Thursday, October 19, 2017

Studebaker Hawk: Second Series

As I mentioned in the previous (16 October 2017) post about the First Series Studebaker Hawks, the company was unable to afford to redesign its sedan and coupe bodies following their 1953 introduction.  So it became a matter of facelift after facelift until Studebaker left the automobile business in the mid-1960s.

This post deals with the final iteration of the classic Raymond Loewy designed Starliner coupe.  A major 1956 facelift introduced the Hawk name to the lineup: Golden Hawk, Silver Hawk, Power Hawk and Flight Hawk.  By the 1960 and 1961 model years the line had been reduced to the Silver Hawk, a coupe with a solid B-pillar.

Studebaker rolled the dice one last time in 1962 for its coupe body in the form of the Gran Turismo Hawk, a major facelift styled by industrial designer Brooks Stevens.


This is a 1956 Sky Hawk to provide a sense of what Stevens had to work with.  The high hood and grille were retained through 1961.  Tail fins were added to Golden Hawks in 1956 and the lesser Hawks in 1957.  The 1953-vintage side sculpting was dropped in 1957.

This and the following two images are from Mecum Auctions.  Stevens retained the frontal styling aside from a few details that did modify its feeling.  The grille got more massive framing while side-grille openings lost their chromed frames.  Chrome strips were added to the tops of the fenders.

Tail fins were eliminated, so rear fenders are back about to where they are seen in the top photo above.  Stevens' major restyling was the rear part of the roof.  Aft side windows were reshaped and the wraparound backlights were replaced by flatter units.  The C-pillars were styled in Ford Thunderbird fashion to give the car a more formal appearance.

GT Hawk grilles received a nested-grid pattern for 1963.

Finally, three Mecum photos of the 1964 GT Hawk.  Grille mesh was changed and a few medallions were added.

Side view.  After all those post-1953 changes, it's still a nice looking car.

The main 1964 change was a smoothed-off trunk lid.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Studebaker Hawk: First Series

Aside from its low-volume, fiberglass-bodied Avanti built in 1962-63, Studebaker could not afford to develop completely new designs.  Instead, it had to rely on its 1953 sedan and coupe designs for the rest of its existence as an automobile manufacturer.  This post deals with the first version of the Hawk line, introduced for the 1956 model year as a successor to its classical Starliner coupe.

Wikipedia deals with the top-of-the-line Golden Hawk model here.  And I posted about Studebaker's hellish 1955 facelift of the Starliner coupe here.  That, in turn, led to the 1956 facelift that became the Hawk.

Hawks were given a small facelift for 1957 and until the 1962 model year changes were trivial.   What I'm calling the Second Series Hawk appeared as a major facelift for 1962.  I will deal with that in a later post.


This is a 1955 Studebaker Speedster, a Starliner with a restyled grille and hood, plus lesser trim changes.  Photo from Branson Auction.

And here is a 1956 Golden Hawk.  Again, there is a new hood and grille.  The vertical grille was a bold step at the time, because styling fashion called for wide grilles.  This photo and the one below are from Mecum Auctions.

The Golden Hawk was given tail fins -- this for the same model year that Chrysler Corporation was introducing them as facelift items on its 1955 redesign.  The Hawk trunk styling was also new.

This is a 1956 Power Hawk, a coupe with a B-pillar and a V-8 motor.

A '56 Sky Hawk pillarless coupe with a six cylinder motor.  Rounding out the line was the Flight Hawk, a six with a B-pillar.

Tail fins became better integrated for 1957.  The side sculpting from 1953 has been eliminated.  I consider this the most attractive First Series Hawk.

Auctions America photo of a 1958 Golden Hawk.  Grids have been added to the side grille openings and a different medallion is on the main grille.

This 1958 Golden Hawk has a horizontal bar in each of the side grilles.  Mecum photo.

Golden Hawks were gone by 1959.  What remained was the Silver Hawk with its fixed B-pillar.  Parking lights have moved from atop the fenders to the side grilles.  Mecum photo.

This "for sale" photo shows a 1960 Silver Hawk.  The grille medallion has been moved and a few chrome bits added to the fore end of the tail fin ensemble.

