U.S. prepares for 1940 “Arsenal of Democracy”

A Veterans Day tribute in vintage photography of General Motors’ support for “The great arsenal of democracy”

Tanks being assembled in a GM factory to support the U.S. war effort

During WWII, G.M. converted all of its plant facilities to support the “Arsenal of Democracy.” (Photos courtesy of GM)


It was Dec. 29, 1940, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned of the impending wartime threat to national security. In a radio broadcast, he galvanized the country when he used the term “Arsenal of Democracy” and urged preparations.

According to Wikipedia, it was nearly a year before the United States would enter the Second World War (1939-1945.) Nevertheless, Roosevelt’s address was a call to arms for supporting the Allies in Europe in total war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The Allied War Effort

“The great arsenal of democracy” came to specifically refer to the industry of the U.S. as the primary supplier of material for the Allied war effort.

A 1943 photo of a GMC Duck used in WWII

GMC delivered its first “Ducks” to the U.S. Army in 1943. A unique central tire inflation system allowed the driver to adjust tire pressure from inside the cab.

Roosevelt promised help to the United Kingdom to fight Nazi Germany. The U.S. would sell the U.K. military supplies while the United States stayed out of the actual fighting. The president announced that intent a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), when Germany had occupied much of Europe and threatened Britain.

A vast parking area of completed GMC Ducks

Completed military “Ducks” and trucks built by GMC await deployment. In 1944, GMC received the Army-Navy “E” Award for Excellence in the war effort. The U.S. Army considered the GMC 2½-ton 6x6s the best trucks in service, and the GMC Duck the most outstanding of new ordnance weapons.

GMC Ducks on the assembly line in 1943

GMC built these military “Ducks” at its Truck & Coach Division plant in Pontiac, Mich. After the war, surviving vehicles were used for military training and others landed in the tourism industry.

The arsenal for support came from more than 40 U.S. industries. Among the transportation manufacturers were:

  • General Motors: trucks, tanks, and aircraft parts
  • Ford Motor Co.: trucks and aircraft
  • Chrysler: tanks, electronics, and trucks
  • Packard: aircraft engines
  • Nash-Kelvinator: parts
  • Studebaker: trucks
  • Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.: tires
  • International Harvester: trucks
  • Convair (San Diego-based): aircraft
  • Caterpillar Inc.: tanks
  • Allis-Chalmers: parts
A GMC magazine ad showcased its amphibious military “Ducks”

During WWII, GMC showcased its amphibious military “Ducks” in popular magazines of the day. The campaign encouraged patriotic readers to “invest in victory” and buy war bonds and stamps. From 1942 to 1945, sales of vehicles to civilians all but ended as manufacturing was redirected toward the war effort.

GM Wartime Support

On this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2021, I found these General Motors’ wartime photos.

GM has supported the U.S. military since 1917 when 90 percent of its truck production went toward WWI manufacturing. During WWII, GM converted all of its plant facilities to support the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

GM claims to have produced more U.S. military vehicles than any manufacturer in history.

Between 1942 and 1945, GM’s Chevrolet division manufactured:

  • 60,000 Pratt & Whitney bomber and cargo plane engines;
  • 500,000 trucks;
  • 8 million artillery shells;
  • 3,000 90mm cannon barrels;
  • 1 million tons of aluminum forgings;
  • 1 million tons of gray-iron castings;
  • 2,850 tons of magnesium forgings, and;
  • 3,800 T-17 Staghound armored scout cars.
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Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 ‘Alfetta.’

Nino Farina takes the checkered flag in an Alfa Romeo 158 at the 1950 Silverstone Grand Prix. The first ‘hat trick’ of Formula 1.”

Nino Farina takes the checkered flag in an Alfa Romeo 158 at the 1950 Silverstone Grand Prix. The first ‘hat trick’ of Formula 1.”

Nino Farina in Alfa Romeo 158 at the 1950 Silverstone Grand Prix.


The energy is compelling in this vintage PR image from the Alfa Romeo media site.

The modern era’s first World Championship Formula 1 race was staged May 13, 1950, at the Silverstone Circuit in Silverstone, England.
Giuseppe “Nino” Farina won the Grand Prix of Europe with his Alfa Romeo Tipo 158 ‘Alfetta.’

