The 1930s Cars Chugged Along Despite the Great Depression
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.