Sunday, May 13, 2012

1939 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe

"Lucky the man, or the lady, who owns a new 1939 Chevrolet! They are driving today's performance leader – the liveliest of all low-priced cars – with a mighty supply of quick, eager, reserve power packed into its famous valve-in-head engine. When traffic has started moving, and every driver steps on he accelerator with the thought of 'going places,' it's the Chevrolet driver who safely takes the lead! And when the scene changes to open country, and high hills loom ahead, it's the Chevrolet driver again who goes over the top with the greatest of ease! First in acceleration! First in hill-climbing! First in all-round efficiency with economy! That's the story of this fleet, safe motor car, and, incidentally, that's why it is first in sales among all cars in the nation! Drive the winner! Place your order now for a new Chevrolet!"

The painted front grille of this Chevrolet Master DeLuxe makes for a quite mousy look, but don't be fooled: this was a surprisingly glamorous looking car when presented in 1939. One of Harley Earl's occasional tricks was to use similar styling elements on two marques throughout the GM portfolio to valorize the downmarket brand. With the 1939 Chevrolet, for example, you could buy the looks of a 1939 Cadillac, but for a much smaller budget. Two years later, the front grille of the Chevrolet resembled the much pricier Buick. Thus, Harley Earl brought some class into the low-priced field, and customers honored Chevrolet's "upscale" look with an impressive demand.

One battle that Harley Earl couldn't win for years, though, was the integration of the headlights into the front fenders. It was an inevitable step towards the fully mono-volume shapes that would characterize automobiles after the mid-40s. Harley Earl's designers had proposed integrated headlamps since the early 30s, but GM's top management and engineering were reluctant to bring them into production, because they feared that any fender bender would inevitably lead to misaligned headlights. Usually the man of industry-firsts, Harley Earl had to leave this design innovation to the competition: arch-rival Ford had introduced integrated headlights in 1936 and Chrysler already in 1934. Mounted atop of the fenders, the headlights of the 1939 and 1940 Chevrolets were an intermediate compromise, before they finally moved completely into the fenders in 1941.

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