Strip Club

Sorry gentlemen, no lucite heels and garterbelts here, just painted metal and blanked out switches.

Image: Balconistasa com

There can be a quiet sort of dignity in an austere car. Shorn of distracting embellishments, the observer has an excellent opportunity to judge the essential purity – or lack thereof – of the design in question. But there are limits to how far a manufacturer can go before a car’s business case starts to collapse like a jenga tower when one too many blocks has been removed. Today we present three examples that at the very least caused an alarming wobble.

Image; Autorealidade.com.br

Renault Dauphine Teimoso

When Brazil came under the rule of a military junta after a 1964 coup, one of the few laudable initiatives of the new rulers was an attempt to enable those who until then were unable to purchase a new car to finally fulfil their dream. The junta did this through the Caixa Econômica Federal, which ordered Willys-Overland, who was producing Renault’s Dauphine under licence, to build 1000 severely decontented Dauphines per month.

The manufacturer was required to somehow strip and simplify the Dauphine to such an extent that it could be sold at 60% of the price of the existing Dauphine. The result, named Dauphine Teimoso, appeared in 1965.

Image: Dauphinomaniac.org/ Balconistasa.com

The word teimoso means stubborn in Portuguese; this unusual model name came about because of a twenty-two day, 30,000 mile endurance test of the Dauphine at the Interlagos circuit. The trial was conducted because of the reputation for fragility that surrounded the small rear-engined Renault. At one point the Dauphine became unstuck in a corner and rolled; it was put on its wheels again and the endurance run was resumed. One of the test drivers nicknamed the battered Dauphine “the stubborn one” after it had successfully completed the gruelling reliability test, and the name stuck.

Image: Jornaldocarro estadao.combr/ Autorealidade.com.br

Outwardly, apart from the air intakes at the rear doors, the totally dechromed body with silver painted bumpers clearly distinguishes it from a regular Dauphine. Look closer and the single windshield wiper, deleted front indicators and the single central taillight also stand out.

Inside the extreme austerity continues – no provision for a radio, no floor mats, hammock style seats, the simplest of door panels, and no fuel level or water temperature gauge – these were replaced by warning lights. As a final touch to impress upon occupants that they were inside a true stripper there was no headliner.

The decontenting shaved over 70 kilograms off the weight, which improved performance and fuel consumption, since the Teimoso was mechanically unchanged. Between 1965 and 1967 a total of 8967 Teimoso’s were sold, representing slightly over 10% of the total amount of Dauphine variants produced by Willys-Overland.

Studebaker Scotsman

Image: Macsmotorcitygarage.com

In late 1941 all US car manufacturers were ordered to build cars in a blackout version only – no more chrome because this was needed for military production [*] and no whitewall tires. Studebaker’s 1957 Scotsman would have needed very little work to conform to the blackout rules – it was that bare.

As the 1950s wore on Studebaker faced increasing difficulty to keep up with the domestic big three; its image tarnished by quality problems, while the merger with Packard had not provided much positive effect for either company. The South Bend carmaker was working on a smaller compact, the Lark, but that car would not be ready until 1959.

Meanwhile, in order to lower the price of entrance, the Scotsman was conceived. Studebaker certainly succeeded in slashing the price as the Scotsman was the lowest priced American car of 1957 at $1776; the next to cheapest Studebaker was the 2-door Champion at $2189 which represented a substantial gap in those days.

Image: Hemmings.com/ Wallpaperup.com

Of course, this $413 chasm came at a price. The front and rear bumpers were the only chrome-plated elements; all other items chromed on the more expensive Studebakers such as the windshield moulding, taillight housings, headlamp bezels, grille and so on were painted either silver or body colour. Those body colours also seemed to have been chosen deliberately to confirm the bottom-rung image: Glasgow gray, Glen green and Loch blue were the unexciting choices. For the 1958 model year Parchment white and Midnight black were added to the palette.

The Scotsman’s interior continued the barren austerity- a very simple instrument panel of painted metal whose bathroom-scale type speedometer was the only unusual and amusing element, plain vinyl upholstery, cardboard-and-vinyl doorpanels bereft of armrests and rubber mats on the floor. Contrary to the Teimoso the Scotsman did have a headliner but no interior dome light. The boot likewise did not have any protective upholstery and there was no panel to protect the back of the rear seat.

