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Jan 31, 2003 (8:20 pm)
In the mid-1960s, Cadillac performed testing un-officially described as the mink test. This involved rubbing mink swatches over all new upholstery materials, checking to see if the fur caught, discolored or became unduly worn. Further, mink-clad women were taken for 50-mile rides during which they got in & out, lounged, sat up and 'did all manners of acts' (?!?) to check compatability of materials. Any potential upholstery fabrics that didn't perform perfectly were eliminated.
Also during this period (AT LEAST- probably many years prior, can't say about after), Cadillac performed 23,000 inspection checks per vehicle, 300 as a complete car plus a 'roller test' to assure operational quality.
Any other interesting efforts by manufacturers 'above & beyond' the norm for quality assurance in the vintage years?
#2 of 88 Jeez, now that explains it...
Jan 31, 2003 (9:50 pm)
I've always wondered why older Caddies have that kind of mink odor.
Feb 01, 2003 (5:59 am)
This probably also explains why every Cadillac brochure from the early to mid-1960's includes at least one mink-clad woman. These women also usually have leather gloves that come up past the elbow.
I show these brochures to the office assistants (formerly known as secretaries) at my office and they just roll their eyes at the attire of the day. Pretty funny.
Feb 01, 2003 (12:09 pm)
One of the first automotive books I ever bought (actually, I persuaded my parents to buy it for me) was by the auto journalist Jerry Flint. I think the title was "The Dream Machine - the Golden Age of the American Automobile (1945-1965)." He described the "mink test" and noted that had Ralph Nader found out about it, Detroit might have been "laughed into regulation."
Taking those mink-clad ladies for 50-mile rides? Well, that would certainly have been an interesting job for the test drivers. I wonder if Cadillac hired models or just used women who worked for the company?
Another gem was the method used to ship the 1956 Continental Mark II from factory to dealer. To ensure quality, Ford shipped it from the factory in a fleece-lined bag.
I love looking at old brochures at the Auto Show. Parm, if you really want to get the office ladies all fired up, show them one of the "Dodge Rebellion" brochures from 1966-67 with the sexy blondes lounging all over the cars! I think Gloria Steinem would be speechless...
Feb 01, 2003 (1:31 pm)
I doubt Gloria would be speechless.
Well, you can see how this silliness just got worse and worse and ended up in the sorry state of domestic cars in the 1980s.
It's no wonder the Japanese and Europeans rolled right over us. It must have been as hard as hunting cows for them.
Feb 01, 2003 (6:57 pm)
In the '60s the Japanese & Germans were practically non-existant in the US; they 'rolled' over nothing in that era.
To make a leap of logic that an internal quality test equates to the overall state of a marque 20 years later is unrealistic to the point that I must assume sarcasm. A '60s Mercedes does not compare to a '60s Cadillac in appointments, refinement, styling, roadability, customization, luxury and engineering. 3 decades later it very well may be a completely different story, but when I state 'vintage' I'm not waxing nostolgic over the 1980s...
Feb 02, 2003 (6:32 am)
...in all fairness, you really couldn't sprawl sexy models all over the Japanese offerings back then. For one thing, they were too small (the cars, not the models!). Also, the sheetmetal was so thin it probably would've crumpled under their pressure!
Feb 02, 2003 (10:33 am)
No, no, you misunderstood my post. These silly goings-on at Cadillac were just the signs of the disease that spelled the company's downfall. While Cadillac was doing mink tests, Mercedes was planning the 1968 models, which were the first onslaught in capturing the luxury car market in America.
So my point was this--as Mercedes and BMW were on the way up technically and stylistically, Cadillac was already on the skids by 1968, showing heavy dry rot around 1976, and culminating in disaster with the Cimarron a few years later.
Of course, hindsight is always 20-20, and I will agree that if I were a Cadillac executive looking at one of those clunky tail-finned Mercedes of 1966, I would not have felt very threatened either---Had he driven one however, he might have realized that even in 1966 the Benz could easily outhandle and outbrake a Cadillac. Also, a Cadillac exec could not have helped but notice that these funny looking, too-expensive Benzes were beautifully built inside and out. A Cadillac is somewhat crude by comparison, especially when you get into the "depths" of the car. Externally, the 60s Cads stilll look pretty good.
Make no mistake though. Cadillac, in the 1950s, taught Benz that you can mass-produce a quality car. They took the lesson and ran with it.
Of course, in 1966, most American drivers did not want or even like a firm ride and precise handling. This would become an acquired taste. I distinctly recall many Benz buyers in the late60s/early 70s complaining about the "harsh" ride and "rough shifting" transmission---which are now perceived as "European precision", ironically enough.
Actually, they were right about the transmissions. They were neck-breakers compared to a Hydramatic, which still impresses me when I drive one from the 60s.
Feb 02, 2003 (8:18 pm)
Oh no; I understood you perfectly, Shifty; Domestic = crap, gotcha.
Never mind that at the same time Cadillac also --among hundreds of other attention-to-detail practices-- used wind tunnel testing to determine optimum HVAC venting locations, used nylon-sealed, double-cardan constant velocity U-joints to eliminate driveshaft speed variations, that the chassis had Teflon inserts at every friction point, used hard gold contact points in the electrical system, accelerator shafts were of stainless steel to eliminate sticking from road salt corrosion, piston wristpin installation was accurate to 5 one-hundred-thousands of an inch, and the engine was so perfectly balanced that it never stopped twice in exactly the same place in its cycle. In fact, Cadillacs have traditionally never required engine 'break-in' periods due to the extreme precision of their manufacture and tolerances. They were the only automotive engines to pass stringent military specifications for aircraft engines as far as manufacturing tolerances were concerned. Mercedes did not match Cadillac's precision up to this point.
A '66 Mercedes is embarassingly underpowered- a 250 sedan recorded 0-60 in 14.4 sec and the quarter mile in 20 sec 70 MPH. Top speed was 82 MPH... that's 3 MPH SLOWER than a '64 VW 1500! Truely- very sporting, that Mercedes. I'll bet you could... eventually... really sling that jalopy thru the corners... sort of... maybe.
Cadillacs of the same period were capable of 0-60 times in the low 9s and had top speeds in the 120 MPH range. They also had excellent roadability under all but the most severe situations, but in that Cadillac's 'severe situations' sometimes occurred at HALF AGAIN the Mercedes' velocities, I believe that's saying something of considerable note.
Car & Driver tested 4 new luxury cars side-by-side, including the '77 Coupe deVille & a '77 Mercedes 280E. The Mercedes cost more (C: $13,375, M: $16,290), had worse performance (top speed C: 108, M: 107, 0-80 C: 18.5, M: 22.2) worse braking (70-0 C: 207' M: 223') got worse mileage (C: 16-17.5, M: 15.5-16) was noisier (DB 70 C: 67.5, M: 72) and had worse maneuverability (turning circle C: 34', M: 37'). The Mercedes took many more years from the mid-60s than "2" to surpass the performance & engineering of Cadillac. More like 20.
MY point is not really to knock Mercedes, my point was that one cannot callously dismiss '60s Cadillacs based on '80s Cadillacs- there is no comparison. It's the same thing as proclaiming Mercedes are slower than VWs in the '90s based on the '60s-again: no comparison.
And there is also no connection between the mink test and the '80s or later. It is no harbinger of future misfortunes. Cadillac did everything right in the 50s & 60s and went the extra distance with such luxury-minded ADDITIONS as the mink test, not in SUBSTITUTION for engineering.
BTW- care to hear C&D's comments/data of the '81 Cimarron vs. the BMW??