Thursday, August 22, 2019

Lincoln Finally Selects a Grille Theme

Six years ago I wrote about Lincoln's thrashing around regarding a design theme for its grilles.  Back then, Lincoln marketers and stylists were making use of several themes from the marque's past -- even the distant past.  I highly recommend that you read the post linked above in order to put the present post into context.

More recently it seems that Lincoln management has come up with a more coherent plan.  For example, the somewhat cryptic model designations (MKZ, MKX, MKS) are being replaced by (GASP!!) actual names that potential buyers might be able to relate to.

And as the title of this post mentions, they've even come up with a grille theme that's spreading across Lincoln's various models.


2007 Lincoln Navigator
An example of a grille theme from the past -- in this case from 1942 Lincolns.

2015 Lincoln Navigator
Here the past was eliminated aside from the four-pointed star that has been a consistent Lincoln symbol since first appearing on the 1956 Continental Mark II.

2018 Lincoln Navigator
Now the Navigator had the new grille. Its design has a rounded isosceles, trapezoidal frame with the lower portion containing accent folds toward the sides.  The center is a mesh pattern borrowed from the four-pointed star's frame.  The star medallion is stretched vertically and placed on the grille's centerline.  These are the new theme's elements that can be adjusted depending upon the vehicle's configuration.

2017 Lincoln Continental
The new theme first appeared on the new Continental.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus
Similar to the '18 Navigator, but smaller and shorter.

2020 Lincoln Aviator
Bolder, more truck-like front.

2020 Lincoln Corsair
Somewhere between the Nautilus and the Aviator.

I approve of Lincoln's new grille theme.  Although it reminds me of Jaguar's recent grilles, it is still distinctive and flexible.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Nethercutt Collection

It seems I only saw some of the cars on view when I visited the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California recently (links here and here.)  I simply took in the museum part and failed to opt for the guided tour of the "Collection" segment that featured super-classic cars.  Will correct that error next time I'm in southern California.

One surprising feature of the Nethercutt is that admission is free!

The cars on display when I visited were mostly American, and from the 1920s and 1930s.  There was a row or two of antiques (which don't interest me because there are from before the professional styling era) along with a few post- World War 2 examples.  That suited me because the 1930s interest me greatly.

Posts from time to time will include photos I took at the Nethercutt.  For now, I feature an atypical example seen near the museum entrance, a 1931Type 51 Bugatti that was re-bodied by the Louis Dubos firm in 1936 when the Type 57SC Atlantic was Bugatti's most stylish design and which must have served as inspiration for the car on view.

Click on the images below to enlarge.


The Information plaque.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Pre- "Sharknose" Graham Ornamentation

I suspect that nowadays most automobile buffs think of the 1938-39 "sharknose" design if they think of the Graham brand at all.  Of course, there was more to the Graham story than that.  I wrote about the 1935 and 1936 Grahams that shared their basic body with Reo here.  That body was carried over to the 1937 model year, but was only used by Graham because Reo no longer made cars.

The present post features the ornamentation found on 1937 Grahams.  My inspiration was a 1937 Graham Cavalier that I saw while visiting the Nethercutt Collection, a museum mostly featuring immaculately restored American luxury cars of the 1920s and 30s.  Graham built mid-range cars, and the example on display had not been restored at all.  Perhaps that's why I noticed it.

Unless otherwise noted, the photos below are mine.  Click on images to enlarge.


1937 Graham Model 116 Supercharged, Mecum Auctions photo.  This is a restored top-of-the-line '37 Graham.

And here is the non-supercharged Cavalier model at Nethercutt.  The right front fender is scuffed and some of the paint just in front of the hood opening is worn down.  Otherwise, the car seems in pretty good shape, considering that it's more than 80 years old.

The information plaque noting the car's low mileage.  Laws forbidding odometer adjusting came into play only in recent decades, so barring other documentation it's possible that the data is inaccurate.  On the other hand, given the car's condition and the care Nethercutt staff take regarding details, we should probably accept the 28,555 figure.

The details.  Horns are exposed rather than hidden.  All other major American brands for 1937 aside from Hudson had them tucked inside sheet metal.  The solid central section of the grille ensemble recalls Pontiac's Silver Streak motif that first appeared for 1935, except that Pontiac's grooved strip extended along the top of the hood as well as down the grille.  There is a scuffed, knock-out crank hole near the bottom.  The hood ornament includes Graham's traditional three overlapping knight's heads that represent the three Graham brothers.  An interesting touch is the set of five Art Deco style faux heat exhaust ports along the side of the hood.  Grahams from 1935-36 had large heat ports, but examination of images of 1937 Grahams found via a Google search suggests that the ports seen here are purely decorative.  If I'm wrong, please correct me in a comment.

