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Ardent Motors Corporation


#1

Ardent Motors Corporation - A Brief History

Ardent Motors Corporation traces its roots back to Ardent Foundry and Tool, a company formed in Cincinnati, OH in 1872. This precursor produced farming tools, parts for the Cincinnati streetcar network, and cast iron goods.

By 1878, Ardent Foundry and Tool began producing steam-powered industrial engines and tractors, and eventually internal combustion versions of the same in the early 20th century. In 1923, Ardent Foundry and Tool sold off its iron works and tool businesses, and emerged as Ardent Motors Corporation. Their first production model was a 2 seat “business coupe”, powered by a 62 cubic inch flathead four.

Soon after, Ardent expanded to light trucks, and provided an ever-expanding range of personal automobiles.

The Great Depression was hard on Ardent Motors, nearly bankrupting them. In August of 1930, a year after the Depression began, Ardent got a new CEO, Jack Chancellor. It was due to Chancellor’s downright extreme management and control that the company managed to survive long enough to see the its fortunes reverse at the start of World War II.

Today, Ardent Motors Corporation builds and markets a full range of vehicles worldwide. They are the largest stakeholder in two smaller car companies, and have production and technology sharing agreements with them.

Ardent Motors (est 1923, Cincinnati, OH)
Townsend Coachworks (est 1919, Toledo, OH; acquired majority share in 1953)
Suzume Motor Manufacturing Industries (est 1947, Osaka; acquired 40% share in 1976, entered into co-manufacturing agreement)

Ardent Starlight (Series 200)

1946 - 1957


1946 Ardent Starlight 200 Special in Ink Black

Immediately upon being cleared to switch from military to civilian production at the end of the war, Ardent began pumping out passenger cars and light trucks as soon as they could. Their design staff had been, for the most part, concentrating on factory conversion and efficiency during the war, so only a couple designers were available for non-military pursuits at that time. Ardent’s Chief Engineer, John Case, was one of them.

The Starlight was originally designed by John Case, and first put into production in 1939. Production was halted in early 1941, as Ardent’s factories were put to use building machines of war, initially to be sent to Britain, and then used by the US Army later.

The 1946 model was minimally different from the 1939 version, both inside and out. The only major difference was under the hood; the old 85 cubic inch flathead four and two speed manual transmission were gone, replaced by an all-new 99 cubic inch inline four, with an overhead valve design, that produced 49 horsepower. An all new three-speed transmission put power to the rear end. Despite the improvement in motivation, Ardent designed the Starlight to be an entry-level sedan, and marketed it both for urban and the growing suburban markets.

From 1946 to 1951, the Starlight was available in two trims, and three colors.

Trims:
200 Special, MSRP $649
220 Deluxe, MSRP $669

Colors:
Ink Black
Pure White
Cherry Red

In 1952, the Starlight received a minor refresh and a newly available engine. Minor interior improvements were made, and the front brakes were vastly improved with the implementation of two-shoe drums. The line expanded from two to three trims, and the colors from three to five. The Starlight ended its run in 1957.

What would have been the previous Deluxe version, in 1952, became the Custom trim. The top-trim Deluxe added a standard AM radio and a “sport” tuned version of the 99 cid engine that produced 61 horsepower. Also, one of the new colors was exclusive to the Deluxe trim.

Trims:
200 Special, MSRP $899
210 Custom, MSRP $949
220 Deluxe, MSRP $1079

Colors:
Ink Black
Pure White
Cherry Red
Copper Cream
Light Mint (220 Deluxe only)


1952 Ardent Starlight 220 Deluxe in Light Mint


A Journey Through Time Round3 - 1955 [CLOSED][UE4]
#2

Ardent A1 Series

1946 - 1952


1946 Ardent A1 1-ton Truck in Lemon Creme

Having built light trucks before the war, and heavy trucks during the war, it took Ardent almost no time to restart their light commercial vehicle line during peace time. A few junior designers under John Case brought the pre-war Type A vehicles up to date.

All A1 series models from '46 to '52 utilized the “Vela” 286 heavy-duty straight six, which produced 115 horsepower. Design was kept as simple as possible, and the Vela never progressed beyond a single one-barrel carburetor for this generation. A 3 speed manual transmission was mated to this engine. Payload capacity was one full ton for both the truck and sedan delivery models.

At launch, the A1 series was available in three colors. This expanded to five in 1948.

Trims:
1-ton Pickup, MSRP $939
Sedan Delivery, MSRP $949

Colors:
Ink Black
Pure White
Lemon Cream
Spanish Olive (1948+)
Cherry Red (1948+)


1947 Ardent Sedan Delivery in Pure White


#3

Ardent Midnight (Series 300)

1946-1954


1946 Ardent Midnight 320 Deluxe in Ink Black

In late 1942, Ardent hired a young new designer by the name of Stanton Glass, a discharged Navy officer who was severely wounded at the Battle of Coral Sea. Prior to the War, Glass was a bit of a back yard engineer, and very adept at repurposing motors into new equipment.

