River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Automobile Styling

July 2013

As most readers will know, when it comes to visual art I admit to being something of a philistine, I do not understand art, I cannot begin to understand how a painting that is basically a red square can possibly be worth $75million, neither does an unmade bed or a pile of bricks have any artistic significance for me.  Like all good philistines, however, I know what I like when it comes to visual impressions be they paintings or picturesque scenes  -   a photograph or a good print can be as satisfying for me as any original  painting. However, there is no greater art form to my mind than car styling. As an engineer I was always more interested in the engineering of the engines, transmission, suspension, steering etc, although conscious of styling, but it is only in my later years that I have come to fully appreciate the creativity and originality displayed by the stylists working, as they usually are, within constraints imposed by  engineering, production, sales, accounts etc.  The heyday in styling, for me at least, was the 50s and 60s.  To discuss all the styling successes and failures of the period would require a book.  One car that does stand out in my mind, however, is the Triumph Roadster, love it or hate it, it was outstanding in its originality.  I love it and its soaring value on the classic car market suggests that there are many others that do.  However, when I first saw it in the local car showroom in 1949 I had a different view, I was disgusted, Triumph before the war were famous for producing sports saloons and convertibles, cars that did extremely well in the Monte, cars with knock on wire wheels, I learned to drive and passed my test in one.  The 1939 Triumph Dolomite was a striking car and it looked like a sports saloon, after the war I was expecting something like that only better.  This great lump of a roadster with chrome hub caps and bulbous wings was no sports car.   Nowadays I see it as a thing of beauty, a sculpture, a true work of art. Similarly I was not impressed with the Vauxhall PA Cresta when it first appeared, looking something like a juke box on wheels, now I see it very differently, and, of course, there are others. The stylists were constricted by many factors but it was often the practice when advertising cars to employ artists to depict the car rather than to use photographs and it was common practice for them to ‘stretch ‘ the cars to make them look bigger and more sleek, even exaggerating the effect by drawing people in the picture to a smaller scale than the car.

The examples shown are two fairly outrageous examples of the ‘stretch’. The Wolseley 15/60 looks bigger than its larger brother the Wolseley 6/110 and the Humber Hawk looks as big as its larger brother the  Humber Super Snipe. Ron Watts

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