Sunday, February 7, 2016

Video: The last cars out of Cuba

   SEVERAL U.S. companies hope to restore ferry service between Florida and Cuba, though none have announced even a tentative starting date. Meantime, a series of posts published here on the suspension of the auto and passenger ferry service between Havana and Key West in 1960 continues to be one of this site's most popular topics.
   CARISTAS friend Casey Strong draws our attention to a video on The Guardian's website that shows cars being loaded in Havana and other scenes from the last voyage in 1960.

   Did you see the 1959 Chevrolet convertible? The Ford from New Jersey? Or the Studebaker Lark wearing Illinois "Land of Lincoln" plates?

The earlier posts:

The last cars out of Cuba

That ship has sailed

Two more owners, one more name

Friday, February 5, 2016

Runs like a Minx. Or maybe a Horndog

A minx, it seems, is no relation to a mink. But did Hillman know that?
   I ALWAYS thought that Hillman innocently named its Minx after an animal, unaware that the word would prompt snickers in certain circles – including, I must confess, mine.
   And in Mike Myers' circles too, it seems. "I bet she shags like a minx," his character exclaims in the 1997 movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
   But none other than the Oxford English Dictionary defines minx as "an impudent, cunning or boldly flirtatious girl or young woman" – and traces its origin to the mid-16th century.
   The M-word appears never to have been an alternate form of mink, the weasel-like critter so favoured by furriers. (For an unsettling photo of a mink eating a crayfish, see the Wikipedia entry.)

Raymond Loewy and Associates contributed to the Minx's stately styling.
   Surely then, Hillman would have known in 1932, when it introduced its first Minx, that the name would carry a salacious connotation. Perhaps this was the intent – though if it was, you'd think the British manufacturer might have applied it to something, er, racier than what was from the beginning an upright sedan.
   Sadly for me and my fellow snickerers, Hillman's offering did not spawn a series of impudent imitators, such as, say, the Triumph Trollop or (to spread the sexism around) the Humber Horndog.
   But the Minx, under the stewardship of Hillman's parent, the Rootes Group, would live on through successive models right through to 1970. A midsize vehicle, at least by most of the world's standards, the "faithful family car" enjoyed strong popularity in the 1950s and '60s, when it was built in four countries for numerous markets.
    Not coincidentally, that was the time of the Audax bodystyle, shared between three Rootes marques and partially designed by the firm of Raymond Loewy, who is famous for the 1953 Studebaker Starliner, among other things.
   With wide grille, scooped-out sides and pert, reverse-angle c-pillar, but no overpowering design features, the Audax was a pleasing mix of American cues and British restraint.

Dark glass nicely sets off the white paint of this 1957 or '58 Hillman Minx Series II.
   This Minx's curved bumpers and latticework grille identify it as a 1957 or '58 Series II model. Tinted glass and blacked-out window trim give it a clean, almost modern look, and allow the eye to linger on its exceptional white paintwork.
   I can't tell you if it has its original 1.4-litre overhead-valve gasoline engine or some later diesel, but I do suspect that whatever the powerplant, the performance is more matronly than minx-like.
   Stop snickering. It's still a nice car.

See also:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Right place, wrong Aston Martin?


University of Miami. Library. Cuban Heritage Collection. Ramiro A. Fernández Collection: chc52600002940001001.
   WHEN I came across this photo of a Havana race in the University of Miami's Ramiro A. Fern├índez Collection, I thought the car that has slid up against the hay bales might be the Aston Martin DB 2/4 that recently resurfaced in Cuba.
   Then I noticed that the photo is recorded as being taken on Oct. 10, 1957, which would be months too early for that Aston Martin, a rare, race-prepared 1958 Mark III model.
    This suggests that the DB 2/4 above is from the Mark II series made between 1955 and 1957. It also would be rare. Wikipedia – and we can probably trust it here – reports that only 146 Mark IIs were made in the body style we see here; another 53 were convertibles or "fixed head coupes," also known as hardtops.
  But ... while it's hard to tell from this photo, the taillamps on this Aston Martin do appear more like the elongated lights of the Mark III (1957-1959, 551 produced in all body styles) than the small, bud-like lamps of the earlier series.
  So maybe it is that car.
  Or maybe there's another racing Aston Martin in Cuba, hidden away for decades and perhaps ready to also re-emerge.