While officially assigned to tooling and efficiency projects in the main factory, Stanton Glass spent a vast amount of his own personal time learning the basics of automotive design theory from other engineers and technical publications, and penning prototypical designs of his own.

One such sketch was turned into a physical prototype in late 1945 with Jack Chancellor’s approval. This prototype, initially made with a monocoque body unit, eventually morphed into the Midnight, and ended up in production with a handful of changes, including using a traditional ladder layout, as Ardent didn’t have the facilities to even attempt production of a unibody unit.

It was motivated by a warmed-up version of the 99 cubic inch 4-cylinder from the Starlight, producing 60 horsepower. A special 4-speed manual transmission sent power to the wheels, regardless of trim configuration.

There were no refreshes of the Midnight through its 8 year run. It was offered as either a 2 seater or 4 seater, both as a roadster and coupe. Interior appointments were particularly fine on the 320 and 330 trims. Throughout its run, the Midnight was available in 7 colors, but not all at the same time.

Trims:
300 Standard, 4 seat coupe, MSRP $759
310 Custom, 4 seat roadster, MSRP $779
320 Deluxe, 2 seat coupe, MSRP $919
330 Roadster, 2 seat roadster, MSRP $939

Colors:
Ink Black
Pure White
Cherry Red
Lemon Creme (1946-1951)
Light Mint (1947-1951)
Copper Cream (1948-1952)
Sunshine Yellow (1952+)
Spanish Olive (1952+)


1947 Ardent Midnight 310 Custom in Light Mint


#4

Very cool. Can’t wait to see more of Ardents Motor Corp’s history and line up!


#5

Ardent 400 Series

1950 - 1957


1951 Ardent 420 Estate Deluxe in Spanish Olive

With their foothold re-established following the war, Ardent looked to broadening of their market and customer base. While the Starlight fit well into the role of every-man car, it didn’t cater well to the tastes of the increasingly affluent suburban middle class. In September of 1947, Jack Chancellor directed lead designer John Case to create a newer, larger class of cars to join the Ardent lineup. These were to be fitted with finer appointments than the Starlight model, and even comparable to or in excess of those on the Midnight 320 and 330.

Case was given free reign of the project, including access to all projects headed up by Desmond Wainwright, Ardent’s chief of powertrain design.

Initially intended to be available with either a 173 cubic inch, 102 horsepower “Orion” straight-6 or a 294 cubic inch “Taurus” V8, the latter was never destined to happen. Wainwright was overloaded with demands from the top, and understaffed below. At the time, Ardent had difficulty attracting enough talent to design engines and components, due to stiff competition in the industry.


1950 Ardent 410 Sedan Custom in Copper Cream

Still, the 400-series models launched in 1950, with the 173 Orion as its sole mill. A 3-speed manual transmission was standard on most models, but the 420 Deluxe trims received a brand new ShiftGuard 2-speed automatic transmission. In 1954, shortly after acquiring a large stake in Townsend Coachworks (and subsidiary Toledo Ironworks), the 400-series finally received a V8 engine. This was in the form of a 287 cid Toledo Iron Eight, putting out 146 horsepower. This Toledo engine was an option exclusive to the Deluxe trims.

Throughout its life, the 400-series was available in wagon, sedan, and coupe bodies. The wagon and sedan varieties were available in three trims. Base 400 Special was equipped with such standard features as vinyl seating, AM radio, dual-shoe hydraulic brakes, full steel construction, and the aforementioned manual transmission. The 410 Custom added pillowed seating and additional chromed interior accents. The 420 Deluxe stepped up to an automatic transmission and a “Clear Wave” AM radio system that improved reception range and clarity. The coupe body style was only available in the 400 Special trim.


1951 Ardent 400 Coupe Special in Cherry Red

Starting in 1952, the 400-series was available with two-tone paint and a second chrome belt on the higher trims.

Ardent devoted vast resources to production of the 400-series. This was not only due to expected high demand at home in North America, but also because Jack Chancellor had negotiated the opening of a dealer network in Europe, and wanted to make sure the flagship Ardent was available there as well. Though it sold in Europe, predictably it was less popular than the smaller, less expensive Starlight in that market. Also of note, the 400 Coupe Special was never exported to Europe.

