Thursday, February 2, 2023

1963 Chevrolet Corvair Testudo Concept Car

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Testudo concept/show car escaped my knowledge for many years, perhaps because at the time it was publicized, I was in the Army not long before being sent to the Far East.  I came across it recently only because I was researching a post about the Porsche 928, where it seems the Testudo influenced Porsche's head designer Tony Lapine.

But there's more!  The Bertone-built Testudo was styled by the great Giorgetto Giugiaro, apparently the first design for which he had a free hand.  No doubt that was due to its show car status -- a production design imposes many more constraints on a stylist.

The Testudo link suggests that General Motors supplied the Corvair (that Bertone shortened) and presumably funded the project.

Despite its Giugiaro heritage, I don't consider the Testudo a very good design.  See the captions below for my thoughts.


A cropped version of a Giugiaro sketch of the Testudo's front end.

Full-scale side rendering of the Testudo.  At the left is Nuccio Bertone, and on the right is Giugiaro.

Now for a few images, probably from Bertone.  The front end is simple.  Headlights apparently rotate upwards when turned on.  The girl in the car lends scale -- the Testudo seems larger than it actually is when such scale is absent.

How one enters the car.  Interesting, but not practical given the high sill and flanges on rotated unit.

The rear is extremely clean.  Perhaps too much so.

As seen from above in a photo whose source I could not identify.

Finally, three images via RM Sotheby's auctions.  The Corvair motor is at the rear, so the front trunk is low and proportionally wide.  While this can be justified logically, my conditioning makes me think it is wrong, aesthetically.  Note the extreme windshield panorama.

The bumpers and side fold line tie the car together.  That low front trunk contrasts with the after end of the passenger compartment, making the latter seem more bulky looking than otherwise.  Note the small side-window that opens for ventilation or perhaps handing over toll money on an autostrada.

I normally like long hoods, but the low trunk and fenderline make the car ill-proportioned.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Chrysler's Early 1930s Two-Piece Openable Windshields

Nowadays, when car windows are rolled up, fresh air usually enters the passenger compartment via vents near the base of the windshield -- a zone subject to positive aerodynamic air pressure when the car is more than trivially in motion.

In the 1920s, when closed car bodies were becoming common, there were other solutions to the fresh air intake problem.  One was to allow the windshield to open, pivoting from the upper frame.

By 1933, some General Motors cars received what were called "ventipanes."  These were small sub-windows that pivoted from a point fairly close to the car's A-pillar.  These admitted air from a less-annoying direction.  They became the industry norm until they disappeared from American cars around 1970.

Chrysler Corporation tried something different in the early1930s.  Its senior model closed cars were given two-pane windshields where each pane could be opened separately so that the driver and front-seat passenger might receive air intake to individual preference.

The downside to that idea was that appearance of the cars was degraded, as is shown below in the Gallery.  Unless noted, images are of cars listed for sale.


1930 Ford Model A Tudor
An example where the entire windshield pivots upward.

1931 Chrysler Imperial CG Roadster by LeBaron - Mecum Auction photo
Another windshield trend in its early state was the two-piece-V'd format as seen on this early example.  The V-effect is minimal: compare the bottom window framing to the cowling coaming.

1931 Chrysler Imperial 4-door sedan - Barrett-Jackson Auctions photo
Some Chrysler sedans that model year got two-pane windshields where panes pivoted separately.  Framing was given brightwork, making them stand out -- too much, in my opinion.  Fortunately, the long hood of this Imperial helps to lessen that effect.

1931 Chrysler Imperial CG Close-Coupled Sedan
On this shorter sedan, the windshield treatment is more obvious.  I think it makes the car seem even shorter, perhaps because the bright, heavy framing attracts the eye to the middle of the car rather than allowing the eye to sweep from end to end.

1932 Chrysler CI6 4-door sedan - factory image?
This is a six-cylinder model on a short wheelbase with a short hood.  The windshield's shortening effect is strong here.

1932 Chrysler CP8 4-door sedan
A longer, eight-cylinder Chrysler.  The contrast between the windshield framing and the dark paint scheme again visually shortens the design.

1933 Chrysler CO Six 2-door sedan - Mecum
A Chrysler Six from the next model year.  Same story.

1933 Chrysler Imperial CL Close-Coupled Sedan - Hyman Ltd. photo
This photo shows the windshield opening mechanisms and a positioning knob-slider on the A-pillar.

1933 Chrysler Imperial CL Close-Coupled Sedan - Hyman
Exterior of that car.  The gray paint lessens the contrast with the framing brightwork.  And the windshield appears to be very slightly V'd.

1933 Chrysler Imperial CL Roadster - RM Sotheby's photo
Here we see a roadster with a two-pane, V'd windshield were the panes pivot -- a trifecta, as they say in ice hockey.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Pontiac Tempest's Massive 1966 Facelift: Coupes

Pontiac's "compact" Tempest first appeared for the 1961 model year.  Its wheelbase was 112 inches (2845 mm), compared to 119 and 123 inches (3023 mm and 3075 mm) for standard-range Catalina and Star Chief - Bonneville models.

