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CLASSIC CAR

Let's learn about Classic Culture to understand about Classic Cars.

Classic Culture - the history

What makes a classic?

 

Classic Cars from 1945-1975


The Second World War to 1975 period, the first flickering of interest were shown in classic motorcars. A variety of models are covered, from those that many will have heard of, and the more unusual classic makes.
This section is a guide to the manufacturers making the world's best-loved and most famous classic cars from 1945—1975. It spotlights the models like the XK120 and Morris Minor that many will have heard of, while giving more esoteric classics like the Iso Grifo and Fiat 130 Coupe a fair crack of the whip. Some cars were classics from birth. Others earned the title. Some earned it with outstanding dynamic qualities and advanced engineering; some by sheer commercial success or conspicuous lack of it. Failures like the Edsel or Austin Atlantic add colour to the motorcar's history. Their stories show how even the top companies can get it wrong — and they make great reading.

The 1970s was a difficult time for motoring, with oil crises, escalating congestion, pollution issues and industrial troubles. Yet a true golden age of cars began at this time, reaching full bloom in the late 1980s and 90s, as cars became more rewarding to drive, leapt ahead in technical terms and grew in design appeal.

We will also look at the evolution in dream-car design over 60 years. With the birth of car designers rather than pure engineers, the door was open for them to express their visions of the future. These cars are celebrated here as we look back at what fired the imaginations of yesterday's creative minds and look to future creations, which will address the current issues of congestion, energy consumption and pollution.

The Classic Era

Today we're hooked on nostalgia. As hopeless escapists, nothing feeds our need better than an old car - a classic car. After the Second World War, the motorcar came of age. As more and more people around the world took to the road, manufacturers began to stretch the boundaries. The makers set styling, engineering and safety trends in an increasingly competitive market: speeds increased; styling and engineering became more adventurous; and many devices we take for granted today, like disc brakes, four-wheel drive (4-WD) and automatic transmission, became widely used.


The 1950s, 1960s and to an extent the 1970s were the most fertile period for the motorcar, a classic era and a perfect breeding ground for the classic car we cherish today, be it limousine or economy runabout, sports car or apparently humdrum saloon.



EVOLUTION OF THE MOVEMENT

As the 20th century draws to a close, we seem to look back as much as forward, pining for what we were, as wee see it, better times. We can’t revisit our Golden Age, but at least we can own and experience the material objects that evoke it: clothes, music, films and cars – classic cars. Glamorous, kitsch, humble or high bred; these mobile time warps powerfully conjure up a particular period.

New Vintage
The hobby of preserving and collecting cars built after the Second World War began to take shape in the early 1970s. Veteran (pre-1905), Edwardian (pre-1919) and Vintage (pre-1931) cars — as defined by Britain's Vintage Sports Car Club — have always been easy enough to categorize but, by the end of the 1960s, post- war motorcars of the better kind were coming of age. To call them simply "old cars" no longer seemed appropriate: whether beautiful, fast or technically pre-eminent, the post-1945 car had at its best all the gravitas of the pre-war machinery. Slowly, quietly, the "new Vintage" had arrived, filling the gap between Vintage and modern for a new generation of enthusiasts.
One-marque clubs for well-bred sporting marques such as Aston and Bentley had been around for years exalted makes felt the need to huddle together round a common banner, many new guilds and _ registers sprouted. Traditionalists had long with some historic complained that modern cars all "looked the same", but in the 70s there was a gut feeling that the motorcar had seen its best years as safety and pollution regulations made inroads into designers' freedom. Styling, particularly in Britain, seemed to be losing its way.


No wonder older cars began to look increasingly attractive. They were plentiful, cheap, easy to work on and still very usable on increasingly busy roads. Drive an old car and you made a statement about your individualism: you weren’t prepared to become just another faceless, sterile tin can on the bypass to oblivion or obsessed with keeping up with Joneses in the yearly new-model scrum. It all came together in 1973 when a UK magazine, Classic Cars, was launched.


The name “classic” stuck, a useful catch-all term for a sprawling, ill-defined genre that in just 20 years or so has blossomed from an eccentric pastime in to a multimillion-pound industry. Not much happened for about ten years, until about 1982-83 when the nature of hobby began to change dramatically. Slowly, under the noses of true enthusiasts, market forces took hold as it dawned on investors that really prime machinery could prove a fine hedge against inflation or an appreciating asset. Suddenly, the market hardened as Americans came to Europe seeking prime collectables.


At first, gilt-edged pre-war hardware — Bentley, Bugatti, etc. — set the pace in auction rooms but, by mid-decade, supercars of the 50s, 60s and 70s were hyped on their coat tails. Once affordable Ferraris, Astons and Jaguar XKs and E-Types became "investor" cars, commodities too expensive and precious to be driven (which was rather missing the point). As the auction houses pulled even bigger numbers, hype went into overdrive. Banks and finance companies offered loans to buy classics, The increasing ranks of classic-car magazines bulged with advertising. Enthusiast’s gentle hobby was turned an ugly brawl driven by greed. Many found themselves with cars that were worth more than their houses, machinery they were now too nervous to use. The boom couldn't last, fortunately. The recession hit in 1989 and demand quickly fell.

