Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fun with the Continental Mark IV:

Yes, statistically the odds are that many of you are visiting for the first time because of a quote in Automobile Magazine about the Continental Mark IV. I'm not going to post it here, because you've probably already seen it. Instead how about a photo essay of the stunning Continental Mark IV? It's really hard to find a car that more beautifully captures the essence of the 70s than the Continental Mark Series. Successor to the wildly successful Mark II of 1968-71, the Mark IV made its debut for the 1972 model years. In addition to the tall grille, Mark IV also added a stand up hood ornament and opera lamps to the mix.

Rendering of the 1972 Mark IV by renowned Ford stylist Dick Nesbitt

This photo captures the essence of the Mark IV beautifully: 

Bumper regulations kicked in for 1973 and required a front bumper that would withstand a 5 mph impact. Many feel that the massive bumper negatively impacts the styling but sales volumes did not suffer.

The 1974 Mark IV now wears 5-mph safety bumpers front and rear. Also here we see the beginning of special editions- this Silver Luxury Group option began in 1973. A Gold Luxury Group was also offered.
Below is the Gold Luxury Group specification page from the sales brochure:

The new premium body side moldings and polished aluminum wheels really made the 1975 Mark IV into a knockout.  Many Luxury Groups were offered for 1975 including Silver, Lipstick/ White, Saddle/ White, and Blue Diamond. Below is the Lipstick/ White:

And here is the 1975 Mark IV display at the Chicago Auto Show:

1976 was the final year for the Mark IV, but instead of resting on its laurels, it reached new heights with expanded Luxury Groups and the new Designers Series. Four top fashion designers of the day created their own special Mark IV editions:

Clockwise from left, we have the Pucci Mark IV in vintage burgundy and silver. The Givenchy in turquoise and white, the elegant Bill Blass in Navy and cream, and the Cartier in monochromatic dove gray. The Designer Series was a huge success for Lincoln both artistically and econonically- they commanded a premium of about a thousand dollars over a comparable but unlabeled Mark IV. Descriptions are below:

 There were a plethora of Luxury Groups for 1976- Blue Diamond, Saddle/ White, Lipstick/ White, Red/ Rose', Jade/ White, the midyear Black Diamond and Desert Sand, and the Gold/ Cream shown above. Below is the Gold/Cream interior and coordinating exterior choices:

 Above is the elegant Cartier Edition. It came standard with the swanky Versailles interior in dove gray velour, but a Luxury Group gray leather interior could be selected for credit. The Versailles interior option was exceedingly plush:

And as exciting as the 1976 models were, for 1977 we had an all new Mark V to look forward to. Would it disappoint? That'll be a story for another day. But the 1976 Mark IV was a pretty tough act to follow.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cadillac ELR- High (Voltage) Roller:

 By Jeff Stork

It wasn’t by some random act that Cadillac invited us to drive the new ELR coupe in Palm Springs, California- the desert playground renowned for high style and mid-century design was chosen deliberately to serve as a backdrop for the new line of Cadillacs, and the ELR in particular.

We started with immersing ourselves in architecture. The tour included several notable desert landmarks, including a restored Butterfly house by Palmer and Krisel, Donald Wexler’s own desert home, the Edris house and Frank Sinatra’s “Twin Palms” Estate, both by E. Stewart Williams, and dined at William Cody’s Southridge hillside home. There were several schools of modernism at play- from a house that seemed to ride from the rocky hillside to post and beam examples that floated in the air. New Cadillacs were parked discreetly at the various locations and indeed looked appropriate in their surroundings.

Thus versed in timeless design, our attention turned to the car. ELR is equal parts technology and high style. Based on the Converj concept car, tt’s Cadillac’s first extended range electric offering, with both an electric motor and a backup gasoline generator. It’s good for about 35 miles of pure electric driving, and then the generator comes and adds about another 300. It’s the same drivetrain as the Chevy Volt, but the ELR is much more than a Volt.

The ELR is both longer and wider than the Volt, and has completely unique two-door coachwork that shares no body panels with any other GM offering. Inside, there’s a highly luxurious interior with a high degree of hand stitching, and an equally high degree of standard equipment including Navigation, Bose 10-speaker audio, Cadillac’s CUE interface, and multiple computer assists from lane departure to front and rear park assist and forward collision alert.  Indeed the interior almost seems too luxurious, with cut-and-sewn dashpad and doors, chrome and woodgrain accents, and sixteen way power leather seats. It’s beautifully tailored indeed, and there are few options- adaptive cruise control, and a Luxury package with different wheels, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert are among the short list of options.   

Cadillac still refers to its design theme as “Art and Science,” but they’ve evolved well beyond the angry kitchen appliance look of the original CTS. The language now is more a blend of soft shapes and sharp details, and the ELR has a lot in common with the 1967 Eldorado. It’s not an inappropriate comparison at all really- with both being personal luxury offerings acting as halo entries and both aimed at the top of the price ladder and intended to sell in small numbers. The ‘67 Eldorado was about 60s style and power, while the ELR blends contemporary style with extended range electric car technology and a high degree of luxury.

