Question of the Weekend – Brass Era and Pre-War Cars… Do they interest you?

Time for the question of the weekend here on Our core audience is actually much much younger than I am, a fact that was pointed out to me on our last Hooniverse Pod Cast and on our semi regular Drunkcasts, so my taste in vehicles is somewhat out of step with most of our readers. I tend to gravitate to 50s and 60s Detroit based iron, while the majority of you like the 90s and 2000 based lighter cars, preferably foreign in nature. But what about pre-historic times…..
And what I mean about pre-historic cars are the ones produced at the dawn of the automotive age. These encompass the Horseless Carriage, the Brass Era in which all the bright work was Brass instead of Chrome, the 20s, the Depression era, and the vehicles that were built before 1942. Other than T-Buckets, and Custom Rods, do you have any interest in any of the genres? If you don’t, why not tell us what your favorite decade is, and provide some examples….
Photo Credits – Top: Automatter, Ron’s Public Picassa Web Gallery

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    Anything before 1910 is interesting but pretty much a museum piece. Curious in an exposed-machinery, steampunk sort of way.
    1910s and 1920s cars were pretty dull for the most part, particularly from 1915 or so to the late '20s. They all tended to look alike – boxy, utilitarian, and unimaginative. Snooze.
    Cars got interesting again starting around 1928. Styling and distinctiveness became more important than dull utility. The late '20s and '30s also brought the really grand American cars like Duesenberg, Packard, Cadillac, Lincoln, etc. 1930 to 1942 cars are the most interesting pre-war cars to me. Those years also brought about remarkable advancements in refinement, especially in the cheaper cars.

    1. Jeremy Wilson Avatar
      Jeremy Wilson

      Totally agree – anything before 1930 is at best a museum piece.

    2. JoeyM Avatar

      The differences in 1920s/1930s cars are subtle, but they do exist. The sides on the front fenders of a deuce ford that are missing on the previous year's Model A, the curved line down the down the edge of the cowl in the early model A that's missing in the 1930-1931 model, the nifty shutters/blinds in the distinctively shaped packard grill that open or close to control engine temperature,
      <img src=>
      the single tail light in early buicks, friction shocks and straight eight engine on a 1920's miller
      <img src=>
      The way austin running boards narrow at the rear fender, unlike most other makes, etc.
      Oh, and if you hand bend the compound curve on the rear quarter panels of a 1920s/1930s phaeton, you will realize that it is not as boxy as you might have previously imagined
      <img src=>

      1. tonyola Avatar

        As I said in my post, cars got interesting again in the late '20s and the examples you cite are all from that era or the '30s. As for the Miller, not every single '20s car was dull, obviously, but almost all were. There's nothing really captivating about a car like this (1922 Dodge). This could be any number of cars from the late teens and early '20s. Boring.
        <img src="; width=400>

  2. JoeyM Avatar

    Yes, I like pre-war cars. (I'm building a 1930s-inspired replica right now using locost-style construction techniques.)
    I'll go further and state that the 1920s and 1930s are my favorite eras for automobiles. That's true whether we're talking about a bone-stock Model A, a rat compiled from a bunch of previously unloved parts, or a chopped/channeled/shaved creations with billet wheels. I especially like Orphans in stock form….Bakers, Packards, etc.
    The only things I dislike about cars from this era are 1) people who take a lovingly restored stock T or A in great condition and cut it up to look like a rat/traditional, or 2) shiny custom cars that are so lowered that they're useless trailer queens that can never see road use.

  3. facelvega Avatar

    A few years ago I would have said 1962 was the best year for car design, and that everything pre-WWII was fine, but not really the same thing as a modern car. I've come around. The best Delahayes and other small-maker French cars of the prewar period were at least as beautiful as anything by the great postwar design houses, and generally better built. The thirties and forties stuff is easy to like, it's harder to gain an eye for the early 20s cars, which already had a very clear and advanced design solution (as opposed to pre-WWI cars, where it was all still up in the air and tied to horse carriage building), but to later eyes look boringly similar. Here's a famous Talbot Lago for you:
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. facelvega Avatar

      Also, if this 1931 Chenard & Walcker doesn't do anything for you, then you may need to check your hoon pulse:
      <img src="; width="600">
      <img src="; width="600">
      <img src="; width="600">
      A Hemmings blog post on it from which I stole the pictures: <a href="” target=”_blank”>

      1. Lex Avatar

        That's like a fullsize pinewood derby car you can cruise in. I love it.

