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Friday, June 7, 2024

Reviving the Icon: The Unique 1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept

Hidden GEMS 💣 - In the vibrant landscape of 1960s automobile design, the allure of Italian aesthetics captured the imagination of many, including American car manufacturers. Among them, Ford took a distinctive approach by infusing Italian design sensibilities into one of their classic models. The result was the Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept Car, a masterpiece that embodied the elegance and innovation of its era.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept Car heavily inspired by Italian design and done by its own team. (Picture from: TradeUniqueCars)
Ford's ambition to blend Italian flair with American ingenuity led to the creation of the Thunderbird 'Italien.' The initial design phase was driven by the Thunderbird styling department, where designers meticulously crafted a clay model over a plywood buck. This hands-on approach allowed for a seamless translation of the concept's vision into a tangible vehicle. To bring this vision to life, Ford collaborated with DTS, a contractor known for constructing many of the era's concept cars.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept Car appeared with a unique fastback roof and made of fiberglass and then chrome plated. (Picture from: TradeUniqueCars)
The 1963 Thunderbird 'Italien' emerged as a stunning representation of cross-cultural design. Its sleek fastback roof, a hallmark of Italian influence, was harmoniously integrated with the robust American framework. The car boasted the revered 390FE V8 engine, equipped with the unique M code T-Bird tri-power carburetor setup, blending performance with elegance.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept Car beautified with an interior that is entirely covered with red genuine-leather to matches the exterior appearance which is painted in the same color. (Picture from: TradeUniqueCars)
Despite its initial fate as a show car destined for scrapping, the Thunderbird 'Italien' found a savior in actor Dale Robertson. Robertson, enamored by its design, acquired the vehicle and soon passed it on to his gardener, William Warner. Warner cherished the car for several years before selling it to Joe Navaro, an insurance salesman, in 1974. Navaro repainted it metallic blue and used it as his daily driver, adding to its storied history.

The car's next chapter began when Ford collector Don Chambers recognized its rarity and historical significance. After years of persistence, Chambers acquired the vehicle in 1989. By then, the car had suffered from exposure to the elements, requiring significant restoration. In 2005, Chambers, facing health issues, sold the car, setting the stage for its ultimate revival.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien Concept Car' featured the 390FE V8 with the unique M code T-Bird tri-power carburetor setup. (Picture from: TradeUniqueCars)
Enter Tom Maruska, a renowned specialist in restoring 'Bullet Birds' and rare concept cars, brought a wealth of expertise and passion for automotive history to the Thunderbird 'Italien.' Known for his meticulous craftsmanship, Maruska had already restored the Mercury XM-800 concept and was working on the Mercury Turnpike concept at the time. In February 2006, he traveled from Duluth, Minnesota, to Los Angeles, where he struck a deal to bring the car back to his shop.

The restoration process was a testament to Maruska's dedication. Despite the car being largely intact and rust-free, it had layers of wear that needed addressing. One of the most challenging aspects was recreating a missing piece of fiberglass molding. When an LA shop owner demanded an exorbitant price for the original part, Maruska chose to handcraft a new piece from metal, demonstrating his commitment to authenticity.
1963 Ford Thunderbird 'Italien' Concept Car had 72 coats of paint that required six applications of aircraft stripper to get down to the metal and fiberglass; all trim was restored. (Picture from: TradeUniqueCars)
Maruska's restoration efforts were exhaustive. The car's paint required multiple applications of aircraft stripper to reach the original metal and fiberglass. He painstakingly restored each trim piece and reupholstered the interior by hand. The Plexiglass windows, integral to the car's distinctive look, were restored by a specialist, ensuring that every detail was as close to the original as possible.

