Maserati Sports Cars

Maserati is synonymous with hot-blooded Italian automobiles, and the sports cars featured in the pages that follow are some of the best of the breed. But first, let’s get started with a little history.
Maserati is the family name of six brothers from Bologna, a car-building clan that gained renowned when their Tipo 26 took first in class in the 1926 Targo Florio, the demanding Sicilian road race.
Throughout the 1930s, the cars and engines built by the Maseratis were among the fastest, most technically advanced, and most beautiful sporting machines of their age. Their production-based machines won the biggest European road races, and one of their single-seater even won the Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and 1940.
Postwar financial pressures forced the brothers to sell out to deeper pockets; they went on to form Officine Specializate Costruzione Automobili (OSCA) in 1947 and to build racecars into the 1960s.
The Maserati marque, meanwhile, passed through a succession of owners, the name remaining associated with competition glory on such luminaries as the F1-chamption 250F and the Birdcage sports racer

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. A small number of road cars wore the Maserati trident after World War II, but the breakthrough was the 3500GT of 1957, an elegant coupe powered by a race-worthy inline-six.
The Sebring coupe and convertible and the striking Giugiaro-styled Ghibli were among the succeeding Maseratis to follow this formula before the next breakthroughs, the midengine V-8 Bora of 1971 and V-6 Merak of 1972.
Led by the Biturbo series, Maserati relegated his sporting instincts to coupes and convertibles through most of the 1980s and 1990s. Ownership by now was under the giant Fiat group, and for a time, Maserati was partly controlled by another Fiat holding, none other than its old rival

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, Ferrari.
We’ll get started in the next section with the Maserati A6/1500.

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How Marmon Cars Work

Howard Marmon was a mechanical genius who strove to build the perfect automobile. By some accounts, he did exactly that with his magnificent 1931-33 Sixteen

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. But the Depression was not a time for perfectionists or super-expensive luxury giants, so Marmon Motor Car Company went out in a blaze of V-16 glory after only a few years of significant production.
Marmon grew up around his father’s Indianapolis milling-machine business, Nordyke and Marmon, said to be the world’s largest by the turn of the century. In 1902, after earning a mechanical-engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Howard returned to the family firm as its chief engineer. He was only 26. That same year, he tinkered up his first car: an air-cooled V-twin with pressure lubrication, then a revolutionary development.
Following in 1904 was the 50-cubic-inch V-4 Model A, another air-cooled ohv design but with an embryonic form of independent front suspension. Only six were built. The next year brought a similar Model B, a 2000-pound four-seater with a 90-inch wheelbase. Marmon sold 25 of those at $2500 each. After the derivative C35 and D36 came the ambitious M37 of 1906, a $5000 seven-seat touring car with a 128-inch wheelbase and a 65-horsepower air-cooled V-8 with a massive 707 cid. Yet the car scaled a svelte 3500 pounds, reflecting Howard’s passion for low weight through extensive use of aluminum and various alloys.
The M37 didn’t sell at all, so Marmon turned to conventional water-cooled inline-fours in 1909. At the same time, he devised his first Six, the Model 32. Marmon had already discovered the sales value of racing, but the 32 propelled him to the publicity pinnacle when a modified version called the “Wasp” won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. (Other racing Marmons racked up 51 competition victories in 1909-12.) This encouraged Howard to sell a road version, which arrived as the 1913 Model 48. But it sold poorly at $5000 — then a king’s ransom. So, too, did the successor 41 of 1914-15.
Then came the advanced 1916 Model 34. Its 340-cid six was virtually all-aluminum, as were the transmission and differential housings, body, fenders, hood, even the radiator. The 34 was an outstanding performer and its balanced chassis gave good handling. Durable, too. Driven by a relay team, one trekked from New York to San Francisco in only five days to break Cannonball Baker’s record run in a Cadillac by a substantial 41 hours

