Raindrops keep falling – bringing our monopod history to a close.
McCarty Mustang, 1948
Had he been able to actually get his new car enterprise off the ground, Ford Motor Company may have had to think of a different name for one of its most successful models. Roy McCarty worked at a Lincoln dealership but had bigger plans – to create a better, more fuel efficient and cheaper car that would appeal to a wide audience.
Using tried and tested mechanical components from existing manufacturers, and buying in the engines from established suppliers Continental and Hercules was sound reasoning. Being located in Renton, on the outskirts of Seattle in the state of Washington, which was about as far away from Detroit as you can get on US soil, and not having the necessary finance in place, less so.
Still, McCarty went ahead, starting the Mustang Engineering Corporation and having the Pacific Car Foundry construct his aluminium-bodied car, named the Mustang.
From the front it resembled a small bus but the rest of the body displayed the familiar tapering shape with shades of Tucker when viewed from above. Powered by a 59 Hp four cylinder Hercules engine with a six by Continental available at extra cost, the Mustang had a claimed maximum cruising speed of 65 Mph and fuel consumption of up to 35 Mpg.
The vehicle was rear-mid engined and offered seating for up to six people; both front seats could swivel 270°. Brochures printed for the vehicle mentioned a sales price of $ 1235 which sounded good -about $ 200 less than a Chevrolet – but history has shown most new automotive initiatives got the cost calculations (knowingly or otherwise) wrong and were forced to increase the price as the actual market introduction neared.
Initially McCarty intended to sell his car just in the states of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. The Mustang Engineering Corporation issued stock certificates and sent the car on a promotional tour; this turned out to be quite successful as all the stock certificates were sold, as well as 200 dealer franchises.
Bolstered by this financial backing, McCarty signed a lease on a defunct Boeing factory in Renton in order to build the first 200 Mustangs which had been ordered with a $ 500 down-payment by the prospective dealers. This caught the attention of the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed a lawsuit against the firm over claims of contract fraud and stock irregularities.
After a lengthy period of costly litigation, the Mustang company was cleared of all charges and free to start production. However, the legal proceedings had been so costly most of the invested funds were now gone; the general public had become sceptical and thus reluctant to invest, causing McCarty to throw in the towel. Some sources claim that up to twelve Mustangs were built but it seems more likely only one car was ever completed, and even that one is elusive – it is said to be in a private collection but has never been seen anywhere.
After Ford introduced its Mustang in April of 1964, McCarty filed a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company to the tune of no less than 10 million $US, claiming trademark law infringement. The problem with trademark law however is that if you are not using the trademark, you may lose your rights to it.
McCarty was unable to prove that he had deployed any kind of meaningful automotive design or production activity after 1949 and even though a long back and forth correspondence between their respective attorneys ensued, the case was dead by mid 1966.
 In the immediate post war period there had been several cases of fraud with new car makers so the SEC was on high alert in those days.
Berggren Future, 1951
Contrary to the examples listed previously, in this case it was more a personal pet project than a serious commercial effort – but the end result was intriguing nevertheless.
Sigvard Berggren (1923-2009), a resident of Borås close to the Swedish city Gothenburg, started work on his aptly named Future streamlined vehicle in 1951. Up to then he was making good money by operating a carrot juice factory, selling it nationwide. The chassis of a 1938 Dodge that had been a taxi in a previous life formed the base of the car, but Berggren replaced the engine with a flathead Ford V8.
The powerplant was placed near the centre, there was room for six passengers and the rear seats could be transformed into two beds. Assisted by his friends Lennart Josefsson and Henrik Neuman, and inspired by aircraft construction, Berggren welded together a tubular structure from lightweight steel. Onto this were fitted the handformed steel panels to form the aerodynamic body.
The friends had a planned appointment with a newspaper to come and cover the vehicle but being new to the car construction business they had severely underestimated the amount of time the work would consume: “For ten days we worked non-stop, slept very little and ate even less” Neuman recalled later. But they did complete the Future in time for the deadline, and this newspaper coverage would be the first of many during the 1950s.
The glassy cockpit of the Future protruded significantly beyond the front axle, together with the large longitudinal air intakes on either side adding to the likeness of an aircraft without wings as much as a raindrop. The jet aircraft impression continued on the inside, where some of the controls were placed above the windscreen as per aeronautic practice.
Even when its appearance was taken out of the equation, the Future was quite imposing: 244 inches long, 59 inches high and almost 85 inches wide it was sure to get noticed in traffic anytime, anywhere. Its weight of around 2000 Kg precluded any speeds even approaching those of aircraft but Berggren noted that he planned to replace the old Ford V8 with something more powerful so the Future would attain his dreamed top speed of 144 Mph.
Berggren showed off his car in many local events, in some cases charging 3 Kroner to anyone who wanted to have a look inside. When the fifties drew to a close Berggren lost interest in his vehicle and donated it to the Svedinos Bil och flygmuseum in Ugglarp where it can still be viewed today.
After this, the trio went back into the manufacture of carrot juice by starting the Brämhults Juice AB company. Later on, Sigvard Berggren – obviously a man of wide-ranging interests – opened a zoo in Borås. During a trip to Sudan he had rescued a lion cub whose mother had been killed. Berggren took the cub he named Simba back with him to Sweden; it was soon joined by several more animals and the Borås zoo was opened in 1962. It is still thriving today.
Sigvard Berggren would, together with his wife, spend a lot of time in Africa – authoring several books on the subject along the way – and the couple engaged in various projects concerning ecology, solar power and the environment. For Sigvard Berggren it seems the word future had more than one meaning.