Everything mentioned in the previous caption changed for 1938 and its "sharknose" styling that won critical acclaim while being a marketing dud.  Image via Shannons auction of Melbourne.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Current Luxury SUVs

Crossover Sport-Utility-Vehicles (SUVs) are taking the American market by storm.  They seem to be catching on in Europe too, based on what I recently saw in northern Italy -- this despite high ($6.50 per gallon) gasoline prices there at the time.

Moreover, luxury brands have been adding SUVs to their lineups lately.  One expects luxury vehicles to be more distinctive than high-volume equivalents, though that seems to be less the case than it was decades ago.  And given that SUVs tend to have more constrained basic shapes than even current wind-tunnel tested sedans, I became curious as to how much style variation might be found in a sample of such brands and vehicles.

Results are in the images below.  Cars are shown side-view because that reveals their packaging better than other viewpoints that tend to favor brand-specific identification ornamentation.  Marques are in alphabetical order.


2017 Honda CR-V
Not a luxury SUV, but a contemporary and popular example included as a reference point.  It rides on a shorter wheelbase than the luxury SUVs, and consequently has a narrower rear passenger door.  All the vehicles shown here have a lip overhanging the rear window (backlight), a feature dictated by wind-tunnel test.  Aside from sheet metal sculpting, SUV designers have their greatest stylistic freedom in shaping the aft side windows and the slope of the cars' sterns.

2016 Bentley Bentayga
Clearly manufacturers are running out of good names for car models.  This Bentley has the trace of a rear fender providing a visual link to its sporty Continental line.  This is its most distinctive feature, but not part of the basic body architecture.  The aft is more greatly sloped than the Honda's and its hood is longer.  My overall impression is that it's bulky.

2019 BMW X7
This BMW SUV features a comparatively long hood and short front overhang.  Rear slope is less than that of the Honda.  The passenger compartment greenhouse is high in part due to a slightly low beltline.  Its aft side window is larger than most others.  Overall, the impression is boxy.

2017 Cadillac XT5
Cadillac's main SUV is its large, boxy Escalade.  I thought I would show its smaller, less-popular XT5 instead due to its styling.  An XT6 is on the way, but few photos are available as this post is being drafted.  Features include a rising beltline and an aft slope similar to Bentley's.  Small, angular aft side window.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace
Tapered side-window treatment similar to the Cadillac's, but less angular.  Hood and overhang setup is like the BMW's.  And the aft slope is steep like the Bentley's, so carrying capacity seems secondary to sportiness -- the key factor for Jags and Bentleys.

2017 Maserati Levante
This Maserati is a trifle more sporty than the Bentley and Jaguar, if aft slope matters.  Its roofline is the most curved of the lot, making the car almost a hatchback four-door sedan instead of a SUV (the Subaru Crosstrek is a similar case).  Very short side windows due to a high beltline.  Like the Bentley, there's a trace of a rear fender, but it's cosmetic and unrelated to our main objective here.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Rolls sedans are shaped like bricks -- I assume the idea is to look imposing.  This SUV builds on that base, featuring a tall passenger greenhouse atop a high beltline.  All side windows are large, and there's also a large C-pillar.  Front overhang is short.  Aft slope is considerable, but not as extreme as the Maserati's, thereby reducing visual bulk ever so slightly.  Carrying capacity seems great, however.  Side sculpting is minimal.

All these luxury SUVs, aside from perhaps the Cadillac, are longer than typical mid-range SUVs found in North America.  Excepting the BMW, the slopes of the backlights (rear windows) tend to be fairly great, providing a sporting appearance and less capacity for hauling large, tall objects in their cargo zones.

The Maserati and Rolls-Royce have the most distinctive shapes.  The former is this most graceful (and least SUV-like), the latter is the most boxy (though the BMW comes close).  I won't consider overall attractiveness here because that involves frontal and rear styling as well as side sculpting and other ornamentation.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Last Judkins Custom Body

The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California contains many prize-winning restorations of noteworthy luxury cars, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s.  One such is a 1938 twelve-cylinder K series Lincoln Touring Coupé built by J.B. Judkins Company of Amesbury, Massachusetts.

According to the link, Judkins built more custom bodies for Lincoln than any other coachbuilder.  The example at Nethercutt was Judkins' final car body, and was made for J.B. himself.

Unless otherwise noted, the color photos below were taken by Yr. Humble Blogger in June, 2019.  Click on images to enlarge.


1938 Lincoln K coupé by Judkins.

Plaque describing the car and its history.

Showing more detail of the "pillarless" passenger compartment.  This design was not original to Judkins.  It was borrowed from a series of custom bodies on Delage automobiles.

This c.1934 Delage Conduite Interieur Sport has a body by Letourneur et Marchand.  Because its B-pillar is truncated at the car's beltline, the design can be classed as "pillarless" even though that's only in a visual sense. This early example does not match the Judkins body shown above.

But this 1936 Delage D8-120 Aérosport Coupé by Letourneur et Marchand is an example of the design that inspired the 1938 Judkins Lincoln.  Photo via Hyman, Ltd.

