Thursday, June 21, 2018

TR7 - Triumph's Last Sports Car

The last of the Triumph postwar TR sports cars was the TR7, offered 1975-1982.  Its Wikipedia entry is here.

TR7s developed a poor reputation related to reliability issues, but our focus is on its styling.

Triumph's previous model was the TR6 that shared the same body as the TR4 of 1961, so the line was long due for upgrading.  Its styling theme was that of a wedge featuring a tapered hood profile, a high, squared-off trunk and a raked-back windshield.  This was before aerodynamic efficiency became a key element in body shaping, so the wedge concept was probably more a thematic notion than a science-based exercise.  That said, the windshield and the headlights, when retracted, were probably helpful.

Otherwise, the wedge shape was only marginally successful on the TR7 due to its short length: its features were too cramped.


What appears to be a factory photo of an early TR7.  Unlike previous roadster/convertible TRs, the 7s usually came with a fixed roof.  Styling seems satisfactory from this high viewpoint.

From a rear quarter perspective, matters aren't so good.  The heavy front bumper (in compliance with recent US federal regulations) blends reasonably well with the wedge theme.  The rear bumper is massive and has more of a tacked-on look to it.  Black panels above the bumper and abaft of the rear wheel well are probably intended to break up what otherwise would be a massive block -- the blunt part of the wedge.  The latter panel strikes me as being too contrived and awkward.

Side view of that TR7 (Mecum auctions photos of this car).  Here the stubbiness shows clearly.  The wheels/tires are too small, making the car resemble a roller skate shoe.  The wheelbase (85 inches, 2,159 mm) is too short, as is the entire vehicle.  From the leading edge of the C-pillar forward, the design works fairly well, but abaft of there it's too stubby.  Moving the rear wheel aft about 6 inches (150 mm) and lengthening the car one foot (300 mm) at its rear might have been sufficient to save the design -- that and larger wheels.

Finally, three views of a convertible version advertised for sale.

Monday, June 18, 2018

1939 Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge "Hayes Coupes"

Chrysler Corporation cars of the 1939 model year interest me for various reasons.  For instance, I wrote about the Chrysler brand's front end styling here.  And here I speculated on whether '39 Chryslers, DeSotos and Dodges were completely redesigned or rather were given massive facelifts.

Another 1939-only item was what many observers call the "Hayes coupe."  These were a kind of halfway proposition between small coupes with sideways seating behind the front seat for an extra passenger and normal two-door sedans.  They were built in small numbers by the Hayes Body Corporation of Grand Rapids, Michigan for Chryslers, DeSotos and Dodges.  A good background reference is here.

Hayes coupes were attractive cars, distinctive styling features being thin B-pillars and passenger compartment aft ends with a central vertical crease aligned with two-piece back window divider.

When the Chrysler line was redesigned for 1940, Hayes coupes were eliminated and Hayes left the business of providing car bodies.


Side view of a Hayes coupe, this a Dodge.

Publicity material for the DeSoto version.  It features the rear seating.  Note the splitter crease above the windshield that is echoed farther aft.

Now for three "for sale" photos of a Hayes-bodied Chrysler, an attractive car of its time.

The passenger greenhouse is quite airy for 1939.  Chryslers had stubby hoods that year with front fenders and a catwalk projecting ahead, as seen here and in the previous photo.

It's hard to see from this angle, but try to note the crease aligned with back window split.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Bertone & Scaglione's 1952 Abarth 1500 Biposto Coupé

Possibly influenced by futuristic dream cars that were starting to appear in America, or maybe there was simply something in the automotive styling air in those days.  But, whatever it was, designer Franco Scaglione (1916-1993), working at Bertone, broke away from current Italian carrozzeria practices with his 1952 Abarth 1500 Biposto Coupé.

The one-off design was based on the Fiat 1400 with a motor souped-up Abarth-style to the 1500 cc category.  The body style is coupé, so the term biposto, meaning two-seater, is somewhat redundant.

The Biposto is seen by a number of observers as a precursor of Scaglione's 1953 Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica B.A.T. 5.  Given their timing, I can see how Scaglione's thinking might progress from one concept to another.  However, the three B.A.T. designs were exercises in attaining extreme aerodynamic efficiency, whereas the Biposto is something of a mixed bag in that regard.


Very strong frontal stying featuring a Tucker-like central headlight.  There are no bumpers to dilute the theme.

The general body shape suggests attention was paid to aerodynamic considerations, though I haven't seen any references to it having been tested in a wind tunnel (but it might have been).  Those prominent scoops in the wheel opening ensembles strike me as being aerodynamically draggy, causes of turbulence.

