180: 100 Cars That Changed The World (1930s-1940s)
This is the second of a four part series reviewing the 100 Cars That Changed The World
1930 Cadillac Sixteen
“The eight cylinder engine was the most reliable and popular luxury car engine in America by the mid 1920s, and Cadillac had pioneered it in 1915. Packard had upped the stakes in the luxury car market with the introduction of a V12 (Twin Six) model line that same year, the first twelve-cylinder automobile put into series production anywhere in the world. At the time of its introduction, on May 1, the Twin-Six virtually eclipsed Cadillac’s achievements with the V8. The stately twelve-cylinder Packards became the car of choice for film stars, industrialists, politicians, and heads of state. In 1921, President-Elect Warren G. Harding, the 29th occupant of the White House, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue in a Packard Twin-Six. This was the first time in history that an automobile had been prominently featured in an inaugural parade. It was a humbling blow to Cadillac and General Motors. The Twin-Six remained in production until 1923, the longest of any model up to that time, and accounted for a staggering total of 35,000 sales, establishing Packard as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of luxury automobiles.
Unlike contemporary engine design of the 1930s, the Cadillac V16 had barely a trace of unsightly wiring; everything was either carefully routed or concealed. Spark plugs were located on the inboard side of the engine and their wires secreted beneath a styled cover in the cylinder valley.
With East Grand discontinuing its twelve-cylinder models in 1923, the pressure was off GM but development continued in an effort to design an engine that would surpass the lauded Packard Twin Six. In 1927 Cadillac hired Owen Nacker away from Nordyke & Marmon in Indianapolis. He had been working on the design of a sixteen cylinder engine, which Marmon would introduce in 1931, but not before Cadillac tapped Nacker’s engineering skills to develop its own sixteen by 1929.
The Cadillac V16 was basically two inline eights sharing a common crankshaft. The cylinder banks were placed at a very narrow 45 degree angle and each had its own independent fuel and exhaust system. The engine used overhead valves, a design not previously seen on a Cadillac, and hydraulic valve adjustment, an industry first, which contributed to the V16’s exceptionally smooth and near silent operation. With a 3 x 4 inch bore x stroke, displacement was 452 cubic inches, (thus the model designation 452), with an output conservatively rated at 165 horsepower, (later increased to 185 horsepower) and delivered through a three-speed transmission.”
1932 Ford V-8
“Planning to leapfrog competitors yet again, Henry Ford decided that his newest model would not have a 4-cylinder engine or even a 6-cylinder engine like arch-rival Chevy. Instead, the ’32 Ford would get a V8. The sophisticated engine configuration promised exceptional power and smoothness, and it represented a radical advance in the non-luxury segment of the market — another giant gamble.
The engine that emerged from Ford’s development shop was a 221 cu.-in. powerplant delivering 65 horsepower. Constructed of cast iron with side-operated valves, the new Ford V8 wasn’t as sophisticated as the overhead-valve V8s in some luxury cars. However, Ford could manufacture it for a fraction of the cost of a Cadillac or Lincoln V8 yet still deliver similar smoothness and performance.
Ford dubbed the new V8-powered car the Model 18, and its lineup included a variety of attractive open and closed bodies whose looks were similar to the Model A. Among them were two coupe bodies that quickly came to be known as the 3-Window and the 5-Window. The 3-Window has just a single side window on each flank, while the 5-Window has a large door window and a second smaller window behind it. Both are “”Deuce Coupes,”” with “”deuce”” referring to the fact they are 1932 models.”
1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
Its creation was a meeting of the minds of youthful stylist Phillip O. Wright and new Pierce-Arrow President Roy Faulkner. Based upon a 139-inch-wheelbase, 12-cylinder chassis, it had an automatic clutch and power-assisted brakes, among other advances. But these advancements all paled in comparison to the gleaming silver coachwork, a streamlined design with a roof that covered, in one smooth plane, all of the way to the rear of the car; flush-fitting doors with door handles inset out of the airstream; and a “step-down” interior that predicted Cord by three years and Hudson by 15.
1934 Chrysler Airflow
Though its Airflow was a commercial failure, Chrysler’s brave attempt at innovation may well have been the most important mass-produced vehicle of the 1930’s. Not only did the Chrysler Airflow lead the way in terms of aerodynamics — “streamlining” as it was then called — it was also among the first cars to incorporate a lightweight construction that presaged today’s unibody vehicles.
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
As one of the few prewar American sportcars, the Auburn Speedster was a powerful, affordable and stylish car. It featured a characteristic boat tail body and a supercharged engine that that set American trends: large proportions and straight line performance.
