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Speculative styling question


prewarnut
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On pre-war American cars there's an evolution of the front end. In 1930 most radiators/surrounds are flat and upright. By '32-'34 many are now V-shaped. By '36 many are canted back about 15 degrees. So far so good. In otherwords the front is becoming more streamlined. I'm not sure the .cd is any different but nonetheless... So in 1938 ('37 for few models) the grille is all of a sudden back to being upright. Cadillac and GM, Chrysler are perfect examples. Some exceptions however are Packard, Pierce, Lincoln. So does anyone have an idea how this reversal occurred? I know in car design copycat ideas and cross pollination occurs but to me this always seemed a step backwards and taking backwards steps in anything must/should be deliberate. Yet this eludes me. Any ideas?

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Harley Earl’s grandson is alive, well, and often gives talks on styling for GM and the entire industry. He is on this site occasionally. I spoke to him several weeks ago, and if I see him in the weeks ahead, I will try and remember to ask him. He lives in West Palm Beach Florida. If you would like his email, PM me. Ed.

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Styling was somewhat influenced by what the engineers had designed/redesigned for the chassis underneath. the front clip / sheet metal of fenders hood grille) had to cover that. 1937-38 was a transition for the redesign/function of the hood ( loss of the separate side panels) that had to see the fenders broaden and accommodate that from a 4 piece hood to a two piece ( top panels) hood . Also the headlamps were going from being separate entities mounted on cast or pressed steel brackets/bar to becoming part of the front fenders which were now enveloping the whole front styling. Grills and radiator shells  that were stamped steel were now going into being made of a die cast metal ( zinc based alloy) that could be plated .  The "envelope" air flow style was taking place . Wind tunnels at car factories started to be thought of. Look at the style of airplanes of the era.  Look at my buddy Mike Lamm's and Dave Holls book on styling and design and you can see the transition and it is well explained.

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The more upright grilles of 1937 also had more of a V shape. It was a different way of giving a streamlined effect.

Another factor, engineers were moving the engines forward over the front wheels to get more leg room in the passenger compartment.  With engines and radiators forward they had to make the front of the body farther forward and try to balance the appearance with bulkier front fenders, also extended forward.

It was the introduction of independent front suspension that allowed engines to move forward and down as they no longer had to clear a moving front axle.

Moving the whole passenger compartment forward, put the rear seat ahead of the rear axle instead of on top of it. This allowed lowering the rear seat 3 or 4 inches. The adoption of the hypoid rear axle lowered the driveshaft likewise. With seats and floors lower, the roofline could be lower without losing head room.

All these factors working together made packaging of the typical 1940 car far different from its 1930 counterpart.

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Thanks all. I agree with the concept of the grille being more rounded as it became upright again. Hood attachment and changes in manufacturing make sense. Yet by '40/41 it was a big upright mass that really ran until the mid '80s. I still wonder if keeping the front canted could have worked. The '38 Chryslers bumped out the lower portion where the splash shield would have been but it's not really a singular transition. Thanks Ed for the offer. It could be that GM led much of the design given this seems prevailing across all GM models. I think I've always been struck by profile renderings with the grille and windshield similarly raked as on a '36 Packard or Pierce and then in '38 (GM vehicles as example) the front becomes snub-nosed and never again for decades matches in profle. Interesting discussion...

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On 9/19/2021 at 5:20 AM, prewarnut said:

On pre-war American cars there's an evolution of the front end. In 1930 most radiators/surrounds are flat and upright. By '32-'34 many are now V-shaped. By '36 many are canted back about 15 degrees. So far so good. In otherwords the front is becoming more streamlined. I'm not sure the .cd is any different but nonetheless... So in 1938 ('37 for few models) the grille is all of a sudden back to being upright. Cadillac and GM, Chrysler are perfect examples. Some exceptions however are Packard, Pierce, Lincoln. So does anyone have an idea how this reversal occurred? I know in car design copycat ideas and cross pollination occurs but to me this always seemed a step backwards and taking backwards steps in anything must/should be deliberate. Yet this eludes me. Any ideas?

A good place to start would be to get the G.M. Art and color book which explain the how and why's.