It was such an impressive feat that King George VI personally congratulated all the drivers of the Alfa Romeo Team for the exceptional result: pole position (Farina), victory (Farina), fastest lap (Farina), and top place in the league throughout the Grand Prix.

The “Little Alfa”

The Alfa Romeo 158/159, also known as the Alfetta (Little Alfa in Italian), is one of the Italian manufacturer’s most successful Grand Prix racing cars.

According to its page in Wikipedia, the Alfa Romeo 158 and its derivative, the 159, took 47 wins from 54 Grands Prix entered. The race car was developed initially for the pre-World War II voiturette formula (1937) and had a 1.5-liter straight-8 supercharged engine. The car’s 158 ID refers to its 1.5-liter engine and eight cylinders.

Following World War II, the car was eligible for the new Formula One introduced in 1947.

The “3F” Team

In the hands of drivers such as Nino Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Luigi Fagioli, it dominated the first two seasons of the Drivers’ World Championship.

In a 2015 report by Sports Car Digest, Alfa Romeo fielded a team of four “Alfetta” to the Silverstone track for the debut World Championship Formula 1 race in 1950.

The Alfa Romeo 158 race cars were entrusted to Giuseppe “Nino” Farina, who became the world champion at the end of the season, and to Luigi Fagioli, Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio was the rising Argentine star who won the world title in ’51 again with the Alfetta, and Reg Parnell, a British driver chosen in honor of the country hosting the first Championship.

Farina won the race, and two other places on the podium were also Alfa Romeo entries. The cars of the Milan-based company dominated the race, a script that was repeated throughout the Championship.

During the season, the trio of Farina, Fagioli, and Fangio was dubbed by the public as “the 3F.” Together with their Alfa Romeo, they held the name of Italy high in international motor racing, a historic moment for the country and Alfa Romeo.

After the race, King George VI personally congratulated all the drivers of the Alfa Romeo Team for the exceptional result: pole position (Farina), victory (Farina) and other two places on the podium, fastest lap (Farina), and the top of the league throughout the Grand Prix.
“‘Nino’ Farina thus also took home the first ‘hat trick’ of Formula 1.”

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1959 Chevrolet El Camino

The 1959 Chevrolet El Camino  combined dramatically finned styling with half-ton pickup utility

A pastoral photo of a 1959 Chevrolet El Camino on a stone bridge in the countryside

Unlike a standard pickup truck, the El Camino was adapted from the two-door Chevrolet Brookwood two-door wagon. (Photos courtesy of GM archives)


The original Chevrolet El Camino introduced for 1959 combined the dramatically finned styling of that period’s Chevrolet cars with half-ton pickup utility.

The El Camino as a passenger-car pickup was intended to answer the success of the Ford Ranchero coupé utility. The Chevrolet variant was based on the B-body Biscayne wagon but lasted only two years.

Production resumed for the 1964-1977 model years based on the Chevelle platform. Then, it continued for the 1978-1987 model years based on the GM G-body platform for midsized, long-wheelbase rear-wheel-drive cars. Examples of G-body cars are the 1969-1972 Pontiac Grand Prix and 1970-1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

The Personal-Car Pickup

Unlike a standard pickup truck, the El Camino was adapted from the two-door Chevrolet station wagon platform and integrated the cab and cargo bed into the body, according to its page in Wikipedia.

The excitement of the El Camino’s debut was short-lived. After 1960, the passenger-car pickup went on a three-year hiatus.

Chevrolet revived the “personal pickup” concept for 1964, with a new version based on that year’s new midsize Chevrolet Chevelle.

During the ‘muscle car’ era that followed, El Camino buyers could order their truck with a Chevrolet high-performance big-block V-8 powertrain, creating a sport pickup that could “haul” in more ways than one. By 1968, a complete Super Sport package was available.

The Chevelle El Camino was produced through two more styling generations (1968-1972 and 1973-1977).

For 1978, the El Camino was moved to that year’s new, smaller Malibu platform. The final El Caminos were 1987 models.

The GMC truck division also had its badge-engineered El Camino variant, called the Sprint. It was introduced for the 1971 model year. Renamed Caballero in 1978, it was also produced through the 1987 model year.

A vintage image from Chevrolet PR photo archives of a red 1959 El Camino

The 1959 El Camino was aimed at the success of the Ford Ranchero, introduced in 1957.