Today, the Thunderbird 'Italien' stands as a beautiful testament to the fusion of American engineering and Italian design. Its journey from a concept car to a cherished collector's item highlights the passion and dedication of those who recognized its unique value. The restoration by Tom Maruska not only preserved a piece of automotive history but also celebrated the ingenuity and creativity that defined an era.
As the Thunderbird 'Italien' continues to capture the hearts of car enthusiasts, it serves as a reminder of the timeless appeal of innovative design and the enduring legacy of those who strive to preserve it. The story of this remarkable car is a fitting tribute to a bygone era, where the blend of cultural influences created something truly extraordinary. *** [EKA [14052020] | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MECUM | TRADEUNIQUECARS ]
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Ferrari's First Wedge-Shaped Concept Car: A Bold Leap in Design

ONE-OFF - Ferrari, the iconic supercar manufacturer, embodies everything quintessential about Italian sports cars: passion, emotion, beauty, and speed. Renowned for its history of both road and racing cars, Ferrari has introduced countless stunning models over the years. However, not all models made it to the production line, with many remaining as tantalizing concept cars.
1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale concept car whose entire development work was done by Pininfarina and launched for the first time at the Turin Motor Show 1969. (Picture from: Pinterest)
Concept cars often remain just that—concepts. Occasionally, they inspire production vehicles that capture the imagination even more beautifully. Sometimes, special designers take the liberty to create new Ferraris that, unfortunately, remain within the realms of their imagination.

One such concept is the Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale, a project developed entirely by Pininfarina and unveiled at the 1969 Turin Motor Show. This visionary concept was the brainchild of Filippo Sapino, a design director at Ghia for three decades. His most striking work during his brief tenure at Pininfarina in the late 1960s was undoubtedly this Ferrari concept car.
Uniquely, not an ordinary door system but a canopy flip-up is used to access the cabin of 1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale concept car. (Picture from: Pinterest)
The 512S Berlinetta Speciale was the first Ferrari concept car to employ a wedge-shaped design, setting a trend in car design that would define the 1970s. The name '512S' might be misleading, as the car did not feature a 5.0-liter V12 under its rear clamshell grille. Instead, it was based on the 312P, although it did not carry the 3.0-liter 12-cylinder engine, but rather a 6.0-liter engine from the 612 Can-Am. Unfortunately, this concept car was not drivable since the engine block lacked internal components. Perhaps one day, a complete engine might bring this stunning vehicle to life on the streets.
1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale concept car's interior view with right-hand steering wheel and 5-speed manual transmission. (Picture from: Facebook)
Despite not being a functional vehicle, Sapino made the most of the chassis' floor-hugging physique, incorporating unorthodox surface treatments to give the car a visually dynamic, almost supersonic appearance. A unique feature of this concept car is its canopy flip-up system, allowing access to the cabin—an innovative design element later used in another 512S concept, the 1970 Ferrari 512S Modulo designed by Paulo Martin.
1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale concept car features a mid-mounted 6.0-liter V12 engine from a 612 Can-Am racer. (Picture from: Carstyling.ru)
The design of the 512S Berlinetta Speciale significantly diverged from previous Pininfarina models, such as the Ferrari 250 P5 Berlinetta Speciale designed by Leonardo Fioravanti in 1968. While only one example of the 512S Berlinetta Speciale was made, its impact on Ferrari's design philosophy was profound.

The angular design of the 512S Berlinetta Speciale marked a departure from Ferrari's earlier, more curvaceous styles. This concept set the stage for future models like the 365 GTC/4 and the Berlinetta Boxers, both also designed by Sapino. Ferrari's bold experimentation with design during this era highlights the company's commitment to innovation and pushing the boundaries of automotive aesthetics.
Ferrari continues to be a symbol of innovation, constantly evolving while staying true to its core values of passion, performance, and beauty. The 512S Berlinetta Speciale remains a testament to Ferrari's willingness to explore new horizons and redefine the limits of car design. As the brand looks to the future, it is these daring concepts that remind us of the endless possibilities in the world of automotive excellence. *** [EKA [17082020] | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | CLASSICDRIVER.COM | CARSTYLING.RU ]
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Thursday, June 6, 2024

