Thursday, July 2, 2020

Cadillac Catera's Siblings

One of the labels I attached to this post is "Badge Engineering" -- where different car brands are based on the same basic body and differences are trivial.  That's essentially true of two of the three cars discussed here, but slightly less true of the third.

That third car is Cadillac's Catera model that I wrote about here.  At the time I didn't show the Opel Omega that it was based on, hence the current post.

Further background on the Camera that offered by General Motors for model years 1997-2001 can be found here.

At the time, GM owned Germany's Opel firm and England's Vauxhall, the latter selling rebadged Opels with right-side steering. The Wikipedia entry on the Opel (and Vauxhall) Omega is here.

Cateras were based on the Omega B1 (1994-1999) and Omega B2 (1999-2003) that had few exterior differences.  Even though Cateras were built in Opel's Rüsselsheim factory, they were modified to satisfy presumed American tastes for a sporty Cadillac.  Unfortunately for GM, the basic Opel body was given only minor changes, and didn't strike potential Cadillac buyers as being enough like a "real Cadillac" to bother buying: sales averaged less than 20,000 per model year.


General view of a Catera.

Rear quarter view.  Note the broad sweep across the trunk lid between the tail lights.  The tail light segments not on the lid are Opel's, but the chrome strip, reflector strip and brake light band are for the Catera only.

Front view showing the Camera grille.  The grille pattern and crest are Cadillac features, and the low, chin air intake zone is also Catera's.

Here is a similar view of an Opel Omega.  Very few differences from the Catera.

Rear Omega view.  The main difference is the simpler trunk lid features.

Front quarter view of a Vauxhall Omega.  Its grille fits in the Opel's opening.  Otherwise, there are no visible exterior differences: true badge engineering.

The same can be said for the Vauxhall's rear in this "for sale" photo.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Early 1940s Chrysler Corporation Styling Studies

Rendering by Chrysler stylist Gil Spear - 1941

Many American cars were redesigned around 1940-1941.  Absent the USA's December 1941 entry into World War 2, the next redesigns might have appeared around 1944.  What would those cars have looked like?

Some clues are offered in design models by Chrysler Corporation stylists made in the early 1940s.  A few of these are shown below.  Other models made around 1943 suggest postwar cars that might have been launched around 1947: these also are shown.

As it happened, there was great pent-up demand for new cars in the early postwar years, so most American manufacturers profitably produced facelifted prewar designs until around the 1949 model year when the redesigned Chrysler Corporation line appeared.  Thanks to that delay, the projected circa-1947 designs pictured here never materialized.

Regardless, I find these stillborn designs fascinating, and hope that you do too.


Design for a Chrysler Windsor, May 1941.

Chrysler New Yorker design, February, 1942 -- around the time wartime car production ceased.

Design with postwar Dodge sort of grille -- December 1941.

Rear quarter view of the same model.  This seems to be a stock 1940-42 Chrysler Corporation six-window sedan body with flow-through fenders and other detail changes added.  I will have more to say about that in a future post.  Note that its right side fenderline differs from that on the left side shown in the previous photo.  Perhaps Chrysler management was considering a major facelift for 1944 rather than a complete redesign.

Speculative design model, July 1943.  This reminds me of such models prepared around the mid-1940s by General Motors stylists.  According Collectible Automobile magazine, the date on the plaque is incorrect.

Rear view.  It's not clear to me where the motor would be placed.

Chrysler model with February 1943 date plaque in the photo.  This appears to be a continuation of the themes from 1941-42 shown at the top.

Same model from another viewpoint.

Another 1943 study.

This might be a hardtop roadster or hardtop convertible.  If the latter, visibility from the back seat would have been limited.  Not a great design, but the best of the lot, given my 2020 perspective.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Putting Lipstick on a Pig: Three Generations of the Kia Soul

Your Loyal Blogger considers the Kia Soul to be a truly ugly automobile.  It started out ugly, its facelift was ugly and the recent design retains the uglyness.

The Wikipedia entry for the Soul is here.  As of the time this post was drafted, that site held that there were three generations of Souls.  I consider the second "generation" a facelift, but for the purposes of the present post I'll go along with Wikipedia.

Dates for "generations" refer to model years when the Soul versions were introduced in the United States.

The images below are either factory or distributer sourced.