  4. fede6882 Avatar

    I love cars from the 30s, things like duesenbergs, hipano-suizas, packards and the like, racing alfas, mercs and autounions, but also cars from the 1890s or 1900s, when there were no rules or previous experience, and very little was needed to create your own car.
    they can't be used in the modern traffic (not even in our third world traffic), but the owner of the darraq posted here some time ago (and many other people that use them in time rallys) will clearly show you they don't have to be only museum pieces.

  5. Alff Avatar

    I admire full classics but my budget requires that I do so from a distance.

  6. earlofhalflight Avatar

    Love pre-war cars. Not so much the run of the mill models, but I wish I had the means to own one of the more upmarket models from between the wars.

  7. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

    Jim, you're out of step? I thought I was out of step. Everybody else seems to love all the '50s and '60s (you seem to bias towards the early '60s) cars you post. It's not that I don't appreciate your posts, but if you ask me "Which of these Post War 2-Door Wagons would you want in your Suburban Garage?"… I'll definitely give them a look, but in the end I have to say 'none of them'.
    I do like really old cars, but not old cars. Speaking generally, I find it hard to get excited about any vehicles made from around 1935 through to 1965. There are a handful of exceptions, but the vast majority of cars I'm interested in come after that period. I'm slowly learning more about early cars, but they have an unknown quality that gets my attention far better then anything from the early/mid-30s to the mid-60s.

  8. LTDScott Avatar

    While I respect and appreciate their significance in getting us where cars are today, but honestly, no. My interest is definitely more post war, and specifically post-'50s. But I definitely give props to people who still own and drive them. That's a dying breed.

  9. Maxichamp Avatar

    Honestly, other than the 300SL Gullwing, I don't dig anything pre-1960.

  10. longrooffan Avatar

    This is an interesting question. As we all age, we remember automobiles of our youth and tend to romanticize them. My Dad and members of his generation loved the old "open fendered" cars of the 20's and 30's. My brothers tend to like the cars of the late 40's and 50's while I lean toward the 60's and early 70's. It is great to hear of the interest some of my fellow Hoons have in the earliest generations of automobiles but I would suspect that as we all get older, those early marques may soon only be seen in museums.

  11. P161911 Avatar

    I find all cars fascinating. Some of the pre-war stuff is just amazing from a craftsmanship standpoint, especially considering the amount of handwork involved. I have been to the Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg Museum and went to a CCCA event that just happened to be in town last spring. The best vintage race that I have ever been to was a VSCCA event a Lime Rock in the mid-1990s. It was there I got a chance to ride in a 4 cylinder Bentley. The limo for my wedding was a 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Town Car. (I don't think a firetruck on fire with sirens blaring would have drawn more attention on I-285.) All that being said, probably the oldest car I would consider owning and might could afford would be a Model A Ford.

  12. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    It's hard for me to get excited about prewar cars, aside from the more exotic stuff…Packard, Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, etc. And there's really nothing before 1955 that I'd be interested in owning.
    I'm 25, and its the Detroit iron from '55 to '72 that I'm really passionate about. After that, emissions and safety regulations sucked the fun out of American cars. Yeah, there's Mustangs and Camaros and Corvettes, but that's really about it. Maybe the Buick Grand National or original Taurus SHO. The Viper is too close to supercar territory to excite me. Everything else is just a novelty. Fieros? Thunderbird Super Coupes? Whatever.
    Since the '70s, it's Germany and Japan that interest me the most. But Japan's largely given up on sporty cars and the German cars have gotten increasingly complicated, unreliable and ugly. French cars have always been too weird, Alfas are cool but Ferraris and Lamborghinis bore me, and British cars…well they just don't make them anymore.
    You know, come to think of it. almost everything in the last 10 years has just kind of sucked. Too much tech, not enough originality. Too much safety, not enough soul. I'd rather look at a dumpy Model T than almost anything at the local auto show.

