Vespa – Ça c’est formidable! (It’s Great!), 1955. Way Cool Poster via @intlposter

Vespa - Ca c'est formidable (It's Great!), 1955. Artist: D Ambrose

Vespa – Ca c’est formidable (It’s Great!), 1955. Artist: D Ambrose

In 1955, the high-energy French actor and singer Gilbert Becaud released the hit song titled C’est Formidable! (That’s Great!). It was a perfect marketing opportunity for Vespa to create a hip poster campaign. The poster shows the singer nimbly mounting the scooter as if it were a skateboard (a recently minted pastime itself, at the publication of this poster). The background was equally hip, with Vespa’s patented pastel colors in asymmetrical, intersecting shapes that echo Mid-Century furniture design. Fantastique!

Vespa, or Wasp in English, was named in 1946 for its narrow waist, high-pitched engine and antenna-like handlebar. The product was perfectly suited for the war-torn country, where consumer budgets and poor roads made larger vehicles impractical.

In 1952, the vehicle’s popularity skyrocketed when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck teamed up on a Vespa in Roman Holiday. By 1956, 1 million Vespas had been sold. The Vespa survives today as one of the most fun products on two wheels.

Image and description via, International Poster Gallery.

The 1936 Morgan Sports MX2 ‘Cyclecar’ – The Original Triker Bike

The Morgan Sports MX2 1936 (8754)

The Morgan Sports MX2 1936 (8754)

Manufacturer: Morgan Motor Company, Malvern (Worcestershire) – UK
Type: Sports (MX2)
Engine: 990cc V-Twin air-cooled
Power: 22 bhp / 4.500 rpm
Speed: 117 km/h
Production time: 1933 – 1936

Points Of Interest:

– The three-wheeled Morgan or ‘trike,’ as it is also known, was built in response to the British tax on four-wheeled automobiles (considered to be cyclecars).

– Until 1933 Morgan used John Alfred Prestwich (J.A.P.) engines, later the Matchless MX, MX2 and MX4 engines.

– This “Sports Model” has a Matchless MX2 V-Twin air-cooled engine, a three-speed manual gearbox (+ reverse), an electric starter, front and rear separated/independent drum brakes (cable controlled), a AMAL carburettor, a 18 liters fuel tank and rear wheel drive (chain drive train).

– It has independent front suspension with shock absorbers and a rigid rear axle.

– It could be ordered with either none, one or two doors.

– This Sports model (built between 1932 and 1939) replaced the Aero.

(Photo and Descriptions via Le Photiste)

The Time A Catholic Priest Dared To Challange Convention…And Was Destroyed

Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car

Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car, Developed with the object of maximizing safety for both occupants and pedestrians.

Despite having no mechanical knowledge, Father Juliano set out to put his heart and soul into that car. I think the whole story is so sad. He died a broken man, because he lost his dream.
– Andy Saunders, Present Owner and Restorer of the Aurora, New York Times, 2007

Father Juliano’s Aurora car certainly is an unusual looking vehicle – the story that goes with it is unusual as well. The photo and the narrative below can be found in Giles Chapman’s fascinating 2009 book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Automobiles, published by DK Publishing.

Aurora was unveiled [in 1957 and] was fully functioning (rather than a static exhibit). More importantly, the Aurora took careful account of pedestrian safety. This remarkable-looking car was the four-year project of a Catholic priest, Father Alfred Juliano of the Order of the Holy Ghost, with financial help from his congregation. His safety-first outlook led him to include seatbelts, side-impact bars, a collapsible telescoping steering column, and a curved, deeply-padded dashboard free of sharp projections. The seats could be swiveled around in the face of an impending, unavoidable accident. The Aurora’s tinted ‘Astrodome’ roof had three thick, built-in roll-over protection bars. Reporters roasted the car’s unveiling at Manhattan’s Hotel New Yorker, but entirely missed the point because the bizarre plastic contours, with wheels, radiator grille, and lights tucked deep away, were meant to stop a pedestrian from sustaining injury in just about any accidental contact. At a tentative US $12,000, it was almost as costly as the top Cadillac of the era; Father Juliano didn’t receive a single order despite offering a choice of power units. He was later forced to leave his church after allegations of misappropriating parishioner’s cash and personal bankruptcy.

A tragic spin on the proverb: The road to hell is paved with good intentions…?

The Short Life Of A Beautiful Idea: The Soviet ‘Sormovich’ Passenger Hovercraft

A gas-turbine hovercraft 'Sormovich' was built in 1965. During the tests  the 'Sormovich' reached  the speed of 120 km / h, went above the surface of the earth at a height of 0.25-0.3 m, it had easily overcame the shallow water and landed gently on the beach.

‘Sormovich’ was built in 1965. During the tests she reached the speed of 120 km/h (75 miles/hr), and went above the surface at a height of 0.25-0.3 m (approx. 1 ft), – she had easily overcome the shallow water and landed gently on the beach.

