Monday, November 2, 2015

DeSoto's Miller Racer-Inspired Grilles

Until about 1931, American cars faced the world with flat-faced, vertical radiator/grilles.  The Cord L29, introduced in the summer of 1929, featured a V'd grille.  By 1931, a few other brands including Chrysler and Reo did the same.  Flat fronts were largely abandoned for the 1932 model year.

Most brands opted for V'd grilles, some shallow, others bolder.  Some such grilles remained vertical and others began to lean backwards.

One marque didn't take that route.  Chrysler's DeSoto featured curved grilles clearly inspired by some of  Harry Miller's famous racing cars.


1925 Miller Junior 8 Special
I took this photo in 2012 at the LeMay automobile museum in Tacoma.  It features the distinctive Miller radiator/grille, the theme that apparently inspired DeSoto stylists.

1932 DeSoto
The photo presumably appeared in a DeSoto advertisement.  It clearly shows the similarity to Miller grilles -- closely spaced horizontal bars combined with three vertical bars.

1932 DeSoto
Another view of DeSoto's front.

1933 DeSoto
Windshields were tilted slightly backwards on 1932 DeSotos, and for 1933 the grilles did the same.  I suppose this was in response to the growing trend to aerodynamic-inspired style.  The following model year DeSoto went whole-hog aerodynamic, the entire line having Airflow bodies.

1933 DeSoto
Another view of the 1933 DeSoto, this taken in Nice, France.

For some reason, I've never liked those DeSoto curved grilles.  A possible reason is that since nearly all other 1932-33 American cars had grilles ranging from V'd to flat, angular appearance was the norm, so DeSoto's grille seemed strange by comparison.  But a more likely reason has to do with the fact that DeSoto bodies, while new for 1932, largely carried over the boxy, angular style of the 1920s to which was added the soft, rounded grille.  The grille also pushed farther forward than most V'd grilles and looked heavy thanks to its curved surface.

In sum, it unbalanced the overall design, making for a slightly nose-heavy look.

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