The Legendary Oldsmobile Golden Rocket: Design and Innovation

Unique ONES - The 1950s marked an iconic era brimming with distinctive design elements that remain recognizable even today. This decade saw fashion, automobiles, and other facets of daily life heavily influenced by technological advancements. One exemplary product of this era was the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, a car that embodied the futuristic vision of the 1950s. Its design, both radical and mesmerizing, continues to astonish enthusiasts even after more than half a century.
The Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, a car that embodied the futuristic vision of the 1950s. (Picture from: ViaRetro)
Introduced at the GM Motorama in 1956, the Golden Rocket captured imaginations with its extraordinary design. This vehicle looked like a blend between a jet aircraft and the whimsical spaceships from the Jetsons. Its rear bumper was reminiscent of rockets, and the futuristic aesthetic extended along the sides and into the bullet-shaped, high-set headlights. 
1956 Pontiac Club de Mer (front) sat along with the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket at the 1956 GM Motorama. (Picture from: CarDesignNews)
Interestingly, these weren’t functional headlights but chromed covers, a liberty often taken with concept cars. While most images of this show car are in black and white, its fiberglass body was originally painted in a dazzling bronze metallic, emphasizing the glitzy, forward-looking design of the time.
The Oldsmobile Golden Rocket looked like a blend between a jet aircraft and the whimsical spaceships from the Jetsons. (Picture from: ViaRetro)
The interior of the Golden Rocket was equally extravagant. It featured blue and gold leather, creating a striking two-seater cabin. A large speedometer was centrally positioned within the steering wheel, which boasted a unique button-controlled tilt mechanism for easier access. This innovation was ahead of its time and reflected the era's fascination with combining convenience and futuristic design.
The Oldsmobile Golden Rocket boasts a supersonic sleekness that excites the most spirited imagination, adorned with an ultra-low posture and dramatic power, featuring breathtaking new ideas throughout. (Picture from: ViaRetro)
Opening the doors of the Golden Rocket was an experience in itself. The doors were designed with two components: the main door and an automatic roof panel that rose upon opening. This feature was reminiscent of gull-wing doors, further facilitating cabin access. Additionally, the seats would rise three inches and swivel 45 degrees, ensuring that entering the car was as effortless as possible, embodying the futuristic ideals of comfort and ease.
The interior of the Golden Rocket was equally extravagant, featured a large speedometer was centrally positioned within the steering wheel. (Picture from: ViaRetro)
Underneath its spectacular exterior, the Golden Rocket was powered by an enhanced 324 cu. in. V8 engine, delivering an impressive 275 horsepower. This power was transmitted through a standard GM automatic gearbox to a conventional rear-wheel-drive system
Its rear bumper was reminiscent of rockets, and the futuristic aesthetic extended along the sides and into the bullet-shaped, high-set headlights. (Picture from: ViaRetro)
Despite its advanced features, the Golden Rocket remained grounded in reliable automotive technology of the time. Even though this car was once changed to blue, unfortunately, it has not survived to this day. It is very likely that it was destroyed after it retired from service, like most show cars of that time.
The 1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, in its blue color, is pictured alongside Design Chief William Mitchell (on the right) at the General Motors Design Center in Warren, Michigan. (Picture from: Carstyling.ru)
The Golden Rocket was conceived purely as a concept car, a vision of what the future of automotive design could hold. It traveled around the world, showcased at various exhibitions, and served as a gleaming example of innovation. Its journeys across exhibitions allowed people to glimpse what could be possible, stirring excitement and dreams of a dazzling automotive future.
The story of the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket is a fascinating chapter in the history of car design. It represents a time when creativity and technological optimism knew no bounds. Though it never went into production, its legacy lives on as a symbol of innovation and the adventurous spirit of the 1950s. As we look back, the Golden Rocket continues to inspire with its blend of futuristic design and imaginative engineering, a testament to the era's unbridled enthusiasm for the possibilities of tomorrow. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | VIARETRO | CONCEPTCARZ | MOTOR1 | CARDESIGNNEWS | CARSTYLING.RU ]
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Bianco Tarpan: The Exotic Brazilian Car that Turned Heads

