Design

An Editorial by Wallace Wyss: Announcing the End of the Enthusiast Car As We Know It

November 1, 2015 in Design / Editorial / guest contributor / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

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After seeing a recent panel discussion Oct. 25th at the Art Center Classic, a panel with three designers, I left in a blue funk. (Not a car but a kind of mood)

It reminded me of when, a few years ago,  I sold my Nikon F3 film camera, and a few lenses for $200 to a young man who thought, if he was shooting film like Ansel Adams, he could take pictures the equal of Answel Adams. He didn’t realize, if Ansel Adams were still alive today, he would be shooting digital like nobody’s business.

In other words, what I was seeing on stage from the three speakers, one a former BMW designer, one a current designer for Volvo, the third in charge of GM Advanced Design, was a gradual admission that autonomous cars are creeping in.

Well, I am here to tell you that when they arrive… Continue reading →

In the Raw- a Naked 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing

November 1, 2015 in Design / German / Photo of the Day

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Above, a not-often-seen naked view of a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupé’s (W198) skeleton. The photo makes it painfully apparent why the legendary flip up doors were found necessary for graceful ingress and egress over the tall sill’ed birdcage frame. Out of his New York Park Avenue showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, U.S distributor Max Hoffman successfully persuaded the big wigs at the Mercedes Benz factory into making this road version of the already successful race car for the affluent American market to play distinguished race car driver on city streets…and who could blame ’em?

Photo Source

The Movers and Shakers: Remembering William L. Mitchell of GM Styling

October 21, 2015 in American / Design / History / Profile / Wallace Wyss

3By Wallace Wyss

Of all the characters I met in Detroit while growing up there, William L. Mitchell, VP of GM Styling, was the most unpredictable. Sometimes, in company PR, he would come across as the consummate executive, tastefully dressed, acting like a GM VP would be expected to act.

He was born 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Greenville, Pennsylvania. His father was a Buick dealer who often brought home the racier cars he took on trade-ins, cars like Stutzes and Mercers.

In 1927, Mitchell went to work as an office boy at Barron Collier Advertising Agency in New York, a position that eventually led to illustration and layout work, and where he me the Collier brothers. They were a car crazy crowd and on weekends Mitchell would go to their road racing  track near Tarrytown, New York, and watch the rich swells race Mercedes, Alfas and other foreign tin. Mitchell was quoted in a U of M oral history about that time: “They had an estate outside of Tarrytown [N.Y.] between the Stillmans and Rockefellers called “Overlook”—beautiful, and they first raced little sports cars like MG’s, and then they got bigger cars, and I was in the art department, and I always drew cars.”

He was formally trained at  Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh in 1930 and also attend the Art Students League in New York City from 1930 to 1931. It was a pal of  Barron Collier’s who put him in touch with Harley Earl at General Motors.

Mitchell joined what was artfully called the Art and Colour Section (yes, they really did spell “color” that way in the beginning) at GM in 1935 and in 1937 was promoted to the spot of Chief Designer of the Cadillac Studio. His first assignment was to develop a sports sedan. The Cadillac Sixty Special introduced in 1938 was lauded and he was on his way, eventually to succeed Earl. Continue reading →

Designer Tom Meade’s Work to be Featured at Palm Springs Conorso

October 20, 2015 in American / Design / Engineering / guest contributor / History / Italian / Wallace Wyss

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Concorso is pleased announce a celebration of the life and achievements of Tom Meade, the American who went to Italy in the 1960s to follow his dream of designing cars that would be his visions of supercars.

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Mr. Meade blazed a trail. He worked his way across the Atlantic on a tramp steamer to reach Italy. Tom slept on the floors of various coachbuilders as he saved enough to buy old race cars, which he rebodied. He did what many American enthusiasts dreamed of doing. Continue reading →

THE DESIGNER’S DESIGNER: Chuck Jordan

October 19, 2015 in American / Design / guest contributor / History / Profile / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

2Feature Story by Wallace Wyss

Growing up in Detroit, I had a lot of role models in the car industry, some of which I knew in person. When I first used to visit GM Design, called GM Styling back then, it was as a guest of William “Bill” Mitchell, the flamboyant head of design. Charles “Chuck” Jordan that I was first introduced to Jordan,  I was a little intimated because he had this urbane patrician look, kind of hawk-nosed visage that says “I will come down on you hard, boy.”

In fact, in Styling his nickname behind his back was “the chrome Cobra.”

