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How Mack Trucks put on the dog

Published December 27, 2012

The Mack truck traces its origins to Brooklyn, N.Y., where John Mack got a job at a wagon company in 1890. Three years later, he and his brother Augustus bought that firm, and in 1894, their brother William came from Pennsylvania to help out.

The Mack brothers made their first motorized vehicle, a sightseeing bus, in 1900. It was powered by a 40-horsepower engine and was used in New York’s Prospect Park for eight years. The company still made horse-drawn wagons, which were sold under the name Mack. The new self-propelled vehicles carried the name Manhattan, which would be dropped in 1910.

In 1905, the brothers moved the company to Allentown, Penn., and introduced a new “cab-over-engine” truck design that improved the driver’s visibility. The company also patented transmission designs that prevented inexperienced drivers from damaging the gears, and let drivers shift directly between high and low. Mack even built locomotives and rail cars until 1930, and again for a few years in the 1950s.

During the First World War, Mack built some 4,500 trucks for the U.S. government, and more than 2,000 for the U.K., whose soldiers nicknamed them “bulldogs” for their strength. The company adopted the dog as its corporate symbol in 1922, and it appeared on metal plates on the hood.

In 1932, Mack’s chief engineer Alfred Masury was bored while recuperating in hospital from surgery, and so he carved a bulldog to keep busy. No one’s sure if he used a block of wood or a bar of soap the first time, but he made a second one out of wood when he got home. The chunky canine that adorns each truck today is an identical copy of Masury’s work.

Who started Car of the Year award?

“Car of the Year” awards are given out by numerous organizations worldwide today, but the practice started with Motor Trend magazine in 1949. (This year, its editors chose the 2013 Tesla Model S electric sedan.)

The earliest awards went to manufacturers, not specific vehicles. Cadillac took the inaugural award in recognition of its new overhead-valve, high-compression V8 engine, which replaced its previous flathead V8.

There was no award for 1950. Chrysler won in 1951, while Cadillac took its second award in 1952. There were no more awards until 1956, when Ford won.

The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair was the first individual car to win. The award went to either a car or a company until 1965, when Pontiac was named. Oldsmobile’s Toronado won in 1966, and from then on, it was for vehicles only.

The Porsche 914 was named to a new Import Car award in 1970, but while the 1972 Citroën SM took overall Car of the Year, foreign cars won nothing until the import-specific list was reinstated with the 1976 Toyota Celica. The 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle took the last Import Car trophy. The following year, all cars were considered for a single Car of the Year award regardless of origin, as long as they were sold in the U.S.

In 1979, a Truck of the Year award was added (it went to the Chevrolet LUV compact pickup truck), although it wasn’t given out again until 1989. In 1999, Sport/Utility of the Year was added, which went to the Lexus RX300.

Subaru stars out of this world

Subaru is the automobile division of Fuji Heavy Industries, which began life in 1953 with the merger of five companies that had been part of an aircraft firm. In 1954 it produced its first car, the prototype P-1, which became the Subaru 1500 the following year.

In 1958, the company debuted the tiny Subaru 360, which established it as a viable auto company in Japan. (The car didn’t do so well in the U.S. when entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin imported it in 1971 because it was so small, it didn’t have to meet government crash standards. He did found Subaru of America in the process, though.)

The Subaru name, chosen by Fuji president Kenji Kita, is the Japanese name for a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation known to North Americans as the Pleiades. The Subaru logo used on vehicles today is of the six stars in the cluster that are visible to the naked eye.

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