marcapra

In what decade did American car makes look the most different?

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Many people have said that today's cars all look the same.  Not all cars of course.  A Porsche looks different that a Dodge van.  But the Kia Optima that I drive looks very similar to a Nissan Altima, a Ford Focus, a Hyundai Sonata, and a Toyota Camry.  You get the idea.  In what decade do you think the different makes of American cars looked the most different?  

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1950s, color schemes, distintive "faces", chrome, badging, fins. In general I prefer prewar styling but the 50s, I think had somewhat more specific looks by make.

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1930's, HANDS DOWN!!

 

Headlights and taillights went from outside the fenders in the early 1930's to being fully integrated and recessed into the bodywork by the end of that decade, which also brought on the age of streamlining. Windshields were upright vertical for the most part at the beginning of the decade to slanted by the end, of it; not to mention, all-steel body construction, including the roof.

 

A 1931 car look ancient to its 1939 offering.

 

Craig

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4 minutes ago, 8E45E said:

1930's, HANDS DOWN!!

 

Headlights and taillights went from outside the fenders in the early 1930's to being fully integrated and recessed into the bodywork by the end of that decade, which also brought on the age of streamlining. Windshields were upright vertical for the most part at the beginning of the decade to slanted by the end, of it; not to mention, all-steel body construction, including the roof.

 

A 1931 car look ancient to its 1939 offering.

 

Craig

 

I concur. In fact, noticed this today.  39 offering is completely and radically different than 31. 

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I agree, but throughout the 30s it is easier to mistake many marques for each other than in the 50s.  If we were talking advancing style overall, I would have concurred with the 30s.  

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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I will also add, by the end of the 1930's most cars could safely do 70mph; especially with the advent of overdrive. (The PA Turnpike opened in 1940 with a 70 mph speed limit).

 

In 1930, with few exceptions, 60 mph was 'pushing it', not to say there were that many places was able to do 60 mph sustained driving at the start of the 1930's.

 

Craig

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Based on the actual question asked, I would say the 50’s.  The makes are most distinguishable in that decade I think.  Overall, most cars look similar to their competitive counterparts in most decades.  

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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I agree with those that said the '50s

49 & 59 Buicks S.jpg

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4 hours ago, Steve_Mack_CT said:

1950s, color schemes, distintive "faces", chrome, badging, fins. In general I prefer prewar styling but the 50s, I think had somewhat more specific looks by make.

 

3 hours ago, 39BuickEight said:

Based on the actual question asked, I would say the 50’s.  The makes are most distinguishable in that decade I think.  Overall, most cars look similar to their competitive counterparts in most decades.  

 

I agree:  In the 1950's, especially the mid- to late 1950's, 

cars could best be distinguished from each other.

 

I think we're finding a little ambiguity in the question itself.

Some people are interpreting it as, "In what decade did

American cars look most different from each other?"

Others are inferring, "In what decade did American cars

look most different from beginning of decade to end of decade?"

 

I answered the first interpretation of the question!

For the second interpretation, I'd say both the 1930's and the 1950's.

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I'm the O.P. and John is right that I meant the former not the latter.  The question I meant to ask is 

"In what decade did American cars look most different from each other?"  The cars made in the early 30s, look a lot alike, at least to the casual viewer.  I see why many pick the 50s, but am surprised no one thought of the 40s.   It's hard to mistake a Pontiac for a DeSoto, or a Ford for a Chevrolet, or a Buick for Chrysler.  

 

 

42cad.jpg

46 pontiac.jpg

970px-1942_DeSoto_Custom_(4148147080).jpg

48buick.jpg

48-Chrysler-TnC_Conv-DV-09_PBC_dt02.jpg

46plymo.jpg

42 Ford.jpg

42olds.jpg

1942_DeSoto_Fifth_Avenue_convertible_front.jpg

42chevuy.jpg

s-l500.jpg

48 Dodge bc.jpg

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50s for sure. The 40s cars all share the same characteristics of large fenders with the same basic headlight location. From a distance you might not be able to tell them apart. Not the same with 50s cars, there's no mistaking them. The shapes of the light varied, as well. Tail lights even more so. 

