A Rare Brand of Go

On more than one occasion I have had people express disbelief that we are able to find vintage car parts at antique stores (for reasonable prices)! Although respect for car parts seems to be trending up among purveyors of fine antiques, many dealers just have no interest in the subject. Kind of like how I feel when I see salt and pepper shakers or those glass “hen on nest” dishes. I once found a 1940s Lincoln Zephyr V12 horn ring, with the horn button intact, for twelve bucks at an antique store. That was a great find, and so is the Oldsmobile Skyrocket air cleaner lid I found last week:

This item is easy to date because the Skyrocket name was only used for a few years; Oldsmobile introduced it in 1961 and it was used through 1963. The Skyrocket engine was a 394ci, 4-barrel, high-compression engine. The 10-to-1 compression ratio delivered 325 horsepower in 1961. That compression ratio was upped to 10.25-to-1 in 1962 and turned out 330hp. Happily, this one has most of the decal intact.

Here it is pictured in the 1962 brochure.

The Skyrocket was an option for the Dynamic 88 and standard on the Ninety-Eight and Super 88. This ad features a 1961 Ninety-Eight “with Skyrocket performance.”

This 1962 ad features a Super 88 Holiday Coupe with “a rare brand of GO!”

A Ninety-Eight headlines this ad from 1963 and touts the horsepower which, by the way, was needed for such a heavy automobile. According to the brochure, the shipping weight for the Ninety-Eight was a considerable 4,241 pounds.

The 394 was still used in ’64, but the Skyrocket name was not. The Skyrocket certainly went out in style, however, with the tail lights on the ’63 Ninety-Eight being among the most unique and beautiful:

Photo credit: Nadablue, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday Morning Flea Market Haul

Flea market season is gearing up in the Midwest (in between tornadoes), and I, for one, could not be happier. We hit the road over the weekend and found some interesting pieces. Do you recognize anything?

The radio face in the middle of the pile is for a ’56 Ford, and next to that is a ’69-’73 Firebird parking light bezel, and then a Plymouth radio delete. Just above those is a great GM B-31 backup light, and a truck mirror with just the right amount of wear. We found a number of vintage license plate frames including a couple from a dealership in Pomona, which is a long way from Nebraska.

The Chevrolet speaker grille on the lower left is from a ’39 radio, and it has amazing patina.

This is how it appeared in the 1939 accessories booklet:

1939 Chevrolet

The item on the far left is a light from a ’57 Chrysler.

It is an interior map and indicator light found just above the gauges. In this photo you can see it through the top half of the steering wheel:

Photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The top piece is a dash panel with a clock, and it goes with those amazing vents to the far right in the first photo.

They are original to some ’63 Pontiac models, like this Grand Prix that is for sale on eBay right now:

Finally, the small book is a license plate directory for Dawson County, Nebraska, published in 1960 by the local VFW Post. On the last page there is a list of the plates issued to ham radio operators that year.

That made we wonder how long it has been a practice to issue plates personalized with the call signs of amateur ham radio operators, and looking for the answer led me to this comprehensive discussion by Mike Ludkiewicz that states they were first issued in Michigan in 1939. These were not official ham plates, but personalized plates limited to a maximum of three letters and three numbers. Apparently, they were discontinued the following year due to administrative problems, and the first “true” ham plates were then issued in 1950 in Florida. This drawing appeared in an issue of the Miami News that same year.

In recognition of the valuable service provided by amateur radio operators during emergencies, the personalized plates were eventually offered in every state in the union.

Finally, look at these amazing vintage photos I found online that depict a 1963 Plymouth Valiant equipped with a ham radio. The car was owned by Harry Garland of Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, and the photographs were taken there in 1963.

Photo credit: GarlandFamily, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: GarlandFamily, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An Armored Cadillac and an Army of Fords

In the years leading up to World War I, the United States had no large standing army and no processes in place for the building and support of such a force. For this reason, steps were taken to train civilians to be able to defend the country. One idea promoted by General Leonard Wood involved the use of military training camps for civilians, and you can read more about that here: The Plattsburg Movement and its Legacy

One of these camps was located on the shores of Lake Champlain, and, in 1915, a writer for the New York Tribune named Hank Caldwell traveled there to watch a motor train consisting of 15 vehicles pull into the camp. The motor train did not have an official title, but the officers involved, including organizer Captain Raynal C. Bolling, dubbed it the “First Motor Machine Gun Company.” The caravan consisted of trucks, ambulances, and transportation cars furnished by companies like International, Mack, and Autocar. Buick and Simplex contributed wagons with mounted machine guns, but the undisputed star of the caravan was an armored Cadillac that had recently crossed the country on a tour with cadets of the Northwestern Military Academy under the command of Colonel R. P. Davidson:

This eight-cylinder Cadillac had steel armor, a Colt machine gun, and ports for rifle fire. Gas mileage was 10 miles to the gallon, and it was said to be painted battleship gray with delicate black striping.

Credit: August 1915 issue of American Motorist

General Leonard Wood was interviewed by Caldwell during this visit and made some interesting comments about his desire for American automobile owners to organize, under the direction of the army, in defense of the nation: “As a trained body, our hundreds of thousands of motorists, with their cars, would be one of the powerful arms of our army.”

Wood noted, “The national rivalry of our motor manufacturers has brought about a great variety of cars of all sizes and descriptions,” and therefore the first step would be to form motor corps consisting of only one make of automobile to enable the interchange of parts and tires. When enough owners driving a given make of car was found, the next step would be to assemble them in a camp setting where they could be given military training.

Wood also thought that each owner should bring some friends along:

“It is possible that an owner could be induced to muster enough recruits to fully man his machine. If so, he would come into the training camp with his car and four, five, or six men, according to the capacity of his machine, and. . .in this way we should obtain enough men with every two or three hundred cars to form a regiment. To this regiment we could assign trucks, ambulances, armored cars, machines guns, and special motor vehicles. . .”

1913 Ford Model T at the Republic County Historical Society & Museum at Belleville, Kansas.

So, the United States government was contemplating outfitting the cars of citizens with machines guns; file that one under, “How times have changed.” The participants attending this 1915 camp were enthusiastic about the idea. Caldwell reported this about a Mr. Derby from North Carolina who had driven his Ford to the camp:

“Mr. Derby said that he is convinced the light car is the practical thing for army use and that upon his return to North Carolina. . .he will organize a company of 100 Ford cars, and it is his intention to mount them with machine guns and drive from North Carolina to the encampment next year. He thinks this idea should be taken up by Ford owners in all parts of the country, and next year he says we should have 700,000 Fords ready for use against the invader.”

1913 Ford Model T at the Republic County Historical Society & Museum at Belleville, Kansas.

These days, Mr. Derby, I would recommend using the Ford F-150.

The Tragic Story of J. W. Leavitt

I normally choose to write about more upbeat stories, but meaning can be found in the tragic ones as well. This story started with the discovery of a humorous photo in an early 1900s newspaper. That photo led to the tale of a man who attained great success in the growing automobile industry before culminating in a disastrous end in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash. If you prefer happy endings, you will want to stop reading now.

This is the photo that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner:

The man pictured is putting up signs outside of Cloverdale, California, in a bid to warn tourists about the presence of a motor cop who will ticket speeders. The year is 1914, and the accompanying story told of how John W. Leavitt was ticketed and asked the justice of the peace to let him take the deputy for a ride in his car to prove that he had not exceeded the 30-mph speed limit while traveling a 38-mile route in 19 minutes. An unconventional approach to be sure, but the justice of the peace agreed, the deputy was convinced, and the case was dismissed. As it turns out, Leavitt was also an important figure of the west coast automobile scene for decades.

Before entering the automobile industry, Leavitt and a partner had started a bicycle business in 1894 in California under the name Leavitt & Bill, and it became the largest bicycle business west of Chicago. Prior to that, Leavitt had also been a champion bicycle racer. Seeing the potential of the automobile industry, he dissolved the bicycle partnership in 1906 and organized J. W. Leavitt & Co. for the distribution of motor cars. His protege at the bicycle company was a young man named Albert D. Plughoff who had begun working for Leavitt at 15 years of age. Described as Leavitt’s right-hand man, Plughoff transitioned to the new firm as VP and general manager.

The company served as distributor for several different makes including Reo and Stoddard-Dayton and then, in 1910, became distributor for Willys-Overland.

J. W. Leavitt & Co. flourished with the growing automobile industry. In 1916, the Los Angeles Times described the company as the largest single distributor of motor cars in the world. It seems that distinction would have belonged to someone selling Fords, but that is what was reported, and it was also said that the company was selling one-tenth of all cars produced by Willys-Overland. In 1917, J. W. Leavitt & Co. was appointed distributor for an expanded area to include the San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego territories. The article in the Oakland Enquirer described Leavitt as, “this country’s greatest automobile merchandizing wizard.”

The company was featured in an effusive Motor West magazine article written by an “eastern engineer” that found in Leavitt’s service department “conditions so extraordinary that I feel the whole world should be in possession of the details.” The writer added that the service department had the details worked out to perfection, and the following photos and procedures were documented in the write-up.

J. W. Leavitt & Co. rode the wave of expansion in the Roaring Twenties and, in 1928, announced it was taking over all of the Willys-Overland’s California factory branch properties, equipment, personnel, and stocks of motor cars as well as agreeing to market $15,000,000 worth of Willys-Knight and Whippet cars annually. In one of the newspaper articles announcing this development, Leavitt was credited with “originating vehicle sales on the installment plan. He inaugurated and developed the lease contract as it is used in automobile sales today.”

The above photo of a smiling Leavitt and Plughoff appeared in 1928. On the surface, everything seemed to be going well for Leavitt & Co., and they continued advertising right up through July of 1930:

However, the stock market had crashed the previous October, and automobile sales had been poor in recent months. Like so many other companies, J. W. Leavitt & Co. was facing financial difficulties and mounting debts. The doors of the firm were shut in the last weeks of July. Employees later said that Leavitt was upset at the prospect of being forced into bankruptcy after being an important figure along “automobile row” for more than a quarter of a century. He feared some creditor would become impatient and force the company into the hands of a receiver. According to his attorney, he also dreaded the necessity of looking for a job at 62 years of age.

Leavitt was also unhappy with Plughoff, his long-time friend, business partner, and right-hand man. Plughoff was leaving. He had accepted a position with an automobile firm back east that would pay $75,000 per year. Again, according to Leavitt’s attorney, all of these developments had left Leavitt feeling as if “the last prop, both of business and friendship, had been pulled out from under him.” Sometime during the first week of August, Leavitt borrowed a gun from one of his adult daughters, claiming he wanted it for squirrel hunting.

On the morning of August 11, Leavitt and Plughoff conferred alone in Leavitt’s office while, in an office across town, creditors were meeting to discuss the fate of the company. Employees heard a sound like a car backfiring. Leavitt then calmly left, commenting only, “Quiet morning,” to employees on his way out of the building. An employee entered the office and found Plughoff lying in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the head, and death had been instantaneous. Leavitt left a note at the scene that read, “Sorry to do this. This will provide for his family.” The note was an apparent reference to life insurance proceeds, and the family it referred to was a wife, now widow, named Myrtle.

Leavitt drove home where he sat and talked quietly with his wife for several minutes without referencing what he had just done. He then went into a bedroom, removed his shirt, and killed himself with the same weapon used to kill Plughoff. Reporters, already alerted to Plughoff’s death, were on the phone with Leavitt’s wife at the time. She was in the middle of saying Leavitt was too busy to come to the phone when reporters heard a shot and Mrs. Leavitt’s scream before the line was disconnected. Leavitt left a widow and six children.

