Thursday, March 15, 2018

Some Isotta Fraschinis by Touring

I wrote about 1930 vintage Castagna-bodied Isotta Fraschini cars here. There were many Internet images of them available from various auction houses, but I found few pictures taken when the cars were new.  The opposite is the case with this post dealing with Carrozzeria Touring bodies for Isotta in the same era.  I found several old photos, but no pictures of existing cars.

Perhaps this curiosity might be explained because Castagna did a lot of work on Isottas, whereas Touring seemed to favor Alfa Romeo and few or none of its Isotta Fraschinis survive.  My personal library has almost nothing dealing with Isotta Fraschini, so I hope readers can provide the needed information.

In the years around 1930, Isotta Fraschinis were powered by inline eight cylinder motors that required fairly long hoods.  However, hoods seen on these cars seem longer than necessary to house such engines.  Regardless, the proportions created by factory hoods made it easier for coachbuilders (who provided all Isotta bodies in those days) to create impressive designs.

Below are images of Isottas with Touring bodies.


1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Coupé.

1927(ca.) Isotta Fraschini Weymann Coupé.  The car in the top image also seems to have a wood-and-fabric Weymann type body.

1932 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B progetto "Tip-Top".

1932 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS Berlinetta.  This photo and the preceding one seem to be of the same car, though the captions derived from captions found on the Internet differ.

1932 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B Limousine

1935(ca.) Isotta Fraschini Limousine.

Monday, March 12, 2018

1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

The original plan for the new post- World War 2 Lincoln is obscure to me.  What is known is that the proposed 1949 Ford was rejected by Ernest Breech, who Henry Ford II brought in to essentially run the Ford Motor Company.  The design was considered too large for its market segment, so the body tooling was used for the 1949 Mercury and an entry-level Lincoln.

The obscure part is what the original intention for Mercury was.  Apparently, it would share a body with Lincoln, rather than the case from the 1941 models onward where Mercury shared bodies with Ford.

Here is this photo of a model where the design is close to the eventual 1949 Mercury below the belt line, but with a heavy, fastback greenhouse.  Most likely, this dates after Breech ordered that Mercury get what had been the '49 Ford body.  So far, I've found no photos of full-scale clay models of earlier Mercury design proposals from around 1946 or '47.

In this book, Paul Woudenberg suggested that the original intent was for Mercury to have the bustleback version of the large Lincoln body, and Lincoln was to have a fastback version.   Somehow, this strikes me as being a questionable use of resources, given the postwar drift away from fastback acceptance in the marketplace.  Knowledgeable readers are urged to clarify all this.

In the end, only Lincoln got the large body -- in both fastback and notchback varieties.  This class of Lincolns was marketed as Lincoln Cosmopolitan.  And then there was a line of just plain Lincolns.  These were based on what was now the '49 Mercury body.  About 48 percent of '49 Lincolns were Cosmopolitans, but I haven't found what share of Cosmos were fastbacks.  Probably not a large percentage, because the fastback line was dropped for the 1950 model year.

Even though the numbers of '49 Lincolns and Cosmopolitans were almost the same, a glance at Google Images when searching on "1949 Lincoln" suggests that the majority of survivors in good condition are Cosmopolitans, including some fastbacks.  Something to do with prestige and rarity, I suspect: fancy rare cars eventually become more treasured.


Here is a 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Sport Sedan, the 4-door sedan with a bustle back.

A full-size Lincoln styling model when the basic body shape had been determined.  Trim details were still in flux, though the grille is close to the production version.

This fastback model is interesting.  Just possibly it was made shortly before the one in the previous image.  It has hidden headlights, a feature planned for '49 Lincolns but rejected late in the design process.  Hubcaps show different Lincoln brand identification proposals.  But the grille features thin, vertical bars and has no upper chromed frame: these are features found on 1949 Mercurys.

Side view of a basic, Mercury-body Lincoln that was for sale.  This 1950 model is nearly identical to the 1949s.

A 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan 6-Passenger Coupe.  Its profile is the same as the four-door Sport Sedan's, but its door is wider and window shapes differ accordingly.  Photo via Mecum.

Side view of a fastback 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Town Sedan.

Rounding out the Cosmo line was the 6-Passenger Convertible (Barrett-Jackson photo).

More views of the Cosmo Town Sedan.  Like many first-generation postwar designs it had a basic heavy appearance that the fastback styling exaggerated further.

Cosmopolitan Sport Sedan for auction by Barrett-Jackson.  The doors and side windows are same as on the fastback, but the bustle back style reduces visual bulk.  Backlight windows are three-piece affairs due to limitations in technology at the time.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Adler's Eclectic 1930s Mix

Adler was an important German automobile maker in the 1930s, ranking third in sales during the first half of the decade.  The above link is to the English language Wikipedia entry from which you can link to the German entry that mentions market rank and some production numbers.  I last wrote about Adler here.

Given the small 1930s production levels for European automobile firms compared to the likes of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, I find the variety of models some manufacturers produced rather surprising.  That definitely was the case for Adler.  For instance, at the start of the decade Adler marketed both six and eight cylinder models.  Then in 1932 it launched its Trumpf ("trump") front-wheel-drive line.  Towards the end of the 30s came the streamlined Typ 10 (also known as the 2.5 Liter or Autobahn Wagen).  And around that time Adler made a few Trumpf Rennlinousine ("racing sedans").  Examples of these and some others are shown below.


Adler Standard 8 Limousine - c.1930.  A conventional looking car with fenders typical of the mid-1920s and earlier.

Adler Standard 8 Kabriolett, Walter Gropius design - c.1930.  Gropius founded the famous Bauhaus school, but left in 1928.  The next year he was asked to design Adlers, a sedan and the cabriolet shown here.  Only about six were made.  (Some background information on Gropius and Adler is here).

Adler Primus Kabriolett - 1932.

Adler Diplomat - 1934.

Adler Trumpf Junior - 1936, for sale photo.  For some reason Trumpfs lacked running boards.

Adler Typ 10, 2.5 Ltr. 6 Zyl. Limousine - c.1939.  I find this design quite interesting, especially the curved belt line.

This is the coupé version.  No B-pillar, so this flashy car anticipates postwar hardtop convertibles.

Adler Trumpf Rennlimousine - 1938, RM Sotheby's photo.  The body design is a nearly pure example of Paul Jaray automobile streamlining.

Monday, March 5, 2018

General Motors' C Body Cars: 1941 Facelifts

In my post dealing with General Motors' new C body designs for the 1940 model year, I stressed that styling was inadequately modernized.

To summarize: Most American closed-car designs in the period approximately 1934-1940 were awkward.  In part, this was because body and production engineering could not evolve rapidly enough to deliver sleek streamline-influenced designs stylists were capable of dreaming up.  For the 1940 model year, General Motors finally produced attractive closed cars in the form of its redesigned C platform.  But while these cars were attractive abaft of the front axle line, their front end styling seemed a little more dated.

This changed when GMs C body lines were facelifted for 1941.  An important factor was integration of headlights into front fenders, something GM was slow to do apparently because Engineering had objections.  The other improvement component was grille design.  Grilles for 1941 (with one possible exception) were much better matched to the rest of the styling.

Below are comparative images of 1940 and 1941 frontal designs.  Missing is a comparison for 1940 LaSalles because that brand was dropped at the end of the 1940 model year.


Pontiac front end styling was greatly improved over the too-delicate 1940 design seen in the Mecum photo.  All fenders took on a squared-off "suitcase" motif with side ribbing.  Headlights are essentially blended into the fenders, though are still placed inboard of the fender sides.  The front of the hood has been flattened slightly to blend with the rest of the flattened face of the car.

Oldsmobile grilles retain all the 1940 element themes for '41 but are made bolder, as can be seen in this likely "for sale" photo.  Aside from the reworked headlights, Olds frontal styling is the least-changed of the lot.  A fussy design.  Unlike Pontiacs, sheet metal is almost unchanged.

Buick headlights were completely integrated, unlike those on Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles.  Better yet, they were placed near the sides of the reshaped fenders as seen in the for sale image.  The grille is now horizontal, not the equivocating '40 outline.  Grille bars are larger, adding strength to the design.

Cadillac faces for 1940 were strongly old-school, whereas the '41s received a classic design that set the theme for many decades of future Cadillacs.    The upper photo is from RM Sotheby's, the lower is a for sale photo.  Front fenders and the hood were less curved, headlights were integrated and placed outboard.  Note the fender crease that notionally passes through the headlight center and whose line becomes the upper edge of the grille.  I rank the 1941 Cadillac design as the best ever for that marque.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

K-310: Virgil Exner's First Chrysler Concept

A famous (for us car buffs) stylist was Virgil Exner (1909-1973), who headed Chrysler design in the 1950s.  He also was controversial.  Raymond Loewy regarded him as a kind of traitor with respect to his role in the design process for the radical 1947 Studebaker line.  There was styling controversy in the late 1950s when the shapes of Chrysler Corporation cars' tail fins became unjustifiably baroque and other details seemed odd.

