The Year Automobile Designers Became Dress Designers

I happened across a story in a 1940 newspaper about automobile designers making a foray into women’s fashions. The feminine styles were supposed to match the 1941 automotive offerings and were designed by the same men who created those body styles. This was all done to promote the New York auto show. There were pictures to go with the story, but no names, so I had to keep digging. I discovered that the first one was designed by none other than Harley Earl, and this streamlined creation in silver rayon featured wings to mimic the hood emblem on a ’41 Caddy.

Photo credit: Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The stories I found do not give credit for this stylish jacket with a yolk based on the shape of the Packard grille. Perhaps the designer was Howard “Dutch” Darrin?

Photo credit: David Berry from Rohnert Park CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This swimming suit is based on the 1941 Chevrolet. You can see the shape of the grille on the model’s midsection, and her shoes were even made out of Lucite!

This ensemble was designed, I believe, by E. T. Gregorie and was meant to complement the Mercury. Notice the belt, which was based on the Merc’s bumper guards, and a purse modeled on the hubcaps.

Photo credit: JOHN LLOYD from Concrete, Washington, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One article said this coat was made with upholstery plaid, so it must be based on Chrysler’s Highlander. Oliver Clark was likely the one who designed this modish outerwear.

This promotion was done in cooperation with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and the clothing was actually available to be purchased on Fifth Avenue. I have no idea how well it sold, but I would absolutely purchase all of it today if still available (and I might run someone over to get to that hubcap purse).

A 1942 Buick Barn Find

While out buying car parts the other day, we noticed the seller had something very exciting sitting in one of his shops:  a genuine barn find! It is not pictured in the barn setting here, having already been retrieved from an old Nebraska farmstead, and this stop is just the beginning of the journey for this old beauty.

It is a 1942 Buick convertible, and it looks like a Series 40 Special, the most compact of Buick’s 1942 offerings with a 118-inch wheelbase. The Super and the Roadmaster, Series 50 and 70, would have the “Airfoil” front fenders that carried all the way back across the side of the car to the rear fender in a tapering contour like the one seen in this advertisement:

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars, the ’42 Buick was produced until the first week of February, with 1,776 of those being the Series 40 convertible. The ’42 Buicks in every Series were powered by an OHV Inline Eight, and the Special engine had 248CID and 110-hp. It would have been a “blackout” car with painted trim if produced during the January 1942 wartime transition period, so the brightwork on this car indicates that it was manufactured some time prior to that date.

Notice that the advertisement above references Buick’s role in wartime production, the building of Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines:

I don’t know the back story for this Buick, and I’m not sure that I want to know since such stories are often rooted in sadness; at best, it is a project not finished and, at worst, a life interrupted. This story ends with a ray of hope, however, at least for the car. It has already been purchased and is headed back east for restoration. Here’s to a bright future for this survivor!