Image: Jeff Nolton/ Barnfinds com

Mechanically the Scotsman was fitted with the familiar flathead inline Sweepstakes six cylinder engine, delivering a none too thrilling 101 hp but did allow the Scotsman achieve as much as 40 Mpg – impressive for the time. In 1958 a more peppy 180 hp V8 became available as an option – regardless of which engine was fitted the only transmission choice was a three speed manual. However, if you wanted an automatic the Champion was available.

Studebaker produced 30,220 Scotsmans in two years which qualifies it as a reasonable success; for 1959 the Lark would take over the entry-price position and grant Studebaker a temporary stay of execution until the big three introduced their own compacts. Meanwhile, Americans old enough to remember could have been forgiven for thinking that there was a war on again.

Ford Vedette Abeille

Image: Encyclautomobile.fr

The French Ford Vedette originated from an aborted US small car programme, initiated by Edsel Ford. Started in 1941, when the war had ended by late 1945 it transpired that domestic demand for even warmed over pre-conflict models was very strong. On top of that, cost calculations had shown that it would have been very difficult for Ford to make a profit on this small car as it would have to be priced substantially lower than the regular Ford models while costing almost as much to produce.

Ford SAF however, the French subsidiary, expressed an interest in the car as it desperately wanted to revive production at its new plant in Poissy. Dearborn agreed and after some more engineering and finetuning the Vedette was presented in October 1948.

By American standards the Vedette may have been a small car but at 175 inches long and with a 106 inch wheelbase, it was classified in Europe as a good size family car. The styling was clearly American in origin as a comparison with the concurrent stateside Mercury showed: the Vedette was mostly a smaller rendition of its US relative but with a rounded fastback rear end.

Pricewise it was slightly more expensive than Citroën’s Traction Avant; the Vedette may have had a V8 engine but many buyers lamented the feeble performance of the 2158cc powerplant which dated back to before the second world war as well as the lack of refinement in fit and finish. Ride comfort however universally gained good marks. Nevertheless, sales did not meet expectations, prompting Ford of France to take action.

Image: Caradisiac.com/ Classicdigest.com

In mid-1952 a Vedette stripped of most of its equipment and visual niceties arrived, dubbed Abeille (Bee). Presented as a commercial vehicle that could at the same time also serve as the family car, the Abeille’s appearance seemed almost deliberately drab.

All chrome parts apart from the doorhandles and bootlid grip were painted in one of three available body colours: dark gray, dark blue or a somewhat military-like green. The Abeille had only one taillight and the rearmost side windows were simply metal blanks. Inside only the absolute basics in terms of instrumentation and creature comforts were provided.

The utilitarian character of the Abeille was evidenced by the bootlid which now was a two-piece construction: the larger top part opened as a hatch and the smaller lower part opened downwards, held in a horizontal position by chains. The rear seat was removable and when taken out opened up a large area for cargo with a maximum payload of 500 kilograms; the Abeille’s suspension reinforced to handle the potential loads.

Image: Ford France SA/ Encyclautomobile.fr

Technically, the Abeille was almost identical to its better equipped sisters, the only change was the fitment of a different carburettor in an effort to reduce fuel consumption.

The decontenting of the Vedette to turn it into the Abeille resulted in a price that was just 10% lower, hardly an enticing reward for anyone that contemplated purchasing so obviously a cheapened vehicle. Indeed, total Vedette sales continued to decline even with the addition of the Abeille. A facelift in 1953 where the Vedette (but not the Abeille) gained a three-volume body, and the addition of a more powerful and luxurious version named Vendôme could also not prevent steadily falling sales.

The Abeille was granted a little more external brightwork with a simple chromed front bumper and offered the new option of having the central pillar on the passenger side removed in order to facilitate access to the loading area. This option was often chosen by those who used the Abeille as a medical vehicle, although one wonders what effect the removal of one central pillar had upon the structural integrity of the body.