A hobby again
Today, the investors are long gone, the market is stable and the cars are where they should be —with enthusiasts. Though we are unlikely to see such madness again, rare and high-calibre thoroughbred cars - especially those with a racing pedigree or an interesting provenance – will always be in strong demand. Fashion still has its part to play in the lower echelons of the market, but those who bought Citroens and Jaguars have learnt about the dedication required to run an old car. Some went back to their moderns, others caught a lifelong bug.

TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENTS
In the beginning, cars were motorized horse carriage or, in the case of the three-wheeled Benz of 1889, relied heavily on cycle technology. Most cars were braked only by the rear wheel; steering, often by tiller, was slow and ponderous. A shoulder-high centre of gravity threatened to tip the car over. All this was containable at the 4 mph (6.4 kph) first allowed in Britain for motor vehicles and not too scary at the 14mph (22.5 kph) allowed by 1896, but as speeds rose, something had to be done. Makers who introduced each refinement created classics along the way.

Technology filters down
Excellence began with high-class cars such as the Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Steadily, the technology filtered down to such humble transport as the Austin Seven. By the start of the Second World War, bodies were generally made of steel, sat on a separate chassis, and there were brakes all round. Jaguar brought disc brakes to the world's notice at Le Mans in 1953; five years later they appeared on Jaguar's road cars and soon every maker used them.


Refinement follows

Four-wheel drive, with antilock brakes, was pioneered by Ferguson Formula. It first appeared in a passenger car on the Jensen FF of 1966, along with Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes derived from aircraft technology. It was expensive and complex — only 320 were built.


Overhead camshafts allow more direct operation of valves and a better combustion-chamber shape. They were used on specialist racing cars such as the Alfa Romeo and Bugatti from the 20s onwards and were introduced to the mainstream in the straight-six XK engine in the 120 of 1948. Soon, makers realized they could run double overhead camshafts and multivalent layouts.
Self-leveling was a standard feature of the futuristic DS launched in 1955 by Citroen. Even the cheaper 2CV had a modicum of leveling, because front and rear suspension was interconnected by springs. The British Motor Corporation (BMC) 1100 and 1800 of the 60s - and Minis of the period - are interconnected hydraulically. Self-leveling was used at the tail end of the Range Rover from its launch in 1970.


Front-wheel drive, used by BSA, Cord and Citroen since the 30s, did not hit the mainstream until the Mini appeared in 1959. While scorned by purists, this layout makes for safe, predictable handling and better packaging — more interior room for a given size — than rear-driven counterparts.


All the while, chassis improvements and tyre technology shadowed each other: Citroen's Traction-avant was the first car to use radial tyres, the narrow and distinctively treaded Michelin X.


America thinks big

In America, spacious cars with powerful, six-and eight-cylinder engines were common, even before the war. Makers loaded cars with every device to take the work out of driving: automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, self-dipping headlamps. Engines, generally under stressed by large capacity, showcased maintenance-free features such as hydraulic tappets (initially used for quietness).

 


MILESTONE MODELS

The following are technically important cars that made history from the 1930s to the 1970s, and had a lasting impact on the industry.

Citroen Traction Avant
Front-wheel drive and monocoque construction - in 1934! All this and unrivalled ride and handling from low centre of gravity and all-independent-torsion bar suspension came from the fertile mind of Andre Citroen.

Fiat 500
Dante Giacosa's master-stroke, the Italian car for the masses, was the Topolino. It was a full-sized car scaled down, with a tiny four-cylinder engine but all-steel unitary construction and independent suspension. (John Cooper plundered this for rear-engined racers.)

Citroen DS/SM
When launched to a stunned public in 1955, the DS looked like a spaceship. Its incredible other-worldly body style by Flaminio Bertoni used easily-removable outer panels; it had a glass-fibre roof and tail-lamps like rockets. A pressurised, self-levelling gas and oil system replaced suspension springs, and also pwered the brakes, steering, clutch and even gear change. Its complexity scared off many buyers.

Mini
Alee Issigonis's revolutionary Mini of 1959 set the convention for every small car since and is a strong candidate for the most significant car of the 20th century. By mounting the engine transversely and making it drive the front wheels (not a first: Alvis, sundry American companies and Fiat had tried it before), Issigonis fitted space for four adults into a package 10ft (3m) long.


To keep the driveline package very short, the gearbox sat under the engine, in the sump. The use of a 10 in (25.5cm) wheel at each corner not only minimized the encroachment of wheel-arch space into the passenger compartment but, together with the direct rack-and-pinion steering and firm, rubber suspension, took handling to new standards of "chuckability". The Mini is still made to the same familiar specifications, although big changes are predicted for the model in the new millenium.


