in to make it almost production-ready.

A backwards-mounted 7.0-liter (427-cubic-inch) V-8 pushed out a respectable 400 horsepower, routed to the back wheels through a two-speed automatic transaxle pulled from a 1963 Pontiac Tempest. What's more, Corvette founding father Zora Arkus-Duntov pushed it to 1.00g of cornering grip.

It was theoretically possible to put the mid-engine Corvette into production, but...

It didn't make financial sense for GM to put the Astro II into production, so this started a long-running line of mid-engined concepts that got away from us, until the 2020 Corvette Stingray.

Tucker 48 - Ahead Of Its Time

Motor Biscuit

Motor Biscuit

Preston Tucker was poised to start a revolution. His Tucker 48 (also known as the Tucker Torpedo) had a myriad of features not seen before in concert on a car in 1948. Among them were a third directional headlight which swiveled when the steering was turned, a roll bar integrated into the roof, a padded dashboard, a perimeter frame for crash protection, a collapsible steering column, fully independent suspension, and more.

Barret-Jackson

Barret-Jackson

However, everything soon came down to a grinding halt. After only 51 cars were made, Tucker Corporation declared bankruptcy and ceases operations on March 3rd, 1949. This was due to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a heavily publicized stock fraud trial (in which the allegations were proven baseless and led to a full acquittal).

Chrysler Airflow - Aerodynamics in the 1930s

Revs Institute

Revs Institute

Back in the earliest days of motoring, automobile designs pretty much stuck to the same formula: a radiator grille standing straight up with no curves in the front.

The Chrysler Airflow tried to change that. This was probably the first car that was shaped in a wind tunnel, and they even built one in Highland Park and tested over 50 scale models. The car also had a unibody construction (like today's cars), unlike the body-on-frame vehicles of the time.

However, things didn't go as planned. The unique design and construction caused manufacturing problems, including engines breaking loose from their mountings at 80 mph. It was also pretty ugly, and the buying public responded likewise. First-year sales were around 10,000 but spiraled downwards each year, with a total of only around 29,000 sold from 1934 to 1937 before it was axed.

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Comments (7)

  • For some reason, Bonnie & Clyde went down in history as likable and iconic characters but when you look into what they actually did, it was abysmal. I wouldn't call that a missed opportunity. The Airflow and the mid-engine Corvette were way ahead of their time and sometimes being too early is the same as being late. As for the Tucker, it was an interesting concept but at the end of the day, it was a one-man operation fuelled almost entirely by Mr Tucker madness, vision and ingenuity. Great story, though

      6 months ago
    • I agree about the Bonnie and Clyde point,they were not only theives but horrible murderers, killing people in cold blood but surprisingly when I first heard about them they were portrayed as some iconic characters wronged by the system...

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        6 months ago
  • Bonnie and Clyde were horrible criminals so no wonder Ford didn't capitalise on that.

      6 months ago
  • For Ford, the letter will be marketing disaster.

      6 months ago
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