The 1930s Cars Chugged Along Despite the Great Depression



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    Innovations

    Most 1930s cars had four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Low-pressure balloon tires took the place of hard-riding high-pressure tires. During the 1930's most cars were also equipped with heaters and radios. At this time cars also began to take on a smoother shape, more aerodynamic in design, hence offering less wind resistance.The 1930 Cadillac "V-16" is the industry's first production car to offer sixteen-cylinder engine and immediately sets a new standard for power, performance, and luxury.




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    At the beginning of the Thirties the American 1930s cars had also foot boards, sunshades on the windscreen of the car, separate drum formed headlights and also rear lights attached to the car by connecting rods. American cars appeared with rounded edges, headlights build within the chassis of the car, but also the driving comfort improved. The radiator grille and shell were titled back slightly, which made the 1930s automobiles looking like more speedier. Affordable security glass was used as windscreens. Low pressure inner tube tires and also windscreen wipers appeared on the American cars during the Thirties mostly as safety measures.

    In the 1930s, a wide variety of automobile manufacturers were also offering increasingly sophisticated and beautiful vehicles -- especially for the fortunate few who lived in luxury during the Great Depression. The luxury 1930s cars saw the implementation of new manufacturing methods, new inventions (e.g., the automatic transmission), new engines (e.g., the V-8, the V-12, and the V-16), in addition to the rise of automotive stylists, such as Harley Earl.


    The 1930s cars, in contrast to the style-conscious luxury days of the 1920s -- saw a renewed emphasis on the mechanical qualities of cars. Many new innovations were introduced into the 1930s automobiles, and became common by the end of, the 1930s, including: synchromesh transmissions (for smoothing shifting), automatic chokes, built-in trunks, hydraulic brakes, and gear shifts mounted on steering columns ("stick-on-a-tree").

    All through the 1930s, GM engineers and designers made continual improvements in 1930's cars' frames, bodies, engines, and transmissions. In 1933, GM added no-draft ventilation to all its cars and developed independent front-wheel suspension. In 1936, Knee-Action suspension made Chevrolets an even smoother ride. All 1937 GM automobiles of the 1930s makes featured an all-steel body and optional windshield defrosters. In 1938, a car radio was introduced as an option on Buicks, and GM’s Harley Earl designed a historic one-off: the Buick Y-Job. The world’s first “concept car” prefaced a generation of dream cars and anticipated the styling of the 1940s cars . Featuring a revolutionary flowing look, it had power windows, a power convertible top, power door locks, and power steering. In the late 1930s GM changed the economy of trucks and trains by perfecting the 2-cycle diesel engine, and in 1939 the first standard turn signals blinked on GM 1930s cars.

    Design

    After 1929, the American automobile industry, suffered a hard blow because of the economical depression which started with the crash on Wall Street in October 1929. The years 1931 and 1932 were very hard for the American automobile industry. There were not so many 1930s cars sales as during the 1920s, because of the depression, but the face lift, styling and design of a car was a very important invention to attract new buyers . The gloomy (chromed) and streamline styled cars were very typical for the end of the 1930s. The American automobile changed during the Thirties. The automobile changed from the traditional four-square styling that prevailed into the early Thirties, towards a streamlined (Tear-drop shaped) car at the end of the Thirties. The Thirties are in fact the decade that largely established the shape of cars we know today. A comparison of the typical 1930 model (T-Ford model) with its 1939 descendant provides dramatic proof of how complete the transformation was on the Ford 1930s cars.

    The greatest impact of the streamlined designs was in fact that the 1930's cars became eye catchers. Automobiles of the 1930s became to look like art. Most cars were build on a simple, high, carriage-like chassis rolling on wood-spoke wheels and solid tires. From 1932 on, American cars changed.

    Most of the design innovations that appeared in the 1930s cars originated at the various independent manufacturers and not the "Big Three" of Chrysler , Ford, and GM. It is not strange that the smaller car producers used more techniques of renewing design and styling, they mostly suffered from the depressed economy of the car business throughout the 1930s. The big car producers could lean back and look what happened with the little ones during the depression, they were big enough to survive.








    American Automakers

    GM

    Another interesting invention 1930s cars was made by GM . GM introduced the re-styling or face-lift of automobiles. Other automobile producers followed GM with the face-lift strategy. Before this face-lift operation by GM, you already could build your own car together by your own taste and view. But the change in philosophy of car producing throughout the 1930s was in fact that a car should be designed as a whole rather than as a bunch of collected parts. During the 1930s the radiator jacket became more the face of the 1930s cars. Most of the radiator jackets became chromed. Such a chromed radiator jacket looked more attractive and made the car more gloomier. But also other parts of the car, like parts of the wheel protection boards became chromed and also other ornamental strips. The car became to look more and more gloomier throughout the Thirties. The car became a symbol of new prosperity hopes during the depression of the 1930s. The aerodynamic vision also became an important part in designing 1930s cars throughout the Thirties. Aerodynamics and the streamlined design increased as well the volume of the automobiles engine. Streamlining a car also meant that more fuel, which already was cheap in the US, could be saved because of this streamlining.

    1933 Buick




    Chrysler

    The first automobile producer of the US who really used the techniques of aerodynamics and streamlining was Chrysler . Chrysler used it as the first in its Airflow model in 1934. The Airflow was in fact the first streamlined car of the world, but the American public didn't like it. The Airflow was in fact the breakthrough of the American car entering the era of streamlined and aerodynamic designed and styled 1930s cars. Most of the car producers, also from the "Big Three", were entering this new era, although slowly. Lots of these car producing manufacturers had their own architects and designers at work for designing new streamlined and gloomy looking cars, which were typical for the second half of the 1930s.


