Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ford's Faces for 1972

In my e-book "How Cars Faced the Market" I note that prestige brands tend to maintain front-end features over the years as a means of providing identity.  Rolls-Royce grilles are a prime example.  Moving down the hierarchy, grille designs become less consistent.  Perhaps a theme such as Ford's early 1950s spinners might be used for a few years and then dropped.  In other cases, a grille theme might last for only a couple of model years.

Though there were some mid-1930s exceptions, through the 1950s an American brand's grille design was used for all of its various models from entry level to the most expensive car offered.  This was because those models usually used the same basic body.  (General Motors' Oldsmobiles and Buicks often used more than one of GM's A, B and C bodies, but retained the same basic grille designs.)

Then around 1960 Detroit's Big Three carmakers introduced "compact" and shortly later "medium / intermediate" bodies to supplement their "standard" body lines.  At this point, brand continuity began to suffer across sub-models as well as over time.

The present post presents grilles used by the Ford brand for model year 1972, where thematic variation was considerable.

Unless otherwise noted, images below are of cars for sale or whose primary Internet source was unidentified.


Ford Galaxie, one of three standard-size Ford models (others: Custom, LTD) that used the same grille theme.  Image from Ford sales material.

Ford Pinto, Motor Trend image.  Pinto was Ford's compact model.  A much smaller car than the Galaxie, too small to use the same grill theme.

Ford Maverick, not quite as small as a Pinto.  Its headlight assemblies and general grille shape echo the Pinto's, though the grille bar pattern and turn-signal light shapes differ.

Ford Mustang, the sporty car.  Its front end is totally different from the standard Ford's and those of Pintos and Mavericks.

Ford Torino, a "medium" size car.  It grille/frontal theme also differs from the others.

Ford Thunderbird in a publicity photo.  It shared its body with the Lincoln Continental Mark III.  Its grille theme is somewhat like the Galaxie's because both designs were created under the influence of Ford's short-time president Bunkie Knudsen, who favored prominent "noses" on cars.

In some respects, these various Ford models might as well have been separate brands, because they functionally were such.  But to make that official would have required legal/contractural steps regarding dealers as well as expensive signage, plus likely additions to the corporate bureaucracy along with possible hiring of more advertising agencies.  Calling these diverse models Fords kept things simpler, and the general pattern holds today for most automobile manufacturers.

Monday, October 15, 2018

1939 Chrysler Line Really Was Facelifts of 1938 Cars

A while ago I posted speculation that, what at first glance appeared to be completely redesigned 1939 model year Dodges, DeSotos and Chryslers, in fact were extensive facelifts.  I stated:

"I don't have a definite answer to the question posed in this post's title. That would have to come from Chrysler archives, an automobile restoration expert or perhaps a knowledgeable member of a club devoted to one of the Chrysler Corporation brands active in the 1930s.

"My strong suspicion, however, is that the answer is 'no,' even though various publications in my automobile library state otherwise."

Now I have such evidence from one of my books that was hidden away in the basement.  Prolific automobile writer Jan Norbye on page 95 of this book states that the 1939 Chrysler line was comprised of greatly facelifted 1938 models.

Now that my suspicion is confirmed, let's take a further look at some '39s compared with early models based on the same body.


1937 Plymouth

1939 Plymouth
As mentioned in the earlier post, Plymouths only received restyle front ends from the cowling forward, including a new windshield.  The same was true for Dodge D-12s sold or assembled outside the USA.

1937 Dodge

1939 Dodge, Barrett-Jackson Auction photo
The previous post dealt only with 4-door sedans, so I thought I'd include some other body types: here are 2-door sedans.  1937 and 1938 2-door models had three door hinges.  1939 two-doors only had one exterior hinge, as the leading edge of the door was slightly reshaped as part of the change in the windshield from one-piece to V'd.  Otherwise the door frame is the same, as is the shape of its window.  It's hard to tell from these photos, but the aft side window outlines are either the same or very close to being so, even with a reshaped roof profile.