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
Elegant, sporty, luxurious and rare, these are four of many epithets that can be applied to bugatti. but there is one model for which they are especially appropriate: the type 57 sc atlantic coupé is not just one of the bugatti legends but perhaps the greatest. only four of these cars were created between 1936 and 1938. three of these extraordinary coupés are still in existence. they are regarded as the most valuable cars in the world. the automotive world has been searching for the fourth atlantic for over 80 years.
1936 Cord 810
“It was a sensation when it went on sale in 1936, and I think it’s still one of the most beautiful sedans ever built. Originally intended as a “”baby”” Duesenberg, it was packed with advanced features like front-wheel drive; independent front suspension; a unitized body; an “”alligator”” hood hinged at the rear (like most of today’s cars); a 125-hp, 288-cubic-inch V8 engine with aluminum heads—built by the Cord-owned Lycoming aircraft engine company—and a four-speed Bendix preselector gearbox with vacuum/electric shifting.
It had three other features that were firsts in America: the horn ring and, for improved streamlining, a covered gas cap and hidden headlights that the driver unveiled with a hand crank. For the 1937 model year, there was an optional centrifugal supercharger, good for 195 hp.”
1938 Buick Y-Job
The creation of the industry’s first concept car was the work of Harley Earl and his organization now known as GM Design. Built on a 1937 Buick chassis, Earl sought to combine his vision of the automobile with new technologies and features to create a benchmark for future designs. Features like hidden headlights, flush door handles, a convertible top concealed by a metal deck and electrically operated windows all found their way into production cars. In 1939 the press reported the Y-Job was more than a concept car, it was the “Car of the Future”.
1939 Volkswagen Beetle
The need for a people’s car (Volkswagen in German), its concept and its functional objectives were formulated by the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, who wanted a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for his country’s new road network (Reichsautobahn). The result was the first Volkswagen, and one of the first rear-engined cars since the Brass Era. With 21,529,464 produced, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single platform ever made.
1940 Willys Jeep
“In June 1940, with World War II on the horizon, the U.S. Army solicited bids from 135 automakers for a 1/4 ton “”light reconnaissance vehicle”” tailored to Army specifications. Only three companies responded — Bantam, Willys, and Ford — but, within a year’s time they collectively produced the template for the vehicle known worldwide as the “”jeep””.
Willys-Overland delivered the prototype “”Quad”” (named for the 4×4 system it featured), to the U.S. Army on Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day), November of 1940. The design was completed in a remarkable 75 days.”
1946 MG TC
“The MG TC burbled into the American consciousness in 1945 as American servicemen returned home from World War II’s European theater. The car itself, however was a further step along MG’s evolutionary path, neither new nor revolutionary in its homeland.
The TC was the third T-Series variation, following the TA of 1936, and short-lived TB of 1939. The TC body was four inches wider than its predecessors, and it was faster than the TA and TB as well, but the car had the same fold-down windshield, flowing fenders, 19-inch wire wheels, slab gas tank and rear-mounted spare. It was also only available in right-hand drive. The XPAG inline-four engine displaced 1,250 cc, and was upgraded with rubber mounts. The powerplant was able to push the TC to a top speed of about 75 mph, which was well suited for the car’s suspension and drum brakes.”
Styling of the new Studebaker Champion was executed mainly at Raymond Loewy’s studios, with much of the work was actually accomplished by Virgil Exner. The car’s appearance was stunning and somewhat polarizing, and the Starlight coupe’s large four-part wrap-around rear window in particular so closely resembled a front windshield that comedians wondered aloud if the car was coming or going. Nonetheless, the design was futuristic, and proved to be influential as the rest of the American auto industry was forced to play catch-up
1948 Citroen 2CV
The Citroën 2CV—or Deux Chevaux—is one of those noteworthy designs that changed the automotive landscape, improving the lives of people around the world in the process. Designed to champion the needs of would-be motorists, the 2CV was engineered to be a hero for rural France, as it famously was able to transport “a basket of eggs across a ploughed field.” The compliant ride was a result of the 2CV’s ingenious suspension, along with a clever overall design that kept the car’s cost low enough for the general public to embrace a motoring lifestyle. There’s a joy in such pure simplicity, and that’s one reason why these rustic machines are still in demand today.
1948 Ford F-Series
“In January 1948, a new era began at the Ford Motor Company with the release of an all-new line of trucks that Ford dubbed the “F-Series.”