Forgotten ONES - Among the numerous models produced by Bianco Indústria e Comércio de Veículos Ltda., the Bianco Tarpan stands out as one of the most celebrated. Known for its exotic design and advanced mechanics, it made a significant impact in the Brazilian automotive industry. The Bianco Tarpan, alongside the Bianco S 'Furia,' showcased the company's innovation and engineering prowess during a time when the national market was heavily influenced by a ban on imports.
The Bianco Tarpan featured significant design changes, such as simplified headlights and a more modern bumper, setting it apart from its predecessor, the Bianco S.. (Picture from: LexiCarBrasil)
The Bianco Tarpan made its debut at the 11th São Paulo Motor Show in November 1978. This event highlighted the growth of Brazil's off-production vehicle industry. Other notable cars at the show included the Puma GTB S2, L’Automobile Ventura, Corona Dardo, and Adamo GTL. Despite the competition, the Tarpan drew significant attention due to its unique design and mechanical advancements.
The Bianco Tarpan's streamlined design was inspired by the Jaguar XJ13 and Ferrari 330 P4. (Picture from: LexiCarBrasil)
Bianco Indústria e Comércio de Veículos Ltda. was founded by Toni Bianco in 1973. The company's first major success came with the Bianco S, introduced in 1976. This sports car featured a fiberglass body and was based on the Fúria, a prototype with a strong racing pedigree in Brazil. When Toni Bianco left the company in 1977, it did not stall the development of the Tarpan. This new model was slightly wider and taller than its predecessor, the Bianco S, and featured significant design changes, such as simplified headlights and a more modern bumper design.
The Bianco Tarpan offered good dynamic behavior due to its well-distributed mass and wide 13-inch wheels with 205/70 tires, which helped lower the center of gravity and improve stability. (Picture from: Retroauto)
The front bumper of the Tarpan was styled to resemble the retractable bumpers popular in the North American market, though it lacked the impact absorption capabilities. The rear bumper design was less cohesive, giving the car a somewhat cluttered appearance. Despite these stylistic quirks, the Tarpan's performance specs generated excitement. It was equipped with a water-cooled 1.6-liter VW Passat TS engine, producing 96 hp at 6,100 rpm, which impressed attendees at the motor show and led to numerous orders.
The Bianco Tarpan's cabin was adorned with a leather-covered dashboard and steering wheel. (Picture from: Quatrorodas.Abril.com.br)
Initially, the Tarpan was still in the prototype stage, with several issues needing resolution before full production. To meet customer demand, the first units were equipped with the air-cooled VW engine from the Bianco S. To enhance performance, Bianco engineers developed two engine options: a 1.6-liter engine with dual Solex 40 carburetors and a 1.8-liter engine with specially prepared cylinder heads for high performance.
The Bianco Tarpan was propelled by a water-cooled 1.6-liter VW Passat TS engine, producing 96 hp at 6,100 rpm. (Picture from: Quatrorodas.Abril.com.br)
Despite its outdated suspension, the Tarpan offered good dynamic behavior due to its well-distributed mass and wide 13-inch wheels with 205/70 tires. However, the car's balance underscored the need for a more powerful engine. The Tarpan used the chassis of the Volkswagen Brasilia, improving internal space compared to the Bianco S, which was built on the VW Fuscão 1500 platform. Ergonomics saw significant improvements, although the quality of materials used in the interior was downgraded, with seats changing from leather to fabric and the steering wheel rim no longer made of wood.
The very rare Bianco Tarpan convertible is a standout in this extensive São Paulo collection of unique Brazilian national cars. (Picture from: LexiCarBrasil)
In 1980, the company rebranded as Tarpan Indústria e Comércio de Fiberglass Ltda., and the following year introduced the Tarpan TS. This model featured the Passat TS engine and gearbox in a central-rear position and utilized a custom chassis with steel sheets forming a double 'Y' structure. The Tarpan TS boasted improved dynamic balance with McPherson strut suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. The finishing quality was notably enhanced, with redesigned pedals, lower seats, new seat belt mounting points, and the return of the wooden-rim steering wheel.
The Bianco Tarpan's rear lid bump disrupted the Bianco S's original harmony, while the air-cooled VW engine lacked dynamic balance. (Picture from: LexiCarBrasil)
The Tarpan TS also offered exclusive options such as air conditioning and a turbocharger. Despite these advancements, the Tarpan could not survive the economic recession that hit Brazil in the early 1980s. Production ceased in 1983, but the few units made have become highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, cementing the Tarpan's legacy in Brazilian automotive history. | liMxBi3d1Ro |
Reflecting on the journey of the Bianco Tarpan, it's clear that this model encapsulated the spirit of innovation and resilience. Its unique design, coupled with mechanical advancements, made it a standout in its era. Even though the economic downturn halted its production, the Tarpan's legacy endures, appreciated by those who recognize its contribution to automotive history. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | QUATRORODAS.ABRIL.COM.BR | DYLER | LEXICARBRASIL | RETROAUTO ]
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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Skytop Concept by BMW: Futuristic Elegance Redefining Beauty in Bimmers