Trim pricing in 1950:
400 Coupe Special, MSRP $1289
400 Sedan Special, MSRP $1299
400 Estate Special, MSRP $1299
410 Sedan Custom, MSRP $1399
410 Estate Custom, MSRP $1399
420 Sedan Deluxe, MSRP $1479
420 Estate Deluxe, MSRP $1479

Cost of Toledo Iron Eight option in 1954: $35
Two-tone paint option (Custom or Deluxe only): $30

Available colors:
Pure White (Custom or Deluxe only)
Ink Black
Cherry Red
Light Mint
Lemon Creme
Sunshine Yellow (except Estate)
Copper Cream (except Coupe)
Spanish Olive (except Coupe)
Caribbean Blue (1952+)

Two-tone combos (Custom and Deluxe 1952+)
Pure White/Ink Black
Sunshine Yellow/Ink Black
Caribbean Blue/Ink Black
Pure White/Cherry Red
Cherry Red/Ink Black
Lemon Creme/Sunshine Yellow
Caribbean Blue/Copper Cream
Light Mint/Ink Black


1954 Ardent 420 Sedan Deluxe V8. Color pick courtesy of @Private_Miros


#6

Ardent A1 Series Mk.II

1953-1958


1953 Ardent A1 1-ton pickup in Light Mint

Advances in technology had rendered the initial post-war A1 models obsolete by 1951. While designers were ready to implement an upgrade, it took an additional 2 years for the powertrain department to deliver the updated iteration of the 283 cubic inch Vela motor necessary for a proper refresh. By that time, those penning the body had made additional changes.

In 1953, the new series of A1’s launched. The front grille was changed to what was dubbed a “Winged A” style. Both the Sedan Delivery and pickup received a light touch of chrome along the sides to address increasing concerns about the bland design of the series. The pickup received a longer bed for larger, bulkier loads. For the Sedan Delivery, a passenger side mirror was added, to increase rearward visibility, becoming the first Ardent vehicle to have this feature.

Bigger changes happened underneath the body, with the A1 finally receiving the upgrade to twin-shoe front brakes, and a new longer-geared 3-speed transmission. The pickup was also split into two models, with the existing 1-ton continuing on, and a new 1.5 ton version with a stronger rear suspension and heavy-duty 4-speed manual gearbox.

Under the hood, the refreshed Vela was much improved. Power was bumped to 135 horses, and combustion efficiency was up as well. This translated, over all, into no change in the Sedan Delivery’s road economy, and only a slight drop on the 1 ton, due to much heavier weight.

Trim pricing in 1953:
A1 1-ton Pickup, MSRP $1399
A1 Sedan Delivery, MSRP $1449
A1 1.5-ton Pickup, MSRP $1549

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Cherry Red
Spanish Olive
Light Mint
Caribbean Blue
Lemon Creme


1953 Ardent Sedan Delivery in Caribbean Blue


#7

Ardent Wren

1955-1964*

*From 1963-64, model was Limited Export-Only.


Sample advertising of the Ardent Wren from the time. Shown is a Wren 120 Sport in Sunshine Yellow with an Ink Black roof.

By its 1952 refresh, the Starlight was already an outdated vehicle. The work done to it allowed Ardent a little more time search for a suitable replacement. With a growing schism in needs between the North American and European/Asian markets, this posed a dilemma for Ardent. While they were on the cusp of resolving their staffing issues in the powertrain department, they were working their existing design department to the limit.

John Case, now Ardent’s lead designer for over 20 years, was nearing retirement, a further complication to this issue. At the direction of CEO Jack Chancellor, Case was paired up with now-veteran designer Stanton Glass and tasked to create a model for European tastes, that would also pick up at least some of the domestic slack for the aging Starlight.

The fruit of this effort was announced at the New York International Auto Show in 1954, and released in 1955. It was named Wren.

For Ardent, this symbolized another revolution in their development. Wren was the first model to forgo a traditional ladder frame, instead using the unibody method that Glass had first toyed with more than a decade prior. Ardent made a major capital investment, opening a new factory in Toledo, OH to handle the new manufacturing process. In addition, the existing Toledo Ironworks campus in Toledo gained more square footage, and began a second production line of the Cygnus inline-4, simplifying logistics by producing the engine locally to the coachworks plant. This marked the first time a motor not designed by Townsend Coachworks was produced at the Toledo plant.


A second contemporary ad for the Wren, showing its starting price.

Power came from the same 99 cid four from the Midnight, now up to 62 horsepower after some minor updating. A 3-speed manual transmission was standard on all trims, but an AM radio was only included on the Custom and Sport trims. The top-trim Sport model was distinguished from lower trims with a two-tone roof with twin chrome strips, sport tuned suspension, and chrome-and-wood accent interior.

The Wren was well received in European markets, and proved to be a solid companion to the Starlight. It was not so hot in North America, but still sold enough to metropolitan and counter-culture buyers to make its presence known.

Trim pricing in 1955:
100 Special, MSRP: $899
110 Custom, MSRP: $949
120 Sport, MSRP: $999

Available colors:
Lemon Creme (Through 1958)
Ink Black
Pure White
Sunshine Yellow
Light Mint (Except 1960)
Copper Creme
Caribbean Blue (1956+)
Cherry Red (Except 1960)
Spanish Olive (Through 1957)

Deluxe models had an Ink Black roof for light colored bodies, and a Pure White roof for dark colored bodies. Special orders could be made to get light bodies with a white roof, or dark bodies with a black roof.

The Wren received a minor refresh in 1961. It continued on through 1962 in North America and 1964 in other markets.


