Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Eyeless" 1942 DeSoto

Model year 1942 saw every American car brand except Willys getting a facelift that included, at a minimum, a changed grille.

The '42 facelift that always interested me the most was that of DeSoto, Chrysler Corporation's middle-upper price range offering (the sequence was Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler). This was almost entirely due to its hidden headlights feature.

Automobiles are perceived to have faces, the headlights serving as eyes.  DeSotos, therefore, had a curious, eyeless look because their headlights were hidden behind sliding doors when they were not turned on.  Cord 810 and 812 models from 1936-37 also had hidden headlights, but these pivoted open when switched on.  Door-based hidden headlights were planned for 1949 Lincolns, but instead they were left sunken and doorless.  Starting around the mid-1960s, several American makes began hiding headlights, a fad that lingered here and there for decades.

Although 1942 DeSoto grilles were bold and had plenty of chrome plating, the overall appearance was attractive for the era.


1941 DeSoto advertisement
An illustration, not a photo to set the stage.  For 1941, DeSoto switched to a vertical-bars grille theme that continued with variations through the 1955 model year.  1942 DeSotos had the same body as the '41s, the major difference being the frontal ensemble.

1942 DeSoto ad card
The tiny image at the lower right offers a fairly realistic version of the car.  I'm assuming the intent of the highly distorted main image was to stress the new design of DeSoto's front end and, in passing, make the car and its setting desirably futuristic.  Other DeSoto advertising material for 1942 featured equally distorted depictions.

Wartime ad featuring a 1942 DeSoto - Howard Scott, illustrator
A more realistic view of the DeSoto's front end.

1942 DeSoto 4-door sedan
1942 DeSoto coupe
1942 DeSoto convertible
Contemporary photos of '42 DeSotos.  Unfortunately, like circa 1942-1956 Studebaker sales images, they show the cars from about the same point of view.

1946 DeSoto 4-door sedan
The women in the car look like pasted-on images and airbrushing is also in evidence.  That's how American car advertising and promotion often worked in those days.  Otherwise, this offers a good view of the post - World War 2 DeSoto facelift.  Besides the return to exposed headlights, front fenders are extended over the front doors, and the grille has been widened.

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