For 1964, the Tempest line was upgraded to what was called "intermediate" size, with a wheelbase of 115 inches (2921 mm).  Then for 1966, Tempests were given an extensive facelift, something General Motors could afford in those days of its market supremacy.

The present post compares 1964 Tempest 2-door hardtop coupes to the facelifted 1966 versions.


1961 Pontiac Tempest coupe - factory photo
Here is what first-generation Tempest coupes looked like.

1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO - Mecum Auctions image
And the redesigned 1964 hardtop coupe.  The general feeling is more angular than rounded, representative of the "two-box" styling theme common from the 1960s into the 1980s.

1966 Pontiac Tempest GTO - car for sale
The facelift was such that Tempests seemed to be redesigned cars.  The body here is more curvaceous, the quad headlights rotated 90 degrees, and the grille redesigned (while preserving the Pontiac two-element motif).  However, compare the windshields -- they are the same.

1964 Pontiac Tempest LeMans GTO - General Motors Heritage Center photo
Rear quarter view.

1966 Pontiac Tempest GTO - car for sale
About the only carryover seems to be the wheel openings.

1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO - Mecum
Side views offer a better perspective regarding retained structural elements.

1966 Pontiac Tempest GTO - car for sale
Retained are wheel openings, door cutlines, windshields and A-pillar "ventipanes."  So the expensive-to-alter cowling structure was retained, probably along with other interior structural elements.

1965 Pontiac Catalina 2-door hardtop - BaT Auction photo
Standard-size Pontiacs were redesigned for 1965.  It seems that the 1966 Tempest facelift was intended to bring them more in line with the standard range.  Note especially the fenderline curves and the passenger compartment top profiles.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Lamborghini Espada

The best-selling early Lamborghini model was the Espada, 1,227 produced 1968-1978.   It was a Gran Turismo type car with seating for four, though back seating was cramped.

Bodies were made by Bertone, designed by the firm's stylist Marcello Gandini.

Espada's were of the 1970s type, featuring extremely low bodies.  This was a continuation of a long-term trend to ever-lower bodies.  But with the Espada and other cars, the trend seems to have been taken to the point where disadvantages overcame advantages in terms of practical, everyday use (ease of entry and exit, for example).  The wheelbase was 104.3 inches (2,650 mm), and length 186.2 inches (4,730 mm), resulting in noticeable overhang.


The first three images appear to be of 1968 Lamborghini Espadas via either Lamborghini or Bertone.

This side view indicates how low the car was.  Measured height is 46.7 inches (1,185 mm) -- for readers familiar with Imperial measurements, that's less than four feet tall.  In comparison, the popular current (as of late 2022) Toyota Camry sedan's height is 56.9 inches (1,840 mm).

Interior view of a 1973 Espada, Gallery Aaldering photo.  Clearly, rear seating is cramped, and getting in and out of that area would be difficult for many adults.

The following walkaround images are of a 1973 Espada via Bring a Trailer auctions.  Frontal design is clean, without much character.  The air vents on the hood are the NACA type seen on aircraft.

The character-less front doesn't matter much because the character of the car and brand is embodied in the rest of it.

Note how the upward curve to the after side window frame visually ties to the top frame of the backlight window -- a nice, professional design touch.

The lower window below the backlight might aid rear visibility a trifle, though rear seats seem to block most of that.

The trunk area is visible in this image.  Some kind of cover seems needed.

The long, horizontal character line carries two air vents near the front wheel opening.  It helps tie the design together and also adds to visually lowering the car by breaking up what little slab-sidedness there is (augmented by the lesser line near the lower edge of the body).

In sum, a nicely styled car aside from its questionable package dimensions.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

1941 Pontiac: Three Body Platforms, One Styling Theme

By 1940, General Motors had rationalized its system of car body platforms down to three: the A-body, the B-body, and the C-body, in roughly increasing order of size and prestige.  By the early 1950s, most GM brands used only one or perhaps two or those platforms.  But for the 1941 model year, for example, some brands used all three platforms.  That included Pontiac, the subject of this post.

GM's C-body was redesigned for the 1940 model year.  A- and B-bodies were redesigned for 1941.  That meant that they were essentially of the same design generation: none seemed old-fashioned or out-of-place.

So what did Pontiac's managers and stylists do to retain brand identification across those three body platforms?

Let's turn to the Gallery below.  Unless noted, images below are of for-sale cars.


1941 Pontiac Custom Torpedo Coupe
Top-of-the-line coupe.  Pontiac brand identification cues include the Silver Streaks on the hood and the echoing ridges on the sides of the fenders.  Also, all Pontiacs shared the same grille design.  Below, four-door sedans from each body type are compared in side-view.

1941 Pontiac De Luxe Torpedo Four-Door Sedan
Here is the new A-body.  Four-door sedans had six-window passenger compartment greenhouses and notch-back trunks.

1941 Pontiac Streamliner Torpedo Four-Door Sedan - photo via Hemings
The new for 'GM 41 B-body sedans were all fastbacks.  Four-door sedans were six-window.  The carryover identification features are the fenders with those ridges/grooves.  The front fender appears to be the same as that of the A-body, above.  But the rear fender is slightly longer.  The hood cutline differs.

