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Raymond Loewy and Streamline Moderne

  • A streamlined K4 steam locomotive that hauled the crack Pennsylvania Railroad train, the “Broadway Limited” and a 1938 Studebaker President. Both were styled by Raymond Loewy.

What we know today as industrial design is generally acknowledged to have originated in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, it did not take long for highly creative people in the United States to show that they could be as innovative as their counterparts across the Atlantic. Practitioners like Henry Dreyfuss, Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes, and Raymond Loewy applied their skills to ordinary objects that ranged from pencil sharpeners to steam locomotives and thereby established an aesthetic that took those items beyond mere functionality. Of the four, perhaps the name of French-born Raymond Loewy is the one most recognized by people outside the field.


L to R (above):  Loewy himself behind the wheel of his custom 1931 Hupmobile, a 1934-5 Hupmobile Aerodynamic sedan, and another view of a 1938 Studebaker President.

Naturally, our focus here at The Old Motor is on automobiles, and the three thumbnails above clearly illustrate the drastic changes in styling that Loewy and those who worked for him drove in just a few brief years during the 1930’s. Although he was not alone in this, there is no denying that he was one of the more influential men in the field. The evolution of the basic shape on the automobile during this decade could hardly have been more dramatic.

Pennsylvania Railroad’s enormous Baldwin-built T-1, introduced in 1942, was streamlined by Raymond Loewy.

Loewy’s long association with Studebaker from 1936 to 1963 resulted in some of the most memorable cars they ever produced, not the least of which is the iconic 1953 Starliner (below, left). Commonly attributed to Loewy himself, the design actually originated with sketches done by Bob Bourke, a designer at Loewy’s studio. Credit must be given to Loewy, however, for employing such a talented individual, and for having the vision to go forward with a design that was so unconventional.


The basic Starliner would have a long lease on life. The addition of fiberglass fins (which Loewy was said to loathe) and new hood and deck lids would create the various Hawks from 1956 to 1961 (above, center). More radical surgery by Brooks Stevens would beget the Gran Turismo Hawk after that. All in all, Studebaker would get three “different” cars spanning 11 model years from the same basic body shell, a tribute to it’s fundamental quality.

In a last hurrah for Studebaker in 1961, Loewy would put together a team and produce a finished design and scale model of the unique Avanti (above, right)  in an unimaginable forty days. It remains instantly recognizable even today. You’ll find many more interesting  Studebaker related photos and information here on The Old Motor and the official Raymond Loewy  site here.

3 responses to “Raymond Loewy and Streamline Moderne

  1. I find this post most interesting . I have a family background in mechanics and rail . My Farther worked for L&N for 40 years . I am an auto /truck mechanic . I see beauty in both . Thanks for your work on this sight . I find pleasure in your posts , and , look forward to the next .

  2. To this day, I shall always remember going to a local custom car show in 1963, sitting in a BRAND new White Studebaker Avanti and dreaming about what could …………………….

  3. I’m owned by 2 Hupmobile AeroDynamics and a 1937 Studebaker
    State President. That makes me a Raymond Lowey groupie. I love
    the story about Lowey coming to America in his French Army
    uniform with $35 in his pocket.
    Studebaker enlisted Helen Dryden to design the interiors of their
    1937 cars as a way to appeal to the opposite sex. She was a noted artist
    and industrial designer. It is said that her work was done under the
    watchful eye of Lowey. I don’t think there is a better looking mid-price
    dash that year and the rest of the interior is exquisite.

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