We all climbed into a fleet of ELRs and drove up winding highway 74 to the mountain village of Idyllwild. It’s a winding two-lane road, and a great opportunity to experience the ELR’s active suspension and regenerative braking paddles. Again, another reminder that ELR is not just a Volt with a crest- the ride and handling were on a par with the finest European coupes- and the cabin was so quiet I admit I didn’t notice when the generator took over. 

On way down, I caught a ride with the ELR’s Marketing Product Manager who was able to demonstrate the car’s capabilities on the winding downhill road. All of that time the Cadillac chassis engineers have been spending on the Nurburgring has paid off- the ELR’s chassis showed amazing poise and happily went wherever it was pointed. He also demonstrated how the regen paddles are perfect for this type of mountain descent. I arrived back in down in the desert basin slightly white-knuckled but highly impressed with the chassis.

We also had an opportunity to talk about price positioning on the drive back. The base price of $75,000 is far from inexpensive, but it is a unique offering and was always planned to sell in limited numbers, so the decision was made to offer ELR one way- full boat- with only a couple of options, as opposed to a car like the Tesla which has a base price in the low sixties but pushes six figures fully loaded. Instead, Cadillac is going for a limited production halo offering with high-glam and a high price- along the lines of the 1953 Eldorado or the recent XLR roadster. Incidentally, they expect a majority of the cars to be leased, which is consistent with offerings in the luxury segment. While I’m not going to debate the price point, I will say that I found it extremely compelling and definitely one to consider if you’re in the market for a luxury coupe with a sense of style.

Photo Credits: Richard Prince/Cadillac and Jeff Stork

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Casa de Cadillac from 1949 to 1966

by Jeff Stork

 I had a whole reel of historic photos of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks, CA that were taken between 1949 and 1966 when it was owned by Martin Pollard. He also owned the Casa de Cascade Car Wash and the Casa de Petrol gas station.

Amnazingly, all of the buildings are still standing although no longer under a single owner, the gas station is now a flower shop and Casa de Cadillac, still in business, has been restored in a respectful manner. Enjoy:

Friday, February 21, 2014


I'll keep the commentary to a minimum here and let the images paint the picture- this is the announcement brochure for the mid-year 1961 Oldsmobile Starfire. Excitement- glamour- romance- what else could one possibly need in a car?

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Silver Arrow Memos- Part III- For Clarity

By Jeff Stork

Last week we looked at a very ambitious Oct, 15, 1962 memo outlining phases II, III and IV for Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrow Riviera (XP-810 and SO #40210.) The memo called for replacing the engine and transmission (Phase II), significant exterior detail changes and a fully retrimmed interior (Phase III) and even more changes down the road with the addition of high mounted stop lamps, a redesigned cowl vent, wooden steering wheel, and the addition of a tachometer into the instrument panel (Phase IV.)

This weeks memo is dated Oct. 31, 1962, and basically restates the contents of the Oct. 15 memo with a few changes. This time, Buick Chief designer Dave Holls is being asked to coordinate the replacement of the engine and transmission (Phase II),  a full size drawing of the new interior has been released from the Buick Interior Studio for the new interior, the Mouton has arrived for the carpeting, and the design for the seats has been revised (Phase III.)

Instead of reusing seats from a Skylark prototype car, they now plan to install cast aluminum prototype seats that are being considered for the 1964 Riviera. They are no doubt included in the styling drawing being released. The desire is that Phases II and II are to be completed by November 15, 1962, and Phase IV by early December, so there's a lot of work to do in the Styling garage before Santa comes. The document is signed once more by Bud Schenk of Program Planning.

So this document seem to be one of clarification. It is reported that Mr. Mitchell liked being in the know. As we have said before, it is good to be King.

Once again here are the memos for your perusal:

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Silver Arrow Memos- Part II- Phases II through IV

By Jeff Stork

In the second part of our Silver Arrow Memos, we have a very inclusive document that was written to Mr. W. L. Mitchell on October 15, 1962. By now we have gotten through Phase I and the 1963 Buick new car announcement, and it is presumed that all went well but it is worth noting that we have a new author for this document, Mr. E. C. Campbell.

 This memo outlines the steps for phases II through IV of the continuing development of XP-810, and is written to the fine standard and dignified tone of the last one. Honestly, I can imagine Audrey Hepburn reading them in her "Sabrina" voice.

 Phase II-Completion Desired as soon as possible: 

 "The car is to be picked up on or about Monday, Oct. 22 for return to the Division. The engine is to be replaced and the car returned to Styling."

Phase III- Completion Desired in Early November

"The following is being worked on now in the design, engineering, and fabrication departments and is to be completed as soon as possible in early November for evaluation before the car is returned to the shops for fabrication of the longer term items found in Phase IV.  "

I'm going to paraphrase here for the sake of brevity, but the memo describes the following changes in exquisite detail for Phase III- removal of the shields behind the headlamp covers, removal of sail panel chrome molding, refined trim for the quarter panel scoops, new rocker panel and lower rear fender moldings as per Riviera S. O. 40193 (Board of Directors Presentation Car), removal of the B U I C K lettering from the rear deck lid and creation of a Riviera script badge to replace them, and the design, engineering and installation of special low profile exterior remote controlled mirrors that will involve the coordination of Buick Exterior, Buick Interior, and Engineering.

