Monday, July 7, 2014

Next Year, Add Two More Headlamps

As this segment of a Wikipedia article indicates, for many years starting in 1940, state laws in the United States specified what an automobile headlight should be.  At first, this was a sealed-beam headlamp seven inches (178mm) in diameter.  In the mid-1950s, state legislatures changed laws so as to permit "quad" headlamp systems, one pair of lights having low-high beams and the other pair being exclusively high-beam.  The dual-beam lamp was smaller than the previous standard, and the single-beam lamp was smaller yet.  This change was completed by all states in time for the 1958 model year (though dual headlamps of the older kind were still permitted).

Automobile manufacturers whose lines were due for a 1958 redesign could set stylists to the task of conceiving the new designs with quad headlamps in mind.   Companies not planning redesigns and wishing to have their cars look fashionable had to facelift front ends to accommodate the additional headlamps.   The present post presents some examples of quad headlamp induced facelifts.


1958 Chevrolet
Chevrolets got redesigned bodies for the 1958 model year, so stylists planned for quad headlamps pretty much from the start.  They even included quad running lights mounted on the grille.

1957 Chrysler Saratoga
Chrysler Corporation introduced redesigned cars for 1957, but took care to have headlight settings large enough to allow for quad headlamps.

1957 Chrysler New Yorker
This car auction photo shows a '57 Chrysler with quads; they were sold in states where they were legal, according to the link above.

1956 Nash
Nash introduced quad headlights on its 1957 line.  Shown here is the 1956 Nash design that had to be facelifted.

1957 Nash Ambassador
And this is the result.  Since 1957 was the final year for the Nash brand, the facelift had to be inexpensive.  So the hood and grille retained their 1956 shapes.  Fenders were re-capped so that quad headlamps could be installed in a stacked arrangement and the grille bars were restyled.  Other changes included a larger front wheel opening and repositioned side chrome strips.

1957 Ford Fairlane
I consider the 1957 Ford Fairlane one of the nicest mid-1950s American designs.

1958 Ford
Ford management wanted quad headlamps for 1958, so the fine '57 design was sacrificed.  Actually, the front end isn't all that bad, a possible improvement over the bug-eyed '57.  What ruined the design were the revised rear and the new side trim that worked against the non-facelifted metal sculpting.  And the 1959 facelift was even worse.

1956 Lincoln Primiere
Here is a nice auction photo of the 1956 Lincoln.  It was a large car, but elegantly styled.

1957 Lincoln
The quad-headlight facelift was not a success, as this advertising image shows.  The hood was as before, including the cut-outs on the lower edges.  Also about the same is the grille-front bumper ensemble.  The quad headlamps were stacked and pushed forward from the 1956 position.  I'll discuss the rest of the facelift in another post.

1957 Oldsmobile
By the mid-1950s, General Motors' styling chief Harley Earl was both approaching retirement and running out ideas regarding future style directions.  His 1957 cars were more rounded and therefore heavier looking than the competition -- see the '57 Ford and Chryslers above.

1958 Oldsmobile
Matters deteriorated for 1958, as this Oldsmobile auction photo shows.  In those days, GM could easily afford extensive facelifts.  So along with adding the new headlights, Oldsmobile got a new hood, grille and bumpers, not to mention revised side sheet metal sculpting and trim.  This design is a mess.

1957 Studebaker President
Studebaker, on the other hand, was strapped for cash.  Its final basic sedan body set was introduced for the 1953 model year and given a major facelift in 1956.  The 1957s got a simplified grille and some trim changes.  What might be done with regard to the impending quad headlamps?

1958 Studebaker Champion
Lacking money, Studebaker simply grafted a lumpish shape at the front of the fender.  It was large enough to accommodate either dual or quad headlights; here is a dual headlight example.

1958 Studebaker President
Here is a quad-headlamp 1958 Studebaker.  They should have kept the '57 styling and put effort into a better job on the tailfins.

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