Nevertheless, Exner was a talented artist who illustrated Studebaker advertisements in the early 1930s and created some outstanding automobile designs in the years 1945-1955 or thereabouts.

One such design was that of Chrysler's first major postwar concept car, the K-310.  Exner had been brought into Chrysler Corporation, but wasn't yet in charge of styling.  He worked on some projects more or less on his own at first, one of which was the K-310.

At the time it was designed -- about 1950 -- Exner was infatuated by coachbuilt Italian automobiles being created during what I consider the Golden Age of Italian styling.  His K-310 was a large car, sitting on a Chrysler chassis and powered by the corporation's new "hemi" V-8 motor.  With management approval, construction of the K-310 was farmed out to Italy's Ghia firm, which did an excellent job.

The K-310 was revealed to the public 2 November 1951, about ten months after General Motors' futuristic LeSabre was introduced in a Life magazine article.  These initial postwar dream cars were conceptual opposites.  The LeSabre was intended to predict future automobile features, whereas the K-310 presented an alternative to current American car designs.  The LeSabre proved to be more famous and influential.

That said, the K-310 was the better design.  That's because it was a practical car with better-coordinated detailing than the LeSabre's low, two-passenger collection of somewhat unrelated details.


A widely-used publicity photo of the K-310.

Frontal styling was a reprise of 1930s design elements.  The grille differed from the wide 1950 American style featuring bold, sculpted chromed bars.  Headlights were placed far from the body sides, normal positioning until the very late '30s.  Covered by the bumper was something that might resemble a starter crank cover.

Although the K-310 was large, its styling wasn't ponderous.  The tapered hood-grille ensemble and catwalks with hooded headlight assemblies helped lighten the design.

Some affectations included the spare tire cover design on the trunk lid and the "gunsight" tail lights.  I like the tail lights, but consider the trunk decoration unnecessary.

The passenger compartment "greenhouse" was nicely done, following the hardtop convertible practice initiated by GM for 1949.  However, the K-310 lacked the hardtop's B-pillars and roll-down windows abaft of the door windows.

Monday, February 26, 2018

General Motors' C Body Cars for 1940

General Motors is usually considered the American styling leader through the 1930s and for many years beyond (due in part to its market dominance).  But that doesn't mean that GM designs were attractive.  My view is that most American car designs for closed cars from around 1934 to about 1940 were awkward.  That was because of the shift from boxy-yet-functional pre-1934 styling to streamlining-cum-component-integrating designs during that period.  This change required changes in body engineering and production technology that took time to be mastered.  Hence, awkwardness.

But GM's new C body introduced for the 1940 model year shed most of the kind of awkwardness just mentioned, though it wasn't until 1941 everything fell into place.  That is, the basic body design was attractive, but brand-identification details carried over from previous years along with passé headlight assembly forms held back the styling promise of the new body until those elements were better integrated.

Below are examples of 1940 C body cars from Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, LaSalle and Cadillac (no Chevrolets got the new C bodies that year).


Here is a 1940 Pontiac Torpedo Coupe (Pontiac marketers labeled C body Pontiacs "Torpedo").  Ignore everything from the front axle line forward and you'll see the attractive, not-awkward styling.  The only archaic detail in this zone is the exposed running board that got covered in 1941.  The partly integrated head lights and Buick-like grille detract from the overall appearance.

GM marketers made heavy use of retouch artists in part because newsprint reproduction quality was comparatively poor in those days.  This worked-over photo shows the aft end of a 4-door C body Pontiac.

Side view of a 1940 Oldsmobile 90 sedan via Barrett-Jackson.  Styling is basically rounded, but not nearly as heavy-looking as before.  This is due to the thinner top and well-integrated trunk.  Front fenders are more blended into the rest of the body than on the other brands with C bodies.

And here is a side view of the Buick Roadmaster.  Note the longer trunk.

Buick Super, the next level down from the Roadmaster also got C bodies.  Note how the windshield divider line carries into a slight crease on the roof panel.  Again, the front end styling strikes me as being slightly at odds with the rest of the car.  Grille orientation is neither horizontal nor vertical, and the headlights are not quite integrated or separate.  Call all this "hesitant" or "ambiguous" or to put it most kindly, "transitional."

I find the LaSalle in this "for sale" photo the most attractive 1940 C body car even though it shares the same headlight problem as the others.

