Sunday, January 13, 2013

1936 Chevrolet Master De Luxe Town Sedan

"In the fleet, thrilling beauty of the new Chevrolet for 1936 you see reflected all the skill, all the artistry, all the craftsmanship which a quarter-century of devotion to a high purpose has brought to the command of Chevrolet designers and engineers. Exteriors that fairly sparkle with style and grace and poise — interiors that invite you to ride relaxed in spacious luxury — a power plant that stirs your pulse with its smooth, swift, silent action — they are yours to own and enjoy in Chevrolet at very moderate cost."

We wish all our readers a Happy New Year 2013! The newest post this year actually features the oldest car in our collection to date. Meet the 1936 Chevrolet Master De Luxe, still going strong in Havana almost eight decades after rolling off the Chevrolet assembly line.

Despite being merely a facelift of the new-for-1935 models, 1936 Chevrolets are significant because this year, for the first time, the new, stylish "Chevrolet look" clearly bears the hallmarks of Harley Earl and his design team. You can notice this in the stylized horizontal air louvers on each side of the hood and the three-dimensional, rounded-off front grille, that sets the cars apart from their predecessors. It's no coincidence, however, that this front grille resembles a much pricier 1936 Buick. Harley Earl repeatedly played this card to "valorize" the look of Chevrolet through sharing design elements with GM's more glamorous brands.

Nine years earlier, in 1927, visionary GM boss Alfred P. Sloan had invited californian dude Harley Earl to Detroit to establish the "General Motors Art and Color Section", the world's first corporate car design department. Above all, design should fortify GM's position as the best-selling car company worldwide in the following decades. Until then, the look of cars was for the most part defined by engineers and coachbuilders. Harley Earl and his team set off to change car design profoundly: refining proportions and establishing recurring design themes that should make the cars of each GM division instantly recognizable, was just one part of the job. "Planned obsolescence" and yearly facelifts, conceived by Sloan and Earl, as well as new forms of corporate advertisement, such as showcars and the famous "Motorama" shows of the 50s should constantly inspire customers to exchange their money for new cars much more frequently. Major design and model building principles that are still being used today, were pioneered first in Harley Earl's "Art and Color Section".

Within the bureaucratic, rigid and conservative GM organization, Harley Earl certainly was a dazzling personality, and to some a provocation. But soon, the growing popularity of the new GM designs should settle the dispute. GM quickly became the trendsetter that made all others follow suit. A clear sign of the soaring importance of styling is the fact that within a few years, all American car companies had installed their own design departments.

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