Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vauxhall's Concave Accents

In the early days of the automobile industry, a number of manufacturers tried to establish stylistic iconography so as to make their cars instantly recognizable.  Examples include Rolls-Royce's "tombstone" radiator/grill ensemble and Packard's red hexagons on wheel hubs and hubcaps.  This worked fairly well from around 1910 into the early 1930s when automobile hoods, headlamps, bumpers and fenders were the major visual elements of the car's front end, and they were physically distinct.   Blending of these elements began in earnest starting around the 1934 model year, and by 1950 most cars had so-called "envelope bodies" where all those bits except the bumpers were integrated into one mass.  This usually made it difficult to maintain distinguishing iconography.

A case in point is the British brand Vauxhall (Wikipedia entry here).  Before 1910, Vauxhall came up with the idea of placing tapered, concave depressions on each side of the hood where it transitions from horizontal to vertical.  Visually, these seem to be scooped out from the hood mass.  British car styling being conservative and World War 2 having dealt a serious blow to the economy, Vauxhall cars didn't receive fully envelope-styled bodies until the early 1950s.  Nevertheless, these concave streaks continued on Vauxhalls until the 1957 model year began their disappearance.


1909 Vauxhall

1920 Vauxhall D Type

1927 Vauxhall Type 30-98
These Vauxhalls are from the era when exterior components were separate units.  The tapered depression is clearly seen on the 1920 and 1927 vehicles.

1936 Vauxhall Big Six

1939 Vauxhall advertisement
By the mid to late 1930s, Vauxhall bodies were becoming increasingly rounded, yet stylists still had no difficulty incorporating the traditional hood accents.

1948 Vauxhall Wyvern or Velox
Vauxhall's first post-war body retained a tall hood that could support the accents (which were embellished by chrome plating).  But there was now a disconnect with the grille which was horizontal and low.

1955 Vauxhall brochure cover
Another complete body restyling appeared in the mid-50s, the transition to the envelope type being completed.  The hood was now lowered, leaving less room for the accents.  Another complete restyling came in the form of the 1957 Vauxhall Victor whose hood was lower than the fender tops.  There being no place for the accents, they finally disappeared.

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