Another "for sale" photo, this for a 1961 Silver Hawk.  The medallion has moved again, but that's the only change I notice.  Big things were coming for 1962, however.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chrysler's Europe-Oriented 300M

Back in 2001 I was in London, strolling through the Eaton Square area, when to my surprise I noticed a Chrysler 300M.  As I now discover reading its Wikipedia entry, it turns out that the 300M was originally conceived as an Eagle Vision scaled to a five-meter European size class with the idea that it could be exported to Europe more easily.  It was an LH platform car, but was noticeably shorter than domestic LH platform Chryslers because front and rear overhang were trimmed.  Because the Eagle brand was dropped, it was rebadged as a Chrysler 300 even though it lacked the high performance engineering expected of 300 models.

The 300M was produced for model years 1999-2004.  For 2005 it was replaced by a new 300 line that remains in production as this post was drafted.


1998 Chrysler Concorde, an LH platform car from which the 300M was derived.

A 1999 Chrysler 300M. The hood, headlight assemblies, grille and front cap are different.  Note the vertical cut lines forward of the front wheel openings; the 300M's is closer to the opening than the Concorde's.

Side view of a 300M.

Rear 3/4 view of a 2002 Chrysler Concorde.

The shaved-down rear of the 300M.  I think Chrysler stylists did a better job here than at the front, which strikes me as being a bit forced.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cadillac's 1948 Redesign Brand Image Continuity

I point out in my e-book "How Cars Faced the Market" that upscale makes tend to maintain visual brand identification continuity over a body redesign transition.  I dealt here with example of top-of-the-line Oldsmobiles that received General Motors' new C-body for the 1948 model year.  It turned out that Oldsmobile stylists did a good job of carrying over the grille theme and side trim to the new shape.

The only other GM division using the 1948 C-body that model year was Cadillac.  The present post treats how Cadillac made its transition from 1947.


To set the stage, here are two Hyman auction photos of a 1947 Cadillac 62.  Details to consider include the grille, chromed side trim and the backlight window.

I'm also including this Bonhams photo of a '47 62 Cabriolet because this car has the more common running lights that flank the grille.

Front view of a 1948 Cadillac via Mecum Auctions.  Its grille retains egg-crate gridding, a theme used by Cadillac for many decades.  The stacked, two-level profile of the grille is carried over, but the opening is smaller and the design is simplified.  The V-plus-crest theme at the front of the hood is retained, though details vary.  The rectangular flanking running lights are another carryover.

Side trim is quite similar for both model years, especially the rock-guard-plus-strip on the rear fender.  Also, aside from the chrome panel by the front wheel opening, both designs otherwise lack major side brightwork.

The rear has the least brand retention compared to 1947.  Placement of the V-plus-crest on the trunk as well as the hood serves as brand identification (the tail fins became a strong Cadillac symbol, but this wasn't known when the car was styled).  The one aft-end carryover is the three-piece backlight theme.  All things considered, the Oldsmobile team maintained brand consistency somewhat better than did Cadillac stylists.  Barrett-Jackson photo.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Chrysler Chronos: Concept Retros a Concept

The 1988 Chrysler Chronos concept car was inspired by Virgil Exner's 1953 D'Elegance concept car -- a 35-years-later echo.  (The D'Elegance was built in 1952 and displayed that fall at the Paris auto show, but its American debut was in 1953.)

A minimal Wikipedia entry for the Chronos is here.  Background regarding the Chronos is here, mentioning its stylist and the enthusiasm Chrysler expressed for it when it was new.  Despite that, the Chronos had no impact on future production Chryslers apart from, perhaps, its grille bar design.

The Chronos was large, having a 130.9 inch (3327 mm) wheelbase.  No current or future Chryslers had wheelbases that long.  It was a four-door car, whereas the D'Elelegance was a coupé. Further comparisons with the D'Elegance are in the image captions below.

As for the D'Elegance, it was auctioned at Monterey in 2011 by RM Sotheby's whose web site has this page describing that car and its history.  I posted about its degree of influence on Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia styling here.


The Chrysler Chronos.

And the Chrysler D'Elegance.  This photo was taken in Italy soon after it was built.

Chronos styling carryovers include the hood taper, the "eyelids" around the headlights, the general shape of the side windows and, of course, the fenders.

Side views of the cars, further illustrating their fender designs and window treatments.  The color images of the D'Elegance are from RM Sotheby's.

