Monday, April 4, 2016

Angled Four-Eyed American Cars

Quad headlights, despite whatever technological improvements they embodied, had a negative impact on automobile aesthetics -- something I've always believed.  The reason is that the front of a car is its face.  Insects and a few other creatures excepted, we expect to see only two eyes, not one or four or more.  Four eyes or headlights seems unnatural.

Quads began appearing on some 1957 model U.S. cars and were common by the following model year.

A reader reminded me in an email that some quad headlights were arranged in a slanted manner rather than being placed vertically or side-by-side, and thought that might be a good subject for a blog post.  He was right, and this is that post.


1958 Chevrolet Corvette
I think the quad-headlight facelift of 1957 Corvettes was a design-destroying event.  The side-by-side positioning seen here is the most common quad arrangement.

1956 Lincoln - Mecum Auctions photo
Let's now follow Lincoln headlights for model years 1956-1960.  The 1956 Lincoln in the above photo has conventional headlights.

1957 Lincoln
Lincolns were given a major -- unsuccessful -- facelift for 1957.  Quad headlights were introduced, and stylists gave them a stacked arrangement.

1958 Lincoln - Auctions America photo
1958 saw a complete redesign for Lincoln that resulted in a huge, unitary body.  Stylists apparently decided that side-by-side and stacked quad headlights were not very creative solutions to the four-headlight problem.  Their solution was to place them at an angle with the uppermost lights closest to the body's edge.

1959 Lincoln - Mecum Auctions photo
The 1959 facelift retained the angled arrangement, but include the headlights in the grille ensemble.

1960 Lincoln - Barrett-Jackson photo
1960 was the last year for this Lincoln body and the front end was lightly facelifted.  Redesigned 1961 Lincolns got side-by-side headlights.

1959 Buick - auction photo
Buick used slanted headlights only on its 1959 line.  This design is busy, but more successful than the others shown here thanks to the chromed strip along the front of the hood that continues along the sides of the car.

1961 Chrysler Newport - Barrett-Jackson photo
Chrysler went to angled headlight for 1961 and 1962.  Unlike the 1959 Buick, this design is uncluttered.  But the slanted lights created some unfortunate fussiness in the form of the oddly-shaped parking lights.

1961 DeSoto - RM Auctions photo
1961 was the last model year for DeSotos, and few were built.  The bumper, headlight positioning and parking lights are the same as that for the Chrysler in the previous photo.  The overall front ensemble is an ugly mess largely due to the odd upper grille element.  What a sad way for a fine brand to die.

1962 Chrysler Newport - sales photo
The main front-end change from 1961 is the grille detailing, though the headlight assemblies have darker background panels.  A more important change is the elimination of tail fins.

1962 Dodge Polara - Barrett-Jackson photo
Dodge stylists got "creative" with angled headlights for the 1962 Polara model, pulling an Old Switcheroo by having the highest headlights inbound and the lower ones at body's edge.

1963 Dodge Polara - Auctions America photo
The following year Polaras went to the conventional angle arrangement.

Thus more or less ended the American romance for slanted quad headlights.


Duke-one said...

Like the Lincolns, the 59 Buick, 62 Chrysler; the other ones I could live without. Have seen a few Rolls (1950's or so I think) with angled lights I thought were real dignified. Nice website. KDM

Jacob Horowitz said...

Succinct write up. Thanks.