Paris Salon de L'Automobile 1948 / 1955

October 1948. Citroën 2CV, the French Model T, prepares for its public debut, with Kaiser-Frazer sign about to be hoisted in the background. I test drove one of these in the early seventies, from a sleepy Citroën garage on Cleveland's West Side. Actually, I rode in the passenger seat, since the vendor alone knew how to change gears by pushing, pulling and twisting the knob on the end of the long rod sticking through a hole in the firewall. Sailing over humped railroad crossings on torsion bars was like swinging in a rubber band hammock, the unfamiliar clatter of the flat-twin bouncing off all the bare metal and glass. Stepping back into an Austin America for the drive home was like stepping from the Austin into my mom's Buick.

October 1948. Simca Sport 8 Cabriolet, one of some 47 roadsters built by French coachbuilder Figoni & Falaschi, best known for extravagant luxo-boats on Delage, Delahaye and Talbot-Lago chassis. Stabilimenti Farina versions, with heavier grille bars spanning a wider opening, were built by Facel Métallon into the early fifties.

42ème Paris Salon de L'Automobile, Grand Palais, Parc des Exhibition, October 1955. French makes are concentrated just past Wolseley and Cadillac, along the axis of the main entrance indicated by the arch on the right.

Unveiling of the atom age Citroën DS, another collaboration between Italian industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, creators of the revolutionary monocoque Traction Avant some 23 years earlier. As philosopher Roland Barthes wrote in tribute, I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object... It is obvious that the new Citroën has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object.

Panhard Dyna Z12. Air-cooled flat-twin, front-wheel drive, torsion bar suspension, bulbous bodywork with a curious fish mouth up front. Just another French oddball. But way back in 1891, René Panhard and fellow engineer Emile Levassor looked beyond the voiturettes of the day - tricycles and horse buggies fitted with under-seat engines, drive belts and pulleys. The configuration they settled on was front engine with rear-wheel drive, their own clutch-actuated sliding gear transmission, the world's first, in between. This Système Panhard would be the standard automobile layout for most of the next century.

Renault 4CV. Development began in secret during the German occupation. Following Hitler's defeat, Ferdinand Porsche was brought to France as part of a war reparations effort to move the Volkswagen project there. Which facilitated several government-ordered consultations with Renault's development team to offer tips on the handling and weight distribution of his competitor's postwar rear-engine design. Here, one sensible old-timer and his wife window shop as crowds swarm the chic new Dauphine a few feet away.

WWII left Europe's auto industry in ruin. Before the factories of the major players were up and running again, small-timers eagerly stepped in to fill the basic transportation needs of weary citizens after years of hardship and uncertainty. Egon Brütsch's tiny three-wheeled roadster, suspiciously similar to the Peardrop microcar French aeronautical engineer Victor Bouffort promoted on a tour through Germany and the UK in 1952, was built from polyester half-shells glued at the waist and powered by the same 191cc Fichtel & Sachs two-stroke single used by Messerschmitt. He built some eleven variants between 1952 and 1958, negotiating licensing agreements with builders in Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland and Indonesia. But Brütsch was an entrepreneur, not an engineer, and his plastic hockey puck had a fatal flaw. Mechanical bits were simply bonded to the bodywork, which meant the vehicle's lifespan could be counted in days. Licensee Harald Friedrich hired Tatra's Hans Ledwinka to make his Spatz variant roadworthy, Jean Avot of Avolette turned to Victor Bouffort, whose design Brütsch had cribbed in the first place. Builders seldom managed to turn out more than a handful of cars before giving up completely, with accusations and lawsuits to follow. In the Spatz case, Ledwinka did a major rework, adding a central tube frame, strut suspension, hydraulic brakes and a fourth wheel. Which led Friedrich to stop paying royalties. Brütsch sued and lost, the judge declaring the original design a menace to society. Whose exhibit space is pictured here? The licensing offer on the windscreen reads Brütsch Sport 3 Places 3 Roues - License à Vendre Tous Pays (illegible). But according to Jan de Lange's Microcars Stories, the cars Avolette displayed at the 1955 Paris Salon were Brütsch Zwergs anyway.

Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupe, an object of desire from a first sight in print or in person.

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider by Pininfarina. Lancia never had much of a presence in the United States. The average American was not interested in spending big money for a small, modestly powered, exquisitely engineered jewel when he could get tonnage and brute force for less. The prospect of global searches for parts and service when something went wrong was likely another deterrent for the level headed. But Lancia's stateside status turned when a pockmarked B24S beater, pulled out of a Northern California garage after a forty-nine year nap, fetched $803,000 at a 2013 Gooding auction in Scottsdale. Gooding has another more presentable example on tap for 2014, carrying a seven-figure estimate this time around. Prière ne pas toucher, indeed.

