Monday, July 28, 2014

1941 Pontiac: All-Around Entertaining

Somewhere I read that General Motors' styling vice president Harley Earl stated something to the effect that an automobile should be visually entertaining while one was walking all the way around it.  I don't know if this was a backhanded slap at functionalist-purist design, but chances are, it wasn't.  That's because Earl knew that his job was to create designs that could attract potential buyers and lead to sales of GM products.  Design purity probably was not a major consideration for him unless he thought it might favorably influence sales.

A nice example of this entertainment, assuming that Earl actually made that observation (as I suspect he did), was the 1941 Pontiac.  It was the GM brand that year that could actually entertain for all 360 degrees.   That's because, until the 1950s, most American cars had rather plain rear ends.  Pontiac, on the other hand had its Silver Streak styling, a set of parallel chrome ridges extending along the center line of the hood and sometimes down into the grille.  This feature appeared on 1935 Pontiacs and continued in one form or another through the 1956 model year.  Starting in 1937 and continuing through 1954 (the 1939 model year excepted), Pontiac sedans also had such streaks running down the middle of their trunks, creating interest there.

I'm using the 1941 Pontiac rather than another year because Earl's stylists added a lot of busyness to the fenders, making '41s especially entertaining.  Well, that and the fact that my father owned a 1941 Pontiac that gave young me plenty of visual and tactile entertainment.


Here is a nice establishment view of a restored 1941 Pontiac in the form of a sales publicity photo.

This view of the grille shows the Silver Streaks descending over the nose and connecting to an Indian chief medallion.  The five streaks are echoed in three ridges descending from the headlamp bezels.  Even smaller echoes can be seen near the tops of the bumper guards.  The vertical element dividing the grille also has some parallel linear decoration.  A subtle touch is the positioning of the running lights at the top grille slot; note how they terminate under the hood cut-line.

Shallow fender grooves were introduced for 1941, yet another variation of those Streaks.  This car has chrome accents on them, but not on the similar grooves on the rubber rock guard on the leading edge of the rear fender.

Another sales photo for a restored Pontiac.  The fender grooves on this car are not chromed, in contrast to the car in the previous photo.  The Silver Streaks on the trunk are seen here.  If you enlarge this image you will see small, dark parallel lines on the chrome areas on either side of the tail lights.  The central bumper guard, like the ones in front, also continues the theme.
Thus ends our entertaining walk-around of 1941 Pontiac styling.

No comments: