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Four-Links – Packard plant’s last resident evicted, escaping East Berlin in an Isetta, Nissan’s classic car part-building robots, finding the Covington Tiburon coupe

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As The Detroit News reported this week, Allan Hill, who’s called the Packard plant in Detroit home for 15 years, was recently served an eviction notice.

Hill has served as an unofficial spokesman for the Packard Plant campus and has been featured in numerous articles and documentaries about the former industrial site and the area’s decline. When interviewed by The Detroit News in 2013, Hill was working on a prototype of cargo bicycles he had plans to market as Packard Bicycles. He also gave tours to tourists at the Packard Plant.

“He’s kinda been the guy that kept it going when nobody else was interested in it,” said Hill’s attorney, James Lumley. “He kinda adopted this place years and years ago, and probably through a lot of his efforts, it’s still here. … In the short run, I think they need to try to show a little bit of compassion for somebody you would call the local resident.”

Lumley said Hill didn’t keep the property neat and that is probably what prompted the city to put pressure on the property owner. “Everybody might not agree with his nature of lifestyle, but it’s been his home,” Lumley said.

* Escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin was dangerous and impossible in a normal car. In an Isetta, however? As Torchinsky commented on BMW’s story on Manfred Koster’s escape, “The reason the Isetta plan was so good was precisely because it was so terrible.”

May 23, 1963. A gloomy and rainy evening. In front of the border crossing at Bornholmer Street sits a BMW Isetta. The driver wants to cross the heavily guarded border between East and West Berlin. A line of cars is backed up, waiting at the border checkpoint on the East German side. The nervousness of both the drivers and the soldiers is palpable. Guard dogs bark. After more than an hour the Isetta finally pulls up to the barrier. Grim-faced border guards check papers and inspect the car. Every moment is agony for the young driver—and even more so for the stowaway passenger hidden in the Isetta’s tiny engine bay. Muffled voices from outside drift through the air to his cramped hiding place. Only a few millimeters of metal protect him from the searching eyes of the guards. Suddenly the engine hatch door opens and a flashlight shines inside. He holds his breath… If the guards find him now his attempted flight to freedom will earn him a one-way ticket to an East German jail.

* Rapid prototyping doesn’t just mean 3D printing, as we see from the robot-based dual-sided dieless forming technology Nissan recently unveiled that would allow it to quickly produce classic car parts.

Nissan hopes to commercialize the proprietary technique, known as dual-sided dieless forming. The technique involves two synchronized robots working from opposite sides of a steel sheet, using diamond-coated tools to gradually shape the steel.

Thanks to its flexible production, short lead times and minimal upfront costs, the new technique could make it commercially viable to produce and sell a wide variety of after-service and replacement parts in small volumes for cars that Nissan no longer makes. This was previously not possible due to the high upfront costs and long lead times to develop and make dies for stamped parts.

* Geoff Hacker’s been discovering forgotten fiberglass cars for quite some time, as we see from his story about finding the Covington Tiburon coupe.

Back in the 80s, I only had a couple of cars in front of my mom’s house, and one of those was the Shark roadster. And not too long after I had moved it there, a police officer stopped by and wanted to discuss the car. It turned out he was a car guy too and his name was Al Lendzian. Al had found a car similar to mine on one of his neighborhood patrols, and wanted to know if I was interested in seeing it. Can you image how a 20 year old “Geoff” must have felt when Al asked? I wanted to jump in his police car right then and there. Take me away.

* Finally, the Look at Life program looked at go-kart racing in Britain in the Sixties.