58 Years Ago The U.S. auto industry was in the final stages of converting its facilities from production of civilian to military goods. To conserve rubber, the U.S. government in December had already banned spare tires from new cars and on Jan. 1, 1942, decreed an end to the sale of cars and light trucks, except those consid-ered "essential." Cars still being built had exterior chrome trim except for bumpers, replaced by painted metal, while plastic or painted stamped metal components replaced chrome-plated die cast interior trim. As output of the so-called "black-out" models gradually ground to a halt, the last of the cars built even substituted painted bumpers for chrome ones, and in extreme cases had wooden bumpers.

It was also announced that effective Feb. 1, cars and light trucks already in dealer inventory would be rationed, requiring approval for sales to qualified purchasers, such as doctors and workers in essential war material plants.

41 Years Ago Officials of Chrysler Corp., Piasecki Aircraft Corp. and Curtiss-Wright Corp. disclosed details of plans to develop and manufacture a flying automobile. Curtiss-Wright had been experimenting for several years with a prototype car without wheels that floated over the ground on a "cushion" of air. At the same time, Stinson Aircraft and Tool Engineering Co. announced plans to withdraw from aircraft subcontracting work to concentrate on a "sports-type" electric car called the Charles Town-About.

In California, a bill was introduced to prohibit the sale of an automobile unless it was equipped with an anti-smog device (the initial requirement was for a positive crankcase venti-lation system to recirculate oil vapors into the fuel intake system). And Studebaker-Packard Corp. announced the formation of a new division of its wholly owned Mercedes-Benz sales company to market imported Mercedes trucks and buses. Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams warns that a proposed 2-cent increase in the federal gas tax will promote sales of "small foreign cars" and injure Detroit's auto industry.

10 Years Ago General Motors takes the wraps off of its latest electric concept car at the LA auto show. Called Impact, it would serve as the basis for the first battery-powered production car built in the U.S. by a major automaker in more than 60 years - the EV1 marketed by Saturn dealers in select cities in Arizona and California beginning in late 1996. Although the Impact, powered by a lead-acid battery pack, could accelerate from 0-to-60 mph in 8-seconds, GM said that battery technology needed to make the car cost-competitive was still "years away." When GM "temporarily" withdrew the EV1 from the market in spring 1999, one of the reasons was to change over to a new longer-range nickel-metal hydride battery pack.