Adventure on Wheels - Page 6

With imaginations running wild, designers of the mid-century wowed America with sleek, ultramodern 'dream cars' slathered with chrome and fins

Photos: courtesy General Motors LLC 2011, Jaspar Fleming collection, John Oliver, Rik Hoving, Joe Bortz

Special thanks to John Kyros of General Motors Media Archive

Sharing a sophisticated design approach—yet with plenty of ‘wow’ and sex appeal—were the Dodge Firearrow (right - 1953) and the Chrysler Dart (left - 1957), with its retractable hardtop roof.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

  • Get a gander at 'Design for Dreaming,' GM Motorama's wild promotional video from 1956. It features the Golden Rocket—and shows the Firebird II journey along 'The Highway of Tomorrow'!  youtube.com/watch?v=RNZHWwGhQOw
  • The Petersen Automotive Museum shows a changing collection that includes: Harley Earl's Deco-styled 1937 LaSalle, the 1946 Stout Scarab, a 1963 Chrysler Turbine, and more. 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  petersen.org
  • The Blackhawk Museum shows a changing collection of classic autos that always includes several concept cars and other adventurous designs from the 1950s. 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville.  blackhawkmuseum.org
  • The California Automobile Museum shows a changing display that recently featured the 1963 Avanti that Andy Granatelli drove to set a land speed record in 1962 as well as a lovely custom car, the Marquis, built by Bill Cushenbery in the early 1960s. 220 Front Street, Sacramento.  toweautomuseum.org
  • For wonderful period images of General Motors' classic cars of the 1950s and beyond, including many of the dream cars featured in this article, visit GMphotostore.com

 

Golden Hawk: The Ultimate Mid-Century Modern Car?

Designed by Raymond Loewy (left), the Studebaker Golden Hawk (right) has been called “the sexiest American car ever manufactured.”

 

Sure, the Chevrolet Bel-Air is cuter than heck, a true 1950s icon. And, no, it's not possible to resist the swoopy fins, space-aged yet admirably restrained, of the 1957 Pontiac Star Chief.

But ask anyone who was a young boy in the mid-'50s about his favorite car from the period and here's what you'll often hear: "the Studebaker Golden Hawk."

Roger Ebert, the noted film critic who fell for the car as a lad, has called it "the sexiest American car ever manufactured."

The Golden Hawk, a four-seat sports car in production from 1956 to 1958, simply stood out from every other car on the road both for its relative rarity—how many smallish towns had more than one or two?—and its styling.

Low-slung, with a nose that reached for the sky, generally two-toned and often gold-hued, the Golden Hawk, designed by the renowned

Raymond Loewy with car designer Bob Bourke, really did suggest a bird. Its look was futuristic, yet a tad retro thanks to its vertical grille.

The car had a friendly quality; it's easy to imagine why many owners gave their Golden Hawk a pet name.