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Remembering the Rotunda

Remembering the Rotunda
When car manufacturers and the world of theme parks and entertainment collide, you can get some strange things. We told you about FerrariLand before, where overindulged people can make a ride in a plastic Ferrari 250 California Spider lookalikish bumpercar (no joke). But did you know of the Ford Rotunda? This was the project of a young Edsel Ford, which - for a change - became a grand success. The Ford Rotunda was a showroom-turned-theme park, with things to see and do for the whole family.

Originally Ford's Rotunda was located in South Side Chicago, Illinois, but later it was relocated to Dearborn, Michigan on a site directly across from the Ford Motor Company Central Office Building. At one point it became ‘the fifth most popular tourist destination in the United States in the mid-twentieth century’. In the 1950s this attraction saw more visitors than the Statue of Liberty, totalling 40 million. Yep, to come and see Ford cars. Ford made glitzy new model introductions, and used it as a backdrop to photograph its latest offerings. The Rotunda saw the introductions of the Lincoln Continental, Ford Thunderbird and of course the Edsel (above).

Highlight of the year (in visitor numbers, at least) was the annual Christmas Fantasy show held during the season's Holidays, which drew nearly half a million people to Dearborn each year. But this show also spelled the end for the Rotunda. While working on the 1962 Christmas Fantasy display on 9 November 1962 (yep, folks, that’s 55 years ago today), an employee inside noticed smoke and flames from the roof. Roof repairmen were weatherproofing the dome panels with a transparent waterproof sealer that was being heated to make it easier to spray. But when the highly flammable vapours ignited from a propane heater, within minutes the entire roof structure was on fire. The roof of the impressive building collapsed before the firemen arrived and in less than an hour, the Rotunda burned to the ground and only the foundation remained...

(Words editor, pictures FoMoCo)

 

Thursday, 09 November 2017

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It’s the inside that counts

It’s the inside that counts
It was a discovery made by pure coincidence: the X-ray to make the invisible visible that was first discovered on this day in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Röntgen was testing if cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. He dubbed the rays that caused this glow X-rays because of their unknown nature as he found that they penetrate human flesh while they do not penetrate higher-density substances such as bone and metal. He also found out that they can be photographed (one of his first pictures here).

X-rays were first used on a military battlefield to find bullets and broken bones inside patients. And although the invention made Röntgen win the very first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901; he remained modest and never tried to patent his discovery. Today, X-ray technology is widely used in medicine, material analysis and of course in airport security scanners.

But what if you put a car through a giant X-Ray machine? Several people have tried just that and British artist Nick Veasey is one of them. Nick uses five X-Ray machines in his an 800-square-foot studio with concrete walls of 30 inches thick. Inside here he takes his photographs of anything mechanical. Some examples can be seen here.

(Words editor, pictures Nick Veasey)

      

Wednesday, 08 November 2017

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10 Things You Should Know about the Amphicar

10 Things You Should Know about the Amphicar
Clickbait on PostWarClassic? Well, it's not because we're into old stuff that we don't adopt the new (even if slightly despicable) ways to lure the curious passer-by to our website with a tempting title! Today's subject: the Amphicar 770. Ahoy!

1. Let's start off by saying that of all the amphibious vehicles, the Amphicar is the boat that drives the best, while of all the cars it's the one that sails best. Good luck beating that combination!

2. The man who designed the Amphicar, Hans Trippel, also designed the gullwing doors of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Earlier on, he was also involved in the design of VW’s Schwimmwagen, but that's a tad more obvious.

3. On land, its speedometer goes all the way to 90mph. Let's just say Amphicars are as optimistic as their owners. 0-60mph can be achieved in 43 seconds, but as the optimistic Amphicarist would say: "Does your boat even achieve 60mph on land?"

4. The gearbox, designed by Hermes, is actually based on that of a Porsche 356 with most of the internals interchangeable. Of course, a Porsche 356 doesn't have a pair of reversible propellers at the rear. It’s about time VW upgraded the Schwimmwagen to Porsche level, no?

5. There is no rudder! To steer the car in the water, you simply turn the front wheels as you would on the road. It works pretty well, although making a U-turn on a narrow river can be tricky. Luckily, the paddle was a period option!

6. All joking aside, the Amphicar is perfectly watertight. Before delivery, every car had to pass a waterproof test in a pool. To ensure that the Amphicar keeps floating, you have to close the plug that you can use to drain the chassis, lock the doors and the bonnet, and switch on the bilge pump. If you've got all of that covered, you're good to go. (Life jackets were also a period option).

7. Tired of taking the Eurotunnel or the ferry to go to Beaulieu? Why not take the Amphicar! Amphicars really have crossed the English Channel, traversed the Strait of Gibraltar and made the passage to Southern California’s Catalina Island.

8. Mind you, it might not like the salt water… Also, don't forget that after an Amphicar has been in the water there are 13 grease points needing tender loving care, some of which require removing the rear seats.

9. As soon as you're on the water, the Amphicar is technically no longer a car but a boat, so it needs to follow all rules that apply to boats. Under which flag are you sailing, Captain?

10. Rusty body parts needing replacement will need some perseverance to track down. But mechanically it’s all rather straightforward. Apart from the Porsche transmission bits, the rear-mounted four-cylinder engine is a Triumph Herald-item while Mercedes-Benz supplied the suspension and brakes.

Oh. And finally, we do happen to know of an Amphicar for sale here!

(Words and pictures Vincent Mahy, drawing Eagle magazine)
    

Tuesday, 07 November 2017

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Man forgets Ferrari 250 GTE. Search started

Man forgets Ferrari 250 GTE. Search started
A British man suffering from a brain trauma appears to have forgotten where he left his classic Ferrari: a 250 GTE. Under the alias of 2manycars he wrote the following on a forum for car enthusiasts: “I was restoring it to raffle away to help kids with cancer but unfortunately I developed a brain tumour that halted me in my tracks. I stored it away and due to my memory I can’t actually remember where it is. I’m sure I’ll remember one day but for now it’s all a blur.”

Several forum members expressed their doubts about the story, but 2manycars indeed appears to be the same man that bought such a car with the idea to raffle it to charity. He adds: “I can assure you I’m serious, I’d rather not be but unfortunately I am. I had a brain tumour as I was just starting my 250 restoration, I’ve only just returned to pistonheads after about 2 or so years hiatus. Anyway!!! Yeah I can’t remember where I put my car as that part of my brain was scrambled, but if I’m honest I rarely think about the car so I can’t be that bothered about it in the grand scheme of things. I’ve got plenty of others to play with but more importantly I’ve got a 2 year old (had her whilst I was recovering) that’s more precious to me than any car. It probably does sound like a fib but I’ve honestly got a 250 that I can’t remember where I put it.”

True or not? Join the discussion here or below. Oh - the Ferrari seen above has nothing to do with the forgotten Ferrari mentioned in this article. It happens to be another 250 GTE that was found in a British lock-up and sold by Bonhams auctioneers 5 years ago.

(Words editor, picture Bonhams)

Monday, 06 November 2017

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