The back window is boat-tailed, making the greenhouse teardrop-shaped in plan view -- another aerodynamic hint.  Note the small, curved tail fins: the B.A.T. cars have much more elaborate versions of these.  There are small, barely functional rear bumpers.

Head-on view of the aggressive front.  There is no lower air dam, but the B.A.T. cars also lacked them, and they were highly efficient.

A general view of the Biposto.  It has a panoramic windshield, but no dog-leg forward door cut-line such as were found in mid-1950s American cars with wraparound windshields.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Rise and Fall of the Buick Riviera - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series about Buick's Riviera in the years it was a separate model and not, as it first was, a hardtop convertible sub-model.  Part 1 can be found here and a related post is here.

American cars reached a qualitative low point during the late 1970 due to two major causes.  First, there were increasingly stringent federal government regulations dealing with engine emissions and safety features that absorbed much engineering staff time.  The latter affected styling because bumpers were required to absorb stronger impacts, and due to their larger size had to somehow be incorporated into existing designs with smaller, better-integrated bumpers.  Also, to reduce injuries from rollover accidents, pillarless (hardtop) designs had to be replaced by designs having full-height B-pillars.  This was the case for the heavily facelifted 1974 Buick Rivieras.

And there was the post- Yom Kippur War oil crisis that resulted in noticeably higher gasoline prices and federal regulations regarding fuel economy.  The auto industry reacted by downsizing cars as quickly as feasible because less weight leads to better gas mileage.

By the 1980s, General Motors was experiencing increasing financial trouble, becoming less and less able to develop new cars at the pace of the 1960s and before.

The Buick Rivieras shown below could not escape these influences.


1974 Buick Riviera - "for sale" photo
Setting the scene is the Riviera discussed at the end of Part 1.

1977 Buick Riviera
Rivieras were redesigned for 1977.  They were shorter, lighter, and had those massive bumpers that engineers and stylists had yet to learn how to deal with gracefully.

1979 Buick Riviera
Riviera's next redesign came two years later.  The fender line harkens back to the first Rivieras of 1963, though modestly.  The rectangular-themed frontal ensemble does not seem to fit the more fluid rest of the design.

1979 Buick Riviera - "for sale" photo
Rivieras had no real B-pillar, but rollover safety was accommodated by the large C-pillar.  The small windows abaft of the doors are fixed in place.  Styling features at the rear represent Buick brand identity of the times and were largely preserved in the next redesign.  Interestingly, Rivieras of this generation were the best-sellers.

1987 Buick Riviera
Rivieras were redesigned for the 1986 model year, and the '87 cars shown above are little changed.  Again the fender line undulates slightly, a distant whisper from 1963.

1987 Buick Riviera - "for sale" phoro
Styling is technically good, but the overall result was not very exciting for a supposedly sporty car.  Sales were far fewer than those for 1979-85.

1995 Buick Riviera
The final Rivieras shared the platform of the four-door Oldsmobile Aurora: I discussed them here.

1995 Buick Riviera
Rear view of yet another rather bland GM design.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Studebaker's Tardy 1955 Panoramic Windshields

Keeping up with styling fads could be difficult if one's financial resources are limited.  Consider the 1955 sedans from Studebaker.

General Motors was for decades the American car style setter due to its dominant market share and the skill of Harley Earl, its styling director.  GM hinted at wraparound (panoramic) windshields as a future automotive feature as early as December 1950 when its Le Sabre dream car was revealed to the public in a Life Magazine article.  Such windshields reached limited production in 1953 on Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Fiesta convertibles.  Then for 1954, GM's B- and C-body cars for Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac appeared with such windshields and the rest of the American auto industry was in crash-program mode to have them on their 1955 lines.

Lincolns never had wraparounds for 1955, nor did Studebaker's coupe lines.  However, Studebaker sedans did get them, but not at the start of the model year.  This was a marketing and public relations faux-pas whose impact is hard to judge more than 60 years later.  The Gallery section below has some before-and-after photos of 1955 Studebaker sedan styling.

Besides GM, Chrysler Corporation came out with redesigned car for '55, and these were styled with panoramic windows in mind. Other brands including Studebaker had to graft wraparounds on existing bodies -- I mentioned Ford's elaborate 1955 facelift here (scroll down).

All the images below are from "for sale" web sites unless otherwise noted.


This is a 1954 Oldsmobile Super 88 sedan showing General Motors' panoramic windshield as it appeared on its B-body lines.

These images illustrate Ford's grafting of wraparounds on an existing body design. A 1954 Ford two-door sedan is above, a '55 below.

Here are Studebaker four-door sedans showing how that firm applied panoramic windshields mid- model year 1955.  The earlier car in the upper photo is a Studebaker President (Barrett-Jackson auction photo), and the lower image is of a Studebaker Commander.

The same cars shown from a different angle.

