A Century of Automotive Style

A Century of Automotive Style: – follows the genesis of auto design from carriages to the futuristic themes of airplanes.

A Century of Automotive Style

A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design
Michael Lamm & Dave Holls

A Century of Automotive Style does an excellent job covering the first 100 years of automotive styling. Early in the beginning of the automobile, manufacturers embraced the fact that design-styling sells. Lamm and Holls follow the genesis of auto design from carriages and ship design to the futuristic themes of airplanes and space ships. They talk about the industry not just in terms of the transition from carriage makers to the mass production auto giants, but they also unearth the trends and innovative stylists shaping the industry.

Engineering transitions include moving the engine from under the seat to out front under a hood, the use of Ackerman steering versus center pivoting type, and converting from all wood body construction to wood frame with aluminum or sheet steel construction. Styling cues transitioned from rear-entrance tonneaus to open touring bodies with four doors. Mass producers fostered the move to stamped sheetmetal bodies, baked enamel finishes and enclosed bodies. These processes in transformation and the people making them are discussed in-depth.

An excellent chapter covers coachbuilders. As in other areas of life, the wealthy were among the first to adopt the automobile. They wanted a sense of style and exclusivity in their autos. A number of firms rose to this need with custom-built bodies. The elegance of style shown in the work of the coachbuilders went on to define design and style in their particular eras. Lamm and Holls share numerous examples of coachbuilder art. They share an extensive overview of the number of practitioners around the country.

The authors also deal with design activities at the “Big Three”. Outside design consultants usually provided styling expertise to the majors until General Motors established the Art & Colour Section in 1927. Harley Earl’s A&C section innovated corporate styling and “planned obsolescence” in the automotive market. Early high points in corporate design culture are discussed.

The Independents frequently used outside stylists and consultants to augment their limited engineering capabilities. Consultants like Raymond Loewy, Amos Northup, and Brooks Stevens and their innovations are highlighted.

The last three chapters cover how the “Big Three” made the transition from the flamboyant opulent styling of the late 1950’s to the aero look at the end of the first century of the automobile. This era extends from the 1964 Ford Mustang to the 1993 Chrysler LH cab-forward sedans. Lamm and Holls give an overview of working in today’s design studio and some ideas what might be down the road. The book’s depth provides a look at areas not normally accessible to industry outsiders.

Lamm and Holls are known for their in-depth knowledge of design and the automobile.
This book reflects that expertise as well as presents an enjoyable reading experience.

A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design,
Michael Lamm & Dave Holls, Lamm-Morada Publishing Co., © 1996, ISBN 0-932128-07-6, P.O. Box 7607, Stockton, CA, 95267

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