The disappointing sales performance of its French subsidiary resulted in Ford leaving the French car production business and selling the Poissy plant to Simca in the summer of 1954, just as an all-new Vedette (designed and engineered in the USA) had been readied – that car would live on under the Simca brand however, and would not feature an Abeille-like decontented variant.

One thing all three of these strippers have in common is that they ultimately failed in their mission – the slow selling Teimoso did not put Brazil on wheels and could not prevent the discontinuation of Dauphine production by Willys-Overland in 1968. The Scotsman sold reasonably but was unable to measurably avert the inevitable demise of Studebaker, and the Abeille did not improve the Vedette’s sales performance enough to entice Detroit to retain its French subsidiary.

To be fair: with or without the Scotsman, Studebaker’s fate was already virtually sealed by the late fifties and production of the dated Dauphine ended in France at about the same time it did in Brazil. The lesson perhaps to be taken from this story is that austerity in automotive terms  only works when the vehicle in question has been conceived as an extremely basic mode of transport to begin with- which is why the Citroën 2cv never rocked anyone’s jenga tower.

[*] Any parts previously produced and chromed had to be painted to prevent any manufacturer gaining an unfair advantage.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

31 thoughts on “Strip Club”

  1. Gentler times, when pejorative national stereotyping could be shamelessly used to market a product.

  2. Good morning Bruno. These decontented models are visually interesting in that they allow you to focus on the form of the body without any distracting ornamentation. The Dauphine is a pretty thing but I’d go the whole hog and paint the bumpers, headlamp bezels and rear air intake grilles in body colour too.

    One of the features of modern cars that makes such decontenting problematic is their fully integrated plastic bumpers. The shut-lines between these and the rest of the body are often drawn expediently in the knowledge that they will be underplayed by the bumpers being body-coloured. Once they are highlighted by a change of colour, they often look pretty awkward and ugly.

    Here’s a mock-up of a Focus ‘Popular’ from the Petrolblog website that illustrates the issue nicely when compared with the production model:


    It’s interesting how rarely you see an unpainted bumper version of the Dacia Sandero, at least compared to the Duster, which is often bought as a work vehicle. I suspect it is not difficult for Dacia dealers to persuade potential Sandero buyers to pay a bit more and avoid the obviously poverty spec ‘Access’ version. The savings achieved by not painting the bumpers must be minimal, so you might suspect that it’s done precisely to encourage people to spend more, having attracted them into the showroom with the low entry price.

    1. Out on my usual cast-adrift limb, I think the de-cluttered Fiesta gains some character in the process. The wheels, particularly, look far more appropriate to what is, after all, a fairly basic vehicle. But why, like the original Ka, does it instantly bring to mind Homer Simpson?

    2. Good morning. I’m somehow reminded of the recent article about the Lincoln Continental brochure and particularly Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s quote: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

      Maybe they’ve gone too far here with the examples featured in this article. However, I usually find my self gravitating to the more basic and light weight versions of a particular car. I like the perfect amount of something instead of too much. But then again “less is more” and “too much is never enough”, to quote Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Morris Lapidus. My architectural background is paying off here.

      Interesting to see the Focus on steel wheels. All the cars I’ve owned had alloys, including the winter wheels which over here are quite often black steel items. There’s a 2009 Mini over here with wheels similar to the focus here. For some reason I quite like them, even though they are too small to fit the car properly. I hope to take a photo of it later today.

    3. Hi Freerk, that Mini is pleasingly unadorned, although the lime green door mirror capping(s?) looks odd. Perhaps it was a second-hand replacement item (although I don’t recall lime green as an R56 Mini colour)?

    4. Thanks Daniel. I don’t recall that lime green mirror caps were part of the options list either. I think you could chose between body color, white or black. But these are relatively easy to replace, so you can make it look even less unadorned. It’s not hard to overspec (is that a word?) a Mini, so it’s nice to see something this basic. By the way, your Mini is very nicely specced, Daniel.