While reports of suicides immediately following the stock market crash of 1929 were exaggerated, suicide rates did increase during the Great Depression. Recent studies have also shown that suicide rates increase during economic downturns, especially for men. Ironically, J. W. Leavitt and Co.’s difficulties appeared to have been more of a cash flow problem as the company had substantial assets. After liquidation of the assets, all obligations were met with $200,000 – $300,000 left over. To put that in perspective, $250,000 in 1930 is roughly equal to $4.5 million in today’s dollars. The attorney for one of Leavitt’s largest creditors stated, in the wake of the murder/suicide, that if Leavitt had only waited a couple of more hours, his fears of being forced into bankruptcy would have been averted. We would all do well to remember that the situation is often not as dire as it seems, and a day, or even a few hours, can drastically change your perspective.


Advertisement. Willys Knight. The San Francisco Examiner, 18 Jul 1915, p. 33.

“Autoist Free After Proving Legal Speed.” The San Francisco Examiner, 19 Jul 1914, p. 32.

Big Deal in Autos Is Made Public.” The San Francisco Call, 11 Sept 1910, p. 47.

“Control State Distributions.” The San Bernadino County Sun, 22 Jan 1928, p. 26.

“History of Leavitt Firm.” The Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr 1916, p. VI-6.

“J. W. Leavitt & Co. Shows Line of Willys-Overland Cars and Knight Trucks.” The Oakland Post Enquirer, 28 Jan 1928, p. 21.

“J. W. Leavitt Estate Will Total $200,000.” Santa Cruz News, 13 Aug 1930, p. 10.

“J. W. Leavitt Kills Partner, Ends Own Life.” The Fresno Morning Republican, 12 Aug 1930, p. 1.

“J. W. Leavitt Kills Partner, Suicides.” Contra Costa Daily Gazette, 11 Aug 1930, p. 1.

“Leavitt Kills Partner and Commits Suicide.” The Los Angeles Times, 12 Aug 1930, p. 2.

“New Representative for Willys-Knight in Oakland.” The Oakland Post Enquirer, 11 Feb 1928, p. 24.

“Rites Planned for Leavitt, Victim.” The Oakland Post Enquirer, 12 Aug 1930, p. 3.

“San Francisco Auto Dealer Kills Manager, Then Self.” Modesto News Herald, 11 Aug 1930, p. 1.

“S. F. Auto Row Figure Kills Friend, Self.” The Press Democrat [Santa Rosa], 12 Aug 1930, p. 1.

“The Sales Department Sells the Car, but the Service Department Must Keep It Sold.” (1928, July). Motor West, 54-56.

“Who’s Who on Gasoline Row.” The Bulletin: San Francisco, 19 Mar 1910, p. 18.

More On Those 1930s Tail Lights

We recently picked up a number of hard-to-find tail lights from the 1930s, including the ’36 Dodge light mentioned in the last post. This beautiful light and license plate bracket is another example:

This 1937 Buick light has Art Deco-flair that repeats the look and lines of the grille:

Buick, like most makes of that year, had a license plate light and bracket that mounted on the center of the trunk of at least some of the models.

1937 Buick Sedan with center tail light. Photo credit: Jeremy from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Car companies spotlighted this new arrangement as a selling point with an emphasis on symmetry, beauty, and safety.

My light/bracket combo was likely on a coupe originally, as the rear of the ’37 Buick coupe sloped steeply and prohibited the mounting of the light and bracket there.

I also found the tail light/bracket combo on something called a “Sloper” made for the Australian market. It was made by General Motors-Holden, an Australian subsidiary of GM, that manufactured and sold automobiles under its own marque.

1937 Buick Sloper. Photo credit: sv1ambo, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

GM-Holden called the body style an “All-Enclosed Coupe,” and the back seat folded down for additional luggage space. For 1937, the Sloper was also part of the line-up for GM-Holden’s Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet.

1937 Chevrolet Sloper. Photo credit: sv1ambo, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After reviewing conversations and comments on the internet, it is apparent that many folks prefer the looks of the Holden version with its fastback styling and forward sloping B pillars, but I think the American-made coupe is tough to beat. Either way, this gorgeous light is the perfect finishing touch:

Hard-To-Find Tail Light From the 1930s

We recently bought a carload of items from an old dealership, and there were a number of hard-to-find lights in our haul, all dating to the 1930s. This one may show its age with rust, wear, and missing lenses, but it is still a beauty.

