Monday, December 10, 2018

Ford's Redesigned 1972 Torino

Ford redesigned its Torino "mid-size" models for 1972.  In the fall of 1973 the Yom Kippur War triggered a gasoline crisis that resulted in the next generation of most Detroit cars to be downsized.  The 1972 models also were among the last not affected by U.S. government regulations regarding bumper impact resistance capability.  So to some degree, those Torinos represent the last of an American automobile breed.

As the link above mentions, the Torino name first appeared for 1968 and styling was revised for 1970.  It terms the '72 Torinos as "third generation."

The name "Torino" is Italian for the city English speakers would recognize as Turin.  It is home to Fiat and Lancia  cars and, historically, Cisitalia and Siata.  Presumably Ford marketers  were thinking of the aura of the sportier brands and not of Fiat 500 Topolinos.

1972 Torinos came in two levels -- a basic Torino and the more upscale Gran Torino. Body types were a station wagon (not shown here), a four-door sedan and two varieties of hardtop coupes.  Even though Torinos were considered "intermediate" or "mid-size," they were fairly large.  Their styling for that model year was generally attractive.


Ford Gran Torino 4-Door Pillared Hardtop.  That's what this model was called: "Pillared Hardtop" actually means that this was a sedan with a fixed B-pillar and not a pillarless car as the term "hardtop" normally meant in those days.  Ah, those marketers!

Gran Torino 2-door hardtop coupe.  The vinyl top covering was a fad at the time.  The sides of the car extend outwards to a horizontal crease that provides relief to potentially massive fender appearance as well as unifying the front and rear.  The rear fender kickup and sculpting add interest and also help reduce visible bulk.  This car has a long hood and a comparatively small bustle back.

Gran Torino SportRoof -- the fastback version of the car in the previous image.  The fastback quarter envelopes what had been the rear fender line, but the carry-over sculpting helps reduce the added bulkiness.

Rear quarter view of the bustle back version.  A detail on the image of the similar car, but more visible here: a thin chrome strip along most of the horizontal crease.  Rear end styling is simple and attractive, unlike what can be seen on many current cars.  Car shown was for sale.

The most distinctive feature on '72 Gran Torinos is the grille, seen on this "for sale" car.  Its outline is rounded-hexagonal with a rectangular grid pattern interior.  Aggressive-looking, but logical.  The dual-headlight housings follow the same outline theme.

All that changed on this 1974 Torino.  Federal regulations called for more massive bumpers, so frontal styling had to be reworked to accomplish this.  The resulting rectangular theme changed the character of the design, mostly for the worse.  The only plus, so far as I'm concerned, is the elimination of those dual headlights.  Again, a "for sale" image.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Shared Features: Ford Futura and Ford Thunderbird

One car-buying lesson I've learned is to test-drive a car at freeway speed.  That might not be as important as it was decades ago, but it's a wise task nevertheless.

How did I learn this?  By renting a Ford Fairmont Futura coupé at some point in the early 1980s.  The 1970s and early '80s marked a low point for American cars, and this seemed true for that Futura.  The problem was that its front "floated" at highway speed -- around 60 mph (100 kph).  Why did it do this?  My hypothesis is that the car was engineered for a V-8 motor, but the one I drove had a lighter straight-6 engine, so there was less weight up front.  Needless to say, I was not a fan of that car.

Setting that aside, let's consider its styling.

The Futura was a sporty version of Ford's Fairmont line of compact cars, introduced later in the 1978 model year.  What is interesting is that, unlike other Fairmonts, several styling features were borrowed from the 1977 Ford Thunderbird.  A web source I unfortunately didn't bookmark stated that a compact version of the Thunderbird was considered during the '77's development, and that it became the basis for the Futura and its Mercury equivalent Zephyr Z7.  An image below deals with this.


Factory photo of a 1978 Ford Fairmont Futura.  Its signature styling feature is the broad B-pillar.

That thick B-pillar was probably inspired by the 1947 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, here in its Champion version.

Another view.

This version seems to have vinyl swaths on the roof separated by sheetmetal and resulting in the appearance of a Porsche-like "Targa" bar.

Rear-quarter view of a car for sale to be compared to the image below of a 1977 Thunderbird.

The passenger "greenhouse" designs are  quite similar, even to the L-shaped character lines running down the B-pillars and then extending aft a short distance below the fender line.  The Thunderbird is a wider car than the Futura -- about 7.5 inches (190.5 mm) more.  There is no "shoulder" or "catwalk" along the fender line of either car, so it seems that the greenhouses are not identical, though they might share some side stamping in the B-pillar area.  Photo of a car for sale.

An image of full-size model of what seems to be the small Thunderbird mentioned above.  It has a Thunderbird "bird" emblem on the B-pillar.  The body is clearly Fairmont-based, though front overhang is longer than production Futuras.  The louvres abaft of the front wheel opening are similar to those on Thunderbirds.  The Zephyr Z7 also has louvres, but of a different design, and Futuras lack them.  The photo was taken on 3 March 1976 which was about a year and a half before 1977 Thunderbirds were announced.  By that point, the actual Thunderbirds probably would have committed to production, so this photo might have been taken of a model built a few months earlier before final Thunderbird decisions were made.  However, Ford management liked the smaller design enough to commit it to production as Futuras and X7s around the time the photo was taken.