    5. Thanks Freerk, it’s kind of you to say so. When we ordered our Mini, one could have had a contrasting roof, mirror cappings and the (optional 17″) wheels in either black or white as no-cost options. Consequently, ours, with its body-coloured roof and mirror cappings and silver wheels, is now a rarity:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen another orange Mini without the contrasting treatment, mainly with black although I’ve even seen a few with with white, which looks a bit odd, I think.

  3. The Citroën ID19 Normale was another entry level model which sold in very small numbers.

  4. In the late 1950s, two of my Welsh uncles ( who worked together ) owned Standards. One had a shiny black Standard 10 ( with 948cc motor similar to the first Triumph Herald ). The other had a Standard 8, which was a stripper version of the 10, with everything removed and an 803cc motor to rub salt into the wounds. No opening bootlid, no wind-up windows, no adornment of any kind for the air-intake ( you couldn’t call it a grill !). It would echo like a metal biscuit tin when you shut the doors, such was the lack of sound-deadening. Strangely it was painted a crude metalic blue, at a time when metalic colours were rare (maybe it was some kind of aluminium primer that Standard Motors had left over from WW2 )

    1. If I remember correctly, that very basic Standard 8 pre-dated the 10. Boot access was achieved by folding down the rear seat back-rest and despite the car’s ‘utility’-spec, it sold remarkably well with many still surviving. There was a de-cluttered version of the Herald, Ford 105E Anglia, Hillman Minx, Morris Oxford (Cowley)….
      Apologies for referring (above) to the Focus as a Fiesta – they all look alike to me – but I still can’t get Homer Simpson out of my head.

  5. Owing to an administrative error – (the editor has been drinking again) – there was a mix-up with the attribution of this piece. The correct author is now appended to the article. The (sober, if slightly hungover) editor apologises for any inconvenience to the reader, and especially to Bruno, who authored the piece.

  6. Does anybody remember the spartan base model Polo Mk1 with cardboard toor trim with exposed crosshead screws, painted bumpers, only one sun visor, rubber ball screenwash pump and absolutely no trim for the boot? It also had no chrome trim, single speed wiper and rubbee floor mats.

    1. I don’t remember the details, Dave, but I do know that Volkswagen’s base models used to be what I would call ‘inventively mean’.

      That said, I recall base 1200 Beetles in the mid-‘70s had no chrome, with satin black bumpers, hubcaps and exhausts, instead – like Jeans versions, but without the denim upholstery. They looked pretty cool, combined with bright paint colours.

    2. The Beetle 1200 Standard. No fuel gauge, no trip odometer, micro sized headlining, no headrests, drum brakes all round. In 1974.

    3. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s VW produced a strange hybrid of pre- and post-1968 facelift versions as the base 1200N model of the Beetle. This car had the upright headlamps of the facelifted car combined with the smaller oval tail lights and slimmer C- (rather than square-) section bumpers from the earlier car. Inside, it had no headlining on the B- or C-pillars or below the rear window. It also still had the oval grilles in the front wings, one of which was for for the horn. Facelifted cars dispensed with these grilles and simply angled the horn downwards towards the road.

      Here’s an Irish registered example:

  7. Bruno, once more you’ve introduced me to three variants of cars I had no idea of. Each with a splendid name and by George, austerity central.

    Any one of them must’ve been delightful to travel when the heavens opened, the noise!

    The Ford merely wants a white star and stencilled us army markings on its massive olive green flanks.

    The Renault must’ve been better than shanks pony – just.

    As to the Scotsman; did Studebaker’s design team know a particular thrifty Jock? Whatever next – a Vauxhall Yorkshireman where a dour faced car emits grumpy engine noises? Or a Triumph Cockney whose interior smells of a fruit market and handles “rudely”?

    Today, we’re all (apart from the good readership here, of course) magpies; the shinier, the better. As already stated, simpler times…

    1. Re the Ford – that’s a good point about the white star and stencilling – I knew it reminded me of something.

      The Renault recorded an impressive weight loss and seemed to come out of its equipment reduction okay (ish).

      As for the Studebaker – it was the colours that finally cracked me up.

      They weren’t the only company to reference Scotland – there was the Hillman Imp Caledonian, but that got extra equipment, not less.