The concept of a two-door pickup-like vehicle based on a passenger car began in the United States in the 1920s. The body style was known as a roadster utility, roadster pickup or a light delivery model.

Ford Australia was the first company to produce a coupé utility. The idea for such a vehicle came from a 1932 letter from a farmer’s wife in Victoria, Australia. She asked for “a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays.”

Ford designer Lew Bandt developed a suitable solution, and the first coupé utility model was released in 1934.

General Motors’ Australian subsidiary Holden also produced a Chevrolet coupé utility in 1935. And Studebaker produced the Coupé Express from 1937 to 1939.

The body style did not reappear in the U.S. until the release of the 1957 Ford Ranchero.

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1967 Lamborghini Marzal Concept

The 1967 Lamborghini Marzal concept car is distinctive for its expansive glass roof, spanning 48.4 square feet

The 1967 Marzal with doors open

The four-seat Lamborghini Marzal was created as a concept for a true four-seat grand-tourer. (Photos courtesy of Lamborghini)



The 1967 Lamborghini Marzal was a one-off show car that became a worldwide icon of style and design. The ultramodern four-seat Marzal was designed by Marcello Gandini for Carrozzeria Bertone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruppo_Bertone
Among its many special design elements were:

  • An interior upholstered in silver-colored leather;
  • A hexagonal central design theme. The geometric shape was repeated in the dashboard, the rear window, and in the console cut-out;
  • 6 narrow S.E.V. Marchal headlamps in the thin, wedge-shaped nose;
  • The extensive glass surface covers 4.5 square meters, reaching from the gullwing doors to the roof.

Lamborghini calls the Marzal “a fully operational show car with the largest glass surface in history.”

The hexagonal design theme.

The central design theme for the Marzal centered around the hexagon.

4 Seat Grand Tourer

Lamborghini president Ferruccio Lamborghini had the Marzal created as a concept for a true four-seat grand touring car. In his lineup already were the 400GT 2+2 and the Miura.

The Marzal remained a one-off, though the general shape and many of the ideas would later be used in the Lamborghini Espada.
According to the Marzal page in Wikipedia, Ferruccio Lamborghini initially viewed the creation of the Marzal as advertising rather than a production model.

“The Marzal was not developed as a production car. If you present a car like the Marzal at automobile shows such as Geneva, Turin, and Frankfurt, all the magazines report on the first page about it. You would rather spend 100 million lire for building such an automobile which is still less expensive than paying for all the advertising. That would cost almost a billion lire. So it compensates in any case to build such a throwaway car.”

The silver leather interior

The Marzal interior is entirely upholstered in silver-colored leather.

Lamborghini Marzal Specifications

The rear-engine and rear-wheel-drive Marzal was a relative lightweight at 2,960 pounds on a 103.1-inch wheelbase. It was 14.6 feet long (175.2 inches) and stood 43.3 inches tall by 66.9 inches wide. The concept car shared a chassis, suspension, steering, and brakes with the Miura.

The Marzal is powered by half of the Lamborghini 4.0-liter V-12 engine. The 175-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine produced peak torque of 132 foot-pounds at 4,600 rpm. Top speed was estimated at 118 miles per hour (190 kmh).

The Marzal from behind

Lamborghini President Ferruccio Lamborghini had the Marzal created as a concept for a true four-seat grand touring car.

Lamborghini Marzal History

The Lamborghini Marzal made its public debut at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. Prince Rainier III, accompanied by his wife, Princess Grace, drove the car on his traditional parade lap before the start of the race.

The car made a second public appearance at the 1996 Concorso Italiano in Monterey, Calif.,  in honor of Carrozzeria Bertone. The Bertone-designed Lamborghini Athon concept was also exhibited at the ’96 Concorso Italiano.

Later the Athon was driven by Prince Albert II during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Historic Grand Prix of Monaco.

The Marzal had been maintained in the Bertone Design Study Museum until it closed in 2014.  The Marzal was then sold at RM Sotheby’s Villa d’Este auction on May 21, 2011, for $1,750,449.96 (1,512,000 Euros) including buyer’s premium.

The Marzal on the track in 1967

The Lamborghini Marzal at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix.

Lamborghini Marzal Lap of Honor

On May 7, 1967, shortly before the Monte Carlo Formula 1 Grand Prix, His Serene Highness Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, completed the lap of honor on the track in a legendary car: the Lamborghini Marzal. Its glazed gullwing doors provided an almost unimpeded view of the interior and the silver leather upholstery.