Side view of a "for sale" Futura.  It conforms closely to the 1976 mockup in the previous image.  Even the character lines on the B-pillar and front and rear fenders are the same.  Ditto the quarter window and the angle of the backlight.  Compare these latter two details to the Thunderbird's below.

Side view of a "for sale" 1977 Thunderbird.  Its door and B-pillar are wider than the Futura's and the latter includes an opera window.  Its quarter windows are longer and the slope of the backlight is greater than on the Futura.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Oldsmobile Six and Eight Grille Variations 1933-1938

During the 1930s some American brands featured grille designs that varied by model.  An early example was the 1932 Packard Light Eight, which had a "shovel" shaped lower grille, unlike more expensive Packards.  Towards the end of the decade Ford Standard and Ford De Luxe models had distinctly different grille designs, with one year's De Luxe features passed down to the following year's Standards.

Oldsmobile marketed both six and eight cylinder cars, and from the 1933 model year through 1938 gave each distinguishing grille features.  Differences were minor in the early years, but totally different grilles were used for 1937 and 1938.

In more recent times grille design variations can be found, but usually where a brand's models differ by body platform.

Oldsmobile grille designs for 1933-1939 are shown below.  For a better view of minor grille details, click on the images to enlarge.


An Oldsmobile Eight is on the left, a Six to the right.  The Eight's grille features slender bars angled downwards in a V motif.  The Six has small, vertical bars overlaid by fewer, thicker horizontal ones.  This image cannot be enlarged.

1934 Oldsmobile Six, for sale image.  The horizontal grille bars have simple forms.

Here is a '34 Oldsmobile Eight Convertible Coupe, RM Sotheby's photo.  The main difference from the Six's grille design is that the horizontal bars are wider with a black groove down their middle.

1935 Oldsmobile Six Business Coupe.

1935 Oldsmobile Eight Business Coupe.  Here again, the models are distinguished by the same grille bar features as in 1934.

This Owls Head auction photo is of a 1936 Oldsmobile Six Touring Sedan.

Another '36 Touring sedan, this an Eight that was for sale.  Yet again, the distinguishing grille differences have to do with horizontal bars.

Then for the 1937 model year Six and Eight grilles became strongly different, as shown in this publicity material.

1938 again saw major design differences.

Then for the 1939 model year Oldsmobile dropped the Six and Eight labels along with grille differences, switching to Series Sixty, Series Seventy and Series Eighty that evolved post - World War 2 into model names such as Super 88 and Ninety-Eight.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Prewar Opel Olympias and Kadetts Get a Facelift

After General Motors acquired Germany's Opel brand around 1930, it took several years before Opel styling got an American appearance.   As I noted here in reference to Opel Admirals, GM sent a small group of stylists to Germany with the mission of establishing a styling studio following GM's Detroit practice.  I mentioned that the first result was the 1939 Open Kapitän.

Actually, that car was the first complete design,  But the team's influence was seen earlier in the 1937-vintage facelifts of Opel's Kadett and Olympia models.  Those cars were new to Opel's line in 1935-36, and featured a form of monocoque construction, a first for Opel.  The bodies were essentially the same, with the Olympia having a wheelbase 33 mm (1.3 inches) longer than the Kadett.  Visually, the main differences were in the grille and hood ventilation detailing.

The 1937 GM-inspired facelifts largely took the form of bold, American-style grilles, as can be seen below.


Two factory photos of the 1936 Opel Kadett.

Auction photos of a 1936 Opel Olympia (the name inspired by the 1936 Berlin Olympic games).  The Olympia lacks the Kadett's strong vertical grille bar.  Hood side-venting differs.  There are minor sheet metal and trim differences in the C-pillar belt line area.  The wheels also differ.  But overall, the designs are almost entirely the same.  Now for the facelifts ...

1938 vintage Opel Kadett 4-door Limousine.

A 1938 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe sedan, Barrett-Jackson auction photo.  Note the similarities of the grille bars: GM's new German-based stylists had a strong sense of the design directions of the corporation's American brands when they left Detroit and must have exchanged styling information while they were in Rüsselsheim.

1938 Opel Olympia, image source unknown to me, but plentiful on the Web.  Its grille is slightly larger and bolder than the Kadett's.  Hood side vent ornamentation differs as does bits of sheet metal at the base of the C-pillar.

This Kadett image can be found here and there on the Internet.  It differs from late '30s Kadetts and Olympias in that the trunk is smoothly integrated with the rest of the lower body.  Also, the fenders have been reshaped.  There was never a production version of this, so my best guess is that it was a styling proposal, perhaps intended for production in 1942 or thereabouts.  Inform in comments if more about this car is known.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cadillac's Sharpened Front Fenders, 1934-1935

General Motors' top-of-the-line Cadillacs and LaSalles were redesigned for the 1934 model year.  LaSalle styling was more memorable than Cadillac's, if the attention automobile historians give it is any indication.  Even I wrote about it here.