1955 Ardent Wren 110 Custom in Light Mint


#8

Ardent Starlight Mk.2

1958-1965*

*From 1963-65, model was Limited Export-Only.


1958 advertisement for the Starlight. Shown is a 210 Custom in Dark Sandstone.

Production of the original Starlight wrapped up in January of 1957, making room to ramp up production of the new second-generation model. Dimensionally, the Mk.2 Starlight was bigger in every way, though it retained the same ladder frame that it had from inception. More emphasis was placed on comfort of the passengers, though it remained the base model for the North American home market. Similar to the latest A1, it also received a distinctive “Winged A” style grille.

The long-running 99 cube Cygnus continued on, but only in the base 200 Special model. Higher trims received the 400-series’s Orion six, which put out 100 horses in the 1958 iteration. Additionally, this year marked the first time that an automatic transmission could be ordered in this small of an Ardent, which allowed it on the 220 Deluxe trim.

The original Starlight was penned by John Case, who was now retired. This generation was the design of another student of his, Eugene Morrow, the first project on which he led.

In North America and Europe, this was a relatively short-lived model. Sales for the Starlight ceased after the 1962 campaign on both continents, as it was slated to be replaced by an all new model.

It remained in production, as a Limited Export Only model for three more years. 1963 through 1965 Starlight models were all the 200 Special trim, and were only sent to the South America and Southeast Asia markets.

Trim Pricing in 1958:
200 Special, MSRP $1299
210 Custom, MSRP $1429
220 Deluxe, MSRP $1499

Optional 2-speed automatic (220 Deluxe only) - $20

Available colors:
Ink Black
Pure White
Cherry Red
Dark Sandstone
Caribbean Blue
Lagoon Blue
Spanish Olive
Sunshine Yellow
Copper Cream


1958 Ardent Starlight 220 Deluxe in Lagoon Blue


#9

Ardent Midnight Mk.2

1956 - 1964


1956 Ardent Midnight 310 Custom in Caribbean Blue with Flame Red wheel accent

Ardent’s success with the first Midnight models spurred a full redesign. Stanton Glass again headed the effort. Though its release was internally planned for 1955, Glass’s design ran into realities of production capacity. The recently released Wren was designed with a monocoque body, and the intention was for the second generation Midnight to have one as well. However, Ardent was unable to expand production facilities fast enough, and he was forced to redesign it with a ladder frame instead. This delayed release for a year; thus there was no Midnight model at all in '55.

The second Midnight was significantly larger in all dimensions, and tipped the scales at over 3000 pounds. To make up for this, and to keep the Midnight’s sporty image, new power was needed.

The base 300 Special trim received the 173 cubic inch Orion in 1956, which was replaced with a 203 cubic inch version in 1958. The latter put out 116 horsepower. 310 and 320 trims got the new 294 cubic inch Taurus V8 engine, with 161 horses on tap. The 300 and 310 came standard with a 4 speed manual transmission. A 2-speed ShiftGuard automatic was standard on the 320, and optional on the 310.


Fender badging on a V8 equipped Midnight

Interior accommodations included seating for 4 on all models, with pillowed upholstery on the 320. The top trim also received the upgraded “Clear Wave” AM radio, an improvement over the lower trims. Dual side mirrors were also standard on all models.

Whereas the original Midnight was a quick getaway vehicle or a fun runabout, the second iteration was a much more mature, refined vehicle. It no longer had the same quirky charm, yet still had its own distinct appeal.

Trim pricing in 1956:
300 Special, MSRP $1399
310 Custom, MSRP $1549 (+$25 for Automatic transmission)
320 Deluxe, MSRP $1699

Notable options:
Wheel trim paint ($10)
Air Conditioning (320 Deluxe only, $30)

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Flame Red
Caribbean Blue
Dark Sandstone
Sunshine Yellow
Spanish Olive
Dusk Rose


1957 Ardent Midnight 300 Special in Dusk Rose


#10

Ardent 400 Series Mk.2

1958-1964


1958 Ardent 410 Sedan Custom in Marigold

Ardent moved into the second generation of their 400 series in 1958. New body paneling and fresh front end treatment were foremost among the visual changes. The wheels on the new series also included a body color matched paint accent.

Mechanically, the biggest change came with the replacement of the 3-speed manual with a new 4-speed unit, derived from the Midnight. Automatics were optional on the 410 and standard on the 420 trim. Under the hood, both the 173 cubic inch Orion six and 287 cubic inch Toledo Iron Eight continued on. The six was standard on the 400 and 410 trims, while the eight was optional on the 410 and standard on the 420.


1958 Ardent 400 Estate Special in Caribbean Blue

The 400 series continued to be one of Ardent’s top level offerings, at least until the 1960 introduction of the Manhattan. 420 Deluxe models came standard with Ardent’s “Clear Wave” radio, and V8 models were offered with the option of air conditioning. All three body styles were available in all three trims for this generation.

Design was handled by the junior design staff, with oversight from Eugene Morrow.