Princess Grace sat in the passenger seat, next to Prince Rainier. Photos of the couple in the Marzal traveled all around the world, turning this unique car into a legend.

Fifty-one years since its first track appearance, the Lamborghini Marzal was displayed at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. Lamborghini Polo Storico, celebrating its history with several laps on the same roads as in 1967.

On display at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix historics.

The Lamborghini Marzal and Espada as displayed at the 2018 Grand Prix of Monaco.

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Alfa Romeo 900 Print Advertisement

The 1947 Alfa Romeo 900 commercial truck

The new Alfa Romeo 900 had a 9,500cc, 128-hp six-cylinder diesel engine and four-speed transmission. (Stellantis)


The Alfa Romeo 900 commercial truck was produced from 1947 to 1954. As a line, the model was virtually identical to its successor, the Alfa Romeo 800, according to its page in Wikipedia.

The new truck had a 9,500cc, 128-hp six-cylinder diesel engine and four-speed transmission. In addition, the loading capacity was increased to 9 tons, and a three-axle version was also available.

By the mid-1950s, the Model 900 was updated and became known as the Model 950. The main difference between the two models is the small windows behind the front doors of the cab.

The 950 was in production until 1958. The 950 was replaced that year by the new Mille model.

Alfa Romeo 800

The Alfa Romeo 800 heavy truck was in production between 1940 and 1947. According to its Wikipedia military page, the Model 800 was first produced as a military version 800RE and after the war as a civilian version.

The military Model 800 was initially used only in the Italian Army (“Regio Esercito”). It was used mainly in North Africa, Russia and occupied France.

The 800 was equipped with a fuel-injected 8.7-liter diesel engine and could reach a top speed of 31 mph (50 kmh).  There also were gas generator and gasoline models produced.

A half-track prototype version called the CSEM 800RE was made for the Italian army. The Centro Studi ed Esperienze della Motorizzazione was the Italian Army’s vehicle research and development organization.

Some of the 800RE models were also converted to the German Army as half-track Maultier trucks.

The 800 was replaced by the model 900.

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#TBT: 8 of the Coolest Volkswagen Concept Cars

Volkswagen’s concept cars have opened windows into the future of car design, technology, and performance

The Italdesign Machimoto VW concept

The 1986 Italdesign Machimoto was a mash-up of a motorcycle, convertible, and family car. (Photos courtesy of Volkswagen)


Concept cars have long been an appetizer to the public for what can or could be in their next mode of transportation. Over the years, Volkswagen has debuted a wide range of concept cars that have opened windows into the future of car design, technology and performance. These imaginative machines are intended to test an idea, a vision, or to showcase features that may one day end up on the road.

However, the majority of concepts are seen once in an auto-show display and then never packed away, never to be seen again.

For Volkswagen, the goal is to push the boundaries of what’s possible and get its customers and stakeholders to think about what could come next. A prime example is the new ID.4 EV that was born from the ID. CROZZ concept.

Here’s a look at eight interesting and influential VW concepts.

Italdesign Machimoto

Resembling more of an amusement test car than a road vehicle, the 1986 Italdesign Machimoto was a motorcycle, convertible, and family car mash-up.

Based on the Golf GTi 16V platform, the open-top roadster has flexible seating. The Machimoto’s tandem motorcycle-style saddle seats allow seating for six or nine passengers. The car’s steering was by a unique wheel that could transform from a handlebar style into a traditional steering wheel.

It is powered by a Golf GTI four-cylinder engine with around 139 horsepower.

Passengers were advised to wear a helmet while cruising in the prototype.

The Machimoto concept was featured in several Italian movies but never put into production.


The 1986 VW Scooter was a concept for city driving. It was a nimble, three-wheeled, front-wheel drive two-door coupé.

Its drivetrain was a front-mounted 40-hp, 1-liter four-cylinder engine, and four-speed manual transmission.

A lightweight at just under 1,400 pounds, the Scooter has the bold styling of the 1980s and featured gull-wing doors.

Volkswagen would continue to explore the concept of zero-emissions and city “micromobility.” After Scooter, VW showed a pair of two-wheeled scooters at the 2019 Geneva auto show.