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. Sales more than tripled.
Nordyke and Marmon was contracted to build 5000 Liberty aircraft engines during World War I. Howard, meantime, joined the Army Air Corps, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He then returned home to usher in an improved Model 34, but sales were difficult due to the 1924 economic downturn. With that, Howard’s older brother, Walter, resigned as company president in 1924 (to become board chairman) and hired George M. Williams to put the firm back on its feet.
New president Williams thought the solution was lower-priced Marmons with conventional small-displacement straight-eights. He was right: Sales improved through 1926, when Nordyke and Marmon became Marmon Motor Company. By 1929, volume had risen to 22,300. Meanwhile, Howard set up a “front” firm called Midwest Aircraft, where he developed a V-16.
Marmon Motors continued with Williams’ Eights, issuing new examples of that engine type almost yearly. This activity peaked in 1930 with a facelifted Marmon-Roosevelt, revised straight-eight models designated 69 and 79, and a luxurious new Big Eight with 315 cid and 125 bhp. Prices now stretched from $995 to $3170. But this expansion was too soon and too rapid, and Marmon’s image became confused. The Roosevelt (named for President Teddy) was a low-priced “junior edition” typical of the optimistic late ’20s, but it failed to sell well and also tarnished the high-class aura of senior Marmons.
As a result, registrations plunged nearly 50 percent to 12,369. Amid this bad news came one result of five years’ research and dreaming by Howard Marmon: the unbelievable 1931 Sixteen. Packing 200 bhp from 490.8 cid, this amazing giant was guaranteed to do 100 mph. But it carried a giant-size price: $5100-$5400. Worse, the Cadillac Sixteen, which had arrived a year earlier — much to Howard’s dismay — was draining off what little demand still existed for such extraordinary machines in extraordinarily hard times.

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How the Polaroid Tablet Works

Tablet computers are kind of like cars, in that there’s no one choice that suits everybody. If you’re the digital equivalent of a luxury car owner who craves fine engineering, flashy design and plenty of high-end specs, you probably won’t settle for anything less than an iPad 3, with its high resolution retina display, elegantly styled case and capability of storing up to 64 gigabytes of data. And you won’t mind paying a premium price for it. If you’re a sports car buff, you might opt for the Kindle Fire, which runs apps at lightning speed with its high-powered microprocessor chip. If you’re the small-car-is-beautiful sort, you may gravitate to the Toshiba Excite 10 LE, which at 0.3 of an inch (0.8 centimeters) in thickness, is the slimmest tablet on the market [source: Perenson].
On the other hand, maybe you’re a no-nonsense, non-techie who simply wants a tablet for the basics — checking your e-mail or reading e-books — and doesn’t care that much about high-end features and specs you’ll probably never use, no matter how great they sound in an online review. You’re on a budget, so you want to spend as little as possible but still get reasonable functionality and quality for your money. Fancy-schmancy design doesn’t impress you, but you’re reassured by an old, familiar brand name. If you’re shopping for a car, you’d probably pick a reliable, small sedan. If it’s a tablet you want, you might find yourself considering a Polaroid 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) 4 GB Internet Tablet.
Released in 2012, the Polaroid Tablet doesn’t usually make it into the comparison lists for hot new tablets on techie Web sites, and you won’t see artsy TV commercials touting its virtues. And it’s not even actually made by the venerable camera and film manufacturer, but rather by a company called Southern Telecom, which licenses the name [source: Southern Telecom]

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But you’ll likely love its retail price of less than $130 from retailers such as Target and as little as $110 on Amazon.com [source: Amazon.com]. And despite being what CNet calls a “minimalist device,” the Polaroid Tablet still has some pretty nifty hardware features you’d expect from a more costly tablet by Samsung or Asus, and it comes with Google’s new, feature-rich Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. As a penny-pinching tablet, of course there are some tradeoffs, too, which we’ll get to shortly.

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1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55

The 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55 was the first of the big bucket-seat Mercurys introduced in reply to the growing early-’60s interest in sportier cars generally — and to counter Pontiac’s hot-selling ’62 Grand Prix in particular.
The Mercury Custom S-55 arrived at mid-model year as a hardtop coupe and convertible along with sibling Ford Galaxie 500XLs, and much like them technically. A 300-horse-power 390 V-8 was standard, but Dearborn’s new 406 enlargement — “Marauder” in Mercury-speak — was available on a very limited basis with 385 or 405 bhp via free-flow intake and exhaust systems, mechanical lifters, and 10.9:1 compression.
Still, most of these S-55s were built with the base engine and Multi-Drive automatic, and they emphasized sporty luxury with interiors featuring thin-shell bucket seats, shift console, and plenty of bright metal and mylar trim. The S-55 was not a sales success in ’62, but it would nonetheless carry on for the next several seasons. Pluses of the 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55:
Minuses of the 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55:
Production of the 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55:
Specifications of the 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55: Wheelbase, inches: 120.0 Length, inches: 120.0 Weight, pounds: 3

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,800-3,900 Price, new: $3,488-$3,738 (U.S.) Engines for the 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom S-55:

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1956-1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II