Chronos and D'Elegance differ most thematically when viewed from the rear.  The D'Elegance features gunsight tail lights and a spare tire cover where the trunk lid would be (there is none), whereas Chronos has an actual trunk lid with partial boat-tail sculpting and conventional taillights.  The backlight windows and C-pillars differ in detail, but have a similar feeling.  The Chronos photo was taken at the WPC museum, but I don't have its source.

My guess is that this was a publicity photo from around 2005 when the new Chrysler 300C was introduced -- I don't have the exact source.  Note the grille bar treatments.

Monday, October 2, 2017

First-Generation Fiat 124 Sport Models

Fiat introduced its model 124 line in 1966, variants of a basic sedan.  One variant was the Sport Spider (pronounced "speeder") designed and bodied by Pininfarina.  Another was the Sport Coupé styled by Mario Boano at Centro Stile Fiat.

Both Sport models were imported to the USA beginning in the late 1960s.  When I finally completed my grad school coursework and exams and had a job that paid well enough for me to consider buying a serious (more than a toy) sports car, I looked at those Fiat 124s.  The Spider, thanks to its Pininfarina coachwork, was too expensive for me.  So I never even took one for a test drive.

I did try the more affordable Coupé, but it had too many flaws.  For one thing, I didn't find it very attractive, especially compared to the Spider.  Further, and more important, I didn't like the driving position due to the pedals being so near that I had to bend my knees in an uncomfortable position.  In the end, I bought an entry-level Porsche 914.


The Fiat 124 sedan / saloon.

Frontal view of the Sport Spider.

Seen from above, top down.

Seen from above, top raised.

Rear view.  All-in-all, a simple, attractive design.  The front and rear ends have somewhat different characters.  I suppose the ends of the rear fenders can be considered the inverse of the sculpting around the headlights -- but such a thought is really a stretch.

Now for the Coupé.  Its front bumper and the hood downslope are similar to the Spider's, but the rest of the design is different.  A major difference is that the Coupé can theoretically seat four, whereas the Spider is a two-place job.  The result is the Coupé's fashionably high (and proportionally long) greenhouse that eliminates the possibility of a graceful design.  Note how, in this view, it clashes with the more delicate front of the car.

Rear 3/4 view of a later Coupé (note the heavier mid-1970s bumpers and the larger wedge at the aft end of the rear side window).  The problem with the design is that the greenhouse is not compatible with the rest of the car.  Besides seeming too large (or the lower body seeming too small), its character is angular whereas the hood and most of the fender areas are softer.  The tight radius curve on the trunk does fit with the severe greenhouse, creating yet another clash with the rest of the car.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Early 1940s Willys Cars

I wrote about how Willys (American pronunciation is Will-iss) dealt with the onset of the great 1930s Depression here and its line of late 1930s cars in the 25 September 2017 post.

This post brings the Willys story into the 1940s to the point where American car production was halted by government order early in 1942 due to entry into World War 2.

Willys cars for the 1941 and 1942 had model numbers 441 and 442, but were advertised as the Americar (some background is here).  As can be seen in the images below, 1940s Willys's were a continuation of previous models, with a major 1940 facelift.  Changes after 1940 were minor.


Setting the stage, here is a 1939 Willys Overland design that was given a major facelift for the 1940 model year.

A 1940 Willys 440.  Running boards are gone.  Front fenders are slightly reshaped so that headlights could be smoothly blended in.  The hood prow is less aggressive and the grille ensemble has been moved forward and redesigned.

This basic '40 coupe has less chromework on the front of the hood than the sedan in the previous image.

Here is a 1941 Americar 4-door sedan that is essentially the same as the year before.  The 1940 facelift included a modest bustle-back and a six-window passenger compartment.  As the plight of the model shows, the back seating area is cramped on a car of this comparatively small (for the USA) size.

1941 Americar Coupe.  This model year Willys can be identified by its grille lacking a large center bar.

Americars for 1942 were little changed.  The grille got a new center bar (compare to 1940) and running boards reappeared.

The Americar Coupe for 1942.

Willys cars were on the way out, being replaced by Jeep production.  Shown here at Fort Holabird, Maryland is a 1941 Americar next to an early version of the Jeep.