Monday, December 15, 2014

1954 Cadillac: One of the Better-Looking Ones

Cadillac has been General Motors' luxury brand ever since it was absorbed into the corporation. Quality of Cadillac designs has varied over the years since the late 1920s when GM established its Art and Colour section under Harley Earl. My favorite post-classic era Cadillac styling is that for 1941.  Another good year, in my opinion, was 1954 -- the subject of this post.


1953 Cadillac - used car sales photo
This is to put the 1954 models into the context of their time.  The '53 design originated for the 1950 model year and featured heavy, large-radius curves and a high, long hood -- features that General Motors' styling boss Harley Earl is said to have preferred.

Harley Earl featured in 1954 Cadillac brochure
The 1954 redesign of GM's B (for smaller Oldsmobiles and Buicks) and C bodies (Cadillacs and large Olds and Buick models) came as a surprise to many.  With their wraparound windshields, the cars looked futuristic, and the leaner bodies with lower hoods enhanced this perception.  Click on images to enlarge.

1954 Cadillac - Barrett-Jackson auction photo
GM stylists were careful to carry over Cadillac symbol details from year to year, even when a totally new body was used, as in 1954.  (Not all were passed along, however.  A few might be dropped, and a few new symbols might be added.  The result for the typical Cadillac customer was one of perceived continuity.)  Carry-overs from 1953 model shown above included the cannon shell shaped front bumper guards, the eggcrate grille (originated in the late 1930s), the small tail fins that incorporated the taillights (inrtroduced for the 1948 model year), and the side chrome trim that included a vertical fake air intake.  The result was a pleasing design for its time, a design that was degraded in the years to come.

1954 Cadillac - front view - auction or sales photo

1955 Cadillac - side view
One change made for the 1956 facelift was trimming the vertical faux air intake.  The front chrome strip was extended to so that it curved into the vertical theme.  Another horizontal chromed strip was added to the rear fender.  It was at the same level as the forward strip to provide visual continuity, a wise decision.  To me, the chopped-down fake intake always sounded a false styling note; somehow, it didn't seem right.

1953 Cadillac Le Mans concept car
I think a better solution would have been to borrow the side theme from the 1953 Cadillac Le Mans concept car, a show car intended to preview 1954 Cadillac styling (note the similarity of the front ends).  Here the scoop (which looks like it was real, but didn't have to be so on production cars) is set back from the fender kick-up and doesn't extend to the full fender height.  A vertical faux scoop perhaps a bit shorter than this one and approximately centered vertically would have done nicely on a '56 facelift.  A slightly shorter horizontal rear fender chrome strip might have been retained -- or not.

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