The Lincoln Continental Mark II is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of automobile production. It was supposed to establish Dearborn’s dominance at the top of the market — which it did — but it was somehow supposed to make money — which it couldn’t. Here’s the intriguing story behind the revival of a grand idea that proved too grand even for the 1950s.
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Great cars are never forgotten, and the original Lincoln Continental is one of them. In the early 1950s, memories of that timeless 1940-1941 design prompted dealers and would-be owners to ask Ford Motor Company for a successor, the first new Continental since the last of the postwar continuations was built in 1948. The result was the unforgettable Lincoln Continental 1956-1957 Mark II. Riddles and myths about the end of the first-series Continental persist to this day, but several facts are indisputable. First, a second-generation model was included in Ford’s postwar plans as late as early 1947, conceived for a 132-inch wheelbase to be shared with a new limousine at the top of the Lincoln line.
Second, those plans were drastically changed — almost at the 11th hour — by Ernest R. Breech, second in command to newly named company president Henry Ford II. Economics was the reason. Ford Motor Company was in dire financial straits by the late-1940s, and cost-cutting was imperative for survival. The Continental was a natural target. It was not only expensive and thus had limited sales potential, it was old.
Though running gear had been improved over the years, its basic design still hearkened back to the V-12 Zephyr of the 1930s. Worse, the gorgeous original styling, executed by Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie, had suffered from a 1942 facelift, which continued after the war. But the main reason the Continental died after 1948 was that there was no one left to sponsor it. Its creator, former company president Edsel Ford, died in May 1943, precipitating a leadership crisis that only aggravated his firm’s financial plight.
Despite the chaotic atmosphere of the early war years, he hand-worked with Gregorie and others on ideas for the firm’s first new postwar designs. But if Edsel had any particular visions about a second-generation Continental, he carried them to his grave. His death left a vacuum that the Mark II would soon fill. Keep reading for more about the birth of the Lincoln Continental Mark II

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. For more information on cars, see:

1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles

The performance-oriented ‘Cuda became a separate series, offering a standard 375-horsepower 383

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. But these heavier engines made for piggish handling, and the ‘Cudas were a bit overdecorated even for muscle machines.
More tasteful were the base and new luxury Gran Coupe series with standard slant six and V-8 options of 318, 340, and 383 cid; the latter provided more than sufficient go. Only detail styling, mechanical, and equipment changes were made for ’71, but production slipped in a faltering ponycar market.
The convertibles were never high-demand items, making them quite rare today. Notchback coupe companions carried on through 1974, after which Barracuda was abandoned, a victim of the first energy crisis.
Pluses of the 1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles:
Minuses of the 1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles:
Production of the 1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles:
Specifications of the 1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles: Wheelbase, inches: 108

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.0 Length, inches: 186.7 Weight, pounds: 3,071-3,200 Price, new: $3,034-$3,700
Engines for the 1970-1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertibles:

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Does regular vehicle maintenance make you safer?

Whether you drive a smoke-spewing ’99 Daewoo Lanos, a restored ’68 Ford Mustang Fastback or the latest Bentley Mulsanne to roll off the assembly lines, one fact remains: You’re driving a future junk car.
Oh sure, your vehicle might live on for centuries under the care of museum curators, alien invaders or highly evolved moth men, but probably not. The universe is perpetually changing. Everything from a newborn star to the screen you’re staring at right now is steadily dying, decaying or giving in to entropy. Energy may be infinite, but your mighty Daewoo doesn’t stand a chance.
This is where vehicle maintenance enters the picture. With appropriate care, you can restore and maintain the state of your vehicle — for a spell at least. This practice helps to preserve vehicle value and appearance, and it also rolls over into improved driver safety. After all, safe driving doesn’t mean quite as much if you don’t have working brakes.
A great deal of driving safety depends on visibility and driver-to-driver communication. Windshield wipers, for example, are hardly a luxury

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. They allow you to see other cars, pedestrians, lights, signs and wildlife during rainy conditions. Vehicle lights make it possible to drive at night and alert other drivers to both your presence and your navigational intentions. Failure to maintain working wipers, mirrors and lights adds an extra bit of danger to the roads and highways. And a dirty, cracked windshield? That’s a double helping of danger, obscuring visibility and increasing the risk of windshield fragmentation in an accident [source: AAA].
Unless you happen to wander into a 1980s slasher film, you’re probably not sufficiently endangered by a dead battery in the office parking lot. Out on the road, however, various wheel and engine failures can prove catastrophic. Poorly maintained brakes can hurt vehicle reaction time or even fail at a critical moment. Improperly inflated or threadbare tires can result in dangerous blowouts or hinder road grip on slippery surfaces. Poor engine maintenance can even lead to engine fire, an excellent reason to schedule those regular oil changes.
In short, poorly maintained vehicles put everyone on the road at risk, so make sure to do your part. Maintenance routines vary from vehicle to vehicle, so you’ll want to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specifics.
Keep reading for more links to automotive maintenance articles you might like.