Trim pricing in 1958:
400 Estate Special, MSRP $1429
400 Special, Sedan or Coupe, MSRP $1449
410 Estate Custom, MSRP $1549
410 Custom, Sedan or Coupe, MSRP $1569
420 Estate Deluxe, MSRP $1769
420 Deluxe, Sedan or Coupe, MSRP $1799

Notable options:
Automatic (410 trims) - $25
V8 Engine (410 trims) - $100
Air Conditioning (V8 models) - $35

Available colors:
Marigold
Lagoon Blue
Pure White
Ink Black
Flame Red
Copper Cream
Dark Sandstone
Lemon Creme


1958 Ardent 420 Coupe in Flame Red


#11

I am reviving my original car lore thread from the dead and completely reworking it. I’ll backfill those (reserved) posts as I go through and add more models. In the mean time, enjoy the backstory of Ardent, and their first post-war model!


#12

I’ve been waiting for a reimagining of Ardent’s history and lineup for UE4. Now that it’s finally here, I’m consumed with lust for the original Starlight.


#13

Added a few more models. QUICK contest time! First person to PM me their choice of the following color combinations, as well whether they want to see it on a Sedan or Estate body, will determine which one I create and post to the newly updated 400-series model (see above)

be quick! (psst… you get props for doing so)

Edit: Contest over. Private_Miros was the first to PM me.


#14

Somehow I really like the A1 1-ton.


#15

(as you can probably tell, I’ve finally caught up and back-filled… So scroll up to see the models you missed!)

Ardent Manhattan

1960 - 1964


Late prototype shot of the Ardent Manhattan taken in early 1959. Paint scheme is Aquamarine Metallic with Marigold wheel trim

After acquiring a majority stake in Townsend Coachworks in 1953, Ardent took advantage of their newly acquired engine designs. Cross-design and integration started to an extent a few year laters. Short on design talent, Ardent brought into their own bureau a young talent by the name of Warren Cole. Jack Chancellor saw great potential, and immediately set him to work on a new Ardent project codenamed “A7”, with oversight provided by Stanton Glass.

Cole adapted quickly to Glass’s ideals. The resultant car utilized unibody construction, an unusual feature for a car of its massive size. Its engine was directly taken from Townsend’s repertoire, and a new automatic transmission was developed to handle the specifications that Cole demanded.

This car was the Manhattan. It was Ardent’s first full-on luxury car, and incorporated a number of never-seen features on an Ardent vehicle. Hydraulic power steering and front disc brakes were first seen on this model, as was a 3-speed version of the earlier ShiftGuard automatic transmission.

The S trim was also the first to come with power windows and full leather seating surfaces. A 20 watt 2-speaker AM radio system was also introduced here. On the outside, care was taken to hide some small details. The keyhole for the trunk was under the badge, which swung to one side to reveal it, and the license plate flipped down to reveal the gas cap. A limited range of metallic paints were offered for a modest premium.

Power came from a new variant of the Toldedo Iron Eight that displaced 333 cubic inches. This “Triple Three” would evolve over the years and be used on some very high profile models, including the Townsend Templar. For the Manhattan, it utilized a single 2-barrel carburetor, and put out 171 horsepower.

Trim pricing in 1960:
Manhattan L, MSRP $2999
Manhattan S, MSRP $3499

Notable options:
Air Conditioning ($35, Standard on S)
Wheel skirt chrome package ($20)
Wheel trim contrast paint ($10)
Metallic paint ($25, see below for selections)

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Flame Red
Lemon Creme
Light Mint
Caribbean Blue
Dark Sandstone
Copper Cream Metallic (Premium)
Aquamarine Metallic (Premium)
Fuschia Metallic (Premium)


1960 Ardent Manhattan L in Pure White with Flame Red wheel accents


Townsend Coachworks
#16

Ardent Wren Mk.2

1965-1972*

*Model was Export Only for its entire run.


1965 Ardent Wren 1200L Sedan in Lagoon Blue

Ardent pulled the plug on the original Wren in North America after the 1962 sales campaign. However, the plucky little sedan continued to sell well in Europe, and even in some other countries. Jack Chancellor decided it was worth the resources to continue catering to export markets, given the volume of sales being generated.

In late 1962, he tasked Stanton Glass to pen a new version of his original design, and gave Desmond Wainwright the directive to develop new, smaller engines more suitable to other parts of the world. In keeping with the original Wren, the second generation was to be inexpensive, reliable, yet have flexibility and fun. As part of this expanded world sales philosophy, a new production facility was opened just outside of Valencia, Spain, where the new model was to be assembled.

To that end, Glass designed three body styles; a 2-door sedan of similar proportions to the original, and extended-length 3-door wagon, and a micro-truck.


1965 Ardent Wren 1200T Carrier in Lemon Creme

True to vision, the new Wren was released with a brand new family of 4-cylinder motors dubbed “Deneb”. A 1400 cc version cranked out 54 horses, while the short-stroke 1200 cc version put out 46. This was mated to a 3-speed manual transmission. Performance wasn’t quite as brisk before, but still respectable given the small power plant.