But later, through doing a story on his Lusso Ferrari, I got to know him and he had a far gentler side, the car enthusiast side.

He wore his suits impeccably, and I only saw him once dressed oddly, wearing a raccoon skin full length coat, something out of the 1920’s but hey, he was from the 1920s when you think about it…and Mitchell would wear crazy stuff all the time, like blood red motorcycle driver suits.

In retrospect when I see the Ralph Lauren ads now featuring his son, David Lauren, they evoke the image of Chuck Jordan, a sort of to-the-manor-born look. Continue reading →

ART CENTER SHOW TO BE HEAVY ON FUTURE DESIGN

October 17, 2015 in Art / Concours Show / Design / Featured / General Discussion / Wallace Wyss

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by Wallace Wyss
The Art Center College is getting ready to do its annual concours October 25th and lemme tell ‘ya, the list of judges are just amazing. If you want to meet your heroes, this is the show to be at. Leading is the famous Syd Mead, Visual Futurist  and here’s some of the guys on the design panel:
Here’s the schedule for the show:

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eGarage Video: “50th Anniversary of the Pagoda SL — Mercedes-Benz Classic Vehicles”

September 19, 2015 in Design / German / Video

This eGarage video is a few years old, but the subject is timeless:

“Penned by designer Paul Bracq, the W113 SL had big shoes to fill: it had the incredible task of succeeding the original and instantly iconic 300 SL Gullwing. But you can’t copy a legend, so Bracq designed one of his own. Straight lines replaced curves and a low-slung roof was replaced by a high top design that gave the car its nickname: the Pagoda.”

50th Anniversary of the Pagoda SL — Mercedes-Benz Classic Vehicles from eGarage on Vimeo.

Whenever Possible, I Choose Banged Up Originality Over Restorations Every Time

September 16, 2015 in American / Barn Find / Concours Show / Design / English / Featured / French / General Discussion / German / Italian / Japanese / Patina / Race Car / Restoration / Survivor / Swedish / Sympathetic Restoration

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By David Greenbaum
In our vintage car hobby, it is common practice to run across a classic car that has received a restoration of varying degree, in fact in more cases than not, but in my humble opinion it is far too often to find one that has been overly restored. It seems that the higher the car’s value, the more likely it is that they have received a restoration to a far higher standard than they had ever had from when they left the factory when new, whether we are speaking of an Italian made Ferrari, an American Shelby Cobra or possibly even a French Talbot-Lago. Within the last decade or so, though, there has been a movement towards honoring all-original “survivor” cars, and even the Pebble Beach Concours D’ Elegance now has a category for them at their world class show. In fact, judges now even deduct points for inaccuracies in over restorations. This new trend is changing the way we look at classic cars, literally, and I for one am all for it.
While you will never see me complain about saving a classic car that was destitute for the dumpster had it not been saved from the scrap heap by a nice restoration job, there are an unfortunate number of cars that receive unnecessary rejuvenations that would otherwise have been able to share their original story through patina, something that is hard earned over decades of use but can be wiped away forever so easily…

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The Chrysler Atlantic 20 years later-For one brief shining moment, Chrysler re-discovered prewar elegance….

September 14, 2015 in American / Concept Car / Design / guest contributor / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

1Feature Story by Wallace Wyss

 

It is hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the then Chrysler Prez, Bob Lutz, played that fantastic joke on the other Detroit automakers—he introduced a concept car that was full on retro.

I speak of the Chrysler Atlantic. According to various stories, the idea of the Atlantic, a name picked to remind one of the prewar Bugatti Atlantique, came when Lutz and the then Chrysler design chief Tom Gale were strolling about on the 18th green at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, musing how all this inspirational material (the 200-plus cars on display) could be in any way relevant to today’s cars. Lutz suggested that they build a concept car that would look like something out of the 1930’s. The late 1930’s, when design firms like Figoni et Falaschi and Darrin and Fernandez were creating swoopy shapes in France..

The very next year Chrysler’s retro styled concept car was there on what I call the “dream car lawn” in front of the Del Monte Lodge at Pebble. To make it a more fanciful story, the PR mavens say Lutz gave Gale a sketch on a napkin and Gale gave his minions only a verbal description so as not to unduly influence them.

Their inspirations were the curvaceous French coupes of the thirties from firms like Bugatti, Talbot-Lago, Delahaye and Delage. The actual designer whose drawings came closest at Chrysler was Bob Hubbach so it was his design that was built.

