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How Pentastar became Chrysler’s logo

Published November 30, 2012

Chrysler’s “Pentastar” is now the name of its family of V6 engines, but it’s actually the company’s star-shaped logo, unveiled in 1962. Company president Lynn Townsend wanted a new symbol and commissioned New York design firm Lippincott & Margulies to come up with one.

The firm came up with numerous designs, but the five-pointed star penned by account executive Robert Stanley made the final cut. He also came up with its name.

The Pentastar replaced Chrysler’s former “Forward Look” logo of two boomerang shapes. It was introduced on vehicles during the 1963 model year, placed on the right front quarter panel. A squad of 50 people were tasked with ensuring its proper use, and by the end of 1965, more than 5,000 large Pentastar signs were on display at dealerships.

The logo was downplayed during Daimler’s ownership of the company, but came back to prominence and was updated when Chrysler was resold in 2007. It’s still the corporate logo today, although it no longer appears on vehicles.

More on Townsend:

in 1962, the Chrysler president introduced the first warranty among domestic manufacturers that covered the engine, transmission, and rear axle for five years or 50,000 miles. In 1960, Ford had lengthened its coverage to one year or 12,000 miles. Prior to that, automakers warrantied their major components for just three months or 4,000 miles.

Chrysler’s announcement resulted in Ford and General Motors increasing their warranties to two years or 24,000 miles. Chrysler was steadily gaining in market share, however, and in 1966, Ford and GM went to 5/50,000 as well.

Origin of QR codes

You’re probably familiar with QR Codes, those little pixilated squares you can photograph with your smartphone and use to tap into a company’s online marketing information. Short for Quick Response Code, they were invented in Japan by Denso, an auto parts manufacturer that’s a subsidiary of Toyota.

Denso introduced QR Codes in 1994 as a method of rapidly tracking auto components and vehicles during the manufacturing process. Regular bar codes need to be accurately scanned with a narrow light beam. QR Code readers use a sensor that can quickly capture the information in any direction, which made them more practical for industrial use. The codes can also hold between 10 and 100 times as much information as a bar code.

Ambulance did double-duty as hearse

There’s a considerable difference between the vehicle that takes you to the hospital, and the one that takes you for your last ride, but it wasn’t always so. Although they’re now truck-based, ambulances used to be built on car chassis, and by the same coach-builders that also produced hearses. As a result, some were built as “combination cars,” which could do duty as both.

Combination cars could be switched from funeral service to ambulance duty when attendant seats were bolted in or folded up from the floor, lights and sirens were put on, it was stocked with some first-aid items, and the sign was changed.

These professional cars were never built by automakers. Instead, coach-building companies such as Superior, Eureka, Henney, and Flxible (and yes, that’s spelled correctly) ordered heavy-duty limousine chassis and built the bodies on them.

Funeral homes and hospitals in larger cities usually used specific vehicles, but combination cars were popular in smaller towns and rural areas, where there wasn’t enough business to justify two of these expensive coaches. The funeral director did double duty, driving the sick to the hospital and the deceased to the cemetery, a practice that lasted into the 1950s — and of course spawning rumours about him taking the “long route” to the doctor if there was a chance of some lucrative funeral business instead.

Regulations brought an end to this, starting in 1966, when the U.S. government tightened ambulance rules. Attendants had to be trained as EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and paid for standby time, which was too expensive for most funeral homes to consider.

Car-based ambulances continued, but it became harder to meet size regulations as automakers downsized their vehicles, and coach-builders began to use trucks. The last Cadillac ambulance was a 1979 model built by Superior and delivered to a private collector in Ohio in February 1980.

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