Thursday, October 22, 2020

Razor-Edge Lagonda V12s by Freestone & Webb

I wrote about a 1939 Lagonda V12 Drophead Coupé with a factory body designed by in-house stylist Fred Feeley here.  Since I believe design of convertibles is less taxing to a stylist than cars with hard tops with all the possibilities of forms, window shapes, and other rquired deatils, I tend to focus on such cars on this blog.  Therefore, I owe readers something about Lagona V12 Saloon styling to compensate for that post about a convertible.

In that post I commented that Feeley's frontal design, the basis for both factory and custom bodies, was more rounded than, say, the angularity of Rolls-Royces.  Which made me wonder if there were examples of Logonda V12s with angular bodies and how such bodies might relate to the rounded frontal design.  It happens that the Freestone & Webb coachbuilding firm (brief Wikipedia entry here) built some "razor-edge" bodies (F&W initiated that style) on V12 Lagondas.  Some these are shown below.


First, three images of a for-sale 1938 Lagonda V12 Short Chassis Saloon by Freestone & Webb.  From the side, the contrasting curved and sharply-defined elements work well together.

Perhaps camera lens distortion affects this image, but the curved frontal elements appear cramped while the flat windshield makes the after part of the car seem too wide -- a contrast that doesn't seem to work well here.

This rear quarter view suggests the Razor-Edge part of the body is too delicate, given the robustly rounded front fender and spare tire cover.

This is a 1939 version in a "for sale" photo.  The spare tire is missing, but that serves to lighten the front, making the curved and angular elements work better together.

The following three images are of a 1939 Lagonda V12 Sport Saloon with a Razor-Edge body by Freestone & Webb.  I don't know the source of this photo.  This camera angle and lens combination lessens the contrasts noted for the second image from the top.

That car was later up for auction by Bonhams, the source of this and the following photo.  Again, the design holds together fairly well, but not perfectly.

This rear quarter view angle diminishes the effect of the front fender and spare tire cover combination.

I am forced to conclude from these photos (and not by viewing one of these cars in person) that Feeley's frontal identity features and Razor-Edge styling do not work very well together.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Styling a New Luxury Brand: Infiniti

I wrote here about the 1990 Lexus, a successful new luxury brand.  In this post, the subject is Infiniti, another new Japanese luxury brand launched around the same time.  Specifically, the model Q45 (marketed model years 1990-96). Its Wikipedia entry is here.

As mentioned in the earlier post, stylists and management surely paid attention to potential competitors.  Below are cars in the American market that were in production during the time Q45 styling was developed.  They were selected on the basis of having wheelbases fairly similar to that of the new Infiniti.  Their designs are compared to that of the Q45.

Most of the images below are factory-sourced photos.


1985 Cadillac Sedan DeVille
Basically 1970s-'80s "three box" angular styling featuring large glass areas.  The main concession to aerodynamic efficiency is the slanted windshield.

1981 Lincoln Town Car
This model remained in production during the 1980s.  Its design is even more extreme three-box than the Cadillac's.

1987c. BMW 7 Series
Three-box styling is softened a little on this car.  It was new around the time Infinity stylists were at work.

1981c. Mercedes-Benz SE W126, unknown photo source
In production for most of the 1980s.  The Infiniti would almost surely have to compete with a redesigned S-Class soon.  And ditto Lincoln and Cadillac.  So what should Infiniti stylists come up with?

1991 Ininiti Q45
It turned out that Infiniti's marketing concept was that the car was different.  Therefore, features from its primary competition are absent.

1986 Jaguar XJ6, for sale image
It seems that the competing car closest in design to the Q45 was the Jaguar XJ6.  Both cars have a lithe appearance and six-window passenger greenhouses where those windows are less tall than on the three-box designs seen above.  Oddly, Jaguars were not strong competitors for the proposed Infiniti.  Perhaps that's why they were "different" enough to inspire a "different" new luxury car.  Oh, and the wheelbases are nearly identical.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera -- 1982-1996

Recently while I was taking my morning walk in the town near where I live, I spotted and photographed the car shown above.  It's an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, probably from around 1990.

