Magazine Time Machine: Motor Trend October 1952

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last one, so now that the holidays are done and over, lets get back to the good-old-days of automobiling. The early 1950s were still heady days for car makers, and many manufacturers we know today didn’t even exist back then. Don’t worry, though, as there are dozens more that existed then that don’t now, like Henry J, Mercury, Packard, and Willys. And that only covers what’s on the cover! As usual with these more-than-double-my-age vintage magazines, the cover art is awesome, there’s a couple neat road-tests, the advertisements are great, and oh those classifieds ads, they’re just so perfect. Click the jump to see more.

For an issue in 1952, this one has an awful lot of colored ink. Most of these early 1950s rags reserve color for the covers and *maybe* a centerfold photo spread (of cars, not girls). This one, though, has color sprinkled throughout as emphasis on titles of articles, or background shading. More than one color, too!
That’s not really important, though. What’s important is the awesome piece on the Rover “Whizzard” Turbine car featured here. I believe I had mentioned in an earlier iteration of this sporadic column that a later variation on this theme went racing at Le Mans with BRM and Richie Ginther. Basically Ginther crashed a car, BRM gave it to Rover and said “repair it, then put that whizzy contraption in there” and then they raced it. That’s how weird race cars were built back then. There’s a lot more information about that effort out there if you want to find it, but that’s the gist of it for now.
Not particularly noteworthy, other than the fact that I know exactly where this photo was taken, and I’ve parked my car in that very same place. It’s only a few dozen miles from where I’m sitting right now. Lake Tahoe is gorgeous this time of year (and all times of year), don’t ya know? The Packard 300 is a neat looking car today, but in the early 1950s, it was just another family car. That “13.6 mpg” figure in the bottom right corner makes me chuckle a bit, though.
The debate continues to rage on today, and in fact I stand on the “or wrong?” side of the fence. You’ll see more about that in a piece I’m currently working on, but I thought it was interesting that this was a topic they were talking about back in the 50s, when 200 horsepower was considered high. I wonder what either Grant or Fletcher would make of the 707 horsepower Hellcats we have today. WITCHCRAFT!
There was a section of the issue dedicated to essentially “Readers Rides” but dedicated to only cars used by “Sportsmen”. This Dodge was already 26 years old when the issue came out, but it was modified in a really cool way, to carry scaffolding and a platform from which to shoot. I’ve never been much of a hunter, but this truck is really neat. I wonder where it is today.
It’s not often these days that you see an Indy 500 champ hocking speed parts for street cars. Heck, it’s not often you see an Indy 500 champ in the pages of Motor Trend. They don’t care much for racing these days, it seems. Maybe an Izod ad with one of the lesser Andrettis a few years ago, perhaps. “These headers will give your car longer ‘ping-less’ motor life” is one of the more interesting product promises I’ve ever seen. Can anyone explain how or why that would be promised?
Someone wants to get out of their 20 year old Buick and into a newer sporty European-style runabout? And they want to trade square for square? Today that would be like someone posting a CL ad saying they have a 1996 Buick Park Avenue that they’d like to trade for a new Fiat 124 Roadster at the dealership. Seems a bit crazy to me.
How about that bottom listing, though? A George Barris customized 51 Bel Air that was on the cover of Motor Trend, and has a new race engine in it for $5500? I mean, that was a lot of money back then, but you’d be the talk of the town. Larry Earnst’s 51 Chevy would have been the talk of the town, no matter what town you lived in. It’s gorgeous. And for emphasis, here’s a photo of George Barris standing next to this exact car that is for sale in the back of the magazine. Neat how history works, isn’t it?Larry-Ernst-1951-chevrolet2
The second World War has been over for a few years now, and America is booming. Leave it to Willys to capitalize on that. Willys: You may remember us from such hits as “Take That Hitler!” and “You Too Hiro Hito!”. If you’re a War Boy, you know us well. If you’re a War Boy’s Mama, you should know we kept your baby safe *Until It Was Over Over There*! So come on down to your local Willys Dealer for a test drive today!

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  1. Citric Avatar

    That is an impressively awkward back seat conversation happening in the Willys ad.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      “Well…yes, actually we did. But Honey, it was before I even met you…”

      1. Alff Avatar

        “It’s times like this I wish I’d bought a Nash”

  2. Jeepster Avatar

    This …

    1. The Rusty Hub Avatar
      The Rusty Hub

      …and now there’s coffee all over my monitor and my coworkers think I’m craz(ier).

  3. Alff Avatar

    I want to hear about the Willys with duals front and rear.

    1. bigredcavetroll Avatar

      If I remember correctly, I think it was supposed to be marketed towards farmers who could use it as both a tractor and a run-around.

    2. The Rusty Hub Avatar
      The Rusty Hub

      Duals in the rear is in the above-mentioned image from the ad.

      1. Alff Avatar

        Those are quads.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    I’d like to read the Packard road test, since I was brought home from the hospital in my parents’ ’52 Packard 250 with Ultramatic.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    And Walt Woron? He was still writing for MT into the late ’60s and early ’70s.

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    Where’s the interior design pictures?