Wait & See - BMW enthusiasts and car aficionados are in for a treat as BMW prepares to unveil its latest creation, the Skytop Concept, at the prestigious 2024 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este. This two-seater sportscar, designed without a roof, is poised to captivate with its blend of heritage and innovation, drawing inspiration from iconic BMW models of yesteryears like the Z8 and the 503.
The BMW Skytop Concept, a two-seater sports car with no roof, captivates with its blend of heritage and innovation, inspired by iconic models like the Z8 and 503. (Picture from: Mobilku)
Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW Group Design, describes the Skytop Concept as a fusion of driving dynamics and elegance reminiscent of its legendary predecessors. The design cues borrowed from the Z8 roadster are unmistakable, with sleek taillights and a distinctive sharknose front end paying homage to the early 2000s classic. Meanwhile, elements inspired by the 503, such as the sculpted hood and unique rear design, add a touch of vintage charm to this modern marvel.
The BMW Skytop Concept fuses driving dynamics and elegance with design cues from the Z8 roadster, including a distinctive sharknose front end. (Picture from: TopGear)
One of the standout features of the Skytop Concept is its futuristic yet refined exterior. The absence of sharp lines lends it a clean and sophisticated look, accentuated by a copper tone finish reminiscent of BMW's Individual colors. This captivating blend of classic influence and contemporary design is set to make waves at the upcoming "Festival of Beauty" on Lake Como.
The BMW Skytop Concept reveals a luxurious interior reminiscent of the 8 Series, adorned with opulent red leather upholstery and exquisite detailing. (Picture from: TopGear)
While the unveiling of the Skytop Concept is a spectacle in itself, the question remains whether this conceptual masterpiece will transition into a production vehicle, akin to the BMW 3.0 CSL, or remain a tantalizing dream car like its predecessor, the BMW Z4 Touring Coupe. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly provides a glimpse into the future design ethos of BMW.
Several elements of the BMW Skytop Concept, inspired by the 503—such as the sculpted hood, unique rear design, and sleek taillights—add vintage charm to this modern marvel. (Picture from: TopGear)
Stepping inside the Skytop Concept reveals a luxurious interior reminiscent of the 8 Series, adorned with opulent red leather upholstery and exquisite detailing. The seamless integration of design elements, from the matte red finish of the floating support to the rose gold accents, underscores BMW's commitment to craftsmanship and innovation. | OxX3ibz63Ag |
As anticipation builds for the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este classic car show, where the Skytop Concept will share the spotlight with the M Hybrid Art Car, BMW's chief designer Domagoj Dukec leaves enthusiasts with a tantalizing message: "The sky is the limit. Stay tuned." With such a captivating blend of heritage, innovation, and style, the BMW Skytop Concept is poised to leave an indelible mark on automotive enthusiasts worldwide. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | BMW | CARANDDRIVER | MOTOR1 | CARSCOOPS | MOTORAUTHORITY | TOPGEAR ]
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Lost Legends: The Vanished Comet Super Cyclone