The Mini has competed since it first appeared; most notable performances were ace Paddy Hopkirk's wins in Alpine rallies in the 60s, his finest moment being victory in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally. Minis still hold their own in historic rallying in the 90s.


Jaguar E-type

With its gorgeous, curvy, phallic shape derived from Malcolm Sayers's Le Mans-winning D-Type racer, combined with a 3.8-litre version of the classic XK engine, this is the car that epitomized the racy end of the Swinging 60s. It was fantastic value at its 1961 launch price equivalent of only four Minis — and early versions really would come near the alleged top speed of 150mph (241kph). Forget the crunchy gearbox and unpredictable brakes, this is one of the world's most desirable cars.

Datsun 240Z
The Japanese had really arrived in 1969 with this "Big Healey" beater. Its classic fastback shape has never been bettered by Japan, and the strong, 2.4-litre straight-six engine made all the right noises. Good handling came from its all-independent strut suspension and super performance from its relatively light weight. Later cars - the 260 and 280Z — became heavier and softer. As is so often the case, first is purest. This is Japan's first classic and the world's best-selling sportscar.

 

LEADING ENGINEERS

These are some of the most innovative and imaginative engineers from the world motor industry.

Andre Citroen
A true innovator, Citroen followed his direction to produce cars that led the world for refinement and technical innovation. His engineering tour de force, the Traction-avant of 1934, was followed up by his utilitarian, masterstroke, the 2CV of 1948.


Ferdinand Porche

Porsche designed the world's best-selling car, the VW Beetle which became the basis for the Porsche 356 designed by his son Ferry, forerunner of the immortal 911.

Alec Issigonis
Issigonis's masterstroke was the Mini, a brilliant piece of packaging whose layout – transverse engine, front-wheel drive and an independently-sprung wheel at each corner – has been copied for every other small car in the world. But people forget he was also responsible for the Morris Minor, the best-handling and most modern car of its generation.


Antonio Fessia
Engineering supremo behind the classic Lancia Fulvia - and its bigger siblings the Flavia and Flaminia — Professor Antonio Fessia joined Fiat in 1925. By 1936, at only 35, he was director of the central technical office. Under him, Dante Giacosa designed the Topolino. A demanding, sometimes difficult boss, Fessia approached design scientifically. His 1960 Lancia Flavia, harking back to the 47 Cemsa Caproni, was the first Italian car with front-wheel drive. He followed up with the smaller V-four Fulvia which shared many components. He stayed with Lancia until his death in 1968.

William Lyons
Lyons was responsible for the beautiful styling of his Jaguars, from SS through MkII to XJ6 – all classics. Another achievement was to keep prices low without sacrificing quality - Lyons's Jaguars were always superb value. An autocratic boss, he started Swallow Sidecars in the mid-1920s, at first building sidecars, then fitting more luxurious bodywork to Austin Sevens. The first SS Jaguars, brilliantly styled saloons and a beautiful SS100 sport scar appeared in the mid-1930s, all-time styling greats from Lyon's fertile pen. After the Second World War, his company became Jaguar.


Colin Chapman
A truly gifted structural engineer whose radical designs changed the face of racing - the road-car operation was intended only to shore up the racing effort. His first self-built although luxury cars were still largely hand built, just as prestige classics always have been. Morgan still hand builds cars in the same way it has since the 1920s, rolling partially-completed cars from one station to another. Yet by 1927, Citroen was producing a car every 10 minutes.


Robots lend a hand

Even greater speed and productivity were achieved by the use of power tools, suspended from the ceiling so they could be manhandled more easily. The next step was to cut manpower. First, spray painting was robotized, then the welding of body shells. To show how production methods continue to progress, of cars made today the one needing the most labour-intensive welding on its bodyshell is the Mini, first seen in 1959.


It was through mass production that cars such as the MG were born. The first MG Midget of 1929 used simple components borrowed from the Morris saloon cars in a more sporty body, just as all MGs since have done, right up to the F of 1995. Thanks to mass production, classic sportscars were made available to the general buying public.

 

 

 

 

 
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TITLE: Classic Cars at Auto Lemon - Used Car History Check

Cars Directory: Classic Auto, Automobile, Automotive, Car, Cars, Classic, Classic Car, Used Cars, New Cars, Used Car, New Car

Site Description: Classic Used Car History reviews and guide on classic and older model cars. Including car designers from Italy and Germany. Learn history of cars from classic, exotic, used, new to prototype model cars.

Cars Topics: Classic, Classic Cars, Price, Prices, For Sale, Part, Restoration,
Classifieds, Classified ads, pictures, muscle car, picture, and photo , AutoCheck, KELLEY BLUE BOOK, USED CAR HISTORY, VIN number, VIN SEARCH, VIN check