 

G.M. cars moved the front grille back in 1933. Pontiac's grille was called the Bentley grille. Chrysler gets IFS in 1933.

So how does the front grilles get back upright? Sales charts and marketing. Chrysler Air Flow didn't fair too well in the marketplace. Integrating the headlamps require more fender room although Packard was one of the ones who held out longest and started integrating in 1941.

Not so much functional but retro looks for styling purposes would come back. For example that "V" look in the hood in a 1939 Pontiac remains with Pontiac and although blunt remains until 1954 and then reappears in 1965 in a up to date form.

Sell 1965 Pontiac Safari Station Wagon cardstock Brochure Catalina  Bonneville Tempest in Wichita, Kansas, United States

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I thought Graham led the auto design in 1938!😆

 

From the numbers sold, no one else thought the Spirt Of Motion led the way...😞

 

For those confused by my statement, look at the yellow car on the left.

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look at almost all late model pickups/suvs. UPRIGHT!!!  quite a contrast to jelly bean cars and even pickups/suvs of the eighties and nineties. for a little while the 1994 dodge and ‘96 ford pickups seemed to move toward a more aerodynamic direction. 

Edited by mrspeedyt (see edit history)
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50 minutes ago, Frank DuVal said:

I thought Graham led the auto design in 1938!😆

 

From the numbers sold, no one else thought the Spirt Of Motion led the way...😞

 

For those confused by my statement, look at the yellow car on the left.

 

I always liked it - looks fast even standing still:

 

350039.jpg

 

And then ya got yer Hudson Big Boy and yer Studebaker Coupe Express, but how 'bout a Graham shark nose pickup?  Class in OD green!  😁

 

40-Graham-Pickup-1-e1562046179362-630x39

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In the early days of the automobile, the direction of the wind mattered as much as did the car's aerodynamics. Even a lot of racing cars had the driver sitting high and proud! Some early racing cars attempted to reduce wind resistance, note Ford's 999, Arrow, and Baby, or the Olds Pirate. Compare those cars to Ford's earlier Sweepstakes. By the mid 1910s, many racing cars were being enveloped in streamlined bodies. However, that streamlining was still mostly guesswork. In the 1920s, a few engineers put automobiles into wind tunnels for testing, and were surprised by what they found. A lot more wind tunnel testing was being done in the early and mid 1930s.

They discovered that it is the back end of the car that most affects the wind resistance. It isn't so much pushing the air aside that slows a car down, and increases fuel consumption, it is the 'vacuum' effect at the back of the car that holds it back. So early attempts at sloping the radiator didn't make that much difference. With that knowledge confirmed, the front of the car went back more to the stylists, and what the public preferred and was more likely to buy.

Rounded front edges and tapering back to the rear slips through the air better than sharp/square edges and a large blunt back end.

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Graham-Paige is a perfect example, can you imagine trying to sell last years cars?

 

1928-1931

 

1931.jpg.694085ab4fe2064ec970eec09665f22f.jpg

 

1932 - 1935 Blue streak;  December 1931 "Most Imitated Car on the Road"

 

image.png.8c547aaccbb6f2f94e34cc5300f15488.png

 

1935 - 36

 

1936.jpg.5f18a797b09df8ab5f655bde7d01e209.jpg

 

1937 - 38

 

1937.jpg.d80995ee8dd5e52aa38ffbef65a390b2.jpg

 

1938

1940.jpg.725faff6ca20fec36f3d618041db6ad0.jpg

 

1940... not sure what happened

 

1941.jpg.428aee7d422490462836c9afa45b8b8c.jpg

 

Edited the last two for Frank, for accuracy

 

 

Edited by Graham Man (see edit history)
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32 minutes ago, Graham Man said:

Graham-Paige is a perfect example, can you imagine trying to sell last years cars?

American Motors did with the 1958-60 American, which was the re-introduced 1955 Rambler.  It sold with a fair degree of success as well in those recession years when people were flocking to small economy cars.

 

Craig

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Graham Man, your titles are incorrect. The Spirit of Motion (aka Sharknose) started with the 1938 model year.

