70 Years Ago

Ford Motor Co. ends production of the '31 Model A on Dec. 7, 1931, idling its plants to retool for the upcoming '32 line of all-new cars including the Model B with the first 4-cyl. engine made by Ford with a counterbalanced crankshaft and its V-8 sibling that featured the industry's first mass-produced monoblock V-8 engine. Although photos of the Model B appeared on Dec. 5, they would not be available in Ford dealerships until March 1932.

31 Years Ago

On Dec. 2, 1970, the newly created Environmental Protection Agency opened for business in a small office in Washington, DC, under the leadership of William D. Ruckelshaus, a former assistant attorney general who promised to enforce “reasonable standards of air quality.” The EPA was created from a proposal by President Richard Nixon sent to Congress in July to combine the National Air Pollution Control Admin. of the Health, Education and Welfare Dept. and the Dept. of Interior's Water Quality Admin. into a new agency with strong enforcement authority. The new agency soon faced its first challenge: enforcing Congress' 1970 Clean Air Act amendments, championed by Democratic Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, that mandated strict emissions levels for new cars beginning with '75 models. Although automakers had been meeting emissions regulations set by HEW since model year '68, for the first time they faced stringent standards with mandated timetables. It called for a 90% reduction in hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by '75 and a 90% cut in nitrogen oxides by '76. While the Big Three and many importers began lobbying the EPA and Congress to delay the program, efforts to meet the new requirements led to the development of the catalytic converter and its across-the-board use by General Motors Corp. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s Compound Vortex Combustion Chamber (CVCC) engine and Volvo's Lambda electronic emissions control system also were outgrowths of efforts to meet the new standards.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 10, 1970, Lee A. Iacocca assumed the presidency of Ford Motor Co. following the 1969 firing of one-time GM Vice President Semon E. (Bunkie) Knudsen by Ford Chairman Henry Ford II, who had hired Mr. Knudsen away from GM in 1968 to spur development of new Ford models. Ironically, Mr. Iacocca, who had given the company its most successful new car in history — Mustang — was himself fired eight years later by Henry II who justified the move by saying “I just didn't like him.”

22 Years Ago

On Dec. 3, 1979, production of the industry's first “wide small car,” American Motors Corp.'s Pacer, ended at the Kenosha, WI, assembly plant where it had begun five years earlier. Despite its 100-in. (254 cm) wheelbase and 171-in. (434 cm) overall length, its 77-in. (196 cm) overall width gave it the interior volume of many midsize cars and some larger models. Indeed, early AMC TV commercials drove home the point by showing a Chevy Nova being driven inside a hollow Pacer body. Pacer also featured a passenger door several inches longer than the driver's door to aid rear-seat entry. A 2-door wagon joined the 2-door hatchback in '77, but sales continued to trail off.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Dec. 9-16

  • Shanghai Motor Show 2001, Pudong, China.

    Jan. 5-13

  • 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show, Los Angeles, CA.

    Jan. 12-21

  • North American International Auto Show, Detroit