Side view of a 1940 Cadillac 62 Coupe from RM Sotheby's.  Cadillac's headlight housings remained discrete entities perched on the catwalk between the front fenders and the hood/grille assembly.  This was drastically improved the next year.

Barrett-Jackson photo showing rear 3/4 of a 62 four-door sedan.  The rear elements are nicely composed, whereas the front fenders are of the more squared-off "suitcase" variety.  The separate headlight assembly can be glimpsed here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Chrysler's First Art & Colour Team's Results

By the 1920s when basic engineering requirements were largely in place, major American car makers began to shift attention to appearance as a sales tool.  At first they relied on designers in custom body firms and production body suppliers along with some of their own engineering staff who had an artistic bent.

In 1927 General Motors became the first large car manufacturer to establish an in-house styling section.  This was led by the now-legendary Harley Earl.  Chrysler Corporation soon followed suit.  In each case a few years lapsed before the work of these teams appeared on streets and roads.  This was because of lead-times from new concept to the market via the large amount of work required to engineer and productionize a new design.  Initial items effected by stylists usually were trim and detail changes.

This post treats the first results from Chrysler Corporation's styling group.  But first some background from the indispensable Lamm & Holls book, A Century of Automotive Style.

The authors point out (pages 153-54) that Chrysler set up a small styling section in July of 1928, calling it Art & Colour -- following General Motors' lead of the year before.  But this new unit was not nearly as independent as Harley Earl's, being under the control of Chrysler's mighty engineering staff.

"Among Art & Colour's staff members were Thomas (Tom) Martin, Herb Weissinger, A.B. (Buzz) Grisinger, Henry King, Rhys Miller, Max Wasserman, Bill Flajole, Ed Sheard, Gus Sompe and a handful of others; all young but highly enthusiastic and capable....

"For 1929-31, the Chrysler Imperial, along with Chrysler's four other lines, used what were called "ribbon" radiator grille shells. These looked like narrow chrome ribbons taped to the leading edge of the hood.  The idea was to make the hood look longer by making the grille shallower, but in actuality ribbon grilles made the entire front ensemble look weaker, cheaper and less substantial.  The public didn't like ribbon grilles, and yet they became something of a corporate identity symbol during those two to three years."

They go on to mention that 1931 Chryslers and Chrysler Imperials dropped the ribbon grille for a Weissinger design strongly inspired by Al Leamy's 1929 Cord design.

Here are examples of Chrysler Corporation cars from those days.  Dodge is not included because it was a long-established brand acquired by Chrysler in 1928 and not fully integrated with the rest of the Chrysler line until a few years later.


1929 Chrysler Imperial with ribbon grille and Vauxhall-inspired hood scallops.  The 1930 models were little changed.

1931 Chrysler CG Imperial Close-Coupled Sedan,  RM Sotheby's photo.  Side window framing, the cowl shape and other details are carried over from previous model years.  What's new is the Cord-inspired grille design and revised hood.  The flat, split windshield was an Imperial oddity that detracted from the car's appearance.

1929 Chrysler 75 Tonneau Phaeton via RM Sotheby's.  Regular Chryslers lacked the Imperial's hood sculpting, but otherwise their front ends were similar for that model year.

1930 Chrysler 77 Dual-Cowl Phaeton by Locke, also actioned by RM Sotheby's.  This has Chrysler wings on the radiator cap ornament, but is essentially the same front as in 1929.

1931 Chrysler CM Roadster,  Hyman auction photo.  Now the grille is somewhat Cord-like.

1929 DeSoto Roadster with ribbon grille.

1930 DeSoto 4-door sedan.  Most '30 DeSotos lacked ribbon grilles, though Model K DeSotos retained them.

And then ribbon grilles returned across the board, as seen on this 1931 DeSoto 4-door sedan.

1932 DeSotos received grilles inspired by Miller racing cars.

1929 Plymouth Model U 4-door sedan,  Owls Head auction photo.  Chrysler's entry-level brand also got a variation on the ribbon grille where the framing was rounded.

1930 Plymouth 30-U 4-door sedan for sale.  The grille face is flatter than in '29, but the ribbon effect has been replaced by a conventional frame.

1931 Plymouth PA 4-door sedan, auction photo.  Again, no ribbon grille, and some rounding has returned.

From the images presented here, it seems that the ribbon grille situation by model year was more complex than how Lamm and Holls presented it.  Nevertheless, their thesis broadly holds in that the ribbon style was tried and then rejected.  Other design elements by the new Chrysler Corporation Art & Colour group are hard to detect besides the grille design borrowings from Cord and Miller.  This would begin to change for 1933 and 1934.