On The Road

On the Road: 1957 Jeep FC-150 Wrecker

Jeep FC-150 Wrecker. Photo: Fourwheeler Network.

Jeep FC-150 Wrecker. Photo: Fourwheeler Network.

How cute is this mini-tow truck?!

The 1957 Jeep FC-150 was one of the first light-duty forward control (FC) trucks manufactured in the United States. “Forward control” means that the cab sits all the way up front, over the engine. At only 147″ in length, and 71″ in width, this FC-150 shares the same wheelbase as the classic Jeep CJ-5 and is only ten inches longer. Tiny! Jeep sold the FC-150 in several body styles: pickup; cab and chassis; stakebed (what I think of as a panel truck); stripped chassis (just a frame and engine); and flat-faced cowl (stripped chassis plus front fenders and hood, ready to be customized into a school bus or special delivery van). The cab came in Standard or Deluxe versions. Deluxe treated the driver to dual sun visors, dual armrests, rear quarter windows, a better padded seat, and other fancy touches.  A heater and defroster were extra! And no radio! There were several engine sizes to choose from. This FC-150 is powered by the smaller, 134 I4 four-cylinder, which delivered about 75 hp to haul loads up to 1730 lbs in a tight 18′ turning circle. Jeep FC models were in production from 1956 to 1964 and went through several upgrades and revamps. When the first models rolled out, Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated quipped, “It’s rugged as an Olympic weight-lifter and as able as a three-armed Irishman in a bar fight.”

This particular FC-150 has an amazing story. Look close at those tires. They are original! FC collector and expert Craig Brockhaus found this little wrecker in 1989 just miles from his home in Missouri. Jim Allen at Fourwheeler Network reports that the wrecker

“was only showing 2,817 miles but had been sitting a very long time. It started life as a service station truck in Des Peres, Missouri, and the original owner installed a dealer-accessory dual-rear-wheel kit as well as a Towboy wrecker. He didn’t use the truck very long. In the mid-’60s, the land upon which his service station was built was purchased to build a mall. The truck went to his home and sat for about 25 years before Craig came along. The truck now has 2,892 miles on it.”

Watson Towboy Ad. Image: The FC Connection.

Watson Towboy Ad. Image: The FC Connection.

So, what’s a Towboy, you ask? Craig Brockhaus explains on his website, The FC Connection.

“The Watson ‘Towboy’ is a bolt-in, hand crank wrecker unit that was produced to help garage owners move vehicles easily around the shop without tying up the big wrecker that was used mainly for emergency vehicle retrieval. The Towboy unit was easily installed or removed in about 5 minutes from any vehicle and proved invaluable to many an automotive shop owner.”

More pictures of this great little slice of 1957 Americana can be viewed using the Fourwheeler or FC Connection links. Check out the fully restored interior, which also includes the original seats!

September 1957 – The Edsel

1958 Edsel 2-door Citation Convertible. Photo: Carpedia

 

In September, 1957, Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel.  Named for founder Henry Ford’s son, Edsel B. Ford, the Edsel started life as the E-car, which stood for “experimental car”.  The Edsel, placed between the Ford and Mercury brands, was intended to compete with intermediate General Motors lines, such as the Oldsmobile, while the company took the Lincoln brand upmarket.  But it was not to be.  The Edsel, after years of development, was manufactured for only three years, never appealed to the buying and driving public, lost millions of dollars for Ford Motors, and has since become a catchword for failure.

Edsels were produced for the 1958, 1959, and 1960 model years.  The 1958 models introduced in September 1957 included the Citation and Corsair, based on Mercury designs and manufactured in Mercury plants, and the smaller, Ford-based Pacer and Ranger models, manufactured in Ford plants.  All models were available as two-door or four-door hardtops.  The Citation and the Pacer also had two-door convertible versions.  Edsel innovations included its “rolling dome” speedometer and center-of-the-steering-wheel, Push-button Teletouch transmission shifting system.  Ergonomically-designed driver controls and self-adjusting brakes (earlier pioneered by Studebaker) were other special features.

1958 Edsel Pacer 2-door Hardtop

 

The first model year for Edsel sold 63,110 cars in the United States; the second-year sales topped out at 44,891; for the 1960 model year only 2,846 units were produced.

Why did the Edsel fail?  Speculators cite primary problems with marketing philosophy and strategy, quality control, design appeal, and competition within a car market heading into recession.  Marketing failed to sufficiently research and place the Edsel within the Ford Motor product line for the buying public; switching from Ford or Mercury to Edsel (and back) on the same assembly lines led to manufacturing mistakes; the “horsecollar” (or toilet seat!) grille and confusing rear taillights and steering wheel buttons were unattractive to buyers; and increasing consumer interest in fuel-efficient vehicles also added to Edsel’s demise.  Robert McNamara, part of upper-level management at Ford in 1957 and later the first non-Ford family member to serve as company president until President John F. Kennedy recruited him to be Secretary of Defense, never liked having separate brands within the Ford line.  He progressively reduced and then eliminated the Edsel advertising budget and finally convinced fellow managers to shut down production in the fall of 1959.

On The Road – 1957 Flxible Starliner

1957 Flxible Starliner: Photo Source Hemmings

1957 Flxible Starliner: Photo Source Hemmings

I think I’m in love. Road trip!

The beauty on wheels above is a 1957 Flxible Starliner, gloriously restored on the outside and fully updated on the inside for modern-day glamping.

The Flxible Company cornered the market on excitement from its very beginning. Chartered in 1914 at the Flexible Sidecar Company, the Loudonville, Ohio assembly line began turning out motorcycle-sidecar combinations for civilian and military use in World War I. Flexible jettisoned the “e” in 1919 in order to copyright their brand. Bigger changes were necessary in the early 1920s when Henry Ford began cranking out inexpensive Roadsters, undercutting the motorcycle-sidecar market. Flxible adapted by flexing into custom bus, hearse, and ambulance manufacturing. Touring companies’ investments in Flxible buses paid off when they were able to comfortably carry sightseeing parties in style over long distances. One quality-built coach racked up over 275,000 miles from 1925 to 1928.

Flxible developed the Clipper, a 29-passenger bus, in the late 1930s. Cities, airports, National Parks, resorts, and movie studios maintained fleets of dependable, economical Clippers. During World War II, Flxible retooled their factories to make tank, fighter plane, and ship parts for the war effort. Touring coach production returned in 1946 with the introduction of a redesigned Clipper, displaying a trademarked front “smiley face”. In 1950, the Flxible fleet expanded with the addition of Visicoach – a Clipper-based model with extra head- and engine-room.

The Starliner was introduced in 1957. It featured a new and innovative suspension system including torsion bars, which savvy 1950s Mad Men named the Flxilastic suspension system. Early Starliners sported eyebrow windows on the roof and under floor storage bays. A total of only 276 Starliners were manufactured between 1957 and 1967, when Clipper-based model production was discontinued. Many surviving vintage Starliners – similar to the better-known vintage Airstream trailers – have been revamped and converted into motor homes. The immaculately restored Starliner motorhome above is currently on the market for – drum roll, please – $235,000.