Pininfarina's Lancia Aurelia Florida, featuring crisp straight-through fenders with headlights tucked into the grille, auxiliary lamps where the headlights should be and modest fins out back. The design was widely praised and Pininfarina was soon working up production versions with headlights back in their usual places for BMC, Fiat and Peugeot. Across the Atlantic, the Florida's influence is seen on Elwood Engel's refined 1961 Lincoln Continental.

Chrysler Special Corsair II. Hemi V8 power in a Nardi chassis with body by Carrozzeria Boano of Turin, who built the Lincoln Indianapolis that same year.


Salmson 2300 Sport LeMans Cabriolet by Motto of Turin, perhaps the prettiest Salmson, unfortunately the last. High sticker price in a struggling economy conspired with a punitive French motor tax rate on its 2.3 liter DOHC 4 to doom the car from the start. Only 227 2300s were sold between 1953 and 1956, when Salmson left the automobile business for good, selling its Billancourt plant to neighbor Renault.


Vignale, Touring & Stabilimenti Farina Street Show Again

 Taken in Rome and Vienna by an American stationed in Europe after the war.

1947 Cisitalia 202 Mille Miglia Aerodinamica Coupé, designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi and built by Vignale. As I understand it, Fiat engineer Dante Giacosa, creator of the Topolino, was enlisted by Cisitalia founder Piero Dusio somewhere around 1942 to design an open wheel race car based on the little mouse with an 1100cc mill in place of the stock 500cc. When WWII ended and Giacosa needed to return focus to Fiat, he recommended Savonuzzi, head of Fiat's experimental aircraft division, as his replacement. Following Dusio's offer of a massive salary increase and a company car, Savonuzzi became Cisitalia's Technical Director, finishing development of the D46 racer and then turning his attention to what would become the 202, envisioned by Dusio as, '...a car that is wide like my Buick, low like a Grand Prix, comfortable like a Rolls-Royce, and light like our single-seater D46.' Built in variants by Pininfarina, Stabilimenti Farina and Vignale, the 202 coupe is widely regarded as the original GT, with Pininfarina's version gracing the Museum Of Modern Art's "Eight Automobiles" exhibition in 1951. Also seen here is a Peugeot 202 delivery truck, with Mobilgas pumps at the curb and Topolinos at extreme right.

Circa 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 or 2500, Touring Superleggera coachwork, with sealed beam conversion and clipped bumper.

1951 Abarth 205A Berlinetta by Vignale. The shell for Carlo Abarth's first in-house creation after leaving Cisitalia as that firm headed for bankruptcy, was Giovanni Michelotti's sharp interpretation of Pininfarina's Cisitalia 202, with both ends tucked under for a more aggressive stance and cool modern eggcrate grille and driving lights in lieu of the 202's baby Buick face. Portholes replace those missing grille teeth for a touch of postwar American glitz on a design that might not be easy to date without them. Supposedly only three of these stunning coupes were built, all shown more clearly @ Ultimate Car Page, but the door handle is mounted much higher in this photo from a period auto show, while the car waiting at the crosswalk above splits the difference. It may just be the angle, but the hood scoop here looks flatter, too.

Mystery car. Maybe a Stabilimenti Farina Alfa 6C, with Fiats on either side.

Circa 1951 Fiat by Stabilimenti Farina

Circa 1953 Denzel (WD) being shadowed by a Jeep.

Circa 1937 Mercedes-Benz 290 lang Cabriolet A.


New York City Auto Shows 1952-56

Madison Square Garden, Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th in Manhattan. Photos dated in pencil, this one 3/53. Kit Foster supplied official name and venue details for NYC auto shows of this era here, which was a great help. Fred Pittera's 1st World Motor Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/53.

Circa 1950 Jetmobile built by Richard Harp of Boonesboro, Maryland, from an aircraft belly tank with wingtip pods on either side, powered by a rear-mounted Ford V8-60. Herb Shriner's First International Motor Sports Show, Grand Central Palace, 4/52.

Conceived by importer Max Hoffman, the Porsche America Roadster was intended as a lighter, faster, cheaper alternative to the standard 356 Cabriolet for the American market, with 1500 Super specs in an aluminum body by Glaser. Weekend racers could quickly trim another 100lbs by removing hubcaps, jack and tools and replacing the street windscreen with perspex via two wing nuts and a single bolt. Unfortunately, each car took 640 hours to complete instead of the estimated 500, and the coachbuilder lost money on every one of the sixteen or so built, even at $4600 New York, declaring bankruptcy by the end of 1952. Which led Porsche to come up with its own version, the Speedster, introduced in 1954. Herb Shriner's First International Motor Sports Show, Grand Central Palace, 4/52.