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19 hours ago, marcapra said:

I'm the O.P. and John is right that I meant the former not the latter.  The question I meant to ask is 

"In what decade did American cars look most different from each other?"  The cars made in the early 30s, look a lot alike, at least to the casual viewer.  I see why many pick the 50s, but am surprised no one thought of the 40s.   It's hard to mistake a Pontiac for a DeSoto, or a Ford for a Chevrolet, or a Buick for Chrysler.  

 

 

42cad.jpg

46 pontiac.jpg

970px-1942_DeSoto_Custom_(4148147080).jpg

48buick.jpg

48-Chrysler-TnC_Conv-DV-09_PBC_dt02.jpg

46plymo.jpg

42 Ford.jpg

42olds.jpg

1942_DeSoto_Fifth_Avenue_convertible_front.jpg

42chevuy.jpg

s-l500.jpg

48 Dodge bc.jpg

 I agree the 50's cars. However let's just take G.M. for example in the 30's an 40's. The 1932 Chevrolet was called the baby Cadillac. The 1939 Chevrolet is also called the baby Cadillac. The 1940 Chevrolet is called the Baby Buick . Chevrolet was designed to look like more expensive cars.

  Harley Earl designed all G.M. brands to all have similar styling similarities so you knew you were looking at a G.M. car. There were exceptions like in 1942 some Buicks were styled with " Airfoil styling" and in 1942 and 46-48 and this styling was not used in any other G.M. car. 

 Lets look at the next step from "Airfoil". All 1948 Cadillac and just the Olds 98 received "Flow through fender styling whereby the "Airfoil" styling sweep was raised from the front fender and the body line instead of terminating at the rear pontoon rear fender now goes over the rear pontoon fender or "Flows through". In 1949 ALL G.M. cars will have this feature and Chevrolet and Pontiac will continue to use the feature to the end of the 1954 model.

1948 Roadmaster;

  Image result for 1948 buick roadmaster image

1949 Roadmaster;

 Image result for 1949 buick roadmaster image

1949 Cadillac

Image result for 1949 cadillac image

1949 Chevrolet;

Image result for 1949 Chevrolet image

1949 Oldsmobile;

Image result for 1949 Oldsmobile image

1949 Pontiac;

Related image

 

All have different facial, rear end ,trim , but the basic theme remains. On this Pontiac because of the color and shadows cast you can really see the high line of the front fender passing through the door, quarter panel and over the rear pontoon rear fender and exiting. A basic design theme applied to 5 divisions that worked out the details differently.

Here is a 54 Pontiac with the same flow through theme;

 Image result for 1954 Pontiac image

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1939 Chevrolet and compare this to the 39-40 Cadillac.

Chevrolet;

Image result for 1939 chevrolet image

Cadillac;

Image result for 1939 Cadillac image

 

1940 Chevrolet;

Image result for 1940 chevrolet image

 

1940 Buick;

Image result for 1940 Buick image

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Agree with fifties.  Even when main body was shared, fenders, trim and tail were different.  I'll bet a lot of people here have spent some time in junkyards - when you see a hulk with much of the trim and grille gone, can you tell what it is?  This tells you something about how distinctive the shape is (or isn't)

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Agree, in the fifties (and 60s for the most part) all you needed to see were the taillights to know exactly which make (and often the model) it was.

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The reality is that auto stylists will try to cater to the buying public. The tastes of the public were the same for all automakers, so all cars within a given span of years tend to look similar. Shapes, colors, etc were common and often cribbed from each other. This was not always for the better, by the way. What possessed Ford and Chrysler stylists to mimic the bustleback styling of the 1980 Seville???

 

1980%20Cadillac%20Seville%20magazine%20a3077537.jpg33194110001_original.jpg

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Inside GM that was known as "Billy Mitchell's Revenge". License plate recess made a good seat.

