In our last installment in this series about, The Art and Colour of General Motors, the landmark design of the 1927 LaSalle by Harley Earl was covered. We now move from the “Roaring Twenties” and into the early 1930s to where the Great Depression had changed the whole face of the auto industry in only a few short years.
Harley Earl at the head of the Art and Colour, implemented a program were the various divisions could share stampings and in some cases complete body shells between each other for the cars at GM, which used Fischer Bodies. It was part of the need to help lower production costs at a time when vehicle sales were at an all time low. The hard economic times eliminated many automakers, custom coach builders and with in a few years also transformed the building of custom coachwork.
Shown here is a 1931 Cadillac V-16 Series 452B Dual Cowl Phaeton. The impressive V-16 was in its second year of production. This fresh design was used during the 1930 and 1931 model years and in our mind is one of the most striking and attractive designs at the end of the flat radiator “Classic” era. Note the second windshield design that could be rasied or lowered into the cowl with a hand crank and regulator from the rear compartment. This was the last Cadillac design to utilize a flat radiator and starting in 1932 at the begining of the streamlining era, Earl and Art and Colour changed the Cadillac to a vee radiator.
Only three short years later, the 1934 Cadillac and the 1934 LaSalle shown here, had both changed to very modern and streamlined new designs. The LaSalle was the more up to date of the two makes and was a pioneering example of ”art moderne” style used on many consumer goods during the second half of the 1930s. Both shared the new and very distinctive airplane wing type of bumper, which really set them apart from other offerings. This attractive LaSalle design was chosen to be the pace car for the 1934 running of the Indianapolis 500 (see below).
In our next installment we will look at one more later streamlined V-16 Cadillac design from 1937, before we move onto the post war era. In the mean time you can visit Coachbuilt Press and learn much more about the book The Art and Colour of General Motors. You can also learn more about Earl at coachbuilt.com. You can also enjoy more of Michael Furman’s work here on The Old Motor.
The 1934 LaSalle Convertible Coupe was chosen to be the pace car for the running of the Indianapolis 500 that year, Harley Earl is in the passengers seat. Photo courtesy of Racemaker Press.
Below you can see a short eight minute film made by GM design in the 1980s were you can see Earl, listen to him talk and learn much more about him and the whole interesting GM styling story. This was found thanks to Mac’s Motor City Garage where they have also done a post on Earl recently.