Designed to last a lifetime, these cars will be hand-built at a 500 a year rate – chassis in the U.S.. body in Italy.
Seven models include two sedans, two sports cars, coupe, convertible, and limousine.
We’ve gathered quite a bit of information on the design, history, and disposition of this car, and today’s story here at Forgotten Fiberglass is the first “salvo” of many stories we will share about the “Argonaut.” It turns out the history of this car was far more interesting and complicated than the few stories that survive to this day on the internet or in books.
Let’s start our “series” with an article that appeared in the January 1959 issue of Popular Science. And away we go…
The Argonaut: $25,000 Super Car
January, 1959 Popular Science
By Herm David
Suppose you were a millionaire whose aim was to build and sell the world’s finest automobile, regardless of cost. What would such a car be like? Richard Luntz, 39 year old Cleveland industrialist, has an answer. He told a team of automotive designers to draw up plans for “the finest, most beautiful, best engineered, best powered, most comfortable, most carefully constructed and longest-lasting automobile possible.”
Two months from now the Argonaut, first car made from those designs, will be road-ready. It has:
- A tubular steel frame of high strength, and the lowest center of gravity and widest tread of any passenger car
- A handmade aluminum body
- A specially built V-8 engine
- Durable, corrosion-resistant parts
- Seven models, sports car to limosine ($22,700 to $26,993).
The Argonaut’s V-8 is a modified Chrysler marine engine. Horsepower is a secret – to enhance the car’s “dignity.” But it’s described as the most powerful ever mounted in a passenger car.
Two 12-volt batteries are connected to a high-output generator that balances full load at idling speed. Aircraft wiring is used throughout. Two electric fuel pumps supply dual carburetors from a 32 gallon tank. Transmission options include automatic or manual with overdrive.
Chassis come with a 154” wheelbase for the “state limousine,” 126 and ½ inches for other models. Frame members are five inch diameter cold-drawn seamless steel tubing with a 3/16 inch wall thickness. Front-end suspension is by torsion bars, with low-frequency semi-elliptic springs in the rear. Front and rear shock absorbers are individually adjustable from the dash.
Extra-large brake drums have brake linings of sintered iron. Twin-stage master brake cylinders give the effect of power brakes, without a power assist. Racing tires carry 35 pounds minimum pressure. Firestone Super Sports, 8.20 by 15, are used on all models but the limousine, which rolls on bigger 8.90 by 15s.
Each Argonaut chassis is shipped to Italy to be fitted with hand-crafted aluminum bodies by Touring or Bertone. So many options and extras are possible – swivel seats, TV, running water, air conditioning, bar, refrigerator and a compact office – that each car must be made to order. Waiting time: seven to nine months.
So much car for so much money. And while they did build the chassis and drivetrain – just one – as evidenced by the photos in the above, the body was never made – at least in Italy. More about that in a future article about the Argonaut.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…
The adventure continues here at Forgotten Fiberglass.