Monday, April 27, 2015

Pontiac's Consistent 1949-1954 Grille Theme

Some automobile marques maintained grille themes for decades.  Examples include Rolls-Royce, Packard and BMW.  Others redesigned grilles on a seemingly whimsical basis; Plymouth comes to mind.  Then there are cases where a grille theme may persist for several model years, only to be discarded and replaced by a considerably different design.  For example, I wrote about Ford's spinner theme here.

Another example of a grille theme that lasted for more than three or so years comes from the same time frame.  The present post deals with Pontiac grilles from the 1949 model year through 1954.  The theme featured a large, horizontal chromed bar, usually with a medallion at its center.  Below, and, on one occasion, above the bar as well were chromed "teeth" found most years.  Other strong chromed elements were added and changed from year to year.

This theme worked well while it lasted.  But by the mid-1950s, bold chromed shapes were beginning to fall out of fashion, so Pontiac stylists began to explore other themes.


This 1948 Pontiac's grille carried the previous theme.  I include this photo to set the scene.

Pontiac was completely restyled for 1949.  Here is the first iteration of the grille theme under discussion.  There is the bold, horizontal bar with "teeth" below it and a centered medallion.  Atop the bar are raised strakes aligned with the teeth below.

Pontiac's 1950 facelift dropped the teeth and replaced them with curved vertical bars.

1951 Pontiacs went back to teeth, though fewer of them.  A truncated V-shape was added towards the center, helping to frame the medallion.  I consider this and the '49 grilles the most successful examples of the theme.

Grilles on 1952 models were about the same as in 1951.  The difference was a fussy little faux air intake implanted on the upper framing chrome ensemble.

1953 Pontiacs got newer bodies that look suspiciously like hand-downs from older GM "B" bodies.  Teeth are absent from the grille, and the V had been upended in one of those "let's pull the old switcheroo" moments of styling creativity.  Actually, not a bad design, though not as nice as 1949 or 1951.

Pontiac stylists knew a new grille theme would be on the redesigned 1955 models, so for 1954 we find what seems to be a transitional design.  The central bar is split into a highly stretch oval that vaguely echoes the shape of the air intake opening.

The all-now 1955 Pontiac retained the horizonal bar as a visual element, though in fact it is the front bumper.  Teeth and other older ornamentation are gone, however, not to return.

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