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Amici americani della Mille Miglia
ARTICLES BY MARTIN SWIG
NN
Martin Swig has his own column in the San Francisco
NOB HILL GAZETTE called WHEELS

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Collector Cars Broke Their Makers

Often overlooked is the fact that most of the historic cars so highly valued today were financial disasters for their manufacturers.  Consider Duesenberg, Marmon, Maserati, Citroen.  All were a hard sell when new.  All went broke, or had to be rescued by others.  As a result of these commercial failures, those cars are now “very rare” as the auction descriptions say.

One-Off Custom Built Car

In the ‘20s and ‘30s, wealthy car buyers would often commission a car to be custom-designed and built for them.  It’s harder to build a single car today but my friend, Steve Pasteiner, an ex-General Motors designer, has figured out how to do it.  He exhibited his latest at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida.  Steve is a great admirer of the mid-century General Motors designs, from the era when GM led the world in innovative auto design. 

A few years ago GM wanted to commission a custom car distilling the essence of Buick.  A competition was held.  Steve got the job.  He created the Buick Blackhawk, using a modern chassis with a contemporary body design inspired by elements of the 1939 and 1940 Buicks.  Now he has topped that in his latest Cadillac-La Salle C-Hawk, created for a customer who admires the GM La Salles of that same period.  Using Cadillac and Corvette mechanicals to ensure reliable high performance, Pasteiner completed the car by designing an all-metal two seat convertible inspired by those elegant ’39-’40 La Salles.  His customer may now possess the perfect car – top tier performance, easy reliability and design guaranteed to outrank Ferraris and Bentleys in the Valet Parking Grand Prix.  This is one of those “if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it” cars, but actually, for the cost of one Ferrari and one Bentley, you could have a Pasteiner creation.

The Ford Flex

If you crossed a Mini-Cooper with a Range Rover, you’d end up with something like a Ford Flex.  Or, if you grew up in a family that hauled its kids around in a fake-wood paneled Ford Country Squire, the very-well-done modern equivalent is this new, stylish wagon.


Ford Flex

The most outstanding quality of this new-wave Ford is its phenomenal combination of useful good qualities that quietly go about their job.  The dashboard is a perfect expression of this car.  It’s simple, sober, and easy-to-understand.  There’s no flash-and-dash here, just easygoing competence.  My personal preference is for smaller packages for everyday use, but for those who need the space, those sporty tight-knit packages are useless.

Two minor gripes:  The owner’s manual is printed on cheap paper.  But, unlike some pricey models that offer beautifully done manuals (and force you to use them because of the maddening complexity of the controls), the Ford owner will rarely need to consult this one.  Second, the nameplate on the front says only F-L-E-X.  If I had built this car, I’d be so proud of it I’d want my name on it.  F-O-R-D.

 

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