McCAHILL’S 3-IN-1 Dream Car (Jan, 1954)

Good old Tom, he makes it all the way to the last sentence without talking about Chinese men and opium.

McCAHILL’S 3-IN-1 Dream Car

Have you ever said to yourself, “Boy, if this car only had a you-know-what and a gilhoolie, I sure could go for it.” Well, here’s the car.

EXACTLY five years ago the January 1949 issue of MI brought you my idea of a Dream Car. Since then, a lot of things, including the Korean War have taken place and new cars such as the V-8 Chrysler, the V-8 Studebaker, the Continental Studebaker and Mexican-type Lincolns have been built. Crosley has gone out of business, the King of England died, and Polly Adler became an author. America regained supremacy of the trans-Atlantic record with the liner United States, Jaguar automobiles won the Le Mans race twice, and King Farouk was forcibly moved across the Mediterranean. My dog Joe was just a young pup of less than six months when the 1949 dream car was designed; now he’s middle-aged and getting gray and I’ve lost sixteen of the last twenty-two hairs on the top of my head. I still would like to buy my old 1949 Dream Car as I haven’t seen anything on the market yet that could hold a candle to it but, Bill Parker, your editor, and Dave Lockhart, who drew the original pictures, collared me one day recently and suggested that a new pipe dream—or nightmare—was overdue. I was still happy with the old bus but had to admit if I did it again some changes would be in order.

As any of you old-timers who read the first piece may remember, the big feature of our 1949 model was the incorporation of many by-gone features, by-gone even then. Features that, because of production expense, hit the scrap heap long ago when Bill Parker was rolling a hoop in Princeton. Most of these will be used again in the 1954 car—and some of them will be dropped. For example, the 1949 car used a V-8 Ford engine with a lot of refinements. Due to the 2,500 pound weight of the 1949 car and the excellent frontal area compared to the stock car of the day, it was estimated it would have a top speed of 105 without hot-rodding the engine. The 1954 model now has a 1954 Cadillac engine, which only weighs about 40 pounds more than the old Ford, but sports nearly times the horsepower with equal gas mileage. As our new Dream Car weighs nearly 500 pounds less than the old model, a top speed of 140 miles an hour should be a cinch, without any additional hopping-up. Naturally, the car will have a four-speed gearbox and should be able to do zero to sixty in about seven seconds.

In the original car, we had a combination magneto and battery ignition system. This year we have dropped the magneto, not because it isn’t any good, it’s the best for high speed work, but because 12-volt battery ignition is so good today the extra expense of the mag is not needed.

I would keep the manual spark advance, however, as this is very much needed. I was surprised when my good friend John Bond of Road and Track magazine objected to this in his criticism of the original car. John claimed the modern automatic spark advance was so perfected it was unnecessary. It has been my experience that any car depending on automatic advance runs between 12 and 20 degrees late at wide-open throttle or top speed. For almost any automatic advance to function, there must be vacuum in the intake manifold or carburetor neck. This vacuum, working on a diaphragm, causes the spark to advance. This works out just peachy-dandy right up to an almost open throttle but, and it’s a tremendous BUT, when the throttle is wide ” open all vacuum takes a nose dive to nearly zero and of course this lack of vacuum isn’t enough to hold the advance. Timing is then retarded.

To compensate for this on the Chrysler, Jaguar and Lincoln I ran in the speed trials at Daytona, I had to pre-advance the timing on all three cars. The difference on running a Lincoln, for example, at regular timing and pre-advancing, amounts to about five miles an hour. Most distributors have governor weight advances plus a vacuum advance. The governor weights will stay advanced, but the vacuum timing will die. By using a manual spark advance control on the wheel you have full control —advanced timing for high speed running, and a slight retard for drag racing or hill-climbs. A manual spark advance would give almost any car far better control and an instant adjustment for all conditions. Why did it leave the American scene? Two reasons, first, it cost a couple of extra bucks, and second, most of our highway dopes would use it the wrong way. Some clucks would have it fully advanced on cold morning starts, thereby causing hard starting (if not impossible), and the others of his ilk would run the car fully retarded in Sunday, Fourth of July traffic, causing the car to boil or explode. Our 1954 Dream Car will have a manual spark advance on the wheel—and we won’t sell it to the ignorant.

