This Chevrolet Master Deluxe is the result of a partnership combining the graphic art of tattoo and graffiti artist Mister Cartoon and the “film noir style” of Gangster Squad (2013), a film directed by Ruben Fleischer.
Lying on a blanket of Autumn leaves, these captivating scenes of abandoned vintage cars caught the attention of an urban explorer and photographer known online as DARKstyle Pictures, whose discoveries we’ve featured before on Urban Ghosts.
It’s unclear whether they’re part of a collection awaiting restoration or the unfortunate occupants of some forgotten vehicle graveyard.
Either way, the vintage machines make for an impressive series of images.
An enthusiast’s dream, all the cars pictured were found to be in the clutches of decay, though some were clearly in significantly better shape than others.
Among the collectible machines was a 1948 Jaguar XK120 racing car bearing the number ‘218’ and a name plate identifying its one-time participation in the historic Rallye Bavaria.
Elsewhere, the peeling red paintwork of another corroding classic bore the unmistakable form of a faded Iron Cross emblazoned on the door.
It’s easy to forget that a century ago, gasoline-powered cars didn’t completely dominate the automobile market.
In 1900, roughly 40 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. were steam-powered. And in fact, when the Boston police bought one of the country’s first cop cars in 1903 it was running on steam.
About 40% of American-made cars in 1900 were steam-powered
The Boston PD’s 1903 cop car was a Stanley Steamer. But even though we might think of steam-powered vehicles as a joke today, these weren’t lightweights. They were known as some of the fastest cars around. The police force was quick to buy up more steam-powered cars whenever they could.
From the March 15, 1905 issue of The Horseless Age magazine:
The Boston Police Department, which has been making use of autos for some time, has decided to add two high-speed [steam-powered] runabouts, to be used on the parkways and boulevards of the city, in the early spring.
Some of the police department’s steam-powered cars didn’t last very long (one Boston PD steam car bought in 1905 lasted just over 7,000 miles before being decommissioned) but the cars could catch any speeders they were after.
There was the added benefit that the police force was hiring civilian chauffeurs (shown above in a 1903 illustration) who stayed with the vehicles when police officers needed to jump out and pursue a suspect.
Always on the hunt for the fastest vehicles available, the Boston PD purchased a Ross steam-powered vehicle in 1909, made in nearby Newtonville, Massachusetts.
In 1952, Prof. Willy Messerschmitt needed a project to keep his RSM division busy, and a timely visit by his former employee Fritz Fend with a concept for a tandem two-seat vehicle resulted in a deal being struck.
By the summer of 1952 a prototype was ready. Called Fend Kabinenroller FK-150, it included all the elements of the first production Messerschmitts except for the plexi dome made up of several pieces, and the 150cc motor.
Production began in February 1953, but early feedback indicated that the car was far from perfect: the suspension was very hard, it was noisy and rattled, and the hand clutch didn’t come off well in practice.
By June of 1953 some 70 modifications had been made.
These early examples are very rare, and this is one, with its complicated rear suspension, hand clutch, open chain and narrow rear seat
Unveiled at the General Motors Highways and Horizons pavilion at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in New York, the Pontiac ‘Ghost Car’ was buit on the chassis of a 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six.
In collaboration with Rohm & Haas, a chemical company that had recently developed Plexiglass, the concept for a transparent car was conceived and it was the first one ever built in America.
“This is the only one known to exist,” said Alain Squindo, a car specialist for RM Auctions, which held the auction for the Ghost Car and other speciality vehicles in Plymouth, Michigan. “It’s a very original car.”
It toured a number of dealerships and then was at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. for a number of years.
It has been owned by the same family since the 1980s. “They were rather sad to see their beloved car go,” Squindo said. He could not disclose the name of the buyer.
The car has 86 miles on it, picked up by being driven in and out of dealerships for displays.
It was a collaboration between GM and Rohm & Haas chemical company, which made the Plexiglas. Structural metal underneath was given a copper wash, and all hardware, including the dashboard, was chrome-plated.
Prototype No. 1 is the only survivor of three test Holden sedans built by hand in 1946 by American and Australian engineers at the General Motors workshop in Detroit.
Earlier that year, General Motors-Holden’s chief Laurence Hartnett had submitted to his American bosses an experimental car design with integrated fenders and straight side panels.
Reluctant about the Australian venture from the beginning, General Motors executives unceremoniously rejected Hartnett’s proposal in favour of a more conservative and curvaceous design with a striking chrome grille.
Known as the ‘Australian Car’, prototype no. 1 became the definitive model for millions of Holden vehicles.
After months of durability and performance tests at the General Motors Milford proving ground, prototype no. 1 was shipped to Australia along with two other prototypes. Legend has it that the three cars were then driven under cover of darkness to the Fishermen’s Bend factory in Melbourne.
Registered as JP-480, prototype no.1 underwent further testing on a circuit east of Melbourne, specifically designed to replicate Australian driving conditions.
Technicians continued to make minor technical modifications to the car, while General Motors-Holden’s executives searched for a name for the new car.
After much deliberation, they finally decided upon the ‘Holden’, in honour of Sir Edward Holden, the company’s first chairman. Other names considered were GeM, Austral, Melba, Woomerah, Boomerang, and Emu.
The car narrowly avoided the name ‘Canbra’, a phonetic spelling of Canberra.
The first Holden rolled off the assembly line at Fishermen’s Bend on 29 November 1948.
Many saw the event as evidence of national maturity, proof that Australia had escaped its pastoral beginnings and embraced the modern industrial age.
The Holden 48-215 (commonly known as the FX) was a robust and economical family sedan, designed for the Australian environment. Combining local production with American styling and technical simplicity, the car captivated many Australians.
Public reaction to the prospect of an Australian-built car had been extraordinary, with around 18,000 people signing up for a Holden without knowing a single detail about the car.
Holdens soon dominated the roads.
By 1958 sales accounted for over 40 per cent of total car sales in Australia. A million had been sold by 1960 and, despite market competition from the Ford Falcon, another million were sold over the next six years.