 

1940 Brought a slightly different nose on the Spirit of Motion Hood/Grille. Usually can only tell in person.

 

The Hollywood started in 1940, sold as 1941. Mostly finished making that model by the end of 1941. Huppmobile sold the same body as their Skylark, but with Huppmobile drivetrain.

 

Last Graham built vehicles were the 1947 Frazers. At that point Graham got out of the vehicle business but continued on. They were the Madison Square Gardens Corporation for a long time.😉 Joe Frazer got with Henry Kaiser and continued for a few short years.

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I read a book about E.T. Gregory and Edsel Ford.   Gregory became head of Ford styling in 1935, and did not like the stubby appearance of the Ford front end at the time.  Laying back the grill tends to shorten the length of the hood if all else remains equal, i.e., the distance between the bumper and windshield base.   Gregory was very proud of the 1939 Ford styling because of the upright "prow"  tended to lengthen the hood line.   It was also around this time that grills started changing from vertical designs to horizontal ones, and there isn't much perceived streamlining gained from laying back a horizontal grill.   I think these two factors have a lot to do with the demise of the canted back grills of the roughly 1933-1937 period

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On 9/20/2021 at 9:01 AM, edinmass said:

GM led the design of automobiles for almost 40 years. 

While a lot of great designs came out of non GM houses, pre and postwar, this statement is not unreasonable.  An advantage the lower priced cars got was high end style influence.  Here Chevrolet takes the upright, v grille of big brother Cadillac and makes one of the most attractive low priced cars of the era, imho.

1939-Chevrolet-Master Deluxe-antiques--Car-101499737-62e29ee9dc25b7bcd8e7238830050ad9.webp

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13 minutes ago, Pfeil said:

They are not VW

Ok, what are they? The 84 year old dude thought they came from a VW. His uncle bought the car new in 1938. Didn't drive it much during WWII and after 19 46. Always stored inside. They took his licence away in the 1990's and he gave the car to his nephew, who is now 84 and can't drive a stick shift due to leg problems.

 My 66 yr. old buddy and I went to look at it and he bought it. Came with a huge pile of spares including a transmission, rad, starter, generator and engine.

This is a Oshawa Ontario Canada built car. That's the original colour "Oshawa Blue"

wcat etc 106.jpg

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If you want I can Post every type/year VW Beetle front fender turn signal and later turn signal driving light. The ones on that car aren't VW.

Also the THING uses the same lens and housing. The Thing fender has a bump out that matches the curvature of the beetle fender so the Thing can use the same part.

Edited by Pfeil (see edit history)
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On 9/21/2021 at 10:38 AM, Pete O said:

I read a book about E.T. Gregory and Edsel Ford.   Gregory became head of Ford styling in 1935, and did not like the stubby appearance of the Ford front end at the time.  Laying back the grill tends to shorten the length of the hood if all else remains equal, i.e., the distance between the bumper and windshield base.   Gregory was very proud of the 1939 Ford styling because of the upright "prow"  tended to lengthen the hood line.   It was also around this time that grills started changing from vertical designs to horizontal ones, and there isn't much perceived streamlining gained from laying back a horizontal grill.   I think these two factors have a lot to do with the demise of the canted back grills of the roughly 1933-1937 period

 

Yup, Ford grills started getting more upright with the 1936 model, and reached the ultimate with the 40 Deluxe.  The 41 was still vertical but the side grills were the start of horizontal ones to come.

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9 hours ago, Pfeil said:

Wrong!

Hey, that's my line at work. I'm sure I trademarked it......🤣

 

Telling You you  are wrong about VW parts is like telling me I'm wrong about Corvair parts!😉

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On 9/22/2021 at 7:49 PM, Frank DuVal said:

Hey, that's my line at work. I'm sure I trademarked it......🤣

 

Telling You you  are wrong about VW parts is like telling me I'm wrong about Corvair parts!😉

I'm sorry Frank. You are mistaken, the turn signal lens and housing are not VW. 