'52 Siata 208 CS Scaglietti Barchetta Competizione by Bertone. This spider and the two-tone 208 CS 2+2 Berlinetta just behind were powered by 2 litre Fiat 8V (Otto Vu) engines in Siata's own purpose-built tubular chassis with modified Fiat running gear. Designer Franco Scaglietti, who started working with Nuccio Bertone in 1952, is credited with these two as well as all three Alfa Romeo B.A.T.s and the Arnolt Bristol. I haven't found official designations for either of these one-off Siatas, even in Luciano Greggio's Bertone 90 Years. Herb Shriner's First International Motor Sports Show, Grand Central Palace, 4/52.

One-off Cisitalia built by Ghia for Henry Ford II, powered by a 2.8 litre inline 4 marine-conversion engine developing 155hp. Cisitalia went under shortly thereafter. Herb Shriner's First International Motor Sports Show, Grand Central Palace, 4/52.

This 1952 Packard Pan American 'sports car', built for company president Hugh Ferry to a design by Richard Arbib, was a stock Packard 250 convertible reworked by hearse and ambulance specialist Henney. Venue and date unknown.

Chrysler Hemi powered 1952 Allard J2X, one of two envelope bodied cars built for an unsuccessful LeMans attempt. Fred Pittera's 1st World Motor Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/53.

Fiat Zagato 1100 Panoramica. Fred Pittera's 1st World Motor Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/53.

Adler Trumpf Rennlimousine. I don't believe this is one of the two cars with heart-shaped grilles that ran at LeMans in 1937 and 1938. AACA forum posts suggest that several cars were built, all slightly different. One is seen here fresh from a restoration by Joe Gertler's Raceway Garage in the Bronx. Fred Pittera's 1st World Motor Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/53.

Fiat 1100 Castagna. Oddball cantilever roof fantasy featuring patented Vistotal windshield, from a classic-era Italian coachbuilder on its very last legs. Venue and date unknown, but wraparound front bumper seen in 1950 Fawcett digest Sports Cars and Hot Rods has gone missing.

Ultra-exclusive exhibit of Brewster Automobiles of Oyster Bay. Car in first picture looks like a 1951 Nash-Healey Panelcraft roadster with no hood scoop, the second shows Pegaso berlinettas and a Plexiglas-enhanced display chassis exposing quad overhead cam alloy V8 with desmodromic valves and dry sump lubrication, 5 speed transaxle, torsion bar suspension and deDion rear end with inboard brakes. Featured car is Pegaso Z102 called Tea Rose for its iridescent yellow paint that 'bloomed' as it grew paler from rocker panel to roof. Although two-thirds of the appoximately 86 cars Pegaso built between 1951 and 1958 were bodied by Touring and Saoutchik, two of these 'cupola' cars were apparently designed and built in-house by the state-owned Spanish truck and bus maker, attempting to invade the super luxury sports cars market with former Alfa Romeo engineer Wilfredo Ricart in charge. This particular $29,000 dream was bought off the stand by Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic and widely known as El Dominicano thereafter. Fred Pittera's 1st World Motor Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/53.

Glamorous 1953 Nash-Healey hardtop by Pininfarina amid humble brethren at a Pennsylvania farmers market with live poultry and antiques. Cropped signage promotes Eckenroth Motors, Inc. at 22nd & Howard in Reading. 9/53.

The Flajole Forerunner was the creation of independent design consultant Bill Flajole, who was lucky enough to have a Nash-Kelvinator VP in attendance for a Detroit area civic group speech at which he proposed a small, economical shopping car for the suburban housewife. Nash soon hired him to develop the NXI, which was received warmly enough at its 1950 Waldorf Astoria unveiling that Nash had Metropolitans in showrooms by March 1954. The Forerunner was a '53 Jaguar XK-120M under the startling fiberglass skin. Since this photo was taken in February 1954 and the car didn't make its official debut until September 1955, adorning the cover of Motor Trend with fender coves and retractable Plexiglas roof, I believe this is the design study, mounted on a '51 XK-120 frame according to Flajole's son Bill Jr. in the November 2010 issue of Octane. I distinctly remember its body propped up against the wall in Dad's studio while its chassis was being used as a frame for a wood and clay mock-up of the Forerunner body. Or maybe not. According to a comment left by Robert D. Cunningham, Geoff Hacker has identified the car as the 1948 Case Special, a "Dream Car Built From Surplus" featured on the cover of Science And Mechanics magazine December 1948. Cunningham goes on to say, The builder, Russell Case, was Musical Director of Popular Music for RCA Victor, based in New York. He built the car in 13 months on a modifield WWII Ford Jeep chassis. The entire aluminum body shell was welded together and hinged at the rear to lift from the front. Case spent over $15,000 building the car, and then sold it sometime later. The Case family recently told Geoff that they have not seen the car since 1951 and its current whereabouts are unknown. Herb Shriner's Third Annual International Motor Sports Show, Seventh Regiment Armory, 2/54.