But what about Cadillac?  It was only recently that I finally noticed an unusual and distinctive styling feature -- the shape of the front part of front fenders on V8 and V12 Caddies.  This feature was carried over in the 1935 model year and abandoned for 1936.

The feature is hard to describe, so it's best to jump straight into Gallery photos.


1934 Cadillac Coupe, Hyman auction photo.  Note the profile of the car's right front fender.  There's a horizontal fold line at the most forward part of that fender.

This is a 1934 LaSalle, RM Sotheby's photo.  Front fenders are the same as Cadillac's, except the forward profile is a single curve.

Move actress Jean Harlow posing by a 1934 Cadillac V12 that has the sharpened front fender design.

But the 1934 Cadillac V16 Formal Sedan in this RM Sotheby's photo has rounded fender fronts.  Only V8s and V12s got the sharpened ones, it seems.

Frontal view of a 1935 Cadillac Coupe.  This image shows the sculpting more clearly.  A major difference between 1934 and 1935 Cadillacs and LaSalles is the replacement of the delicate '34 "biplane" style bumpers with solid, one-piece items.

Another Mecum auction photo of the same car, again clearly showing how the front fenders were sculpted.

Frontal view of a 1935 LaSalle, "for sale" photo.

1935 Cadillac V12 Fleetwood Town Cabriolet, Bonhams photo.  Again, V12s got those sharpened fenders.

Finally, a 1935 Cadillac V16 with its conventional-looking front fenders.  This time the actress is Marlene Dietrich.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Studebaker's 1952-Only Hardtop Coupe

Hardtop convertibles ... hardtop coupes ... whatever the name, were an automotive sales sensation starting in 1949 when they were introduced as part of General Motors' C-body line.  I wrote about them here.

And as I posted here, other car makers followed as quickly as they could manage to do so.  Most Chrysler Corporation brands got them for 1950.  Ford, Hudson and Packard launched theirs for 1951.  The following model year, 1952, brought in most of the laggards: Mercury, Lincoln, Nash and Studebaker.

All of the 1952 class except Studebaker had to wait until then because they got redesigned bodies for '52.  Their previous bodies were not suited for incorporating convertible-like cars with metal tops, whereas their redesigned bodies had hardtops in mind from the start.

Studebaker is an interesting case because management dithered, finally allowing a hardtop model for the final year of its 1947 body.  That is, that particular model was only in production for one model year, an economically risky proposition given tooling costs.  Richard Langworth briefly dealt with the 1952 Starliner (as it was called) here, pages 50-51.

The Starliner coupe was an attractive addition to Studebaker's line, as can be seen below.  Images are via the automobile consignment firm Streetside Classics unless otherwise noted.


A fine photo via Wikipedia that I used in the second link above.  The roofline and windows are based on the 1949 GM version, though had to be adapted to Studebaker's sloping rear deck.

For context, a McCormick's auction photo of a 1952 Starlight coupe, Studebaker's previous mainline sporty model.  The Starliner was more closely related to the firm's convertibles, however, due to the need for a truncated B-pillar and two roll-down side windows.

In model year 1952 Studebaker lost its airplane-inspired frontal styling as it transitioned to the sensational forthcoming 1953 redesign.  The two-segment grille hints at the '53s.

The camera's wide-angle lens slightly exaggerates slopes of the hood and rear deck.

The central segment of the backlight would have looked better if its upper edge was straighter.

Close-up view of the new grille.  That white spot shown above the hood is actually a reflection off the windshield, and not part of the car.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Borgward's Large P100 Sedan

The last all-new model from Borgward was the P100, a large (by Borgward standards) 4-door sedan intended to compete with some Mercedes models.  According to the link, 2,530 were built 1959-61, at which point Borgward was rendered kaput.  However, production was continued in Mexico in the late 1960s.

Some credit the styling of the P100 to Pietro Frua, though this site devoted to Frua has a question mark [?] by the car (scroll down to 1959).  If Frua wasn't the stylist, then it is likely that another Italian or perhaps a German heavily influenced by Italian design did the work.  It certainly looks Italian in spirit with some late-1950s German touches.


1961 Borgward P100 for sale.  Usually the diamond-shaped Borgward logo on grilles was uncomfortably large, but on the P100 it's surprisingly discrete.

Factory photo: note the Hamburg license plate.

Probably the same car seen from a different viewpoint.  The windshield is wrapped slightly and is quite tall, extending about to the high point of the roof.

Left side.  Very much a "three-box" design.  Little side sculpting or decoration.  The wrapped backlight window is perhaps the most Germanic touch.

Rear quarter view via Wikimedia.  The main side sculpting was a high fender line crease, the upper side of it becoming an extension of the belt line that transitions to a mini tail fin.  All this does provide some relief to potential side blandness (see the previous image), but the fins strike me as being a bit silly.  Rear end styling is slightly awkward because the round light assemblies clash with the rounded-rectangular chromework.  The fins also do not relate to other rear elements.