The thrifty VW Scooter concept

The VW Scooter concept was a study of zero-emissions and city “micromobility.”

Futura Concept

The Volkswagen Futura was unveiled in 1989 as an Integrated Research Volkswagen — IRVW. The futuristic minivan with gull-wing doors featured electronic technologies far ahead of its time.

Its futuristic features included distance sensors, parking- and braking-assistance functions, a navigation system, an onboard computer, and an electric parking brake.

The Futura concept got instant attention for its futuristic doors that opened upward, not out. The door design was to provide easy access to the front and rear seats.

It was powered by an 82-hp engine with a mechanical supercharger and an evaporation cooling system.

The Futura never made it to market, but its original design elements were applied to the production ID.3 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The futuristic VW Futura concept minivan

The Futura was a futuristic minivan with gull-wing doors.

W12 Nardo

The W12 Nardo is a supercar unique to Volkswagen. It was a design to test the W-configuration engine. And it ended up breaking records.

First introduced as the W12 in 1997, the Nardo was re-introduced in 2001 and named after the famous Nardo Ring test track in Italy.

An Italian design team was tasked to design a vehicle to accommodate VW’s Syncro 4WD system and a 12-cylinder engine in a W-configuration. Such an engineering integration had never been done before.

Weighing 2,646 pounds, the 600-hp W12 Nardo could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

In February 2002, the W12 Nardo concept set out to break records. The test pilots drove for 24 hours straight, covering 4,909.8 miles. It was an accomplishment that went farther than any other car had managed to travel in the same amount of time.

The W12 Nardo did not go into production (but it is familiar as the Audi R8). The engineering helped establish a new type of engine that would be used in the midsize VW Passat sedan, multiple European VW models, and most notably, the Bugatti Veyron.

The VW W12 Nardo race prototype

The W12 Nardo exudes speed when standing still.


Named in the spirit of the great explorer, the Magellan concept was part car, part SUV and part truck.

Volkswagen’s Design Center in Spain created the concept in 2002. It was revealed around the same time as the first Touareg SUV went on sale.

The all-wheel-drive Magellan concept had 19-inch wheels and an air suspension. Its interior could seat six among three rows in a 2+2+2 layout.

Other notable features included a removable navigation system, dubbed “G.P.S. to Go.” The nav module could be used outside of the vehicle for biking and hiking.

The 2002 Magellan concept for outdoor enthusiasts

The 2002 Magellan was designed for outdoor enthusiasts.


The lightweight EcoRacer diesel sports-car concept was part coupe, convertible and speedster. Revealed at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, the EcoRacer was a design quest to be the most economical sports car of all time.

Its carbon fiber body helped hold the curb weight to just 1,874 pounds. Powered by a midmounted 136-hp,1.5-liter diesel engine, the EcoRacer could accelerate to 62 mph in 6.3 seconds. It had a top speed of 142 mph.

It is the roof that is the EcoRacer’s most unique feature. The driver could transform the EcoRacer from a coupe into a convertible by removing the hardtop. The windscreen and frame could then be removed to create a speedster.

The EcoRacer was a research vehicle to unite economy and performance under a styled “roof.”

The 2005 VW EcoRacer concept

The 2005 EcoRacer can transform from coupe to convertible to a roadster.

XL Sport Concept

The hyperefficient 2014 XL Sport was built for speed. Propelled by a two-cylinder engine, the two-seat coupe could accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in about 5.7 seconds.

Its wing doors are hinged at two points that allow for an upward and forward swivel. And its dashboard was designed for motorsports and includes an individual lap timer and oil pressure display.

The 2014 XL Sport supercar prototype

The XL Sport was a supercar for enthusiasts of the eco-minded XL1.

Atlas Tanoak

The Atlas Tanoak debuted at the New York International Auto Show in March 2018. A V-6 gas engine powers the midsize, dual-cab pickup concept. At the time, it was the world’s first pickup to be based on Volkswagen’s modular transverse toolkit (MQB).

Tanoak is named after a species of evergreens native to the California coastline.

The Tanoak was based on an extended-wheelbase Atlas SUV, but the concept is longer and could seat up to five passengers. The concept’s V-6 drivetrain mirrors the 2021 Atlas with 276-hp V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive.

The Atlas Tanoak concept

The Tanoak name is from a variety of evergreen native to the California coastline.

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