The best part of the design is… Continue reading →

Pebble Beach to offer speakers as part of their Pebble Beach Concours Classic Car Forum. Here are Wallace Wyss’ 5 Recommendations

August 7, 2015 in Concours Show / Design / Featured / General Discussion / guest contributor / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

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Some of the world’s great car designers, museum founders and authors will be guest speakers at the Pebble Beach Concours Classic Car Forum. Anyone can attend the speeches regardless if you have a ticket to the show or not, but you have to go to this website www.pbclassiccarforum.com to reserve your spot. There will be speeches from Thursday August 13th through Sunday the 16th. 
 
 
Out of the 27 total speakers throughout the 4 day long session, on the following page you will find the five recommendations that Wallace Wyss, author and historian, is making time to attend: “I wish I had all the time up there to go to these presentations, but with five or six auctions, Pebble Beach Concours, Concours Italiano, Automobilia, Auto Retro and the events in town, I don’t know which I will make. But if none of the names are familiar, here’s five I’d pick in the hopes of meeting them and learning something….”

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The Bertone Ferrari: Break your piggy bank–it’s comin’ up for sale…

August 1, 2015 in Design / For Sale / guest contributor / History / Italian / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

22Feature Story by Wallace Wyss

Giugiaro, recently retired, is recognized as the greatest Italian car designer. How’izzit, then, that he’s done only three or four of them?

I think it was that Bertone wasn’t Enzo’s buddy so when Giugiaro did this one even getting that chassis was a struggle. Later when Giugiaro went to Ghia, De Tomaso, who owned Ghia wasn’t anybody’s buddy.

And when Giugiaro started Ital Design he didn’t have a factory (he pieced the BMW M1 together unwillingly working with a German supplier).

This car is controversial because it doesn’t look like any other Ferrari, even though he did a second for Bertone. Also with its split grille, it looks a little like a Pontiac. (Editor’s Note: Wallace, we love ‘ya, but we’re going to have to politely disagree on that comment about everything but perhaps the nose.)

It so happens I interacted with the car while a spear carrier for Motor Trend, I did a little photography on the side and managed to get an assignment from an  assistant art director at Motor Trend, and a Ferrari fanatic, to help Automobile Quarterly find some Ferraris to photograph for a story they were running.

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So off I went, from one owner on the list supplied me to another. Most of the cars were impressive (the GTC/4 inspired me to buy one decades later) but I wasn’t prepared for the singular beauty of the one-off Bertone short wheelbase berlinetta.

But first, let me go back and say who Bertone is… Continue reading →

1954 Oldsmobile F88 Concept car: The Time Olds Thought to Go Up Against the Vette

July 30, 2015 in American / Concept Car / Design / guest contributor / History / prototype / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

8Feature by Wallace Wyss

 

When I was a snot-nosed little kid, I would go to shows like the Detroit Auto Show and say to myself “I want one of those dream cars.” (Later on I wanted the female model standing next to it, to hell with the car…)

The phrase “dream car” was the magic words back then, not “concept car.” And the undisputed King of the Dream Cars was Harley Earl, running GM’s styling department back in the Fifties. You could say about the 6-foot plus Earl that he was pretty much Lord of all he surveyed.  He had begun at GM back in 1927 when they didn’t even have a head stylist.  He was given a VP slot in 1940.

He quaintly called his section the “Art and Color Section” when he arrived in Detroit.  GM had hired him because the man had pizazz. After earning a degree in Engineering from Stanford, he had worked in his father’s carriage modification shop in Hollywood, which segued into doing custom cars for movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle and cowboy star Tom Mix.

The cars he designed were more flamboyant than anything made in Detroit, which was why GM hired him and gave him almost anything he wanted as he built an empire that other top designers in Detroit were intensely jealous of.  He spawned many a show car, almost 40 during his reign.

Some of the cars were generic GM like the “LeSabre.”  Others would carry the name of GM’s Divisions.  When Chevrolet had the Corvette in production in 1953, a car he had promoted from day one, he got in mind, why stop there, why not market two-seaters in all the Divisions?  Hence the building of two-seater prototypes for all the Divisions, including Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac and Oldsmobile…  Continue reading →

From cardesignnews.com: A Q&A Interview with Giorgetto Giugiaro on his Lifetime of Design

July 14, 2015 in Design / Italian / Shared Feature Story

Q&A with Giorgetto Giugiaro on his lifetime of design

03 July 2015 | by Guy Bird

Ask any aficionado who the greatest car designer of all time is and Giorgetto Giugiaro will be the name on most lips. Responsible for more than 200 vehicles, equating to some 60-million production cars on the road as well as dozens of concepts for the world’s finest car brands – not to mention cameras for Nikon, electronic organs for Bontempi and even a type of pasta – he is without equal.