It looks like an airplane’s fuselage zipping on the water…

The Soviet Sormovich: A gas-turbine passenger hovercraft that operated on an experimental passenger line along the Volga River (Gorky – Cheboksary) in 1971-1972, which was 274 km (170 miles). A round trip from Gorky to Cheboksary took one day.

The ship had a crew of 3 people and could carry up to 50 passengers. The passenger lounge was placed at the bow. Operation was complicated by problems with the dispensing gear that failed. According to the statistics the Sormovich served about 6,000 passengers.

The 'Sormovich' In A More Pastoral Scene

The Sormovich In A More Pastoral Scene

1971 'Sormovich' winter conditions test.

1971 Sormovich winter conditions test.

In 1971, tests were conducted with the Sormovich to determine the feasibility of passenger traffic in the winter.

The tests were successful, but the idea of ​​passenger traffic in the winter was refused.

This decision was unclear, because the ship was designed to operate in the winter months. Perhaps it was connected with almost completely absent infrastructure for winter navigation on the Volga river.  (English Russia)

The Sormovich decommissioned, abandoned, and in disrepair.

The Sormovich decommissioned, abandoned, and in disrepair.

The gas-turbine hovercraft was decommissioned in 1974. The Sormovich met her end on a base in the Gorky Region. There it fell into a complete state of disrepair. It was cut into pieces of lifeless metal.

(Source material and photos: English Russia)

In Which An Aerial Bomb Is Converted Into A Spaceship Pedal Car

Salvaged Bomb Makes Juvenile Space Ship

Salvaged Bomb Makes Juvenile Space Ship – July, 1955

Its central structure a discarded 500-pound aerial bomb, a juvenile “space ship” gives two-foot-power transportation to Gene Montoya of Honolulu. The space ship was built by Gene’s father, D. L. Montoya, in a single week end at a cost of less than a dollar. The surplus bomb is lined with rubber padding and the wire wheels are from another juvenile vehicle.

Source: Modern Mechanix

It’s hoped that gutting out the bomb eliminated a good part of that 500-pounds, otherwise little Gene must have had a serious workout as he pedaled around.

Photographs and Memories: Those Family Pictures Are Not Junk


UPDATE: This post has been edited from the original published earlier in the day on December 14. New information about the photos had been passed on shortly after the post hit the blog. The changes did not affect the content of the original presentation.

It was almost a standing joke in the 20th Century: People would go out on vacations, take a lot of photos, return home, and share those photos with anyone who would look. Friends and family would roll their eyes and politely sit through the presentation. Some, though, enthused over the smallest details of the pictured treasures.

It seems doubtful that the many folks who took those shots imagined a 21st Century when those meaningful moments would be seen all over the world with just a click of a mouse. Little did they realize that they were documenting an era(s) for future generations of strangers. The snapshots would be put into scrapbooks for future familial generations, or into boxes and stored away like so much junk. As time went on the photos would fade, not unlike the memories. Some would end up in a landfill close to the old family home. Some would be passed down the family tree where younger generations would obligingly accept them and stow them away for what, they don’t know. Some would be sold by bulk in garage sales, or vintage memorabilia shops, or entire estate sales.

Fortunately, for history’s sake, there are people like Vieilles-Annonces – a Vernacular Photography Curator working with 35mm slide digitizing and restoration, who specializes in Kodachrome. Her Flickr page, Midwestern Femme, features pages of this work and it is truly wonderful. Vieilles-Annonces:

These slides and photographs came from many estate sales. They were dusty, darkened, bent, underexposed (some damaged by water) and were destined to be trash. Through the help of Photoshop, they can be seen once again.

A number of the photos shown below were purchased by  Vieilles-Annonces from an older, more experienced collector/restorer. One might say that torch has been passed in the interest of preservation. Those snapshots that were acquired from the gentleman curator will be marked with an asterisk.

All of these photos have been restored with their great Kodachrome color look and seem almost like they were taken yesterday. Having had to narrow them down to a few was difficult to do. Below you’ll find some of the meaningful moments of yesterday that shine a light on the photographers’ otherwise long lost past.

Children were almost always a favorite subject:

Chicago Museum in 1967
*Chicago Museum in 1967 – the Telstar model satellite above the children looks a lot like the Star Wars’ Death Star…are we seeing an influence on George Lucas?

Dutch Wonderland in 1964
*Dutch Wonderland in 1964 – the photographer was probably waiting at just the right spot to get this shot.

Of course the adults had their moments:

After Dinner Play - mid 1950s
*After Dinner Play – mid 1950s. A more subdued evening with everyone dressed to the nines.

Now THIS is a Party - Taken between May 1949 -May 1952
Taken between May 1949 -May 1952. Perhaps a New Year party where getting loose is a bit more acceptable – the expressions are priceless.

