Monday, August 10, 2015

Styling Crime: Škoda 440-445

In the early 1950s Škoda was tucked behind the Iron Curtain, largely hidden from the prying eyes of automotive journalists here in the United States.  Those journalists probably didn't give Škoda much attention anyway because its cars were not imported to the USA and therefore weren't newsworthy.  Whatever the reasons were, I never knew whether or not the firm had a styling department.  Yet someone or some group was responsible for the appearance of Škoda cars in those days.

So who is to blame for those ugly 440-445 models produced 1955-59?  Some unknown (to me) stylist or stylists?  The company's engineering department?  Management?  Well, management, for sure, because somebody had to agree to release the design for production.  Blame might also be placed on budgetary constraints and the level of metal-shaping technology available to the firm when the 440 was under development.

For some background on the Škoda 440 series try this link.  It's in Czech, so you might have to use a web browser translation feature if one is available.

Images of 440s and 445s are below.  Date citations are approximate.


1955 Škoda 440 side view.  One-piece, curved windshield and backlight aside, the passenger compartment greenhouse and trunk ensemble has an awkward, late-1940s look.  The pontoon fender line would have been improved if it was slightly more curved with a modest kickup near the rear wheel opening.  What was needed was the aft part of the fender to be closer and roughly parallel to the fold just below the lower edge of the window.  As it is, it allows the especially awkward area around the C-pillar unneeded emphasis.  Then there is that odd bulge atop the front fender opening; I find it inexplicable.  Finally, note the protruding, chromed headlight housings that have a cheap, tacked-on appearance.

From the rear, this 440 seems very tall, an impression created in part by the bland, curved trunk and the low, bulged fender.  More of a bustle-back for the trunk and higher, less bulged fenders might have improved matters.

I suspect engineers had a large hand in the styling defects mentioned thus far.  But perhaps a stylist or an engineer with artistic inclinations was responsible for the grille design that is busy-looking and unrelated to the rest of the car.  On second thought, maybe a ne'er-do-well nephew of a commissar was responsible.

Škoda 445 from 1957 or so.  The visible changes are the 50s-fashionable two-tome paint job and upper-grille ornamentation that harmonizes better with the dominant bars on the lower grille.

A publicity photo of a 445.  The car is ugly.  The girl isn't, thank heaven.

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