This new series, which Ford promoted as its “Bonus Built Line,” covered a wide range of models with different cab and chassis combinations. The line started out with light-duty 1/2-ton-rated pickup trucks and ran all the way up to the Extra Heavy-Duty, three-ton-rated F-8. These trucks used a completely redesigned cab with all-new front-end sheetmetal. And in a departure from previous practice, the same cab served both conventional and Cab-Over-Engine models.
Along with the fresh styling given 1948 Ford trucks came new model designations; this 1/2-ton was labeled the F-1. Squared-off front fenders wrapped smoothly into the front fascia, which contained a prominent horizontal-bar grille. Rear fenders were styled to match the profile of the fronts. Also new was a one-piece windshield.”
The 1948 Hudson Commodore was a landmark car that came from an unlikely source. When the independent automaker introduced the all-new car in 1948, the change was more than skin deep, though its exterior design was truly distinctive. The Commodore marked the debut of Hudson’s new “Monobilt” line of semi-unitized cars that used a deeply dropped floorpan and wraparound perimeter frame. This 1948 Hudson Commodore four-door sedan is from the first year of the famed “Step-Down” design from Hudson, which turned the automotive world on its collective ear. This example was restored 12 years ago and will still make a solid presentation at any car show. It’s an unusual car today, as just over 62,000 Commodores were produced in 1948—a fraction of the numbers turned out by the Big Three and even Studebaker. This Commodore is powered by the Twin H-Power engine, a more powerful version of Hudson’s large-displacement straight-six first offered in 1951.
1948 Jaguar XK120
First introduced at the October 1948 London Motor Show, the jaw dropping 1948 Jaguar XK120 did more than just turn heads it made show attendees gasp for breath. This luxury sports car had everything; an incredibly strong chassis that took years to develop, an engine any Grand Prix racer would have been proud to drive, and some of the most appealing styling the world had seen. Notably, this was not only the first engine released by Jaguar; it was the worlds first mass-produced engine with twin overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers. An engine like this had only previously been seen in extremely expensive racing cars; this car was offered at a fraction of the price. Able to reach 120mph, the 1948 Jaguar was the fastest production car of its day. This is also where the Jaguar got its 120 nameplate. Interestingly, with the intentions of making just a few hundred cars, the first production run of the Jaguar XK 120 offered aluminum-bodied models, but overwhelming demand not only convinced William Lyons to put the roadster into further production, but to also switch the bodies to pressed steel.
1948 Land Rover
In 1947, whilst holidaying at his North Wales farm, Rover’s chief designer Maurice Wilks came up with a plan to produce a light agricultural utility vehicle in the style of the Willys Jeep. He would have no idea that his design would become an icon and launch a whole new industry sector. The original Land Rover was presented in Sage Green with a canvas roof and revolutionised rural transport. As an engineering marvel it can still outstrip its modern counterparts, and the Series I rightly belongs in the Motoring Hall of Fame. Hugely successful globally, dozens of improvements were made throughout the long production run.
“The 1948 Cadillac Series 61 and Series 62 were the first new designs from the company following World War II. The wheelbase was shorter than the 1947 models, which were basically warmed-over 1942s. But the big news was the appearance of the Cadillac fin, which housed the rear taillight and made the car look lower. Fins would characterize Cadillacs for the next 30 years, and would be adopted as a styling cue across manufacturers through the end of the 1950s and beyond.
The 1948 model year was abbreviated to about eight months and production was modest. The lower line Series 61 only sold 8,600 units, in four-door sedan and two-door fastback sedanette body styles. The big seller in the Series 62 line was the four-door sedan, which accounted for 24,000 of the model’s $34,000 sales. In the Series 62, a club coupe cost $2,900 and a convertible ran $3,400.
The other shoe dropped in 1949 when Cadillac introduced the new 160-hp OHV, 331-cid V-8 as a replacement to the ponderous 346-cid side-valve unit. Series 61 sales increased to 22,000 while Series 62 shot up to 55,000, of which 2,150 were the brand-new pillarless Coupe DeVille two-door hardtop.”
“When Ford introduced its new model for 1949, the car represented the Blue Oval’s first clean-sheet design since World War II. In fact, it was the first postwar sheet metal shown by any of the Big Three. Everything about the 1949 Ford was new, except for the wheelbase and the powertrain.
For the new car, Ford utilized a ladder-type frame and front independent suspension via coil springs and A-arms, and a Hotchkiss rear end with live axle and leaf springs. Power came from two tried and true engines: the 226-c.i. L-head straight-six or the 239-c.i. Flathead V-8, which produced 100 hp. All cars carried three-speed manual transmissions with optional overdrive, as Ford lacked an automatic of its own.”