  8. A very interesting look at ‘radical de-contenting’, thanks. The article itself (and particularly Freek’s commentary) reminded me how some cars seem to get better as they get simpler in terms of trim, whilst others are preferable in slightly posher versions.

    It’s tempting to ascribe the former phenomenon to the essential ‘rightness’ of the design, to which the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quotation would indeed be apposite, yet there are some counter-examples. My favourite illustration of this point is the (apt, in terms of their market positioning) comparison between the VW Up and the Mk3 Fiat Panda, not coincidentally two of the very few current production cars I admire: The Up is at its absolute best in the most basic trim level, with only airco as an extra, whilst the Panda gets nicer as you go up the trim level range (stopping just short of the very poshest version, which adds pointless fripperies like tinted rear windows). The difference, I think, is that the Up was designed as a genuinely basic (though thoroughly well-engineered) car to start with, something most obvious in the original 3-door form, whereas the Panda was designed to be something more akin to a complete family car in miniature.

  9. The “Muji Car 1000” is a very interesting example of this genre – a stripped K11 Micra 3-door only available in white (a shade that tends towards cream in some photos) that also didn’t feature any branding (like every Muji product). The winged Nissan grille was covered by a tacked-on “insurance ad car” item:

    1. This one was unknown to me, so thank you for bringing it to our attention Megasigma.

  10. What surprises me about the Renault is that it doesn’t even have holes in the panels for the missing lights !

  11. Thanks for the article, Bruno. Here in Brazil, most of the units of the Dauphine Teimoso were “re-contented” by their owners after the purchase, because they didn’t want to be recognised as penny pinchers, so not too many Teimosos survived in its original condition.

    Between 1967 and 1968, Volkswagen do Brasil also had a very stripped version of the Beetle, known as “pé-de-boi” (literally, “ox hoof”), which was a sales flop. It had a single exhaust pipe, and no turning lights (!!!), no fuel gauge, and so on.

    https://estadodeminas.vrum.com.br/app/noticia/nostalgia/2016/01/26/interna_nostalgia,51758/volkswagen-fusca-pe-de-boi-conheca-a-historia-da-rara-versao-do-carro.shtml

    http://www.thevolksshop.com.br/produto/fusca-1965-pe-de-boi-rarissimo/

    1. Hello Eduardo,
      Interesting additional information, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  12. Love the Studebaker speedo, thought that style was the preserve of 1970s Citroens , was it more widely used in American cars of that era?

    1. Hello Justin,
      Another American car of the same period that used a similar style was the 1958 Edsel:

      In the next decade, the Oldsmobile Toronado would also have something similar.

  13. One “stripper” that bears mention is the Plymouth Road Runner. Plymouth was already selling a fast muscle car, the GTX, but its young core audience couldn’t quite afford it. The Road Runner was a GTX with the fancy trim and luxury and convenience features deleted, which actually made the car lighter, and thus faster. But the real genius was the marketing slight of hand they employed to make everyone forget that it was a stripper.

    The rights to the name, logo and unique and recognizable horn tone were licensed from Warner Bros. for a $50,000. flat fee, which paid for itself in sales, many times over.

    https://ashlandtidings.com/archive/cars-we-remember-plymouth-roadrunner-history-of-a-time-tested-muscle-car

    1. One of my soon to graduate engineering classmates bought a Roadrunner in the spring of 1969. It came with the taxicab interior, vinyl bench seats and rubber mat flooring that almost looked like it was sprayed on, all knobbly and bumpy. Cheap doesn’t begin to describe its ambience. And then incongruously sprouting out of the floorboards was a chromed double-bent stout gearshift lever (to clear the bench seat) for the four speed manual, hooked to a 383 4 barrel. Same engine Jensen bought for the Interceptor, probably at a ludicrous price. The Roadrunner sounded like the interior of an empty delivery van when underway, all gear whine and woofle, but was a complete giggle when the accelerator pedal was floored. Then it was Katie bar the door and LOOOUD. Much preferred another guy’s choice of a Cortina GT. At least you could carry on a conversation in that car as it tootled along.

  14. It seems bizarre that indicators (turn signals) should be left off a car to cut costs

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