Monday, August 22, 2016

1955 LaSalle II Sedan Concept Car

1955 LaSalle II sedan concept car was one of a pair using the name of a defunct General Motors brand that served as a companion car to Cadillac (Wikipedia entry here).  The other car was a roadster.  These and other dream cars, as they were popularly called, were displayed at the 1955 version of General Motors' Motorama.  Motoramas were cars-plus-entertainment shows that usually first opened at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel and then moved on to a few other large cities.  During the mid-1950s, GM usually included a number of dream cars along with production models.  The appearance of two LaSalle-badged show cars led to some speculation in car buff magazines that GM might be intending to resurrect the brand.

More information on the LaSalle II sedan can be found here.  It was much smaller than standard 1955 American sedans, having a wheelbase of 108 inches (2,743 mm). This was the same as that for GM's eventual compact car entry, the 1960 Corvair, or more currently, the 2001 Ford Mondeo.

Both LaSalle show cars were to have been destroyed, GM's usual policy at the time. But they managed to survive, badly deteriorated, to be acquired by the Bortz collection of concept cars. The sedan's entry on the Bortz web site is here.


Here is the front design of the 1940 LaSalle, the last production year for the brand.  Starting with the 1934 model, a LaSalle visual identification feature was a tall, narrow radiator grille.  Those narrow, vertical slots on the catwalks appeared only on 1940 models, but were to be retained on the cancelled 1941 cars.  Barrett-Jackson auctions photo.

Part of the Waldorf-Astoria 1955 Motorama display area.  The LaSalle II sedan is in the middle, flanked on the right by what looks like a 1955 Cadillac and on the left by the Pontiac Strato-Star dream car.

Another view of the LaSalle II sedan at a Motorama show probably not at the Waldorf.  A 1940-style vertical grille was considered old-fashioned in mid-1950s America (for example, recall the unfavorable reception of the 1958 Edsel's design).  That, and the comparatively low hood probably influenced stylists to take a different approach.  What they did was borrow the 1940 catwalk slots to use as the main grille.  But those four horizontal swaths with rounded ends that wrap around the body below the headlights suggest the '40 vertical grille shape if it were laid on its side.  Front bumpers are light, but the bumper guards look lethal.  Headlight assemblies recall those on the 1940 cars.

A poor quality photo of the rear, but it's all I could find on the internet.  It seems to have been taken at a car show and not a Motorama.  Rear protection is sketchy indeed, but this doesn't matter for show cars.  The tail lights are nondescript and don't seem to support the overall design very well.

This publicity photo includes human models who provide as sense of scale.  The LaSalle II sedan is really fairly small.  Smaller than it looks without nearby people.  The concave sculpting on the side was picked up by the 1956 Chevrolet Corvette.  At the time it appeared, the lack of flow-through fenders or a shoulder below the side window sills attracted comment in some car buff magazines, writers wondering if this might be a harbinger of future production car features.  They were correct.

This car show photo from the Conceptcarz web site shows the LaSalle II sedan before restoration.  (Web sites conflict as to whether or not restoration has begun.)

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