Bonus image: Featured are Lincoln'e greyhound mascot and the round, blue, Art Deco style badge.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Four-Door Fiat 500s

Fiat's "500" model designation dates back to 1936 and the tiny Topolino (little mouse), as it was called.  The most recent version was launched in 2007 (Wikipedia entry here).  From a styling perspective, it is an attractive small car (wheelbase 78.7 inches, 2000 mm).

But the new 500 obviously had limited carrying capacity, so a few years later a larger (wheelbase 102.8 inches, 2610 mm) model, the 500L, was introduced.  According to this, it was considered to be a minivan.  I did not know that.  Seeing them on the road here in the USA, I assumed they were four-door sedans.  For one thing, they lack the expected minivan sliding side door.  A more apt description is that 500Ls are mini-crossover SUVs.  That's because they have normal hinged doors along with a small third side window and a sort of squared-off rear. It was the third window's design that struck me as being awkward, especially since I assumed them to be sedans (which they virtually were).

This shouldn't have surprised me, however, because the Mini Countryman featured a similar window treatment since 2010.

Shortly after the 500L appeared, Fiat launched the 500X, an actual four-door sedan.  Even though they've been marketed in America for a couple years, I never really noticed them until I was in Italy recently.  Perhaps that was due to low sales volumes here or possibly because the styling is closer to that of the base 500 than the more distinctive 500L's.

Like the 500, the 500X is attractively styled for its size, whereas the 500L is not.


A 2008 Fiat 500 (reference photo).

2018 Fiat 500L.  It is slightly longer than the 2012 version due to a facelift.

Side view.  As the link above mentions, the 500L package is slightly more cab-forward than on other 500s.

Rear quarter view.  Its rear cargo zone is larger than those on other 500s, but is not large if rear seats are not folded.  The aft side window transitions awkwardly to the C-pillar and rest of the forward part of the passenger greenhouse.

2015 Fiat 500X, a four-door hatchback sedan.  Slightly shorter than the 500L, it lacks the cab-forward proportion, being about the same frontal design as regular 500s.

Rear quarter view.  Nicer looking than BMW's Mini from this perspective due to its more conventional C-pillars.  Note the roof rack.

Side view comparison of a 2019 500X (here) with a 2013 500L (below).

The 500L's larger cabin area can be seen here.  All things considered, it is a slightly more versatile and practical package than the 500X, but not as attractive.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

C-Pillar Black Divider Swath Fad

Some of the library books about industrial design from the 1930s that I read when I was young seemed to go along with the contemporary Architecture ideology that designers should strive for functional, truth-to-materials purity in their creations.   No doubt there were car designers in the USA and, more likely Europe (due to the Bauhaus influence), who pursued such ideals.  But the men in charge of styling departments knew that a major function of a car's design was to sell in appropriate numbers.  And to do that, a certain amount of attention to fashion had to be paid.

To be in step with fashion means that popular features introduced by a competitor might be borrowed to appease potential buyers who value being au courant.  I myself was caught up with that when I was in my teens.  If a car maker wasn't offering four-door hardtop convertibles or the correct type of wraparound windshields, then I would urge my father to not consider those products.

Nowadays when wind tunnel tests largely determine overall body shapes, exterior stylists are reduced to coming up with distinctive cladding features to differentiate brands and models.  Usually this takes the form of sheet metal sculpting and angular front and rear detailing elements.

A recent fad is for black patches or swaths, sometimes with chromed edges, placed on cars' C-pillars as a kind of faux (non-structural) division between the roof and the lower body of the vehicle.  Even though I left the Church of Functionality decades ago, this latest styling touch strikes me as being utterly phony: an important line has been crossed.

Below are some examples.


1953 Packard Balboa Concept Car
Here we see a sculpted element at the base the C-pillar that clearly separates the passenger compartment roof from the lower body.  Because it is sculpted, it gives the appearance of being structural, and therefore is "believable."

2017 Chevrolet Bolt
The recent separators of roofs and lower bodies are clearly cosmetic.  The Bolt's separator conflicts with the rest of the styling and adds visual clutter.  The car would look nicer without it.

2018 GMC Terrain
I couldn't locate a factory photo that clearly illustrates the Terrain's divider.  But you might be able to see that it, along with strongly tinted side windows, hints at being wraparound rear windows.
It wasn't visible in the photos I consulted, but it turns out that in that C-pillar black zone there lies a very small window intended for passengers in third-row seats.

2018 Honda Odyssey
No chromed edges here.  Just a clearly tacked-on element that clashes with the aft side window and actual shape of the C-pillar.

2018 Lexus RX L
Lexuses have featured extreme angularity in recent model years.  Here the black swath gives the C-pillar a wedged shape that it lacks in reality.

2019 Nissan Altima
This black element is comparatively discrete and almost yields a coherent theme.  Some work is needed where it touches the side window.