1937 DeSoto, promotional material

1939 DeSoto
Now for coupes.  Facelifting again is extensive, but the expensive-to-change cowling and body framing parts are essentially the same as those in previous years.  Like the 2-door sedans, earlier coupes had three exterior door hinges that were replaced at the leading cut-line for the facelift.  Side windows are clearly unchanged here, though the trunk lid is more rounded off.

1938 Chrysler

1939 Chrysler
Front door treatments are basically the same as discussed above, though 4-door sedans for 1937 and 1938 only had two exposed hinges.  The lower hinge was retained in the facelift, the upper one moved inside.  Otherwise, the front door and window are the same aside from the front cut line.  The rear door is partly reshaped, especially the C-pillar, and hinges are relocated.

1937 Chrysler Imperial

1939 Chrysler Imperial
The same applies to Chrysler's line-topping Imperials.  This view illustrates how dramatically different the post-facelift cars were.  A lengthened wheelbase placing the front axle line farther forward of the cowling helps this distinction.

Unless otherwise noted, images are of cars for sale.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Chevrolet Corvette Concepts at the 1954 Motorama

They were called Dream Cars back in the mid-1950s, not some nerdy, clinical label such as Concept Cars.  The whole idea for young automobile styling fans in the USA, Canada and parts of Europe and Asia was keep their senses on high alert for any new information regarding Dream Cars from Detroit.  Peak excitement was reserved for the announcement of what General Motors was presenting in its latest Motorama extravaganza that combined show biz, current products and ... YES!! ... Dream Cars.

Whereas Ford Motor Company show cars in those days often verged on fantasies of a Science-Fiction nature, GM's Motorama fare was a mix of exciting, semi-practical designs (Oldsmobile Golden Rocket), moderately customized production cars (Pontiac Parisienne, Cadillac Orleans), and items that were practical enough to have production potential.

Some of the latter are this post's subject matter.  The first-generation Chevrolet Corvette appeared as a show car in the January 1953 New York Motorama and reached production in the middle of that year.  January 1954 was the next Motorama and it contained three Dream Car variations on the Corvette.

I find the timing interesting.  For those Corvette variations to arrive at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel early in 1954, they had to have been designed not much later than the summer of '53.  At that time, no one at GM could be sure how successful Corvette's sales would be.  As it happened, only 315 Corvettes were produced in 1953 and 1954 production was the not-large number 3,640.  It took several more model years for the Corvette to establish itself in the market.

So those Corvette-based show cars were highly speculative, probably created in the hope that Corvette sales would be much greater than actually happened.  Of the three cars, one became production in a trivial sense, another's styling features appeared on later production Chevrolets and Pontiacs, and the third went nowhere.  Here is another take on those show cars.


Here come the models!  The photo-shoot setting is probably Miami Florida's Dinner Key, once Pan American's seaplane terminal and now a marina and Miami's City Hall.  Miami was a Motorama site in 1954.

The ladies are now behind the wheels.  Nearest is a production Corvette.  Behind it is a Corvette with an experimental removable top that later entered production.  The third car is the Corvette Corvair fastback closed-body Dream Car.  The Corvair name was used on Chevrolet's rear-engine compact cars of the 1960s.  Last in line is the Chevrolet Nomad station wagon that I'll term "Corvette Nomad" here, because that's what it was.

Color photo of the cars in the same order.

Another pose.

This is perhaps the most widely used image from the shoot.

The Corvette with the hard top.

"Foam green" is the term used for this Corvair's paint job.  Sources say five were built, the Waldorf version being painted red.  None are known to exist, though replicas have been built by Corvette enthusiasts.

Rear three-quarter view.  This was an attractive design that might have seen production had early Corvette sales been strong.