There's plenty in store for the interior as well, starting with removing the Astra Buick Seats from a Skylark show car, S. O. 40224, retrimming them, and fitting them to this car. Along the way,  there are plans to chrome plate the windshield pillars and window garnish moldings, repaint the dash and console, fit new metal trim to the dash, create a new Riviera nameplate for the glove box door and create a wooden shift knob.

Oh, and retrim the entire interior. Seats of silver leather, new door panels, kick panels, carpeting, headliner, package shelf, and trunk. On a three month old car. And this is still Phase III- all this is being done while Phase IV is being developed.  Have you gotten the impression yet that all of GM Styling existed to please Mr. Mitchell? Of course, XP-810 was a rolling laboratory and the innovation could benefit future GM cars, but people certainly tried very hard to please Mr. Mitchell.

Phase IV- Desired by Early December.


  1. Panic stop lights are to be built into the tulip panel. This will require reworking of the backlight lower reveal molding.
  2. A new cowl vent grille, with air scoops, is to be installed. 
  1. A new wooden steering wheel and a new adjustable steering column are required. The wheel will be made new. The steering column is to be reworked from a 1963 production tilting column. A telescopic feature is to be added for fore and aft adjustment.
  2. The instrument panel cluster is to be revised to permit the addition of a tachometer. The requirements for the mechanical tachometer drive system are to be coordinated by the Interior Engineering and Mechanical Assembly Departments.
  3. An AM/FM radio is to be installed. A speaker is to be installed on the instrument panel. 
All design work will be done by the Buick Interior and Exterior Studios, and all development and engineering will be done by the Interior and Exterior Engineering Departments.

E. C Campbell
Program Planning

Below you will see the original memo along with period photography of the XP-810 Silver Arrow. And yes, there's much more to come

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Silver Arrow Memos- Part I

First Silver Arrow Memo- July 11, 1962

By Jeff Stork 

No Rivieras are more famous than Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrows. Created ostensibly as show cars but in reality intended for his personal use, the Arrows are a mixture of dream car, rolling laboratory, and ultimate corporate perk. We've spoken before of Mitchell and how it is "Good to be King."

Now in a series of original GM documents, we can watch the evolution of the original Silver Arrow as it evolves into its current form via a series of Styling Staff memoranda that track the progress of each phase of the car's modifications until they arrived at the car which resides today at the Buick Gallery in Flint.  They span a period of time from Summer 1962 until almost 1965.

The memos are really more letters of understanding, on impressively logoed GM Styling Staff letterhead (how cool is that) are written to Mr. W. L. Mitchell and concern the design and construction of one 1963 Buick "E" Riviera Production Car, Special Order # 40210. The early ones are written by E.G. "Bud" Schenk, head of Program Planning. and carbon copied to everyone involved, even if only tangentially.

Schenk was the one responsible for supervising the construction of the car, coordinating all of the activities between the various styling studios and all of the tradesmen, the division staff and above all keeping Bill Mitchell in the loop. The Special Order Number (#40210) was used to keep track of all the expenses incurred on the car for the accounting department. The prototype number was XP-810 and would be how design staff would refer to it. The world would know it as Silver Arrow I.

Silver Arrow I outside the GM Styling Building

This earliest memo is dated July 11, 1962, and outlines the first round of changes to be made to the car. It's obvious that Schenk chose the language very carefully and the memo is worth reading.

"Mr. Mitchell has requested the Buick Exterior to undertake the design and study involved in making new concealed headlamps, radiator grille, and extending of front end sheet metal as an experimental proposal on a 1963 Buick 'E" Riviera Coupe production car. Present plans call for the completion of these changes on the subject  car so that it may be available to be driven on Buick's 1963 Car Announcement Date Thursday, October 4.

In general, the required changes are as follows as of this date-

  1. New Concealed rotating headlamp grilles on the front fenders. Plans are to study the using of 7" diameter seal beam lamps. These units must be operable and applicable to a road car.

  2. Radiator grille to be installed per design as proposed and released by the Buick Exterior Studio.

  3. Revisions to front end sheet metal consisting of extending the hood surface and of possible fromt fender changes.  

  4. Modeling of surface changes will be some in the Exterior Studio and information expedited so that engineering drawings can be released to permit the pre-fabrication of parts and components prior to the arrival of the car.

    It is anticipated that the car will be delivered to Styling in the early part of September."

    E. G. Schenk
    Program Planning

    In a word, wow. Buick Styling studio modeling, engineering drawings being completed, parts to be pre-fabricated prior to the first week of September so that someone very important can drive this special car on Buick's New Car Announcement Day. And as far as who the special someone was, one need look only to whom the memo was addressed - Mr. W. L. Mitchell.

    As I said, it's Good to be King.