⛔ Lost GEMS 💣 - The 1950s and 1960s were a golden era for automotive design, producing show cars that left lasting impressions on all who encountered them. These vehicles boasted futuristic designs and advanced features, captivating the imaginations of many. Unfortunately, many of these remarkable machines have since disappeared, either destroyed after their show life or tucked away in private collections of passionate automotive enthusiasts.
The 1964 Mercury Comet Super Cyclone fastback concept conceived by Ford's advanced stylist David L. Ash and his team, was brought to life by Dearborn Steel Tubing (DST). (Picture from: MacMotorCityGarage)
Among these iconic show cars was the Comet Super Cyclone, Mercury's daring fastback from 1964. This vehicle, while never intended for mass production, sparks the curiosity of what might have been. Conceived by Ford's advanced stylist David L. Ash and his team, the Super Cyclone was brought to life by Dearborn Steel Tubing (DST), a local contractor famed for crafting other exotic projects like the Fairlane Thunderbolts and the Thunderbird Italien concept.
The Mercury Comet Super Cyclone fastback concept made the first public appearance at the Chicago Auto Show 1964. (Picture from: CarStyling.ru)
The creation of the Super Cyclone began with Vince Gardner and Paul Shedlik, notable designers working with DST. They took a standard 1964 Comet Cyclone hardtop, powered by a 289 CID V8 engine and a Borg-Warner four-speed transmission, then transformed it. After stripping and away much of the factory sheet metal from the A-pillars back, they crafted a new fiberglass exterior. This redesign featured radiused rear wheel openings, a sharply sloped roofline, and a large wraparound rear window.
Interestingly, the rear window bore a striking resemblance to the 1964 Plymouth Barracuda’s backlight, though this was likely a coincidence. The Super Cyclone also showcased several custom features: an entirely white Naugahyde interior, Astro custom wheels with bolt-on knockoffs, and teardrop racing mirrors. Its front end boasted a bespoke grille with fine vertical teeth and French Cibie headlights, which, despite their popularity on the custom car scene, were not street-legal in the U.S.
The 1964 Mercury Comet Super Cyclone fastback concept equipped with a 289 CID V8 and a Borg-Warner four-speed gearbox. (Picture from: MacMotorCityGarage)
The Super Cyclone debuted publicly at the Chicago Auto Show on February 8-15, 1964, likely causing quite a stir among the Plymouth representatives present. It also made regular appearances in the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Stars, a touring exhibition of hot rods, and graced the cover of Rod & Custom magazine's April 1964 issue alongside Ed Roth’s Road Agent.
The Mercury Comet Super Cyclone fastback concept appeared as the cover of Rod & Custom magazine's April 1964 issue alongside Ed Roth’s Road Agent.. (Picture from: CarStyling.ru)
Despite its initial fame, the Super Cyclone has not been seen in decades. It is assumed to have been destroyed after its show career ended, a common fate for many concept cars of the era. This disappearance only adds to the mystique and allure of the Super Cyclone, cementing its place in automotive history as a tantalizing "what if" from the past.😢😢
The Mercury Comet Super Cyclone fastback concept assume is destroyed once its show career was over. (Picture from: MacMotorCityGarage)
The legacy of the Comet Super Cyclone, like many show cars from its time, lies in the innovative spirit it represented. These vehicles pushed the boundaries of design and engineering, capturing the imaginations of car enthusiasts everywhere. While they may no longer be physically present, their influence persists, inspiring new generations of designers and car lovers to dream big and innovate boldly. The stories and memories of these cars continue to fuel our fascination with the automotive world, reminding us of an era when anything seemed possible on four wheels. *** [EKA [02092020] | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MACSMOTORCITYGARAGE | CARSTYLING.RU | STORY-CARS | THELYNXPROJECT.ORG | ]
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