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Selling the Mohs

(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #119, August 2014)


Two very unique limited production vehicles came out of Madison, Wisconsin from 1967 through 1979.  They were the product of inventor, aviator and businessman Bruce Mohs.  His automotive creations were huge and included the Ostentatienne Opera Sedan and the Mohs Safarikar.  On a smaller scale Mohs also built an ultra-lite motorcycle and even a kid’s car called the Model F Funster. Sadly, Mohs produced a supply of sales literature that simply did not live up to the style of the cars or the man himself.

The Osentatienne Opera Sedan was the first of Mohs’ full size automobiles.  Opera SedanBuilt on an International Harvester chassis, the car had a length of 246” a width of 90” and a tread of 74” that would “provide unparalleled cornering characteristics” when compared to other luxury vehicles.  Entry into the vehicle was gained by a single full size door that opened at the rear of the vehicle.  This rear opening allowed the owner “to enter his car erect and with dignity.” It was also needed because the car featured a full-length steel rail on each side of the frame to protect occupants from broadside collisions.  The car was powered by a standard 304 cubic inch V8 or an optional 549 cubic inch V8.  Mohs assured prospects that both engines developed “adequate” horsepower.  The standard equipment list was extensive and included sealed beam tail lamps, a refrigerator, butane furnace, ¾” deep carpeting, individually adjustable windshield wipers, and a hot water heater.  It is no surprise that this behemoth weighed in at 5,740 pounds and was priced at $19,600 or $25,600 depending on engine selection.

SafarikarMohs’ second automotive creation was an on/off road vehicle that entered the market in 1972 and named the Safarikar.  As with the original Opera Sedan, big and luxurious was the theme in the Safarikar.  The dual-cowl phaeton featured a retractable convertible top, rear seats that converted into beds and an exterior covered in padded Naugahyde.  According to the sales flyer this covering “is not only quiet in the extreme, but low in maintenance since there is no paint on the exterior of the car. You merely wet, wipe and dry for cleaning. No waxing. No polishing.”  This car had doors on each side of the car but they weren’t hinged, instead they slid in and out on linear shafts. The Safarikar featured a 392 cubic inch V8 engine and sold for $14,500.

While the Mohs cars were big and over-the-top, the sales literature was anything but ostentatious and consisted of simple black & white two-sided flyers.  These flyers included photographs and a list of equipment and features.  In my opinion, sales literature for this car should have been extremely interactive with paper models that had opening doors and more illustrations about the swing and sway seats.

Featured in the sales flyers for both cars was Mohs’ patented swing a sway seats which “compensate for centrifugal force in turns and pivot into the horizontal in the event of frontal collision.”  In brief, they kept the passenger centered in their seat with no side to side sliding.  Literature also brags that Mohs “shares no components or designs philosophy with any other car” and may have stretched the truth a bit when it stated that owners will see “minimum depreciation” in their investment.

While not considered sales literature, the AACA Library owns a collection of correspondence between Bruch Mohs and several automotive manufacturers, designers and government agencies.  The first letter comes from legendary designer Gordon Buehrig who bluntly wrote to Mohs “I do not care for your design of a new car…I would like to suggest that you check the opinions of a number of people before going ahead with your present design.”

In other correspondence readers can learn that Mohs had several meetings with Ford Motor Company regarding the use of his seats in Ford products.  We can also see his passion for safety in communications with the Department of Transportation which, at one time, considered Mohs for an appointment with a newly formed Experimental Safety Program.

Mohs cars may have been big on style, power and appointments but their sales literature, while informative, lacked the flair, originality and attitude of the ostentatious vehicles.

Safarikar2Opera Sedan2

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