'25 Rolls Royce Phantom I by Jonckheere. As originally commissioned by Horace Dodge's widow Anna, the car was fitted with cabriolet coachwork by Hooper & Co. of London, coachbuilders to England's Royal Family and numerous crown heads of Europe. When Anna, one of the richest women in the universe at the time, grew bored, the car passed to the Raja of Nanpara and several others before turning up in Belgium in 1932. Extravagantly rebodied by Belgian coach and bus maker Jonckheere around 1934, it was awarded a Prix d'Honneur at the Cannes Concours d’Elegance in August 1936. From there it bounced downhill from owner to owner, eventually ending up in a New York area junkyard from which it was rescued and refurbished as a freak attraction, apocryphal claims attaching themselves like barnacles as the years passed. The monster is now finished in gleaming black and owned by the Petersen Museum. For more information, check out posts by David Greenlees at The Old Motor. Herb Shriner's Third Annual International Motor Sports Show, Seventh Regiment Armory, 2/54.

'54 Cadillac El Camino. Fiberglass body, brushed stainless steel roof, not a Chevy pickup. Venue and date unknown.

'55 Abarth 207A Boano Spider. Fiat 1100 mechanicals in a steel platform chassis with body designed by Giovanni Michelotti. Intended as a series production racer, the too-pretty-for-its-own-good 207A found itself easily outclassed by the featherweight Lotus Mk IX. As a result, only ten or so were built, most of them imported into the United States. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

'53 Ferrari 250 Europa Coupé by Vignale. Enzo Ferrari's first luxury GT, built on a stretched 250MM chassis and powered by a 3 litre V12 Formula One engine designed by Aurelio Lampredi. The rich detailing of this Giovanni Michelotti design is better seen in recent color photos of this very car, which brought $2,805,000 at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction August 2013. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

'55 BMW 502 V8 chassis, with barest glimpses of 502 'Baroque Angel' sedan and 507 roadster. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

'55 Gaylord Gladiator. Jim and Ed Gaylord were car-crazy Chicago brothers whose father had invented the bobby pin. With money to burn, they became local legends for their hopped up Cadillacs and LaSalles, not to mention a Packard massaged by Andy Granatelli. They were also friends of GM engineer Ed Cole, who showed them experimental stuff outsiders weren't even supposed to know about. In 1949, Jim sat down with designer Alex Tremulis, a Ford employee following a chaotic time with Preston Tucker. Gaylord had decided to build the world's finest sports car, on his own chromoly tube chassis with a big American V8 up front, and needed a stylist. Tremulis recommended Brooks Stevens as just the man for a 'modern car with classic overtones'. The result met with less than universal acclaim, although speed and handling were widely praised. This car, with Lucas P100 headlamps instead of duals, is apparently a Hemi-powered prototype built by Spohn, the classic German coachbuilder who survived into the fifties creating outlandish customs on American chassis for US servicemen stationed overseas. Sources state that the Gladiator made its debut at the Paris Salon in October 1955, but this must refer to the Cadillac-powered 'production' car, as this snapshot carries the same film lab batch code as the BMW and Lincoln Futura photos below, from February of that year. More info. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

'55 Citroën 2CV chassis exposing flat-twin engine, torsion bar suspension and front-wheel drive. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

'55 Lincoln Futura built by Ghia to a design by Ford stylist William M. (Bill) Schmidt, converted into the TV Batmobile by George Barris in 1966. Have you ever wondered about the years 2000 or 2050 A.D. - about what kind of car Americans will be needing and using then? Will it be, perhaps, a triple-function vehicle - one capable of traveling on land, on sea and in the air - a combination of amphibian and flying saucer? How will this far-future conveyance be powered? Still by gasoline? Or by a compact, long-life atomic capsule - or an invisible energy radiating from a source in or near the highway? What of the highway of fifty or one hundred years hence? Will it exist as we know it - or in some other form? Or will it be necessary at all - since your Year 2025 Model may not travel on wheels or tires? -  from Styling At Ford Motor Company, 1957. Fred Pittera's Universal Travel and Auto Sports Show, Madison Square Garden, 2/55.

The New York International Auto Show debuted in 1956 at the newly completed New York Coliseum on Columbus Circle. Unfortunately, I don't have anything beyond the sleek, modern lobby and its escalators, with Newsweek placard and Cunningham C-4RK coupe. 4/56.