Twin-shoe hydraulic drum brakes and lap belts were among the standard features included. Top-trim S models also received an AM radio and a 1400 cc engine. The 1400 was also standard on the L Wagon, which needed the extra grunt.

In 1965, Ardent produced a limited run of 10th Anniversary Wrens, totaling 1000 worldwide. These were all 1400S sedans, and featured a special 4-speed manual derived from the original Midnight. Special badging and dual hood chrome strips reminiscent of the original Wren were also included, and an exclusive Pewter Silver/Ink Black paint scheme was given to them. Further adding to this touch was a set of trim-exclusive black wheel caps.


1965 Ardent Wren 10th Anniversary, restored in 2004 by the Ardent Motors Historical Society, and displayed at Ardent Motors Museum

Overall, the redesigned Wren satisfied Ardent leadership, though the passing of Jack Chancellor in 1963 meant that he never got to see his ambition of true export-only models come to fruition.

Only minor changes were made, mostly to the interior, before the Wren was discontinued after 1972.

Trim pricing in 1965:
1200T Carrier, MSRP $969
1200L Sedan, MSRP $989
1400L Wagon, MSRP $1019
1400S Sedan, MSRP $1049
1400L Wagon, MSRP $1059
10th Anniversary, MSRP $1149

Notable options:
Contrasting Roof Color (S only) - $30
Wheel Trim Paint (S only) - $10

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Lemon Creme
Spanish Olive
Light Mint (Except 1200T)
Lagoon Blue
Caribbean Blue (S only)
Dark Sandstone
Dusk Rose (Except 1200T)
Valencia Gold
Flame Red
Pewter Silver (10th Anniversary only)


1965 Ardent Wren 1400S Wagon in Spanish Olive with Pure White roof


#17

Ardent Sentinel

1963 - 1973

Everyday Value: L and S Models


1963 Ardent Sentinel S wagon in Copper Cream

An all-new family cruiser hit Ardent showrooms across North America and Europe in September 1952, replacing the venerable Starlight series. Designed by Eugene Morrow, the Sentinel set a new bar for comfort and flexibility in an entry-level Ardent.

Standard equipment included soft-touch vinyl seating surfaces, AM radio, stainless steel dash and steering wheel touches, and both a glove compartment and small under-dash package shelf on the passenger side.

As well, all 1963 Sentinels were equipped with an all-new V6 engine, dubbed the “Eridani” family. Displacing 220 cubic inches and putting out 131 horsepower, this new power plant was a significant improvement over any previous 4- or 6-cylinder Ardent engine. A 3-speed manual was standard on all family trims, with a ShiftGuard automatic optional on the S trim.


1963 Ardent Sentinel S sedan in Caribbean Blue

Two trims were launched, with S trims being differentiated from their more basic brethren with an extra spear of chrome along the sides, and a fully transistorized AM radio in the dash. A wagon model was also offered, only in S trim. The coupe body did not receive an S trim until 1967.

While Sentinels were initially eagerly snapped up all over, by mid-1964, sales began falling off in Europe, though Wren sales remained high. Research indicated that the engine was simply too large, and the prices being driven too high for the market.

The Sentinel received a mid-generation refresh in 1967. North American and overseas models split in their under-hood equipment at this point.

Ardent’s new CEO, Charles Bergman, had kept his eye on how foreign automakers were dealing with small-displacement engines. He selected Japanese manufacturer Suzume, infusing them with money for R&D in exchange for an extended consultation with their top engine designer, Hideki Akiyama.

The fruit of that collaboration would be the last design for Desmond Wainwright, head of powertrain development, prior his retirement. This new 2.0 liter 4-cylinder was used exclusively in export models, replacing the 220cid (3.6L) six, and featured an overhead camshaft driving its 8 valves. With 85 horsepower, the Aurora Type 1 was vastly slower than the V6 it replaced. However, it was cheaper to build, quite reliable, and used 20% less fuel when installed in a Sentinel.

In North America, the L trim retained the 220 V6, but the S trim received a larger 247 cubic inch Eridani V6, worth 147 ponies.

In 1967, all automatics, regardless of market, gained a 3rd gear. Export models received a 4 speed manual. The S trim gained standard power steering in '67 as well.


1967 Ardent Sentinel L coupe in Dusk Rose

Trim pricing in 1967:
L, coupe or sedan, export model, MSRP $1529
S, coupe or sedan, export model, MSRP $1579
S, wagon, export model, MSRP $1589
L, coupe or sedan, NA model, MSRP $1679
S, coupe or sedan, NA model, MSRP $1789
S, wagon, NA model, MSRP $1799

Notable options:
Power steering (S only, 1963-1966) - $20
Air Conditioning - $80
Automatic transmission (S only) - $50

Available colors:
Copper Cream
Pure White
Flame Red
Dark Sandstone
Light Mint
Navy Blue
Caribbean Blue
Lagoon Blue
Dusk Rose
Pewter Silver


#18

Ardent Sentinel

1963 - 1973

Compact Fun: GT and SS models


1967 Ardent Sentinel SS in Cobalt Metallic

While Ardent provided reliability and value for the masses, they also took another step forward in the arena of sporty cars.