The torpedo-shaped housing is larger than you might think and measures eight inches in length. It is marked “DULITE,” and the license plate bracket is marked both “DULITE” and “RILITE.” The part number on the mount is 655863. Notice that the configuration is not what you would expect with the mount on the side of the light housing.

This is what it looks like mounted on the car:

This light is original to a 1936 Dodge, and the beautiful blue Dodge pictured here is one that I photographed on the courthouse square at Minden, Nebraska, a few years ago.

Dodge had already developed a reputation for dependability and ruggedness by this point, so for 1936 the company placed an emphasis on beauty and economy. Powered by a 217.8ci inline 6 L-head with 87-hp @ 3600rpm, this Dodge was able to achieve 18-24 mpg. This is a fun little ad about the gas saving features.

As seen in my last post, car companies during this time period were linking their automobiles to fashion in order to attract female buyers. Below is a newspaper advertisement and a page from the Dodge brochure which touts what “noted fashionistas” are saying about the ’36 Dodge:

It is a truly stunning automobile with so many great details like the convex grille, artillery wheels, airplane-like speedo, and, of course, those amazing tail lights.

Photo credit: David Berry from Rohnert Park CA, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Year Automobile Designers Became Dress Designers

I happened across a story in a 1940 newspaper about automobile designers making a foray into women’s fashions. The feminine styles were supposed to match the 1941 automotive offerings and were designed by the same men who created those body styles. This was all done to promote the New York auto show. There were pictures to go with the story, but no names, so I had to keep digging. I discovered that the first one was designed by none other than Harley Earl, and this streamlined creation in silver rayon featured wings to mimic the hood emblem on a ’41 Caddy.

Photo credit: Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The stories I found do not give credit for this stylish jacket with a yolk based on the shape of the Packard grille. Perhaps the designer was Howard “Dutch” Darrin?

Photo credit: David Berry from Rohnert Park CA, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This swimming suit is based on the 1941 Chevrolet. You can see the shape of the grille on the model’s midsection, and her shoes were even made out of Lucite!

This ensemble was designed, I believe, by E. T. Gregorie and was meant to complement the Mercury. Notice the belt, which was based on the Merc’s bumper guards, and a purse modeled on the hubcaps.

Photo credit: JOHN LLOYD from Concrete, Washington, United States, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One article said this coat was made with upholstery plaid, so it must be based on Chrysler’s Highlander. Oliver Clark was likely the one who designed this modish outerwear.

This promotion was done in cooperation with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and the clothing was actually available to be purchased on Fifth Avenue. I have no idea how well it sold, but I would absolutely purchase all of it today if still available (and I might run someone over to get to that hubcap purse).

A 1942 Buick Barn Find

While out buying car parts the other day, we noticed the seller had something very exciting sitting in one of his shops:  a genuine barn find! It is not pictured in the barn setting here, having already been retrieved from an old Nebraska farmstead, and this stop is just the beginning of the journey for this old beauty.

It is a 1942 Buick convertible, and it looks like a Series 40 Special, the most compact of Buick’s 1942 offerings with a 118-inch wheelbase. The Super and the Roadmaster, Series 50 and 70, would have the “Airfoil” front fenders that carried all the way back across the side of the car to the rear fender in a tapering contour like the one seen in this advertisement:

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars, the ’42 Buick was produced until the first week of February, with 1,776 of those being the Series 40 convertible. The ’42 Buicks in every Series were powered by an OHV Inline Eight, and the Special engine had 248CID and 110-hp. It would have been a “blackout” car with painted trim if produced during the January 1942 wartime transition period, so the brightwork on this car indicates that it was manufactured some time prior to that date.

Notice that the advertisement above references Buick’s role in wartime production, the building of Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines:

I don’t know the back story for this Buick, and I’m not sure that I want to know since such stories are often rooted in sadness; at best, it is a project not finished and, at worst, a life interrupted. This story ends with a ray of hope, however, at least for the car. It has already been purchased and is headed back east for restoration. Here’s to a bright future for this survivor!