2012 Kia Soul dashboard, factory photo via the NetCarSow website.  A car might be ugly when viewed from outside, but owners mostly experience such cars from the inside.  This interior is rather busy looking, but not out of line with contemporary fashions.

2014 Kia Soul dashboard: same sources, same evaluation.

2020 Kia Soul dashboard.  The paired binnacles create a uneasy feeling for me.  This probably is because they are almost, not not exactly, the same size and shape.  The centrally mounted one needs to be reshaped or reduced in size.

2012 Kia Soul side view.  The most distinctive Kia design feature, in place from the beginning, is its sloped, flat roof.  I hate it.

2014 Kia Soul side view.  It seems to be the same body as for the previous "generation."

2020 Kia Soul side view.  Aside from some changes in side sculpting, the underlying body still seems to be the same as the original.  However, the wheelbase did increase by about 30 mm per "generation."

2012 Kia Soul front quarter view.

2014 Kia Soul front quarter view.  The most noticeable change is the hood: note especially the side cutlines in these two images.  Other detail changes include minor front end reshaping and the headlight assemblies.

2020 Kia Soul front quarter view.  Again, some reshaping that continues the original frontal theme while conforming to recent styling fads.  Please note the area around the top of the A-pillar in this image and the two previous ones, especially the roof's transition from radius to flat.  The shaping looks identical, again calling into question whether the original body was completely replaced between "generations."

2012 Kia Soul rear quarter view.

2014 Kia Soul rear quarter view.  The aft was completely redone for 2014, though the tail light theme was retained.

2020 Kia Soul rear quarter view.  The aft cutline of the rear side door is slightly different.  Again the rear was given substantially restyled detailing, edging further into the currently popular jazzy looks.

In summary, I do not know for sure if the 2020 Soul retains significant parts of the original body.  Perhaps readers more familiar with the cars then me can offer a definite answer.  And if the 2020 body is indeed a complete redesign, it is clear that Kia stylists made a strong effort to retain its signature roofline while adding flashy detailing  of the kind often seen on Japanese cars.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Compact SUVs from Mercedes and Porsche

Today's car stylists are greatly constrained by the corporate need to shape bodies by wind tunnel testing with the goal of improving or maintaining propulsive efficiency.  Packaging considerations further constrain the basic shapes of vehicles.  This combination is especially constrictive where sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are concerned.

The present post deals with entry-level SUVs from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche that reached the market in the mid- 2010-2020 decade.  Mercedes' SUV is the GLA-Series (Wikipedia entry here), the Porsche Macan's brief entry is here.

The GLA is the SUV version of Mercedes' entry-level A-Class.  Its initial wheelbase was 106.3 inches, 2966 mm, compared to 110.5 inches, 2807 mm for the Macan.  Therefore, the Macan can be considered in the next higher class of SUV.

Nevertheless, the two models are worth comparing because they are from storied German brands, because they are near-contemporaries, and because they offer perspective on German solutions to the SUV styling problem.

Also included are images of the concept version of the GLA and of the redesigned 2021 GLA.


2013 Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept
This publicity photo presents an aggressive image of the proposed A-Class SUV.  As is the case for many concept cars, the body is essentially that of the forthcoming production version.  The main differences in this frontal view are grille details and those of the frontal ensemble.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA
Headlights, air intakes, and side sculpting are in line with recent worldwide styling fashion.  But note the shape of the passenger greenhouse towards the rear.  Even though SUVs are a breed of station wagon (break) and might be expected to carry tall cargos, the GLA features a definite tumblehome that slightly lessens potential carrying capacity.

2015 Porsche Macan
The Macan has a highly aggressive-looking grille ensemble.  The headlight assemblies are a compromise between current fashion and Porsche tradition in order to produce a Porsche "look" to the overall design.  There is greenhouse tumblehome aft, but perhaps less so than on the GLA.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The redesigned GLA has less-extreme side sculpting than before, though the frontal details are variations of the earlier theme.  The overall effect is softer and the car seems smaller.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA
Besides at the front, the production GLA is virtually the same as that of the concept car when viewed from the side.  The aft door/backlight is sloped, not vertical, yet another restriction on carrying capacity in addition to that of the side tumblehome.

