Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lost Show & Concept Cars: 1953

This is the 1953 Corvette test car, or "mule" as such cars are known inside the auto manufacturing business. The body of the second show car was later transferred to the frame of this car. Presumably, the remaining components were scrapped. Note the pictured car has no grille.

In the background is the second 1953 Chevrolet Corvette prototype show car. It differed slightly from the original prototype which debuted at the 1953 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria. The first show car, according to GM memos, was destroyed by fire in a test of the fiberglass body's flammability and burn rate. The fate of the second show car is unknown; presumably it was scrapped.

Above is the interior of the Pontiac Avalon, a modified Pontiac four-door sedan said to have "Catalina styling" painted chartreuse (lower body) and black (roof). The interior of leather and waffle-patterned nylon was in the same color scheme.

Three 1953 Oldsmobile Starfires were built. At least one was a running car. Two are known to have been scrapped leaving the fate of the other as unknown.

The 1953 Buick Wildcat made its debut at the 1953 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria. This particular car seemingly disappeared afterwards and a white car replaced it for the remainder of the traveling exhibition. A white example is currently owned by dream car collector, Joe Bortz.

More than one 1953 Buick Wildcat was built. This one differs substantially from the others. There is evidence the Wildcat was considered for production.

The first production 1953 Cadillac Eldorado was used as a show car by GM. This cropped photo was taken at the Waldorf Astoria prior to the opening of the 1953 GM Motorama. The fate of this car is an unanswered question.

The 1953 Cadillac Orleans was built from a leftover 1952 Coupe de Ville body shell. It was a converted into a four-door pillarless (no center post) hardtop. Another major modification was the installation of a wraparound windshield, a feature found only on the limited production 1953 Eldorado. The Orleans was rumored to be in the San Diego area over 30 years ago.

Shown is the original 1953 Cadillac Le Mans, one of four built. This one was later given to a California Cadillac dealer who sold it to shoe store magnate, Harry Karl. Karl had it customized by famed customized, George Barris, for his bride to be, actress Marie MacDonald. This Le Mans was destroyed in a building fire in May 1985. A few parts not on the car at the time of the fire still survive including the engine. The second example was originally painted the same as the one seen above, but was later titled to GM styling chief, Harley Earl, who had it repainted black and changed the interior color to yellow. The fate of Le Mans #2 is unknown. Its last known location was the showroom of Greenlease-Moore Cadillac-Chevrolet in Oklahoma City where it was on display in early November 1953.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lost Show & Concept Cars, 1952

The 1952 Buick Ranger featured a western theme. It was built from a Roadmaster convertible and was said to be painted El Rancho Beige and Canyon Brown. However, a black & white photo of this car shows it to have had a monotone scheme. The wheels were clearly darker so perhaps the brown paint was applied to them. Brown may also have been the color of the convertible top’s fabric. Fitted on at least the driver’s side door (possibly both doors) was a rifle (type unknown) and holster! This was not the last of the Buick’s with a heavy western theme. The Ranger may have been strictly a Canadian show car. This photo was taken at the 1952 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Three prototype cars - one each from Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac - were shown during the 1952 auto show circuit. Pictured here is the one from Buick, dubbed "Skylark." The others, the Oldsmobile Fiesta and the Cadillac Eldorado, joined GM's lineup of 1953 models as limited production models. The Skylark as well as the other two prototypes were presumably scrapped. For more information on the 1952 Cadillac Eldorado (or El Dorado as the prototype was designated) see this link:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lost Show & Concept Cars, 1949-1950

Prototype two-door hardtops were shown at GM's Transportation Unlimited in 1949. Near the center of this photo is the Bel Air. Also shown are Oldsmobile and Buick two-door hardtops. The fates of these hardtop prototypes remain unknown.

 This 1949 Buick Riviera was painted silver and white and had silver interior - a scheme not offered by Buick. The unique car was shown at GM's 1949 Transportation Unlimited shows held in New York City and Detroit. These photos, however, were taken inside the GM Building.

 Prototype hardtops were shown at GM's Transportation Unlimited auto show. This is the 1949 Pontiac Catalina.

Another show car for the Transportation Unlimited show was this 1949 Cadillac El Rancho. It was painted "Mexican Dawn" and its interior was saddle leather trimmed with dark suede kip’s hide and saddle-stitched in white cord. Interior hardware consisted of antiqued and hand-engraved silver.

 One of the many show cars at the 1950 GM Mid-Century Motorama which had to have made quite an impression on show attendees was the two-door hardtop Oldsmobile Palm Beach Holiday Ninety-Eight (barely visible in upper left photo, far background). Painted Cabana Sand over Surf Green, the Palm Beach was upholstered in green alligator leather with a contrasting fine cane mesh fabric! The fate of this show car remains unknown.

 The 1950 Cadillac Debutante show car featured "Tawny Buff" paint, gold-plated interior hardware, and leopard skin upholstery. This car may still exist.