The Nomad as seen probably in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom, the New York Motorama site.  The design of its greenhouse was used on 1955-57 production Chevrolet Nomad and Pontiac Safari station wagons.

Rear three-quarter view.

Monday, October 8, 2018

1950-51 Ford Crestliner

I wrote about General Motors' first-generation hardtop convertibles here.  In that post I mentioned that that they first appeared on the upper end of GM's brand hierarchy (Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac) during the 1949 model year.  The style was instantly popular, and hardtops were added to the Chevrolet and Pontiac lines for 1950.

Other manufacturers were forced to play catch-up.  Ford Motor Company didn't bother adding hardtops to its Mercury and Lincoln brands until they got new bodies for 1952.  Instead, models with vinyl top coverings were marketed in an attempt to offer sportier options for potential customers.  It wasn't until 1950 that Mercury and Lincoln announced, respectively, the Monterey and Cosmopolitan Capri Coupe.

Ford did the same for 1950 in the form of its Crestliner.  Some background is here, the most relevant bits in the final paragraph:

"The Crestliner was introduced in July 1950, late in the model year. That helped limit sales to 18,000 units, the smallest component of the 1.2 million Fords built that year. The model was continued into 1951 but sold even fewer cars. For the all-new 1952 lineup, Ford used “Crestline” as the name of a line of cars, without distinctive trim. By 1955, the Crestline name had completely disappeared from Ford's lineup."

I'll continue the story in the captions below.


A 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe, Barrett-Jackson auction photo. This popular model was what Ford had to somehow compete against.

And this is Ford's late-1950 Crestliner shown in a set of "for sale" photos.  It was a two-door sedan sporting vinyl roof covering, a unique two-tone paint chromed divider and a special color scheme.

Side view.  Rear wheel spats were part of the package.

Front three-quarter view.  Arguably a fussier, less attractive design than found on ordinary '50 Fords.

1951 Fords got a new grille featuring two!! spinners instead of one.  The rear fender tail light assembly extension sculpting was given chrome sheathing.  The Crestliner two-tone trim was revised by the inclusion of the horizontal chrome strip seen here.  Barrett-Jackson photo.

Crestliners were never a strong response to Chevy Bel Airs, so Ford spent money it possibly wished it didn't have to in the form of a true hardtop convertible, the Ford Victoria.  The reason why Ford management was probably unhappy taking that risk was that Fords were completely redesigned for 1952, and this Victoria was in production for only one year, its sales marginally justifying its development expense.  "For sale" photo.

Production data are as follows: 1950 Crestliners, 17,601; 1951 Crestliners, 8,703; 1951 Victorias, 110,286.  Chevrolet produced 76,662 Bel Airs for 1950 and 103,356 for 1951, the body continuing in production for 1952 where an additional 74,634 were built before Chevrolets were redesigned for 1953.  The '51 Ford Victoria was highly competitive, but over the three model years that Chevy produced its first-generation Bel Airs,  254,652 units were built.  However, besides the Bel Airs, Pontiac marked its Catalina hardtop that used the same basic GM A-body.  I haven't been able to find Catalina sales over 1950-52, but they were probably on the order of 100,000.   So overall, Chevrolet and Pontiac A-body hardtops were clearly a better return on development costs than Ford's 1951 effort.

Crestliners sold poorly, but they had the virtue of being cheap to develop, being Ford Tudors with fancy trim.

The Long, Low Lamborghini Espada

Lamborghini, now part of Volkswagen's empire, was founded in 1963, 55 years ago.  As this list indicates, its first cars appeared a year later, and the Miura, the model that put the company on American car buff radar, arrived in 1966.  It was the first Lamborghini named after a Spanish fighting bull.

The second bull-named Lamborghini was the Espada, launched in 1968, the subject of this post. Some background can be found here that mentions Espada styling was by Marcello Gandini at Bertone.