Mystery of the Pyramid (Hubcap)

I have two of these threaded hubcaps, but I have never been able to determine what vehicle they were on originally.

The logo in the center looks like a pyramid, and in researching that angle I discovered that there was a truck called the Red Pyramid Speed Truck. It was a product of the Service Motor Truck Company of Wabash, Indiana and was introduced in 1920.

The truck was said to be the result of four years of development, although that time span was interrupted by World War I when the Service Motor Truck factories were busy producing Liberty B trucks for the war effort.

It was advertised with the tagline “An Even Load on Any Road” due to being “scientifically cushioned,” meaning it had a unique front spring suspension. The following description was taken from a 1921 issue of The Motor Truck:

“At the front end of the truck a semi-elliptic spring is mounted crosswise, the end being carried on the axle and the center supporting the frame. This spring is pivoted on its central point, so that the front axle is perfectly free to move about this pivot. The entire truck, with this suspension, is carried on a three-point support which, in fact, cushions body, hood, radiator, seat, and steering mechanism against strains and twisting.”

This illustration accompanied the article and showed that, although the wheels were badly out of line, the twisting or strain was on the front springs, a system that was intended to result in a smoother ride.

The truck, capable of carrying loads of up to 2500 pounds, was equipped with a 32-hp OHV Midwest engine that could attain speeds of 40-45mph on good roads. Many more specifications are listed in the 1922 advertisement below.

Here are a couple of photos of the trucks that appeared in 1921 and 1922 publications, respectively.

My hubcaps are made of cast aluminum, so that would indicate some age, and the logo is similar to that of the Red Pyramid Speed Truck, but I have been unable to confirm if my caps have any connection to that early truck. If you have any information about these hubcaps, I would love to hear from you. Email me at americancarhistorian@gmail.com.

The Easy-On Cap, Part of Eaton History

Eaton has manufactured parts for automobiles since the early days of the American automobile industry. The company was initially founded in 1911 by Joseph Oriel Eaton as Torbensen Gear and Axle Company to manufacture the first gear-driven truck axle. Originally located in New Jersey, the company moved to Cleveland in 1915. In 1916, it was incorporated as the Torbensen Axle Company.

The old cap pictured above is interesting for the inscription on the inside which is a part of Eaton’s history and also helps to pinpoint the date of manufacture. It is difficult to make out in the photos, but it reads, “THE EATON AXLE & SPRING CO. EASY-ON CAP DIV.”

The Torbensen Axle Company had become the Eaton Axle & Spring Company in 1923. Throughout the twenties and thirties, the company acquired other concerns involved in the automotive business, and one of those acquisitions was the Easy-On Cap Company. The Easy-On Cap had been invented by Dr. J. S. Reid of the Cleveland Health Department who had been looking for something more efficient than the threaded cap and came up with the Easy-On which was fastened by a simple half-turn. When Eaton purchased the company in July of 1928, the company was making about one million caps per month including gas, radiator, and oil caps. The Eaton company underwent another name change in 1932 when it became the Eaton Manufacturing Company, so the cap pictured must have originated sometime between the 1928 purchase of Easy-On Cap and the 1932 name change from Eaton Axle and Spring.

The Metal Polisher’s Union was apparently peeved at Easy-On for some reason in 1929, but Easy-On was in good company with Stant, Louisville Slugger and Winchester Repeating Arms also appearing on the Union’s plaintive “We Do Not Patronize” list:

The 1926 Nash came equipped with Easy-On oil and gas caps, and one automobile that featured a stock Easy-On radiator cap was the Silver Anniversary 1929 Buick.

By 1934, it was reported that one-third of American automobile manufacturers used Eaton bumpers, springs, and valves. A 1961 story about the company’s 50th anniversary said there was at least one Eaton-made part in every American-made truck and car on the road. The Eaton company underwent additional name changes before becoming the Eaton Corporation in 1971, but whatever it calls itself, it has played an important role in the history of the American automobile.