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49 minutes ago, Pfeil said:
On 9/22/2021 at 10:49 PM, Frank DuVal said:

Hey, that's my line at work. I'm sure I trademarked it......🤣

 

Telling You you  are wrong about VW parts is like telling me I'm wrong about Corvair parts!😉

I'm sorry Frank. You are mistaken, the turn signal lens and housing are not VW. 

?????

 

I am AGREEING WITH YOU! So, therefore I am not mistaken.👍

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One of the other interesting GM contributions around this same timeframe was their "turret top" all-steel roof, doing away with the insert (yes, yes, Budd had the process in the 'teens, but GM made it practical). 
 

There's a lot of styling cues and technology leaps forward up to the Second World War. 

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1 hour ago, JBP said:

One of the other interesting GM contributions around this same timeframe was their "turret top" all-steel roof, doing away with the insert (yes, yes, Budd had the process in the 'teens, but GM made it practical). 
 

There's a lot of styling cues and technology leaps forward up to the Second World War. 

The breakthrough came when the steel mills began to make sheet metal wide enough to make a whole roof in one piece. Before 1934 they made a narrow sheet, after that they made a much wider rolling mill that made a wide sheet that could be split into narrow strips, or used to make a wide sheet.

Then it was a matter of getting stamping mills and tooling to do the roof in one piece. Every major car maker did this as soon as they could, but GM took the credit as usual.

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On 9/19/2021 at 1:38 PM, Rusty_OToole said:

. . .

Another factor, engineers were moving the engines forward over the front wheels to get more leg room in the passenger compartment. . .

Minor quibble: Moving the engine forward changed the weight balance to be more equal between the front and rear axles. That, along with making the spring rates fairly equal between the front and rear, made the ride much more comfortable. Cars with the weight balance and spring rates of the early 1930s and earlier tend to “porpoise” even on fairly smooth roads. Before this change in weight distribution and spring rates the way to get a much better ride was to have a very long wheel base (think expensive cars now considered as classics). I believe the '34 Chrysler Airflow models were the first to have this revised weight balance and spring rates.

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2 hours ago, ply33 said:

Minor quibble: Moving the engine forward changed the weight balance to be more equal between the front and rear axles. That, along with making the spring rates fairly equal between the front and rear, made the ride much more comfortable. Cars with the weight balance and spring rates of the early 1930s and earlier tend to “porpoise” even on fairly smooth roads. Before this change in weight distribution and spring rates the way to get a much better ride was to have a very long wheel base (think expensive cars now considered as classics). I believe the '34 Chrysler Airflow models were the first to have this revised weight balance and spring rates.

You are correct. What they were after was a "flat ride" with front springs as soft and flexible as the rear springs. This was thought impractical because of roll stiffness, the front springs had to be closer together because the wheels need to steer, reducing the resistance to rolling or tipping. Think of standing with your feet close together vs wide apart.

Chrysler's answer was to add an anti roll bar for roll stiffness and use long, flexible springs. This was on the Airflow, on the same year Airstream they got the same effect by using coil spring IFS. IFS turned out to be the way to go because it allowed the engine to sit lower, as it did not need to clear a moving axle. Earlier cars had the axle forward of the engine not below it.

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The change in overall proportioning of the body when IFS removed the front axle clearance issue so the engine and radiator could be moved forward 10"-12" was a major leap forward in automotive engineering and design.  As noted prior to that change, only the longest wheelbase cars allowed sedan rear seat passengers to ride forward of and down off the rear axle 'kick-up'.  While the prior configuration created the "Classic" proportions so prized now, for everyday production cars that extraordinary length for good ride could not be economically produced to meet the mass market price segment.    The perfecting of IFS was a boon to their design, widened the possibilities.   Proportions became more an matter of aesthetics than basic necessity.   This in conjunction with the all-steel body with 'turret-top' were steps that had to occur to move the design and manufacturing beyond the methods employed since the advent of the automobile.    

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I think another important element in late 30's design was Pierce Arrow folded in 1938.

I always thought they still held the patent for fender mounted headlamps until they went out of business.

If this is true, then other manufacturers were free to move their headlamps onto/into the fenders and that drastically influenced styling as well.

 

Please correct me if I'm wrong about the PAMC fender headlamp patent.

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