Back when I was buying General Motors cars because I qualified for a supplier discount, a Ciera would have been more affordable than the GM car I actually bought.  But I knew that Cieras had been in production for what seemed ages, so I disregarded it because I wanted what I hoped was a car with newer technology.

As the title of this post indicates, Cieras lasted through 15 model years, all using the same platform and body.  This was remarkable for GM in those days.  The cars apparently filled a strong market niche.  Better yet for corporate beancounters, Cieras were quite profitable because tooling costs were amortized during the first few years of that long production run.

The Ciera's Wikipedia entry is here, and a link with perhaps more information is here.

Some images of Cieras are below.


Factory image of a 1982 Ciera Brougham (four-door sedan).  Styling is a carryover from the "three box" squared-off look common during the 1970s.  Aerodynamically influenced shapes for dealing with fuel economy did not appear on American cars until the 1984 model year when Ford introduced its Tempo model.  Such shapes were common by 1990, yet Cieras sold well despite their now-oldfashion styling.

Here is a factory photo of a 1982 Ciera Coupe.  There also was a station wagon.

Now for a four-view walk around of a 1990 Ciera up for sale.  For this picture, the car was lowered closer to the ground for some reason.  The remaining photos have the car in a normal stance.

Side view.  Nothing really wrong with the styling, though it's rather bland.  Note the black plastic patch over what on the comparable Pontiac 6000 was a small third side window.

Rear styling was simple with a consistently rectangular theme, unlike the often themeless designs we find on current cars.

Ciera's styling is not distinctive, and therefore not exciting.  This, besides soon becoming dated in the new aerodynamic world, seems to have had no noticeable negative effect on sales.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Styling a New Luxury Car Brand: Lexus

So you want to launch a totally new luxury car brand.  One detail to be decided is the car's styling.  And surely Toyota stylists and management glanced at designs of the new car's intended or possible competition.  How different or similar should it look?

The Lexus (Wikipedia entry here) was launched in the USA for the 1990 model year and was a great success that has continued since.

The subject of this post is Lexus styling compared to some potential competitors in production while it was gestating.  Perhaps other brands were evaluated in addition to the set shown below, but those pictured were surly among those studied.  They tend to have similar wheelbases to that of the 1990 Lexus LS 400 (2814 mm, 110.8 inches).


1985 Cadillac Sedan DeVille
Since the US market was key to Lexus market planning, Cadillacs were evaluated.  The current Caddy in the Lexus size range was the Sedan DeVille that appeared for the 1985 model year.  Its styling continues the angular "three box" theme popular during the 1970s and '80s.

1988 Lincoln Continental Sedan
The other major American luxury car with a similar wheelbase was the Lincoln Continental that was announced around the time Lexus styling was nearly locked in.  Ford Motor Company began introducing rounded styling a few years earlier, though this Lincoln retains the large glass areas of the three-box era.

1987c. BMW 7 Series E32
German luxury cars were selling well in the USA, so BMWs were probably evaluated.  The 7 Series sedan, like the Cadillac and Lincoln, retains three-box styling.

1985c. Mercedes-Benz W124
But the key potential competition was Mercedes-Benz.  The 1985 model year line of W124 cars were more beveled that the others and featured a wide C-pillar that gave a formal touch to the design.

1990c. Lexus LS 400
So perhaps is isn't surprising that the 1990 Lexus LS 400 sedans might have borrowed more from Mercedes-Benz than the other luxury rivals.  Perhaps the main difference was that it was more rounded.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Redesigned BMW 4 Series Coupé

The redesigned BMW 4 Series Coupé (Wikipedia entry here) is a few months from appearing in showrooms as I draft this post (July), but photos are available on the Internet.

Those images are of a car painted white, which means that subtle areas of body sculpting can't be seen clearly.  Nevertheless, I'm writing about the new 4 Series because of its grille design, a new variation on BMW's traditional two-element "nostrils" format.  Each element is seven-sided with angles softened slightly by sharp-radius curves.  Also, the size of the assembly is large.

