Stainless steel cars
How many stainless steel cars have been produced? If you are like me, you are likely to answer, “Only a John DeLorean design,” but you would be wrong.
In October 2006, while attending the AACA Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania, I met and interviewed Jorn Jensen, a former historian for the Allegheny Steel Corporation. According to Jorn, in 1935 officials at Allegheny Steel and the Ford Motor Company collaborated on an experiment that would become a legacy and a tribute to one of the most dynamic metals ever developed.
Allegheny Ludlum, a pioneer producer of stainless steel, proposed the idea of creating a stainless steel car to Ford. The idea took shape in the form of a 1936 Deluxe Sedan. That car became the centerpiece of a campaign to expose the public to the new metal and its many uses. Allegheny Ludlum and Ford later collaborated on two more stainless models, a 1960 Thunderbird and a 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible. Of the 11 cars originally built, nine are still in use.
The stainless steel cars are perfect vehicles for increasing awareness of the quality of the metal. And over the years, this quality has been shown in it stainless performance.
Of the six stainless steel cars that rolled off the Ford assembly line in Detroit in 1936, four exist today as living proof of the durability of stainless steel. Each of the original six logged at least 200,000 miles in the hands of Allegheny Ludlum officials before “retiring” to private ownership in 1946. “Over the years, I drove each of the cars a number of times,” noted Jensen. “Thousand of additional miles have been logged on the odometers since, and the shiny bodies have outlasted most of their non-stainless steel parts.”
The experiment was an unparalleled success on a number of levels. Public awareness of stainless steel’s many uses increased with every city and state the cars visited. Through many years of active use, metallurgists and engineers were amazed at the superiority of the silvery metal.
Two stainless steel Ford Thunderbirds came off the Wixom, Michigan, production line on July 11, 1960, and each has traveled over 100,000 miles throughout the United States and Europe, demonstrating the durability and timeless beauty of stainless steel.
With the exception of the body skin, bumpers, and grille, which was made of T302 stainless steel, every other component is standard 1960 Thunderbird equipment. Also included is the first T409 sold stainless steel muffler released on a production vehicle. Both cars still have their original mufflers and T304 exhaust pipes after 25 years on the road.
The 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible was the last of the stainless steel cars produced by the Ford Motor Company and Allegheny Ludlum Steel. Once again, the companies proved that stainless steel’s enduring beauty is matched by its toughness.
Except for the vehicle’s body, all other parts and equipment on the car are standard for the 1967 Lincoln convertible. The vehicle’s weight is just about equal to one with a standard steel body. Three stainless Lincolns were built that year. Allegheny Ludlum Steel retains two and the third car is on permanent display in the Crawford Auto Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
The final stainless steel car was the DeLorean. Included in Jensen’s photo collection is a sales brochure produced by the Allegheny and DeLorean companies. This car is very rare and was quickly pulled out of circulation by Allegheny when John DeLorean was caught in the cocaine bust and his car company went under.
Story facts: The information for this story on the History of Stainless Steel cars was taken, in part, from the G83-EDI-5M-186MCS sales brochure. According to Jensen, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation discontinued the use of the brochure in 1983. The brochure was last printed in 1983, and according to Jensen exists only in his personal archive.