Alongside the 1963 launch of the Sentinel, a sporty GT trim was also released. Special 15" magnesium wheels with body-color paint trim, a 247 cubic inch V6 engine, and 4-speed sport-ratio manual transmission were added to the list of equipment for an otherwise pedestrian S sedan. Straight-line performance on this model was reasonable, with it being able to reach 62 MPH in 9.4 seconds.

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Trunk badging on a 1964 Sentinel GT

With the 1967 model refresh, engine options changed, and a new SS trim was added to the top of the line in North America.

For export models, the GT’s engine was downsized to the 220 V6. This small-engine GT lasted only through 1969 before being dropped altogether due to low sales.

But in Ardent’s home markets, the GT received a 329 cubic inch Taurus V8 with a 2 barrel carburetor, putting out 187 horsepower. The SS got a version of the same engine with 4 barrels and a hotter camshaft. The resultant motor put out 231 horses, and rocketed the Sentinel SS to 62 in 8 seconds flat with a manual transmission.

GT and SS models received front disc brakes and sport radial tires in 1967, as well. The SS could be distinguished from GT models from slightly different badging, as well as blackout trim on the headlight buckets and a blackout power bulge on the hood.

The glory of the Sentinel as a sport sedan would be gone after 1973, however, amid skyrocketing fuel prices and new emission requirements. Only decades later would the spark even begin to rekindle.


Rear shot of a 1967 Sentinel GT

Trim pricing:
GT, sedan or coupe, 1963 all models, MSRP $1749
GT, sedan or coupe, 1967 export model, MSRP $1769
GT, sedan or coupe, 1967 NA model, MSRP $2079
SS, sedan or coupe, 1967 NA model, MSRP $2439

Notable options:
Power steering (1963-1966) - $20
Air Conditioning - $80
Automatic transmission (1967-1973) - $75
Metallic paint - $30

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Flame Red
Dark Sandstone
Navy Blue
Caribbean Blue
Pewter Silver
Cobalt Metallic
Toreador Red Metallic
Copper Cream Metallic
Fuschia Metallic
Avocado Metallic


1963 Sentinel GT in Toreador Red Metallic


#19

Ardent Chesapeake

1965 - 1974


1965 Ardent Chesapeake L in Spanish Olive

Shortly before Jack Chancellor’s passing, he directed design chief Stanton Glass to work on a new model to replace the aging 400 Series. This was to be a larger sedan, upscale in features but more affordable than the Manhattan. Chancellor envisioned that it would serve as the flagship model overseas, where the Manhattan was not sold. Its name: Chesapeake.

Production targets were scaled back somewhat shortly before release, however, as slow European sales of the Sentinel cast a shadow on their strategy. New CEO Charles Bergman devised an alternate plan. They would produce larger quantities of the base L sedan, and price them aggressively to drive traffic to their showrooms.

The plan worked. With buckets of space inside and standard features such as an AM radio with 4 programmable presets, radial tires, power steering, front bucket seats, automatic transmission, and 287 cubic inch V8 engine, the Chesapeake L offered a premium car feel without the premium price.

Once prospective buyers had come to the lots, they were tempted by higher end offerings as well. The S model added leather-trimmed seats, wood grain interior finish, magnesium alloy wheels, fender vents, and a 333 cubic inch V8 with 2 barrel carburetor. Further up on the chain was the Jetsetter, a 2 door convertible with a 231 HP Toledo Triple Three V8 under the hood, and the sport-themed GT coupe, also with a Triple Three and a special scoop-and-spoiler exterior trim application.


1965 Ardent Chesapeake GT in Marine Blue Metallic with Ink Black roof

Despite its husky nature, a Chesapeake GT could still get up to 60 MPH in 9.5 seconds, and almost hit 130 MPH given a long enough road.

In 1969 there was a minor model refresh, and a Super GT model briefly joined the lineup. This special edition GT added blackout rear trim and hood vents, and utilized the Triple Three “T/A” variant with 271 horses. A total of 3600 Super GTs were built over 2 years.


Pillar detail on the GT model

The Jetsetter convertible would be discontinued after the 1971, leaving the GT as the only two-door option.

1973 saw a special edition Chesapeake commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ardent Motors. These were S models with trim-unique mag wheels, an AM/FM/8-track player (a year before general release on the model), and exclusive Champagne Metallic paint with Lemon Creme roof.

