(Prelude lore/RP to follow)
Tuesday, May 6, 1952
Desmond Wainwright stepped to the threshold of Jack Chancellor’s office. The heavy, darkly-stained oak door stood wide open. A majestic mahogany desk seemed to dominate the space between two large windows, both open to provide ventilation on an unusually warm Spring day. Jack was at his desk, though a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer unfurled in the CEO’s hands served as a curtain to the outside world. Desmond swallowed and took a deep breath before gently rapping his knuckles on the door jamb.
Jack’s index fingers slid down the page, allowing the paper to slump to where he could see the source of the intrusion. His gray hair was slicked back, his reading glasses perched toward the end of his nose, though he dipped his head so he could see above them.The Ardent CEO sat upright in his chair and folded the paper in front of him, placed his glasses on top, then motioned to a chair on the opposite side of his desk. “Desmond, come in.”
Desmond steeled himself, putting a forced smirk on his face. It felt quite false. Worse yet, it felt that Jack’s piercing blue eyes saw through the facade as easily as one would look through a pane of glass. Nonetheless, he placed himself in one of the chairs opposite Jack.
Jack motioned in the air with his right hand just as Desmond was about to speak. “It’s bad news,” Jack said, his tone eerily calm.
“Y… yes, sir,” Desmond stammered. “There was another setback. This time it was…”
Jack grinned and waved his hand again dismissively. “It’s alright, Desmond. Honestly, it’s not going to matter much.”
“Sir?” Desmond didn’t like where Jack was going with this. Just over eighteen months ago, Desmond had an incident with Jack that ended with the CEO firing him for a week before begging Desmond to come back. At that time, he at least had leverage over Jack that helped. But over a year into Project Taurus, Desmond and his engineers didn’t have much more than a few prototype V8 engines. None of which ran for more than a couple weeks. He had nothing to defend himself now.
Jack reached unto one of his desk drawers, retrieving a cigar, which he trimmed quickly before closing the drawer and reaching for the lighter on his desk. “Consider Project Taurus to be…” Jack leaned back and took a big puff. He exhaled, then gave a slight shrug, smoke wafting gently from the lit cigar. “Practice.”
Desmond scratched at his chin. “I’ve got to be honest, Mr. Chancellor, I’m a little confused. We’re well behind schedule. I know that we were supposed to have a V8 ready for the 400-series right away, but I can’t see us getting a production-ready unit until '54 at the earliest.” The truth of the matter hurt the engineer deeply, but it would do him no good to sugarcoat the situation. Not to the great Jack Chancellor.
Again, to Desmond’s surprise, Jack grinned. “And what would you think about being able to put a V8 in the 400’s this year?”
“You’re crazy,” Desmond blurted, unable to stop himself.
“Damn straight I am,” Jack laughed. “So what would you say? Would you like to see it?”
“I would, but it’s impossible.”
“Bet you ten bucks I can do it,” Jack grinned. “Twenty if I do it before you walk back out the door.” Jack thrust his burning cigar toward his open door.
Desmond shook his head. “The Taurus is broken. It’s not going to happen. But I do like the sound of taking my wife out to dinner on Jack Chancellor’s dime.”
Jack merely laughed and held out his hand.
“You’re serious?” Desmond asked. Jack nodded, so Desmond reached for the CEO’s outstretched hand.
“That’s more like it,” Jack chortled as he shook the hand of his Director of Powertrain Division. He then balanced his cigar on his ash tray and reached for the phone. Jack’s thick fingers jabbed at the dial, ripping the rotary face around with glee as he dialed in each number.
He waited. Desmond crossed his arms. Seconds ticked away, yet Jack’s glee didn’t fade at all. After what must have been close to a minute, he leaned back. Desmond could faintly hear that someone was on the other end of the line, giving an introduction, but he couldn’t tell who."
“Hey Jeff. Yeah, it’s Jack Chancellor,” the CEO chirped cheerfully into the handset. “Yeah, it’s been too long.” There was a short pause. “No, Jeff. I’m not going to waste your time like that, you know me. Listen, I’ve got two things for your. First of all, I’m coming up to Toledo this weekend, thought we might have dinner when I’m in town. Yeah. Yeah, Myrtle will be with me, so you better bring Edith to keep her off my back.”
Desmond could briefly make out the person on the other end of the line laugh before Jack’s own laughter drowned it out. “Yeah, that’s half of if. The other half helps both of us out. Seven hundred and fifty Toledo Eights. I’ll give you wholesale plus ten for each of them, and I’ll pick up the bill for freight. Can you get me that many? Uh huh… no, I understand where you’re at on that. That’s why I’m not asking for a thousand.” Another pause, more muffled speech from the handset. Jack’s smile slowly started to fade. “You know me better than that, Jeff. Uh huh. Now? Hmm. Hold on.” Jack cupped his hand over the handset’s microphone and turned to Desmond. “The ShiftGuard is ready now, right, Desmond?”
Desmond was rendered speechless. The delay must have irritated Jack, because he started snapping his fingers at Desmond. “Uh, they’ll be production ready in about a month. But we don’t have…”
“How long to engineer a bellhousing adapter?” Jack shot back. “Cost isn’t an issue.”
“It would help if I knew what I was…”
“Just ballpark it!” Jack whispered hoarsely.
Jack grinned and unmuffled the phone. “Ok, that’s fair. Seven fifty Toledos by September, fifteen hundred more over the next twelve months. And I’ll send ShiftGuards your way starting next month, two fifty per month. Yes, it’s a deal, Jeff. I’ll call you Saturday morning to work out the details for this weekend. Yeah… you too, Jeff.” Jack slipped the handset back onto its cradle. “I believe you owe me twenty dollars there, Desmond,” he smirked.
“Now wait, Mr. Chancellor, I don’t even know what I’m deal…”
“Toledo Iron Eight, 289 cubic inch V8 engines. Variable displacement platform. The future of Townsend Coachworks.” Jack patted the newspaper next to him. “A future they can’t afford to have exclusively. See, Jeff Moss is in a pinch. Townsend is bleeding cash, and their cars are selling slowly. But that factory of theirs in Toledo can crank out engines like there’s no tomorrow. He sells us engines, he gets cash flow he can show the bank, and we get the V8 we need. Already production ready, no more setbacks. All you need to do is find a way to adapt the ShiftGuard to its bellhousing.”
Desmond nodded. “Practice program indeed. We’ll need blueprints or an engine to work with before we can start,” he added.
“I’ll get them for you when I’m in Toledo this weekend. To be honest, I’m going for more than just a business dinner.” Jack picked up his cigar and took another puff. “I’m going to try to buy the whole damn company.”
Business Section, Friday, November 14, 1952
Ardent Motors Corporation announced today that it has reached terms of acquisition with Toledo, OH based car manufacturer Townsend Coachworks. Ardent will purchase Townsend for 2.1 million dollars, in an all-cash deal.
There had been much speculation recently regarding the fate of Townsend, which has posted losses for the past nine quarters straight. It was believed that Townsend might be forced to file for bankruptcy, but it now appears that at least two companies made a bid to purchase the struggling automaker instead. Townsend CEO Jeffrey Moss signed the agreement with Ardent last month, and it was approved by the Townsend family estate earlier this week.
Another offer by Bogliq Automotive USA was apparently turned down in favor of Ardent’s terms.