Those two features -- rather geometric outlines and large size seem to be a new styling direction for BMW.  For example, the new 7 Series sedan has a large grille ensemble and the the concept version of the 4 Series as well as the Concept i4 electric car have large, angular grille shapes.

The images below juxtapose the previous 4 Series with the 2021 version.


Previous 4 Series Coupé.  Generally a nice design, though I quibble with the linkage of the headlight assemblies and the grille frame.

The forthcoming 4 Series.  As mentioned, body sculpting isn't easy to understand, given the white paint job that virtually eliminates highlights.  The upper side character line is shorter and there seem to be subtle bulges at either end.

Seen from the side, there are differences, but the styling theme is carried over in the redesign.

Rear styling on the 2021 car is cliché-ridden like the earlier model.  But sculpting is more rounded off, creating a softer effect.

Front of the 2021 4 Series.  From this photo it's hard to tell how much of the "openings" are actually functional air intakes.  Note the nostril outlines, the "teeth" interior décor and the relationship of the BMW symbol to the ensemble.  My main complaints are the size of the ensemble and the tacked-on appearance of any license plates required at the front.  The nostril outlines are an interesting new variation on a theme that has had many such variations of the last 90 years.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Jeff Godshall's Automobile Drawings and Sources

An illustrator who had a pen-and-ink touch I greatly admire was Jeffrey I. Godshall (1941-2019) who was a stylist at Chrysler and in his spare time an automobile historian.

A series of "Car Spotter" illustrations appeared in the late, lamented (by me, at least) "Special-Interest Autos" magazine in the late 1970s.   Here, for example, is a link to contents of all its issues.

For some reason I assumed that Godshall simply drew those car pictures freehand, using some reference material.  But that is a lot more difficult than it might seem.  Recently it occurred to me that the most efficient way to do the work would be to trace reference photos and then do the inking with perhaps some adjustments to the references.

It seems that's just what he did.

Below are examples of those fine drawings along with likely reference photos that I found on my image reference database.  Click on images to enlarge.


Note the Ford coupe in the middle of the page.

This was probably Jeff's reference.

Now for the frontal view of the car at the top.

I suspect this was his reference, though he did have to add details not seen here.

As for the car at the bottom ...

... he might have used this photo with slight adjustments on the perspective.  Or else used a similar photo for tracing.

Again, focus on the car at the bottom.

Its source was the photo used in this advertisement.  He added wheel disks to the hubcaps and seems to have shortened the car slightly to fit the page.

The Chrysler in the middle has all the elements in the photo below except for some luggage added to the rack in the illustration.

Yes, the refernce photos shows skis on the top rack.  Again the car is shortened.

A similar version of this is cross-posted on my Art Contrarian blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

1962 Chevrolet Corvair Super Spyder Concept

General Motors created two 1962 concept cars based on the Chevrolet Corvair platform.  The more interesting one was the Corvair Monza GT that I wrote about here.

The other one, less well-known today, was the Corvair Super Spyder derived from the Corvair Monza convertible. The only detailed background I could find on the internet is here.  Scroll down a little to find an excerpt of General Motors publicity describing the car and how it differs dimensionally from a stock Corvair Monza.

The Super Spyder is a sports car version of the Monza, seating two people rather than four.  It is shorter than the production car both in wheelbase and overall length.  In terns of styling, it retains the Corvair's distinctive should-height crease extending from front to rear, and its rear-end design is similar to production Corvairs.  The greatest difference are at the front, where styling is aggressive, presumably befitting a sports car.

The images below all originated at General Motors.  They are too small to bother clicking to enlarge.


The Corvair Super Spyder still exists.  Here it is seen at the GM Tech Center.

Rear quarter view.

Overhead publicity photo.

Note how low the Super Spyder is.  Being a show car, front bumper protection is scant.  The side character line is brought forward around the headlight assembly -- a nice way of dealing with the front-fender transition problem stylists need to face.

Front end.

Rear view.

A 1962 Corvair Monza Convertible of the kind altered for the Super Spyder.