    Ford

    Another victory won by Henry Ford was patent battle with George B. Selden. Selden, who had never built an automobile, held a patent on a "road engine", on that basis Selden was paid royalties by all American car manufacturers. Ford overturned Selden's patent and opened the American 1930s car market for the building of inexpensive cars. In 1932, Henry Ford introduced his last great personal engineering triumph: his "en block", or one piece, V-8 engine. Offered as an option to an improved 4-cylinder Model "B" engine in these low priced 1930s cars, this compact V-8 power plant, with its down draft carburetor, enabled 1932 Ford to outperform all other popular competitors and was 20 years ahead of its time. The improved proportions and styling of these cars reflected Edsel Ford's genius for design.


    1932 Ford V-8 Cabriolet


    The 1932 Ford automobile combines the attractive facelift of the 1931 Model A with the world's first low-priced, cast-in-one-piece V-8 engine. When the V-8 first made its appearance in the 1932 Ford, it heralded the era of the American dream car: large, powerful, and soft-sprung. Basic mechanical configuration changed little from the late 1930s until the advent of the downsized front-wheel-drive cars of the 1980s. The final element in the equation, the automatic transmission, first appeared in the 1940 Oldsmobile.


    Cadillac

    Had it not been part of General Motors, Cadillac might have perished in the Depression, a time when few could afford -- or wanted to be seen in -- big, expensive automobiles no matter how superb.Unlike independent Packard, which was forced to survive with medium-priced products, Cadillac was protected by GM's vast size and enormous financial strength. Then, too, the division already had a medium-priced car, the LaSalle, introduced in 1927. All this helped Cadillac endure "hard times" without squandering its blue-chip image, even as it built ultra-luxury 1930s cars selling only in small numbers. Cadillac introduced its ultra-luxury V16 model, the Sixteen, in 1930.

    1930 Cadillac Sixteen Convertible



    Plymouth

    Historically speaking, 1930 was not a very exciting year for Plymouth - or for anyone else in the automobile industry for that matter. 1929 had been a banner year, the best year ever in the industry's history to be exact, despite the fact that the stock market had crashed in October, plunging the world into the worst depression ever known by man. But the real effects of the Depression were just really starting to be felt. Plymouth entered the market with a car that can best be described as "confusing" - it was almost a totally new car, yet it was very much the same old car it had been in years past - Model 30U. It sat on a new frame, it had a completely revised engine, a new wide band radiator and most importantly, an all steel body; yet with the exception of the new radiator shell, it looked almost identical to the cars it was to replace. And as the model year continued, the car changed ever so slightly, in some cases incorporating items that were being developed for the totally new car that was to replace it, the Model PA. Production of the Model 30U enjoyed a 14 month production run, one of the longest in Plymouth's history. But its 1930s cars gave the company some staying power.









    European Automakers

    Volvo

    Car sales in Sweden fell as a result of the international economic crisis. Even so, Volvo (now owned by Ford) maintained its market share of 8% of its 1930s cars. A great deal happened at Volvo during 1935. The big news was the PV36, "the streamlined car". The PV36 were advanced 1930s cars which was clearly inspired by US designs.The PV36 was nicknamed the Carioca, perhaps because the Carioca was a South-American dance that was in fashion at the time. 1939With the onset of the Second World War, fuel shortages became acute. One alternative to petrol was producer-gas, which was made of charcoal. Volvo had already started manufacturing producer-gas units by the spring of this year, which meant a head start over the competition.




    BMW

    BMW 328 Roadster - one of 25 finalists for Car of the Century

    The BMW 328 Roadster, produced between 1936-1940, has been named one of 25 finalists for Car of the Century by a world wide panel of automotive journalists. The program began in 1996 with an initial list of 700 eligible cars that has been narrowed to the 25 recently announced."We are thrilled to have the BMW 328 as one of 25 nominees for the Car of the Century," states Mr. Hendrik von Kuenheim, President and CEO of BMW Canada Inc. "What made the 328 such a huge success 60 years ago - sporty performance, enduring styling and Mille Miglia-winning reliability - still remains a hallmark of our marque today. This honour is certainly a testament to the engineering and design heritage of BMW ." The BMW 328 is a milestone in automobile history and was the most successful sports car of the 1930s. Making its competition debut at the famed Nürburgring racetrack in June 1936, the BMW 328 proved unbeatable in international sportscar races in the two-liter class. This high performance sportscar proved suitable not only for the BMW factory drivers, but also perfect for everyday motoring. The elegantly cowled back wheels, long hood and distinctive dashboard made the 328 an instant hit with sportscar aficionados of the 1930s cars, and helped set styling trends still in evidence today. These 1930s cars command very high prices in the vintage market.




    Mercedes Benz Speed Record

    January 28, 1938: Rudolf Caracciola, a Mercedes-Benz (now owned by Daimler) racing car and the all-time world record of 432.7 kilometers per hour on the motorway; "Once again, the road ahead contracted into a narrow white band and bridges across the motorway into small black holes. I had to steer with maximum precision at the speed I was driving, but before my brains realized what to do, the car had already raced past."

    In the thirties of the last century, motor manufacturers liked to highlight the launch of a new car – and especially a new racing car – with impressive records. In early 1934, for instance, the newly founded company AutoUnion established the highly prestigious one-hour world record in a first attempt, thereby providing convincing proof of its capabilities. Needless to say, this was also a challenge for their well-established competitor in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim.

    The 1930s cars, despite the Great Depression, managed to move along.





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