Years before, General Motors' styling boss Harley Earl favored designs that either were long and low or at least looked that way.  He was not alone.  As early as 1905 the American Underslung brand built cars with large wheels and the chassis set below the axle lines.  By the time the Espada was designed, low and long was common automobile industry practice.

But Gandini took this to to something approaching an extreme for a car nominally holding four people.


The Espada was aggressive looking: note the stark dual headlights.  There were aerodynamic touches such as the NACA jet fighter- shaped airscoops on the hood.  The front bumper was essentially non-functional.  What seem to be hot air outlets flank the front wheel opening.  The car also is quite flat -- hardly any radius to the roof and hood.  This is contrasted by the comparatively heavy C-pillar area and the rounded lower profile of the rear quarter windows.

Another frontal view.

The rear looks less heavy seen from this angle, aided by the crisp shape transitions and details.  Note how the back window relates to the curve line of the quarter window and the air vent's relationship to the upper side window line.  Nevertheless, the need for housing back seat passengers required a high roof line and plenty of sheet metal real estate abaft of the rear axle line.  The rear bumper is as sketchy as the one up front.

Side view.  Here the design seems most awkward.  The very low hood might be too low because it makes the passenger compartment seem a bit too high by comparison.  Details on the front fender look too pinched from this perspective.  The slight faceting on the C-pillar just below the air vent does not relate to the quarter window shape, though it does break what otherwise might be a monotonous swath of sheet metal.

The Espada's direct competition was the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 of 1968-71 shown here in a Barrett-Jackson photo (365 GT Wikipedia entry here -- scroll down).  It too has a low hood and comparatively high cabin with plentiful glass area.  Its roofline curves down to the trunk far more aggressively, probably at the expense of back sear headroom.  But the effect is that of a lighter, cleaner-looking looking design, this aided by the lack of the sort of details scattered over the Espada.  The Ferrari was more successful in the marketplace with sales of 800 during its three-year run, whereas there were 1217 Espadas sold over a ten year period -- a much lower annual rate.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The One-Year-Only Packard Executive

Packard, once upon a time America's leading luxury brand, was about to disappear during the 1956 model year.  Cars bearing the Packard name were marketed through 1958, but those post-1956 cars were essentially facelifted Studebakers and not, so far as true Packard fans are concerned, actual Packards.

The Clipper brand was created for the '56 model year.  Previously, Clipper was the name of a Packard model --  for 1953-55, the entry-level Packard.  I wrote about the Clipper brand here.

A fairly detailed account of the 1956 Packard Executive is here.  It was a Clipper with a Packard grille and slightly different side trim.  The concept was that the top of the Clipper line would be dropped (it was) and the Executive would be the entry-level for the Packard brand.

My speculation is that Packards were selling poorly, that production at the Connor Avenue (Detroit) plant would be terminated soon regardless, and that there was a supply of Packard grilles that would otherwise be excess, but might be used on a new model.  Hence, the Executive as a means of using up those grille components.  Otherwise, the Executive was given minimal distinction from its Clipper origin.


This is a 1956 Packard hardtop, Mecum auctions photo.

Another Mecum photo, this of a 1956 Clipper sedan.  Note the differences in grills and side trim.

Rear quarter view of a Clipper hardtop to be auctioned.  This shows the distinctive Clipper rear styling and a better view of its side trim.

Factory image of a Packard Executive sedan.  The grille is Packard's.

1956 Packard Executive for sale.  The only difference from Clippers seen here is the lower boundary of the two-tone panel -- very inexpensive to develop.

Rear quarter view, same car.  As noted, essentially a Clipper: Packards had a different rear end treatment.

Finally, another view of a Packard Executive sedan from an unknown image source.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

How Continental Was the Mark III?

