Five Of The Most Beautiful Cars of the Art Deco era
In the 1920's and 1930's something strange and wonderful began to happen amongst car designers. As the wealthy demanded more fast, unique automobiles that would stand out in a crowd the designers began to bring stunning visions of speed and elegance to life. Here are five of the true knockouts they produced.
1938 Figoni & Falaschi's Talbot-Lago T150 SS
This Talbot Lago bodied by Figoni et Falaschi is the archetypal Art Deco French car. The flowing lines seem to have been shaped by the wind itself and the rich, deep paintwork adds to the overall impression of elegance and lusciousness.
Talbot Lago's cars were well-engineered and advanced for their time with independent front suspension and a chassis that was lightweight and hunkered low to the ground. The fact that they could be had with incredibly stylish bodywork only increased their appeal to the rich playboys who bought them.
There were only 11 cars built with this teardrop bodystyle and they are a pure expression of the elegance and sensuous design that characterized French cars of this era.
1925 Jonckheere Rolls-Royce Aerodynamic Coupe
There's no car built in the 1920's that's quite like the Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe. Based on a Rolls Royce Phantom I chassis the body is long, low and full of exuberance. From the huge fenders and the Rolls-Royce grille to the inimitable oval doors and the sweeping tailfin the car radiates an aura of extravagance and excess.
Nicknamed the "round door Rolls" for obvious reasons it was created for (who else?) the Raja of Nanapara by a Belgian coachbuilder named Henri Jonckheere. Clearly the Raja had an eye for style because despite the imposing length and size of the car it has an undeniable Art Deco sensibility especially reflected in the complex round doors which required special glass to be made so they'd function properly. That complexity is a perfect metaphor for the over-the -top spirit of the whole vehicle which was more about style than anything else.
1937 Delage D8-120 S Aero Coupe by Pourtout
Of all the cars in this list the Delage D8 is one of the simpler designs. But that simplicity has a level of sophistication and elegance about it that sets this car apart. The details seem to encourage the viewer to imagine it sweeping imperiously down a French autoroute at the hands of a purposeful driver. There is very little that is overdone about the "Aero" bodywork by Pourtout and all of the elements combine to a harmonious whole.
Pourtout is one of the coachbuilding names that defined the Art Deco era of coachbuilding. This particular car was built for Louis Delage himself and designed by Georges Paulin who was one of France's most respected car designers. The results really speak for themselves. They are rakish in keeping with their era but not excessive like the Jonckheere Rolls-Royce.
1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Corto Spider by Touring
If ever there was a car that combined the Italian flair for style with engineering that was advanced for it's time it is this Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Spider with a body by Carozzeria Touring (one of the preeminent coachbuilders of the time in Italy). Of course the eye is drawn by the pontoon fenders, the classic Alfa Romeo grille and that incredible series of chromed slits in the rear fender spats but this is a car that's as much about engineering as it is about elegance.
The 8C 2900B sports a jewel-like 2.9 litre DOHC straight-eight with twin superchargers, a rear transaxle and fully independent suspension by trailing arms and coil springs at the front and transverse leaf springs controlling swing axles at the rear. It also has a lightweight, box-section frame for rigidity. All of these features means that it goes as beautifully as it shows.
1938 Hispano Suiza H6C Xenia Coupé
The Hispano Suiza Xenia is by far the most experimental-looking of all the cars in this article. The Xenia's wraparound windscreen, curved glass, doors that opened out and back for easy access to the interior and plexiglas side windows that opened outwards all gave it an air of Buck Rogers meets Art Deco that is unsurpassed.
On top of all of this the car was a rolling showcase for André Dubonnet's revolutionary enclosed coil spring suspension that would go on to be used by General Motors and Alfa Romeo. He commissioned the French designer Jean Andreau to design the body. Andreau added aircraft styling cues to the overall shape and gave it truly streamlined look. The body was built by the famous French coachbuilder Saoutchik. Nothing else quite like it would come out of this era of automotive styling and design.