And then there were the vehicles – people took great pride in their rides:

Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie, Drove My Chevy To The Levee, But The Levee Was Dry - Taken between May 1952 - Aug 1955
Taken between May 1952 – Aug 1955. This Buick Eight Dynaflow must have taken pride of place for its owner.

Big White Cadillac, I Hope Somebody's Got My Back, Boy - August, 1961
August, 1961- The space age tail on this Cadillac Sedan de Ville probably had all the neighbors talking.

All The Young Dudes Carry the News - September, 1961
September, 1961- Looks like someone’s son is standing at the ready to protect this Cadillac Series 62 Convertible.

Messerschmitt Auto Nuremberg, Germany in March, 1956
Messerschmitt Auto Nuremberg, Germany in March, 1956 – The Europeans were a bit more experimental it seems.

Public transportation used to be more appreciated:

Hawaii 1965's Gray Line Touring Cars
*Hawaii 1965’s Gray Line Touring Car – For a lot of folks, this would be the closest to a limo ride that they would ever get.

Spirit of 1776 in Allentown, Pennsylvania - Late 1940s
*Spirit of 1776 in Allentown, Pennsylvania – Late 1940s. Also known as The Freedom Train, this ALCO powered locomotive was the first diesel train in an age of steam. It was very popular with the masses and the lines were always long – as seen in this great photo. The Freedom Train is said to ‘hold the record for “the most kissed” locomotive of all time.’

De Grasse Steamship - Taken Between 1949 and 1952
*De Grasse Steamship – Taken Between 1949 and 1952. Officially known as, The Doughty De Grasse, and built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, United Kingdom for the French Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, she was the largest French liner at the time. She was seized in 1940 by the Germans and sunk by gunfire at Bordeaux in 1944. The De Grasse was rebuilt and refit in 1947. In 1953 she was taken over, refitted by Canadian Pacific Steamships, and renamed The Empress Of Australia. Her end came in 1962. By then renamed The Venezuela, the ship wrecked off Cannes in March and she was broken up at La Spezia in August the same year.

Deutsche Bundesbahn - Late 1950s
*Deutsche Bundesbahn – Late 1950s. This looks a lot like an Schienen-Straßen-Omnibus (aka, The Rail Bus) – a two-way vehicle for passenger transport on both railways and roads. Perhaps the photographer knew of its novelty, hence the pic.

The Clipper Defender in Portugal August, 1959 - Pan American World Airline
The Clipper Defender in Portugal August, 1959 – Pan American World Airline. The Defender was a Douglas DC-7C, aka ‘Seven Seas,’ as it could fly ‘non-stop routes across the US, as well as in transatlantic, transpacific, and even Great Circle routes over the North Pole.’ The DC-7C was ‘a plane that finally brought virtually every spot on the globe within reach of the world’s airlines via a direct routing.’ Within a few years of its accomplishments the DC-7C would become obsolete as the world of flight would abandon piston-engine transport for the jet-age stars like the Boeing 707.

And then there are the unusual transports:

A Shark Plane Boat - 1943
*A Shark Plane Boat – 1943. The design is reminiscent of Commander Claire Chennaul’s famous WWII Flying TIgers’ nose art. Check out their story here.

While in Japan... Early 1950s

While in Japan… Early 1950s. This is an excellent photo of an early fire bike. In Japan there has been, for a long time, concern about earthquakes. The fire bikes are to this day seen as having an all terrain, obstacle avoiding advantage over trucks. Today they are known as ‘Quick Attackers’ and are used for fire-fighting, rescue and medical first aid treatment.

And some history:

Alaska Comes Into The Union - January 3, 1959
*Alaska Comes Into The Union – January 3, 1959. That’s a pretty big headline for a big event, but it looks like there’s a blazing fire in the background. Curious.

Cold Bay Alaska manning the controls - late 1950s
*Cold Bay Alaska manning the controls – late 1950s. Completed in September, 1958, and manned by the 714th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, the Cold Bay AFS was set up as a defense radar station constructed to provide the United States Air Force early warning of an attack by the Soviet Union on Alaska. The site was inactivated in 1979 when microwave signals proved more reliable than the high frequency radio system used until that time.

There are photographs of some exotic looking American sites:

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota - 1950
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota – 1950

And some very exotic places overseas:

Cairo, Egypt in 1956
*Cairo, Egypt in 1956

And finally, there is humor.

This Bear Is Becoming A Tad Too Familiar - Taken between 1939 and May 1949This Bear Is Becoming A Tad Too Familiar – Taken between 1939 and May 1949. The woman in the car does not look amused but I’m sure there were laughs when the pic was shown to family and friends.

So there you have it – some really super photos taken by average people who unwittingly captured their moments in time for all of us to enjoy. Many thanks go out to the Gentleman Collector for his contributions to this collection, and to Vieilles-Annonces for her wonderful work and dedication to preserving these gems.