Monday, September 15, 2014

Counteracting Turret-Top Visual Bloat

Automobile design changed drastically during the decade of the Great Depression as manufacturers accelerated evolutionary trends in an effort to regain the sales levels experienced during the late 1920s.   One innovation was the abandonment of the "composite" body, where wooden framing was covered by sheet metal.  The replacement was all-steel construction, in part facilitated by improvements in rolled steel sizes and stamping techniques.

General Motors launched its all-steel "Turret Top" bodies on much of its 1936 line, as this link indicates.  The Turret Top design was strongly rounded, in part because the large, one-piece top stampings were intended to be stackable, and also because GM engineers thought that the shape would lessen acoustical "drumming."  (Previous tops had center sections with treated canvas inserts that dampened structure-related noise.)

Since the all-steel cars had rounded shapes, styling boss Harley Earl must have felt that having rounded windows would enhance the theme.  But the resulting designs seemed too soft-looking, and GM hurriedly tried to counteract the bloated effect in its 1937 models.  The basic body shapes could not be easily changed, but other parts such as hoods, grilles and fenders could be altered, and were.


1936 Buick Century
Here is a Buick four-door sedan sporting the rounded look.

1937 Buick Century
This is a two-door Buick from the following model year.  Its roof has a slightly different shape than that of the four-door.  But note the model year changes.  Fenders have more blunted rear ends.  The hood extends over the top of the grille, yielding a longer, more squared-off look.  The grille has horizontal rather then vertical bars and its shape is now two squared-off panels.

1936 Oldsmobile
Oldsmobiles also got the Turret Top and a rounded appearance not very different from Buick's

1937 Oldsmobile Eight
The 1937 facelift also incorporated an extended hood line.  Fenders are more squared-off at the rear then those of the '37 Buicks.

1937 Oldsmobile Six
Six cylinder and eight cylinder Oldsmobiles each had different grille designs for 1937 (and 1938 as well).  Both designs are a crisp contrast to the 1936 "fencer's mask" grille style.

1 comment:

Lisa Brown said...

Thanks for this great share buddy. Vintage oldsmobile models have been always my favorite; I have huge collection of their photographs and love to collect information about them and that is why I have bookmarked your link.