Studebaker's panoramic window shape was not a full wrap such as can be seen above on the Oldsmobile and Ford.  But it followed Chrysler Corporation practice.  Compare the Studebaker to this 1955 Plymouth Belvedere.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sorta Sporting Siblings for 1986 by Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Buick

General Motors went to a good deal of trouble to differentiate its 1966-67 E-platform cars, as I enthusiastically reported here.  These were the 1966 Buick Riviera, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and the Cadillac Eldorado that appeared for the 1967 model year.

Twenty years later, both GM and these models had lost much of their fizz.  From three large, distinctive, desirable (in different ways) cars with a sporting flair, by their 1986 redesign they had become compact, similar-looking, and not-especially-sporty.  Some of this was probably due to General Motors' decline in profitability that affected product development.  Other factors might have been marketing policies of the product planning team in place in the early 1980s and the management practices of Irv Rybicki, head of the styling department.

The designs shown below are not bad aesthetically.  But they were rather bland and offered little in the way of excitement to entice buyers looking for something sporty.


1987 Buick Riviera
This Buick is little changed from 1986, the image showing its typically-Buick vertical-barred grille.  The other cars also had brand-specific front and rear detailing.  The other difference is in the belt lines.  Here we see a slight undulation on the door.

1986 Oldsmobile Toronado
Toronado grilles harked back to the horizontal bar motif of the '66 models that was quickly abandoned.  Here the belt line is scooped rather than undulating.  Side trim is in the form of a rocker panel, as opposed to the mid-level character line found on the Riviera above and Eldorado below.

1986 Cadillac Eldorado
The front includes the traditional (since 1941) Cadillac egg-crate grille.  The belt line is straight, unlike those seen above.

1987 Buick Riviera - "for sale" photo
During the 1986s, Buicks of various kinds had rectangular tail lights similar to those on this car.   Otherwise, this aspect shows nothing much that identifies this as a Buick or Riviera.

1986 Oldsmobile Toronado - "for sale" photo
Another generic rear design.  This car has a mid-lever rub rail similar to the Eldorado's and Riviera's, but simpler.

1986 Cadillac Eldorado - "for sale" photo
Vertical tail lights had been a Cadillac brand theme since the mid-1960s.  The crest with laurel wreath motif was another long-standing Cadillac theme.  The trunk lid has a central vertical crease not found on the Toronado or Riviera.  All this is far removed from the styling of the dashing '68 Eldorado.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Boano's 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Show Car

The Lincoln Indianapolis (named for the famous Indianapolis 500 race) show car of 1955 was not designed by Ford Motor Company stylists.  It was not commissioned by Ford.  Instead, it was a private venture by Felice Mario Boano after he left Ghia and before he became Fiat's styling director.  The Indianapolis was intended to interest Ford in using Boano for future design projects, though his employment at Fiat ended that possibility.

It was displayed only once, at the Turin show, and then apparently Henry Ford II bought it.  A detailed report is on this page on RM Sotheby's site.  More information is here, including remarks concerning body construction quality.

The Indianapolis was a Lincoln in the sense that it was based on a Lincoln chassis.  In no other way was it a Lincoln show car.


A few photos from the Turin show.  Ford Motor Company dream cars of the early '50s tended to use jet fighter or science-fiction spaceship motifs, and Boano seems to have picked up on this for the Indianapolis demonstration project.

For example, this is the 1953 Ford Syrtis that was widely publicized for its retractable solid roof, but existed only as a model.  Boano was surely aware of this design.  Note the four large exhaust pipes abaft of the front wheel ...

... and further note the three large exhaust pipes on the front fender of the Indianapolis.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

The rear tail light housing ensemble echoes the oval theme of the headlight ensemble.  The backlight is shaped something like aft cockpit glazing of F-86 Sabres, F9F Cougars, MiG-15s and other 1950s jet fighters.

Now for more recent photos by Michael Furmann used by RM Sotheby's.  The front air intake is low --- something rare in 1955 but common today.  Wheel openings are not rounded, as one would expect from Italian stylists.  Again, perhaps Boano had his eyes on Detroit.  Those large exhaust pipes are nested in an opening, so one or the other mechanism would disperse engine heat.  My guess is that the pipes are either non-functional or are simple tubes open on both ends.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.  Closely abaft is a large air intake presumably directing air to cool rear-wheel brakes, assuming that it's functional.

This side view suggests that the design would have looked nicer if those side exhaust and intake openings were deleted and the wheel openings were larger.  The car has a fashionable panoramic windshield, but A-pillars are slanted as on General Motors B-body cars and not vertical as on '55 Fords and Mercurys (Lincolns still had conventional windshields for 1955).  The poor bumper protection for the engine compartment's prow is visible here.