  13. Cynic Avatar

    Interesting question.
    I generally don't care about them, but there seem to be a few interesting ones lost to those times, seeing the ones our fellow hoons are posting here.
    So…post moar!

  14. Pinkerton1 Avatar

    There is something alluring about cars (any machinery, really) that is able to defy time and outlive anybody who was old enough to operate them when new. There are so many car makers from that era that are now departed. To me, they are a curiosity, but not something I hold a deep interest in. Much respect to the people who keep these things running.
    A car like a 1919 Buick had to survive in the conventional sense by not being wrecked, left out to rot, etc. It also had to avoid being recycled into a Sherman tank, or having a SBC thrown into it later in life. The stuff that is restored, or left in a ragged but functional condition holds more interest for me.
    [youtube LoEnnUKSgPY&feature=related youtube]

    1. maierj Avatar

      That sounds sweet!

  15. Sam Avatar

    I'm 29, and drive a relatively recent 3-series. The only pre WWII car that appeals to me are the 1938-41 straight-8 Buicks. A black Century with a 3 speed + OD manual would ooze class and be reasonably tractable in modern traffic (it'd bust 100 mph when brand new, so freeway merging ought to be okay. Probably faster than say a VW Vanagon). Brakes would probably need an upgrade though.

  16. Thrashy Avatar

    I honestly can't think of a car made before the Sixties that has much appeal to me. I am, first and foremost, a technophile; the rudimentary technical nature of earlier cars — especially those made before WWII — doesn't speak to me in any way. I may perk up and take notice of some precocious application of technology, like the aerospace-derived form of early streamliners or the adjustable suspension of the Traction-Avant, but it's not until cars like the 250 GTO and the GT40 arrive on the racing scene in the 60's that cars as a whole start to appeal to me.

  17. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I think it all really depends on the car. The Model T Ford is interesting in it's role in history but a nightmare in any other regard. I am interested in the cars that embodied failed ideas and obsolete technologies the most as I feel they have the most to teach us. I also have a love of steam cars like the Doble and actually spent a few weeks reading all I could find about the Rankin cycle and steam engines. I wanted to see if a modern adaptation could be realized that offered an efficiency improvement over what we have today. (The 9 cylinder SAAB steam car of the early 70's that was based off a Sonnet really piques my interest but I can only find sketches of it and no real pictures.) Another thing that fascinates me is the history of Continental engines and the cars they powered. It seems that every small start-up auto maker of the time used a Continental engine to reduce the cost of designing their own. So, to sum it up, I am interested in interesting pre-war and brass-era cars. Not all of them pique my interest but the ones that have a cool story behind them do.

  18. RevPiper Avatar

    <img src="; width="500">
    Steam punk is the modern manifestation of the brass era. I think the future of automotive design will be some mix of steam era nostalgia and apple-esque technology. Even now the internal combustion engine seems like a bit of clockwork in our solid state world.
    How kewl would it be to have a 250mph steam powered Veyron all full of clockwork gears and boilers. I can imagine shoveling coal into my Veyron.

  19. jjd241 Avatar

    How to cook your dinner with your pod racer…
    [youtube GgwC4x9vnqc&feature=player_embedded youtube]

  20. Sidecar 57 Avatar
    Sidecar 57

    I would have one of those big Edwardian Monsters in my garage in an instant.

    1. Sidecar 57 Avatar
      Sidecar 57

      That was poorly worded,I would have a Big Edwardian Monster in my garage in an instant.

  21. njhoon Avatar

    I love pre 2nd war cars and brass eras. The older I get and the more edumicated I get about these cars to more I like them and the more I want one. I look forward to cruising around town in a car that is 100 years old

  22. Abe Avatar

    With rare exception I don't care about pre WWI cars.

  23. TurboBrick Avatar

    Not really interested in them… The Pre-WWI vehicles are barely cars, and vehicles from the inter-war period tend to be either a) boring or b) way too expensive / rare. That doesn't mean that I don't have tremendous respect for them, and I look at them as interesting pieces of engineering.