You will also find on our new car other features taken from the 1949 model. We will still use the knock-off type hubs and wheels. The car will have a reliable manual choke. It will still have Marchal headlights which are far superior to our sealed-beam jobs. (Apparently due to a political payoff, Marchal headlights are illegal in some states—arrest me!) The front seats of this four passenger rig will still fold back, a la Nash, and become beds. The car will also still hold over the thirty-year-old Wills St. Claire feature of a governor on the fan to cut it out at speeds above 45 mph. The average fan takes more than ten horsepower to turn after 100 mph and isn’t doing any more good than Vishinsky at a UN meeting at these speeds. After 45 mph, any automobile fan just gets in the way and, actually, at higher speeds, retards cooling. As in the old model, this job will still have a tachometer and a hand throttle. The car would come equipped with a full set of deluxe wrenches of the Snap-On type.

The wheelbase would be shortened from the long span of 118 inches to 104 inches for better handling on road circuits, as this car, unlike the original fast cruising one, will be suitable for competition. Naturally, on the ones used in competition, the regular Cadillac engine will get the full hop-up treatment or, better still, we will have a spare competition engine. As the car will hypothetically be delivered, it will just have to get along with its 140 mph top speed.

The big change in this year’s model is the new type body and styling. I won’t blister your shell-like ears by loading the poor car with the gaudy adjectives of the Madison Avenue Ad Boys Club. I won’t tell you about “Proud tail” and “Beware of dynamite, big toe” when you step on the gas. I won’t even spellbind you with “Inspired by moonlight on a Mediterranean cove,” or “Sleek, chic, and as intriguing as a doorway framing a vanishing ankle on the Rue de la Paix.” In fact, I’ll give it to you straight, 1 stole it! Not all of it, but some of it. When Dave Lockhart went into a huddle with me on how Ye McCahill Bargeroo should look, I got out a picture of an Osca coupe that finished first in its class this year at Le Mans. “Dig that crazy Vignale inverted body fender line!” I instructed, “that’s what I want on my 1954 dreamboat. Stow the 1949 continental tire mount, too, because this tomato is much too hot to be dragging a spare on the outside.”

The car will also be a real convertible.

It will have, in addition to a typical disappearing soft canvas top, a quick-change steel top with a detachable roll bar. This true hard top will be used in competition or for winter driving. The roll bar acts as the center top support, and is keyed right into the frame. The hard top will lock into place at several points in the rear, where it keys into slots similar to the rear curtain arrangement of an MG. At the windshield it locks into the windshield frame with two screw-down fastenings and one large center trunk latch. In the outside center of the top is a removable screw plug. Into this can be screwed a lifter lug attached to a light, 20-ounce block-and-fall hoist. With this light rig, the top can easily be lifted off or installed in any garage, or under a tree, as the whole top will weigh less than 50 pounds. The bottom of the top that joins the body is completely lined with heavy sponge rubber to make it not only air-tight, but rattle-proof. As the rubber gets a set, after much use, a few extra turns on the windshield screw-down fastenings and one at the side will quickly take up any slack. Actually, the entire installation of the hard top (or removal) should not take more than five minutes, and the installation of the roll bar, even less.

When the car is not used as a hard top, and with the canvas top down, the windshield can be lowered several inches by a crank on the instrument panel. All the upholstery will be real leather as I wouldn’t have anything else. As anyone who has done much coast-to-coast touring at night knows, a spotlight is a very much needed item. A spotlight doesn’t belong on a competition job, but it’s swell to have on a trip. As most spotlights are all outdoors where they cause weird wind curves and create a dragging camel-load of resistance, it becomes quite a problem. To solve this, we have, as extra cost equipment, a spotlight that retracts into the panel and out of the way when not in use. Also, for competition, we have retractable lens hoods for the headlights.

