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Car Men; Cash Men; Con Men

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/06/2018 | 2:54 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

The battlefields of commerce are strewn with the maimed - and dead, casualties of the flagship of American business, and (mostly) failed losses to Japanese and Korean conquerors.

What became of American industrial might once sprung from workshops and shade trees.  It formed the bedrock of a prospering middle class, enduring legacies, in addition to ancillary services and activities.

Along the way, we discovered that the automobile universe was comprised of diverse elements.  Some were tinkerers, some were inventors, some were cut/fit/trim improvers of the tried and true technology.  Some were designers, some were all about performance on the street and on the track.

These were the car guys, the steamers, the streamliners, the suspension and carburation gurus.  A few escalated their visions with building great factories among us.These were the Dodge boys, Elwood Haynes, the pride of Kokomo, Pininfarina, Ferrari, Daimler, Ransom Olds, Henry Ford, and the like.

Some depended on educators and managers to bail out a company's finances: Alfred Sloan and  Studebaker come to mind.  Still others combined many elements, Lee Iacoccca being a prime example.

Others were tougher to psychoanalyze, with futuristic, if un-needed, technology, bringing us "tomorrow's car " today, built and delivered in three months or so.  Edsel, the infamous Tucker, Maclaren.  Were they failures, useless cons, or genuine new-century concepts?  Where do/did their promoters fall in the pantheon of wanna-be car guys?

Given that Tucker may or may not have been a fraud and a con, most of those getting rich were those pioneering newer selling approaches: Fred Ricart; Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man; franchise bundlers; zero down, unconventional trade-ins; various products from Earl "Madman" Muntz; and the ill-fated DeLorean (made in Ireland until its demise).

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