Tag Archives: Brooks Stevens

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These books may make a great gift for one of your auto fanatic friends.

When I think about what initially got me interested in automobiles, I’d have to say it is automotive styling. With that in mind I’d like to share some brief automotive styling book reviews.

automotive-style

A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design by Michael Lamm & Dave Holls 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. The authors give an overview of working in a 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.

Peruse A Century of Automotive Style

industrial-strength-design

Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World by Glenn Adamson documents Brooks Stevens’, broad career in industrial design from 1934 – 1979. Where one instance occurred in 1938, Brooks Stevens customized his own Cord L-29 Cabriolet. Stevens made slight changes to the body and fender contours, finished off with a streamline paint job, and added a sloping windshield and chrome wheel discs over the stock wire wheels. Next, he removed the rumble seat and folding top and installed a seamless rear body with a rounded fin protruding from the center. (This may be the earliest tail fin to appear on an American car.) He dramatically transformed the front of the car with a bar type grille with sculptured chrome bumpers and teardrop shaped “wood lights.” Today, this car resides in a private collection. Adamson yields a through look at Brooks Stevens’ influence on industrial design.

Peruse Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World

virgil-exner

Virgil Exner: Visioneer: The official biography of Virgil M. Exner, designer extraordinaire by Peter Grist offers an extensive look at one of the great auto designers of the Twentieth Century. Virgil Exner is probably best known for Chrysler’s ‘Forward Look’ automobiles of the mid 1950’s. His industrial design legacy is traced from 1934 through 1972. The author provides insights about Exner’s early artistic endeavors, his design process, and the transfer from concept model to finished product. The book includes previously unseen works and family photos among the 150 color images. It is interesting to note Exner’s links to Indiana with Studebaker, Buehler, and Duesenberg.

Peruse Virgil Exner: Visioneer: The official biography of Virgil M. Exner, designer extraordinaire

The Automotive Book Review section is my attempt to share reviews of current and other auto-related books. Most of the books have an Indiana automotive history connection or feature a broad automotive context.

Peruse The Automotive Book Review section to discover some ideas for gifts for that genuine car nut in your life.

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From my Bookshelf-Summer 2016 Edition

If you’re like me, I know you’re continually looking for interesting auto related books. Here are some picks from my bookshelf for summer 2016.

Industrial Strength Design
Industrial Strength Design

One of the first things that draws me to an automobile is styling. In Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World, author Glenn Adamson documents Brooks Stevens’ career in Industrial Design from 1934 – 1979.

One automotive example is how Brooks Stevens customized his own Cord L-29 Cabriolet in 1938. Stevens made slight changes to the body and fender contours, finished off with a streamline paint job, and added a sloping windshield and chrome wheel discs over the stock wire wheels. Next, he removed the rumble seat and folding top and installed a seamless rear body with a rounded fin protruding from the center. (This may be the earliest tail fin to appear on an American car.) He dramatically transformed the front of the car with a bar type grille with sculptured chrome bumpers and teardrop shaped “wood lights.” Today, this car resides in a private collection.

Adamson yields a thorough look at Brooks Stevens’ influence on industrial design. The author provides insights about this creative force for over four decades.

Industrial Strength Design at Amazon.com.


umbrella-mike
Umbrella mike

I am interested in stories that involve the Indianapolis 500. In Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500, author Brock Yates documents Mike Boyle’s love of high-speed automobiles that began at the age of 16 when he attended the Chicago Times-Herald race on November 28, 1895 (one of the America’s first auto races). This event later led to Boyle’s quest to win the Indianapolis 500. Boyle cars won the 500 three times, once with Bill Cummings as the driver in 1934, and twice with Wilbur Shaw in 1939 and 1940.

Boyle’s quest for new speedsters led him to the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup race on Long Island, NY, where he witnessed the dominance of European-built machines. Here he became further acquainted with Wilbur Shaw driving a Maserati. In early 1939, Shaw was assigned to drive the new Maserati 8CTF and drove this car to victory in the next two 500’s.

Yates provides an interesting look at Mike Boyle’s desire to be at the top of American auto racing. The author draws you into the action on the track.