1941 Pontiac Custom Torpedo Four-Door Sedan
The C-body Pontiac sedan's front fender and hood cutline seem to be the same as those on the A-body.  Ditto the rear fender.  GM's C-body four-door sedans were four-window types and the trunk areas were bustlebacks, like A-body cars.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Aston Martin Lagonda Series 1: A Trial Run

Aston Martin has owned the Lagonda brand since 1947 and over the years dropped and revived production.  A noteworthy revival was the Aston Martin Lagonda.  Some 645 were built between 1974 and 1990. 

There were four Aston Martin Lagonda series, the last three of which were on a new platform.  Only eight Series 1 cars were made, one being the prototype.  The stylist was William Towns.   I wrote about the Series 2 design here and elsewhere.

All images below are via Bonhams auctions.


The front fender air vent is in the Aston Martin tradition, but the grille centerpiece harkens to the traditional Lagonda design theme.  Quad headlights and that centerpiece help create a fussy appearance, aided by the sunken outer headlight assemblies that otherwise are an interesting idea.

Rear end detailing is also fussy, in part due to the cramped space at taillight level and below.

This brightwork-less rear is more pleasing, though the reflectors by the license plate create clutter.

The big V-8 motor apparently required that large hood bulge.

The blue car seen here and two images higher had a different motor and seemingly a longer hood and front end.  Retained are the tall passenger greenhouse and its fastback profile.

A series 2 Aston Martin Lagona for comparison.  Its has essentially the same wheelbase as the Series 1, but it's longer and lower: Too much so.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

1930s American Club Sedans

Names given to automobile body types are not rock-solid.  That's partly because manufacturing techniques change over time, making it more efficient to favor one style while letting another fade away.  Mostly, body type names are the stuff of marketing.  Here, an upscale name might be placed on a lesser design in an effort to increase prestige and stimulate sales.

That said, some names did persist over the decades.  The word "sedan" has been applied to closed, four-door passenger cars that do not have passenger compartment storage capacity such as is found on station wagons and SUVs.  Two-door cars called sedans and not something else slowly became more common during the 1930s, and "two-door sedan" was an established body type name in the USA by the 1950s.  And those body designs then gradually became more coupe-like and the two-door sedan body type slowly faded away.

Today's post deals with the "Club Sedan" body found on some luxury brands during the 1930s. Wikipedia's automobile sedan's entry here says the following regarding the club sedan:

"Produced in the United States from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, the name club sedan was used for highly appointed models using the sedan chassis.   Some people describe a club sedan as a two-door vehicle with a body style otherwise identical to the sedan models in the range.  Others describe a club sedan as having either two or four doors and a shorter roof (and therefore less interior space) than the other sedan models in the range."

My sources indicate that 1930s American cars called club sedans were four-door, four-window cars rated as carrying five passengers.  The same type of car was called something different by other carmakers, so the category name was not rigid.  And the use of the term for two-door cars came later: fastback 1946-1950 Packards were labeled club sedans, for instance.

Side views of some club sedans by several car makers are shown below.  Unless noted, they are of for-sale cars.


1931 Pierce-Arrow Club Sedan - RM Sotheby's auction photo
That nice, long hood covers a nice, long inline eight cylinder motor.  It's nearly as long as the passenger compartment.  Club sedan passenger compartments tended to be on the short side.  Note the comparatively narrow aft side door, a sometime trait.  A universal club sedan characteristic, as noted in the text above, is that the car is four-window -- leading to a wide C-pillar area, yet another trait.

1933 Buick 90 Club Sedan
Club sedans were mostly on luxury or near-luxury brands.  The 90 was the top Buick line.

1933 Packard Twelve Club Sedan
This is a large car, so the rear passenger area is not cramped.

1934 Cadillac V-12 Fleetwood Town Sedan
Cadillac and LaSalle got new bodies for 1934, and this could easily have been called a club sedan, but wasn't.  LaSalle did market a club sedan that year with a different rear side door profile.  Unfortunately, I have no side view of one.

1935 Pierce-Arrow Five-Passenger Club Sedan - Mecum auction photo
Pierce-Arrow got new bodies for 1934.  Here is its '35 club sedan.

1936 Pierce-Arrow Club Sedan - Mecum
And its 1936 version, apparently on a longer wheelbase than the car's in the image above.  Everything abaft of the rear end of the running board is different.

1937 Packard One-Twenty Club Sedan - Barrett-Jackson auction photo
Packard also continued to market club sedans in the late 1930s. This one is from its entry-level inline eight cylinder motor line.  Like the 1935 Pierce-Arrow above, entry to the back passenger seat seems cramped.

1937 Cadillac 75 Five-Passenger Town Sedan
Not a club sedan by name, this Cadillac, like the one shown earlier, has the club sedan look.

1940 Packard One-Twenty Custom Club Sedan - Daniel Schmitt photo
Model year 1940 was Packard's last for four-door club sedans.  This is the entry-level version.

1940 Packard One-Eighty Club Sedan
And this is Packard's top-of-the line club sedan.