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I think that throughout the 1950s, individual makes tended to be most distinguishible from one-another,

1954 Plymouth:

Image result for 1954 plymouth belvedere"

 

1954 Cadillac:

Image result for 1954 cadillac eldorado"

 

 

my 2nd choice would be the 1960s:

 

1962 Dodge:

Image result for 1962 Dodge"



1962 Oldsmobile:

Image result for 1962 oldsmobile 98"

 

and then the 1940s would be 3rd in my opinion:

 

1947 Pontiac:

image.jpeg.81e73f8b8544097c1f09a31445c04dd2.jpeg 

 

1947 Mercury:

 

Image result for 1947 mercury sedan"

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)

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At different times various G.M. divisions "tested" out styling trends.

1954 Buick and Olds  had vista windshields with the "A" pillar swept back  more than 90 degrees and Cadillac won't get this until 1957, Chevrolet and Pontiac until 1958.  Buick experimented with large rear wheel cut outs that no other division would have, however Olds on the Starfire 98 for the first time (1954) would start using " sweep cut fender styling on front and rear wheel houses and "sweep cut " won't show up on a Cadillac until 1957 and would change back for a wheelhouse that uses a skirt in 1959. Cadillac was so determined NOT to have a skirt for 57-58 that they used wheel lip molding to prevent it. Chevrolet would get front and rear "sweep cut front and rear fender styling for 1956, 57,59. Pontiac would get it in 57 & 59. Sweep cut rear fenders should NEVER use a skirt.

Related image

1954 Buick ant it's new panoramic windshield with the dogleg swept past 90 degrees.

 

1954 Olds starfire 98 with the dogleg "A" pilar swept past 90 degrees and sweep cut front and rear wheel well cut outs. BTW Sweep cut treatment is a "FEATURE" and a skirt should never be used.

Image result for 1954 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 image

 

 

1957 Cadillac with sweep cut with wheel well molding  and the dogleg "A" pillar three years after Olds Buick. and a rear roof "C" pilar that was similar to ones used on 53-54 Chevy-Pontiac Catalina hardtops.

Image result for 1957 cadillac coupe deville image

 

1953 Bel-Air......see the rear "C" pillar

Image result for 1953 Chevrolet Bel-Air coupe image

 

 

 

The complete roof "A" and "C"  of the 57-58 Cadillac finally shows up on the 1958 Chevrolet and Pontiac 

1958 Pontiac;

Image result for 1958 pontiac bonneville coupe image

 

1958 Chevrolet;

Image result for 1958 Chevrolet impala coupe image

 

 

 

 

Note that in 1959-60 Chevrolet and Pontiac are now on "B" bodies and share glass/roof and greenhouse pieces with all divisions using "B" bodies. 59 Chev, Pont, and Olds all share front doors on hardtops. Old uses a bolt on door trim piece to make it work with front and rear quarters.

1959 Pontiac hardtop coupe with sweep cut front and rear styling. Note; that the factory did not authorize a skirt for 1959 Pontiac ;

 

Related image

 

 

 

This 1959 Olds door's upper piece ( painted in red below ) is bolted onto the door to meet with front fender and rear quarter contours. Remove it and you can install on a 59 Chevrolet or Pontiac. Pretty neat trick.

 

68057765-770-0@2X.jpg?rev=1

One of the bolts holding it on can be seen below.

68057820-770-0@2X.jpg?rev=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I would say look a bit earlier if you want to find differences between makes of cars in a narrow time frame. Like the 19-aughts. Take a couple years, say 1904 and 1905. Look at an Oldsmobile (curved dash, Fords, a Rambler, a White, a Cadillac, a Buick, a Franklin, an Autocar. A big Pierce may resemble a dozen other big cars in those years, and there were a lot of small makers that copied bodies from some specific car. 1903 and '04, Cadillac and Ford were virtual twins, body wise. To tell them apart, look under the car, the front axle and location and size of the flywheel can be seen and are quite different. Actually, the bodies for both were supplied by Wilson body company and designed by Henry Ford. But they soon parted ways and looked quite different. By 1910, things began to settle in, and cars began looking very much alike across the industry.

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