After 1974, the Chesapeake would be replaced by a new model with a memorable name…


Chesapeake S in Valencia Gold with Ink Black roof

Trim pricing in 1965:
L sedan, MSRP $2069
S sedan, MSRP $2469
Jetsetter convertible, MSRP $2729
GT coupe, MSRP $2749

Notable options as priced in 1965:
Two-tone paint (S and GT) - $40
Air Conditioning - $100
Power windows (S and GT) - $60
Metallic paint - $30

Other notable trim prices:
Super GT, 1969, MSRP $3379
50th Anniversary, 1973, MSRP $3389

Available colors:
Pure White
Lemon Creme
Ink Black
Sunshine Yellow
Flame Red
Spanish Olive
Dark Sandstone
Pewter Silver
Valencia Gold
Marine Blue Metallic (Except L)
Toreador Red Metallic
Fuschia Metallic (Except L)
Copper Cream Metallic
Aquamarine Metallic
Champagne Metallic (50th Anniversary only)


#20

Ardent Sentinel Mk.2

1974 - 1978


Original ad from 1974 showing a Sentinel L hatchback in Sunshine Yellow. Note the mirror placement; the depicted model is a European model, probably built in Valencia.

With the growth in popularity of the 2-liter Sentinel abroad, Ardent CEO Charles Bergman ordered Eugene Morrow to study the creation of a new, low-cost Sentinel to serve a void left by the departure of the Wren in the early 60’s. Whereas Jack Chancellor had a mantra of bold moves, rapid expansion, and the presence of at least one upscale trim on all models, Bergman felt is better to cover a wider variety of bases than his predecessor.

Thus was the beginning of the second generation Sentinel. Design started in early 1971, with a targeted release of September 1974, as a '75 model. But flagging sales of high-end GT and SS models from the first generation started to put pressure on accelerating the project. The final nail was the Arab Oil Crisis in late '73. Fortunately for Ardent, their previous acceleration kept them from being completely flat-footed at release.

The '74 Sentinel was rushed into production, and hit dealer showrooms in December 1973. While the Export version was available in both L and S trims at start, using a mildly refreshed version of the Aurora 2.0L inline-4 from the previous generation, the launch model for North America was only available with a top-trim GL with a 220 cubic inch Eridani engine, redesigned with a catalytic converter and requiring unleaded fuel.

Ardent’s powertrain division, now under the leadership of Ray Salducci, had been tasked with designing a new generation of Cygnus 4-cylinder motors for use in the domestic market. An all new block and heads were designed, with pistons and rods reused from the Aurora design. This new design was built with the intention of allowing larger or smaller displacements in the future, as the market dictated.

The 4-cylinder L and S domestic market models finally went on sale in March 1974. Albeit late to the party, they still sold relatively well. The 6 cylinder GL also sold briskly; it was still much more fuel efficient than many previous Ardent offerings.

Charles Bergman was not, however, satisfied with the results. He would order no mid-model refresh for this series, instead directing a full (and proper) redesign almost immediately. That descendent would be early to market, and the Sentinel Mk.2 would stop production in January 1978, with the last ones built being delivered by May.

This iteration of the Sentinel was available in 3 body styles: a 3-door hatchback, 5-door wagon, and 4-door sedan. Each body style was available in base L, mid-trim S, and top-trim GL, except for exports. Exports did not have the GL, as it was a V6 powered model.


1974 Ardent Sentinel S wagon in Lagoon Blue

L and S models received a 122 cubic inch (2.0 Liter) engine. For the Domestic markets, this was a Cygnus Type 2, with pushrods and a 2-barrel carb, putting out 71 HP. Export models got an Aurora Type 1 (AA4-20E), utilizing a single overhead cam, pushing 91 horsepower without the restrictive equipment that was required on the domestics. The GL model (North America) received an Eridani Type 1, 220 cubic inch displacement, now down to 117 horses.

All trims came with cloth-faced vinyl seating, reducing the amount of heat retained by the interior (and thus occupants) in direct sunlight. Wall-to-wall carpeting and an AM radio were also standard, with S and GL models also receiving an upgraded AM/FM/8-track and power steering. GLs had exclusive 185mm wide tires and color-keyed alloy wheels.

S and L models came standard with a 4-speed manual transmission, but had the option of a 3-speed ShiftGuard automatic. This marked the first time that a “base” Ardent had an automatic option on its lowest trim.


1974 Ardent Sentinel GL in Navy Blue

USDM Trim pricing in 1974:
L hatchback, MSRP $2179
L sedan or wagon, MSRP $2199
S hatchback, MSRP $2619
S sedan or wagon, MSRP $2649
GL hatchback, MSRP $3009
GL sedan or wagon, MSRP $3049

Notable options:
Automatic transmission (standard on GL) - $220
Air conditioning - $210
Roof rack (hatchback) - $35
Roof rack (wagon) - $40
Metallic paint (Except L) - $50

Available colors:
Pure White
Ink Black
Flame Red
Lagoon Blue
Caribbean Blue
Navy Blue
Sunshine Yellow
Dark Sandstone
Pewter Silver
Valencia Gold
Copper Cream Metallic (Except L)
Toreador Red Metallic (Except L)
Ice Metallic (Except L)
Aquamarine Metallic (Except L)
Champagne Metallic (Except L)