Studebaker’s 50’s Fighterplane Design

 

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There have been any number of motor vehicle designers who have popped to prominence and stayed for years – Pininfarina comes readily to mind, as does Harley Earl.  And others that we hardly know…It would appear that the ” bullet nose ” design was the idea of a worker at Studebaker who was then endorsed by Raymond Loewy. The bullet design had been the feature of Bob Bourke’s drawings for some time.

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Does it look like an airplane nose? Yes it does. Was it meant to? Yes, it was. They gambled that people would like the military and aeronautical echo in it during a time of war.

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Apparently the gamble paid off – Studebaker had their biggest production and employment years. The car had a big , light engine and performed well in road tests – It got praise from Tom Cahill in the US and he was a hard person to please.

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The cars have been seen as 2-door coupes, 4-door hard tops and 2-door soft tops. The distinctive wrap-around rear window of the hard top was as much a controversial point in the rear as the bullet nose was in the front, but people eventually decided to like it and voted with their wallets. For myself, I always imagined a rear gunner and a pair of .50’s set in the rear window. Even now I think this would be a good idea on Leach Highway in the early morning traffic rush – it would certainly cure the tradies in the tray tops from monstering you…

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I think the soft top, with the top down, is the best looking variant of the marque. It is also a car that needs wide white walls for best presentation.

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Design speculators will look at the hanging rails for the front bumpers and wonder. They are real – you can see them on other examples in the net. They are necessary to get a functional bumper out from under the receding chin of the car. The fact that they are there means that Bourke and Loewy were able to press their vision on the engineering team but I would also be willing to bet that the original design drawings showed another way of providing front protection. The solution as it is seems too conventional and…if I can be permitted the word…clunky to have come out of Loewy. You have only to see his New York Central and Pennsylvania RR  locomotive designs to figure that there was a different idea first.

Wonder what it was?

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