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Almost everyone knows about Kaiser Permanente --- the nationwide HMO but very few have any idea that it sprang from the mind of one of America’s most spectacular entrepreneurs – Henry J. Kaiser. He built the Grand Coulee and Hoover dams, launched more ships than any other builder during World War Two, opened the first steel mill on the West Coast and introduced quilted “Kaiser Aluminum Foil.” In 1945, this legendary California industrialist partnered with automobile executive Joe Frazer to meet the post War demand for cars. The resulting Kaiser-Frazer autos were the last real challenge to the dominance of the Big Three. From 1948 to the mid-‘50’s, Kaiser’s incredible energy created a stir that’s still being felt today. His passenger cars faded away but his transformation of the Jeep from the soldiers’ buddy to an everyday SUV changed the world. EP 308
Over the years, the Volvo name has become synonymous with strength and reliability. Volvo’s commitment to standards and obsession with safety, have always been far ahead of its time. It’s a car designed by people whose customers need a vehicle that can withstand late night, head-on, encounters with a reindeer. The cold and unforgiving climate where it’s built and tested has generated a car that endures. One Volvo owner has driven his car over one million miles. Volvo’s reputation for safety and durability has been bolstered by a newfound interest in style. No matter how it looks it’s really about building safe cars that seem to last nearly forever. EP 204
Saab has created many supreme automotive designs. But Saab marches to its own tune. And breaking from tradition has enhanced Saab's appeal. Saab's independence can be traced to its precarious development on the wings of Sweden's post-war aviation industry. Its engineers and designers gambled on their ability to transform their aviation experience into automobile manufacturing. Today, their efforts are admired worldwide. But Saab's transformation from wings to wheels has been a long and difficult journey. EP 205
In 1914 just after World War I, Alfieri Maserati took his patented automotive spark plug and started building racecars in the heart of Bologna. Using war surplus parts and machinery, he began what would become the proud trident trademark of Maserati and a tradition of thoroughbred Italian sports cars. Maserati road cars were also built with racing car genes that promised powerful performance. Today, Maserati is being revitalized by its new owner, Ferrari, who is helping its former rival regain its position as one of the great sports cars in the world. EP 313
In the fall of 1969, the Italians, Germans, British, and American built the car that satisfied nearly every consumer's need - from dependable performance to driving excitement. But with the introduction of a sporty, Japanese fastback called the Datsun 240Z, the automotive world was about to change. On October 22, 1969, the Datsun 240Z made its debut in the United States. Since that time, five generations of the Z series have sold over one million units, making it the best selling sports car in history. However, the story of the Z is even more amazing considering its humble beginnings. EP 206
The stylish and fast 1963 Avanti was the last ditch hope for Studebaker. The automaker was on the verge of bankruptcy. It needed a hot seller to remain in business. Studebaker's president called in famed designer Raymond Loewy and within weeks the automaker had a car. Although the $5000 fiberglass Avanti was just too expensive for most car buyers and it didn't save Studebaker --- the Avanti would live on. Over the next three decades, Avanti lovers would try to keep the dream alive, buying the company and making changes here and there to the timeless design. But in 1991, it was the end of the line for the Avanti. No one rode in on a white horse and no one had dreams of a booming car company. The only surviving Avanti factory is in Youngstown, Ohio. The plant no longer manufacturers cars it's just a parts warehouse. But Avanti enthusiasts still hold onto the dream that someone will always resurrect their beloved car.