  24. raphaelinberlin Avatar

    Worked in a car museum (shoutout to the California Auto Museum) over the summer and spent a lot of time wandering past those artillery wheels, brass lamps, upright grills, etc. Many of them interested me with their curious engineering and whatnot. but are they cars? To my generation, not anymore. The fact that you go "motoring" in anything pre-war and you go "driving" in something more modern tells it all, I think. There were just so many differences not only I the vehicles themselves, but also the roads, the act off driving, the preparations you had to make. I suppose you can thank Harley Earl and every other designer who has tried to make driving less and less involving, less and less stressful after a long working day for that. When we're all sitting in driverless, soft, pillowy pod-things, someone might ask if cars with steering wheels interest you, or if cars with pedals interest you.

  25. CptSevere Avatar

    Oh yeah, I love prewar cars, trucks, tractors, everything. I'm fascinated by how overtly mechanical everything was, the way you can see the mechanism work. I'll stand there fascinated watching an old hit and miss engine run, it's great fun watching the valves and pushrods working and the crank spinning around. What I really like seeing is someone who has a vintage car, and actually drives it on a regular basis. A friend of mine has a 1921 Model T, and before he moved away, would drive it regularly into town. He also has a 1924 Chevy and a '36 Dodge, all licensed (he doesn't even bother with antique plates) and driven on a regular basis. I'm a history buff, and seeing something that old running down the street is like a window into the past.

    1. Lex Avatar

      Yes. Every once in a while i get caught behind an old guy who drives his Model A around. I can't get mad at him, because it's just too cool that he's using it. That it's out on the road doing what it was intended to do (and he drives it in the rain, etc.). I just slow down and enjoy the sight.

  26. rocketrodeo Avatar

    I have a soft spot for early Model Ts, as there have been a number of them in my family until fairly recently. They are incredibly easy to maintain, and if you have reasonable expectations and a good understanding of their limitations, they're actually somewhat practical. An aftermarket two-speed rearend allows highway if not interstate speeds.
    Detroit-area folks should put the Piquette Ave. Ford Plant on their list of must-see automotive attractions:

  27. mdharrell Avatar

    Yes, of course. My stock '37 Plymouth sedan is perfectly adequate as a daily driver: It'll cruise all day on the freeway at 60-65 mph and has four-wheel hydraulic brakes (unlike some of my newer stuff…) so I don't hesitate to take it anywhere, any time, any distance. I admit its six-volt lighting isn't the best, but I manage.
    As for older cars, I've been watching the prices fall over the last few years for "mundane" cars from the '20s and even the late teens. It appears that straightforward demographics are at work here– enthusiasts restored these in the 1970s and '80s but now there's less interest when one comes on the market. Even the hot-rodders have mostly moved on to replicas or heavily deteriorated originals instead of cutting up solid specimens. I hope this means I'll be able to afford one as a driver at some point.
    The mid-teens and earlier cars are pretty scarce (other than the T, of course) and generally remain in enough demand to be out of my reach, but I'll keep looking. Occasionally one of the more obscure buckboards will change hands for a reasonable sum….
    Edit: I thought that Oldsmobile at the top of the page looked familiar! That photo was taken at last year's Kirkland Concours d'Elegance. I was there to indulge my interest in, as it turns out, brass era and pre-War cars, and to corner Keith Martin so I could badger him into signing the Fright Pig Supremo award that his magazine sponsored at the 2009 Concours d'LeMons. Mission accomplished, though he may have agreed simply to make the weirdo with the giant stuffed pig go away.

  28. joshuman Avatar

    I like them but more for the engineering than anything else. The manner in which they solved problems and the level of craftsmanship are the interesting things. Actually, I could say much the same thing about Formula 1, which I thoroughly enjoy.

  29. Teargaskov Avatar

    I think the problem here is that almost no one here has ever been close to or played with very early cars. I am a modern car person, and my interest in cars started with 80s cars, but I used to work at a place where I was able to be around cars from every era. I started off having no interest in anything pre-war, but the more time I spent around them, the more they grew on me.
    It's really easy to gloss over the really old cars but I promise you this, it is impossible to be unmoved after driving a Model T, balancing a nickel on the head of a Packard 8 while it's running, or watching a 1930 Bentley 8 Liter pass you at over 100mph on the highway. If you are into cars, but haven't taken the time to be up close and personal with some really old iron, you are missing out.