Peruse Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500 at Amazon.com.


Arsenal of Ddemocracy
Arsenal of Ddemocracy

I have always been interested in how the American automotive industry became known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” In The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War, author A. J. Baime documents how Henry Ford and his son Edsel, with the Ford Motor Company, used automotive production methods to create the Willow Run aircraft factory. The facility was able to produce bombers at the unheard of rate of a “bomber an hour.” Ford’s initiative is a leading example of how the American automotive industry became known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

The first Ford-produced B-24 Liberator rolled off the huge Willow Run assembly line on May 15, 1942. The B-24 Liberator remains the most mass-produced American military aircraft ever. Of the total 18,482 Liberators built during the war, 8,685 rolled out of Willow Run. At the peak of production, the plant employed over 42,000 workers.

Baime’s looks at the automotive industry’s quest to arm America and her allies.

Peruse The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War at Amazon.com.


Built for Adventure
Built for Adventure

After reading Clive Cussler’s Artic Drift, I became aware of one of his nonfiction works – Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt

For a genuine car nut like myself, this book was a venture into cars from the classic era. The fact that 13 of the 58 cars highlighted in the book are Indiana-built didn’t surprise me. These included Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Marmon and Stutz models. My choice of the best Indiana-built car is the 1932 V-12 Auburn boattail speedster that is also featured on the back of the Artic Drift dust cover.

Author Clive Cussler does an outstanding job of documenting these classic cars from his collection. He presents a brief history of each auto producer, thoughts about what drew him to each car, and details about the features of each particular auto.

Cussler’s weaves a thorough look at these classic icons. The book’s production fits a classic theme with an outstanding layout and first class photography.

Peruse Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt at Amazon.com.

So, if you’re looking for some different books about our automotive heritage, I invite you to peruse these. See you the next time from my bookshelf.

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Studebaker’s innovation continued

With the addition of the Wagonaire station wagon for 1963, Studebaker’s innovation continued.

The company brochures promoted the versatile Wagonaire as “A smart family wagon, open-top sedan, and a handy hauler for mile-high loads! Great for work or family wanderlust. Lark models with 6 or 259 V-8 – Daytona has Power Thrust 259 V-8. A non-sliding roof also available.”

1964 Wagonaire ad
1964 Wagonaire ad

For 1962-63, Studebaker instituted a crash-program to invigorate its product line with updates of the Lark and Hawk models and the new Avanti. Industrial designer Brooks Stevens revisions for the Wagonaire were one of the biggest surprises. He redesigned the existing station wagon aft of the A-pillars for a taller roofline.

The Wagonaire was special because of the sliding sunroof in the back over the cargo area. With the help of a one-piece tailgate with roll-down glass, the cargo area could be opened up to turn the Wagonaire into a convertible pick-up truck for carrying over-sized loads. One advertisement showed a refrigerator upright in the cargo area. Interiors boasted new instrument panels with a slide-out vanity that included built-in drink holders and a pop-up makeup mirror.

1964 Wagonaire dash
1964 Wagonaire dash

This innovation preceded the 2004 GMC Envoy XUV’s announcement of a sliding roof section and the 2008 Ford Super Duty’s offering a tailgate step.

Unfortunately, the Wagonaire sliding roof design presented some potential problem areas. Four drain tubes were designed into the channels along the roof opening, but they sometimes clogged sending debris and water into the passenger area. Later on, the weather stripping around the top occasionally developed leaks.

For those interested in a factory muscle car, the purchaser could opt for one of two high-performance engines originally designed for the Avanti sport coupe. The R1 had a high compression 289 V-8, producing 240 hp with the R2 supercharged version yielding between 280 and 300 hp.

From 1963-66, Studebaker produced 19,585 Wagonaires. Nearly 12,000 rolled off the line in South Bend before the December 20, 1963 shut-down. Canadian Wagonaire production continued until March 1966 when some 418 were produced.

Studebaker’s automotive innovation continued for over sixty years with the Wagonaire serving as the capstone to this Indiana automotive pioneer. Occasionally, I used to see a Wagonaire tooling around Indy’s north side. I wonder where it is today.

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