Born on 7 August 1938 in Garessio, Northern Italy, he started his career with Fiat in the mid-50s, aged 17. Joining Bertone in 1959, his first signature cars included the 1963 Alfa Giulia Sprint GT and 1964 Alfa Canguro. After a brief stint at Ghia from 1965, he co-founded Italdesign in 1968. This firm’s list of hits is so long you need to take a deep breath, but try these production vehicles for starters, by turns practical and glamorous: the 1969 Suzuki Carry, 1971 Maserati Bora, 1971 Alfa Sud, 1974 VW Scirocco, 1974 VW Golf, 1978 Audi 80, 1978 BMW M1, 1979 Lancia Delta, 1980 Fiat Panda, 1993 Lexus GS300 and 2005 Fiat Grande Punto. Add a few beautifully quirky ones too like the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 that starred in Back to the Future and the unusually-windowed 1991 Subaru SVX and the diversity of brand and package is incredible…

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Tom Tjaarda: The American Designer who Affected Italian Design

June 30, 2015 in American / Design / Design Analysis / guest contributor / History / Italian / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

5A Feature Story by Wallace Wyss

In 1970 when Motor Trend flew me, their ace reporter who could speak Michiganian, back to Dearborn to see a new car called the Pantera, they introduced me to the car’s designer– a tall well mannered gentleman from Ghia Carrozzeria. I was expecting an Italian but this man turned out to be Tom Tjaarda (pronounced JAR-DUH) who grew up in Birmingham, MI about three miles from where I grew up. But he had been in Italy since 1958, working first for Pininfarina and later Ghia. Every once in a while when I read his latest comments on design in the Sixties and Seventies in a British magazine, I like to look back at some of his designs to refresh my memory. Here’s my comments on some of them, way too late to influence the production model but still a reaction from someone who comments on design in books and magazines…
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Concours Report, by Wallace Wyss: The San Marino Motor Classic, San Marino, CA

June 15, 2015 in Concours Show / Design / Factory Tour / guest contributor / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

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The San Mariono Classic is a concours that you could almost describe as a “mini-Pebble Beach” in that there are many of the highest caliber cars—such as prewar Bugattis, Packards, Bentleys and the like, but then they try to reach across the car world to various niches so this year there was a couple hot rods, some muscle cars and even some current cars still in production (more about that later).

The setting is a beautifully landscaped park in a posh suburb of Pasadena called San Marino. You can still look up and see the mountains and there’s plenty of palm trees for shade…

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The Cadillac Seville San Remo Ragtop: Am I the only one who thinks Cadillac blew it by not putting this car into production?

June 7, 2015 in American / Design / General Discussion / guest contributor / Reader Submission / Wallace Wyss

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Feature Story by Wallace Wyss

 

Way back in the ‘70s, Cadillac came out with a four door sedan that was exceedingly flat. Flat sides, flat hood, flat trunk lid, flattened out squared-off roof. It was the Seville. Underneath was a modified Chevy Nova floorpan and for some reason it was an extremely heavy car for its size, outweighing the Chevy Nova by hundreds of pounds. The engine showed a little “badge engineering” in that though it said “Cadillac” on the valve covers, the 350 CID V-8 (5.7 Liters, with Brake Horsepower rated at 180 @ 4400 rpm) was from Oldsmobile. It had Bendix electronic fuel injection. Additionally, the only transmission available was a three speed TurboHydramatic. The attempt to make the car look expensive was hit and miss—for instance no chrome surround around the rear window, like an expensive hand built Rolls Royce. But you could see the seam where they laid in the plastic window surround so it looked cheap. The part I liked best was the chrome spear that ran nose to tail, I think that was some sort of trim package. Well, Cadillac never thought of using this car as the basis of a convertible. For one thing most convertibles are two door in America. But wouldn’t cha know, some small shop starts up on the theory that, hey, if the Mercedes convertibles are so much more costly then we can crack their market with a Caddy convertible based on the Seville, er, Nova…
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