What is a Lincoln Continental?  That can be hard to determine because marketers have applied that name to different kinds of cars since 1940.  Originally, what began as a customized car for Edsel Ford entered production and was named the Lincoln-Zephyr Continental.  Once the large, expensive K-series Lincolns were dropped, the Zephyr name was also eliminated.  Original-style Lincoln Continentals were produced through the 1948 model year, but they too were dropped when postwar redesigns appeared for 1949.  Then, in a modernized form, they were briefly revived 1956-57 as a separate Continental brand, the cars being called Continental Mark II.  After that project folded the term Lincoln Continental returned and was applied to regular Lincolns for many years.  In the late 1960s the original, sporty Continental coupe concept was revived.  But the Continental name was already in use, so the new cars were named Continental Mark III, not quite a separate brand (1958 Lincolns sedans also used that name, but it was re-used here).  Various Mark numerals appeared for years thereafter when redesigns entered production, the last being the 1993-98 Mark VIII.  Recently, a Lincoln Continental sedan has reappeared.

For some Wikipedia background, you might try linking here and here. I wrote about the Continental Mark II here and here.

The present post deals with styling of the Continental Mark III and how it related to previous non-sedan Continentals.

In terms of market position, these were closer to the original Continentals than were the Mark IIs.  The late Paul R. Woudenberg in this book noted that while early Continentals were expensive, they were not the most costly cars.  But the Mark IIs were planned to be the most expensive: They were priced at $10,000, a lot back in 1956.  For example, the most expensive Lincoln Primiere hardtop coupe was listed for about $4,600 and the mid-line Ford Customline four-door sedan was around $2,000.  Mark IIIs in 1969 were priced about $6,800, more than other Lincolns.  A Cadillac Sixty Special sedan sold for the about the same amount.  But if a rich buyer wanted to spend serious money on a car, he'd have the shell out more than $24,000 for a "Große Mercedes" 600 in the late 1960s.  So Mark IIs were indeed in a similar market level to the originals, and they sold well.

Continental Mark IIIs were introduced in the spring of 1968, but essentially were 1969 models: that's how I'm treating them here.  First some side-views, then images of rear quarters.


1940 Lincoln-Zephyr Continental Cabriolet, RM Auctions photo
The original Continental of 1939 and most 1940 versions were convertibles whose tops had blanked-out rear quarters.

1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe
This coupe design was added in 1940 and became the better-selling style.  The theme of its passenger greenhouse is retained in later versions, as is an echo of the rear-mounted spare tire.  Therefore, our focus is on these two elements rather than on the front ends.

1957 Continental Mark II, Barrett-jackson photo
The greenhouse theme is revived in cleaner form, but with a conservatively shaped wraparound windshield rather than the Lincoln-Zephyr style flat windscreen of 1939.  Also carried over is the long hood proportion relative to the greenhouse.

1969 Continental Mark III, Mecum auction photo
Proportions exclusive of trunks are retained here, as is the greenhouse theme.  Front overhang is considerable, but necessary given the body platform used (see below).

1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe
Again, the starting point.  Besides the long, comparatively low hood, what characterized original Continentals were the short, squared-off trunk and the external rear-mounted, covered spare tire.

1956 Continental Mark II
This photo is all over the Internet, but I can't locate its origin.  The back window is wider than those of first-generation coupes.  The spare tire is not mounted externally, but does lie inside the trunk bulge denoting it: functional, but annoying when trying to load/unload the trunk.

1969 Continental Mark III, Mecum photo
The top declines towards the rear, so the backlight is shorter than on the Mark II though the width is similar.  The spare tire shape on the trunk lid is largely a false element, as spare tires were normally laid flat on trunk floors.

1969 Continental Mark III, Hyman, Ltd. photo
Frontal Mark III styling.  This image is included to illustrate that these cars were built on the same platform as Ford Thunderbirds.  Compare the cowl area and the windshield design to the car in the photo below.  Mark IIIs had slightly longer wheelbases than did Thunderbirds.

1969 Thunderbird
Besides the windshields, note the front overhang that in part was intended to provide for long hoods.

Unless otherwise noted, images are for cars posted for sale.