In 1927 General Motors became the first large car manufacturer to establish an in-house styling section. This was led by the now-legendary Harley Earl. Chrysler Corporation soon followed suit. In each case a few years lapsed before the work of these teams appeared on streets and roads. This was because of lead-times from new concept to the market via the large amount of work required to engineer and productionize a new design. Initial items effected by stylists usually were trim and detail changes.
This post treats the first results from Chrysler Corporation's styling group. But first some background from the indispensable Lamm & Holls book, A Century of Automotive Style.
The authors point out (pages 153-54) that Chrysler set up a small styling section in July of 1928, calling it Art & Colour -- following General Motors' lead of the year before. But this new unit was not nearly as independent as Harley Earl's, being under the control of Chrysler's mighty engineering staff.
"Among Art & Colour's staff members were Thomas (Tom) Martin, Herb Weissinger, A.B. (Buzz) Grisinger, Henry King, Rhys Miller, Max Wasserman, Bill Flajole, Ed Sheard, Gus Sompe and a handful of others; all young but highly enthusiastic and capable....
"For 1929-31, the Chrysler Imperial, along with Chrysler's four other lines, used what were called "ribbon" radiator grille shells. These looked like narrow chrome ribbons taped to the leading edge of the hood. The idea was to make the hood look longer by making the grille shallower, but in actuality ribbon grilles made the entire front ensemble look weaker, cheaper and less substantial. The public didn't like ribbon grilles, and yet they became something of a corporate identity symbol during those two to three years."
They go on to mention that 1931 Chryslers and Chrysler Imperials dropped the ribbon grille for a Weissinger design strongly inspired by Al Leamy's 1929 Cord design.
Here are examples of Chrysler Corporation cars from those days. Dodge is not included because it was a long-established brand acquired by Chrysler in 1928 and not fully integrated with the rest of the Chrysler line until a few years later.
From the images presented here, it seems that the ribbon grille situation by model year was more complex than how Lamm and Holls presented it. Nevertheless, their thesis broadly holds in that the ribbon style was tried and then rejected. Other design elements by the new Chrysler Corporation Art & Colour group are hard to detect besides the grille design borrowings from Cord and Miller. This would begin to change for 1933 and 1934.