Showing posts from February, 2015

The understated Lincoln Capri

CADILLACS OUTNUMBER Lincolns by a big margin in Cuba, which is no surprise. In the 1950s, GM's luxury division consistently outsold its Ford Motor Co. counterpart (and easily outpaced Chrysler's Imperial brand and faltering Packard as well).
   But you will occasionally come across a fine Lincoln, especially in Havana. That's where the team from spotted this 1953 Lincoln Capri convertible, not far from the Hotel Presidente on Calle G. (Interestingly, Havana is also home to a Hotel Lincoln and a Hotel Capri – the latter built by U.S. mobsters who could well have been chauffeured about in Lincolns or Cadillacs.)
   The Capri was Lincoln's top model from 1952 to '54, with a new ball-joint front suspension, recirculating-ball power steering and a hearty 317.5-cubic-inch V-8.

   Understated styling – and a close resemblance to Ford's lower-priced Mercury sedans – didn't help the big Lincoln in the sales wars with the flashier Cadillac. But it earned a…

Bright as an egg yolk

IT TAKES courage – even in Cuba – to paint your ride chrome yellow. Few cars look their best in this colour, taxi cabs and pizza delivery vehicles notwithstanding.
   But for a select number of well-designed machines – think Iso Grifo or Ferrari 250 SWB – the result can be eye-poppingly wonderful. See me, it says, and acknowledge my beauty.
  You won't find an Iso or Ferrari parked under a Cuban palm tree – I don't think – but you might come across this Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia Coupe. It has a few scars and patches, but wears its bright-as-egg-yolk hue like a royal mantle.
   Headlamp placement reveals this as a "low-light" Karmann-Ghia, assembled between 1955 and 1959 at coachbuilder Karmann's plant in Osnabrück, Germany.
   With the buzzy flat-four engine and swing-arm rear suspension of its Beetle sister model, the Karmann-Ghia was never a true sports car. But with styling by Carrozzeria Ghia (perhaps only Italian designs can truly be yellow), it looked as sweet as…

A higher calibre of motorbike

GUNS AND motorcycles have similar requirements – spare design, quality materials, precise assembly – so it follows that the manufacturer of one might also be drawn to produce the other.    A famous example of this is the Birmingham Small Arms Co., formed in the mid 19th century to make military rifles and later expanding to bicycles, motorcycles, even cars. Its BSA Motorcycles subsidiary would become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, issuing handsome models like the Thunderbolt and Gold Star.
   Russia has two versions of BSA. First to arrive was IZh, an offshoot of the mighty Izhevsky foundries in a region east of Moscow that has been making weapons since the time of Tsar Alexander I.
   IZh's first bikes, produced in modest numbers in the 1920s, were large-displacement twins. They were followed in the 1930s by models based on the small-displacement German DKW E-300, and after the Second World War by a 350-cc single-cylinder bike …