2019 Porsche Macan
The aft greenhouse slope of the Macan is slightly more extreme than that seen on the GLA, providing a quasi-sedan appearance suggesting that load-carrying is not this SUV's chief priority.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The redesigned GLA's aft has less slope and a touch more carrying practicality.  The design of the side windows is a bit more complicated than before, somewhat contrasting the sculpting simplification.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept
Close to the production version, but with a few car-show-jazz touches.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA
Production version.  Note the tumblehome in the area of the C-pillar.

2015 Porsche Macan
The aft slope shows up clearly in this view.  Clean styling here, but the 2019 facelift added a (unnecessary, in my opinion) bar connecting the tail light assemblies.  A nice touch is the contrast between the heavy, busy, bold front and the simple rear styling.  Photo is of a British-delivered Macan.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The redesign alters details while preserving the previous aft theme, as was the case for the front.  Tail light assemblies are noticeably smaller, and have less detailing there and the surrounding area.  This extends the simplification from trendy clutter.  That said, the shape of the assemblies is trendy and I think M-B stylists might have come up with something better, more distinctive.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Transatlantic Badge Engineering: Chevy Chevette and Opel Kadett "City"

A while ago I wrote about General Motors' Chevrolet Chevette, a small car that sold fairly well despite being unimpressive in many ways.  The Chevette was part of a 1970s GM initiative to have a basic platform serve as the basis for cars branded and assembled in the various parts of the world where GM had a presence.

That was the 1973 T Platform, and the link lists the many models associated with it.

Given the badge engineering theme of the present post, I will focus on two models that share the same two-door hatchback body -- an American Chevrolet Chevette and a German Opel Kadett C "City."

The Chevette's wheelbase is one inch (25 mm) longer than the Opel's, but most body features are the same aside from the front ends, as noted below.  Motors and interior trim also differ, but so far as styling is concerned, the cars are in badge engineering territory.


The Opel Kadett C using the T Platform entered production in 1973.  The car shown here is from a few years later, but shows the basic two-door styling with its notchback/bustleback trunk.

The "City" hatchback (three-door) version appeared around 1975.  This is the body shared with its transatlantic cousin.

City rear quarter view.

City with its hatch raised.

A 1976 Chevrolet Chevette hatchback posing in a publicity photo probably with Chevy executives.  The Chevette's front differs from the Opel in several ways.  The forward-thrusting fender line and grille are replaced by a back-sloping grille and headlight assemblies.  The bumper is beefed up to accommodate US government impact regulations.  The detailed designs of the grilles also differ.

Seen from the rear quarter the cars are the same aside from some minor trim variations.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Pre- Professional Styling 1929 Grahan-Paige

It seems that I have a number of images of 1929 model year or thereabouts of Graham-Paige automobiles.  As far as I know, the company did not have a styling staff then, and later on used designs by Amos Northup, perhaps supported by engineering staffers and others.

Therefore, the cars shown in this post are indicative of the state of design for American upper-middle class cars from smaller manufacturers in those days before professional styling staffs became common.


Model 612 two-door.  Its radiator-grille design is a sort of flat-front, rounded corners type vaguely suggestive of Rolls-Royce.  Another brand image characteristic is the bank of hood louvres that take up only about 60 percent of the available space unlike the usual 100 percent (save allowances for flat structure fore and aft of the louvred zone).

Graham-Paige 621 Roadster.  Soft-top Grahams did not have attached external metal sun visors such as those seen in other images here.  Note the small door for golf bags abaft of the side door.

This and the two following images were probably taken by San Francisco Examiner photographer Christopher Helin, who took many such photos from the 1910s into the 1930s.

This roadster seems longer than the one in the factory-sourced photo above.  Here the windshield is lowered and the canvas top is not seen.

A large, six-window sedan with steel wheels.  Graham headlights are larger than normal for 1929, another brand visual characteristic.

Graham-Paige coupe, Mecum auction photo.  Like the car in the first image, its ground clearance seems higher than the other cars here.  Moreover, this coupe and the two-door sedan have smaller headlights, so these are probably entry-level Grahams.  Note the wood artillery wheels and short hood.  Also, there is no foot step on the rear fender, so this car probably lacks a rumble seat.

Mecum photo of a 1929 Graham roadster.  Details differ from the roadster shown in the image second from the top.  I cannot explain this.

Another Mecum photo, this of a phaeton.  This is listed as a 1929 model, yet the hood louvre pattern is conventional, not truncated as on the Grahams pictured here.