One glance at the pictures will show you that this car is in no way related to a school bus. The front seat is a two passenger deal —period—and the rear has fanny room for just two passengers also. This is a four-person car at most, and two people on a long trip would feel a lot more relaxed if the other two stayed home or went by train. This car has a small weekend trunk, but if you are leaving for a full winter you can jam the back seat with luggage. When that’s full, we will sell you a roof baggage rack to be used with the hard top that will even give you room enough to haul along grampaw. For full inside luggage room for two people, the rear seat folds forward and, as there is no bulkhead between the rear seat and the trunk, more than five feet of fore-and-aft trunk space is made available. In a nut’s shell, this car is an all around wagon, suitable for everyone but Careless Jake and his fifteen kids.

The hood is hinged forward and the whole thing, fender line and all, lifts out of the way, similar to the Aston-Martin, to make access to any part of the engine or front axle assembly a cinch. The extreme height of this car with hard top in place is 48 inches. It is 41 inches with the top off and windshield in a lowered position. Due to the fact that this is a four passenger deal, outside width, though big inside, is 64 inches, and the over-all length, including bumpers, is only 169 inches.

The front suspension is, in part, stolen from Lincoln, for it has the two ball-and-socket joints on each wheel, one at top and the other on the lower support arm. This eliminates the kingpin support of old, and greatly adds to handling on corners. Inci- dentally, Lincoln stole this from Jaguar, so that should even things up. In addition, we have two heavy coil springs and torsion bars that can be stiffened or softened while driving by turning a control on the instrument panel (similar to the rear torsion control used by Mercedes). The balance will be 50-50 on rear wheels and front. The brakes will be the new Jaguar spot-disk type introduced at Le Mans in 1953. This evens up for Lincoln, as they were built by Dunlop on American patents. The entire body, with the exception of the steel hard top, will be made of aluminum. The frame will be welded lightweight seamless tubing.

The car will weigh just over 2,000 pounds, and will have a fuel capacity of 20 gallons, carried in flat saddle tanks. For long races, a connecting tank of thirty additional gallons can be installed in the trunk. The fuel will be supplied by two electric fuel pumps and a mastery mercury switch will instantly cut off the whole electrical system in the event the car turns over, or goes on its side. Safety belt fastenings will be connected to the frame, and an extra two-gallon oil radiator can be cut in or out by a valve at the instrument panel. This extra oil won’t be needed for average running, but at any time it can be cut in by a turn of the wrist. The oil radiator will prove worth its weight in gold during a hot summer race or crossing the desert.

In summing up: The 1954 MI Dream Car is as functional as a saber-tooth tiger in a pit fight. You won’t find ten ounces of useless weight from one end to the other, and it will look just as well parked in front of the Pavilion Restaurant as it will on the pole at Bridgehampton, or waiting to go at Le Mans. In its race suit (hard top), and with its full competition engine, it should be able to match any car during the 24-hour French classic; and afterwards, it should prove just as practical for a tour over the Alps, or for running to an absinthe party at Cannes.

This is quite a lot more automobile than our original 1949 Dream Car, but don’t sell the old boat short; it was good, too. This is just the normal step in our hypothetical factory to keep our cars ahead of the pack. Being just about out of opium, I’ll have to close, but, if I’m still at the same old stand, maybe we’ll be back with the 1959 car five years from now. Wonder what it will be like? Gas turbine, perhaps? Two hundred miles an hour? Well, we’ll see—pass the pipe, Chan.

2 comments
  1. Charlene says: May 3, 201211:43 am

    That’s a very specific fetish.

  2. Toronto says: May 3, 20121:15 pm

    I’ve seen flip-down windshields, but has any car *ever* had a crank-down one?

    And he forgot to add a dash-mounted hookah for his ‘habit.’

Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.