Was Someone at GM Design a Mannix enthusiast?

James Kraus

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Mannix opening title sequence

Oldsmobile’s Toronado debuted in autumn of 1966 as America’s first post-war front wheel drive automobile. Just a year later CBS Television introduced a new prime-time detective series; Mannix, featuring Mike Connors as Joe Mannix, an operative of the sophisticated Intertect Detective Agency in Los Angeles.  Continue reading

The Swinging Sixties: A Rainbow of Wheels and Technicolor Tyres

James Kraus

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1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 with Marina Blue metallic body-colour wheels and F70-14 special nylon Red Stripe Firestone Super Sports Wide Oval tyres

The majority of today’s cars today come equipped with black tyres surrounding wheels (or wheel covers) of silver, grey or black. This was not always the case; brightly coloured wheels were a common automotive styling fillip beginning with the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen.   Continue reading

1960s Fastback Fashion

James Kraus

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1965 Plymouth Barracuda

Coincident with the rise of the Fab Four in the 1960s was the popularity of the fab fastback.

While a sleek sloping roofline was integral to the design of many overtly sporting machines including the Jaguar E-Type, Corvette Sting Ray, Porsches, countless Ferraris and others, there were few to be found on more spacious transport since the demise of the Bentley Continental S1 in 1959.   Continue reading

Return of the Boomerang

James Kraus

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1958 Edsel Roundup

History has remembered the 1958 Edsel lineup chiefly for its novel styling. While most recall the vertical Alfa Romeo-esque front grill and maybe the eyebrow-shaped rear tail lamps, an all-but-forgotten Edsel styling flourish was the inward-facing boomerang tail lamp design found on the Bermuda, Villager and Roundup station wagons.   Continue reading

1960s: The Ascent of Black

James Kraus

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1965 Chevrolet Impala with black Super Sport rear deco trim

The latter half of the 1950s was a jubilant, optimistic era when life was comfortable and the future looked bright. In Britain, post-war food rationing was gone, France was enjoying the height of Les Trente Glorieuses and Germany was celebrating its Wirtschaftswunder. In the U.S., Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Abstract Expressionism, Modernist architecture and Cool Jazz catapulted New York to the global epicentre of the intersecting worlds of art and commerce.   Continue reading

Clear Tail Lamps: The Height of Automotive Fashion… Fifty Years Ago

James Kraus

1965 Cadillac Calais

1965 Cadillac Calais

Clear tail lights are quite popular today and appear on several new models as standard or optional equipment from the Toyota Prius to the Porsche 911 and Aston Martin Vantage. Many people mistakenly believe they were introduced in 1998 with the debut of the Toyota Altezza (Lexus IS) although the Toyota actually only had conventional tail lamps covered by clear acrylic; the design did not conceal the underlying red filter lenses. Clear tail lamps, like so many automotive technologies, actually first surfaced in the 1960s. Many of them were more sophisticated than some recent examples.   Continue reading

The Corvair Line: Styling Sensation Of The 1960s

by James Kraus

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Chevrolet Corvair 700 Sedan

The Corvair Line is an accent line that circumnavigates the entire vehicle, front, sides and back, visually dividing the body into upper and lower sections. It can rise and fall, curve and bend, but must be unbroken, with neither beginning nor end.   Continue reading

The Golden Years

by James Kraus

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1960 Ford Starliner. A touch of gold lends a lustrous sparkle of Jet Age swank

Since the dawn of the first horseless carriages, automobiles have been accented by shimmering metallic highlights. The earliest period of motoring is in fact popularly known as the Brass Era due to early radiators, acetylene headlamps and other accoutrements being constructed of brass, or protected by brass plating to resist high temperatures and corrosion. Brass was largely superseded by polished nickel plating in the early 1920s, producing a more durable surface and increased tarnish resistance. Finally, nickel was replaced by chromium which offered the advantages of being nearly tarnish and maintenance free.  Continue reading

The 1965 Ford LTD: Prelude to a Night at the Opera

by James Kraus

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1965 Ford Galaxie 500 LTD 4-Door Hardtop

The 1960s were a bifurcated decade that can be split into two quite distinct epochs. The first two-thirds of the decade was an optimistic forward-looking period of modernist international architecture, modal jazz, bossa nova and sharp Savile Row and Ivy League menswear. The era depicted in La Dolce Vita, Oceans Eleven, The 10th Victim, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and That Touch of Mink. In contrast, the latter third of the decade was radically different; more of a prelude to the inward, casually attired, earth-toned 1970s.   Continue reading

The Allure of Period Colours

by James Kraus

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Lord Brett Sinclair’s Bahama Yellow Aston Martin DBS in The Persuaders!, 1971

Ancient wisdom once held that in the vintage car market, red, white and black were the best colours for resale. However, as Bob Dylan once declared; The times they are a-changin’.

Early Porsche 911 collectors for example often seek out and pay a premium for the colours that made those cars unique to their time period: Signal Orange, Viper Green, Aubergine, Tangerine; even the more esoteric shades of Olive and Golden Green. Continue reading

The Heyday of Cursive Script

by James Kraus

1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. A masterwork in the annals of badging: cursive lettering, gold-plating, diagonal orientation, and unique placement flowing over the curved transition from rear deck to rear quarter panel

Free-flowing cursive script is not often seen on automobiles today. It still survives at Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Outside this quartet it is rare indeed. In days past, cursive was common throughout the industry.

Such longhand script was often utilized to enable casting a complete badge out of a single piece of metal. The alternative was to either run block letters together, or connect individual block characters with a bar across the top (à la Ferrari,) a bar at the bottom (typified by BMW and Mercedes-Benz) or through the centre in the style of Alfa Romeo.

Pre-war cars used cursive scripting almost exclusively, although badging itself was generally minimal or nonexistent. In the 1900’s manufacturer nameplates were usually affixed only to the front of the radiator, and model designations were not displayed. In the thirties, even this practice declined, with most vehicles displaying the manufacturer’s name only via a stylized logo atop the radiator shell. After the war, marque and model badging began proliferating and begat its own art form.

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